Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas!

Hello and Happy Christmas! I hope your day is filled with cheer and laughter and family and maybe a few gifts. If you don't celebrate Christmas, then I wish you seasons greetings instead!

I just wanted to share the polish look that I thought looked festive and cheerful. I used Essie's Stroke of Brilliance over a clear base coat and loaded on 2 or 3 thick coats, doing my best to get as much glitter on my nails as possible. My ring is a copycat Princess Diana (and now Princess Kate) ring from Macy's, which I actually bought at a mall in Hawaii, from my trip in January.
Have a lovely day!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Girly Post: Sparkly Nails

Today I'll be sharing two different nail looks, one is an ombre-ish glitter nail and the other is a matte silver with rhinestones look (which I actually did for Halloween but I think would be nice for the holidays as well).

I was trying to make my nails look like falling snow collecting on the ground or maybe the fake glitter snow inside of a snow globe floating to the bottom. Well, whatever it is, I achieved the look by first painting my nails with base coat and then a base color (I used Sand Tropez by Essie, which is a nude peachy color). Then, I applied a blue glitter nail polish (Stroke of Brilliance by Essie) in 3 steps. First, I wiped off 90% of the polish from the brush and just patted the glitter onto most of my nail, which you can see in the first frame. You just want a few flecks of glitter here and there. Then, I dipped back into the bottle and coated the brush in lots of glittery polish and patted it onto the bottom 1/2 of my nail, which you can see in the second frame. Last step was to dip back into the bottle and then apply the glittery polish to the bottom 1/4 of my nail - pretty much where you might apply the white polish for a french manicure.
Seal with a top coat and tada! I think this could also look like bubbling champagne too (if I'd used pink glitter). Special effects are courtesy of Instagram.
And here is a shot of my rhinestoned nails from Halloween, but I think this look could be nice for a Christmas party or New Years Eve bash. I just used some rhinestones I had leftover from a craft project so these aren't specialty nail rhinestones or anything. First, I applied a base coat, then I used a silver nail polish (Essie's No Place Like Chrome), and then topped it off with a matte top coat (from Sephora by OPI collection). To get the rhinestones to stick, I just placed them onto my nails while the polish was still wet. If you are worried about the gems falling off, you can always wait for the polish to dry and then use a little bit of crazy glue. Don't worry about damaging your nails because the nail polish will act as a buffer between your nail and the glue.
Whatever the occasion, I always enjoy making my nails look fun. I hope this post inspires you to do the same.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DIY: pearl beads

And yet again, I am here to post a DIY. Decembers are usually full of DIYs for me. Actually, I'll be honest, I just DIY when I feel like it; and when I feel like it, I REALLY feel like it and will go over the top, out of my way to find projects to do. But December really gets me in that mood because I like making gifts and I will DIY until my fingers shrivel up and my eyeballs fall out, because I have fun doing it.

So, today's post is about sewing pearl beads onto something to make it pretty. It's similar to my last post about sewing sequins onto stuff to make it shiny except this time, it's pearl beads. But I suppose you could do this with almost any kind of bead.

And again, this is the type of project that's nice for making your old things look like new cool things but I used something that was already new, which is this shirt from H&M that was $10. It was the last one available in this grey color but it was a size 4. If you don't know anything about H&M, you should know this: their sizing is weird and makes you feel like a fatso. Seriously, a size 4 from them would be a size 0000 at the Gap. So, normally, I need at least a size 6, especially because I have some substantial boobs (at least for a short Asian girl). When I tried on this shirt, I got stuck and I was considering returning it, but then I had a brilliant plan! Scroll down to see what I did.
Oh, and for this project you will need:
  • needle & thread
  • beads ($2 from Michaels)
And hoorah! I have another cute little pictorial to share.

Monday, December 17, 2012

DIY: Sequins

I'm not sure if the title of this post is misleading. This is NOT a "make your own sequins" post but rather an entry about sewing sequins on boring things to make them look a little prettier, a little sassier, a little more holiday appropriate. And, I've stopped trying to make excuses for "this is not really travel related but I am going to post it on this blog anyway"-style posts. I'm just going to do it unabashedly because you know what? This is my blog and I'll post what I want to (Cyndi Lauper reference).

If you are like me, you despise going to the mall this time of year because of many reasons, and I will list the top three reasons here:
  1. It is too crowded, no matter what time of day I go (lunch break, after work, during work), because everyone is trying to get their holiday shopping done.
  2. The parking lots are super full and I end up wasting time (and gas) trying to find a spot.
  3. I have to wear a warm coat (because it's winter) and because the parking spot I've found is almost a mile away from the entrance, I can't just leave it in the car, I have to wear it. And then once I'm in the mall, I am way too warm and have to either endure the heat of wearing a winter coat indoors or I have to drape it over my arm and end up with sore "biceps" (because I am just that weak).
So, when I'm feeling like, "I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!" instead of going to the mall, I just take something I already own and make it a little cooler. I will confess that the dress I jazz up in this post is a new purchase from H&M from a few days after Black Friday and that is because 1) I had something I had to exchange and 2) I was at the mall already after dropping my sister off at the bus stop so she could go back to school (the bus stop is in the parking lot of the mall).

Now, onto the photos! First, a shot of the $10 dress I bought. It is a lovely dusty rose color, which isn't too apparent in this photo. It is a faux satin with a tulle overlay (2 layers of tulle, actually) and has a small zipper detail in the back. It is not a boring dress, by any means, but it could use a little spice.
For this project, you will need:
  • needle and thread
  • sequins
  • and there are beads pictured here but I ended up not using them so ignore them
  • also, my dog's paws are in this photo because he was being an ass and wouldn't get out of the shot
And here, I am attaching a lovely pictorial, drawn by yours truly, of how to sew sequins onto fabric. It's really quite sophisticated and nice so don't be too impressed (that is pure, unadulterated sarcasm, people). No, but really, I think it's a nice and simple pictorial that should help you, if you are new to this whole hand sewing game.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Girly Post: Holiday Nails

It is the holiday season and to get in the spirit, I painted my nails red. But that didn't quite do it for me so I painted over the red with a gold glitter top coat and boy, that was the ticket! Sorry, I wasn't calling you boy, I was just using it as a "gee golly!" type of exclamation.

... And that's the whole post. Not much else to say today, I guess! The red nail polish is from the Gap from a v. long time ago - probably from when I was in middle school which was 10 years ago (OMG I AM OLD BUT THIS POLISH IS AWESOME BECAUSE IT IS STILL GOOD) and the gold glitter top coat is from Essie's Lux Effect top coat collection in "As Gold as it Gets" and it is gorgeous over black and navy polish as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

DIY Bib Necklace

For the past few weeks, I have been occupying the chilly winter nights with DIY projects and today, I am sharing my "floating gem" bib necklace. Statement jewelry, especially embellished necklaces, are super trendy these days but personally, I am not a big fan of giving into trends. Not because I think I'm a cool hipster, but I'm not keen on spending money on something that may go out of style in a month. So making trendy things myself for a fraction of the cost is always a nice way to give in to the trends without breaking the bank.

Also, since it's the holiday season, you may be trying to save a little money or you might be looking for a nice homemade gift for a friend, so hopefully this post will inspire you.

You will need:
ribbon ($2 to $3 depending on the type)
tulle or mesh ($4 for a 20 yard roll)
rhinestones, sequins, beads - your preference ($2 to $4 a pack, depending on the style)
bead glue ($3)
scissors
tweezers
cardstock or any thick paper (I used a brown paper grocery bag)
tissue paper or wax paper
Start by creating a template with the cardstock (or in my case, brown bag). Take a sizable piece (one that's big enough for the necklace you are creating) and fold it in half so you can ensure your design is symmetrical. Cut out your pattern with scissors and unfold to reveal the shape.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

San Juan: Where to Eat

We ate a lot of delicious food while we were in San Juan, though I'm not going to lie and say it was ALL good because there were some misses amongst the hits. This link will take you to my yelp list for San Juan places, which includes places from my previous trip as well as the recent one. And as of today, I haven't actually finished reviewing all of the spots from this trip, so I'm sorry - shame on me.

I don't want to review every restaurant here, as that would be redundant and also, I'm lazy so I'll just share a few photos and add captions and maybe a quick description.
La Playita restaurant, pretty sky - probably my favorite restaurant that we visited
.

Monday, December 10, 2012

San Juan: Old San Juan

If you are visiting San Juan, you cannot miss out on Old San Juan. It's historic with affordable restaurants and plenty of souvenir shops so you can get chotchkies for your friends.

Here are a few photos:
These vintage looking photos were taken at Sofia's Italian Kitchen, which was a really yummy restaurant.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

San Juan: the Ritz Carlton

We stayed at the Ritz Carlton San Juan for four nights and it was a lovely experience. The hotel itself is clean, modern, and the staff is v. friendly and always ready to get you what you need. Our room was on the smaller side, but it was still nicely furnished, had a large bathroom with the toilet in its own room (which made getting ready in the morning and evening easier), and a big television.

The room rates aren't crazy extravagant here, unless you want a fancy suite, but a fancy suite in most hotels will set you back anyway. If you want to stay in the Isla Verde area, there are many hotels right on the beach with comparable rates so I suggest you stay here.

Here are some photos shot in and around the hotel.
our first drinks on the island

Monday, December 03, 2012

San Juan 2012: El Yunque Rainforest

So I got back from San Juan 2 weeks ago and am finally ready to post some photos. First, I'll be posting our trip to the Rainforest.

I've been to Puerto Rico before (about a year and a half ago) and had a great time so I was really excited to go again. One of the other girls on the trip had also been before and suggested that we take a tour to El Yunque Rainforest. We booked our half-day tour through Viator for about $52 per person. Our tour guide called himself "Ricky Ricardo" and he picked us up at our hotel (the Ritz Carlton) in a 12-passenger van, checked our vouchers, and we were on our way. We brought water bottles, sunscreen, and bug spray with us, but the bug spray ended up being unnecessary, as no bugs were around to bother us.

The van-ride was around 45 minutes and Ricky gave us background information on Puerto Rico and El Yunque as he drove. Once we actually reached the mountain, we made stops at 5 different spots to explore and take photos. The first stop was at the Welcome Center so we picked up maps and then headed to the gift shop. It started raining like crazy while we were there so we each picked up a poncho, for $7.50, and they served us really well. After that, we stopped at a few small hiking trails (so wear sneakers), Yukahu Tower (100+ steps to an amazing view), and our last stop was at the Coco Waterfalls, which were really beautiful.

Okay, so enough chit-chat. Here are some photos:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Airport Etiquette: Metal Detector

How careful are you when you're getting dressed to go to the airport (as a traveler, not as a chauffeur)?
Airport Etiquette: Metal Detectors


Honestly, setting off the metal detector is not just about holding up the line for others. You're delaying yourself and potentially putting yourself in a touchy-feel-y situation that wouldn't have been necessary if you'd just paid a bit more attention in the first place.

Not all metal will set off the metal detector but it's better to be safe than sorry so:
  1. Do not wear clothing that's studded or has a bunch of zippers or any type of similar metal embellishment. Make sure your undergarments are also un-embellished. Some people are less demure than others, but I know I'd be pretty embarrassed to have to admit, "I think it's my underwear that's setting off the beeping."
  2. Wear something that doesn't require a belt. Or, leave the belt off until you've made it through security. Many belt buckles will set off the alarm, and even if it doesn't, most TSA agents will remind you before you step through the metal detector and ask you to take it off anyway.
  3. Even if you are crazy in love with jewelry, pack it up in a case and put it all on after you've been through security. If setting off the metal detector isn't enough of a case, let me scare you by reminding you that it could fall out of the little tray while it's traveling along the conveyor belt and you may lose your precious jewelry.
So that's it; just three simple rules to follow to keeping everyone a little happier while going through security at the airport.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Airport Etiquette: Shoes

As I was re-reading this post for grammar errors and such, I realized that some people could end up offended because of my own personal hatred of certain shoes and because I stereotype/generalize a bit. However, in the end, this is my blog where I feel I am allowed to express my own opinions and I'm not condemning anyone to hell by any means so here I go!

Minding your manners is so important and I thought I'd start doing some posts on minding your manners whilst traveling. Today, I'm sharing the importance of choosing the right shoe.
Airport Etiquette: shoes

I've been in and out of airports all year, and as a seasoned traveler who has suffered through the TSA's "take off your shoes" rule countless times, I must say that I get so annoyed at the dozens of female travelers who either offend me with their hideous footwear and/or hold up the line with their ridiculous shoes. I pinpoint the females because the guys usually wear normal man shoes, e.g. sneakers/kicks or loafers, that are low-maintenance. I don't want to be too harsh or be offensive, but, every time I fly, I always encounter at least one of these three women:
  • There's the "I LOVE UGGS and/or CROCS" girl who (usually) is also wearing some sort of coral or royal purple or cerulean velour tracksuit from Juicy Couture circa 2001 (J.Lo's video for the remix of 'I'm Real' with Ja Rule ignited this trend and it has yet to die amongst dumb tweens and "I think I'm hip" moms). This chick's holding up the line, not because of her footwear, but because she's not paying attention and forgets to take her laptop out of its case or argues with the TSA agent because she doesn't know the 3-1-1 rule and packed her expensive Dior lotion, which comes in a 6 oz. container. YOU SUCK.
  • Then there's the girl wearing glittery 4" stilettos... to the airport. This lady starts being a nuisance by setting off the metal detector. Then, she takes forever to take off all of her jewelry (earrings, bangles, toe ring), walks through the metal detector, and sets it off again because she forgot her anklet. And all the while, she whines about having to take off her shoes because they make her too short and on top of that, she has to walk barefoot on the dirty floor. I DO NOT LIKE YOU.
  • And lastly, there's the girl who wears shoes that take a solid 5 minutes to remove and often times, she needs help from another person. Then, once she's through the metal detector/ body scanner, she gets her shoes from the tray on the other side and instead of grabbing all of her stuff and moving to one of the benches to get her stuff together, she stands at the conveyor belt and tries to put on her shoes and holds up the line. YOU ARE THE WORST.
And so, fellow female travelers, I urge you to avoid being these annoying queue delayers and wear sensible shoes that are also fashionable and be mindful of the other dozens of people who are waiting in line behind you.

A few other tips:
  • If I am going from cold weather to warm weather (like back in January when I was traveling from NYC to Hawaii), I like to wear the same type of shoe I might wear when the weather is transitioning form summer to fall: like those fox slippers or the brown loafers pictured above.
  • If I am going from warm weather to cold weather (like back in January when I was traveling from Hawaii back to NYC), I like to wear sandals through security and then I'll switch my shoes while I'm waiting for my flight.
Cheers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Beach Bag

my beach bag

I thought it might be somewhat helpful to show what I like to bring to the beach with me. Most of this stuff is packable in my carry on, which is awesome, so it's relevant to tropical holiday-faraway trips. But, it also applies to day trips to any nearby shore.
  1. I like to use this collapsible shopper tote from Forever21 because it packs easily into my suitcase, it's cheap yet durable, and I don't mind if I get sand in it.
  2. SPF! Please, please, please, protect yourself when you go into the sun. I really like buying products meant for babies because there are (usually) fewer chemicals that will hurt your skin so I usually get a baby sunscreen for my face, then a high SPF spray sunscreen for my body, and of course, some SPF chapstick for my lips.
  3. Evian mist isn't just great for hydrating your face during a dry plane ride. It's multi-functional! Who knew? (SARCASM). Cool yourself off and hydrate your skin after being in the sun.
  4. Baby powder is great if you've driven yourself to the beach because when you're ready to leave and you have sand stuck to your feet, just poof on some powder. The baby powder will absorb any moisture that's making the sand stick to you and you'll be able to brush it off really quickly and easily.
  5. After sun lotion and/or aloe are also great to bring along with you. Slather yourself after sunning to cool down your skin and replenish some moisture.
  6. Always bring a pareo or a cover-up dress in case you have to venture off the beach to get food or to use if it starts to get a bit cooler or windy. And of course, waterproof, comfy flip-flops are the best beach shoe, at least for me.
  7. Pack a sun hat and sunglasses to protect the top of your head and eyes because it's pretty difficult to sunscreen your scalp and eyeballs.
  8. If you're staying at a resort, don't forget to grab a towel from the towel cabana. I usually grab 2 - one for spreading on my beach chair or on the sand and a second to use to dry off after I've taken a swim.
  9. Trashy magazines are a MUST for me on the beach. I love to lounge around and indulge in vapid articles about the best hairstyles for Black Friday shopping and which celebrity is boinking their assistant.
  10. WATER! This is not something you pack in your carry on, obviously. But when you are headed to the beach, pack some water. It's really important to stay hydrated so that you don't end up suffering heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
I am getting quite excited for Puerto Rico, Part 2! I'm flying out on Thursday morning and I am so ready to get some sun. Apparently, the tan I can achieve by spending a week in Provo AND 3 months in Florida will fade rather quickly so I feel quite pale and sad.

Monday, November 05, 2012

My Electricity is Back!

Yesterday morning, I made myself some buttermilk pancakes and sausage and heard a beeping outside. And hooray, it was a JCP&L truck! They worked on the lines near my house for half an hour and then drove off. Disappointingly, the power wasn't restored, but about an hour later, I heard this "droooooooom" sound in my house and realized it was our refrigerators (we have two) humming rather loudly. I checked the lights in my room by flicking the switch on and off a few times and realized that yes, the power was restored to our street.

So thank you, JCP&L electricians who are working overtime around the clock to restore power to New Jersey. Living an entire week without power wasn't as terrible as I imagined it to be; after all, I survived. I attribute most of that to the fact that I was able to charge my iPhone and iPad at work so that I wasn't completely bored at home. I read a bunch of books on iBooks and did some outfit planning for Puerto Rico. It was definitely cold at night but I just layered on some fleece sweatpants over my yoga pants and wore a long-sleeve t-shirt under a sherpa-lined sweatshirt, doubled up on blankets, and cuddled with my dog, George Michael, and made it through each night.

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people without power and many people whose homes were destroyed. Here are some links to donation sites:
Donate Blood - NJ and NY

Also, in the wake of all of this hullabaloo, tomorrow is election day. Celebrate democracy (or the polluted version that's been shaped in the past few decades by pushy politics) and patriotism and vote, if you are old enough. Tomorrow is my second election ever, where I am eligible to vote, and my first election where I'm not voting through an absentee ballot. I'm pretty pumped because I think voting is so meaningful and I really dislike when people say, "your vote doesn't really count, electoral college, blahblahblah." The fact that I am allowed to vote is great, in and of itself.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween

Happy Halloween!

I'm still in the Halloween spirit, despite Hurricane Sandy and her wicked ways. It was a warm weekend in NYC with decent weather that made for perfect pre-hurricane Halloween partying. Here are a few photos (with my DIY costume) of my favorite friend and I.

I'm supposed to be a woodland nymph or fairy and she's Katy Perry.

Some pre-party photos...
Here's a photo taken at the party by the party photographer...
And this is us in K-town afterwards because we were hungry.
I'm not trying to downplay the hurricane but hey, it's been a pretty serious few days and it's nice to have a reason to smile today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

It's nasty in the NY/NJ area (and surrounding states) right now. The wind is so loud, it's frightening. I'm just trying to stay cozy with my dog and reading a book by candlelight.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIY Headband / DIY Halloween

Halloween is one week away but the Halloween parties all start this weekend. Every year, I struggle with coming up with a unique costume idea and then struggle again with executing it with aplomb. I'm definitely a fan of DIY costumes, as this ensures that even if someone has the same idea as I do, our costumes won't be exactly the same. Admittedly, it's not as embarrassing to walk into a costume party wearing the same costume as another person as it is to walk into work to see that your coworker and you are wearing the same funky top BUT, it's always nice to stand out on your own.

This year, as I do almost every year, I'm celebrating one of my favorite holidays in New York City and I decided to do something a little simpler with my costume. AND the great thing is, I'll definitely be reusing some of my DIY-ed pieces on regular, non-costume, normal days. I've decided to be some sort of forest fairy or woodland nymph and make some flower headbands, bracelets, and a flowery bustier top. The headbands and bracelets will definitely be reused in my everyday outfits, especially once springtime rolls around.

For the headband, you will need:
ribbon
hot glue gun
hot glue sticks
silk flowers
scissors
optional: rhinestones, glitter, anything you want to add to the flowers to give them a little extra oomph
I chose these two types of ribbon. I picked a color theme of pinks, beiges, and gold, so that the look wouldn't be too overwhelming.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shopping, Anglophile-Style (2)

Okay, so I really miss London and I've been reading about all these new stores opening in Covent Garden and of course there was the Olympics this past summer so it kind of feels like people are just rubbing it in my face at this point.

So I did what I always do to make myself feel better: I did some shopping. And what better way to ameliorate my terrible case of Anglophilia than with a purchase from a British retailer? So I popped on Topshop.com and found this little card holder (which is sold out now but they do have this purse wallet thing). I'm in love with it; I just think it's so cute and I love that I know and have been to all of the little areas marked on the map.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New York City

I'm realizing that I never ever blog about New York City. I was born in Queens, grew up in Brooklyn, lived in Long Island for a few years, I have family sprinkled throughout the five boroughs who I visit often, I lived in Manhattan for a year while I worked in Yonkers, was the engineer on a project for the Hunter College expansion in Harlem, and I go so often (it's just a 30 min. drive away) that I guess I never think of it as a holiday destination.

But I have been making an effort to post my more memorable/fun outings to the city in my eats blog. Here are the links to a few NYC-specific posts.

Tea at the Plaza Hotel
Morimoto
Laduree & McNulty's Tea Shop
Tea at the Plaza Hotel
Morimoto

Laduree (NYC location)
McNulty's Tea Shop
I'm going to try and make a conscious effort to post more about NYC, considering it's one of the best cities in the world; it deserves the attention.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DIY Foxy Slippers

So, I have yet another DIY to share today: a pair of foxy slippers. I know, I know, another DIY? I promise you this is still a travel blog; I guess I've just been feeling rather creative lately or something. And you know, these shoes are sort of related to travel in that they are flat so they pack well and they're easy to slip on and off, which is great for going through security at the airport. Lastly, I made these while I was in Florida for work, so it's a fun and easy project that's achievable on the road.

For this DIY, I took a pair of cheap slippers and embellished them with an embroidered fox face. I was inspired by these Tory Burch velvet fox smoking slippers, which I saw a few months ago. I was incredibly tempted to buy myself a pair but I was deterred by two things: 1) the hefty price tag, $250 yikes and 2) they are sold out in my size. Smoking slippers are super trendy right now, and though I'm not usually a bandwagonner, the cute little fox was difficult to get over. I really wanted a pair.

So my solution? DIY project! Though I took a Home Economics class back in 7th grade and learned to use a sewing machine, I haven't done much needlework since then. A handful of times, I've hand-sewn missing buttons and roughly hemmed a pair of too-long pants, oh and once, I turned a pair of pink flares into skinny jeans and did a decent job, but none of those stitches were professional, to say the least. What I'm trying to say is that this is an easy DIY because you don't need to be a skilled sewer. However, patience and the ability to endure sore fingers will be required.

You'll need:
a pair of smoking flats or slippers (mine were $16 on sale at Target, $20 regular price)
tan felt ($0.50/sheet)
embroidery floss in black, white, cream, and foxy orange ($0.39 per color)
krazy glue ($4 per tube)
ribbon ($0.99 per roll)
needle
marker
scissors

I started by drawing a fox face shape on the felt. Then I cut out two fox heads, one for each shoe.

Friday, October 05, 2012

DIY Jewelry

Okay, so I have yet another not-really-travel-related post. This time it's DIY jewelry. And again, I'll make my point that if you save a little money in one place, you can put it towards travel! I actually did this project over six months ago but kind of forgot about it and wasn't sure if I should post it but I thought it was worth sharing.

What you'll need:
oven-bake clay (from Michaels, under $5)
eyepins
chain
bead glue
gemstones/rhinestones (you know, sparkly stuff)
other useful tools: plastic knife, toothpicks, tweezers, scissors, pliers, ruler
The package of clay will tell you what temperature and time to use to bake the clay.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

DIY Decoupage Dresser

Okay, so this isn't really a travel-related post but I wanted to share it on my blog nonetheless. It is a money-saving idea and that saved money can be put towards a trip so I think it's sort of relevant.

I was in a decorating funk lately - my room has been feeling v. blah - so I decided to do something about it and I did a little decoupage to vamp up my old, dying dresser. Decoupage is a type of arts & crafts activity where you glue bits of paper to something to make it prettier. It's as simple as that. My dresser was brand new when I got it from Ikea back when I was a sophomore in high school (10 years ago!). Back then, I loved white (actually, I still love white) so I got a white laminate dresser and now, 10 years later, it's starting to peel a bit on the edges of the drawers and it's starting to look a little rough. But now, I think it looks pretty awesome and the decoupage distracts the eye away from the peeling.

What you'll need:
an image you want to place on your object (you can decoupage almost anything) printed onto appropriately sized paper
Mod Podge (available at most craft stores, I bought a jar at Michaels) - I like the matte version but they also sell glossy and satin finishes
foam brush, or a regular paint brush if that's what you have - make sure the bristles are soft and rinse immediately after use or else the Mod Podge will harden and ruin the brush

I started by measuring my dresser and choosing an image. I like this site because they have a lot of clip art in the style I wanted for my room - Victorian and classic - but you can use any site or image you want. Next, print out your image in the appropriate size. I had to use a plotter (meant for printing large scale plan drawings) and I used normal printer paper. If you're worried about tearing or wrinkling, you might want to use a heavier weight paper - I suggest FedEx/Kinkos for your printing needs.

I decided to use an antique fireplace image for my decoupage. I've always wanted a fireplace in my room anyway! You could use anything though - I was also considering ancient Roman friezes, stone griffin statues, and Egyptian vases.
I stuck my hand in the photo so you could get an idea of the scale of the image
Then I cut out the image with scissors, being careful not to snip off any of the lovely details. Then, I placed the image on my dresser where I thought it would look best. Then I marked off where the drawers were with a pencil. If there were empty spaces between the drawers, I would've marked those off too so I could decoupage some skinny pieces in the middle but luckily, I was able to save myself some time with my no-fuss dresser. It's hard to see the lines in that last photo but I took a straight edge and drew lines where I made pencil marks.

Friday, September 28, 2012

My Carry On

Since I'm flying back home today (I just finished another 2 week stint in Florida for work), I thought it would be prudent to do a post on what's in my carry on. Though, I should clarify: I rarely check bags, so 99% of the time I only have carry on luggage but this is the stuff that I keep in the bag that goes under my seat (not in the overhead compartment) so that it's handy and I can get at it whenever I want.
carry on
  1. Evian mineral water spray ($14 for a pack of two travel sized sprays at Sephora) - this stuff is awesome because you can spritz it on your face for a bit of refreshment and hydration. Recycled airplane air is incredibly dry (you'd never complain that it was too humid on a flight) so your skin will thank you for the moisture. Don't forget - you'll probably have to pack this in your liquids bag!
  2. L'Occitane Lavendar Hand Cream ($22 for a 2.6 oz tube at L'Occitane) - the skin on your hands is likely to dry out as well so I always pack this ultra rich hand cream. The subtle lavender scent is soothing - smells much better than the plane, anyway - and it helps me sleep. I've managed to sneak it through security without having to put it in my liquids bag but you might want to put it in yours to play it safe.
  3. Korres Milk Proteins Make Up Removing Wipes ($25 for a packet of 25 wipes at Sephora) - makeup removing wipes are my best friend when I'm traveling. They don't count as a liquid (hurrah) and they travel really well. I like to give my face a scrub down a few minutes before landing so that I arrive looking fresh and glow-y, despite having spent hours in transit.
  4. SNACK! These days, unless you're taking a 14 hour flight halfway around the world, airlines won't give you anything to eat, for free that is. And if you're like me, you get cranky when you're hungry and extra cranky about paying exorbitant prices for sub-par food. That's why no matter how long the flight (even if it's just an hour) I like to pack a little something to eat. I usually pack an apple and/or a baggie with grapes or blueberries, and a sandwich. Most flights offer complimentary soft drinks but I usually bring a reusable water bottle with me and ask the good people at Starbucks (or any coffee place) to fill it up with water for me.
  5. Journal and pen (I'm partial to Moleskine) - I like to journal when I'm traveling so that's why I bring it but it's handy for writing down your packing list and bring it with you (so you don't lose anything on your way back). It's also good to write down important phone numbers - like your hotel - and confirmation numbers for rental cars and whatnot. The pen is also especially awesome if you are traveling internationally because you have to fill out those pesky customs forms. Filling it out on the plane will save you loads of time getting through the queue once you land.
  6. Aloe socks ($12 for a pack of two at Kohls) - Aloe socks are great. I like to take my shoes off on the plane and give my toes some room to wiggle but your bare feet (no matter how perfectly pedicured) are probably not what your neighbors want to see (unless they're pervs). Aloe socks will pamper your feet while keeping you decent. Plus, aloe is incredibly moisturizing.
  7. Pashmina - the pashmina is my best friend on flights because yes, it's a fashion thing but it can also act as a blanket, you can crumple it to use as a pillow, or tuck it behind your back for some extra support (airplane seats can be really uncomfortable).
  8. Headphones and iPhone/iPod - airlines are scouting for more ways to make money, e.g. making you pay for in-flight entertainment, so instead of forking over $7+ every time I fly, I just bring my own entertainment. Headphones are great at blocking out noise when you want to nap. Or if you have a chatty neighbor, having headphones in your ears gives off the message: "I do not want to socialize, thanks."
  9. Toothbrush & toothpaste - um, yeah, if you're like me, you've fallen asleep on flights and woken up with a less-than-fresh taste in your mouth. Don't arrive at your destination with funky breath - keep your toothbrush and toothpaste handy in your carry on so you can freshen up.
  10. Glasses, contacts case, contact solution/rewetting drops - I like to keep my glasses and contacts case handy in case my eyes get dry and I need to take my contacts out. If you have 20-20 vision, bless you, you are lucky, but you can still suffer dry eyes. Rewetting drops will revive your eyes so you don't arrive looking bloodshot and zombie-like.
Happy traveling.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

San Juan Part Dos

El Yunque
I am v. spoiled with holidays this year. First there was Hawaii in January, then Istanbul in March, and Turks and Caicos in July/August. Well, I've got (at least) one more to add to the list. In November, I'm headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico (for the second time in my life) with a few friends for an extended weekend (Thursday through Monday). Thankfully, we're headed there before Thanksgiving so I won't have to worry about post-Thanksgiving turkey bloat! The price was pretty decent, around $650 for each of us, flights + hotel. The prices had been better and kept creeping up so we jumped on the tickets before they got any pricier.

I'm excited because we've already got a trip to the rainforest (El Yunque) planned ($50 per person tour) and we're staying in Isla Verde, which has more nightlife than Condado, which is the neighborhood I stayed in last time.

 Ritz Carlton San Juan
Another exciting aspect of the trip is that we are staying at the Ritz-Carlton, which isn't as fancy as the Ritz in New York, but still pretty amazing. The Ritz does associate itself with Marriott rewards and status so I'm hoping that even though my friend made the reservation under her name, my Platinum Elite status will have some clout. Fingers are crossed for a free upgrade!

It was ranked #3 out of 14 on TripAdvisor so I think we're in for a comfortable stay.

Snorkeling isn't a real possibility because San Juan  is on the northern coast where the Atlantic is choppier. But I know I'll enjoy the beach all the same, since I loved it last time I was there.

Anyway, I'm so excited. By the time November rolls around, it'll be getting colder here and I'll be ready for an escape to somewhere warm with sand, palm trees, and cocktails served in hollowed out fruits.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Providenciales: Things We Didn't Do

This is (v. likely to be) my final Provo post (at least until my next trip). There are a few activities we considered doing but ended up either not being able to or deciding against it, and I thought I'd blog about them because I did the research, what a shame and waste if nobody uses it.
photo credit
One of the things I really wanted to do was to go on the glowworm cruise. Glowworms are insects that glow through luminescence. There are many different types but the ones residing around Provo will mate a few days after the full moon. The females will swim into the water and start to glow and release eggs (the eggs also glow) and spin around the attract males. The males will follow and also glow and swim around to fertilize the eggs. And then in a sad turn of events, a few minutes later, the males will sink to the bottom of the ocean and die. I sort of imagine it would be like sailing in the actual night sky with stars flickering, but since I didn't get to experience it, I'll never know! [It's because we were scheduled to leave the morning of the cruise, boo].

I found two reputable companies that charter these cruises:
I read some reviews about Silver Deep and they tend to crowd the boats and the amount of food served doesn't seem to be worth the $26 price difference with Sun Charters. But if you are headed to Provo and have a chance to go on the cruise, please do!
photo credit
Another activity we considered was horseback riding on the beach. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun but we were both apprehensive about riding horses (which are HUGE animals that can be intimidating and a little bit scary) and it's at least one hour of direct sun exposure. We experienced a bit of sunburn just from 30 minutes of sitting in the sun to build a sandcastle so we knew that an entire hour in the sun would not bode well.

Again, I found two reputable companies that will take you riding:
Provo Ponies seems to be the more popular/well-known company but Caicos Corral has just a few horses so most rides are like private ones with just two or three people so it's all a matter of what your prerogative is.
photo credit
And one more thing we wanted to do but decided against was renting bikes. Yes, our hotel had bikes to borrow but it was for just two hour periods. We thought it might be cool to rent a bike for the day and bike all around the island but it was just too hot, we knew we'd suffer heat exhaustion. However, if you're a super athlete that is no stranger to pulsating heat, then biking would definitely be a fun experience.

Two bike rental places:
  • Caicos Cyclery - $25/day or $22.50/day for 3 or more days or $140/week and prices include a bike chain, lock, basket, and helmet
  • Scooter Bob's - $15/day or $10/day for 5 days or more and prices include bike lock, chain, basket, and helmet

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Providenciales: Disposable Camera Photos

I got the disposable underwater camera photos developed from Costco. I didn't order any prints, I just asked for a CD of the photos, which is around $5. It was kind of exciting to finally get the photos processed, especially because I had no idea what to expect and whether or not the camera had worked. Thankfully, it had and the photos came out surprisingly clear and pretty. The colors were much truer than the photos I had taken with my iPhone (which came out v. green, but that was easily fixed with a photo editer).

So yes, I'd definitely recommend the Fujifilm Quicksnap Waterproof Camera.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Providenciales: My Map

I almost forgot to share this!

You can of course make your own customized google map. I do this for a lot of my trips - beforehand, I'll mark down must-see places and more importantly, must-eat places.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy 2 Year Anniversary To My Blog!

It's been two years of travel blogging for me, and of course I'm still motivated to travel but I'm actually kind of surprised that I've been motivated enough to post semi-regularly so hooray for me!

I have a few more Provo posts coming but in celebration of my two-year, here's a girly post on cupcake nails.

You'll need:
  • base coat & top coat (DUH)
  • base color - pick something neutral so that the cupcakes will stand out
  • a color for the cupcake bottoms and a second polish in the same color family for the wrapper lines - bubblegum-ish pink is a classic cupcake bottom color and a darker pink would be perfect for the wrapper lines
  • a color for the cupcake top - I like white because it makes the sprinkles pop
  • two or three colors for the sprinkles
  • red for the cherry
  • white for the highlight on the cherry
  • toothpicks for the tiny details
I made a little pictorial tutorial to demonstrate the process, since I only took finished nail photos.

These are my sister's hands. I chose to skip a few fingers and just put some glitter on them, left some plain, and put just a cherry on one finger. I used Essie's Oui Madame, which is a pearly white, for the base color. I think the pearly background looks great with the matte/opaque colors of the cupcake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Providenciales: Chalk Sound

A must-see in Provo is Chalk Sound. The color of the water is unreal and you will freak out. Our car ride was full of, "Oh my god!"s and "WOWWW!!!"s. You have to go, because describing it doesn't do it justice and the photos can't tell the whole story.

I love this photo because both my sister and I leaned on the hot railing for the photo and had the same "OW!" reaction. It'll be a favorite of mine forever.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Providenciales: Grace Bay

Grace Bay is the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. The sand is so soft and the water is so blue. If you plan on visiting Provo, I highly recommend you stay in the Grace Bay area (and make some sand castles in the powdery white sand). Here are some photos; revel in its beauty.

Doesn't it look like we're in a swimming pool or something?

Friday, September 07, 2012

Providenciales: Snorkeling Smith Reef, East Side

There's a second parking area for Smith Reef. Instead of going left down Coconut Road, head right down Smiths Reef Rd. When you reach a dead end and a cul-de-sac-ish area, park anywhere you can, without blocking anyone's driveway.
click to enlarge


We thought the east side was much more fun than the west side. We decided to go to the part of the reef that was near the walking trail because we figured, if we find the walking trail, we'll know exactly where the reef is and we won't end up in an area that's all sea grass.
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