Friday, October 24, 2014

The Good Lie

I only talk about movies on my blog when it's an indie type film, something that isn't talked about much but I don't want you to miss it. The Good Lie is a feel-good drama that will educate you on the situation in South Sudan, which Africa's newest country created just two years ago. Orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan that begin in 1983 when their villages were burned to the ground and everyone killed, these children trekked thousands of miles for many months, some dying of starvation until they found safety in a refugee camp. Thirteen years later of living in the camp, 3600 displaced refugees won lottery visas to the United States.  The movie centers around four Lost Boys (and girl) of Sudan and their experience after immigrating to Kansas where they meet Reese Witherspoon who is their employment counselor. If you want to read more on this topic click here.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Casual

I've completed week one of the Fall Style Me Pretty Challenge which has been so much fun to see what the other ladies are wearing and getting ideas from them. Since I'm documenting my outfits every Wednesday with other bloggers in the challenge, I present you the outfits I wore last week and what the assignment was for the based on a fashion trend. 

Trend:  Military jacket, plaid infinity scarf and riding boots
Military style jackets always seem to stay in style and this challenge encouraged me to purchase one. My jacket is sold out but I've seen similar ones at JC Penney or Anthropologie. Payless has a really cute pair of camo pumps. I paired the jacket with a plaid infinity scarf, never worn one of those before. I wasn't sure it would keep my neck warm since it's open in the front but I guess the extra layer of fabric on your chest is what keeps you warm. Not being a big fan of plaid, so I kept it modern with a burberry print. These are my first riding boots! I've been wanting to get a pair for years, but it wasn't until this challenge that I finally did.

Trend: Plaid shirt and puffer jacket
I'm not a big fan of plaid, it's just too lumberjack/country for me. I went for a stylish plaid print in a pretty olive color from the Banana Republic. 

Trend: Dressy Sweatshirt
I needed a new white sweater but it wasn't really on my radar as I'm not usually on the lookout for basics. The challenge called for a dressy sweatshirt and I saw this Animal Jacquard  print tunic and immediately scooped it up! 

Trend: Striped Shirt and leopard flats
You know I actually didn't own any stripped clothing before this challenge. I didn't realize this until a year ago when I was reading a fashion blog where the woman said that her closet was filled with stripped shirts and that she might have a problem. lol It made me want to never venture into the land of stripes. But when I tried this shirt on I thought it looked great and would be very versatile. Just about every store at the mall has striped shirts right now, the problem was finding just the right color and stripe width. I've been wearing leopard flats for years as I think leopard is a neutral and goes with any color. 

Deena | Christy | Jordan | Carrie C. | Shaunacey | Danielle | Beth | Joy | Sarah | 
Leslie | Katie | Jennifer | Carrie M. | Lisa  | Sheila | Lana | Lauren | Anna | Alison

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Food & Luxury from Bali & Bangkok

I thought I'd write a separate post detailing some of the delicious food I ate and some of the luxurious experiences I had.  Massages, pedicures, tailors and personal drivers can all be enlisted for a fraction of what you’d pay back home.  

Thai Massage The world’s most beautiful pain
For a few dollars you get a better massage than you’d get for hundreds at home. I had a $12 one hour massage at Wat Pho temple in Bangkok where they have the top massage school in Thailand specializing in Thai massage. Traditional Thai massage in a bit painful and has influnces from Ayurveduc and tradational Chinese medicine. Thai massage is more energizing and rigorous than traditional  massage. Thai massage is also called Thai yoga massage, because the therapist uses his or her hands, knees, legs, and feet to move you into a series of yoga-like stretches. You could say Thai massage is like doing yoga without any work, while it also relaxes you, reduces stress, improves circulation and you’ll sleep better.

Foot Reflexology
The last time I was in Bangkok was 9 years ago and I remembered I had a wonderful foot massage near my hotel. Well I went back to that neighborhood, walked around a bit until I instantly knew I was on the same street! Massages are cheap and easy to come by in Bangkok, you’ll see lots of storefronts advertising it, but this place was special to me. It wasn’t just a foot massage - it was an hour long foot reflexology. Your foot has thousands of nerve endings that correspond to every organ and system in your body. By pressing on these reflex points, you stimulate the nervous system and open energy pathways that may be blocked or congested.

On this same street I also found the tailor that I've been to a few times who surprisingly remembered me. Thailand is famous for their silk so I've had a few silk pieces made.

Fish spas are all over Bangkok and Bali.  Basically, you sit with your feet in a giant fish tank and tiny fish chew the dead skin off your toes. In Bali I found a place where $4 got me 20 minutes in the tank with the fishies. It felt really weird at first, you should have seen the look on my face, but afterwards you get used to the sensation. Can’t say though it worked or not, I keep my feet pretty moisturized, in fact I had a pedicurist comment that she had little work to do.

Seeing an elephant in real life is an experience I cherish having in Thailand. I got to touch a baby elephant and he felt comfortable putting his trunk around me. On a previous visit I got to stand in between adult elephants and feed them bananas which was a bit scary considering how large they are and I’m not behind some fence. Did you know elephants paint? Yep some of them are trained to paint artwork.

I visited a coffee plantation that grows cocoa, pineapple, exotic fruits as well as coffee. While I don’t drink coffee so I’m no an expert on taste, Indonesia is known for its excellent coffee.  They had a small furry animal in a cage called a Paradoxurus from which they make Kopi Luwak coffee from the animal poop! lol These little mammals live in the trees and one of their favorite foods is the red, ripe coffee cherry. They eat the cherries and beans but their bodies can't digest the beans so it comes out in tact but undergoing a chemical treatments and fermentation in his digestive system.  This exotic coffee is described as having being very smooth with a  rich, heavy flavor with hints of caramel or chocolate. In the U.S. it will go for $300 per pound! I tried the local made chocolate but skipped on the world’s most expensive coffee. I did buy some lemongrass tea and vanilla bean.
animal poop coffee beans

What’s cheap in Thailand & Bali – Food. The food was amazing, plentiful and cheap. Bali and Bangkok was a cuisine paradise for me as a vegetarian. Bali is home of tempeh, a type of tofu. Both countries know how to prepare perfectly seasoned tofu which was easily found on restaurant menus.
In Bali and Thailand, banana leaves are used like aluminum foil. They are used to wrap food prior to steaming and grilling. The leaf makes an excellent platter. Fresh coconuts were sold pretty much everywhere for drinking water, perfect for hydration in the humid temperatures. I tasted so many delicious exotic fruits with passion fruit being my favorite.

I was first introduced to Jamu at my hotel during breakfast. Everyday they had a different flavored Jamu juice. My ears perk up anytime I come across something healthy so I had to try this. It’s a Balinese style turmeric juice because turmeric is known to be one of the most powerful healing herbs. Every morning the menu would list what aliments the herbs in the juice would help with. It’s not a particularly sweet juice, some days it was quite difficult to drink. lol
spices that make up Jamu juice

Balinese breakfast of tempeh, jamu juice and fruit served on banana leaf
fresh coconut to drink

floating market
Thai desserts
tempeh curry - red rice was popular in Bali

exotic fruits that I had daily for breakfast
Panang Tofu - my favorite Thai dish

roadside fruit stall, saw a ton of these in Bali

pumpkin coconut curry with red rice



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Monday, October 20, 2014

Postcards from Thailand

Thailand is a country full of exotic fruits and flowers, gorgeous temples, elephants, silk, massage and amazing food! Thailand is one of my favorite countries; hence this is my fourth trip here! Arriving in Bangkok feels so easy, familiar and friendly — yet exciting and full of surprises. No two days are ever the same. My last trip was in 2005 and can you believe my luck that the tour guide that picked me up at the airport was the same one I had in 2005?!! I used a different company and was beyond shocked he remembered me because I didn't remember him. It wasn't until I got back home and looked at my old photo album and saw wow he has a great memory, he leads tours every week meeting hundreds of tourists a year, how could he possible remember me?! But what a wonderful welcome back!

The last time I went to Thailand was shortly after the tsunami so I cancelled my trip to the island of Phuket where it hit. This time I arrived just a few months after the Thai army declared martial law in Thailand.  I saw on the news that soldiers and armored vehicles were occupying the streets of Bangkok and parked outside broadcast facilities. Under martial law their powers granted the military takeover authority to prevent public gatherings, restrict media, set up checkpoints, and search for weapons. People were detained for publicly criticizing Thailand’s military takeover or the Thai monarchy. To prevent demonstrations they shut down access to many areas around major shopping and hotel districts in central Bangkok. I had heard of people cancelling or postponing their trip to Thailand due to those all the unrest, but luckily when I went the demonstrations were no longer in full swing and I felt safe enough to stay in Thailand.

Did you know that the King of Thailand has reigned since 1946 thus making him the world's longest reigning current monarch, recently celebrating his Diamond Jubilee after 60 years on the throne. He was educated in Switzerland and met his wife in Paris, she was the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France and they have 4 children. My first stop was the visit the most ornate palace – the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the former home of the Thai monarch. It is filled with over 54 acres of spiky temple spires, gold-plated walls and overly elaborate painting, sculpture and metalwork, gold stupas and a mural of Ramayana (the great Hindu epic) along the inner wall which is the longest wall painting in the world. 

public transportation boats
Bangkok is a huge city with a population of 6.3 million (NYC is 8 million) and a size of 606 sq miles (about the same size as Houston, DC is only 68 sq miles). There’s a lot of Americans that live in Bangkok that they have 5 American schools and even have their own residential area. The canal is the main form of transportation and a ride on a canal public "bus" will cost you $0.25. It's also the best way to explore Bangkok, as Bangkok is called the Venice of the East with so many canals. There’s also the sky train, hot pink taxis and tuk-tuks.  I traveled by myself along the canal navigating my way to transfer boats twice, asking for the express boat and making sure to get off at the right stop. You have to get on and off the boats very fast as I counted they only park at each stop for less than 30 seconds. I saw a group of hip monks in orange cloth riding the canal taxis  as well. No journey to Thailand is complete without riding a tuk tuk with its bouncing seats, zig zaging through traffic while wondering if this is a safe way to go as you take in all the air pollution. You should always bargain the price before getting on. Traffic is a nightmare so crossing the street by foot is scary.

Before are some pictures to show you what a most spectacular experience I had complete with sensational sights and exquisite cuisine. I fully enjoying all the Thailand has to offer, including embracing the chaos, the humidity, and the noise.  I’m a big city girl at heart, and Bangkok is the latest city that I have grown to adore. My hotel was right on the river so I watched the sunset every night from my high balcony.

Reclining Buddha - 150 feet long

purple seats on the plane!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Allure Magazine - Best of Beauty

I received the October issue of Allure magazine in the mail and immediately devoured their annual Best of Beauty issue and bought a few of the products they recommended.

A few brands this year have Kajal liners out so I wanted to give it a try. In case you didn't know a kohl eyeliner is called kajal in South Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.The magazine recommended the Smashbox liner so I purchased that as well as the Mayelline liner which I thought was similar but at a different price point to compare, the trend being able to ditch your sharpener. Neither was waterproof, in that by the end of the day they wore off. If my eyes were watery while applying it came right off on my finger. As you can see from the picture the Smashbox liner is very thin while the Maybelline one is extra thick and for me the winner would have to be the Maybelline pencil. 

Smashbox Always Sharp Waterproof Kohl Liner in Violetta $20

Maybelline Master Kajal No Sharpener Needed Waterproof Liner in Midnight Brown $5.99

Oil of Olay Fresh Effects Shine, Shine Go Away! Shine Minimizing Cleanser   $5.39
I had just finished my last cleanser and was urgently trying to decide what to try next and the magazine made it easy for me, I went with their Olay recommendation and used it with my sponge. Olay says it has the “purifying power of a mask ;with the fresh feel of a daily cleanser.” The cleanser, formulated with kaolin clay, created lots of lather and my skin didn't feel much dryness afterwards. I usually buy my cleansers at Sephora so wasn't sure something this cheap could work, but then I found out it's a dupe for  Lancome's Creme Radiance Clarifying Cream-to-Foam Cleanser ($25)  - just compare the ingredients.

Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy in WildCard  $6.39
This wasn't on Allure's list but it was this picture in an ad in the magazine and immediately the color wowed me! The bottle says its a color and base combined and you're supposed to use it with their Revlon Diamond Top Coat. Well I still used my a base coat as I heard from a friend that the color stains. Then I used my regular top coat so you don't need to buy theirs. The polish is a thicker gel like formula, so I only needed one coat of the dark blue color. I loved the way it went on, the application was really fantastic! The drying time was the same as any other polish. I painted it Sunday and got a couple chips on Tuesday, which I patched up then was chip-free through Sunday. On Tuesday of this week I patched up the new chips and put another coat of top coat on. And as of today, Friday, it's still looking good and I'm getting tons of compliments on it. I've never been able to get 2 weeks out of a polish so I'm really impressed by it! It doesn't require the use of a lamp to apply.

Allure Magazine produces a monthly Sample Society Beauty subscription box which includes high end generous sized products for just $15. Each month it comes with a perfume sample which is fun to have a new perfume to wear each month. I received a full size Alterna Caviar RepairX Re-Texturizing Protein Cream which retails for $35. Additionally there was a  full size Restorsea revitalizing eye cream which is made from a natural enzyme released by salmon at birth and targets crows feet and eliminates dark circles, it retails for $85. Also included are Tarte self tanning face towelettes, and LORAC POREfection Mattifying Face Primer. Click on the link below for more info about the box.

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