Saturday, January 31, 2015


On Saturday I got to have lunch with one of my English students and his family. They were all really cute. we made takoyaki together! Also they decorated the windows with the "menu" and wrote "Welcome, Stephanie." This is the first time I've ever been to their apartment.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Movies I Like: The Book of Life

On the plane back to Japan I was searching for movies of passable interest. I ended up selecting a cartoon called The Book of Life because even though it looked overwhelmingly goofy it had Guillermo del Toro's name attached to it. I figured at least the design would be interesting and I could turn it off if the characters got too annoying.

Actually I ended up enjoying it a lot. I don't think it's a great movie, but it's pretty good overall. If weird Mexican supernatural stuff doesn't turn you off, you can enjoy likeable characters fighting for honor, family, true love, and friendship.

The plot does get bogged down a little during the midpoint of the movie when I started wondering, "How exactly does this supernatural world work again? How did they know that thing was there exactly when they needed it? And no one did this before ever?" Also there's one character who's accent does not match at all with the accents of the other characters, but luckily he's not in the movie that much.

Some people on IMDB complained that there's too much time spent with the child characters before they grow up, but time overspent isn't necessarily time wasted. I think the kids are actually more enjoyable to watch than their adult counterparts. Also, all the important character traits are developed when you see the three main characters as kids so when you see them as adults their choices all feel very natural.

Another criticism is it's too fast paced. It did seem very lively to me, but I think it slows down enough in the dramatic moments that you can take it seriously. But that's just my opinion. Other people might find it annoying or feel like you don't get to enjoy the sets enough.

The main plot is that two gods make a bet concerning a group of three children, as to which of two young boys will end up marrying the girl, their childhood friend. And the story follows the choices they make as adults, with some added trickery on the part of the less scrupulous god.

La Muerte and Xibalba. I don't know why he looks like Discord from My Little Pony.

That setup alone feels very mythic to me because it's an eternal question. What makes us attracted to someone? (By the way La Muerte totally calls it in the first 30 seconds. Girls do tend to go for the sensitive musician.) Also, the three humans maintain their friendship all through the movie, showing respect and honesty in what's frankly an awkward situation. All the main characters are very likeable, and the side characters are pretty funny and memorable as well.

The movie makes a point of subverting any potentially inappropriate themes from Spanish/Mexican culture. For example, even though one character is a bull fighter he is much too kind-hearted to actually kill any bulls. Also, though much of the plot concerns a love triangle, the woman obviously chooses according to her own preferences and not because one of the suitors happened to do the right combination of heroic feats. Neither man is interested in anything less than her free and sincere affection.


So I guess I would recommend this movie to anyone who's a del Toro fan, and if you're not turned off by a weird supernatural stuff (i.e. if you like Coraline). Friendship! Swordfights! Characters that look like bizarre wooden dolls! What's not to enjoy?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Makeup Review: Somehow I Actually Like CC Cream

So I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing or anything actually interesting over winter break. Most of my time was spent going to the doctor, dentist, and orthodontist. 

(Luckily, the only major health problem they found was a vitamin D deficiency. Other than that, I have the option of doing some surgery in the future to correct my jaw/profile. Same me, better face?)

Other than that I spent my time shopping and generally going, “Hmmm no one’s going to be pissed if I just goof off, so tell me again why I should do anything productive?”

I found some nice clothes at Macy’s, but I also spent some time looking at the makeup selections in America (Ulta is a great store for makeup) and ended up finding something really good, totally by accident.

The product I’m excited about right now is JuiceBeaty’s Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream. I wasn’t looking for CC cream at the time; I was browsing the moisturizers. I’ve never even used CC cream or BB cream before.

I only found out about CC and BB cream this year when I started researching moisturizers and serums. And my reaction was pretty much “Meh…” Essentially, these creams are supposed to do some moisturizing and also double as foundation and sunscreen (among other things). Which sounded good to me at first, but I just kept wondering, “Does one cream really do any of those things as well as the products especially designed for them? Is skipping a few steps really worth using a less effective version of sunscreen and moisturizer?”

Also, unlike foundations CC and BB creams usually come in too colors: Awful Doesn’t Match At All and Even Awfuller. Yeah. I already can’t find a foundation that matches when I’ve got 30 tints in each brand to choose from. The chances a One Shade Fits Most actually working seemed pretty nil.

There are CC creams that are sheer, but that’s just not worth the effort to me. Why slap on something that kinda moisturizes and kinda hides flaws but doesn’t actually give you a base, but might make your base look better? No thanks. I already have enough layers of gunk to put on my skin.


As I was browsing through the various moisturizing products I noticed this sort of organic-y looking brand called JuiceBeauty, which I hadn’t seen before. They use a lot plant and citrus ingredients. I wasn’t too impressed with their ingredients for the moisturizers, since I was looking for stuff with hyalonic acid, collagen, and royal jelly. (Which I didn’t find. Boo.) But their CC cream interested me.

This is the bottle. I took the cap off so you could see what the dispenser looks like. Pretty easy to use. I apply it with my fingers because I'm lazy.

First off, anything with “repair” in the label seemed promising to me. Also, the lighter of their two tints (it’s always two) seemed like it might match my skin. So I tried the sample on the inside of my wrist. And lo and behold—it blended in and disappeared!!!! I couldn’t even really find the place where I had tested it. That never happens when I try foundation.

So I decided, “Eh, it’s expensive, but I like this enough to give it a go. Maybe it will be less cakey than a regular liquid foundation.” And now I’m really glad I tried it because it feels so much better than the foundation I was using. Foundation, even powder foundation, always gets in the lines in my face and makes them stand out more—as if the point of makeup isn’t to cover up signs of aging. But when I apply the CC cream—even with some sheer powder over it, my lines don’t stand out any more than when I’m not wearing a base at all. And yet it still improves my skin tone. I didn’t know that was possible.

Maybe someday I’ll find a foundation that gives really good coverage but don’t look like I’ve painted my face and won’t get stuck in my wrinkles. But for now there’s not many occasions where I can’t get by with the natural look, so I’m sticking to using the CC cream as my base, sometimes with powder foundation over it. My method right now is to spend a ton of time on skin care prep and then only do a little bit of actually makeup. Instead of trying to cover up and distract from tired skin, the idea is to improve the skin’s overall condition so there’s less to distract from.

So overall I give JuiceBeauty a thumbs-up because their product worked for me, and maybe I’ll try something else from them in the future. A quick rundown of pros and cons:


1.     You get what you pay for. $40.00 for 50 ml is pretty steep. It might be better not to use it every day and switch off with something cheaper. Recently I’ve been more willing to spend money on higher quality makeup. Life is too short to spend smearing crappy stuff on your face.
2.     When I first opened the tube my nostrils got a shock. DO NOT buy this if you hate citrus. The smell does wear off, but I always feel like my hands and face smell like lime for several minutes.
3.     Not a foundation. Not a concealer. If you need heavy-duty correction, like to cover acne or discoloration, or scars, this is not for you.  (At least, not by itself. I don’t know how it works with other products on top.) When it’s on, you’ll barely even notice it. Which can be disappointing when you’ve paid that much.
4.     It’s not cakey in general, but it does stick a little bit on my eyelids. Also, it is liquid so it does have a shine if you don't put powder on top.


1.     Really does conceal fine lines.
2.     I don’t know if it’s actually repairing any cells, but it certainly is gentle on my skin.
3.     I don’t look like a pancake! Or a…powdered donut?
4.     Easy to apply with my fingers.
5.     30 SPF isn’t bad.
6.     Actually freakin’ matches my skin. My face is the same color as the rest of me.
7.     Lasts all day. And if it does wear off a bit, you can’t really tell.
8.     Even though it’s not specifically for dry skin, it is moisturizing and seems to work well with the moisturizers I’m using.
9.     Did I mention that it gives me an even skin tone but I don’t look like there’s gunk on my face?

This is me trying to do a selfie like I'm advertizing a product. It took me like five tries.

So this is my try doing a makeup review. Maybe later I’ll write about some other products I use and would recommend.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


This isn't exactly In Japan because I'm in America but anyway it's my first post for the new year.

Best thing about my trip home: Shopping!

Worst thing about my trip home: Getting killer allergic reaction to antibiotics which has resulted in a rash all over my body. I came home to get medication for a rash on my legs, and the medication resulted in a more serious condition.

Why does something always happen before I have to take a 10 hour overseas plane flight?