Thursday, July 31, 2014

Charm Cooks: Homemade Garlic Pesto Pasta

If you've been following me on Instagram (if you're not, it's @charmystique), you'd know I've been mucking around the kitchen quite a bit of late. Since I've been getting quite a few requests for recipes, I thought it would be a whole lot more convenient if I just posted them up here for everyone's consumption!

I've chosen an exceedingly simple dish for the first post in the "Charm Cooks" series--Garlic Pesto Pasta. As a lover of herbs, I have always enjoyed the extra oomph they add to a dish. Sweet basil is one of my favorites. Garlic Pesto Pasta is great for those who want to whip something together really quickly without much effort. Your stomach will only have to wait a grand total of 30 minutes before it gets pacified with satisfying comfort food. However, I don't suggest making this for date night unless your significant other is totally cool with garlic breath!


Ingredients

For the Garlic Pesto:
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves (I used three boxes of sweet basil)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Thyme (optional) 


For the Pasta:
  • Fusilli (I used Barilla)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sausages (I used Johnsonville's Garlic Brats)
  • Celery
  • Carrots

Directions
  1. Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil to a pot of water, and bring it to boil.
  2. While waiting, put your food processor to work blending the garlic cloves, fresh basil leaves, thyme, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Add in olive oil while pulsing.
  3. Cook the fusilli, stirring occasionally. Once the pasta is done, leave it to drain. 
  4. Heat up some olive oil in a saucepan, and sauté the celery, carrots, sausages. Add the tomatoes to the garden party last.
  5. Toss your fusilli with two tablespoons of garlic pesto and top with the sautéed vegetable mixture. Serve immediately.



Stored in an airtight container, any extra garlic pesto will keep up for two weeks. Practically child's play to prep for a yummy meal, perhaps even the perfect spoonful of relish added to your salad or sandwich. Hope you enjoy! 
Blogger Tricks

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Happenstance Café Review: Mochi Turns Three

I never realized how truly dependent I was on the Internet until I moved to new digs two weeks ago, and did not have access. I couldn't write, had to depend on my paltry 3GB worth of mobile data on my phone which I likened to a ration, which I studiously checked several times a day to see that I had not overshot.

Yes, this is my attempt at an apology for my absence on my blog. However, I have plenty to share, so look out for a slew of posts coming your way!

Three weeks ago, we threw a joint birthday party for Mochi (one of my dogs if you don't already know!) and two of her other friends, Jacob and Ashley. Decided to hold it at Happenstance Café, a dog-friendly cafe. While there are numerous other dog-friendly cafes in Singapore, we picked this one because it dogs are allowed to be off-leash there. Of course under the close supervision of their owners, lest fights happen. 


I think those big smiles (not ours, the dogs!) say it all. They had enough room to play, yummy food and treats to eat, and were the centre of attention. I guess the saying is true, every dog has it's day!

There's a special menu available for your furkids. You'll get to choose the type of pasta and toppings from vegetables to meat, or something additional like cheese or salmon oil. The portions were smaller than what our dogs are used to, but from the way they finished every single bit, they must've enjoyed it! I think the portion sizes are probably ideal for smaller dogs though. The yummy birthday cake chock full of healthy ingredients you see in the last few pictures is courtesy of Woofy's Kitchen.

Usually good (human) food isn't the key reason why owners go to dog-friendly cafes, but I have to emphasize that it's definitely a plus. The Lagasane was pretty good, so much I wished it came in bigger portions. The Happenstance Burger had a well seasoned patty, though it could do with a little less salt since there's a generous topping of cheese. The patty was also a little on the dry side. Absolutely loved the Buffalo Wings! Perfect balance of spice and sweetness. We also ordered Truffle Fries and Nuggets to go around, which I neglected to try since I was so busy keeping an eye on the doggies. My only grouse was that the food took awhile to come and in different batches. I would've preferred all the orders to arrive at the table together.

In summary, Happenstance Café is an unassuming little cafe to hang out with your furkids where they can have the freedom of being off-leash, although I will say that it's better for dogs used to social interactions. If you know your dog has behavioral tendencies to be shy or dominant, I suggest keeping an extremely close eye on it at all times (this can be pretty stressful though!), or you can choose to keep it on leash.

GiGi and her team provided great service with a smile, which is admirable in a noisy and crowded cafe with dogs barking every now and then. The ceramic bowl holding our chocolate fondue cracked due to the heat and it was replaced for us FOC. Dishes were cleared promptly, as were any messes/accidents on the floor. I personally did wish the celebration could've been a little more private, because half the time we had to deal with a headache-inducing, barky chihuahua that we ended up not being able to converse. I suppose that's the drawback of holding a celebration in a public place... That being said, I'd be happy to return, perhaps on a weekday afternoon when it's less crowded!

Happenstance Café is located at:

35 Opal Crescent 
Singapore 328425
Telephone: (65) 6341 7871

Sunday, July 6, 2014

YÜLI Skincare Review: Cell Perfecto PM, Panacea Elixir, & Pure Mask

I'm not one of those girls (or boys, for that matter) blessed with perfect skin no matter what they do. I might've lucked out in the 'skinny gene' department where I literally have to eat non-stop to keep my weight on, but when it comes to achieving balanced, non-crazy skin I definitely need a little more help in that department. God is fair I suppose. 

"I only wash my skin with water." "I sleep with my makeup on, I never take it off." "I don't apply anything on my face, honest!"

I'm pretty sure you've heard these lines before. They kind of remind me of closet muggers from my school days declaring loudly in class they haven't touched their books all weekend, when they've actually been up to their noses frantically memorizing walls of text. Doesn't it make you want to make them eat a bowl of tais-toi (shut up in French) for breakfast? Yeah, me too. 

But I digress... 

In a bid to clean up my beauty act and use less of products with synthetic chemicals doing more harm than good, I've been doing plenty of reading to find organic beauty lines which work for my skin. One of the first lines I stumbled across was YÜLI Skincare. With this being my first foray into green beauty, I wanted to ensure I started off on the right foot. You'll be hard pressed to find bad reviews about any of YÜLI's products, and IMO that's really testament to the efficacy of their products. I figured a brand with a dedicated cult following even though they spend approximately zero dollars on marketing would be nothing short of promising. It's satisfying to know every cent you're paying goes into the stellar ingredients as well as further product research and development. 

Having gone through the pain (physical and emotional) of suffering from acne, both founders of the YÜLI brand truly understand what it's like to try product after disappointing product that only dries out and wrecks havoc on your skin, providing temporary relief at best. Hence, the birth of YÜLI. Yun, one of YÜLI's co-founders combines her knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and scientific prowess (double degrees in Chemistry and Natural Science, mind you!) to create dependable and high-performance skincare. After all, aren't we a result oriented society? 


I purchased YÜLI's Panacea Elixir, Cell Perfecto PM, and Pure treatment mask. Probably three of the most highly-raved about products--and of course--the most suitable for my skin type. If you're wondering what the mini bottle in the top-left corner of the picture is, it's a trial size of the Panacea Elixir! Because my order was shipped while New York was still experiencing the Polar Vertex, the bottles were not filled to their full capacity in case the liquid happened to freeze, breaking the glass bottle. Hence, the YÜLI Skincare Team included a trial size so I would be getting the full 50 ml I paid for. How honest and thoughtful! It's the little things like these that set aside amazing customer service from great. 

Having given the products sufficient time to work (at least three months to be exact), let's move on to the product reviews...

Panacea Elixir


Panacea Elixir. With a product name like that it's hard not to have high expectations. Panacea means to 'cure-all', and Elixir brings to mind all things magical and life-giving. As per the description on YÜLI Skincare's site, this multi-tasking toner promises to:

  • Rebalance skin
  • Refine skin texture
  • Prime skin delivery system for corrective regeneration
  • Deliver intense lasting hydration
  • Decongests skin of excess sebum, toxins, and waste

My verdict? With ingredients like lavender, rose, cucumber, and helichrysum, you can expect to see the calming of any inflammation on your skin, and refining of texture. My pores appeared tighter, and my skin didn't feel too oily or dry. I typically mist Panacea Elixir all over my face before applying Cell Perfecto PM at night, and I strongly feel these two products work very well in conjunction to improve my overall skin health. However, I was a tad disappointed in terms of skin decongestion. I still suffered from some clogged pores on my chin and cheeks. While I believed some of it was due to hormonal imbalances, I was hoping the anti-bacterial properties of collodial silver would somehow help counteract that. 

If you like your products pleasant smelling, you might take awhile to get used to the fresh, herbal smell. Being Chinese, I don't have a problem with it at all. It reminds me of a watercress and red date drink my grandma used to make! I think it's great YÜLI's products aren't contrived to smell good. Instead, the ingredients are chosen because of their efficacy. Aromas are an extra benefit, but not sought in a formulaic way.

YÜLI offers three different sizes; 10 ml, 50 ml, and 100 ml (USD12, USD36, USD68 respectively). The Panacea Elixir is definitely worth a try if you're looking to slowly ease into a green beauty routine. 

Ingredients

D-Aloe barbadenis, R. damascena (rose) hydrolat*, H. italicum (helichrysum) hydrolat*, L. angustifolia(lavender) hydrolat*, H. virginiana (witch hazel) hydrolat^, H. italicum/L. angustifolia (helichrysum/lavender) hydrolat*, frequency enhanced water, vegetable glycerine, C. sativus (cucumber) extract, N. officinale(watercress) extract*, biodynamic fruit enzymes, trace minerals complex, colloidal silver

* Organic
^^ Wildcrafted

Cell Perfecto PM



Victims of acne, past and present all have one fear--scarring. Cell Perfecto PM is a YÜLI's gift of hope-in-a-bottle to regain some of that even skin texture you barely remember before acne showed up uninvited at your doorstep. YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM promises to: 

  • Stimulate healthy cell function and renewal 
  • Encourage normalized protein and collagen production in damaged tissue 
  • Renew healthy cell structure 
  • Increase cell metabolism for accelerated healing 
  • Detoxify skin to relieve stress on epidermal system 
  • Regulate pigmentation and inhibit melanin imbalance 
  • Strengthen and nurture damaged skin and scar tissue

YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM is an amber colored liquid with reddish flecks of sediment floating around, you'll need to give the bottle a good shake to oxygenate and activate the sediment (time-released to preserve potency). Three drops is enough to smooth over and massage into my face, which helps to further drive the product deeper into your skin. You can choose to only concentrate on problem areas if you wish, my personal preference is to just apply this all over. I know it seems kind of crazy why us oily-skinned folks would want to apply more oil on our faces when our oil glands are already in overdrive... But once I got over that psychological barrier, I noticed my skin become more balanced over time with nightly applications, and I no longer woke up in the morning feeling oily. YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM also provides enough hydration for me to wear alone, I don't have to apply any moisturizer over it. Sometimes less is more!

Over the three months of using YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM, I realized my acne scars were starting to fade. It felt like my skin was regenerating from the inside and any pits and dips were slowly filling out. I know it sounds too good to be true, but you have to see it for yourself to believe it! While they're not totally gone (yet!), they've faded to a point where they don't look very obvious under a light layer of makeup, and almost invisible in pictures. It's a lot like looking at your face through a soft focus lens. I believe with the continual usage of YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM, they'll eventually no longer be a bother to me. My skin also looked clearer and brighter (Note: NOT a whitening product, it will even out your skin tone but not make you fairer), thanks to the liquorice extract.

In a nutshell, YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM does what it's made to do. It's super effective in fading superficial scars, you'll notice hyper-pigmentation fading much quicker than usual. Red or brown spots following breakouts faded in about two to three weeks for me. Deeper scars involving some tissue damage (boxcar or ice-pick scars) will obviously take a longer time, but I promise your patience will be rewarded. If you're bent on seeing results sooner, I find applying a thin layer of Retin A speeds up the process.

I can't get over how well-made and effective this product is. I honestly hope those who are looking to regain their confidence without the damaging chemicals, skin thinning peels, or painful lasers will consider YÜLI's Cell Perfecto PM. Priced at USD98 for 30 ml, it might seem pricey but since you'll only be using a couple drops every night, one bottle will last you a long, long time. In my books, this product definitely deserves the 'Holy Grail' status. 

Ingredients

Bioregenerating Botanical Infusion (Botanical Glycosides, Sea Minerals Complex), S. chinensis (Jojoba) oil*, M. integrifolia (Macadamia) oil*, O. ficus-indica (Indian Fig) seed oil*, C. inophyllum (Tamanu) oil*, H. rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) oil*, A. uva-ursi (Bearberry) extract*, H. italicum (Helichrysum)* extract, G. glabra (Liquorice) extract*, C. asiatica (Gotu Kola) extract*, Renew Minerals Complex (Methysulfonylmethane (MSM)* Derived from Pine Lignin, Phytosterols derived from Flax), A. linearis (Rooibos) extract*, B. carterii (Frankincense) extract*, D. carota (Carrot) seed extract^^, G. lucidum (Reishi) extract*, L-arginine, L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), L-Gluconic Acid (Derived from Kombucha Tea Ferment)

* Organic
^^ Wildcrafted

Pure Mask


I mask every night without fail. I suppose that makes me as big a mask junkie as a skincare junkie! There's nothing more ritualistic like applying a mask after your routine cleansing at the end of the day. So I guess it goes without saying I was super stoked to try YÜLI's Pure mask. While it takes a little more effort (you have to mix the powder with water to create the mask) than the usual pre-mixed masks that comes in tubes or jars, it's well worth it. YÜLI's Pure mask promises to:

  • Clears toxins by drawing out and neutralizing impurities and problem causing pore cloggers
  • Neutralizes skin damage
  • Boosts collagen production
  • Exfoliates dead skin and grime
  • Impart nutrients and beneficial minerals deep into epidermal layers to feed skin cells 
  • Balances stressed skin

Firstly, let me just say this is probably the most versatile, multi-tasking, and hard-working mask I have ever used. Because the mask is in powder form, there's no need for any preservatives, so you can be sure that every single ingredient is in there for a reason. I've never used a water-activated mask before, and it was really fun to mix it up and experiment with different things to add in.  Depending on my skin's needs I like to mix it with thermal water/Manuka Honey (healing and anti-bacterial properties)/Yoghurt (lactic acid for some natural exfoliation action). 

If I use the mask alone with thermal water, I typically wear it for up to 30 minutes. The mask dries pretty quickly, and as it tightens, it goes to town sucking all the gunk out of your pores. I give my face a quick spritz of thermal water to keep the enzymes active every 10 minutes or so. If I do add Manuka Honey (anti-bacterial properties) or Yoghurt (lactic acid for skin smoothing and exfoliation), I'll keep it on for up to an hour for added benefits. There's no need to spritz your face if you choose to do that because the mask will stay a viscous texture. 

When it's time to wash off the mask, I wet my hands and gently rub my face in circular motions. The mask will emulsify into a creamy, velvety cleanser which leaves my face feeling utterly hydrated, with smoothened fine lines, and refined pores. All signs of glowing, healthy skin! I am a huge fan of this mask, and am constantly looking forward to putting it on every week. Breakouts stand no chance against this incredible mix of bioactive ingredients. I also love it's earthy scent. Every whiff reminds me of the fresh smell of wet earth after a cleansing rain. It'll set you back USD65, but the great thing about this non-stripping mask is the immediate improvement to your skin no matter your skin-type; blemish prone or mature and dry. Since you'll only be using a pinch of the powder at a time, a 1.7 oz jar will last you quite awhile. I'm not even halfway through my jar and I've been using it weekly for more than three months!

If I had to pick three things to take a long with me to a remote island, YÜLI's Pure mask would be one of them without a doubt. 

Ingredients

Rhassoul clay^^, V. radiata (mung bean) powder*, Australian Beige clay^^, powered R. damascena (rose) petals*, French green clay^^, O. sativa (rice) powder*, Zeolite^^, B. frereana resin^^, S. alba (white willow bark) powder*, A. indica (neem) leaf powder*, Biodynamic fruit enzymes, C. sativus (cucumber) extract*, milk powder*, MSM, Biophotonically Charged Matcha*, C. vulgaris (chlorella), A. linearis (rooibos) extract*, L. barbarum (goji berry), Magnesium

*Organic
^^Wildcrafted

Phew! If you got this far, thanks for reading. I know that was a long review, but I just have so many good things to say about the YÜLI Skincare line I could go on forever. I just wanted to provide as much insight as possible to those who are thinking of making the decision to embark on your own green beauty journey with YÜLI. Granted, their products might be a little on the pricey side, but a truly clean brand with impressively effective products is hard to find. I love that YÜLI makes their products to order, so you won't be buying a bottle that has been sitting on a shelf for the past couple of months.

You guys know how much of a sucker I am for chic, minimalist packaging and YÜLI doesn't disappoint. Miron glass (violet glass) bottles with black and white labels are so damn luxe! I just wish it would be easier to tell when my product is finishing, the thought of running out before my new order arrives is distressing... #firstworldproblems 

If, like me, you're looking to take the plunge and make the switch to green beauty--YÜLI will set the standards high. Don't be afraid that green beauty won't work as well as its chemical laden counterparts. I believe with trial and error, as well as plenty of patience, everyone will eventually find great products to keep their skin at its very best. The important thing is to give time for your skin to heal from within. I'm now trying to finish up my old cleanser so I can try YÜLI's Halycon next.

Tried any products from YÜLI Skincare? Which is your favorite? I would love to hear your thoughts, drop me a comment below!  

Disclosure: Compensation was not provided by Yuli Skincare. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Yuli Skincare.