True Nature Botanicals - Pacific Face Oil

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Gucci Makeup for Summer-Fall

While many beauty lines have debuted their fall makeup, a few brands are still promoting summer looks. Gucci Beauty has been a huge hit since the beginning and I got to try a few items from the S/S 2015 lineup that originated from the main collection. These colors are a great transition to early fall, as well as covering any year-round looks.

The Magnetic Color Shadow Duo ($49) in 10 Aristocratic was featured in the Gucci Cruise 2016 runway show. Matte earth brown is paired with satin grey purple. The purple is gorgeous alone but when used with the brown it's an elegant daytime look. I'm also impressed with the pigmentation and payoff; the texture is buttery smooth and you don't need much to get it to show on the eyelids. 

The Sheer Blushing Powder ($49) is just as pigmented, if not more. A gentle swipe is all you need to pick up the right amount of color. The 10 Spring Rose is a fresh delicate pink that is flattering on many skin tones. Even in this heat wave the color held up quite well, fading just a bit. I didn't have to use a primer to lock it down! And, the brush that comes in the compact is really soft. 

For the lips, the Vibrant Demi-Glaze Lip Lacquer ($32) is amazing. The 200 Dark Romance is a deep plum that works as a sheer berry glaze with just one swipe, or layer on top of lipstick for a more dramatic fall look. It's not super high-gloss, giving just the right amount of shine. The 10 Mistique White adds a hint of clear iridescence to any lip color, or wear it alone for a subtle sheen. Both shades are non-sticky and the chocolate scent is barely detectable. The Dark Romance can last a while as a lip stain effect. Love love love.

Available at, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. 

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Honey Mama's Cacao-Nectar Bars

Leave it to Portland to churn out some of the loveliest confections I've had in a while. I've been searching for healthier chocolate alternatives and the Honey Mama's Cacao-Nectar Bars were a godsend. It's a decadent fudge that's crafted with care and elevated to the gourmet level, with the addition of many health benefits.

Credit: Honey Mama's

I've tried a lot of raw/vegan/paleo desserts and nothing comes close. Founder Christy Goldsby sources each ingredient with absolute care; you can really taste the pure goodness of raw Oregonian honey, sprouted organic Californian almonds, Himalayan pink salt, organic Agostoni cocoa, and unrefined organic coconut oil. Paleo-friendly and GMO-free, each bar is also free of soy, egg, dairy, gluten and grain.

The classic Dutch bar is like an almond fudge brownie with a subtle crunch. I really enjoyed the Peruvian Raw — the raw Peruvian cacao has a milder, fruitier finish than the Dutch one. Mayan Spice definitely has a kick if you like it hot!

CocoNoNut is a great for those who want a nut-free dessert. The coconut base is very satisfying for those who like a bit of texture. The Oregon Peppermint (also nut-free) is not as bracing as you'd think; the sweet mint lingers in the background, melding seamlessly with the bolder flavors of cocoa, salt and honey. My favorite is the amazing Lavender Red Rose. Oftentimes you can barely taste the floral note in lavender-based confections but this one has a balanced yet evident presence.

The bars must be stored below room temperature to avoid melting. I can eat a tiny piece and be pretty satisfied for the most part. However, it's also way easy to keep on snacking so you might end up inhaling the whole package in two days, maybe even less if you're sharing with a friend!

Each bar is $5.99 and can be found online at Seattle area folks can find them at Central Co-op, PCC and Whole Foods. 

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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True Nature Botanicals Pacific Soothing Face Oil & Serum

True Nature Botanicals has launched a lot of amazing skincare in the past year, and this month they went the extra mile to introduce their Pacific Soothing Face Oil ($110). As someone who's been dealing with reactive skin all summer, I was super stoked to try this out. 

It seems to have the lightest texture of the three TNB oils, absorbing into the skin almost instantly. Made with 99% organic ingredients, this one's packed with calming ingredients like blue chamomile and helichrysum as well as powerful anti-inflammatory oils of calendula, pomegranate seed, rosehip, grape seed and hemp. 

To make it stretch you can use it for spot treatments. I like to pair it with the Pacific Balancing Face Oil if you're battling adult acne. My sleep and diet habits were way below optimal the last few months so my skin was in yucky shape. I began to see positive change within 2-3 hrs of application and by days 4-7 my face looked much calmer and less blotchy.

If you have super sensitive skin I also recommend the Pacific Soothing Face Serum ($140). It features the patented ActiSoothe mushroom extract as well as plantago (plantain) and algae extracts to address physical and chemical irritation. I love the regular Pacific Face Serum but this one's even more gentle. I was dealing with environmental allergies recently and was waking up with an itchy, puffy face. I used the serum immediately and within an hour my face was behaving normally again. It's an awesome complementary product to use with the Soothing Face Oil! 

To purchase or to learn more about TNB:

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Hot Cakes Totally Vegan Caramel Sauce

Seattle's popular Hot Cakes is known for their molten chocolate cakes and boozy milkshakes, but I had no idea they were offering a Totally Vegan Caramel Sauce ($12). Using a traditional caramelizing process, it results in a slightly smoky note while organic coconut and hemp milks bring out a rich, decadent texture that's unusual in a vegan product. Not too sweet nor too salty, it's a balanced sauce that didn't need any butter. The love and labor involved with this recipe is obvious. Warning: you won't be able to stop eating this right out of the jar!

They don't market it as a vegan-friendly product, but the signature organic Dark Chocolate Sauce ($10) doesn't contain dairy. The high cocoa content brings a deep chocolatey taste to satisfy any dessert lover, yet the texture is thin enough to make an effortless hot chocolate. You can also use it drizzle on ice cream, strawberries or on top of a layer cake.

It's obvious that Hot Cakes puts a huge emphasis on artisanal quality and awesome flavor. I can't wait to try their other vegan options the next time I'm in the Ballard area.

To buy their sauces:

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Kyoto Confections to Try

To say that the Japanese adore their sweets is a huge understatement, and Kyoto seems to be the champion of crafting anything with sugar. You can close your eyes and bump into a wagashi boutique, bakery, tea room, candy shop or French patisserie along any major road within this gorgeous ancient city. 

Credit: Kisshokaryo

The following brands are just a tiny sampling of what Kyoto has to offer:

A sister brand of the popular Sizuya bakery chain, Sizuya Pan only sells anpan, a small sweet bun with bean paste filling. Wrapped in hip and modern packaging, there are several unique flavors to swoon over. Oddly enough, the Cinnamon is my favorite as it contains a bite-sized dollop of mochi inside, which is then surrounded by a delicate layer of cinnamon-scented azuki paste. The thin outer bun layer is also lightly flavored, delivering a gorgeous mix of complementary textures, scent and flavor. Goma black sesame is another hit. There are two small outlets inside Kyoto Station and each anpan goes for about $1.80. Also, the regular Sizuya bakeries have a ton of amazing pastries at lower price points, but one can only eat so much!


Marukyu Koyamaen has been producing award-winning matcha from the Uji region for over 300 years. The comprehensive tea selection is absolutely amazing (great for souvenirs), but don't miss the serene tearoom and garden inside the modest Nishinotoin retail shop. Try the iced matcha tea and matcha sponge cake roll set — you won't regret it.


Honke Owariya, a 550-year-old soba noodle house, had its humble roots as a soba confectioner. You can get their crunchy soba wafers in a few flavors (matcha and black sesame are our favorites) as well as their rustic soba cakes with azuki paste.


Credit: Honke Owariya


Located in the heart of the famed Gion district, Grand Marble resembles an exclusive jewelry store. Their speciality is a rich danish bread, which sorta tastes like a cross between a croissant and brioche bread. They offer over a dozen flavors at any given time and there are a few seasonal options. We tried the Love Combo (strawberry swirl and matcha). The packaging is beyond exquisite, reminding you of a certain French luxury brand.

Credit: Grand Marble

Kisshokaryo offers housemade matcha milk jams, financiers, castella cakes, and much more. Take advantage of the upstairs tea room and order the Shiratama mochi. It's soooo good and refreshing on a hot day! The shop is tucked along a side street off the busy Higashi Oji Dori (walking distance from Yasaka Shrine) and the ladies working there are absolutely adorable.

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NARS Tribulation Blush & Velvet Shadow Sticks 

NARS is back with their Fall 2015 Color Collection! The new Tribulation Blush ($30), a shimmery pale gold with a slight hint of rose, acts more like a sculpting highlighter for the face. The color is so pigmented that I actually use it on the eyes. It's gorgeous when it's blended with darker eyeshadow.

NARS Tribulation Blush.

The Velvet Shadow Sticks ($28) are available in eight shades. I tried Glénan, an intense navy with a pearly finish, and Oaxaca, a light beige champagne. Both go very well together for a smoky eye, but I actually like to use a bit of the Tribulation Blush to bring it together. The formula can be tricky to blend out and may not be ideal for oily skin unless you use a primer. It does lock down once you're done fussing with it. I had rubbed my eye by accident and the results didn't rub off much. You can use these as an eyeliner but I'd use an eyeliner brush for precise application.

The Fall 2015 Color Collection is available at all NARS boutiques and will launch at Sephora and NARS counters on August 1. 

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Chop Shop Cafe & Bar

One of the most anticipated openings of the year, Chop Shop Cafe opened last weekend in the Chophouse Row building. The latest project from Volunteer Park Cafe's Ericka Burke, the 2,800 square-foot restaurant is a gorgeous space that accommodates both large groups and smaller parties, as well as housing a much-needed Chop Shop Juice & Provisions takeout and retail space.

The pretty and bold Melon Gazpacho ($7) with kaffir lime panna cotta is a summery starter to try while the Grilled Octopus ($22) with fingerling potato and squid ink aioli is a standout entree. For those who crave more protein the Bavette Steak ($24) is a crowd-pleaser. 

Credit: Jim Henkens

The bar program is helmed by the talented Anna Wallace (formerly of Walrus and the Carpenter) and her amazing natural carbonated sodas will also be available. 

Jim Henkens

Chop Shop is currently serving dinner but will soon open for breakfast and lunch. For more info and reservations:

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Dolce & Gabbana Cleansing Water

As more cleansing waters are being introduced to the North American skincare market, I grew more curious to try one to see if it's worth the hype. The Dolce & Gabbana Cleansing Water from their Essential skincare line removes regular makeup quite well — eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick all came off nicely. It contains their proprietray Gold Flavo-Silk Tricomplex so your skin will be well hydrated. It's perfect for summer when you don't want to add heavy creams to complete your regimen. 

The floral scent is very mild so folks sensitive to fragrances should tolerate it quite well. It's a great timesaver when I'm being lazy with cleansing but I'd also use a separate cleanser if I want squeaky clean skin. 


Available for $47 (5 fl oz/150 ml) on

For editorial consideration, review product was provided by the brand.

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Japanese Drugstore Sunscreens

I've been resigned to using thick, greasy sunscreens whenever I get out in the sun. Not anymore. That has changed when I discovered the Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF 35 PA+++ sunscreen while traveling in Japan.

It's silky and extremely lightweight; I don't see or feel traces of it. Makeup goes on like a dream. The watery lotion absorbs within a minute and there's no scent. My guess is that the hyaluronic acid content makes it socomfy and moisturizing. I've been using this for both face and body for nearly 2 months and I haven't had any allergic reaction nor sunburn. The drugstore chain Matsumoto Kiyoshi sells it for about $5 (80 gr/2.8oz) but you can get the 4.9oz version for about $20 on Amazon. The smaller-sized SPF 50 PA+++ version goes for under $12.

I also really like Rohto's Skin Aqua UV Super Moisture Gel SPF 50+ PA+++. I also use it for face and body and the consistency is very similar to the Nivea Sun Protect. I tuck it into my bag for touchups, travel, etc. Interestingly enough, most of the Japanese sunscreen brands seem to change their SPF formulas each year. Currently you can get Skin Aqua on Amazon for $20-$25 (80 grams/2.8oz).

At 50 grams (1.76 oz), the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ is designed for facial use. It feels and looks a tad richer than the other two brands but it absorbs just as well. The small bottle is perfect for the makeup bag and this one goes for about $10-$11 online. 

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Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons Seattle

I love the downtown area around the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and was delighted to check out Goldfinch Tavern, Ethan Stowell's latest culinary venture inside the hotel. Named after Washington's state bird, the restaurant has an approachable menu that highlights their shellfish and raw bar menu.

Credit: Geoffrey Smith

The ultra-buttery Hamachi Crudo ($17) with Taggiasca olives and horseradish is rich and flavorful while the Geoduck Crudo ($19) is fresh and light. I heard the grilled beef options are amazing so I'll need to go back and check it out. If you go with a friend, definitely end the meal with a plate of assorted warm cookies ($11) or sugar-dusted donut holes ($13).

Goldfinch also offers a fun happy hour — $1.50 oysters from 4-6pm daily. That's reason enough to go there every single day!

Check out the rest of the menu at

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