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

What I loved in April & Free Netflix Stickers

Spring is my favorite season - not only because summer on Jeju Island and South Korea, in general, is a heat fest. And bug fest. But let's not go there. (Yet.) So spring is that perfect moment when everything's in full bloom, nature is pretty and survivable, and spring colors are back!

I've got lots of things that made me happy during April, so here we go!

This post contains affiliate links. You can check out my disclaimer here. 

First up: Skincare!

Spring is so kind to my skin. Winters in Korea are brutally cold and dry (with an extra dose of winds here on Jeju), and summer is humid and hot. 
Since I'd run out of pretty much all of my basic skincare products like cleansing foams and moisturizers, I went to my trusted brand Sidmool. They have a wide range of products with natural ingredients, from very basic and cheap to luxurious. 

My skin loves green tea as an ingredient in anything (it seems to calm my redness!), so I went with the Sidmool 'Green Tea' skincare line. 

The Green Tea cleansing foam is a low-ph, gentle one that foams up really well!The tube is huge for the prize and whenever I test with cleansing water/pads after foam cleansing, there's no residue of anything. I definitely recommend this if you've got sensitive skin and a tight budget!

The Green Tea Lotion... smells bad. But it's moisturizing, sinks in quickly and doesn't leave any sticky residue. A nice, no-frills layer of moisture after applying ampoules or essences. I like everything about it but the artificial smell and will continue using it. 

Then, the Sidmool Green Tea Wrinkle Repair Cream:

This cream has a bit of a scent, too, similar to the lotion but a lot less obvious. Texture wise, this is the perfect transitional cream between the two extreme seasons: Not overly heavy, but still very moisturizing, so I'd probably get away with using this even in summer. Also, let's face it: Now that I'm approaching my thirties (in Korean age, I'm 29), anything that says "wrinkle repair" for less than ten bucks, I'll love. Tube packaging for creams is also a point in favor since it's a lot more hygienic and travel-friendly than tubs. 

Last but not least, I smuggled this Green Tea Seed Oil into my order. I'd previously tried the Innisfree Green Tea Seed Oil and generally enjoy that ingredient. It has the calming effects of green tea while being very moisturizing. The Innisfree version is a bit heavier and takes longer to sink in, so I prefer the Sidmool one for spring/summer or day use. 

I've been using the Mamonde Oil Shine Stick lip tint in winter, too, but the shade Coral Star is perfect for spring! These oil lip tints are a lot less oily than the name implies, but go on so smooth, light and hide any sign of chapped lips. 
I'm waiting for a 1+1 sale to grab two more colors I've already swatched - Nude Rose and Jealous Red. These just look so beautiful, no matter the state of your lips!

My husband and I are marathoning all of The Good Wife! It's just such a well-made show, and since everyone is ALWAYS TALKING, I can sketch or layout (or blog - I'm watching now as I type haha) on the side.

Also, Julianna Margulies! I'd been staring at the promotional picture on Netflix before starting the show and wondering over and over again why she looked familiar. Turns out, she was Morgaine in The Mists of Avalon back in 2005! I absolutely love Marion Zimmer Bradley's Arthur saga and I'm waiting for Alicia Florrick to summon mystical powers. Not that she needs them. 

And Christine Baranski is a joy to look at and draw! I painted a couple of quick portraits of Diane Lockhart, Kalinda Sharma and Alicia for my #100daysofportraits challenge. 

Book recommendation: The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin

Speaking of great female characters: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin was so much more than I'd expected! I went in hoping for complex apocalyptic high fantasy and was instead thrown on an emotional rollercoaster. Can't really say anything more than that since I consider pretty much everything about the plot or characters a spoiler...

I think this book is best read (or listened to) without knowing anything. There are no info dumps. N.K. Jemisin writes gorgeously, experimentally and doesn't pull her punches. The second person POV worked so well for me, it pulled me completely into the mind of the character, and the narrator of the Audiobook does a great job with it. 

I'm now devouring the second book. :)

You can sign up for a free 30 day trial on Audible and download this book or any other for free here.  

I noticed that I still haven't used the chia seed package I bought back in August! I was so scared I'd use them up too quickly that I didn't use them nearly as often as I probably should. #nutritiongoals
So now I'm using them more liberally, and love a mix of chia seeds, oats, non-dairy milk, water and Matcha green tea powder!

Endangered Species Chocolate Bites: Dark Chocolate

These chocolates were a bit of an accidental purchase - I just craved dark chocolate and there was a 3$ gap to fill for free shipping. It happens. :)

BUT! While I'd normally not purchase single-packaged foods, for a chocolate lover like me these were actually great for portion control. And delicious! Just dark enough for me, and not too bitter for my husband, so I had to share...

In Korea, wearing only leggings or yoga pants isn't really a thing. They're always combined with oversized t-shirts, dresses or skirts.
But since I love my leggings - working from home does that to you - I just throw on this simple gray dress whenever spontaneous visitors arrive or I need to go out quickly. Gray works with pretty much every other color I own, and the simple style goes well with both cozy, lazy-day looks or more pulled together looks with tights and a blouse.

I want to get a version out of lighter material for summer, too! When I'm looking for simple, budget-friendly clothing I mostly use Korean online retailers like Gmarket or Ticketmonster. This particular dress was from Dailyshop.

I've been obsessed with 'Study With Me' videos on Youtube! 

Due to a client project that required me to be very concentrated while layouting I had to avoid my beloved audiobooks and music for a week during April and discovered the Study With Me culture. Especially the videos with just paper & pen sounds and white noise are so helpful in getting me going! 
A bit like the Tide app I recommended before, but longer and with a sense of 'we're in this together'.

That's it for my April favorites!
I like way too many things! 

Did you ever work with Study With Me videos playing in the background? Do you need music or silence to concentrate? Is Diane Lockhart's lipstick on point?

I made these cute little Netflix stickers out of the illustration above. Just download the file and print on your favorite sticker paper to then mark Netflix marathons in your calendar! Hope you like them! <3