Early Summer Favorites: Of Beauty, Books and Coffee

It happened: Summer is well and truly here! 
Which means, for my life in Korea: The time of humidity and heat awaits. 

In contrast with those looming summer months, May is a wonderful transition period. It's warm, sunny, invites for strolls outdoors and teases with not-yet overpopulated beaches here on Jeju Island.

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My illustrated May favorites on the blog!  Korean skincare and beauty from Innisfree and Sidmool, Korean calligraphy brushes, summer outfits, music and book favorites, healthy vegan food, tea and coffee - a round-up of all the things that brought me joy in early summer!

My mood was up, and as that seems to go hand-in-hand with actually taking care of myself, most of my favorites for this month are focused on health, relaxation, and good vibes all around.

Let's have a look! 

Healthy eating favorites on the blog: Hemp Seed Hearts adding that extra nutrition punch to my breakfast, and smoothie bowl ingredients (what to put into your Acai smoothie bowl!) for vegans or just health-conscious eaters!

In my ongoing quest to take better care of myself (oh, early twenties, when I could still pull all-nighters and eat crap without feeling like crap...) I added more healthy foods to my diet. 

And seriously, the difference. On days when I eat "healthy", getting in my nutrients and vitamins, I'm energized and don't have any food cravings at all. 

I've been loving hemp seeds especially. They work in both savory and sweet dishes - I can't stop putting these on oatmeal!

Another favorite of the last month is actually an older one... I once purchased Acai Smoothie Packs on a whim when they were on sale in Korea. They've been sitting in my freezer and I've been using them as an occasional treat. But! I just can't eat cold foods when it's cold outside, so I've pretty much forgotten about them during winter...
Now they're back with a vengeance! The strong aroma of acai berry works really well when mixed with other Vegan-friendly supplements like nutritional yeast powder or spirulina. I actually find that the acai smoothies taste better with the added tartness of nutritional yeast - so instead of trying to 'hide' the supplements, it enhances them. 

Here on Jeju Island, and in South Korea in general, the typical summer dessert is "Bingsu"; shaved ice flakes. While traditionally just shaved ice and red bean paste (plus rice cakes), it's now pretty much impossible to find a place that doesn't make their flakes from milk, has ice cream or condensed milk added... so smoothie bowl desserts are my way to stay sane. 

Delicious, luxurious tea and coffee favorites... Who thought that instant coffee couldn't taste great?  My favorites are illustrated and up on the blog!

Iguacu Coffee and Lemon & Lime Tea for Summer

I've finally opened an old package of this Ahmad Tea Lemon & Lime Twist Black Tea last month and love it so much! It's got a light black tea base with the perfect hint of lemon and lime, without tasting like detergent - something most lemon-scented products remind me of. 
Since lemons (and even more so, limes) are expensive on Jeju, I reach for this instead of actual lemon juice. This also makes for a great iced tea!

On the coffee front, while I do help out at the cafe most days and enjoy my freshly ground coffee as much as anyone, sometimes I'm just lazy and want a quick fix. 
My husband ordered the Iguacu instant coffee online and I've never had a better instant one in my life. It has none of the artificial acidity and instead leans towards nutty. I drink my coffee black and without sweetener, so getting the basic coffee taste just right is my pet peeve! 
This one is so delicious, it's a beast of its own, and while I have "normal" coffee in the morning, most afternoons I gravitate towards this instead - and it's even better when served ice-cold! Please, you rare coffee from Brazil, never be empty.

As the seasons change, here come new Korean skincare and makeup favorites. My monthly round-up is up on the blog - hop over there to find my recommendations for natural, effective and gentle Korean beauty products perfect for summer!   

Korean Skincare & Makeup for Changing Seasons

Ah, skincare and summer. As the seasons change I can happily remove some of the heavier moisturizers from my skincare routine. 

Instead, I use several lighter layers to customize my skincare to the mood my skin is in (angry beast? deprived wasteland? happy, glowing thing?) and make sure I still get the benefits of those heavier products without the pore-clogging that is imminent in summer.

On top of my other Korean beauty favorites, I've used the Sidmool Pure Bifida Ampoule a lot. It's very lightweight, nourishing, makes my skin look bouncy and poreless for a day, and works really well under makeup and sunscreen. Also, I got it as a 2-for-1 set and the bottles are huge, so I don't feel guilty when I slather it on. 
Sidmool is a natural, cruelty-free Korean skincare brand that has some amazing staple products that work great for my dry, sensitive skin. 

My old friend Innisfree had a sale event, too, and while I just wanted a concealer and lip tint, I returned with a blush and a ton of samples, too. Among those samples were several of their new Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Color Clay Masks, which are WAY too much fun.
If you're into Korean skincare at all, you probably know the Innisfree Volcanic Clay Mask. It's been a bestseller for years and I've been using it ever since I first ventured into K-Beauty myself, since it's so gentle and doesn't dry the skin while still clearing it as a clay mask should.

Jeju Volcanic Color Clay Masks - Image from innisfree's official Korean website. You can mix and match the different versions for a custom mask experience!

Jeju Volcanic Color Clay Masks - Image from innisfree's official Korean website.
You can mix and match the different versions for a custom mask experience!

So it would make sense for Innisfree to build on that success: They released colored versions with different purposes like "Brightening", "Vitalizing", "Trouble Care"... 
I've tried three of them (each sample gave me about 2-3 applications) and really enjoyed the "Hydration" and "Soothing" version, blue and violet respectively. Still clay masks, the gel/cream textures are easier to apply and wash off, and they do what the name says. I've been moving away from sheet masks since the packaging and plastic waste bothered me, so these two masks are a great alternative for a quick moisturizing and calming mask. 

The last product I got was a lip tint, the Innisfree Vivid Cotton Ink Lip Tint, another new release, in a bright reddish coral hue that screams SUMMER!! in all-caps. The tint mousse dries to a matte finish but is neither drying nor heavy - just a feather-light punch of very intense color. Also, this smells like peaches. Did I mention that it's perfect for summer? Yup. 

The Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers : Favorite books for May, my book reviews of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and the follow-up A Closed and Common Orbit.

The Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers -

Favorite Sci-Fi Reads

The Wayfarer series (or rather, the two connected books that are set in the Wayfarer universe?) is adorable.
Doesn't mean that the books aren't also deeply moving, full of suspense and well thought-out. But really, reading both The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Book 1, or the Main Book) and A Closed and Common Orbit (the loosely connected second book) just took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Becky Chambers has a way of telling stories that make you invested in the characters from page one and leaving you completely satisfied with all her narrative decisions. Doesn't mean that everything is sunshine and rainbows (on the contrary, especially Common Orbit had me devastated in places) but in the end, each and every character of her varied, diverse (alieeeens!) cast is in a different place from where they started, has changed and grown and taken their lives in their own hands (claws/tentacles/appendixofchoice), for better or worse. 

If you're new to science fiction, these books are a wonderful starting place. They have this vast sense of wonder that I love the genre for, without going heavy on technicalities. 

If you already love science fiction, these books are still wonderful. And a perfect read for summer!
I read Small and Angry Planet months ago and plan on re-reading it next month after enjoying its sequel/companion novel so much in May. 

The Long Way to a Small Angry Audiobook

Closed and Common Orbit Audiobook

My old, trusted Nikon 1 J1 camera. I've had so much more fun with photography thanks to starting a blog! I experiment and take a lot more pictures, and hope to get into more travel blogging this summer, too. 

A short one: I love my camera! Blogging has made me experiment more, has me take it along on trips and to take food pics - instead of only using my phone. 
And the Nikon 1 J1 is tiny, lightweight and turning the lens to zoom instead of pushing buttons is so satisfactory! I've had it for five years and its sturdy (I'm known to drop things...), perfect for traveling and taking pictures without too much of a fuss. 

Monthly favorites, illustrations on the blog!  Life in Korea, summer outfits, art supplies and a positive K-Pop surprise...

Last but not least, a couple of very Korean things I've loved in May. 

I rarely buy new clothes, keeping to the same staples (lots of grays and blues...), but I finally got a couple of linen pieces! From a shop called "Common Unique", where I'd buy every single piece of clothing if my bank account would allow, they make me feel all ready for summer, especially since I went for bright yellows and sky blue this time! 

My watercolor sketching obsession continues, and I've been experimenting more with Korean calligraphy brushes. The bristles are rougher than my usual aquarelle brushes, but they allow for both very precise and very broad color application with one and the same brush. I'm still practicing but definitely recommend checking out some Korean/Chinese brushes!

Now, while I live in Korea and love the country, I rarely find music (or TV dramas, for that matter...) that really appeal to me. 
In May, while on a little trip around the island, the song "Pattern" by Lee Haeri played on the radio and I immediately fell in love! Her voice is so versatile, I initially searched the song up online as "female duo" - it really sounds like two different people singing at times. (And yes, Lee Haeri is actually part of a duo called "Davichi", but this was her solo release.)
The song is laid back but with a nice tempo, bass and lots of dynamic. Most Korean ballads bore me to tears (they're lovely, but still...!) so this was such a nice change of pace and style! 

Quick sketch for my portrait practice challenge! I need to draw more portraits or I'll never improve...

Here's a quick sketch I made based on her (fail @facial features) as part of my portrait drawing challenge.

I'm trying to get more informed on what's going on musically and on TV here in Korea, and even found a drama that I enjoy without cringing haha... 

My summer favorites round-up on the blog. Science fiction reads & reviews, K-Beauty, coffee, healthy food and art supplies!

That's it for my early summer favorites in beauty, books, food, music... as always, a mixed bag. What did you enjoy in May? Do you have Korean singers to recommend - with a similar style as Lee Haeri in Pattern? Could I convince you to give those two Sci-fi darlings a try? 

Have a lovely June and thank you so much for reading and commenting! Blogging has been such a joy ever since I started in January and I'm grateful to all you lovely people. <3

Shopping in Seoul: Korean Makeup Haul & Reviews

When I went to Seoul a couple of months ago, I indulged in a bit of shopping after a long 'no-buy' period. 

I'd wanted to post detailed reviews of the makeup and skincare products I'd purchased, similar to the beauty reviews on my old blog - but just never seemed to get around to that topic! There were so many other posts I'd wanted to write first. Now I'm happy that I waited since I could try the products for a long time.

So here's a lightning round of mini-reviews for my Korean beauty haul from February. 

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All products are bought by me without any sponsoring. 

Shopping in Seoul: Makeup and Skincare Haul and Mini Reviews. K-Beauty, VDL, Clio, Beauty People and lots of sheet masks.

When visiting Seoul to do some last minute shopping before attending a wedding, I'd been looking for lip products and a foundation and/or concealer since my old ones were empty.

Guest at a Korean Wedding: Do's and Don'ts and Customs

 Thanks to shopping with two beauty bloggers that know what they're talking about and had lots of recommendations, I went home with a bit more than I'd planned on. But first:

Let me geek out over color theory here for a moment!

Orange lipsticks are great for evening events! In dim light, red just looks dark or even black to human eyes, while orange is one of the colors that can be perceived even in relative darkness. That's why signs and clothing that need to be visible in darkness are usually bright orange or yellow. Since yellow isn't really a lipstick color I could ever pull off, orange is my color of choice for evenings, softly lit restaurants or bars - it just looks brighter and more lively than reds!

Enter the CLIO Mad Matte lipsticks. These matte lipsticks have a very forgiving texture. Instead of going on heavy and creamy, they're incredibly lightweight and just coat your lips with an intense punch of color. The finish feels slightly powdery, but while dry and matte in itself, doesn't dry out the lips or accentuate lip lines. 


I actually use this lipstick a bit like a lip tint for its staying power and adherence. 
The shade #2 Sunlit Orange was recommended to me by Ohmyglossblog (she has swatches of the lipstick here) and I wore this lipstick to the wedding event the same evening. It's a bright and intense color but works really well with simple eye makeup. 

(If you shop via Amazon for K-Beauty, you might want to use Ebates, especially now before the holidays - they offer a bonus of 10$ on top of the usual cash back if you sign up via a recommendation/ referral link until the end of December.)

Next, we visited VDL, where my search for a concealer evolved into the quest for the holy grail perfect cushion foundation. 

Shopping at VDL for Cushion Foundation 

VDL is one of my favorite Korean makeup brands. Their primers are wonderful, and they have a lot of high-quality lip products in a wide variety of colors and forms (cubic, for example).

So when their Metal Cushion Foundation was on sale, with two free refills in the bargain, I caved, swapped for a matching hue and went with the Moisture Glow edition in shade A201.

This foundation gives even very dry skin a flawless dewy finish. If you're not one for the dewy look, this isn't for you, but I live for anything that keeps my skin from drying out. 
I've since reached for this cushion a lot! It's very sturdily packaged, easy to clean and keep hygienic thanks to the metal cushion design, and re-applies without smudging. 


Now that temperatures here on Jeju Island have risen, I was positively surprised by how little heat and humidity seem to affect this formulation. I just set it with a bit of powder around my eyebrows and nose and it stays flawlessly in place, without turning greasy, accentuating pores or breaking me out, as heavy formulations tend to in summer. Two thumbs up for this one!

Seoul Shopping Trip: My Korean beauty and makeup haul illustration and a lightning round of reviews! VDL metal cushion foundations, Clio Mad Matte lipsticks and lots of sheetmasks.

VDL Color Makeup Haul & Blusher Review

The sales lady that helped me swatch products and find my shade had a really pretty blush on her cheeks, so I asked her which shade she wore... and tried it, loved it and bought it. It's their VDL Festival Blusher Creamy in 103 OK, a muted coral that leaves me with rosy cheeks, that works with pretty much any color combination (pink lipstick, orange lipstick... the neutral undertone of this blush goes well with anything) and has a slightly dewy finish.
Often, cream blushes dry to a powdery finish - which kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion. I like to combine dewy foundation with similarly dewy blush, especially since my cheeks are the driest part of my face. 

I also received a free gift in the form of a lip tint: VDL Expert Color Lip Stain in 301 Absinth Mary. This smells divinely of roses and the muted burgundy hue looks grown-up without aging me (as darker lip colors normally tend to...). Not quite as long-lasting as the name suggests, but great color, finish and, again, that scent...!

Wearing the Moisture Glow Metal Cushion Foundation, a hint of the Festival Blusher, and the Beauty People eye liner.

Wearing the Moisture Glow Metal Cushion Foundation, a hint of the Festival Blusher, and the Beauty People eye liner.

Korean Brand "Beauty People" Eyeliner Review

Last but not least, I found an eye liner by the brand Beauty People, called the "First Highliner Brush Unit Pencil". While I'd seen the brand pop up here and there on Korean beauty blogs, I'd never tried a product of theirs before. The eyeliner (or highliner? What does that even mean??) is very buttery and applies smoothly - perfect if you hate tugging and dragging at your eyes! The shade #5 has the (ridiculous) name "Madonna Lusty", a neutral brown that's just light enough to work for under the eyes and dark enough for the upper lid. The brush at one end works surprisingly well with the melting texture of the pen, and I've been using this eyeliner a lot for quick makeup application since it's hard to mess up the application. It dries quickly and doesn't smudge. 


K-Beauty Sheet Mask Haul at Olive Young

And since you can't go beauty shopping in Seoul without grabbing at least one sheetmask, I somehow ended up with four. Seoul and its polluted air always wreck havock on my skin, so I was looking for a pamper session.

The Vitamin Water sheet masks had a jelly texture that was fun and cooling, but other than being moisturizing, I didn't notice much of an effect. 
The MediHeal Collagen Impact Essential Mask one though - that one worked wonders on my tired skin after I'd returned to Jeju from four days in Seoul! It actually plumped my skin visibly and smoothed the annoying lines around my mouth temporarily.
I've yet to try the 'White Truffle Oil - Aquablend Oil Pocket Mask' by Leaders Insolution, but am looking forward to it just for the strangeness. If it doesn't smell like a mushroom risotto, I'll be very disappointed. 

VDL's Cube lipstick is part of my lipstick sticker set - head here for the  printable!&nbsp;

VDL's Cube lipstick is part of my lipstick sticker set - head here for the printable! 

That's it for my Korean beauty haul & mini reviews. 

I'm normally not a huge shopper (budget constraints cough cough) but when I do, I prefer choosing products that work in different combinations and situations, like the blush, and am always on the look-out for additional gifts and sale events, which are abundant in South Korea - if you ever go shopping in Seoul, keep your eyes open! :)