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!