Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Xmas! and a small update

So my family celebrated xmas a day early this year since people were going to be traveling on xmas day.  It was a nice xmas lunch with my moms side of the family today and it was good seeing all my relatives again.  I feel like every time we get together for holidays I always have to leave early because I have to work.  Same deal today since I work at 3. 
I wish I could say I've been having a better holiday season, but I've never been more stressed out.  Work has just been so hectic, and I haven't had a day off since Monday.  To make matters worse, due to a series of unfortunate events we are extremely short handed at work now, and I'm seriously considering looking for another job.  I think it's about time to move on.
On a more positive note, civil unions are finally legalized as of January 1st, we we are definitely planning to get married after the new year.  We just want to get the paperwork done first, and then plan a small ceremony and reception later.  We've been engaged for over two years and we have been waiting a long time to do this, so we are so excited!
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.  Merry Christmas, and have a happy new year!  Wishing everyone the best for the new year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sephora Haul

So yesterday was the last day to use the BI $15 gift card.  Yesterday was my day off so I headed to the Sephora store in Waikiki.  It's pretty new and I've never been there before and I have to say, I think they have the most selection and different brands here.  They have a ton of nail polish including Illamasqua and Dior among others.  They also have nail swatches of all the colors which is really helpful too.  The sales associates were really nice and helpful too, so I may be coming here from now on instead of the Ala Moana location. 
So I ended up buying a new Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($18) since I've been using my current tube for well over a year now.  I also picked up a new bottle of Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel.  I ran out of my sample size and since I'm running our of my Philosophy Purity Made Simple cleanser, I decided to just buy the full size ($26).  I knew I wanted to get some nail polish from their holiday collection, but after seeing swatches in store, I just settled on one which is Keep Me On My Mistletoe, a really pretty gold color.  I don't have any other gold nail polishes and I thought it was a nice festive color.  
What did everyone else get with your GC?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Warrior Dash!

Are you a Warrior?

I first heard about this a little over a month ago from my sister.  I thought it sounded pretty crazy at first, but after looking at their website I decided to sign up.  What is it?  "The Craziest Frickin' Day of Your Life", or a 5k (3.01 mile) race with 12 crazy obstacles.  It sounded fun and I really wanted to challenge myself both physically and mentally. 
The Hawaii race is on March 24, 2011 and this is the first year it's being hosted here.  At the time I registered it cost $45, but you do get a Warrior Dash t-shirt, helmet, free beer and a medal for finishing.  There is also an after-race party with live music and food.  Since it's a race there are prizes for the top three finishers, but I'm just hoping to finish the race this year. Registration is done through the Warrior Dash website and they do charge a $3 "processing fee" when you pay online, but there are promo codes online so keep an eye out for those (you can save $5 or so).  You also chose your wave time when you register, and I'm starting at 930.  On the race page they also have a map of the course with all the obstacles so you know what you're getting yourself into.
I've recently been going on runs around my neighborhood in order to start getting in shape for the race.  I've been running (and walking) about a mile each run about 3 times a week. 
Is anyone else participating in this?  Sounds like a lot of fun!  It's also motivation for me to start exercising and getting into shape. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

NOTD: Sephora by OPI Run With It!

 This is actually one of the first nail polishes I ever bought from Sephora.  This is more of a re-discovered color because it's been so long since I've worn it last.  When I first bought this I wasn't too fond of the shade.  I only wore it a couple of times and never touched it again until now.  I wanted to wear a nice neutral color that was appropriate for the season so I decided to give this another try.  I'm not sure why I never liked this color before, but I'm completely in love with this nail polish now.  It's a soft grey with gold shimmer and I think it's a really nice neutral shade.
 Application was alright.  The first coat was pretty streaky, but it was nice and opaque with two coats.  I'm not sure if this is available online anymore (I didn't see it on the Sephora website), but I did see it in store the other day which is what inspired me to dig this up from my collection.  Expect more NOTD posts in the near future.  I've got about 3 new nail polishes I'm looking forward to trying out :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our New Addition!

Ok, so not exactly new but about a month ago we adopted a kitten.  His name is Kainoa and he was adopted from the Animal Care Foundation in Hawaii Kai.  They are a non profit no-kill animal shelter and adoptions there are free (after an extensive application process). 
I started volunteering here about 6 months ago and knew Kainoa since he was a 2-week old kitten.  I've always wanted a creme colored cat and I instantly fell in love with him!  After no one adopted him (6 months later), and we convinced our landlord to let us get a cat, we brought him home on November 9th.  He has adjusted really well so far and it's an amazing feeling knowing we are able to give him a forever home. 
First day home!
We finally bought and decorated our xmas tree!  We settled with a fake one this year, which we got for $25 at Target.  Hope everyone is doing well this holiday season!  I'd love to see everyone's holiday decorations!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Shopping Haul!

So by some miracle I was able to wake up at 4:30 yesterday morning!  I went to Ala Moana for a couple of hours and got some pretty decent deals.
I went to Express first since everything there was 40% off.  I got there about an hour after they opened and it was crazy busy.  I managed to pick up a few pieces I saw online (thankfully they had my size), try them on and pay within an hour.  The line at the register was crazy, and it took me a long time to decide on what I really wanted to get, but I just ended up buying two tops for about $40.
I also went to buy a couple of bottles of nail polish.  They were all 25% off so I got OPI Diva of Geneva which I've been wanting for a long time.  I also picked up Zoya Suvi because I wanted a nice green nail polish for Christmas. At 25% off they came to about $6.50 each.
I went to Forever 21 last just to see what kind of deals they had.  I thought the crowd was going to be worse than it was at Express but it wasn't too bad (this was around 6:30 or so).  I just wanted to pick up some basics, and they had tank tops that were 2 for $8 (or $4.50 each).  There were also some cute lightweight open cardigans which were 2 for $12, but I only got one in purple ($6.80 each).  I spent about $15 for all three items.
For my first true black friday shopping experience, I think I did pretty good.  The crowds weren't as bad as I thought they would be, and I got some pretty good deals.  Although I think there are some better deals online, it was still a pretty fun experience.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday Shopping?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  It's still early so I haven't had my fill of turkey yet, but I'm heading to my parents place later for lunch with my relatives.  Then off to work at 2 >_< but I'm off tomorrow, so I'm planning to go black friday shopping tomorrow morning.  I've already done most of my shopping online so I just need a few more small gifts.  I think I will be heading to Ala Moana early tomorrow morning.  There's a list of stores and sales going on on their website and it looks pretty good:
Bath and Body Works: 
Wallflower 2pk Refills- $5
Buy 3 Get 3 Free Signature Collections
$100 Value VIP Bag- $20 with $40 purchase
3-Wick Candles- 2 for $20
Coupons are stack-able in store!
Express: 5am-Noon 40% off, and 30% off the rest of the day
Hino Hairstyles: 6am-10am 25% off, and 20% off the rest of the day (Lots of OPI nail polish here!)
Banana Republic: 25% off entire purchase
Gilly Hicks: Midnight-9am 50% off
Hollister Co: 30% off entire purchase
Abercrombie and Fitch: Midnight-9am 50% off

I've also done a lo of online shopping this year.  Many sites are offering free shipping until Thanksgiving day (Victoria's Secret and American Eagle) and you can get cashback on Ebates as well!  I've already racked up about $18 from Christmas shopping alone.  On Black Friday Ebates is offering double cash back on tons of sites!  For those who are fans of Threadless they are having a $10 holiday sale!  Online, Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch and Gilly Hicks are offering 40% off plus $5 shipping. 

Is anyone else going shopping tomorrow??  Anyone shopping online this year?  Let me know what you haul!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

L'oreal HIP Duo: Charming Review

I've heard a lot of good things about this eyeshadow duo for a long time.  I've always wanted to pick it up, but they're a little pricey for drugstore quality (almost $8) so I wanted to get it on sale.  I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and found it for $6!  I didn't realize they had cheaper makeup here since I never bothered to look, but they actually have a really good selection!
This duo consists of two colors: a light shimmery taupe and a deeper plum/purple color.  Both shades are shimmery and so have some glitter in them.  Both are very smooth, but they are a little soft so you definitely need to tap off excess shadow from your brush before you apply it.  I love the lighter taupe shade!  It's a really pretty light color, perfect for an overall lid color.  The purple is nice too (I'm a sucker for purple eye shadows), but I think it could be more pigmented.  It took a couple swipes to get the opacity in the swatch below.  The only downside to this product is the fallout.  I can't stand glittery eye shadows and at first glance I couldn't really see any obvious glitter in it.  But after swatching and removing them from my arm, there was a ton of glitter left over.  These colors are pretty, but the fallout is pretty disappointing. 
This really isn't a bad value for what I paid and I'd recommend this product!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Forever 21 Shoes!

Last night we had a much needed date night in Waikiki.  We had a nice dinner at CPK and then went to check out the Forever 21 at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.  I was actually looking for a specific pair of shoes  I saw online that I wanted to try on before I bought it.  In the shoe section on the second floor there was only one pair left in a size 8, which surprisingly fit nicely, but a little loose.  They were pretty comfortable, and were $24.80 so I snatched them up as we continued to shop.  I was hoping to see another display of these shoes somewhere in the store, but I didn't, so I just ended up buying this pair and another top.
I've never bought shoes from Forever 21 so I was a little skeptical of the quality, but these are actually pretty comfortable.  I've never really been into animal print, but I think they're really cute!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

China Glaze: The Hunger Games Nail Polish Collection

I just saw this today on The Hunger Games Trilogy Fansite!  This collection is to be released in February next year with 12 polishes.  Here's a preview:
The colors are pretty, and if you like glitter polishes I think you'd like this collection.  I'm not loving all the colors, but I think I will definitely need to pick up a few, just because of the theme :)
Anyone else excited for this?  I'm just wondering where to find China Glaze nail polish here =/
I know a Sally Beauty Supply opened near the Pearl City Walmart, but I haven't checked it out yet.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hunger Games Official Tralier!

Just thought I HAD to share this!  The official tralier was released this morning for the Hunger Games movie!
March 23, 2011....can't wait!!  It actually looks much better than I expected so now I'm really looking forward to seeing it.  Midnight premier maybe?  Anyone else excited for this movie??

Friday, November 11, 2011

Clarisonic Mia Review and Progress

I have been using my Clairsonic Mia for about 2 weeks now.  I was skeptical before trying this out for the first time, because I have sensitive skin and I was worried it would be a little harsh.  I've been using the delicate brush head instead of the sensitive one it comes with.  I don't notice a huge difference between the texture of the brushes, but I'm sticking with the delicate one because it hasn't irritated my skin yet.
Clairsonic recommends you charge the device for at least 24 hours before the first use. 
I only waited about 18 hours before I used it, but I've only used the charger twice since getting it, so the battery life seems to be pretty good (for once-a-day use).  The first time I used it I was surprised that it didn't cause any irritation.  The vibrating motion takes a while to get used to, especially around your nose.  The vibrating isn't necessarily calming, but it does make me feel better knowing my skin is much cleaner.  After the first use, I noticed my skin was extremely soft and smooth, but didn't notice anything different.  Also, since I did have an active pimple at the time (which you can see in the picture below), it actually popped and started to bleed, so I would try to avoid any active acne or large pimples with this. Since then, I have been using the Clairsonic Mia once a day, at night before I go to sleep.
I was using it together with my Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel, but have switched to Philosophy Purity Made Simple cleanser which I decided to try after my Boscia cleanser ran out (which I'm really liking btw).  I first wet my face with warm water and apply the cleanser directly to my face (you can apply it to the brush head as well).  I then wet the head with warm water and turn it on.  I start on my right cheek and move clockwise to my chin, left cheek, nose and then my forehead.  I use small, light circular motions, not using too much pressure since the more pressure you use, the more it will aggravate your skin.  After the Mia turns off (about a minutes time), I rinse my the brush head and my face with warm water.
I also cleanse my brush head after every use.  I just use antibacterial hand soap and very hot water to sanitize it, and then turn it on again for a couple of seconds to expel the excess water into a towel.  Then I remove the brush head and dry the inside to keep it clean.  I leave it out to air dry in my bedroom (with the cap off) since the bathroom gets too humid.  I usually replace the cap in the morning when the brush has had time to dry completely.
After using this for two weeks, I can definitely see a big difference in my skin.  I can see a much more even skin tone and less redness in my cheeks.  I haven't had any big breakouts since I've started using the Clairsonic Mia, and I've noticed my nightly moisturizer and other face products do absorb into the skin quicker.  My skin also seems to be a little less oily and I don't have to blot my face as much anymore, and I don't have any more dry patches on my face either.  I haven't noticed any difference in pore size, but I can honestly say this is the clearest I've ever seen my skin in a long time.  I was very skeptical before buying this since I have acne, rosacea and sensitive skin, but this has been a very good investment.  I can actually say I'm very happy with the way my skin is now.  It's not perfect, but it's much clearer than it's ever been before.  I've included pictures below so you can see the progress, but my skin definitely looks better today than it did a couple of weeks ago.  Overall I'm very happy with my Clairsonic Mia and I would highly recommend this!  I got mine at 20% off from (they frequently have 20% off sales) so I would get it from them (plus their shipping was really quick!)
Does anyone else own a Clairsonic Mia?  I'd love to hear other reviews/experiences :)

Clairsonic Mia Day 1
Clairsonic Mia Day 7
Clairsonic Mia Day 14

November 2011 Birchbox!

It kinda feels weird doing another one of these posts so soon, but I did get my birchbox on time this month!  I have to say, I think these boxes are getting better each month.  I was so disappointed with the first one, but I'm glad I'm sticking with them because I liked this months box.  Here's what I got:
Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine Cologne Absolute
Borghese Frango Delicato Active Mud for Delicate Dry Skin
Supersmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste
Zoya Nail Polish in Noel
Two Paper Dolls Ampersand Coasters (extra)

I'm pretty impressed with the good sized samples this month, and the nail polish was really unexpected!  I love the color, so I can't wait to try it out.  I think I will definitely give the toothpaste a try as well as the mud mask.  The cologne sample is ridiculously small (as you can see from the picture) and I don't think I'll be making use of it so I might just give it away, but the post card it comes with it pretty nice.
What did everyone else get in this months box??

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Travel Blog: Eurail Pass and My Experience

Next to airfare, my Eurail pass was one of the most expensive things I bought for my trip to Europe.
Is a rail pass necessary??  Not necessarily, it depends on where you go and how long you're traveling for.  Try calculating point-to-point tickets for each segment of your trip and comparing those prices to the cost of a pass.  I would say in general, at least in my experience, the Eurail Pass was an excellent investment and it saved us a lot of money.
There are several different types of Eurail passes with varying fares, but we settled on a Global Flexi Pass, which covered all 22 countries, and gave us a choice of 10 (non-consecutive) travel days within 2 months.  There are also consecutive passes available which range anywhere from 15 days to 3 months of unlimited travel.  However I opted for the Flexi pass since I knew we weren't going to be traveling every day, and it gave us room to change our itinerary around, which we did end up doing.  We also qualified for a Youth Pass, which is a discounted fare for those under the age of 26 for 2nd class seats.  At the time I purchased the rail passes, they were $525 each (10-days in 2 months Global Flexi Pass), but currently they are $577 on the Eurail website.  For those of you purchasing your railpass at the end of the year, I had read online that Eurail passes get more expensive starting Jan.1st, so it's better to buy your passes before the year is over.  I'm not sure how true this is since I have noticed the prices change quite frequently because of the exchange rate, but I did buy my passes right at the end of December just to be safe.
Eurail Pass Ticket
I have to be honest and say that purchasing the railpass itself was very troublesome.  I had initially wanted to purchase the pass directly through  They usually offer an Amazon gift card with a $500 purchase, and I wanted to take advantage of that.  However, when I tried to use my credit card, it got declined.  Apparently their site is based in the Netherlands, and my bank didn't authorize the transaction because it was out of the country.  I had to call my bank and tell them it was an authorized transaction, and then tried to pay online again and my card still got declined!  In the end I ordered through Raileurope instead, even though it was a little more expensive ($530 instead of $525).  Shipping was very prompt and free if you purchase over $399.  I got my passes within a couple of days of ordering.  Raileurope often has sales and discounts online, so I highly recommend checking them out.
Eurail Pass and Travel Log
Using the pass is fairly simple.  We didn't actually need to use our pass until we were leaving Rome.  All you need to do before your first use is to have it validated at any ticket window.  You need your passport in order to validate your pass.  All they do is stamp it and mark in the start and end dates on your pass (for us it was 2 months time).  For a Flexi pass, each time you use it, you need to fill in the date portion on the ticket, which indicates that you're using the pass for the duration of that day,  You also need to fill in the travel log portion on the lower half with the departure and destination stations, train number and date.  DO NOT remove the travel log portion on your ticket!  Your ticket is invalid without it, and I have read online that people who have removed their travel logs have had problems, so leave it on!  When they come to check tickets on the train, all you need to do is show them your pass.  In my experience, they only checked the actual ticket portion and not the travel log, so I don't think it really matters if it's filled out.  There were several times we forgot to fill out the travel log before hand, and had no problems.
Reservation fees are also something you need to keep in mind when you're using a rail pass.  Reservations are not necessary on all trains, but some do require reservations.  Deutche Bahn is an excellent site to find train time tables and to plan your route!  They also have a free android app which I used a ton in Europe.  This site will indicate which segments of your trip require reservations.  Most reservations fees were quite small, and some didn't require any.  Here's a breakdown by country:
Intercity (IC) Trains (2nd class)- 3 euros
Frecciarossa (Eurostar AV)- 10 euros
Thalys (To Brussels)- 23 euros
So those were the countries that had mandatory train reservations.  I have to admit, despite paying a bit more to reserve a seat, I think it's worth it, especially on busier routes.  Waking through four train cars trying to find an open seat kind of sucks, and there was at least one time where we had to stand until a seat opened up. 
Anyway, if you're planning to go to Europe or thinking about buying a Eurail Pass I hope you found this post helpful.  As always, if you have any questions feel free to comment below!

Some helpful links:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sephora Friends and Family Sale + Haul

 So after much deliberation, I only ended up buying 2 things from the Sephora Friends and Family Sale.  Living in Hawaii, I can't buy any perfume or nail polishes online, which is what I really wanted to buy, so it kind of sucks that it's not in store.  I bought the tarte Shining Stars Limited Edition Beat Sellers Collection ($25) and Clinique All About Eyes Rich eye cream ($29).  With the discount and free shipping, my total came to $45.14.  What did everyone else get?? was also having a 20% off sale with free shipping, so I finally bought a Clairsonic Mia!  I got the turquoise Mia, plus two delicate replacement brush heads for $127.  I also got 6% cash back on Ebates, so I only paid $120 for everything.  I will definitely update with a review of this.  I only tried it once yesterday, so we'll see how it works for me.  I like it so far :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 2011 Birchbox

So my October Birchbox just arrived 2 days ago, on the 24th.  My credit card had expired last month and I forgot up update my payment info, so my card wasn't charged like it was supposed to.  I had to email customer service twice.  Once to ask if my payment had gone through, and another time to ask if my box was actually shipped.  I got prompt responses each time, although I never got a tracking number or a date when my order was shipped, so I was kind of in the dark until it showed up on my doorstep.
Anyway, I am much more pleased with this months Birchbox!  I got some really good sized samples that I will try out.  Here's what I got:
Orofluido Beauty Elixer (hair first I had no idea what this was)
Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Under Makeup Primer in Bronze
Befine Lip Serum
Ahava Rich Cleansing Cream
The Laundress Delicate Wash
I was excited to see a facial cleanser and the primer, which I will definitely try out.  I was surprised to see another lip treatment product since I got one in the last box (except this one is much bigger), but I will probably make use of that as well.  Not sure if I will use the hair treatment, but I might give it to someone else (since this is a fairly good size too).  I'm really happy to see some nice samples in this birchbox, and looking forward to next month :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

MAC Satin Taupe Dupe?

Satin Taupe from MAC is one of their most popular eye shadows.  When I first started getting into makeup, this was the fist MAC eye shadow I bought.  This is a great color for all over the lid or to darken the crease and really great for a neutral look.  I'm always looking for good cheap dupes, especially for MAC eye shadows.  A lot of online forums and blogs that post dupes for MAC eye shadows say that Iced Mocha from NYX is a good dupe.  I originally bought this color without even realizing it was a dupe.  In the pan they do look quite similar, but when swatched, they're actually quite different.  Satin Taupe (left) is definitely warmer, while Iced Mocha (right) is cooler toned. 
Both are really nice, smooth and pigmented and last a long time with a primer.  Price-wise I'd say Iced Mocha, or any NYX eye shadows really, are a bargain for the quality you get.  Personally I prefer the MAC one over the NYX one, just because it's warmer toned.  But if you're looking for a nice alternative, NYX is a great choice too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Clairsonic Mia?

So recently I've been looking into getting a Clairsonic Mia.  Has anyone here ever tried it?  Is it worth the money? is having a 20% off sale and free shipping if you buy $49 or more.  I was thinking about getting it during the Sephora Friends and Family sale, but it seems the Skinstore has more selection.
I've read a lot of good reviews online, but I'm still skeptical.  I have oily, sensitive skin, acne and rosacea.  I'm not necessarily looking for something that will help treat acne, but for something that will hopefully even out my skin tone and reduce the redness on my face. 
If I do buy it, I will definitely update with a review :)
If anyone has any personal experiences using the Clairsonic Mia, please let me know!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Study Abroad Experience: Year at Hiroshima University

Atomic Bomb Domr
Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima
Before I started college, I knew one thing I really wanted to do before I graduated was to study abroad.  I knew I wanted to wait a year or two before actually doing it, so I did a lot of research my freshman year exploring different options I had at my school.  I ended up going on exchange during what would have been my Junior year in college ('08-'09), and I think this is an ideal time to study abroad.  I think most schools will require at least sophomore or junior standing anyway.  Before I go any further, I will say that every school is different, and each program will have different requirements, but I'm just sharing my experience.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa has a couple of options for those wanting to study abroad.  There is MIX or Manoa International Exchange or UHM Study Abroad.  Knowing I wanted to study somewhere in Japan, I chose to go with MIX because there are many more options as far as which schools are available, where as UHM Study Abroad only has two options. 
I wanted to do something different, so I decided to apply for Hiroshima Univesity's study abroad program.  I chose Hiroshima because that's where my family came from, and I wanted a different experience.  The requirements for the program I applied for included having a 3.0 GPA and 1 year of Japanese language.  Letters of recommendation, statement of purpose and transcripts were also needed to apply, and I think this is pretty typical at any school.  The application process was pretty long.  I first applied with the Center for Japanese Studies at UHM, and after getting accepted through them, I applied directly through the school.  I started the applications in October and didn't get my final decision until April of the next year.  Not quite sure if this is typical or not, but waiting for the final decision can be quite nerve-wracking.
Dorm doom
Funding is also another thing to consider when studying abroad.  There are many scholarships available, but I will admit, it's not cheap!  I tried to save as much money as possible before leaving for Japan.  In fact, the entire summer before I left, I worked 3 jobs to save money.  I was lucky enough to qualify for the JASSO scholarship.  All schools in Japan will offer this scholarship to exchange students, regardless of the school (although the number of recipients will vary) since it is government funding.  It included a relocation allowance (basically to cover airfare and your first couple weeks) of 120,000-yen (~$1,200 in a prefect world) and a monthly stipend of 80,000-yen (~$800).  I was very lucky to have gotten this scholarship, because it helped me out a lot!  Truthfully $800 a month is a lot, especially living by yourself, but I did a lot of traveling, 飲み会 (drinking parties), karaoke, and other fun things, so the money went pretty fast.  I did have to pay monthly rent at my dorm which was 5,000-yen (~$50!), shared utilities (gas, water and electricity) at about 10,000-yen a month (~$100), cell phone at about 2,000-yen ($20) and health insurance and pension.  The monthly expenses were really very cheap compared to living here in Hawaii, and so were groceries and eating out. This will vary depending where you live though, since we lived in a pretty rural town.  I had a post office bank account, which is very simple to set up and easy to use.  Living on my own taught me to manage my money well.  Thankfully I'm quite good with money so I didn't make any extravagant impulsive buys, but I have to admit my phone bill was sky high the first two months after calling home so much.  I didn't have internet in my dorm for about a month so I couldn't use skype, thus I made long-distance calls on my phone and paid dearly for it (about $300!)
Korean Food night in our dorm
Being away from home and my girlfriend was something that I thought I would be able to handle pretty well when I left, but oh I was wrong.  Bring in a foreign country all by yourself, knowing no one was really hard for me at first.  Once I started to open up and make friends it got easier day by day, but the first month or so, I was really homesick.  I tried to keep busy so I could keep my mind off of things, and most importantly get out of my dorm room.  Since I had no internet there wasn't much I could do, but when I was stuck in my room, I would watch movies.  I swear I watched "10 Things I Hate About You" (my favorite movie btw) at least 15 times!  I just kept telling myself it would get better, and indeed it did.  On top of that, the first few weeks were mentally tough, being surrounded my Japanese all day, every day was very tiring, but also very beneficial.  Just being in Japan and doing everyday things (going to the grocery store or post office) helped to improve my Japanese.
Hirodai Campus
The actual classes that I took were relatively easy.   I took a placement test for my language classes and got places in level 3 classes.  We had the option of taking the upper level classes simultaneously so I took level 3 and 4 classes together.  I ended up taking 6 classes my first semester, 5 of them being language courses and 1 education class.  Each class is 90 minutes and only meets once a week, so I found myself having a lot of free time.  At first this was hard for me to adjust to, since here at home we have shorter classes that meet more frequently.  Work load for each class was easily manageable, and I thought the classes were easy compared to schools here in the US.  If you know anyone else who's studied in Japan, I'm sure they have a similar impression.
Kiyomizudera, Kyoto
 I found that college life in Japan is relaxed compared to the states.  Like in high school, many students participate in extracurricular activities (サークル・部活動).  I participated in a weekly English Cafe, which was an English conversation social night held once a week.  A friend of mine also got me to participate in a latin dance club where we learned salsa.  I met a lot of new people and made new friends this way, so I highly recommend joining a club!  As it is in the US, drinking is also a big part of college life.  I don't drink much, but I think I had the most alcohol I ever had in my life while I was in Japan.  We had parties or went out to bars practically every weekend.  Alcohol is also relatively cheap and no ID is required for purchasing alcohol, nor do they check ID when you order a drink.

For anyone reading this who is considering studying abroad, DO IT!  If money is holding you back, apply for scholarships because there are a lot of opportunities!  Studying abroad was a life changing experience for me.  I learned so much about myself, grew more independent and outgoing, and my Japanese improved immensely.  No matter where you study abroad, you will make your experience memorable!  Take risks, try new things and step out of the box.  I did, and I don't regret any of it!  Except maybe that this experience sparked my interest in traveling the world, and now I want to see everything! 
If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave them here.  If anyone else has studied abroad I'd love to hear about it!  Lastly, thank you for reading this 'till the end :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sephora Friends and Family Sale 2011

Just thought I'd share something from Muse's blog.  I'm sure everyone has been waiting all year for this :)
This year's Friends and Family sale will run from October 20-November 2.  20% off!!!  Not sure about exclusions, but I'm sure the Sephora page will be updated soon.
Apparently this year it will only be a one-time use code online, but you can see her post for more details.
I've already started making a list of things I'm going to get.  Even better, the 20th is pay day!  What is everyone planning to buy??

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kanebo Kate Dual Blend Eyes BK1 Review

 When I studied abroad in Japan 2 years ago, I discovered the wonder of Japanese cosmetics.  One of my favorite drugstore brands is Kanebo KATE.  They make an amazing eyeliner and I had tried several of their eye shadows before.  Last summer when I was in Japan for my internship, they had released a new collection with these Dual Blend palettes.  I bought this in BK1 which has 2 very neutral colors.
I really love these two shades!  They're so smooth and pigmented.  Both are shimmery, which might not be for everyone, but despite the shimmer there is no fallout and they apply very nicely.   Almost all Japanese eye shadows are shimmery anyway, but they always seem to apply clean with no fallout.  I really love the lighter shimmery shade in this palette.  It's a shimmery off-white pearly color.  Good everyday color for all over the lid, or an inner corner highlight.  The darker shade which is a dark brown is good in the outer corner or in the crease.  These colors look great together, but I would definitely use a matte lighter brown in the crease to balance out the look.  I always mix at least one matte color (typically in the crease as a blending color) when using shimmery shades so there's not too much shimmer.
Here are some swatches.  First one is in neutral light, and the second is in sunlight.  Swatched with a base (MAC Soft Ocher Paint Pot).  
I'm not sure if this collection was limited edition, but I paid about 1200-yen for this.  Does anyone else love Japanese cosmetics?  I wish I was still living there so I could try out all they new collections!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Travel Blog: Stonehenge and Bath Day Trip

During the time we spent in London, we made it a point to make it out to Stonehenge before we left.  Originally we decided to try to go on our own by train, but after some research and deliberation, we decided to go with a bus tour, which was actually recommended by the receptionist at the hostel.  We were able to make reservations and pay for the tour at the front desk, so that was very convenient.  The day-trip which cost 44GBP included RT transportation by bus and admission to both Stonehenge and the Roman Baths.  I have to admit, from the beginning of the trip I was pretty set on not doing any kind of tours, but this one was actually pretty good and very affordable too!
We woke up really early in order to meet our bus at the Baker Street tube stop.  We were supposed to meet at 8am but our bus arrived a little late, so we ended up leaving around 8:15.  There were several other pick-up stops after ours, so we got to see more of the city by bus, and then it was a really long drive out to Stonehenge.  The drive probably took about 2 hours or so, and we got there around 10:30 or so.  The tour included an audio guide so we go those before we were allowed to walk around.  We had about an hour here to do the audio tour and buy souvenirs, but we only spent about 15 minutes outside.  The weather was pretty bad that day, very cold, windy and rainy, so after walking around once and taking pictures, we went into the gift shop where the heater was on.  You aren't allowed to get very close to the stones because it's roped off, but I've heard certain tours do let you get up close, but I think they're pretty pricey. As you can see in the picture above, you get fairly close (this is right near the entrance).  The below picture was taken on the far side, away from the entrance.
After spending about an hour there, we drove to Bath.  This probably took another 45 minutes or so, and once we were there, we toured the city by bus before they let us off.  From there, we went to the Roman Baths, and then had some free time to eat lunch and walk around the city.  We spent about an hour at the Roman Baths and then ate a quick lunch at Mark and Spencer.  Thankfully by the time we got here, the weather had cleared up and it turned out to be a pretty nice day.  Bath was such a pretty city.  I really loved it there!  I'm glad we took this tour, because I never would have thought to go there on my own.

We met back at the bus around 3:30 and headed back to London from there.  The drive back seemed really long and there was some traffic too.  We got back to the city at around 7 and went straight back to our hostel to eat dinner.  Although we were completely exhausted at the end of the day, the tour was a lot of fun and a good value.  I would say the only downside was that half way during the trip Alana and I got pretty sick from being on the bus so long.  The tour guide was very informative and pretty entertaining, so we each left a 10 pound tip at the end of the day.
If anyone is interested, here's the link to the tour page: Stonehenge and Bath Tour.  Feel free to leave any questions below, or if you've been to Stonehenge, please share your experience!  I'd love to hear your stories or other recommendations!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coastal Scents London Go Palette Review

So I got my Coastal Scents order faster than I expected!  I placed an order with Coastal Scents for their new Go Palettes last Wednesday and got my order on Monday.  Shipping was super fast, but the funny thing is, I didn't even know my order was shipped.  I was waiting for their shipping confirmation email when it just showed up on my doorstep yesterday.  Is this typical of Coastal Scents?

Other than that, everything came packaged nicely.  The palette was wrapped in bubble wrap and they even included a free glitter sample.  The palette comes in a nice sturdy black plastic case, and seems pretty durable for travel, which is their intended use.
I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of quality since this is my first order with them.  Most of the colors were actually quite nice and smooth, and nicely pigmented.  I found that the matte colors were the ones that lacked pigmentation, and didn't show up well in the swatches. The third column of colors (the plum shades) were the worst when swatched, and the blues and purples showed up the best.  All the shades were pretty smooth, although some were a bit powdery when applied.  I was quite surprised the matte black shadow was so pigmented. 
 Overall I'm pretty happy with this palette.  A majority of the shadows were pigmented and smooth.  The shimmery shades were nice, but the matte ones could definitely use some work.  Definitely not a bad value for just $8.95.  Anyone tried any of the other Go Palettes?  I'm interested to see some other reviews. 

EDIT: So I wore these to work last night and I must say, you definitely need a good base with these.  I used TooFaced Shadow Insurance and MAC Soft Ocher paint pot, but there was noticeable fading by the end of the night.  I used all three purple shades which went on pigmented and smooth, but there was a lot of fallout because they were so powdery :(

Friday, September 23, 2011

NOTD: OPI Russian Navy

 I think this is the first navy blue nail polish that I've ever bought.  I had originally intended to buy Yoga-ta Get This Blue which is a little brighter, but when I saw this one in the bottle I thought it looked amazing.  It's navy blue with purple shimmer.  It looks purple to me in the bottle, but when applied it's a dark navy color.  In the light you can see the purple coming through.  The application was nice, and even without a top coat, it has a very nice glossy finish.  I really love this color!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sephora Flashy Liner Waterproof Review

I'm always looking for a good waterproof pencil eyeliner, so when I saw these on the Sephora website a while back, I went to my local Sephora to check them out for myself.  These got really good reviews online and after swatching them in store, I bought one to try out.
I have 2 colors: #13 Flashy Violet and #14 Taupe.  Both are very pigmented and go on incredibly smoothly.  They're very creamy so you do have some time to smudge them, but after they set, they last a long time.  I usually end up setting it with a powder eye shadow to prevent smudging, but even without it, it lasts even on my oily lids.  When I wear it on my lower lashline, it does smudge a bit, but that's only after about 6 or 7 hours.  Pretty good since the Almay and Revlon eyeliners I've tried smudge after 3 or 4 hours. 
I really love both these colors!  The taupe is really nice for an everyday look and isn't as harsh as black liner.  I've been wearing this almost everyday to work.  The violet is pretty bright, but worn it adds a nice pop of color to any neutral look. 
Here are swatches of both colors:
 Overall I highly recommend these eyeliners!  They're very affordable at $8 each (0.04oz), pigmented and long-wearing.  There is also a nice range of colors, so for the price and quality, I think these are awesome.