December Favorites


Before we leave December behind, I wanted to share my monthly favorites with you. It was easy to choose the things I'ved used consistently and loved all month, even though I had to resist the temptation to include quite a few soon-to-be favorites that I received around Christmas! 

For skincare, I succumbed to the hype and purchased the Caudalie Beauty Elixir and the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo. I use the Beauty Elixir in the morning after washing my face and during the day when I feel tired; the smell is energizing and it leaves my skin feeling cool and dewy. Effaclar Duo is one of the best treatments I've tried for spots and clogged pores. It contains benzoyl peroxide, which my skin prefers to salicylic acid (tip: most people respond to one better than the other!). 

During the holidays, I couldn't stop wearing Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss lipstick in 001 and the bow bracelet from my swap with Rachel, and I curled the ends of my hair using my (so-old-it's-practically-vintage) Chi hair straightener. On Christmas Day, I wore Deborah Lippmann's "Let It Snow!" from her "Christmas in the City" collection, which is a pearly silver color that I'll continue to wear year-round. After sampling Chloe Eau de Parfum earlier this month, I received a full-size bottle of the perfume and the lotion for Christmas, and I've been wearing it every day since! 

Last but not least, December was a busy month of work for me, and there were a couple of things I reached for every morning in the rush to get ready and out the door. L'Oreal Telescopic Carbon Black, one of my favorite drugstore mascaras, gives length and volume to my eyelashes in a flash. And lately I always keep a KIND bar in my handbag for a healthy snack on the go. If eating healthy is one of your resolutions for 2013, I highly recommend them.

Happy New Year, everyone! My next post will be new year's-themed!

Daydreams on a Day Off


left to right: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9

Days off tend to fall in one of two categories: indulgent or productive.

Today was indulgent. It involved finding goodies on sale at Lush and sampling chocolate. I did laundry out of necessity and then concluded the evening with thai food, red wine and a bedtime browse around Pinterest. Here are some selections of my favorite pins. There's no particular rhyme or reason to the way I've put them together, but in retrospect, they've sparked a daydream in which I am wearing the dress, shoes and earrings while sharing ice cream with mine-yours spoons along with Tiffany-box petit fours, relaxing in the bedroom with the kitten under the covers, and living life by eating well, traveling often and exuding as much energy as the dancer does. Also, I never thought that Tiffany-blue and ruby-red would go well together... but I'm liking the combination!

If you'd like to see how I might continue these dreams of decadence, you can check out my Pinterest here! And feel free to leave a link to yours below!

Sanctuary Gift Set


For me, the days after Christmas are for leftovers, marathons of The Office, new year's resolutions and long baths. The Sanctuary Bathtime Bliss Gift* set (£17.50) is one affordable option for a post-holiday spa-at-home. This gift set includes two votive candles, a diffuser and 75ml bottles of the Luxury Bath Float and Body Lotion. 

I'm sure my UK readers know about Sanctuary Spa, but my US ones might not, so let me tell you the charming little backstory behind this brand. Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden was founded in 1977 by a US choreographer as a gift to his wife, a ballerina, and quickly became a hit with the Royal Ballet. Now, it is a popular skin and body care brand in the UK. 

All the Sanctuary products I have tried have a very distinctive herbal scent. I don't find them as unique and delicious as bath products by LUSH or Laura Mercier, but they're perfect if you're looking for more traditional "spa" scents. The highlights of the set for me are the bath float and body lotion. The bath float (bubble bath) smells of fresia; the body lotion contains ginger, spices and jojoba and makes your skin tingle ever so slightly. 

Sanctuary is currently having a sale on its website here: all gift sets are half-price through January! If you're not in the UK but desperate to get your hands on these products, you might have to resort to eBay... 

Have you tried any Sanctuary products? What are your favorite bath time treats?

Candid Camera: Ultimate Wish List


Right now, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. Besides the fact that we're still here. Whoever misinterpreted the Mayan calendar and said doomsday was nigh... oopsies. Christmas Eve's Eve is starting to unfold (one way to count down, right?). I have been gift-wrapping and self-pampering with beauty goodies and chocolate "Baci" or "kisses" in Italian... they're a hundred times better than the Hershey's equivalent. On my nails is Deborah Lippmann's "Run, Run Rudolph" with a little bit of Julep's "Hilary" on top.

Georgia from Life at the Coop recently tagged me to post my "Ultimate Christmas Wish List." I posted a December wish list at the beginning of the month, and I confess, writing another wish list is a bit greedy. But I'm going to do it anyway because a) Georgia's list was a treat to read and b) I promise not to repeat anything from my previous wish list. So, dear Santa...

1.  teleportation abilities. this is my default answer to the question "if you could have one superpower what would it be?" And ideally, the teleportation abilities would cover me, unlimited luggage and guests. 

2.  a (real) cat. One time I sweet-talked my husband into promising that we would get a cat. The next week, he gifted me a stuffed animal cat (that meows when you press its stomach). "Now you have your cat!' he said. Nice try honey, but I still want the real deal someday (but don't think that stuffed animal cat is going anywhere, because it symbolizes one of the many reasons why I love you.)

3.  the means to have a personal library. I move and travel... a lot. So a large book collection is a bit impractical at the moment, unless #1 on this wish list magically comes true. Still, I sometimes search "library" on Pinterest just to live vicariously through the dream libraries that people have designed.

4.  a dslr and photography skills so I'd know what to do with it.

5.  more patience. I have a feeling this is approaching new year's resolutions territory... aka when you actually have to work to make your wishes come true. But Santa is still in the picture for a couple more days, so it doesn't hurt to wish first.

I could go on, but it's bedtime because the weekend is over for me (*whimper*)... I work tomorrow and Monday, and then it's Christmas! (If you want to write an ultimate wish list, I tag you!)

Christmas Came Early: Swap with Rachel!


I recently did a swap with Rachel from Blush and Brunch!

In case you're not familiar with swaps in the blog world, here's how it worked: currently, Rachel is in Hong Kong, and I'm in the US, so we agreed on a budget and sent each other goodies across the world. I loved Rachel's blog as soon as I stumbled upon it -- she shares my interests in skincare, food, traveling and cuteness -- and we became soon became blogging buddies. This was our first swap ever, and it coincided with the holiday season, so receiving Rachel's package was like opening an early Christmas present! We tried to find each other goodies from different categories (makeup, skincare, accessory, home good and food).

The pink magazine/book holder is just what I needed to save my night table from overflowing with bedtime reading materials! It's the perfect size and I love the polka-dotted print. Asian candies are always fun, and I'm proud that I resisted the urge to devour these yummy apple candies and Lotte Koala Bear cookies so I could photograph them in pristine condition! How did Rachel know I am obsessed with koala bears and that I've never tried this special-edition cookies and cream flavor?! I'm very excited to use the Beauty Diaries White Rose mask. I have heard so many good things about Asian sheet masks, but I've never tried one! And the Canmake blush duo and cherry-flavored "cupcake" lipbalm will be adorable new additions to my makeup bag. Last but not least, Rachel sent a dainty bow bracelet in the cutest packaging ever that has quickly become one of my favorite bangles!

Rachel, thank you so much for everything! You have no idea how happy I was when I opened the package, and I'm looking forward to enjoying these goodies. I'm excited to have a blogging "pen pal"!

If you'd like to see what I got Rachel, check out her blog here!

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My Go-To Blouse

This is the blouse I wear when I'm too lazy to be fussy. There is nothing revolutionary about it -- it's quiet and understated, and it makes for a paradoxical blend of professional and provocative. I purchased mine fairly recently at Urban Outfitters (US link/UK link). It would be a good complement to colored jeans, but most of the time I pair it with black, more black and accessories. Here I'm wearing a big bangle from Forever 21, which is so old that it's practically vintage. Weird to think that one day there will be such a thing as "vintage Forever 21"! And don't mind the little mark on my hand in the last picture; let's just call it proof that gift-wrapping can be risky business.

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Life Lately


01. Dreaming of Santa  02. Ballerina nutcracker?  03. Looks like a snow sky  04. Healthy green food  05. Delicious green food  06. Snuggle buddy  07. My new favorite album  08. Giant Christmas tree downtown  09. Blouse and ponytail  10. Loving "Volutes" by Diptyque  11. Homemade mulled wine  12. My giveaway winner's treat!

A day-late week in pics... let's be honest though, this week was pretty ambivalent. Although we're in the heart of holiday season, the national news was heartbreaking. But some positive things in my week include Paloma Faith's album "Fall to Grace," "Volutes" Eau de Toilette by Diptyque, mulled wine and my new favorite day-to-night black blouse from Urban Outfitters. The outfit itself isn't too exciting, but I might do a post on the blouse anyways. Tonight there is a chance of snow, and I just love waking up to the ground covered in white (but then again, I'd have to drive in it tomorrow, so I won't be too devastated if it's all clear in the morning!). I failed at making time for Christmas crafts or baking this week, but I've been loving these Christmas cards by Rachel and these cookies by Elle! Also, my Deborah Lippmann giveaway ended at midnight on Saturday, and the randomly selected winner was Jayne from Cosmetic Proof! Jayne selected the color "Cleopatra in New York," a beautiful black polish with gold glitter. Thank  you so much to everyone who entered, and keep your eyes open for another giveaway soon... I have some good ideas! Lastly, if you've done any sort of holiday-themed post recently, feel free to leave me the link below... I love reading them!

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Currently Sampling: Origins, Diptyque and Bedtime Reading


Some of you seemed to enjoy last week's "currently sampling" post, so I thought I'd keep them going so I can tell you about what's potentially winning me over from week to week! The products I sampled last week (Chloe Eau de Parfum and Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair) were hits that I would consider purchasing, and I only say "consider" because they're not cheap! First on this week's list is Origins "A Perfect World" SPF 25 Age-Defense Moisturizer with White Tea. I've always liked the idea of day creams with built-in SPF, and this one sounds promising: it offers UVA/UVB protection and antioxidants that protect your skin from environmental damage. It also seems lightweight and has a very distinctive and refreshing scent. In my quest for the perfect daytime fragrance, I have two more to sample: Diptyque "L'eau des Hesperides" Cologne and Diptyque "Volutes" Eau de Toilette: "L'eau des Hesperides" is described as a blend of "citrusy notes" with "peppery mints." I'm not so sure about this one... neither citrusy nor peppery are scents I tend to like. "Volutes" is meant to smell of honey, iris, styrax and tobacco. If you're afraid of smelling like tobacco, or if you're afraid of the unknown (what in the world is styrax?), just know that one spritz of this took me from ignorance to bliss.

I'm also including my newest piece of bedtime reading, The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis. It's set in the 80s at a small liberal-arts college, and it's about a love triangle. This is not a "prim and proper" sort of novel. I'm only a couple of chapters in, so all I can tell you is: 1) the cover of my edition was too ugly to photograph 2) the characters aren't very likeable so far 3) last night I dreamt about going to an 80s-themed party, 

Have you tried any of these? Are you sampling anything at the moment?

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Tea Time


It's been one of those weeks... cold, rainy, work-centric, caffeine-fuelled. Today is a Friday, but it feels like a Wednesday because I work today and all weekend. So my motto is: stop complaining and drink tea! This tea is one of the things I've been enjoying amidst the pre-holiday rush. It's from chain of tea shops called Teavana (which Starbucks is apparently acquiring), and this particular blend is a mix of "Youthberry" white tea and "Wild Orange Blossom" herbal tea. It has a fresh and sweet scent that perfumes your surroundings as you sip it. I make a single cup by filling this cute teapot strainer with the leaves and letting it steep for a few minutes. I have a feeling I'll be making another trip into the shop to try more flavors soon... tea shopping/drinking is one of the best ways to get a quick dose of aromatherapy. Do you have a favorite tea?

On a very different note: I don't like talking about bad news on my blog. But I can't not mention that in the middle of making this post, I'm hearing the news about the terrible school shooting in Connecticut. Sadly, this kind of tragedy occurs far too often. But this time, at this time of the year, with so many of the victims so young, it's especially horrific.

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Review: Laneige Skincare


About a month ago, I mentioned on my blog that I had picked up a few products from a Korean skincare brand called Laneige. I finally feel that I've given the products a thorough enough trial to review them. This was my first experience with an Asian skincare brand, and my opinions are mixed. Laneige caters to a variety of skin types, but the products I chose are tailored to combination skin that becomes an unmanageable mixture of dry and oily in the wintertime.

Water Bank Essence: This product is meant to be used underneath your moisturizer to boost its effects and help your skin stay hydrated throughout the day. Water Bank Essence has prevented my skin from developing dry, flaky patches. I find it works especially well as a base for tinted moisturizer, which is often times not moisturizing enough on its own. For most of this month, I used it day and night, but now I use a serum at night and apply this only in the mornings. The product has a convenient pump dispenser, and a pump and a half covers my entire face, so the bottle will last me a long time. If you have oily skin and avoid heavy moisturizers, this might work for you; as its name and the swatch above suggest, it has a watery-gel consistency and sinks into your skin rapidly. It hasn't impressed me enough to stick with it forever, but it's good.

Power Essential Skin Refiner Light: This product is meant to rebalance sebum and combat oily skin while softening the skin and preparing it for moisturizer. It feels like an astringent toner, and unfortunately, I didn't find that this helped me. Although it contains some interesting ingredients such as blueberry extract, hydrogenated castor oil and willow bark extract, it also contains quite a bit of alcohol, something I try to avoid in skincare products. I didn't notice a change in my skin's clarity after using this product, and I've stopped using it in favor of something else. I'd skip this one.

Multiberry Yogurt Peeling Gel: This facial mask contains soothing yogurt, antioxidant extracts from various berries, and niacinamide, which promotes surface renewal of the skin and boosts the skin's natural production of collagen. I'm no expert on the chemical processes behind how these ingredients work in conjunction; all I can say is this product works. It has a thick and creamy consistency with tiny granules that polish the skin without being too abrasive. Once or twice a week after cleansing, I massage the product onto my face with my fingertips and leave it on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing it off. It leaves my skin feeling smoother and more radiant. Don't be afraid of the phrase "peeling gel"; it's not harsh at all. I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a gentle way to exfoliate. Plus, it is the most delicious smelling mask I've ever tried (and it's pink)! Of the Laneige products I tried, this is my favorite. 

Laneige is quite affordable for a high-end skincare brand; the products above range from $20-$30, and the quantities are generous. It can be difficult to find Laneige products if you're not in Korea. I found mine at a small Amore shop inside a local Korean market, but you can also find them online at

I've incorporated Laneige into an updated skincare routine that has really been working for me. I might do a post about it, so please let me know if this interests you!

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Lush "Golden Slumbers" Bath Bomb


A couple of you were curious when I mentioned the Lush "Golden Slumbers" Bath Bomb, so I thought I'd tell you how I liked it. This particular bath bomb is meant to be calming and help you drift off to sleep (hence the name!). It contains lavender sprigs and lavender and chamomile oils. It's not the most popular of bath bombs, and although I found it quite soothing and moisturizing, I can understand why. Using "Golden Slumbers" is like taking a bath in unstrained herbal tea. The smell of lavender is strong when you first drop it into the water, but it fades quickly (too quickly in my opinion!). And then there's the possible annoyance that the lavender sprigs can bring. It was a little strange to take a bath with bits of plants floating around; in the end, I didn't mind them as much as I thought I would, and I discovered that when crushed between the palms of your hands, the sprigs release the smell of lavender. If you're not a fan of sprigs, you could always tie the bath bomb up in a piece of nylon, which will contain them. But if you're not a fan of sprigs, I would suggest passing on this one!

Do you have a favorite bath bomb?  I haven't tried many, so your suggestions are welcome!

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Life Lately


01. gift for my 6-month-old niece  02. snowman cookie  03. candy cane and art history book  04. my Disney princess advent calendar (yep)  05. rewards gift from Sephora  06. pasta for dinner  07. sushi cup for makeup brushes  08. sushi for lunch  09. dressed for winter  10. surprise from Helen!  11. Starbucks at home  12. decisions, decisions  13. pretending like I know how to use this  14. must write Christmas cards!  15. a gift I can't wait to mail out

This week was mainly work and getting home too late and lazy to take photos. All I want to do at the end of a long day is take off my makeup, change into pajamas and eat chocolate... it might be called the happiest time of the year, but it's also the busiest! Yesterday I had the day off and went Christmas shopping. I can't remember the last time I felt so close to "shopping 'til dropping." Luckily I got almost all of the gifts on my list. Most of the purchases are secret in case someone sneaks a peak at my blog before the 25th, but I did shop for two people who don't read these posts: my 6-month-old niece and the mother of my husband's best friend. Hence, the puffy, fluffy stuffed animal bunny and the giant Jo Malone bag. I also bought three boxed sets of Christmas cards, for a grand total of 42 cards, so the next few evenings will be spent drinking tea and writing. The shopping is not over yet, however, because today I signed up for a gift donation program! I will tell you the details later this week.

Currently Sampling: Chloe and Estee Lauder


I've accumulated a stash of samples, so each week I'm going to choose some to try and let you know what I think. This week, the spotlight will be on Chloe Eau de Parfum and Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair. I'm on the quest for a new daytime perfume, and someone who worked at Sephora gave me a sample of this one by Chloe. It's a sweet floral fragrance with heart notes of pink peony, rose, lychee, freesia, amber and honey. The samples of the Estee Lauder anti-aging serum are the result of a random act of kindness. A couple of weeks ago, Helen from Beautifully Superfluous wrote a blog post that included this product, and I mentioned in a comment that I really wanted to try it! Helen wrote me back and offered to send me a few sample sachets of the product. Yesterday evening, I received a package from Helen containing a lot more goodies than a few sachets of samples... I tweeted a picture of them all, which you can see here. I was not expecting this at all, and I want to thank Helen again so much for her generosity! I'm going to be trying all of these things in the weeks to come, so I have lots of fuel for future sample posts. 

Have you used either of these products? And are you a fan of samples? I used to put them in a drawer and forget about them, but now I find they're the best way to prevent impulse purchases!

I Wore: Oldies and Besties


In celebration of the weekend, I thought I'd show you what I wore on a recent day off, which I spent snuggling with my furry bestie, running errands and watching Batman Begins with my brother. I layered a winter scarf over a summer necklace. The necklace was a gift from my father-in-law and is made of banana leaves and shells; it is quite tribal and not very winter-appropriate, but I love it too much to restrict it to the summertime stash. It's askew in one of the photos because I was running after Eva, who found a corner of Christmas gifts and started being nosy. The faux fur circle scarf is the only new-ish piece here. The striped top is from H&M, and the cardigan is a last-year's purchase from Topshop that is intentionally a few sizes too big. My favorite way to make cardigans look more relaxed and modern is to wear them oversized. I also wore a trusty pair of black skinnies. I tend to wear the things in my wardrobe until they reach the point of no repair, but lately I've been suffering from the "I have nothing to wear!" syndrome, so I caved and purchased a few things from Urban Outfitters and ASOS. Sound familiar?

Out of laziness, I've been liking this minimal "no make-up makeup" look featuring mostly old standards: NARS Sheer Glow foundation (a sample, it's good!), Maybelline Color Tattoo in "On and On Bronze," Maybelline Full 'n Soft Mascara, Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick in #536 "Lucky," and NARS Blush in "Deep Throat."

On an unrelated note, tomorrow I'm going on a holiday shopping marathon. I have two goals: to finish finding the gifts I will be shipping across the pond, and to look for a toy donation program so I can purchase a present for a kid in need. I'm also hoping to work on a couple of posts I've promised you! I haven't forgotten, it's just been getting dark so early that I never seem to get a chance to take photos. Excuses, excuses! 

Candid Camera: Christmas Questions


This photo was taken a year ago at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. I had walked all day in high-heeled boots (poor choice), and this was our last stop of the evening; the distraction it provided was so magnificent that I forgot all about my aching feet. Today I wore the same high-heeled boots, but unfortunately, I had no such distractions. So tonight, what better sedentary indulgence than curling up in a cocoon of fleece, eating a giant sugar-cookie and getting into the holiday spirit? I was tagged by Stefani from Miss Jo and Co. to answer a few questions about my holiday traditions. Stefani's blog is one of my regular reads; she shares truly sincere, entertaining and relatable stories. Go check out her blog here!

001. What makes Christmas such a special holiday for you and your family?
Spending time together (it's rare that we're all in the same place), themed gingerbread houses (my sister and I once made a gingerbread Roman bathhouse), tree-trimming, food and lights! Last year I discovered some of the best Christmas lights I've ever seen in Paris. 

002. Were you told the truth about Santa Claus by your parents or did you find out another way? And do you plan on lying to your kids? 
I gradually developed suspicions on my own. As the oldest child, I was sworn to secrecy and sustained the illusion for my little brother and sister. But their awakening to reality was harsh. 'Twas the night before Christmas at my grandma's house, and my siblings accidentally walked in on our parents and grandma filling their stockings. My brother was sad, but my sister was heartbroken and bawled for the rest of the night. Nonetheless, I plan on lying to my children, encouraging them to make gingerbread cookies "for Santa" and then eating them myself (kidding! kind of...).

003. Real tree or fake tree?
Real tree. The smell makes the extra hassle worth it.

004. Do you open presents on Christmas morning, Christmas Eve or both?
Our family tradition is to open one present each on Christmas Eve and then open the rest on Christmas morning. And speaking of Christmas morning, this is how it went down in my childhood: my brother would wake up at 5:30am and proceed to wake up me and my sister (by jumping on our beds). Then we would watch Disney Christmas cartoons and eat chocolate until my parents woke up about three hours later.

005. What is your favorite Christmas movie to watch? Favorite Christmas song to sing or listen to?  
I've seen Love Actually an embarrassing number of times, so I'd probably have to say that one. A holiday song I've appreciated more as I've grown up is "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"... it's full of hope and not too sugar-coated.

I want to know how you celebrate, and I'm sure you have some funny stories to share, so I'd be really happy if any of you did this tag! Feel free to leave your answers in the comments below, or post them on your blog and leave me the link! To those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, I'd love to know about your holiday traditions :)

December Lust List


This post is the guilty pleasure that resulted from starting to shop for holiday gifts online. I love reading everyone else's wish lists, so I thought I'd show you what I've been coveting as I remind myself that 'tis the season to shop for others, not myself!

Today after work, I perused the "Best of 2012" book lists that are cropping up in various publications. Astray by Emma Donoghue stood out to me as something I'd like to read; it's a collection of stories about various people travelling to and within North America throughout the centuries, and each character is constructed from fragmented historical records. You can read a review here. The beauty items on the list are bestsellers that I've tried and loved but don't currently own. My favorite kind of diary/planner would help me keep my still-t.b.d. resolutions for 2013. Society6 and Bauble Bar carry many variations on the products I've chosen, so both offer treasure troves of affordable gift ideas! And is it unreasonable to: a) Want an advent calendar after December has started? b) Want an advent calendar after you already own one because it's Kinder and therefore better? c) Spend $30 on an advent calendar? If the answer to any/all of the above is "yes," then let's just ignore #4...

Have you been eyeing anything in particular lately?

Life Lately


01. B&BW candle in Chestnut and Clove / 02. Koala bear biscuit / 03. The Body Shop peach body butter (mmm) / 04. Blue trees / 05. Eva stole my spot / 06. Tree shopping / 07. Being cozy by a fire / 08. Art? / 09. Maru in a book / 10. Loving this necklace lately  / 11. Sushi ornament  12. Olive oil sampling / 13. Evening sky / 14. Dad's 60th / 15. Suspicious Eva emerges from under the bed

Okay, so I neglected a couple of weeks of "Week in Pics" posts... to tell the truth I was unsure whether to keep doing them because not every week of my life is very exciting! But I know some of you enjoy them, and I do too; they're a fun way to share photos that wouldn't be relevant enough to merit an entire posts. What do you all think? Anyhow, this week was busy and festive. We found the family Christmas tree, a real Blue Burton noble fir. I visited an art gallery, a bookstore and a holiday shop. We also celebrated my dad's birthday with a decadent Swedish Princess Cake (his favorite and mine too... it contains layered marzipan, strawberries, sponge cake and cream!). Today is an ultimate lazy day of coffee, croissants, tree-trimming, books, and starting to plan gift lists. I'll be browsing through plenty of bloggers' gift guides and wish lists... feel free to send me your links!

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