Gastro Holiday

For the most part, my family plans our days around meals.  Is yours the same way?

Pumpkin pie and whipped cream from Market Hall Rockridge
Best pumpkin pie ever from Market Hall.
Fresh pumpkin flavor, firm texture, perfect spices and sweetness level

Family Time

I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday!  
Here are a few snapshots from the past couple days
spent with my mom, little sister and her husband.

Tired but happy

Gifts and Food from the Weekend

Simple diamond stud earrings
Diamond stud earrings from my brother. Perfect for everyday wear!

Art Projects

red rose art print


Midweek Update: Asian Face Mist,
Current Books, TV Shows, Cappuccinos

BEAUTY
Oguma AquaKey Ion Complex Spray
Oguma AquaKey Ion Complex Spray - website
The idea they're selling is that your skin is constantly releasing ions and spraying this magical deep-sea, mineral water on your face will help absorb good, healthful, negative ions to refine, repair, and moisturize.  It's recommended for setting your makeup, hydrate your hair, and marketed toward sensitive, allergy-prone skintypes.  The ingredient list is kinda funny:  Ion Complex Elite (I.C.E), Micro Molecule Water, Oxygen.  I do think Oguma locks in moisture better than the Evian spray.

My sister's friend bought this set in Taiwan but it's readily available on ebay.  I transferred some of the spray into a reusable bottle to spritz on the go.  I have another bottle filled with rosewater and use both throughout the day to combat winter dry skin.


Google Friend Connect Direct Link
and Minimalistic Blogging Tools

Blogger users: Has your GFC widget disappeared?  Mine did last night but it's come back.  If it ever happens again, you can make your own button or just use a text link.
Your direct follow link looks like this:

http://www.blogger.com/follow-blog.g?blogID=3783148298270563197
 
Replace the red blog ID number with your individual one.  You can find your ID by going to your blog's overview page or any of the main options (Posts, Pages, Comments, etc).

Hopefully other people find this helpful! 
Click below to follow me with Google Friend Connect or find me on Bloglovin'.
Follow me with GFC  Follow on Bloglovin

These are the blogging tools I personally use to stay productive and organized; not a "best of" or comprehensive list of all the most popular applications.  Things I look for: free, powerful, fast, nominal use of computer resources.

PHOTO EDITING

I'm sure a lot of you are already using Picasa to manage your images (unless you're on a Mac/Hackintosh but I still find Picasa to be more intuitive than iPhoto).  Beside quick editing and watermarking, Picasa makes it easy to resize a large batch of photos. 

 Pin your selection of photos to the tray and click export


You can do this on Photoshop as well:  File > Scripts > Image Processor but I find Picasa to be efficient and fast with my general editing needs.

SCREENSHOTS

There are lots of decent plugins for Firefox or Chrome or you can use your keyboard's Print Screen button (Prt Scr/Prt Scn) to automatically copy a screenshot to your clipboard.  My keyboard actually doesn't have this button so I use SnapCrab for Windows and highly recommend it.

STORAGE
You get 2 free GB of cloud space with Dropbox. It can be installed on desktops, mobile, and accessed on the web.  You can grab Dropbox links straight from your desktop to use for websites or share with a friend.  I use it to transfer notes from class to home, blog and website image hosting, and back-ups of any important files. Here is my sign-up link: https://db.tt/UuT39J3  I receive 500 MB extra space if you use it.

NOTE TAKING
My class notes are always on paper but I store blogging ideas and bits digitally.  Popular note taking applications like Evernote just have too many bells and whistles for my needs.  I prefer simplicity when it comes to my tech.  Most often, I just use Windows Notepad to save bits of code (widgets not in use, customization excerpts), partially written posts, resource web addresses, and any other relevant pieces of information I want to keep. 

I keep reminders and frequently used notes on my desktop with Windows Sticky Notes.  Sticky Notes isn't perfect but it works and uses a minimal amount of computer resources.  I'm frequently linking my blog address so that's on the yellow note.  Green has horror movies I want to watch.  Blue has words + phrases I'm currently memorizing and trying to use.  Btw, a lover of words is a logophile. ^_^

Any text I'm continuously working on is stored on Dropbox.  I also use Google Keep on my mobile for grocery lists, phone numbers, and other temporary on-the-go notes.  Basically stickies but syncs online and you can set alarms.

Noteworthy (haha...) cloud applications are notepad.cc and SwitchnodeNotepad.cc is the ultimate in simplicity.  Open the link, type, change/save your url, add a password or share if you like.  Switchnode allows for multiple trees of notes and is great for saving code such as backup template files, school notes on your laptop, or other plain text needs, temporary or otherwise.

WRITING
I just write my posts straight through Blogger's web interface.  I know, anticlimactic.  

CODING
Notepad++ - Windows only. If you're customizing your Blogger HTML or editing your Wordpress files yourself, I recommend using a good source code editor.  (gedit is comparable for Linux/GNOME and Mac)


TASK MANAGEMENT
ifttt - if this then that
IFTTT (if this then that) is an amazing online utility resource for automating tasks.  If - set a trigger Then That - define an action  You can create or find pre-made "recipes" for uses such as automatically posting links to new posts on social networks, automatically backing-up Instagam images, send texts or emails for feed alerts such as for Craigslist, ebay, Amazon, or Netflix, and thousands more. 
Leave a comment below and let me know about any tools you find helpful for blogging!


 
keywords: blogger,blogger sites,blogger software, blogger tools,bloggers,blogging service,blogging services,blogging software,free blog software,free blogger,free blogging services,php blog software, wordpress software, free wordpress, php editor, free editor, simple blog software, software blog, blogging help, blogger help, google friend connect disappeared, google friend connect not working, google friend connect not displaying, gfc not working, gfc disappeared, gfc direct link, google friend connect direct link, minimalistic software

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

pineapple upside down cake - caramelized pineapple

This past Thanksgiving, I was approached to make dessert.  I'm not an experienced baker, but I want to rectify this.  Practice makes perfect or whatevs.  I debated between pineapple upside down cake and cranberry carrot cake.  Pineapple upside down cake is a relatively easy dessert and I didn't want to mess up for a family dinner!  As it was, I forgot butter and had to journey through Mordor, aka Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Eve, for more (a post all on its own I assure you).

I first tried pineapple upside down cake at my brother's house in North Carolina.  My sister-in-law made it with boxed cake mix, maraschino cherries, and a generous dollop of whipped cream on top.  It was amazing haha.  I'm not one to turn my nose up at boxed mixes and this was a true piece of Americana I had been yearning to try since I was in grade school. maraschino cherry - pineapple upside down cake
My fail cake.
Notice, the pineapple slices are not embedded in the batter and there's no caramelization.  When I inverted the cake, I knew it felt too heavy.  Following my instincts, I cut into the cake the next morning and discovered the cake was thick and dense. Luckily, I baked it the night before so I had time to figure out and fix my mistake!
 
how to fix a dense cake - pineapple upside down cake
ingredients and step by step photos for pineapple upside down cake

My little sister highly recommended Smitten Kitten's recipe and I adapted it with some variations: salted butter, lighter rum, canned pineapple, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, half of a lime, less sugar and less butter.  The instructions are included after the jump.

delicious caramel pineapple upside down cakePineapple Upside Down Cake Redux.  This new cake was light with a moist crumb.  The pineapple pieces were evenly distributed throughout and the caramel came out perfect.  I was super pleased with the results and not a piece remained!  I made sure to whip more air into the batter and added a tiny amount of baking soda and lime juice as extra raising agents.  |  raising agents information

Pineapple upside down cake is a wonderful addition to any holiday table (Thankgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter, 4th of July, etc).  The citrus lightens and brightens.  With a cup of tea or coffee, a slice makes a light but satisfying end to a rich meal.

Bacardi dark spiced rum and pineapple juice cocktail
Um, yeah, this pineapple juice and Bacardi spiced rum cocktail made baking much more fun lol ;)


fotd two: Navy, Rose, and Bronze

fotd two: navy, bronze, rose

Blue eyeshadow doesn't just belong in the 80's! 
(or on Mimi from The Drew Carey Show)  

If, like me, you are prone to reaching for neutral or natural shades, navy is an easy and subtle way to comfortably add color to your make-up repertoire.  Of course, if you are used to wearing bold make-up, break out more deep blues!  Jewel tone make-up is perfect for the holidays and sapphire is a sophisticated choice.


I patted some metallic blue eyeshadow on top of navy blue eyeliner and swiped on a deep rose/peach lipstick.  On my cheeks are a blend of soft rose blush and true brown (no orange tones) bronzer.  Foundation was applied around my mouth, under my eyes and between my eyebrows.  I haven't been setting my base or concealer because it's been cold and any powder highlights dry areas of my face.


Changed into my polka-dot pajamas and took a phone pics before washing my face.
Colors are washed out but you can see the shape of my eyeliner  &
I always like seeing how other girls with monolids draw their liner. 

I apologize for these swatches.  There are definitely better ones out there.  
I used my fingers and a q-tip so the pigmentation and appearance of consistency are a tad off.

Boots Lifting & Firming Foundation with SPF 15 in "Vanilla" - http://amzn.to/1e2w7J5 | Boots
Maybelline ColorSensational Lipcolor in "Totally Toffee" - http://amzn.to/1cm4wMe
e.l.f. Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder in "St. Lucia" - http://amzn.to/1gl9lfT | MUA
Rock & Republic Contrived Blush in "Immoral" [Discontinued] - ebay | MUA
Shu Uemura Painting Liner in "Night Blue" - Not readily available in the U.S. AlternativesSpace NK | e.l.f. - http://amzn.to/1jGSL9U | L'Oreal HiP - http://amzn.to/1glanIQ | Starry - http://amzn.to/1cxH8Pv | Bobbi Brown - http://bbrwn.co/1e2lZQP | MUA
Milani Baked Eyeshadow in "Blue My Mind" - Check Walgreens or ebay. Alternative: Maybelline Studio Color Tattoo - http://amzn.to/J06QRy
L'Oreal Voluminous Waterproof Mascara - http://amzn.to/1hJC9iy | MUA
Rimmel Extra Super Lash Mascara - http://amzn.to/1dk4UwL | MUA
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Sunday Morning Green Smoothie


Start your day off with a healthy and revitalizing veggie and fruit smoothie.  I do 3-5x a week.  Well, actually I wake up with a bracing cup of coffee first but about an hour later I'm usually starving and this smoothie will tide me over until lunchtime.

This concoction is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  I try not to include too many fruits as they tend to be heavy with sugar but Granny Smiths are higher in antioxidants and less sweet than other kinds of apples.  Pineapple, lemon, and turmeric all have excellent digestive, anti-inflammatory, and cleansing properties.  I won't delve into the benefits of every ingredient today as it would make for another super long post (+ I'm feeling lazy).  This is the start to a series on the different variations/additions I like so expect to see more smoothies on random Sundays!

Leaves from 2 stalks of kale, handful of spinach, 1/2 a Granny Smith apple, fresh pineapple, juice from 1 lemon, ground flaxseed, turmeric, chia seeds

INGREDIENTS: Leaves from 2 stalks of kale, handful of spinach, 1/2 a Granny Smith apple, fresh pineapple, juice from 1 lemon, ground flaxseed, turmeric, chia seeds, approximately 1 cup of water



P.S.  I want to thank the lovely ladies who nominated me for 3 Sunshine Awards (by date): linzylabellevie, BerryBloomXO, Beautify by Jackie Harrison, and 1 Liebster Award from Beyouteeful.  I truly appreciate it!  Blogging is just the bee's knees and I'm happy to meet so many supportive women looking to network and share our thoughts and mutual interests.

  Who else likes to drink their vitamins!?  


The Sunscreen Post

Foggy day in San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, view from Baker Beach
Did you know up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate your skin on a cloudy day?  (Source)  Even if you work in an office or spend most of your day in class, you are exposed to the sun in your commute and likely through windows.  Don't wait until summer to protect your skin, if not for health's sake, then for the sake of vanity! 

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen
If you Google "sunblock vs. sunscreen" or "difference between sunblock and sunscreen" you will find most of the top hits are outdated. The idea being perpetuated is that sunscreen uses chemical ingredients which filter and absorb UV radiation and sunblock uses physical minerals which block UVR.  This was mostly true up until June 2012, when the FDA set forth new regulations for labeling sunscreen.  (Source)  Major changes which caught my eye:
  1. "Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof” or identify their products as 'sunblocks.'" "Water resistant" is still okay but time estimates for efficacy must be provided.
    Me hanging out in Lindsey's pool
  2. "...products that have SPF values higher than 50 [must] be labeled as 'SPF 50+.' FDA does not have adequate data demonstrating that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide additional protection compared to products with SPF values of 50."
    • EU is the same while Australia's upper limit is 30+.  Asia uses the PA System

Midweek Update: November Favorites + Apple, Celery, and Spinach Salad

AHA Cleansing Oil by Cleansing Research

   I've been layering different kinds of mascara to emphasize my thin, short lashes.  The method works but it's a pain to get off, especially as I prefer waterproof formulas.  Typically, a cotton ball lightly soaked with oil and pressed gently on my lids will dissolve the makeup without further damaging my lashes.  This Japanese cleansing oil removes that step from my routine and cleanses my entire face as well. 
   If you have ever used the Shu Uemura oils, you will find this product to be less viscous and much more pleasant smelling.  Where Shu smells like straight up melted plastic, this one is crisp, green apple.  Shu leaves a film on the skin but Cleansing Research's oil washes away easily without being drying or causing my skin to breakout.  This is an excellent product to have on hand for removing hard-to-wash make-up.  Large Japanese or Asian supermarkets and malls may carry this.  Mine was purchased from Mitsuwa in San Jose or you can buy it online at Rakuten.


Queen Helene Oatmeal 'n 
Honey Natural Facial Scrub
amazon -  http://amzn.to/1bHVmia
makeupalley 4.2/5, 219 reviews

    While not exactly microdermabrasion small, the ground walnut shell pieces in this scrub is still a far cry gentler than my past days of using sugar on my face.  Smelling and looking sort of like crushed oatmeal, this soft scrub is effective for sloughing away flaky winter skin.  I keep it in my shower and use it on my body as well.
Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream
amazon - http://amzn.to/1cXQ2Uw
makeupalley 4.2/5, 602 reviews

    I wash my hands frequently and this cream is a lifesaver.  Fragrance free and nearly translucent, this product has a silicone texture and finish, and is best used on already wet hands.  There is no sticky residue.  For the price point, it's really something you will want to keep in your bags, car, and in your desk!


Mystic Divine Nourishing Oil Treatment
Sally's Beauty Supply

    There aren't very many reviews on this but at my local Sally's, it's always disappearing off the shelf.  This is an oil treatment similar in nature to the ever popular Moroccan Oil.  While I like the effect of Moroccan oil, I don't enjoy the price or the scent.  This hair treatment is rich in argan and monoi oils and lightly scented like vanilla.  Scent tends to linger strongly in hair and while I'm sensitive to smells, this one doesn't bother me.  I use Mystic Divine on the ends of my hair and smooth the residue around my crown.  Love this as of late because I've been styling my hair more frequently.  Keep your eye out for sales, I purchased this BOGO.

Five Fall/Winter OOTDs

I'm no fashion blogger but I do enjoy seeing what regular girls wear on an everyday basis.  These simple styles are inspired by classic trends.
 
This was from Thanksgiving. →
It's hard to take good outfit of the day photos!

Thank you to my niece for helping me though. :)



Monochrome Neutrals - Beige on beige baby!  Banana Republic silk cotton cashmere sweater, khaki stretch cotton skinny pants, Burberry-esque scarf: $8 on Amazon, super soft and doesn't pill but the edges are unfinished - http://amzn.to/1b9QOy9