Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (the audiobook)

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson (Review), narrated by Lincoln Hoppe

Full Disclaimer:

I love Lincoln Hoppe as a narrator and will listen to him read anything, even if it’s just a grocery list.

That being said, Hoppe did a great job narrating this book, as he does every book I’ve listened to. He really knows how to bring the characters to life, especially for stories written in first-person narrative.

Synopsis of the story (taken from Goodreads):

On a dark road in the middle of the night, a car plunges into a ravine. The driver survives the crash, but his injuries confine him to a hospital burn unit. There the mysterious Marianne Engel, a sculptress of grotesques, enters his life. She insists they were lovers in medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in the monastery of Engelthal. As she spins the story of their past lives together, the man’s disbelief falters; soon, even the impossible can no longer be dismissed.

Another disclaimer:

I don’t like reading about blurbs about books before I read them. I don’t like knowing what the book is about because I want to find out for myself. I like plunging into novels without any expectations so I can be completely surprised and amazed by all the changes a character goes through.

The moment I started listening, I was hooked

The writer has an amazing ability to draw me in with graphic, gritty details that had me cringing but perversely drawn into the story. Sort of like when I see roadkill and I know it’s gross but I can’t help but stare. The character’s background was given in sharp detail without drawing away from the main plotline. The writer was able to give us a glimpse of how the character is the way he is without making any rationalizations or becoming boring.

The story stayed amazing and enthralling until about halfway through the book when…weird things…started to happen.

Now, yet another disclaimer. I love fantasy and science fiction. I believe 75% of what I read falls into the epic fantasy genre, which I’m only stating to point out that I have no trouble suspending my belief, especially when reading a novel.

But I found the stories Marianne Engel told, once she entered the scene, too distant to be believable. I believe this was where the writing became a muddled for me. She told the story in detailed prose, but she kept referring to the main character (and we never find out his name) as “you,” which would sort of snap me out of the story to remind me that it was just a story, thereby making it less believable. I know it was to keep the narrator unnamed, but this was the end result.

Once I finished the book, I was even less convinced of the magic that had originally kept me so enthralled in the first half. I was instead overwhelmed with questions, like:

1. If Marianne is really more than 700 years old, what happened during the time she died and was resurrected? Did she live to be that old, then died, then was re-born? Or did she lead many lives, forever searching for her true love (aka the main character)? If so, did she remember who she was in each life? How did she know who she was in this life?

2. How come Marianne could remember her past life but the main character couldn’t?

3. If she gave all her hearts to those gargoyles, wouldn’t they be alive somehow? Because she gave her last heart to the main character so…

4. What did she mean when she said “Our kind don’t die easily”?

5. How come Marianne’s penance to achieve salvation was so much more severe than the main character’s? If you really wanted to argue, he was a much bigger sinner than she was in both timelines. I mean, she was a nun who decided to marry a guy for love. He was a mercenary who killed people, and then later became a porn star (never thought I’d write that sentence, ever). So she had to live 700 years and give out hearts and carve gargoyles till she bled, and all he had to do was chip away at his own statue?

6. What was the point of it all? Was it to prove that their love endured all these years, all these lifetimes? That their love brought them back together even after death? Because that sure didn’t happen. Like, okay, yeah, they were brought back together. And sure, they got to spend some time together. But in the end, she left him. Again. And when they were together, she spent all that time carving or being annoyed when she was not carving.

All I’m saying is I didn’t feel the love. I heard him talk about it. I heard Marianne talk about it. But I didn’t feel it.

6. Or was it to point out that your life isn’t over unless you’ve paid back all your sins? Like our lives on this earth are just sentences in purgatory we’re made to live until we’re given enough chances and paid off enough sins to finally enter heaven.

Which is the complete opposite of the salvation I’ve put my faith in.

If you look at the main character’s journey toward salvation in the end, however, it is a beautiful development. He went from being a cynical porn star/drug addict to someone who was loved, and loved others. His growth alone was enough to carry the story.

I have to give this book 3/5 stars. If you love prose and the beauty of words, I would recommend at least reading the first few chapters, just to appreciate the writer’s beautiful execution. I would recommend the book as a whole just so we can talk about it. But for me, it lost its magic and left me feeling more lost than saved.

Review: Red Queen and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen by Victoria AveyardGlass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

I’ve been on this huge YA kick, probably because I’m trying to write one of my own and mostly because they’re the best stories out there. I’ve never been into those super literary novels. Sure I love my classics (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE will always have a special place in my heart), but once in a while I like to indulge in gripping action-y teen romance, fickleness and all.

That being said, I’m really sick of these series where the books just end mid-cliff-hanger.

I get it. Sometimes stories are long and a trilogy or series is necessary. But even so, each installment in a series is meant to be a story on its own, complete with beginning, middle, end; inciting incident, growth, rising action, climax…you know, that mountain thing our English teachers were always drawing on their white boards.

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But lately the series I’ve been reading, especially YA, are all just one long story that drags on for as long as possible, broken into three chunks that aren’t really complete in and of themselves. And then you’re forced to wait and read the next story just because you’ve already started this one and you need to know how it ends.

Now that my tirade is over, here’s what I thought of Red Queen and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard.

I like a strong female character.

Mare isn’t a simpering female fool, and it’s refreshing to see a female character grow into her own in a realistic way (as realistic as developing magical abilities and rising to great power in a matter of months can be).

Thank God there was no love triangle.

I’ve never been a fan of love triangles, so I’m glad that any hint of one in this book is pretty clear cut. I don’t like characters that go back and forth between their love interests. That’s greedy. Make a decision.

Action and progress.

These books were pretty easy to read, because there was a lot of killing and fighting and attempted murdering; and scenes that didn’t involve action sequences were very short.

But there was no sizzle.

However, while having shorter, progressive scenes made this book fly by, it also made the world, story, and characters feel distant. I could never quite connect with Mare because I felt as if most things were summarized. Unless she was killing something or someone was killing her, there was a slight fuzziness to the story, like I was viewing it through a glass. I couldn’t get myself to care about the characters that she cared about, because I never got close enough to them. I’m usually a sucker for romance. Any mention of a blush or faster heartbeat in the presence of a muscled prince, and my spine goes ramrod straight. But with Mare and Cal…there was no sizzle for me.

The villain didn’t get to me.

Along that line, when (spoiler alert) Mare is betrayed by a certain someone…I didn’t feel betrayed. I didn’t hate him. To me it was just another…[insert plot point here]…sort of thing.

Overall, I enjoyed these novels. My opinion might be overshadowed by how upset I was that the book ended abruptly on a cliff-hanger, and I really just don’t appreciate getting sucker punched like that. I also normally wait until a trilogy is complete before I embark on the journey because this is a personal pet peeve. I don’t like having to wait until the next installment to find out what happens. The fact that the second book ended the way it did, added to the fact that I now have to wait for the next book made it even worse.

But I will be reading the last book. So it was a pretty entertaining series nonetheless. I would give these a solid 3/5. Hopefully by the time the last book comes out, my anger will have dissipated, and the story will justify its spread across three books.

DIY Citronella Bug Repellent Candles

DIY Citronella Bug Repellent Candles

DIY Citronella Bug Repellent Candles

Finally crossing these off my arts and crafts bucket list.

I get a lot of mosquito bites. Step outside for five minutes in the summer and I’ll be covered in red welts. Those suckers love me. Candles have been something on my arts and crafts bucket list for a while, so when I finally got around to making them, I decided to also make them bug repellent. These DIY Citronella Bug Repellent Candles are practical AND they smell nice AND they’re pretty to look at. Is anyone else as addicted to washi tape as I am?

Here are the materials I used:

DIY Citronella Bug Repellent Candles

Pour wax into your double boiler and start melting it over medium heat

Preparing Melting Wax for DIY Bug Repellent Candles

My double boiler held about 2 cups of melted wax. This project took way longer than I had projected, and I ended up just adding more to it as it melted, since the wax shrinks once it melts.

Let’s just get this out of the way that I am very sucky at measuring things. This is why everything I bake turns out WRONG. So…sorry.

Melting Candle Wax for Bug Repellent Candles

Melting Wax for Mosquito Repellent Candles

While I waited for the wax to melt, I prepared the candle wicks.

I dabbed a bit of E6000 glue to the tab of the candle wick. Then I plucked it onto the bottom of my glass jar.

E6000 Glue Materials for DIY Bug Repellent Candle

Using E6000 Glue for Wicks DIY Bug Repellent Candles

Preparing Wick for DIY Bug Repellent Candles

Once the max has melted, set it aside in a bowl to cool.

Melting Wax for Mosquito Repellent Candles

Melted Candle Wax for Bug Repellent Candles

Candle Wax in Bowl to Cool Down for Bug Repellent Candles

Choose what essential oils or smells you want for your candle.

Essential Oils for DIY Bug Repellent Candles

I knew mine was going to have citronella, but I didn’t want it to be overpowering, so I added other scents. I found that orange made the citronella more bearable, even though I don’t particularly like citrus-y smells. Tea tree oil also works wonders, and so does eucalyptus.

I am by far not an expert on essential oils. I suggest reading more about them, as it will open up a whole new world of DIY to you. Lotion and body butter anyone? (Coming up soon!)

Once your wax has cooled for about two minutes, add in your oils.

I used Jillee’s recommendation of 75 drops to a pound of wax (about 2.25 cups of wax).

Drop Essential Oils in Candle Wax DIY Bug Repellent Candles

Give it a stir.

(Please don’t use that chopstick to eat with later.)

Stir Essential Oil into Wax DIY Candles

Carefully pour your melted wax into your containers.

Pour Wax in Jars DIY Candles

I had to ghetto engineer the wick so that it stayed propped upright while the wax cooled and hardened.

Cool Down Wax for DIY Bug Repellent Candles

SCIENCE.

Candle Wick in Hot Wax DIY Bug Repellent Candles

Cooling Down DIY Bug Repellent Candles

I let it cool overnight (a few hours should do the trick, though) and then snipped the wick to a quarter inch above the wax.

Snip Wick for DIY Bug Repellent Candles

Then I taped it up with washi tape!

Most of these tapes are gifts from my best friend Rebecca. The shape of the jars was difficult to maneuver, so apologies for the less-than-perfect execution. Hey, I spent like 5 hours melting wax, all right. I deserve these kisses.

DIY Bug Repellent Candles

Husband came out of the bedroom mid-project and sniffed the air. He was all, “Oooh, smells good.” Then he walked into the kitchen and was like, “Are you cooking meth?”

Yes, because that is what I do in my spare time, in my kitchen.

So there ya go. I hope you guys try out this DIY. It’s simpler than you think and makes you feel like a super mad scientist who doesn’t like mosquitoes. Have fun and enjoy!

My First Time at a Korean Sauna

First Time at a Korean Sauna

My Sister was with me during my First Time at a Korean Sauna

I had no idea it was nude!

Don’t worry, I survived.

So if you’ve never been to a Korean sauna, then let me just tell you something: the faster you get over the nude issue, the more you’ll enjoy yourself.

I was suuuper self-conscious at first. And no one else cared. Seriously, no one.

Plus, you’re only nude in the separate women/men areas and you can always wear the spa uniform they provide. The only necessarily nude part was when you had to shower, since they had an open shower layout. Some girls wore their bikinis, which was allowed at the sauna we went to, but not allowed in other places, so you can always call ahead to make sure.

My sister and I decided to brave it out our first time at a Korean Sauna at Spa Palace in Koreatown which is in Downtown Los Angeles. There are a ton of other saunas. Guess where? Yes, Koreatown. So check out Yelp for some good ones.

Side note: I actually lived in Koreatown for about two years shortly after college. It was a rather interesting experience I’ll never want to try again. However, I think I would move back, solely for the spas.

The price is okay if you pay the full retail, which is $25 for a day pass and $30 for a night pass. Day hours are 6:00am to midnight and night hours are 8:00pm to 6:00am. That’s cheaper than a hotel! If you get the day pass and stay into the night (after midnight), you have to pay an extra $10.

However, I went ahead and bought the 10-day passes booklet for $150 (with cash. If you pay with a credit card, they charge $180–I believe this is a promotion that’s around for a “limited time”) since I had a feeling I’d be back. That brought the day passes to $15 each. Which is pretty nifty in my opinion!

Day Pass for First Time at a Korean Sauna

Then I read the fine print and apparently you can’t stay past 6 hours or they’ll charge you upwards of $15. Not that I have been able to handle more than 6 hours at the spa, to be honest, but I would have liked to have the option! Especially when they tout the ticket as an all-day pass. But. Whatever. Principles, I suppose.

Spa Palace Ticket Back First time at a Korean Sauna

My first time at a Korean sauna, I packed waaaay too much stuff. The tiny sliver of a locker they provide barely had space for my giant gym bag, purse, extra pairs of shoes, and towels. Yes, I am an over-packer. I just don’t know if I’ll be in the mood to wear my Ron Swanson t-shirt and ripped jeans or my fit-and-flare floral dress, okay? Also, they gave me an odd-numbered locker, which are the ones on to upper level, so if you’re short like me ask for an even-numbered locker. I had to stand on the stool to reach my stuff. 🙁 Short people problems.

I learned my lesson though, and narrowed it down to only a few items that you’ll need to bring to the spa.

What to Bring Your First Time at a Korean Sauna

I would suggest you only bring a change of clothes (don’t forget clean undies and socks!), your bathing suit, and an extra towel if you want it. The spa will provide the uniform that everyone wears in the co-ed areas, shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. Girls get one regular-sized towel and one hand towel. Guys only get a hand towel (was very confused the first time I went with Husband, and he did not get a regular-sized towel). They won’t give extra towels unless you ask, and then you feel like a nuisance, plus you have to walk all the way to the front desk in your spa attire, which you won’t want to do.

My first time at a Korean sauna, my sister and I sprung out for a complete beautification experience. I made a delicious coffee and honey scrub, which we lathered all over ourselves. And I mean. All. Over. I’m glad I used this at a sauna and not at my own home because man. What a mess. But it left our skin smooth, exfoliated, and moisturized. I would totally do it again.

Then I also used this dead sea mud mask, which buuuuuurned, but left my face super soft and exfoliated.

We even put our hair in hair masks and leave in conditioner. So after my first time there, I felt completely primped and clean and scrubbed all over.

Then we spent all day soaking in hot tubs, dry saunas, and sitting in steam rooms. We tried out the Himalayan Salt Room to “soak up the minerals,” the Gold Room (which was just hot and painted gold), and Elvan Stone Room (hot with an…Elvan Stone. I still don’t know what that is or does, sorry), the Loess Soil Room (laying on tiny, warm beads felt amazing, but prepare to lose all dignity when you try to leave!), and shocked our body in the cold room, which was around 55 degrees (so pretty much like stepping outside that night since it was raining).

So here are my tips if it’s also going to be your first time at a Korean sauna:

    • Seriously get over the nude part as soon as possible. Other people don’t care–and in fact, they feel sorry for you if you’re self-conscious. Those Asian ladies will look at you funny. You know what look I’m talking about
    • If the nude thing really bothers you, just hang out in the spa uniform. No one will care then either
    • There are more things to do in the co-ed areas than the separate women/men rooms, so you can always hang out there clothed for the most part
    • Leave most of your crap at home. You won’t even need your phone, and shouldn’t even have it out unless you’re in the co-ed areas. YOU’RE HERE TO RELAX, SO RELAX ALREADY CAN’T YOU JUST RELAX??
    • Bring your own towel, at least to this location
    • Try out their food, especially the green tea ice cream
    • Go when it’s raining or cold outside! Nothing feels better than a warm sauna on a wintry day

They also provide a blow dryer, q-tips, and body lotion in the women’s locker room, so you won’t need to pack that.

Oh, and don’t forget your deodorant.

Husband and I went back the following week for a couple’s massage, which was rather different than what I was expecting. First of all, it wasn’t one of those relaxing massages where you felt pampered after. It was one of those I-will-beat-your-muscles-into-pulp massages that left you feeling like mush. We got back home after five hours at the spa, and felt bad for leaving our fur-babies at home all day on Saturday. It’s usually the one day they would get to enjoy with us.

But no. I guess they had their own fun.

Pollo and Lucas Singing Thinking out Loud by Ed Sheeran

I hope you guys visit a Korean sauna one of these days, and tell me all about it! One of these days we would like to visit Korea and go to a real one, but until then, we’ll make do with the offerings in L.A. I guess there are some good reasons to move back here after all.

At-Home Manicure: Tips from a Former Manicurist

Give Yourself an At-Home Manicure

Treat Yo’Self: How to DIY an At-Home Manicure

Tips from a Former Manicurist

Ah, yes. I used to do nails. Yes, I am Asian. Yes, Vietnamese. Yes, I know I am very cliched. Sorry ’bout that. But hey. Now I get to give you some tips on how to DIY an at-home manicure, right? You can save some money from those trips to the salon!

Disclaimer and side note: They’re totally talking smack about you.

Let’s just skip my whole sob story about my short career as a manicurist and what a horrible job that was, and get down to business shall we?

Here’s what you’ll need:

At Home Manicure Materials

  • Lotion and water in a bowl
  • Cuticle pusher or orange stick
  • Cuticle remover cream (optional)
  • Nail clipper (optional)
  • Base coat, nail polish, and top coat
  • Something to read or watch while you wait for the beauty godmothers to work their magic

Let’s get started on your at-home manicure

Start with clean nails. Wipe off any remaining nail polish with a polish remover. I like ones with acetone because they’re efficient, but they can also be very drying so whatever you prefer is fine, so long as it removes all the polish off your digits.

If you’ve got thick cuticles like me, you’ll need to soak your fingers in a bowl of water and lotion or cuticle cream. I just use lotion. To speed up the moisturizing process, I’ll even dab globs of lotion onto my nailbeds and let my fingers soak in more lotiony water. Sorry I didn’t have a more attractive bowl on hand. 😛

Hand Soak At Home Manicure

Then I take a cuticle pusher (I’m using Sally Hansen’s Push-n-Trim) to gently nudge my cuticles into my nailbed. It’s common practice to cut cuticles, but you should never do that because you might give yourself an infection. You have cuticles for a reason, which is to protect your nails and fingers. If you have excess dead cuticles, you can remove them with a cuticle remover cream.

Cuticle Pusher At Home Manicure

This Sally Hansen tool comes with a trimmer at one end. If you must, you can very very gently trim your excess cuticles. But be careful or you can catch some skin.

Cuticle Trimmer At Home Manicure

If you need to trim your nails, do so now also. I like to keep my nails short because keeping them long is just one more way to hurt myself. And also, how do girls even function with long nails? How do you do things, like life?

Anyway, then wash your hands with soap and water to remove any lotion or gel from your nails.

After Image for At Home Manicure

Get your polish on

When applying nail polish, you should always use a base coat, which will prevent chipping and staining, and keep your color lasting longer. I’m using essie Grow Stronger Base Coat.

Grow Stronger Base Coat At Home Manicure

To stave off chipping, apply polish with thin, even coats. You should never apply more than three brush strokes per nail. Gently place the brush at the base of your nail, just touching your cuticle, and stroke downward in the middle. Then stroke each side of your nail. Do up to three coats. This is an awesome video that also explains how to paint your dominant hand with your non-dominant one. It just takes practice but you can manage it perfectly, trust me.

I’m wearing my sister’s borrowed OPI before I have to return it to her this weekend. It’s such a fun color! I’ve been addicted to essie’s polishes, but was pleasantly reminded of OPI’s thick brush. It made for applying the polish a lot easier and smoother. This color was a bit streaky on the first two coats though, to be honest, so I had to apply a third.

OPI Nail Polish At Home Manicure

Once I’ve got my polish on, I like to let my nails dry for about fifteen minutes depending on how thick the polish went on (some colors need three coats). This is where having something to read or watch comes in handy.

Side note: I was finishing up Crown of Midnight, the second installment in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and it was de-lish. Made the whole waiting process in this at-home manicure much more bearable and guilt-free.

Then I will finish my nails off with a top coat. I’m using essie No Chips Ahead.

No Chips Ahead At Home Manicure

Again, let it dry for about fifteen to thirty more minutes. Yes, beauty takes time! Don’t be tempted to touch it! Don’t be tempted to do anything. I will be watching you. Just rest your hands on top of a surface and do not, do not touch anything. Seriously. Even if you know you’ll be “careful.” That doesn’t exist. It’s like freshly painted nails are a magnet for dents and scratches and fluffy dustbunnies and dog hair and potato chip crumbs. I DON’T KNOW HOW THOSE GOT ON THERE I SWEAR I WASN’T EATING ANY.

And I also hope you went to the restroom before you started. I warned you!

How to Give Yourself an At Home Manicure

After about thirty minutes, you should be good to go! Simple and easy, no? It’s the perfect way to treat yourself without splurging. I hope you try this at-home manicure yourself!

If you got excess polish on your fingers, you can take a brush dipped in some acetone to gently remove it. If you’re too lazy to do that, it’s okay, it’ll disappear once you wash your hands enough times. 😛

So I’m totally obsessed with essie’s beautiful shades right now. What’s your favorite brand of nail polish? Color? I’m totally into this Sugar Daddy. It’s so subtle and cute, and I woke up with a smile when I saw it first thing in the morning. Oh, the things that make me happy…

A Challenge to Be Nicer to One Another

Be Nicer to One Another

Be nicer to one another, Shall we?

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today…

and then it felt like I was in some Groundhog Day-esque time loop where I kept waking up on the wrong side of the bed, even though I had gotten out of it hours ago. At first I thought it was just me and I’m going through a serious grump sesh. But then things kept happening that made me fall deeper and deeper into a spiral of anger. Seriously, why do people have to be so mean? Why can’t we be nicer to one another?

First off, on the drive to work, a mini-cooper kept tailgating me. Of course, I don’t condone tailgating because it can lead to some avoidable accidents. I’ve actually witnessed an accident where the cars were going literally three miles an hour (I was right next to them!) and an SUV smushed the trunk of a sedan because he was following that close. And, why? You’re either deliberately provoking the person ahead of you or giving someone else anxiety and stress. Traffic in Los Angeles isn’t bad enough as it is?

To be fair, I can sometimes understand instances of tailgating when it’s accounted for–like if someone is going really slow in the fast lane and they should move aside for the speedy cars. But I was not in the fast lane, nor was I driving particularly slow. Nor was there much traffic in the lanes around me. I mean, it was six in the morning. So why was this person tailgating me?

I do not know. It was rude and it was stressing me out. And eventually they moved to the slower lane and cut me off, which bothers me even more because there was no one in the fast lane! Double argh. And then I ended next to them at the exit light! So all that trouble was for nothing, buddy. Joke’s on you.

Second, at the gym, I was working on my shoulders and between sets, I like to work out a different muscle group. It’s efficient and I don’t like to let my heartrate drop too low between sets. But some girl stepped in and took over the shoulder machine which, hey, is fine. I wasn’t using it. So I grabbed my water bottle which I had left at the machine (and which she saw me do, so she knows I was using it), and moved on to the next machine while I waited for her to be done. She did like five reps, and then she sat there typing away on her phone. I kid you not, I completed six whole sets (of combined triceps and back) and she was still typing!

Well whatevs. I didn’t want to work on my shoulders anyway 😛 so I went downstairs to do abs.

And THEN, after showering, I was walking down the hall and the SAME girl takes a step right in my way. I almost crashed into her. And she was too busy staring at herself in the mirror to notice. To be fair, once she did notice, she muttered a quick “sorry,” which I do appreciate.

Anyway, this turned out into more of a rant than I would have liked. And I’m aware that I can sometimes be not the nicest or friendliest person in the world. I could go out of my way more often than I do. I can smile at strangers and open the door for someone. But most of the time I walk around with a frown on my face. Mostly it’s because the sun is in my eyes, but sometimes it really is because I can’t get out of my dark mood.

That frown is highly contagious, and is one of those thing that get worse and worse if I don’t do something about it. Like a hunger headache, the longer I ignore it, the stronger it grows. And the thing about grumpiness is that it’s infectious. Somehow, someone being a jerk to me will cause me to be a jerk to myself and everyone else.

Which is why I’m going to make an effort from now on to be kinder and more considerate of those around me. And it’d be cool if everyone joined me. This is a challenge to be nicer to one another. To just be more aware of your surroundings and how your actions affect your environment and the people breathing the same air as you.

I’ve created this Be Nicer Challenge Schedule to get us started. Download it, follow it loosely, follow it strictly, there are no rules.

be nicer

The idea is to do little things every day that will eventually add up into bigger things. We’ll start small, with just some eye contact and a smile (sounds like I’m picking someone up at a bar 😉 ). And then we’ll move on to bigger things, like volunteering and baking cookies. What do you guys think? I’m open to suggestions as well! And I hope you guys join in this quest to be nicer to one another.

How to: DIY Ombre Hair at Home–no Bleach

How I get my DIY Ombre Hair starting with Asian-black roots to blond ends at home–without bleach.

DIY Ombre Hair

I never caught onto the platinum blond trend that looks so great on some Asian skin tones, but I could never quite picture on my own head. I always thought they looked amazing on other girls, and I would always be super jealous that I couldn’t pull off the look. My tan was just too splotchy for it, and I felt like the blond would highlight every dark flaw my mother was always pointing out about my skin tone. Then when ombre became super trendy, I thought maybe this was how I could go blond, and not have to commit to it at the same time, so I decided to try my hand at DIY Ombre Hair.

Before I splurged on this trend that I wasn’t sure I really wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on, I wanted to try it myself. At Target one night, I happened to spot this L’Oreal Feria Ombre hair kit. I looove L’Oreal. It is my go-to drugstore brand for dupes when I want to try a new product without spending my entire month’s beauty budget on one item. L’Oreal always works for me–everything from their mascara to liquid eyeliner to foundation. So when I saw the DIY Ombre Hair kit, I didn’t think twice, and snatched it right up.

The thing about dying organically black Asian hair is that nothing works except bleach. I didn’t want to bleach my hair, and though I read that this hair kit has some bleach in it, as long as I didn’t have to worry about bleaching my strands directly, I was okay with that. (Plus I was too lazy to figure out how to actually bleach it and then still have to apply color–really, the whole process boggles my mind.)

I didn’t think the ombre hair kit would work, but the worst that could have happened was that my hair didn’t change colors at all. Seriously, I’ve tried some “blond” kits that did absolutely nothing. So I wasn’t expecting much with this. Much to my surprise, the first experiment went so well that I decided I wanted to go even lighter! And I love it.

Disclaimer: If you have never gone blond, at first, you will be shocked. And then you’ll get used to it. And then you’ll want more.

Now, onto the DIY Ombre Hair.

The kit comes with:

  • Shimmering Conditioning Permanent Color Gel
  • Developing Cream
  • Shimmer Bleach Powder
  • Conditioner
  • Panted Brush

Hair Dye Kit

This “patented brush” at first sounds really pretentious. Like, what’s so special about a brush? Well, if you’ve dyed your hair at home before without one of these, you’ll know and truly appreciate the difference. It’s so much easier to apply the hair dye to your strands evenly with this thing.

Hair Dye Brush

Mix the shimmering powder into the developing cream bottle, cap and shake. Then squeeze in the gel color treatment (in the tube), cap and shake. Then when you’re all shaken up, snip the tip of the pointy cap (really take a pair of scissors to it. The perforated twist-off part will produce a tiny, frustrating hole that will have you squeezing the bottle with so much power, you might hurt yourself).

Hair Dye Formula snipped

I tied my hair up into four ponytails according to my layers and the style I wanted my DIY ombre hair to be, which was a gradual color change from layer to layer. You might want a gradual color change from top to bottom through the whole mass of your hair, but I like my layered color look. It’s really up to you, but if you want my look, split your hair into four different pony tails before you start applying.

Hair Tied Up in 4 Sections

Then squeeze a moderate amount onto the brush and start applying to your hair.

Dye on Brush

I began with the ends of my hair and moved up to my roots, starting with the bottom layer. I would recommend waiting about five minutes before moving onto the next layer, but I went ahead and started on the next layer immediately. The result was still a gradual change. With each layer, I always applied to the ends of my hair and moved up to my roots.

When my bottom layers were saturated with hair dye, I used the excess and brushed the brush lightly through my top layers and bangs. I did not soak my hair with the dye on my top layers because I wanted them to remain black.

Then I got rid of the smelly chemical things, and threw all my hair kit away (I debated washing and saving the brush, but it was too messy to bother with), and found a book to read for forty-five minutes. The results vary for some–and the instructions recommend testing a strand for twenty five minutes, and then leaving it on in increments of 5 until you achieve the desired color, up to forty-five minutes. But since I knew my hair was resistant to lightening, I did the full forty-five minutes.

Then I rinsed, rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed some more. I used the shampoo/conditioner they provided, which is actually a very rich, moisturizing formula, about three times, and then kept rinsing.

Rinse, rinse, and repeat.

Usually it takes me like a week to wash out the hair dye smell from my hair, but Husband and I went to the sauna that day and I showered about six times (no lies). The smell was gone by the time we got home. Do you need another excuse to spend a whole day at a spa?

And here’s what it looked like.

DIY Asian Black Blonde Ombre Hair

Asian Black Blonde Ombre Hair

Asian Black Blonde Ombre Hair DIY

You can see that my top layers and roots remained black.

What do you guys think of this ombre hair color trend? Cute? Or too much like you ran out of hair dye? Haha. I think it’s the perfect way to go drastic without making a huge commitment, which is perfect for a commitment-phobe like me. I hope you guys try this DIY Ombre Hair! It’s easier than you think, and you’ll love the way it freshens and brightens up your face, hair and overall appearance. Let me know how it goes!

Updates and the Usual Excuses

Bumbling Panda Arts & Crafts Updates

Obligatory Bumbling Panda Arts & Craft Updates

AKA, why I’ve been MIA for like 6 months

HNG, yes I know I’ve gone missing for so long–and I’m super sorry! Life has really gotten in the way, and I know a lot of people say that but I’ve totally switched careers and moved forty miles from home since the last time I posted on here. It’s been quite the adventure.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to take back control of my life, quit my job, and do something I went to school for: publications. When I got offered a job in Pasadena, we knew that our lives would be turned upside down. I love Long Beach, but the commute was too long, and I simply knew it was time to make a change.

So Husband and I packed up our bags, hired movers (best decision ever!) and did the one thing I never thought I’d do again: Move back to Los Angeles.

*Cue dramatic death music*

Just kidding. It’s not that bad up here. It’s actually pretty cool. Since I’ve moved back, we’ve gone hiking, visited Universal Studios, and met some cool people. I even attended a book club, something that’s been on my bucket list for most of my life! (Will tell you guys all about it in a different post.) We also visited a Korean sauna (an interesting experience, more to come!), have eaten more frozen yogurt in one month than we have all year, and discovered some pretty nice torta places.

The point of this Bumbling Panda Arts & Crafts update is to let you all know that now that things have settled down, I’m back for good! I have some interesting L.A. reviews for you all, some DIY beauty (make your own body butter anyone?), and fashion posts. Stick around and stay tuned! I’m excited to be blogging again.

Hour by Hour Review of NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream

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For the sake of science, I present to you my hour by hour review of Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream

I wore this lipstick and then took pictures pretty much all day. You know. For research.

But seriously, it was super fun to do this hour-by-hour review of Nyx Cosmetics Soft Matte Lip Cream.

First off, the color I’m wearing is Montecarlo, a deep blue-based red color that I believe will look good on any skintone. It’s difficult for me to find a lipstick that won’t wash me out and won’t make my teeth look like it’s been bathed in coffee (which it has been every morning for the past 15 years of my life). This blue-based red lipstick is perfect because it makes my teeth look whiter and really brightens up my face.

I also have this Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream in Istanbul, which I’m still not sure looks good on me, but you can take a look here yonder. I honestly think maybe it’s time to accept that pink isn’t the color for me, at least not on my lips. Since I have a darker undertone, I’ve discovered that darker lipstick shades brighten up my face while paler versions wash me out. Weird how that works.

You can see how much red lipstick brightens up my face while pale pink…doesn’t.

So on to the review. This is what it looked like almost immediately after application.

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It goes on butter smooth, and has a floral scent to it that I really love. Most girls have said they don’t like the smell, but if you don’t, it goes away after the lipstick dries and then you don’t even notice it anymore.

I love that it has lipstick qualities but goes on like a gloss. The wand makes it super easy to create a precise line, and I honestly hate lipliners so there ya have it. This thing was made for me.

After application, I would recommend waiting at least one hour before eating or drinking anything so it has proper time to set and dry. It will glide on a little glossy, and be totally not matte, but don’t worry. It will mattify once it sets, and you’ll look absolutely gorgeous, dahlin’.

If the lipstick is allowed to dry properly, it doesn’t transfer and is totally kiss proof and husband tested. Also, it will last allllll day. No lies. Here’s the proof.

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I wore this to watch The Jungle Book with husband, so I didn’t eat or drink anything during the three hours. It actually prevented me from dropping $20 on popcorn, which I always have at the movies. Not only did it make me feel gorgeous, this lipstick also had me saving money and eating less junk food. Win win.

Afterwards, we went to eat at a burger joint in Burbank. I had a salad and a shake, and let’s be honest, I’m not very careful when I eat. And I don’t feel like I should have to be because what is life if I can’t even eat like a pig in front of my own husband?

Anyway, here is what it looked like. You can see some minimal fading, but the color is still mostly there.

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I reapplied and touched up a little after we ate, and then went about my day. I didn’t really care to touch it up after that because we didn’t eat again. This was the same day I made those DIY Citronella Bug Repellent Candles, so I was quite busy.

Before taking off my makeup and getting ready for bed, I took another look at the lipstick. And it was still looked as good as if I had just applied it!

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One thing to note, however, is that after hours of wear, the lipstick does start to dry and flake off. Not a lot. Just a speck here and there. But this was after a whole day of wearing (10 hours!) so I think this lipstick stands up pretty well to any busy lifestyle.

My favorite thing about this NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream is that I don’t have to worry about it transferring when I’m eating or drinking. I sip water and coffee all day. I hate seeing lipstick stains on cups, especially since I love wearing darker colors. This lip cream doesn’t leave a nasty residue, it lasts all day, and looks gorgeous on everyone. I’m not sure I’ll even buy another type of lipstick again. (But who are we kidding, amiright, makeup addicts?)

Best part? It’s only $6/tube. I’m heading back for all the other colors. Maybe I’ll see you there.

DIY Upcycled Ruffled Chiffon Shoes

Clogs with Yellow Ruffles - cover

So! I upcycled some shoes. Here’s what they looked like before:

shoes beforeBefore



And after:

Shoes 2



(Also, don’t you love my Kindle case? It’s adorable! I love it so much, and also I don’t feel so paranoid about leaving it on a desk when I go use the restroom at a cafe or something, since it looks like a notebook-ish. And did I mention it’s adorable?)

Ruffled Yellow Shoes

Yellow Ruffled Shoes

Shoes

Ruffled Shoes with Blue DressClogs with Yellow Ruffles



A few weeks ago, Cat from Cut Out + Keep ~~ this really cool social networking site for crafters like moi, or should I say, US (I’m assuming, since you’re on my blog) ~~ asked me if I was interested in being a featured member on the site! Actually they asked me quite a while ago, but being the weirdo that I am, I totally didn’t notice until a few weeks ago. I thought I’d totally missed out when I responded, but nope! They were still willing to collaborate with me. So check out my featured member page, yo! **Brush dirt off shoulders.**



Also, go check out some of the other projects on Cut Out + Keep. People get so creative on there, and there are some projects I’ve stashed away for my weekends. I’m also fairly active on there when I can get a chance to post my projects on yet another site, so if you want to stalk me further, you can follow my profile.



Anyway though, Cat also asked if I’d like to upcycle some shoes from Lotta From Stockholm, and of course when I saw these adorable clogs, I knew I had to have them.



They’re even cuter in person–so cute that I felt a little bad gluing extra stuff on there. But too late! And I loved how these DIY Upcycled Ruffled Chiffon Shoes turned out. 🙂 They would make a really great statement piece to wear to a wedding, and are the perfect way to add bright colors to an otherwise basic outfit.



Here’s the tutorial if you want to make your own. The method is really simple and easy. The actual cutting, sewing, gluing takes about 30 minutes, but if you factor in drying time, they took about twelve hours to make. This depends on the glue you use, and I used E6000 so I let them dry overnight.



The shoes are also up on Cut Out + Keep, so don’t forget to go check out the website!