Travel Make-Up Kit

When I was younger (teens and my early 20s), I didn’t care much about make-up and skincare. In fact, I never owned anything remotely related to beauty. It was only in my late-20s that I discovered and cultivated an obsession with cosmetics and since then, I’ve become some sort of hoarder, although I have yet to get to the part where I actually learn to use them. 
But even though I am practically clueless when it comes to putting these products on me, I have a tendency to pack every single one I could into my luggage whenever I travel. You know, for that unforeseen event when you would have to do your own make-up and everything. And because I have this weird notion that I know and have the time to put them on before I step out my hotel room for the day, so that I would at least look decent in my travel photos. 
Ahh, such trivial pursuits. Hehe. 
But, packing five bottles of foundation and a dozen lipsticks can be quite problematic for those of us with limited baggage allowance (not to mention my overpacked kikay kit is bursting) so I figured, why not edit a bit, right? So I stared long and hard at my dresser drawer and figured out which products I use on a daily basis (in an ideal world).
  • Primer. I’ve recently discovered this primer, That Gal, from Benefit which I absolutely love. It’s pink and it brightens my usually dull and pale skin, plus it smells like strawberries! I’m usually allergic to fruity scents but for some reason, this one agrees with my nose. 
  • Lip/Cheek tint and blush. Also from Benefit , this nifty little box of tricks is a lifesaver. I mean, it has a small bottle of bestsellers Benetint (lip/cheek tint) and High Beam (a highlighter), a powder blush, a creamy gloss, a brush, and a pocket mirror. With matching instructions to boot! I normally just use the tint and highlighter though, since I’m too lazy to use powder blush and I tend to “eat” the gloss. 
  • Cream blush. On days when I really want to look a little made-up or more presentable, I put on this Nars Orgasm blush. This has been voted the best blush-on many times and what can I say? It lives up to the hype.
From left: Kikay kit from Benefit contaiing tint, highlighter, powder blush and lipgloss; Nars Orgasm cream blush; Benefit’s That Gal primer

Oh, and one other thing I love? This little wand from Benefit which has the tint on one end and a clear gloss on the other end. See? You only need this in your bag and you’re good to go! And did I mention that the tint smells oh so rosy? As a finishing touch and when my face feels a little too oily, I pat down this minty face balm, also from Benefit. It works as an oil absorbent and also to set your make-up and it smells citrusy. But again, for some reason, my nose loves it!


Clockwise from tip: Benefit’s Pocket Pal with tint and gloss; L’Occitane’s Rose hand cream; Benefit’s Dr. Feel Good face balm; Clinique spot correcting cream; Benefit’s high-beam. These are the minimum carry-ons in my kikay kit.

And I just have to add this little power-packed moisturizer. During my last foreign trip, my skin got so dry (I think it got confused with the weather – 31 C during the day and 11 C during the night) it started cracking. None of the moisturizers I packed (the Tea Tree line from The Body Shop) helped so I asked the kind girl at Sephora to give me her strongest moisturizer and she gave me this FAB Ultra Repair Cream. FAB actually stands for First Aid Beauty. And it truly lives up to its name. 
FAB repair cream; Benetint lip balm with SPF – smells like roses!

On a side note, I’m stuck in bed right now and since I don’t want to be totally unproductive, thought I’d write about some of my latest make-up purchases. These babies aren’t exactly new – just a very late post. Hope you get to try and like them as much as I do!

Hollywood And All That Jazz

I didn’t have much time to spare (just two days – and I fly back to Manila on the eve of the 2nd day) and I don’t drive, so the smartest way was to book a hotel which was smack in the middle of the city, and sign me up for some tours.
After poring over countless travel forums, I booked a room at the Elan Hotel via my reliable online savior, A boutique hotel, each room had a king-sized bed, a balcony (which wasn’t much, as mine opened up into an empty parking lot), and a well-appointed bathroom. Buffet breakfast and a cheese buffet also came with the deal.

Yep, that’s my brand new yellow Legacy Coach duffle bag – I’ve been looking for a nice yellow leather bag, and since it’s a difficult color to maintain, I also didn’t want one that would break the bank (in case I would have to buy a new one after a couple months’ use. This bag fits my need perfectly.

They also have  a pretty nice bathroom with its own tub and environment friendly supplies. Too bad I didn’t get to try the inviting tub – I was too tired to try it and preferred sleep.

Eco-friendly toiletries
Anyway, on my first full day, I signed up for the 4.5-hr day tour of LA Sightseeing, which to me, was a real steal at just $59 (taxes included). I mean, they picked me up at my hotel, I got to ride comfortably in an airconditioned bus (heck, who wants to ride those open-top buses when the temperature was crazy at 31 C in LA???), and I got a really nice (not to mention, good-looking) tour guide. 
Our tour bus

First stop: Santa Monica beach. 
Okay, let me pretend to be your tour guide. This little beach is actually the playground of the rich neighborhood of Santa Monica – a quiet little county where stars can hide in plain sight. We didn’t get to go down into the beach itself and dip our feet into the water since it would have taken a fifteen-minute walk to get there and we only had ten minutes allotted for this tour, so we just contented ourselves with inhaling the sea breeze and taking in the marvelous view. But honestly? I’d prefer our own beaches here in the PI.

Up next is a little sneak peek into celebrity homes. There were no stop overs so I only have a handful of shots which are not even half-way decent – hey, it’s not exactly a walk in the park to take photos inside a moving bus!

Jim Carrey
Jackie Chan’s phoenix-inspired gate
Judy Garland’s former home – whimsical, isn’t it?
The Hilton family home – one of my favorites; classy and homey at the same time (at least the facade)
The chapel where Liz Taylor married several of her husbands
At the end of our celebrity homes’ tour was Rodeo Drive, dubbed as the most expensive street because of all the luxury brands centrally located here. Well, I would have loved to shop but I already exhausted my shopping budget in Florida and my luggage was crammed full by then. 😦

The yellow Bugatti of designer Bijan Pakzad, parked outside his clothing store, House of Bijan. Dubbed as the world’s most expensive store, shopping is by-appointment only.
Okay, so with (window) shopping out of the way, let’s go on with our tour, shall we? Next on our list was Hollywood Boulevard. I was actually expecting a lot more from this stop, like tree-lined avenues leading to the Chinese and Kodak theaters, but turns out, the boulevard was just a small avenue filled with traffic and forgettable shops.

The Dolby Theatre (formerly Kodak), where the annual Academy Awards takes place. During the show, the entire road is turned into a red carpet for stars to sashay in their formal gowns and suits but in regular days, it’s just like any other average street – smoke-filled, traffic, and crawling with pedestrians (mostly tourists).
Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where most movie premieres are shown
I didn’t get to walk closer to the hand and foot prints in front of the Chinese theater, since they were rolling out the red carpet for an event later that night. Boo!

After that, we went to Mulholland to get a nice view of the Hollywood sign… which was minuscule at best. We were probably miles from it and it was so tiny! We did get sweeping views of the city, despite the heat (the temperature was crazy the two days I was there – 31 C during the day and 14 C at night).
Our last stop for the tour was Universal Studios. Actually, I think some parts of the tour weren’t included in the package I paid for, but since I was the only one who availed of the cheapest tour, it was probably impractical to drive me back to my hotel than to let me stay on with the rest of the tour group (we filled the entire tour bus). 🙂
Okay, two theme parks in one visit is quite the quota for me so I just took pictures outside. But I made a mental note to myself to check out the studios next time.
There’s something about this photo that I find charming. I dunno. Haha.
Kat Von D’s tattoo parlor – you need to wait two years to get an appointment with her, unless, well, unless you’re someone famous.
On my last day in LA, I did something I never thought I’d get to do: ride a private plane. It was crazy, exciting, scary and not to mention expensive but it was all so worth it to be able to experience the thrill and the view from the top was just gorgeous. It wasn’t easy getting shots from the plane though: the wind was so strong (I only let the lens protrude from a small opening but I could feel the wind snatching it from my hands).
Yes, the Hollywood sign, finally. Too bad I didn’t have powerful zoom lens.
Santa Monica Beach
Malibu Beach – which was just a few miles from Santa Monica (or to be more precise, I think they’re actually connected)
The Getty Museum which sits on top of a hill.
I was the only passenger! The pilot was nice enough to let me “fly” and navigate the plane through a valley.

Oh, and one other crazy thing I got to do? I got to watch a taping of Extra’s The Voice special at the Grove. 
The giant Christmas tree at The Grove.

 Yep – I got to see Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine in person. And I was just five meters away! As a tiny bonus, The Voice Hosts Christina Millian, Carson Daly, and of course, Extra Host Mario Lopez were also there.

To make the deal even sweeter? I got two Team Blake shirts for free. You know, those giveaways they throw out during the show? Well, I was wearing my lucky dress and as luck would have it, two shirts dropped on my hands, without me even exerting any effort. 😀

The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

Ever since I heard of this theme park opening more than 10,000 miles away from home, I made the hubby promise to visit it with me one day. We were actually planning to in 2014 (when our time shares mature) but as luck would have it, I unexpectedly found myself at its doorstep last month.

The Hogwarts Express at Platfrom 9 and 3/4 greeted guests as soon as they cross the Hogsmeade sign (okay, it’s rather off since you don’t really ride the express to Hogsmeade but what the heck, right?).

Hogsmeade looked like it did in the movies – like an old English village in winter. The Hogwarts students went to Hogsmeade during the Christmas break so it’s always full of snow in the movies (and books).

And that’s a butterbeer stand right smack in the middle of the street!
They have a short show at Ollivander’s, but the lines were too long (besides, I have quite made up my mind to visit this place with the hubby). But we did get to try some wands.

Ollivander’s wand shop

That’s Hogwarts in the distance. Yes, you can go inside the castle and inside, take the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I didn’t get to, though, since we thought it was a scary ride and decided not to take it – turns out, it was similar to the Spiderman 3D ride, and there were no sharp turns and drops after all. Must. Go. Back. 

Incidentally, Universal Studios in Japan and in Los Angeles will have their own Wizarding World of Harry Potter by 2014 – I guess that means I don’t have to travel all the way to the US to se Harry Potter again. About time I visit Japan too, since it’s been more than seven years since I set foot in that country which I have always loved/been fascinated with since I was a kid. 

The three friends’ wands: Harry’s, Ron’s, and Hermione’s:

We didn’t get to ride on anything inside the Wizarding World since our other options were the Flight of the Hippogriff, a roller coaster (it says family-friendly but still, a roller coaster is still a roller coaster; besides, we all know the hippogriff flies like crazy!) which looked a lot like what we call the Caterpillar here in Manila and the Dragon Challenge, another roller coaster with two hoops. 

But inside Hogwarts is a tiny shop full of anything and everything Harry Potter. I would have loved getting the Muggle/Wizard shirt or a House shirt/jacket but I didn’t think hubby would like it (I found out too late he wanted a Slytherin shirt!) so I contented myself with a Quidditch shirt for the little boy and loads of chocolate frogs.If I had a lot of space left in my luggage, I would have bought loads of mugs and stuffed toys, but alas, I was only allowed two luggages at 64 kilos. So, there.
Hedwig backpacks! I wanted the Hogwarts notebook but it was so heavy to be of practical use.
The happiest place this side of the park for me was Honeydukes, which as you all know, is a sweets shop. 

Why did the student eating the Puking Pastilles have to be green? Reminded me of The Exorcist.

Look at the colorful interior and all those chocolate frogs and fudge flies!

And just like in the books, each chocolate frog had a legendary wizard inside it. I got Rowena Ravenclaw (the one I gave to my in-laws had Albus Dumbledore). Unfortunately, they don’t really move. 😦

I also got a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. This one though, is a lot safer than in the books. It did have earthworm, earwax and rotten egg flavours, but they were mild and still tasted like normal jelly beans, once you got past the icky top flavor. I even tried the black pepper flavor – spicy jelly beans!

I quite forgot what store in the books sold all these gadgets, but connected to the “sweets” section inside Honeydukes is a “gadgets” store.

I would have gotten some sneakoscopes and extendable ears but I couldn’t figure out a practical use for them so I held my wallet in check. But they sure looked like a lot of fun!

I can’t wait for 2014 – I will make sure to visit Japan when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens there. 🙂

Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios

Orlando was two hours away by bus from where I was staying in Florida and I had only one full weekend, so I had to plan the non-work part of our trip carefully: I booked round-trip bus rides (since none of us drive) via Greyhound (first in, last out basis), a hotel for the night (we stayed at the Best Western in Downtown Disney Resort Area for $89 a night!), and spent one day each at Disney World and Universal Studios. 

Both parks are huge – don’t even try to finish them all in one go. Same as with Disney World, we chose to focus on just one park at Universal. I only wanted to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which deserves it’s own blog entry) so we automatically chose Islands of Adventure over Universal Studios. I’m afraid I didn’t give my friends much of a choice really, as I told them I would see Harry Potter with or without them. Spoiled brat alert. Hahaha.

Our first stop inside the park? The locker rooms. Seriously, I was lugging around ten paperbags from all the outlet store shopping we did the day before and that morning before we went to Universal that my back was ready to give out on me (in case you need to know, I have a back problem and a weak shoulder which made things worse). I did buy a huge backpack and transferred my purchases there, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed the park with a ton on my back, right? Good thing Universal has some cute lockers which you can rent for $8 and $10, for the single and family-sized units, respectively. A tiny confession: I bought so much I had to rent two family-sized lockers. In any case, Christmas is just around the corner so why not do a little early shopping right?

With that out of the way, welcome, adventure! Look at the cute signs:

My favorite area, in terms of how cute everything looked like, was Seuss Landing. It was just like walking into a cartoon set – colorful, vibrant and larger than life. I can imagine kids, and kids at heart, enjoying just strolling along this park. I know I did. 

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

It was kind of ironic that we left Manila a few days before the office Halloween celebration where the theme for our floor was Dr. Seuss. Look at Onceler’s House!

Even their restaurants looked yummy enough to eat!

In terms of attractions though, I liked the Lost Continent most – especially the Eight Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show, a live-action stunt show featuring Sinbad (but of course) and his sidekick as they rescue Princess Amoura from the witch Miseria. Lots of “rock”-climbing and swinging from ropes from the princess and Sinbad, and special effects like fire bursting out of nowhere and water splashing – since it was real fire and water, we actually felt the scorching heat of the fire as it threatened to burn the princess and then the coolness of the water.

the set for the live-action show
A good thing I managed to get the entire show on video, which is of course, too long to post here.

I’m not too fond of lamb, but this was really good! I had this for late lunch after our Sinbad advneture
Next, we went to Poseidon’s Fury, a tour inside a ruined “temple” where Poseidon was supposedly trapped for hundreds of years with his enemy. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with this one – the guide was fun and was probably the only part I enjoyed but it was tiring to walk inside and just watch on the screen. 

Poseidon’s Fury

These “pirates” were nice enough to pose for us
Our last stop was the Marvel Super Hero Island – yep, all your favorite Marvel characters all in one place! We even managed to watch a live motorcycle race with Wolverine, Storm, and Captain America. 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, a 3-D ride where you are flung from building to building, dropped into the sea, and hung upside-down all in the comfort of your seat. Perfect for height-averse people like me. Hahaha. Seriously though, I liked this ride so much I wanted to do it again. My fear of heights kind of limits the attractions I could enjoy in a theme park so it’s really nice we now have these 3D things. 

One thing I most certainly would have died of? The Incredible Hulk Coaster. Look! Just the sight of it made my stomach drop. Imagine having to ride it. So. Not. Gonna. Happen.

There were lots of merchandise for sale in the park but I was quite content with my loot from Hogsmeade, so, sorry but no Simpsons t-shirt or X-Men paraphernalia this Christmas. 
Up Next: Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

I was fortunate enough to be sent to Florida for a couple of weeks; as much as I hate going on business trips (I find them stressful and I tend to get homesick), well, they can be inevitable at times so, why not make lemonade out of lemons, right?
Seeing that I had one full weekend to roam around, I immediately researched how to go around the state. I don’t drive, and neither do my companions, so why not take the good ole bus, right? And there goes riding the Greyhound off my bucket list. Just kidding it’s not on my list. 😀
Anyway, we were staying in Tampa, which was about an hour drive from Orlando but riding the bus took us almost two hours. Works for me as I slept the entire time (when I wasn’t busy catching up on social media (the bus has free wifi).

Our first stop in Orlando was Disney World. Fine, our first stop was the outlet store but who’s interested in what we bought, right? Disney World is actually one big complex with four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I was leaning more towards Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom but since it was my friends’ first time at a Disney park and better to be safe, we settled for Magic Kingdom.

If you’ve been to HK Disneyland which I wrote about here and here, you would instantly recognize this view which greeted us upon entry:

And of course, Sleeping Beauty’s castle:

It’s basically the same as the one in HK, except with more turrets and a bit taller.

The man himself, together with the most famous mouse in the whole world.
There were not too many rides that are b0th kid/adult friendly (rides were of the carousel variety and we were obviously too old for those) and this being my friends’ first time at a Disney park, we made sure to get as many photos with the beloved mascots as we could manage. Here are some of my favorites:

I was looking to buy some Mickey Mouse-shaped chocolates like the ones my tita bought for me many many years ago in Tokyo but I never found them (in HK or in the US). I guess this means I should go to Japan and check out the Disney park there.

Cookies and sweets were kind of limited here; even the merchandise. It was more fun shopping in HK but I guess my wallet heaved a very deep sigh of relief that day. 

Of course, when you’re in Disneyland, you gotta make sure you see the fireworks.
I’ve been to three Disney parks in as many months and I got to see different versions of the afternoon parade – the first one had the mascots dousing the crowd with water while the second one I saw had more of a circus-theme; both of these parades were in HK.  Well, we missed the one in Orlando but we did manage to squeeze in the Electrical Parade, where all sorts Disney characters traverse Main Street on board brightly-lit floats.
My favorite was the one with the seven dwarfs. I mean, we all get to see Snow White in parades and all, but the dwarfs? I wanted to hug them all!

I don’t know what it is about Disney, but it really is a magical place and the happiest place on earth. I would have wanted to explore the other parks but we only had a day to spare so I guess I’ll have to visit another time? 🙂