Lighten Up Hyperpigmention - Marie Veronique Organics 

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Aftelier Organic Matcha Chai

Artisan parfumeur Mandy Aftel has done it again. Her latest creation, the Organic Matcha Chai Tea, is an aromatic revelation. Grown in Nishio, Japan, the ceremonial-grade organic matcha is blended with Mandy's signature Aftelier Chef’s Essences.

Madagascan vanilla absolute, organic Vietnamese cinnamon, organic Jamaican pimento berry and organic Indian cardamom come together to create a clean, sweet and creamy finish. The round warm notes from the vanilla reminded me rose petals, which blew me away.

It's already wonderful by itself, but I love to make it latte style with a generous splash of milk and a spoonful of raw honey. It's such a luxurious way to celebrate autumn and the holiday seasons. Get some for yourself and your loved ones — tea connoisseurs will be obsessed with this new tea.

Available for $30 (25 grams) at

For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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NARS Follow Me Nail Polish

A perfect splash of holiday color, the NARS Follow Me Nail Polish will carry you through next spring and summer. Sure, this high velocity fuchsia can be found within other brands, but NARS fans will love it regardless and it wears quite well. With a solid top coat, it lasts for about a week with minor tip wear. Two coats are recommended, but you can get away with one if you're in a hurry. The opaque formula is toluene, formaldehyde and DBP free. 

This limited edition nail polish is part of the NARS Guy Bourdin holiday collection. It's now available at

For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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NARS Last Tango Cinematic Lipstick

The Last Tango Cinematic Lipstick from the NARS Guy Bourdin holiday 2013 makeup collection is my new favorite lippie. The formula boasts a high shine with strong pigmentation and the dusty rose shade goes on with an unexpectedly sensual gloss. Packed with monoï butter and vitamin E, it's also really moisturizing. My lips did not dry out one bit when I'm wearing it.

It wears slightly differently on several skin tones, but it's universally flattering. I never thought I'd love a neutral shade so much but that's why NARS is usually a favorite — they really know what they're doing. Throw on some false lashes, liquid eyeliner and you'll turn heads the minute you step out the door. 

The NARS Guy Bourdin holiday 2013 collection is available at

For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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Vosges Minoan Lemonee Para Truffles & Noble Pig Library

The holidays will sneak upon us before we can even think about gift ideas, but Vosges Haut-Chocolat will always have some delicious, no-brainer options. Here are two fall options for hostess gifts, birthdays, and Halloween: 

The Minoan Lemonee Para Truffle Collection is inspired by the culinary traditions of ancient Crete. Macedonian white poppy seeds, lemon curd and white chocolate come together for a deceptively simple but alluring confection. The poppy seeds add a fine, subtle crunch to the 62% dark chocolate shell. As your taste buds reach the lovely ganache within, you can feel the white chocolate tempering the lemon's lively tartness to a gently bright note. Available for a limited time, this truffle is inspired by Samantha Jones-Hollobaugh, the winner of their Truffle Parfum contest. 

For something more robust and lusty, the new Noble Pig Chocolate Bar Library contains three popular selections for your snacking pleasure. The bacon-centric gift box includes a Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar (45% chocolate, hickory smoked bacon, alderwood salt), a Mo's Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar (hickory smoked bacon, alderwood salt, 62% chocolate), and a Barcelona Bar (hickory smoked almonds, fleur de sel, 45% milk chocolate). Buy one to share with friends, or keep it all for yourself — we won't tell anyone.  

Available at

For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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Marie Veronique Organics Pacific Anti-Wrinkle Duet

I've been using the Marie Veronique Organics Pacific Anti-Wrinkle Duet with great results. If you're sorta watching your budget it's a viable alternative to their famous Pacific Topical Marine Treatment. In any case, the duet is more effective than splurging on a few spa facials.

I applied the Pacific Night Serum with Retinol every other night after cleansing. Packed with retinol, noni, resveratrol and pacific marine bioactive peptides, it works to stimulate new cell formation and replenish moisture levels to the skin surface. To boost the serum's efficacy I highly recommend the addition of their Pacific Topical Vitamin C Treatment. Spiked with licorice and ferulic acid to brighten the skin, these Vitamin C capsules add a potent layer of anti-aging protection. My skin can be sensitive at times so it tingled for about a minute after I put it on.

Overall the duet reduced much of the sun damage I sustained over the summer. My complexion is noticeably brighter and it has a much healthier appearance. My freckles faded a bit too. For better absorption, use these products before using any face oils. As with many natural skin care products, it does take a while longer than conventional products to see results but with patience you'll likely achieve that vibrant, youthful visage.

Available at

For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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La Boîte à Epice Spice Blends

I've been experimenting with many kinds of spice blends this past year but the ones that really captivated my taste buds were the extraordinary creations from NYC's La Boîte à Epice. Founder Lior Lev Sercarz is known for supplying his coveted spices to the likes of Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud so naturally his proprietary blends (all 42 of them) are good enough for home chefs.

Photos by James Ransom for Provisions/Food52.

N. 19 Salvador (seafood essence, saffron, pimenton) adds a nuanced smokiness to many kinds of seafood dishes. N. 25 Escabeche, a bright and citrusy melange of lemon zest, saffron, fennel and coriander, is absolutely wonderful with roasted vegetables and poultry. The aromatic N. 37 Izak (sweet chili, garlic, cumin) is terrific on steak and scrambled eggs.

Spiked with four kinds of umami-laden seaweed, fennel seeds, and coriander, the versatile N. 41 Lula is a more intense version of Escabeche, minus the citrus. I sprinkled it on roasted beets and it turned a normal side dish into a main attraction. I can't even pick a favorite as they're all equally amazing. Yes, they are quite spendy ($15-$27) but each 2-ounce jar will last many meals. I was surprised at how little I needed for each entree but they're all pretty concentrated in flavor. 

Available at Provisions by Food52 and

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Clarins Instant Concealer

The new Clarins Instant Concealer has great medium-high coverage without using a lot of product. It's fairly concentrated so I only need a pinhead amount to lessen the effect of my dark circles. For those with puffy eyes, it contains caffeine extract to stimulate micro-circulation. Staying power is very good, at least if you have skin on the drier side.

Don't over apply or you'll end up with a cakey finish. For my light-medium complexion shade 02 pinky beige works well, especially if I get some color, but if I want extra luminosity I would mix a tiny bit of 01 yellow-beige. You don't need a brush either - tap gently with your ring finger and you'll be all set. I look more awake and perky — as if I got a few extra hours of sleep. 

Available at

 For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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Holiday Dresses from Alice + Olivia 

Alice + Olivia has some amazing frocks for the upcoming holiday season. Elegant and feminine, the lines still remain modern and sexy. With a sweetheart neckline and a silk chiffon skirt, the Landi Strapless Pouf Dress is the perfect LBD for a night on the town. 


The Dot Embellished Shift Dress can take you day to night. The metallic embroidery and jeweled neckline add plenty of sparkly fun for any important soiree. 

Don't want a dress? The Leather Trim Lace Halter Jumpsuit has enough edge for a rocker chic look. 

Available for pre-order at Neiman Marcus and

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Four New Mascaras to Try

Whenever I see a new mascara I get unusually excited. Will it really put the va-va-voom on my short Asian lashes? I've been testing four mascaras and it's been fun exploring the new formulas that have launched recently. Here are my results with a few brands:

For a polished look, Dolce & Gabbana's new Passioneyes Duo Mascara is a great option. Two coats will give a gentle curl without the use of an eyelash curler, but I'd still use one if you want a tight curl. It also lengthens, defines and separates beautifully. The volume is decent but not enough for a nighttime look. The lashes will also maintain a soft, lightweight texture as it contains beeswax and tapioca polymers. I didn't get any clumping as the curved brush picked up the right amount of product. I tried it in Terra 2, a deep chocolate brown, an ideal shade if you don't want intense black lashes. It also washes off easily, which is a nice bonus.

The Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl is a new favorite. It gave more dramatic length and volume (about 20%) than most mascaras I've tried so far. It held a good curl for most of the day and the curved brush grabbed most of my lashes. There is a tiny bit of clumping if you go beyond two coats but I can live with that. It also washes off easily and you shouldn't get any raccoon eyes. I just love the false lash effect! The subtle 264 Over Blue shade is a fall exclusive at Nordstrom. 

Tarte's new Lights, Camera, Flashes Statement Mascara aims to lengthen, curl and volumize lashes by 752%. The dual-molded brush is supposed to pick up the tiny lashes but I had a tricky time using it. I applied 2 coats and found the lengthening and curling results to be about the same as their regular Lights, Camera, Lashes mascara — perhaps I needed another coat? I'll probably stick with Lights, Camera, Lashes. Overall a solid, reliable mascara, but not dramatic enough unless you use 3+ coats or a lash primer. Curious? Try their Strike A Pose Limited-Edition Statement Lash Set ($19) at Sephora. It includes a deluxe sample of the new mascara plus a gold Picture Perfect Eyelash Curler. 

The Clarins Be Long Mascara does a great job at lengthening and separating my lashes without the false lash look — see my full review here


 For editorial consideration, review samples were provided by the brand's PR representative.

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Hong Kong Cinema October 4-6

The third annual Hong Kong Cinema will take place next weekend (October 4-6) at the Vogue Theatre. Presented by San Francisco Film Society, expect to see HK movie icons Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau, Carina Lau and Aaron Kwok in this year's lineup. 

Carina Lau in Flora Lau's "Bends." Credit: San Francisco Film Society

Flora Lau's directorial debut, Bends, will be the Opening Night film. Featured at Cannes' Un Certain Regard, the understated drama explores the personal crises of a chauffeur and his wealthy socialite boss. To avoid heavy fines for violating China's one-child policy, Fai (Chen Kun) navigates a precarious plan to arrange for his wife's delivery in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Anna (Carina Lau) is trying to repair her financial situation as she assess the disappearance of her husband and money. Both Lau and Chen turn out superb performances as Christopher Doyle's beautiful, languid cinematography reflects the protagonists' oppressing reality under HK's glittering surface. 

Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng in Johnnie To's "Blind Detective." Credit: San Francisco Film Society

Johnnie To's Blind Detective seems like a fun comedy-thriller for a date night. Fans of Chow Yun-Fat and Sammo Hung might want to check out The Last Tycoon

Hong Kong Cinema
October 4-6
Vogue Theatre
3290 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, California

For more info and to purchase tickets:

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