Brasil Dream / Estée Lauder

6 Aug

I was intrigued by this perfume’s tropical allure: guava, coconut, jasmine, and pineapple…an island paradise cocktail! Unfortunately the dream was short lived as there was just too much of a nuclear reaction going on with my skin; I love Estee Lauder but there is a reason why Brasil Dream was never as popular as its cousins: Bali Dream and Pleasures Exotic.

The notes don’t have that harmonizing effect that the other fragrances have, in fact it seems like everything was clashing in some kind of chemical soup, everything smelled like over-ripened fruit under an intense sun. The guava, pineapple and oranges were too synthetic and harsh. It’s so artificial smelling that I often question if it is safe to wear and inhale.

For me the coconut and gardenia took center stage, this is a very warm and friendly coconut…not creamy or too intense, just perfect. The patch is not too intrusive either; I don’t get sandalwood at all.

Fast forward about 2 hours and the chemical smell is gone, replaced by that over-ripened fruit/skittles smell and Brasil Dream get a little more tolerable (but not by much). Ironically I had the thought that this would be more fitting if the perfume was called “Exotic Mosquito Repellent”, it is just way too artificial to my nose. Good idea, bad execution.

Longevity: 3/10  Sillage: 3/10

Top Notes

Middle Notes

Base Notes

On Books

24 May

When the world is grey and blue, cuddle up with a good book and allow your imagination a little playtime! Life has been so busy lately but I have made it a goal to force a little reading time every day…at least half an hour a day. It’s like falling in love over and over again <3.


24 May

One of the things you will hear about constantly in regards to photography  is the dreaded concept of a “failed shoot”, and nothing prepares you for it quite like having one yourself (it REALLY sucks incredibly most definitely!)

What exactly constitutes to a failed session? It is subjective of course, but you will know it when it happens to you. For me it took place on a cloudy day in San Francisco, ironically this shoot was supposed to be the one that I was most amped up about. But alas due to some bad decisions (on my part), and some terrible planning…it just didn’t go the way I had intended. The biggest disappointment that came out of this session was the sense that I inconvenienced someone else; my model loved her photos but I knew that I could have possibly done better if I had arranged the shoot with more tact.

To start off, the weather was awful and unforgiving. Wind speeds of at least 20 mph and terribly chilly even with a heavy jacket; we ended up not actually going to the location that was planned due to the amount of people that were present in the park. We also did not have a chance for any wardrobe changes since the model was under a time restraint. So I had to shoot on location and even though the photos were quite awful…thanks to Photoshop (thank goodness for the power of post processing), I was able to salvage a few decent shots.

My model was Erica and she was effortlessly beautiful, there is no doubt in my mind that she will be a successful model if she continued down this path. I am so grateful for her kindness and empathy! I do hope to make it up to her in the future by redoing the shoot and to compromise for my lack of professionalism. Either way here are the photos from the shoot with one before post processing and one after.

The before
After post processing.
Sitting pretty =]

It took me several days to get over my disappointment but after a few trips to the ice cream store and a long hug from my husband, I was positive again and determined not to make such stupid mistakes in the future. I am ready for whatever the future will bring, never give up!

Enchanted April

24 May

Sometimes the best things happen when you least expect them. I got to meet Deepti, a model who is as beautiful inside as she is outside. If you are someone who (like me) believes that true humility is a rare and wonderful attribute, then imagine my excitement when I got to work with this awesome gal. This day turned out to be one of the most fun I have ever had on a shoot, mostly because of Deepti’s graceful humor and also due to the incredibly location! The Municipal Garden in San Jose is in full bloom, and nothing can be prettier than the acres and acres of flowers showcasing its best dress.

The Municipal Gardens when the flowers are in full bloom!

As a photographer you always hope that your model will have great chemistry with the camera– this isn’t always the case of course, but Deepti is a natural! Her attitude is so warm, graceful, elegant, and she is always coming up with great ideas.

Pretty in white.
Life in bloom.

The garden itself was both a blessing and a curse; I have terrible hay fever and regardless of my precautions I was still sneezing incessantly. The pictures came out beautifully, and yes I was so daring that day that I flipped the switch to manual mode and started to shoot! I felt really brave <3 haha.

Her dress matched the flowers perfectly!
People ask me how I did the heart shaped beam on her face, I actually didn’t place it there. It happened simply by luck <3

A little speech about making mistakes, personally I reflect on my blunders with a bit too much self-deprecation. My perfectionist self is always so critical of everything that happens: perhaps I forgot to move a branch that was blocking a model’s arms, or I accidentally included something in the photo that wasn’t supposed to be there, or I didn’t capture the subject’s feet. All very frustrating on hindsight, but all important to know and to learn from; never be afraid of slipping up!

Overall it was not only a productive day, but I also made a friend. I understood the meaning of the word “muse” and I think I can apply it here, I honestly did not expect such great chemistry. We are planning on a second shoot =].

Wuthering Heights

21 May

I had my second photoshoot with Ms Kseniya, who is as lovely and wonderful as her pictures portrayed. We met up in front of City Hall on a very gusty day in San Francisco; the weather forecast was not kidding when it said high winds! It seemed like an impossible day for a photo shoot, but perseverance prevailed! Had such a blast hanging around SF as usual, so many places to see and so many pretty sights to feast your eyes on. We did end up taking a few photos inside City Hall, but due to the high number of weddings happening at that particular hour, we decided to just shoot out front.

A windy day in the city.

Once again we traveled to the gardens and had a session there. The weather was just as awful as the day progressed. But overall I think I walked away with some great shots  =].

At home I was going through the photos and realized that some of my favorite images were terribly under exposed, this is where Camera Raw became my best friend. I was able to increase the exposure quite a bit on Kseniya’s face and hair, while preventing the background from becoming too bright. As you can see, I did some extra work on her skin and eyes, this didn’t take very long as my model already have very good and beautiful skin. I also retouched her makeup, added some highlights to her hair and some shadows around the face. Here is a before and after shot!

The before and after post processing.
The final result.

In the final photo I managed to removed some landmarks in the background, then processed the image through another round of Lightroom where I used the magic brush on her skin to “brighten” it up some more. I think the result looks fantastic!

Overall a fun and wonderful outing with a beautiful and generous stranger, thanks Kseniya!

The Odyssey

20 May

It has been soooo long since I have updated my site; so much of my life has changed, and yet every day is still a fascination waiting to be uncovered. Things certainly have a way of coming around, and lately I have decided to put down my sewing needles, my books, my perfumes…and decided to pick up my camera. First it started as a hobby, I wanted to take photos of the dresses that I have sewn…just to share some ideas and thoughts along the way. Then a few snaps later it spiraled into an obsession involving models, lenses, shooting locations, time of day etc. and pretty soon I wasn’t take photos of any of my garments…but rather shooting random strangers for trade =P.

I picked up a camera for the first time in March (two month ago)…thus time has not escaped me, for I can still recall a few things about my first shoot. Let’s begin!

I’ll always remember my first time behind the lens: scared and nerve-wracking; yet strangely serene. Once I started pressing the trigger however, it was smooth sailing. Besides, what is the worst that can happen? You’ll hate your photos and apologize to your model—but in the end it is a learning experience overall…and nobody ever starts in perfection. Having accept this fate is one step towards progression, I am a firm believer in moving forwards, not backwards (at least on a professional standpoint).

So my story begins when I was contacted by a pretty entrepreneur who called herself “M”, she needed photos for her clothing website and wanted to trade me her time for my prints. I was just grateful for the opportunity to shoot anything but random shrubs on the sidewalk!

I usually spend an hour the day before scouting out potential locations. This gives me a good idea as to what colors look best with what outfit (the model will usually send you photos of what she will be wearing the day of the shoot). I base my choices on the color wheel, what colors are complementary? What feeling am I trying to convey? Will the photos be color corrected? So many decisions– of course, I didn’t know this at the time…I was just searching for answers.

The pocket color wheel that I use.

My shoot with M came on a really warm beautiful day in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. She showed up exactly on time, looking as beautiful and radiant as any model would. I loved her choices in clothing, she was clearly a stylist!

We began at the Palace of Fine Arts at around 4 pm. Let me just say that it was a HUGE mistake taking photos in such harsh lighting, every book and manual will tell you this but sometimes you just want to ignore all rules and learn it yourself. Yes, got it, harsh shadows are bad and totally time consuming to remove in Photoshop.

One other thing, a good model will pose well and do it without much help from the photographer, thank goodness for me because my model did so well I never had to “direct” her in any way. This was something I came to appreciate much later in my photographer misadventures haha =]

We took photos throughout the day, going from the Palace of Fine Arts to Walgreens (a small detour for hair pins and bottled water) to our final destination: Sutro Baths.

Sutro Baths during the golden hours.

Goodness this place is beautiful during the sunset!

We had so much fun taking romantic photos in the “golden hour”…and saw many wedding portraits being taken here as well!

A photo I took of M during the sunset hour. I love how this dress contrasted with the blue sky.

On our way back up it was already getting near 8 pm and we decided to do a last minute session in the parking lot. The light was getting low but who knew the photos would turn out so good! I had to thank M for this one, it was entirely her idea to shoot in the area where the tulips were growing. The white flowers really contrasted well with her palazzo pants. These ones instantly became my favorite photos.

Overall my first experience was a good one; I had so much fun, and even had a bigger blast editing them on photoshop! Oh the quirks of spending hours and hours perfecting that good lighting, it never gets old =D.

Sitting pretty at 8 pm.
Sitting pretty at 8 pm.

I gotta say, none of this would have been half as enjoyable if it weren’t for all the people who made it possible. The DH was there the entire time supporting me and making sure that both I and M were as comfortable as possible…a huge thanks to them for being so awesome and patient!

Signorina / Salvatore Ferragamo

30 Dec

Basic, conventional, non-spectacular are words I would use to describe Signorina; is this a bad thing? Not really. A total work place scent, or just something average for an average day, when you’re in the mood to smell fresh but don’t really want to waste the more expensive stuff (we all have at least one of those in our closets).

Signorina is like fresh roses on a spring day, perhaps after a light shower. You can smell the creaminess, and it isn’t heavy or sickening, it’s perfectly balanced without overloading your senses.

The longevity on this one is fleeting, but the sillage is incredibly strong on my skin, one spray is enough to give you an “aura”– I find myself noticing Signorina’s presence throughout the day. For its price point this isn’t going to impress the perfume snobs, but it’s a great gift for someone  just stepping into the world of fragrances. Overall a safe bet, but nothing you haven’t smelled before.

Longevity: 6/10  Sillage: 8/10

Top Notes

Middle Notes

Base Notes



Reveal / Calvin Klein

30 Dec

I promised myself I won’t do any more reviews, but I can’t help it…the world needs to know about this perfume! Reveal is salty, musky, beach-y, and makes me so nostalgic for the California coast it puts tears in my eyes; this scent is linear but that’s part of the charm: layer this with any caramel scented perfume and you’ll be on the moon!

So you know your average “beach” fragrance, it always smells like some tropical fiesta: loud, sassy, and reeks of fruit and flowers. Reveal is not that fragrance; she’s discreet, warm, timid, and very subtle. She’s the girl that strays from the party and takes a walk on the beach at moonlight, all alone… reminiscing of days gone by.

If you purchase this expecting Miami Glow or Aqua Divina you’ll be sorely disappointed! This is totally on the opposite end of the spectrum, Reveal is a personal scent…it’s quiet and secretive…meant only for a warm embrace.

The perfume itself reminds me of the California coastline of my youth; I used to go surfing early in the morning hours, running down to the shore right before the dawn…and Reveal encapsulates that moment: when the waters are eerily still and contemplative, there is nobody around, the smell of the ocean is heavy with salt and dew. The warm light of the sun peeking over the horizon; it’s beautiful, it’s nostalgic…it’s reflective.

I don’t pick up much “sweet” from this fragrance aside from the very discreet iris, this was what I had hoped Womanity to be (and yes I agree that this dries down to a very Thierry Mugler-esque scent). It’s just salt, musk, and warm sands. Reveal is perfect for layering with any other sweet fragrance (I layer mine with a touch of Donna/Valentino) to get a beach-y girly scent.

If you’re in the market for a pure coast/ocean/sands fragrance, without the artificial flowers and sweets, this is it!

Longevity: 5/10  Sillage: 6/10

Top Notes

Middle Notes

Base Notes


The Little Light That Could

18 Sep

A quick review of this awesome machine light that only cost $8.99 on Amazon!

I’ve been looking for a replacement bulb for my sewing machine when I came upon this little gadget being advertised on Amazon. It’s a magnetic gooseneck LED light that can be attached to the side of any metal framed sewing machine.

I received this in the mail today and I absolutely love it!  First off, the dimmable knob on top of the lamp allows you to adjust the output based on your preference, you can go up to maximum brightness (about 200 lumens and very bright!) or a low dim (approximately 20 lumens).

The magnetic knob at the end of the neck is of good quality and won’t slide even if placed on the side of your device.

Needle plate without the Bonlux LED Light
Needle plate with the Bonlux LED Light


I’m so glad I didn’t attempt to open up my case to fiddle with the mechanics inside, this lamp was such a lifesaver for night-time sewing; and for the price…it just can’t be beat!


Seeing Green

16 Sep

It’s been awhile since my last post and let’s just say that I have been kept busy! In February I taught myself how to sew, and so far the experience has been nothing short of life changing. The moment I picked up that needle I knew I had found my dream hobby; there is something incredibly romantic about transforming a piece of fabric into your own personal creation.

Whether you are crafting a dress inspired by the latest fashion house; or recreating a pattern from history…you are inevitably in control of every stitch, seam, and trim. It’s been an incredible journey that I hope will lead me down a road to self discovery and imagination.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Sex & The City and was inspired by this beautiful emerald dress by Lanvin (photographed above), I loved it so much that I went out to a nearby fabric shop and bought this green chiffon piece with gold pinstripes:

I knew exactly what I wanted to make with this fabric as I’ve been dying to sew this vintage 1970’s pattern by Butterick:

My husband has a work event coming up in two weeks so hopefully I will be finished with this dress by then. Stay tuned!