Bless My Bag

beauty bagged by a cheeky Filipina

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate – A New Nightly Regimen

I’ve only been doing this regimen for 2 nights so far, and it’s my mother’s bottle which was a gift, so I won’t be pretentious and say “You need this in your life…”, I’ll just say for now since I am able to share (1 drop a night), that I need it in mine.

I’ve kind of been the “iffy” bird about serums (I’ve never tried any because of my relatively OKAY skin), but if the formulation is composed of mildly processed botanicals and essential oils there’s less hesitation on my part and you have nothing to fear really when it comes to Kiehl’s.  One thing I kept my eye was my personal set of easily irritated whiteheads that would stay in place no matter what I did and would worsen if my skin reacted (they’re spread across my right cheek).  The way I’ve applied this is applying one drop each evening to a small dollop of my favorite moisturizer (currently Nivea Baby Smoothy cream), in my hand though…don’t mind the staged  tiny spatula I have set before you for blogging purposes LOL.  Then I simply massage evenly and gently all over my face.  My moisturizer is a great vehicle for delivering this serum to my face because it absorbs very quickly.  I did it this way so it could curb the potency or intensity of the concentrate for my sensitive skin while still allowing the formula to be absorbed.

“This lightweight, readily-absorbed elixir effectively restores skin’s healthy appearance overnight, resulting in smoother, more radiant complexion by morning. Enriched with Squalane, a botanical lipid similar in molecular structure to natural skin lipids, Evening Primrose Oil, rich in Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Essential moisture to depleted skin. These naturally derived oils instantly penetrate the skin surface to help replenish it. Our recovery concentrate works at night when skin is most receptive to repairing itself from daily aggressors. With skin hydrated, supple and soft, rest assured you can say goodnight to tired-looking skin.  Paraben Free, Fragrance Free, Mineral Oil Free”

What I’ve noticed is waking up to non greasy, supple skin each morning for the last two days.  The bumps, enlarged pores and whiteheads have receded and red patches on the usual reactive areas of my face have subsided.  This is my mom’s so I’ll only use this for a week or two (7-14 drops) and leave the rest for her.  I’ve actually just put in good money for a bioregenerate organic facial oil similar to this (but milder in formulation) and it’ll be on its way when my friend gets here from Singapore in November.  If you’re wondering what that in-transit facial oil is, keep reading the blog a few hours from now or tomorrow (sorry, it depends, I’ll tweet niweiz) because I’ll be posting my current mini wishlist for the ‘Ber season and it includes that.   Follow Kiehl’s Manila on FB for the latest local boutique updates on this brand.  This costs US $50 abroad, so I’m guessing locally this might cost Php2800-Php3000, so it’s lovely that mom got it as a gift from my Ninang, her sister.

Meeting C.S. Lewis’ Stepson, Douglas Gresham – Life with “Jack”, his legacy, & the Narnia films

My six degrees of separation from a late legendary author whom I admire were greatly reduced by about 5 yesterday.  In a nutshell, I could 1.) hardly believe who I shook hands with, and 2.) was overcome by the Godliness, inspiration, and joy he and his wife bring by sharing their faith and Christ’s love for us as facts of the matter.  I met Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’ Stepson, head of the C.S. Lewis foundation and co-producer of the Narnia films we watch today thanks to a wonderful gathering at Luxent Hotel made possible by Artists in Touch.  I also met his lovely, meek wife, Mary, whose face beams by her husband’s side.  Their devotion to each other totally reminds me of Karl and Ellie in the animated Pixar film, UP.

When Douglas spoke with us he was very vocal about his faith and warmly shared about the 10 years he had with “Jack” (C.S. Lewis) as his stepfather.  He met Jack as an 8 year old and already knew him as the writer of the Narnia Chronicles and fondly remembers how he expected Jack to be some bigshot (being the “god” of Narnia), but instead here was this charming elderly man, “with nicotine stained teeth and fingers, and quite frankly the shabbiest clothes I’d ever seen on a man”.  Supper at their home he said, had he known any better, ought to have been recorded with a tape recorder stuck under the table, with writers from the “Inklings” such as J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings author) and a handful of others coming to bring the outpouring and debates from their prized streams of thought over for dinner.  Today, had those conversations been recorded, they would have been priceless.  Jack, Douglas says, also had a way of talking to children.  He never talked down to them as if they were insignificant individuals but always respectfully addressed them as small human beings who don’t know very much and who always had something terribly important to say.  This lent itself to his becoming of the greatest literary novelists for children.  Jack’s most popular book for children was the second book from the Narnia Chronicles and the first to become a successful box office motion picture, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  When I was in college, I was once featured in a print ad campaign by Power Books as a young rookie Student Leader from the U.P. College of Fine Arts who loved to read, and when asked which book or novel had a profound impact on my life growing up, it was none other than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which eventually became a major motion picture.  This cat belonged to me, this is Priya, she is not with us anymore, she passed away shortly after we moved to Laguna.


Douglas wishes though that more people would notice the beauty of one of Jack’s greatest works ever, in his opinion, “Til We Have Faces” which I have read when I was in college.  It was deep, moving, heavy in a sense, but absolutely beautiful.  He hopes this becomes a properly done motion picture someday.  In my mind I want Rebecca Hall to play Orual.


“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer . . . Why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”  Haunted by the myth of Cupid and Psyche throughout his life, C.S. Lewis wrote this, his last, extraordinary novel, to retell their story through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid, the God of the Mountain.  Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.
I read this and recall crying or becoming lost in thought throughout the day.  It’s quite difficult to describe but it’s a retelling of the love story of Cupid and Psyche and it involves the point of view of Orual, Psyche’s unattractive sister.  I’ve nearly forgotten the main plot of this, I do have to read it again.
When Douglas was asked by Isabella (Kuh Ledesma’s daughter)  if C.S. Lewis ever gave him writing advice as a child, Douglas shared to the audience “Yes, in fact he did, he told me this ‘First, be sure you know exactly what you want to say, and afterwards be sure you have said exactly that.”
C.S. Lewis greatly mourned the death of his beloved wife of 4 years (she had cancer when she met him), according to Douglas “Jack had just met the love of his life, my mother, and it greatly affected him when she had to leave us, which as you know is why he wrote ‘A Grief Observed’” which to this day is one of the greatest written analyses on mourning the death of a loved one.  I must share with you how wonderful it was to listen to Mr. Douglas Gresham, who shared the importance of Jack’s faith in Christ as well as his success as a respected and revered author.  Mary his wife, is such a devoted, kind sweetheart.  When asked a teasing question on what it is like to be married to Douglas she regally said in the most loving sort of tone “It is an honor and a privilege to be married to him” and Douglas took the mic from her after and needed to say back “It is MY honor and privilege to be married to Mary…” Douglas has a deep, almost booming, “god” sort of voice (which he once put to good use in broadcast) which actually, strangely so, reminds me of Liam Neeson’s Aslan, only more refined.  When you close your eyes, you know it’s the voice of a person who loves Christ so deeply and so genuinely that you cannot help but listen for as long as you can.  It isn’t even preachy because you can see it just is what it is.  Here is a talk he gave to a body of students in North America at a Liberty University Convocation in which he shares about the significance of his faith.



MAC “Trace Gold” Sheertone Shimmer Blush – My 1st MAC Blush, Proper Glow Anyone?

So my first MAC blush isn’t your garden variety flush sort of blush.  It’s neither pink nor peach.  In fact, it’s a 90s earthy color and *oh-my-gasp* it’s shimmery (signboards go up “Julia, you bought a bronzer”).  I’m still arguing in my head as to whether MAC Sheertone Shimmer Trace Gold is a blush, bronzer, highlighter or all these lovely things rolled into one simple, subtle, but swoon-worthy product.  I love that even if this is dubbed a Sheertone Shimmer it doesn’t mean having glitter vomit on your face.

I’ll admit Trace Gold’s loveliness was quite hard to photograph on myself during the day, but I promise you in person it is noticeable and does make a difference.  It defines cheekbones or cheeks wherever you apply it and the sheen gives the illusion of highlight AND contour in just one product and that hint of color when properly placed is GORJ.  Read more to get the full post and see me wearing my new MAC Trace Gold blush!


A Man’s Antics and His Moisturizer – Gary Valenciano & his Kiehl’s Recovery Skin Salve

I was thrilled to get a call-back to do Gary Valenciano’s makeup (twitter: @GaryValenciano1) for a second shoot, though the photos of him in this post are my shots from the first one.  I knew through and through that even though I was given the opportunity to do his makeup that I might not get a second chance unless I did the job noticeably well and to his liking.  We’re only talking about one of the biggest celebrity perfectionists I’ve ever known and if Gary V. doesn’t approve of something even in the slightest manner you will know it and begin muttering your full name back to yourself.  To make matters worse his newly engaged son, Paolo, my BFF cousin, scared me the night before and said “Yea, you’d better do it good, he knows how to do his own makeup and he has his own way of doing it, so he’ll really be watching how you do it.”  The day came and I tried not to think too much, the main man began having his hair done by his staple hair expert, Tony & Guy senior, Nelson.  I began swatching shades I planned to use on the big GEE VEE who was in that moment brooding over his music downloads.  I approached him to swipe a shade of foundation across his jawline and as I made contact he let out a sudden “ARAY! (ouch)…”.  As I left the planet for a nanosecond he let out a healthy snigger “HEHEHEHE!  Sorry, just keeding…”.  Totally mean and advantageous I tell you, LOL.  I faked stabbing him in the eye afterwards for revenge.  Ay, caramba!  Here he is, folks, made-up and unharmed.

To my delight I found out from his road manager that shortly after our first shoot they were being instructed by him to purchase the exact base color products I used (MUD products) so he could use the same shades when he does his own makeup on international tours.  Then I got called back  for the second shoot which is such an encouraging thing because I enjoy and love working with him.  On board the second project I took the opportunity to ask what this well-loved tube was among his things and he spilled the beans, that it was his favorite moisturizer…obviously.  You can like totally tell because it’s just…always there.

KIEHL’S Centella Recovery Skin-Salve

KEY INGREDIENTS:  Honey, Aloe, and Tiger Herb (Centella) which contains alkaloids and minerals that are beneficial in the treatment of a host of ailments. It has antibacterial, anti-psoriatic, and wound-healing properties. The Tiger Herb plant is sought out by wounded tigers in the wild who rub against it for its healing properties. (Yeahhh, Tito Gary yerr a tigerr…)

  • Alcohol Free for Sensitive Skin
  • PH balanced and lightweight
  • Leaves skin feeling comforted and gently moisturised

I actually handed him a small container of my own moisturizer first, he began applying a bit of that but then he had to have a look around his stuff for what was familiar and well-loved, which was exactly this.  Kiehl’s Derma Solutions Centella Recovery Skin Salve, with Tiger Herb and Aloe Vera.  It’s got no-frills packaging which guys certainly would prefer and that neutral simplicity just shouts “THIS WORKS”.  More than anything it’s really soothing and comforting. I asked GV about the tube and he goes “Ohh yeahh, I like this,” he says, “I actually use it BEFORE shaving not after just so it feels better, and I always have it.”  Guys normally never elaborate more than that about skincare unless it was something that raised them or their dog from the dead, so the fact that he said it actually already says a lot.  He added “You gave me your moisturizer first, I started using it, but I was really looking for mine because I like it.  You wanna what?   Take a picture of it?  Huh? (LOL)  Okay, why??”  Because, Mr. Pure Energy, that’s just how I roll. :)


Charm Luxe Flat Top Brush – Quick Review and HD Video Demo!

When this product for review by Charm Makeup Brushes arrived for me as a bonus along with its award-winning “barangay” from the 14-pc Vegan set (yes, they’ll be up, soon) I was overcome with excitement.  I was always wanting something similar to the flat top  Sigma F80 which Lisa Eldridge used  in only 2 or 3 of her videos including this Minimal Makeup one.  I get a sense that this Charm Luxe Flat Top brush I was sent is the best value local dupe for the one Lisa uses.  I still love my Ecotools big Bronzing buffer brush for fast overall application but this is great to use on people with smaller features and its smaller size makes it easier to refine makeup in harder to reach areas on the face.

“Created with densely packed, ultra soft, synthetic bristles, the Charm Luxe Flat Top Brush ensures you a wonderful time in front of your vanity mirror as you enjoy the silky softness of the Charm Luxe Flat Top Brush, and see flawless results with it.  It’s great for applying loose mineral foundation, or pressed foundation, to ensure even, buildable, flawless coverage on the face!- PRICE: PHP600.00, SHIPPING: FREE @

Base: MUD Make Up Designory Cream Foundation applied with Charm Luxe Flat Top brush

What a lot of people haven’t realized locally about  kabuki and big dense buffing brushes is they can be used for cake/cream/liquid bases as well and not just for mineral and powder foundation.  Lisa made that point in her Minimal Makeup video.  In fact brushes like this one do a good job of bringing out the pristine quality of these foundations because briskly but gently buffing in a circular motion over the skin warms up the product and applies it in a way that doesn’t “mask” your entire face.  I’m even inclined to call the buffing method kind of a “manual” airbrush technique because people have asked me before if I used an airbrush to apply my makeup because they thought I did.  Here’s a simple HD video demo of one way I do just my base using the Charm Luxe Flat Top brush and a few other products.

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