{Travel} Qinhu (溱湖) National Wetland Park, TaiZhou

QinHu Wetland
Qinhu National Wetland Park
is a scenic area about an hour’s drive outside of TaiZhou city. The park is a nice, tranquil place to bring the family and will please both youngsters and seniors.

After entering through the main gates, you have to ride the ferry across the lake to get to the main scenic area. Visitors have the choice of several trails of varying lengths that will take them through the park. Since we were short on time, we opted to ride in one of these wooden boats instead.


Each boat is manually operated by just one person. The English translation on a sign called these ladies “Boat Girls”, but almost all of them looked to be at least in their 50s. I almost felt bad riding in the boat, but our Boat Lady was very happy to chat and even sang a couple traditional folk songs for us!


The long sticks are pushed along the riverbed and move the boat gently down the stream.


David's Deer aka Milu (麋鹿)
The park is also home to an endangered species of deer, called David’s Deer or Milu (麋鹿) in Chinese. Most of the deer were chilling among the trees, so I couldn’t get a clear photo… but I assure you they are rather fantasy-looking. In particular, their antlers are really different from those adorning the deer and elk I’m used to seeing in Canada.

Black swans! They’re not as scary as Natalie Portman’s portrayal…



{Food} Morning Tea (早茶) in Taizhou, China

This post is LONG overdue. It’s been over a year since my trip to China, but I didn’t start editing these photos until a couple days ago. Unfortunately, due to my goldfish brain, this also means that I’ve forgotten a lot of the tiny details associated with my trip, such as the name of this particular restaurant. Nevertheless, I still want to share these and make your taste buds envious!

Translated literally, 早茶 means “morning tea”. It is meal comprised of many small, shared dishes, very similar to dimsum (a Cantonese phenomenon) but eaten for breakfast or brunch.

Cold Gansi (干絲) with Peanuts and Pork

Gansi (干絲) with Peanuts and Pork. This dish was served cold, kind of like a pasta salad. Gansi is a special type of firm tofu (see it described in the Wikipedia entry here) that has been sliced into thin noodles! It takes a lot of finesse with the knife to slice a block of tofu into such uniformly thin pieces. On our way out of the restaurant, we passed by several workers doing it and they looked very concentrated.

Gansi in Broth

Gansi in Broth. I remember the broth being very flavourful and wonderfully complemented by the white pepper.

Steamed Bun aka Baozi (包子)

Baozi (包子) are very common and popular dimsum fare and snack food. These steamed buns can be stuffed with savoury or sweet fillings.

Baozi with Vegetable and Mushroom filling

The ones pictured above were stuffed with veggies and mushrooms. The second type of baozi we ordered was stuffed with Pork and Fish Roe.

Pork and Fish Roe Steamed Bun (Baozi)

After a very satisfying breakfast, we started on the journey to QinHu National Wetlands Park!

{Haul} V&R Flowerbomb perfume, IKEA make-up organizer and more!

August is my birthday month and I’ve been shamelessly using that fact as an excuse to deviate from my usually frugal habits. I picked up some goodies from Sephora and a make-up organizer from IKEA.

I was really excited for this year’s Beauty Insider birthday gift, so I went to pick it up as soon as possible (ie, two weeks before my birthday!). But since I feel bad demanding the gift without purchasing anything (that’s probably Sephora’s master plan), I decided to treat myself to the Victor & Rolf FlowerBomb Eau de Parfum rollerball ($30 for 10 mL).

Flowerbomb rollerball, Benefit's They're Real mascara and Watts Up highlighter, MUFE primer

Small birthday haul from Sephora: Flowerbomb rollerball, Benefit’s They’re Real mascara and Watts Up highlighter, MUFE primer. Images from Sephora.com

According to the cashier who rang me up, Flowerbomb is very popular and one whiff is enough to tell me why.  I would describe the scent as spicy and sexy when it’s initially applied. That soon wears off and what remains is warm, sweet and floral.

The fragrance notes are:

  • “Top: bergamot and mandarin
  • Heart: sambac jasmine, freesia and rose
  • Base: vanilla and amber”

I was really excited to try Benefit’s They’re Real! mascara. I immediately noticed that it lengthened my lashes and eagerly applied a few more coats… but this lead to severe clumping. Even with two coats, my sister described my lashes as “blocky” – not exactly the best adjective for one’s eyelashes. Additionally, the mascara did not have any curling power for my short, pin-straight Asian lashes. Verdict: I might use this mascara with an eyelash comb but probably will not buy the full-size.

However, the other item in the Benefit Birthday gift pack was a HUGE hit for me. Watt’s Up is a great stick highlighter and looks natural on my yellow-toned skin (approximately MAC NC30?).  I like that it is pearlescent rather than shimmery or glittery. The consistency makes it very amenable to blending. Plus, the packaging makes me feel like I’m applying lipstick to my cheekbones. The only downside is its lack of staying power, although that might be due to user error (I’m always touching/rubbing my face). Verdict: may buy the full-size if I can figure out how to maximize staying power.

I also used 100 BI points to redeem a sample of Makeup Forever’s HD Microperfecting Primer. Compared to the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer, MUFE’s primer has a more watery consistency and leaves the skin feeling tacky (rather than silky smooth). I’ll have to give it a few more tries before making any conclusions about its usefulness, though. No verdict yet.

Click “Read more” to see how I organize my make-up!

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{Review} My new Pandora bracelet! Plus macro photos of the Frog Prince, Teddy Bear and Fairy Tale charms

Sorry for the long absence! I thought I’d break up the recent chain of travel & make-up posts with a jewellery “haul” and review of my new Pandora bracelet.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have already caught a few glimpses of it:

My first and only Pandora charm bracelet

My first and only Pandora charm bracelet

I became interested in Pandora charm bracelets sometime last year, but quickly dismissed the notion of ever owning one because completing a bracelet didn’t seem like something I could afford. So imagine my surprise and delight when I received one as an early birthday gift from my two college buddies, T and D (love you guys!!). I guess they must have noticed my gravitation to the stores’ display windows and my longing forlorn looks, haha! My original bracelet featured two Cherry Blossom clips and a Teddy Bear charm. I was gifted the other two charms from my boyfriend and my BFF a month later when my actual birthday rolled around.

I finally had the opportunity to borrow a macro lens (Canon EFS 60mm f/2.8 USM) and take photos of these cute Pandora charms. The lens has a shallow depth of focus, so parts of the charm are blurry (sorry!). I also apologize for the heavy watermarking. Unfortunately, counterfeit Pandora charms exist and I don’t want unscrupulous Craigslist/Kijiji/eBay sellers to claim my photos as theirs.

The photos are quite large, so click past the jump to see them!

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{Travel} Eating through Upper Manhattan and around Central Park

Hello my friends!

Today I will be recapping the third day of my trip to New York City. You can read about my first two days here.

Day 3

We started our day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. General admission is technically free, but all the signage with suggested admission fees led us to think otherwise. We almost paid the $12 student fare, but an old lady in line with us said you could hand over a dollar and they’d still give you a ticket. And so, because we are cheapos (and weren’t planning on staying for too long), that’s what we did!

After a couple hours, we decided to leave the museum and grab lunch from the food vendors outside rather than pay for an overpriced meal. My friend T absolutely swears that he saw Anna Wintour pass by on our way out. I didn’t even catch a glimpse of her bobbed haircut, but apparently she was there to prepare for the Met Gala.

Next stop, a visit to the famed LaduréeLa maison du Macaron’ !

Laduree New York window display

Ladurée is located at 864 Madison Avenue

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{Travel} Visiting the Big Apple – Middle & Lower Manhattan

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. Do ya still remember me?

May was crazy hectic. I was hopping from city to city (and even across continents – but more on that later!) all month. (Sidenote: Can you believe it’s already more than halfway through the year? June just popped outta nowhere! Sneaky bugger.)

At the beginning of May, my college buddies and I visited New York City. It was a graduation present to ourselves but also a last hurrah together as the Three Musketeers before splitting up across the country and moving on with our post-university lives.

Day 1

Our journey to the City that Never Sleeps started with an early flight from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport into JFK. It was a small plane and surprisingly only about half(?!) full. The plane also flew at a relatively low altitude throughout the entire flight. While my friends snoozed in the row ahead of me, I enjoyed the aerial view and snapped some shots:

Aerial view of Downtown Toronto

Bye Toronto! See ya in a few days.

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{Haul} ELF: Mini Reviews of Brushes and more!

Note: This is a scheduled post. I am away on vacation until the end of May. I will answer your comments/questions then. Take care!

The main purpose of my visit to the ELF store was to stock up on brushes. Their Studio line of brushes have been lauded as the affordable alternative to higher end brushes. I went into the shop with only three on my mental shopping list but walked out with SEVEN brushes, a lip exfoliator and a slew of other make-up goodies.

ELF brushes: Angled Blush, Fan, Angled Eyeliner, Powder, Small Smudge and Blush brush ELF brushes: Angled Blush, Fan, Angled Eyeliner, Powder, Small Smudge and Blush brush

Most of these brushes are packaged in transparent, plastic baggy with their own plastic brush guard. Out of the ones I purchased, only the fan brush, kabuki brush and small smudge brush did not have their own brush guards. Brushes are $3 each – a steal!

First impressions: All brushes had a distinctly plastic or synthetic odour, which is unsurprising given that they are all are made of Taklon, a synthetic material. I hope the smell will fade. The handles are fairly lightweight. The bristles are soft and definitely not scratchy! I have not yet noticed any shedding of the hairs.

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{DIY} Modifying a $1 ELF compact to fit Inglot eye shadows

Note: This is a scheduled post. I am away on vacation until the end of May. I will answer your comments/questions then. Take care!

When I went to the ELF store in NYC, I picked up this $1 compact. It features a mirror, a spot for the included double-sided applicator and 4 spots for round eye  shadow pans (I hear they fit MAC’s eyeshadow refill pans, but have not personally verify this).

Before & After our DIY

Before & After our DIY

I love the shades in my Inglot Freedom System palette, but the whole thing is too bulky to take on short trips. I have considered the Z-Palettes for their non-restrictive freeform design, but I found them too expensive ($14 for the small size) and was too lazy to DIY my own from a DVD case. Modifying the ELF compact would be the perfect compromise.

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Photo tour of EyesLipsFace.com (ELF)’s flagship store in NYC!

Eyes Lips Face is a shop for decent yet affordable cosmetics. It is every broke makeup addict’s dream come true! Until about 2-3 weeks ago, ELF was mostly an online shop and carried in limited selection at some retailers. Unfortunately, shipping to Canada was often more than the cost of the order and it was rare to find ELF in stores. That, in combination with my wariness of purchasing cosmetics online without testing them prevented me from ever shopping at EyesLipsFace.com.

Imagine my delight when I heard from Musings of a Muse that ELF had recently opened a flagship store in New York City, where I was headed with my college buddies for a grad trip.

ELF Storefront

ELF Storefront at 741 Broadway


Googling “ELF new york city” pointed to 1350 Broadway, which is actually their HQ Offices. The first and ONLY (so far) physical ELF store is at 741 Broadway (intersection of Astor Place & Broadway). There’s currently some construction going on, so the ELF sign may be obstructed.

The ELF store is conveniently located next to TWO subway stations! Take your pick:

Option A) Take the yellow N or R train to 8 St – NYU station and walk south on Broadway

Option B) Take the green 6 train to Astor Place station and walk west on Astor Place

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{Haul} Inglot swatches: Freedom System Palette

Note: This originally appeared as a guest post on Simply Becca and I’ve decided to re-publish it here with some modifications.

Inglot is a Polish cosmetic brand so well known for its pigmented and smooth eye shadows that it has developed a bit of a cult following within the makeup community/blogosphere. However, it’s not yet a household name (like Maybelline or even MAC) because of its (relative) exclusivity within North America. For example, there are only four Inglot stores in Canada, with three (!!!) of them in Montreal and the last in Chicoutimi, Quebec.

Inglot Freedom System 10 Eye Shadow Square Palette

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