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1.17.2017

Seoul Searching | My Winter Skin Care Essentials.

Winter can wreak havoc on your skin. I know that for a fact, as my first-ever trip to Korea happened in the winter of 2015. The dryness, the flaking, the itchiness - especially the itchiness! - I know that all too well. Not wanting to go through any of these discomforts again, I came to Korea last December armed and ready with these winter skincare essentials.
My winter survival kit! 
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask.
Laneige's best-selling product for more than ten years running, the Water Sleeping Mask also happens to be my favorite skincare product of all-time. Packed with ceramides, anti-oxidants, and highly concentrated ionized mineral water, this revolutionary gel-type mask moisturizes and revitalizes the skin overnight.
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, 28000 won.
The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask has been part of my skincare regimen for years now. I started using this in 2012 when it was still branded as the Water Sleeping Pack_EX, and has been a staple in my fridge since. (I keep it in the fridge to enhance the cooling effect on my skin.) It feels wonderful waking up to soft, smooth, nicely-hydrated skin - especially in the dead of winter - and this product does exactly that.

Sheet Masks.
Korean beauty sheet masks have become extremely popular over the years, which comes as no surprise to me. I'm crazy about them myself as they're basically a full-spa treatment in one easy-to-wear sheet. They're affordable, easy to use, and very effective, too. And with almost every Korean beauty brand having their own line (or lines, even) of sheet masks, you're bound to find one that will suit your skin and address your skin issue/s.
Most sheet masks go for as cheap as 1000 won each.
I chanced upon a huge sheet mask sale at The Face Shop counter in eMart - 20 sheet masks of my choice for half the price, plus I get two Calendula sheet masks for free. What a wonderful way to feed my sheet mask obsession! The Green Tea and Olive variants are my top picks - the former soothes skin irritations while hydrating the skin; the latter provides intense hydration and makes the skin soft, smooth, and glowing.

The It's Skin Elmo Mask, on the other hand, I bought mainly for the cuteness factor. How can I resist a sheet mask with Elmo's smiling face printed on it? I could not, of course, and I ended up buying a few pieces of this product even if they cost more (they're priced at 2500 won each) than the regular sheet masks. As it turns out, this sheet mask contains adenosine, which is great for battling wrinkled and dull skin. For an impulse buy, it was actually worth the money. :)

Care Zone Moomin Nordenau Water Mist.
Another skincare product that I can't live without are face mists. If you rummage through my purse at any given time, chances are, you'll find a bottle or a spray can inside stashed together with my asthma inhaler. What the inhaler does for my lungs, the face mist does for my skin.
Care Zone Moomin Nordenau Water Mist, 18000 won.
It's my on-the-go hydrator, my pick-me-upper whenever my skin feels tight and dry. I can spray it on my face anywhere, at any time of day, and voila - instant hydration without messing my makeup.
Super fine nozzle, I love!
A product of LG Beauty (yes, the same group that produces mobile phones and household appliances), the Care Zone Moomin Nordenau Water Mist is a mineral-rich water mist that hydrates and soothes skin. This exclusive product line contains Nordenau mineral water from Germany, regarded as one of the world's greatest 'healing waters'. Although I'm skeptical about the 'healing properties', I love its hypoallergenic, paraben-free formula and the fact that it can refresh and hydrate my skin and set my makeup with just a few spritzes.

It's Skin Macaron Lip Balm.
It's no secret that I'm a sucker for makeup collaborations, all the more if they have uber cute packaging. This special edition Macaron Lip Balm from It's Skin is all that, and much more.
It's Skin x Sesame Street Macaron Lip Balm, 5800 won.
The macaron packaging is adorable as it is, what more if it has Elmo (and other Sesame Street characters) printed on it?
Elmo's flavor is Grape.
With its sweet grape scent and soft, non-sticky formula, this lip balm was an instant hit for me and my son. It does a good job of keeping my lips moisturized and preventing it from chapping.
This collaboration was released in celebration of It's Skin's 10th anniversary.
The only downside to this lip balm is that I have to dip my pinkie in each time I use it. It's not very sanitary, but yeah, the packaging really won me over. Haha!

It's Skin Cookie and Hand Cream.
By now you've probably figured out that I'm a fan of Sesame Street. Is there any kid - particularly those who were born in the 80's - who isn't?
It's Skin x Sesame Street Cookie and Hand Cream, 3000 won.
I won't say more about the packaging, because the cuteness speaks for itself.
There's the 10th Anniversary sticker at the back of the tube.
As for the formulation, I love that this hand cream absorbs easily onto the skin and doesn't feel greasy when applied. It contains tiny black beads which appear like crushed cookies, hence the name 'Cookie and Hand Cream'. Also, it leaves your hands nice and soft, with a sweet chocolate-y fragrance to boot.
Swatched. 
This light moisturizing hand cream comes in a sleek and handy 30 mL squeeze tube which can easily fit in your purse and can be brought in-flight if you're traveling.

Etude House Silk Scarf Hair Treatment.
So here's the thing. I knew that winter can be pretty harsh on the skin and hair. But I had no idea that it could be very unforgiving to bleached hair! Barely 24 hours after I arrived in Seoul, my lovely ash-brown, purple-streaked hair turned into a dry, disheveled mess!
Etude House Silk Scarf Hair Treatment, 7000 won.
I rushed to the nearest Etude House store and got me a tube of the Silk Scarf Hair Treatment, a full-sized version of the hair treatment that comes with every box of the Bubble Hair Coloring.
My hair saver.
Specially formulated with oil complex and floral scent, this highly concentrated treatment restores and reinforces damaged hair, and prevents it from becoming dry and brittle. Normally, I would use this at least once a week. While in Korea, I used this every other day, alternating it with my regular conditioner. If not for this product, my hair would have been a lifeless blob of blonde!

Have you tried any of these products? What are your winter skincare essentials? :)


1.15.2017

Seoul Searching | Haru & One Day.

A few days before my flight to South Korea, my childhood friend Kay sent me a message on Facebook asking if we could meet-up in Seoul on the 16th (of December). She was flying from Chicago to Manila for the holidays, and will have a 12-hour layover in Seoul. I was so happy at the thought of catching-up with my first-ever best friend whom I have not seen in years; there was no chance in hell that I would miss this opportunity to spend time with her even for just a few hours.

I offered to fetch her at Myeongdong, but she wanted to explore other parts of Seoul and insisted on visiting the neighborhood where we live. As such, I suggested to meet-up at Haru & One Day, which I have been wanting to visit since it began operation last Autumn. Owned by Lee Donghae of Super Junior, the cafe is located near exit 4 of Seongsu Station, so I figured Kay wouldn't have a hard time finding it.
Haru & One Day!
True enough, she did not have any difficulty locating the cafe and even came earlier than I did -considering that my place was just a few bus stops away. Good thing the cafe opens as early as 7am!
Christmas feels inside Haru & One Day.
I spotted Kay as soon as I entered the cafe. Save for the eyeglasses, my friend looked pretty much the same since the last time we saw each other - and that was like, more than a decade ago! This girl doesn't seem to age! :)
The counter. They even have blankets, which you can use to keep yourselves warm.
Kay already finished a cup of coffee when I got there, and she seemed to have enjoyed the latte that she had. Made me all the more excited to try Haru & One Day's coffee, and cake, too! We headed to the counter, where they have a variety of cakes on display.
Haru's selection of cakes and desserts.
The menu.
They also have a decent selection of drinks - from coffee, milk, and tea, to smoothies and beer, even. 
I settled for good ol' Caramel Macchiato and a serving of Tiramisu. Kay initially had a hard time choosing which tea to order so the barista offered some suggestions and even let her take a whiff of the tea leaves displayed near the cashier. She ended up choosing the Pure Green Tea, together with a slice of Milky Roll.
Tea selection.
After paying for our order, we were given this thingamajig also known as the 'wireless queue calling system'.It didn't take long for our number to be called. There were only a few customers during that time, as the cafe has just began operation for the day.
Because in Korea, everything is digital. ;)
Here's what we had.
Breakfast, haha! :)
Tiramisu.
Milky Roll.
We loved how both cakes are moist and creamy, without being overly sweet.
Haru & Friday!
I like that their coffee is not scalding hot, and that their cups are wrapped in quirky sleeves with the day of the week written on it. We came on a Friday, hence the 'Haru & Friday'.
Cozy and Christmas-y. :)
The cafe's ambiance is noteworthy, too. With its minimalist design, spacious interior, neutral colors, and lots of sunlight coming through the windows, Haru & One Day is an all too perfect venue for meeting up with friends, enjoying some quiet time with a good book, or even telecommuting. The cafe offers free wi-fi, and customers are free to use their electrical sockets in case your phone or laptop runs out of battery.
Reunited! 
Fans of Donghae and Super Junior can also purchase Haru & One Day merchandise such as mugs, tumblers, canvas bags, and shirts. These items are displayed on the rack across the counter, with prices ranging from 16000 won to 60000 won.
Haru & One Day merchandise.
Kay and I spent about an hour or so at the cafe, catching up on a decade's worth of stories and life events. If not for Kay's craving for Korean street food, (we ended up going to Myeongdong afterwards) we would've stayed at Haru & One Day for one whole day!
Succulents.
I actually visited the cafe again on the eve of our flight back to the Philippines. I took the boys with me, and even my husband enjoyed their coffee. We even chanced upon Donghae's mom and his brother, Dong Hwa, but I was too shy to take photos with them as they were meeting with the staff and preparing to close for the day.
Capping off our trip to Seoul with another visit to Haru & One Day.

Haru & One Day
92, Achasan-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul


1.05.2017

Hello 2017, Goodbye Baby Teeth!

For years, I took pride in my son's picture-perfect teeth. All the more because I take extra care of his pearly whites and pay particular attention to his dental health. I take him to the dentist at least twice a year, veer him away from candies (though I allow him to binge a little during Halloween), and make him enjoy brushing whether with an ordinary toothbrush or the travel electric toothbrush with case that he always takes along whenever we go abroad.
Yue at 20 months old.
But alas, that picture-perfect smile could only last for so long! He was two months shy of his seventh birthday when one of his teeth - one of the maxillary central incisors - first fell out. From then on, his teeth alignment went from perfectly aligned to a complete disarray.
September 2015.
Three of his lower incisors fell out in the months to follow, but the permanent teeth that replaced them seemed to be leaning towards different directions which made them look crooked. To date, he has lost only five baby teeth, including one of his maxillary central incisors. And mind you, the permanent maxillary incisor erupted first before that baby tooth came out. The same thing goes for his other maxillary central incisor - the permanent teeth has already erupted, and we're still waiting for that wiggly baby tooth to finally fall off.
Christmas 2016.
I was actually worried that there might be something wrong with my son's tooth transition, so I asked my dentist about it. She stated that there's no cause for concern, and that in contrast, I should be relieved that my son's teeth are pretty strong. Also, the timing of tooth transition varies between children, and while Yue's may seem to be a bit late than some of his peers, I need not be worried since he only turned eight last November.

She also assured me that the gaps in between his teeth are normal during Yue's age. This is the transitional period that dentists refer to as the 'ugly ducking stage'. And under normal circumstances, when the upper jaw develops well and the canines on both sides erupt, the front teeth will align with the rest and the gap will close up.

With regards to permanent teeth erupting first, she told me that patience is the key and the baby teeth will exfoliate by itself. The tip of the tongue will push the permanent front tooth forward into the space vacated by the baby tooth. Therefore, there is no need to extract the deciduous front tooth.

Have you had the same experience with your kids' teeth and tooth transition? How did you go about it?


1.04.2017

Seoul Searching | Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum: Special Exhibition at the National Museum of Korea.

Happy New Year everyone, and we're sort-of back to regular programming!
I'm still blogging from South Korea, though we have only a few more days left here. Although the feeling is not exactly new to me, I can't help but feel a bit sad and anxious now that our vacation is about to come to an end. I can already feel the sepanx kicking in; so much so that I'm actually searching for cheap plane tickets for Spring as I write.

Anyway, back to happier thoughts. A few days after we arrived in Seoul, I chanced upon a post on Facebook about Egyptian treasures coming to town. And so I checked the official websites of some of the museums here that I know, until I came across the announcement on the National Museum of Korea's official Facebook page. True enough, a special exhibition was to be held starting on the 20th of December. Although the post did not mention anything about the admission fees, I figured the tickets wouldn't cost me an arm and leg (fingers crossed), haha.

And so Yue and I trooped to the National Museum of Korea on the 20th, eager to catch the Egyptian Treasures exhibition on its opening day. We took the subway to Ichon Station, which is connected to the subway via an underpass called the 'Moving Museum'.
This is the first thing we saw as soon as we 'tapped out' of the subway.
One of the very few instances that you'll see me in the photo, haha!
The underpass which connects the subway station and the museum.
Almost there! The door at the far end of the corridor leads to the entrance to the museum grounds.
We were greeted by this picturesque sight as soon as we set foot on the museum grounds. As you can see, both the Pavilion and the Great Hall are mirrored perfectly on the Reflecting Pond. How awesome is that? :)
The Reflecting Pond.
The Great Hall.
How can we not miss the poster for the Egyptian Treasures exhibition? The tarpaulin was huge enough to cover one side of the Special Exhibition Hall.
The stairs leading to the Exhibition Halls.
The Great Hall, where most of the permanent exhibitions are displayed.
Entrance to these exhibitions are usually free.
The Special Exhibition Hall.
We purchased tickets before entering the Special Exhibition Hall. Admission rates are 13000 won (around Php 530) for adults and 8000 won (around Php 330) won for kids. Barely Php 1000 for two tickets to a once-in-a-lifetime to see these Egyptian artifacts up close, I'd say that's a steal!
Admission rates, please click to zoom.
Our tickets, which counts as a souvenir. 
 View the Egyptian Treasures after the jump!

12.30.2016

Seoul Searching | Deoksugung Palace.

As I have failed to witness the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony during my previous trips to South Korea, I made it a priority to visit Deoksugung Palace this time around. My son and I trooped to Deoksugung on our first Saturday here in Seoul (the week before Christmas Eve), and luckily, we were able to catch the 3:30 pm schedule of the ceremony.
We meet again, Deoksugung Palace!
This is Daehanmun Gate, the main gate of the palace.
Held thrice a day everyday (except Mondays when the palace is closed to the public), the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony is a great opportunity to experience a rare traditional scene. The ceremony is quite similar to Buckingham Palace's Changing of the Guards, with the same colorful spectacle and gallant pageantry.
Yue with the guards, prior to the ceremony.
Patiently waiting for the ceremony to start.
The ceremony begins with the entire troop matching towards the gate, together with a musical accompaniment. The guards's splendid costumes, complete with weapons such as swords and bows and arrows, and the use of traditional musical instruments, are a sight to behold.
Marching towards the gate.
Musicians with traditional musical instruments.
The guards, with their weapons.
Everybody in position.
Supervised by a government official, the guards exchange passwords for verification. An eight-minute guard ceremony comes next, followed by a seven-minute change ceremony, and then capped by a closing march or the so-called 'patrol'.
Password verification.
Guard ceremony.
Change ceremony.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the palace staff removed the ropes that cordoned the ceremony area and ushered us spectators towards the guards for photo ops. Yue, who was so impressed by the ceremony, became even more excited when he heard that he can take photos with the royal guards.
This man was very friendly, he called Yue towards him and said 'Here, picture!"
Who's your granddaddy? :)
FIERCE!
Everybody with their game faces on.
He was the only guy in the troop who smiled for the camera. :)

I think Yue has found a new profession. Haha!
Yue and the Royal Guards.
The ceremony, which lasts for more or less thirty minutes, is a must-see for tourists. Here's a snippet, just to give you an idea of how awesome this experience was. 

And no, you do not need to buy tickets to watch this performance. You will only need tickets if you wish to enter the palace grounds, which we did. 
Yue in the Palace (again)!
Compared to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace has cheaper admission rates - 1000 won for adults and 500 won for kids. Guided tours are also available, with English tours scheduled twice a day.

Inside Deoksugung Palace after the jump!
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