Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Favorites

I cannot believe this month has gone by already. What the heck? Everything is moving so quickly! There were snow days, we got our Save the Dates out, and I procrastinated about everything else. Still, I'd say some things were accomplished, right?

The favorites this month were mostly cold-weather saviors, wintery fragrances, and neutrals. Apparently cold weather makes me boring. I didn't think I was much for wintery scents, but it turns out I am - or at least, for these two. Also, I know you've seen the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream several times now, but I figured if you see it more than twice, you'll know how much I actually do love this thing. I'm for real. It's for real. Solid. Yeaaaaaah.
Solstice Scents Snowshoe Pass
I've already raved about this here, and I have been loving it all month. Not just as pajamas perfume, mind you, although it is deliciously comforting in that way. It's smoky, it's slightly sweet, it's lovely and it's perfect for winter - it makes me feel warm. It's more of a toasty, sit-inside-and-be-cozy scent for me, something to wear while I stare out at the windy, snow-covered landscape outside.

Sweet Anthem Sylvia
This is a sample of the perfume oil that I got in the Winter 2011 sampler pack. This is the other winter perfume I've been using, and it's at the other end of the spectrum from Snowshoe Pass. It's cool, icy - the champagne and the osmanthus and the cedarwood make it subtly sweet and sharp, and it's my snow princess perfume. For crisp, chilly days, for winter.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
This has been the ultimate savior this winter. I use it on elbows, ankles, feet, and of course, on my face. I occasionally use it on my legs - especially after shaving. It helps soothe the irritated, red skin under my nose when I have the sniffles, it has helped soothe and alleviate the itchy undereye bumps I got from using a different product sometime midway through the month, and I use it every now and again all over my face for extra moisture. All this, and I've only worked my way through about 1/3 of the massive jar! Find my review here.

MAC Fresh Honey Mineralize Blush
This is a warm orange with a lovely sheen, and I think it gives a good natural glow to my skin. It's orange, not coral or peach, which I think is why I love it so much, but that may turn others off of it. Find my initial review here.

MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium
I just picked this up this month and the review is still forthcoming. But I've fallen in love with it. It's lightweight, naturally - but not excessively - glowy, and comfortable to wear. It's enough to even out my skintone, though it's not a heavy coverage powder at all. 
Stila Natural Beauty palette.
Stila Natural Beauty palette
This is an older palette from a year or so ago that I picked up from Ulta. I initially tried it, found it to be mostly too warm, and then dug it out a little while to try again. This time around, I am getting more use out of it, and am actually quite pleased. Stila shadows are notoriously soft and that's true here, but I like that there is a full range of "neutrals" here, rather than just brown. The oranges and the sienna browns are too warm for my taste, but I'm determined to work through this palette. I especially appreciate the mix of matte and shimmer finishes. The shadows aren't too pigmented, but they are noticeably different when applied, and I've been using the center shade on my brows (which I'm awful at doing, by the way. Someone help? :P). It's got shimmer, but they don't show up on my brows - thank goodness. I need a proper brow shade soon, but really, I can't be bothered at the moment. 
Not exactly a beauty item, but I love this thing.

Kindle Touch
I got one for Christmas, and I am so happy with it. Don't get me wrong; I love the weight and feel of actual books, but this is just so darned convenient. I can read multiple novels at once and just have to carry this little thing. The touch mechanism is great; I can touch words I don't know and get a definition for them. The page turning is easy - though once in a while I do accidentally skip ahead a chapter - and it makes reading on the bus a marvelous thing. Or reading while eating; you no longer need to hold open the book, so you can read with one hand! S. has one too (okay, so we bought one for each other) and he also uses his to read the paper in the morning. How awfully grown-up.

Okay, that wraps up the favorites for this month! What were your favorites this month? 

Monday, January 30, 2012

MAC Narcissus

MAC Narcissus, a cremesheen lip gloss from the Daphne Guinness collection.
Another lip gloss has wormed its way into my collection, but I have no regrets. For whatever reason, I love this kind of color on lips, and I figured it was a good time to try my first MAC lip gloss. I have no idea what all the differences are between all of the different lip glosses - Lipglass, Dazzleglass...? - but I rarely follow MAC collections all that closely, so I don't think it really matters for me.

I ordered this with the MAC Naturally blushes (and a few other things) so it came in the mail. I've never paid attention to the glosses in store, so I don't know if it's normal for these glosses to have a gap at the top?

Of course, I suppose it doesn't really matter since I don't know how long it would take me to get through this! But I'd be curious to know about it, all the same. I am actually pretty pleased with this purchase. The texture isn't too sticky and it wears pretty comfortably. The shade is also fairly opaque and applies evenly; and the color! It's marvelous. I love it. I think it is perfect for spring and summer.
MAC Narcissus on bare lips.
It's kind of a cool pink/ultra-violet color, but it's not too fluorescent or obnoxious - I still find it to be quite wearable. It's bright and cheery and I like it. I don't find that it settles into lip lines (not noticeably, anyway) and it wears for perhaps 1.5-2 hours. I don't expect glosses to stick around much longer than that, anyway, so it's all good. Glosses are usually easier to reapply on the go, too, so I don't mind carrying the tube around with me. My first MAC lip gloss was a success! Hurray!

$18.50 for 0.09 oz, at MAC stores or counters or online. It is limited edition, but the last time I checked, it was still available on maccosmetics.com.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cold Gold: A Gold Smoky Eye, Redux

[Before we go on with the post, today is S.'s birthday! :) Hurray! Happy birthday to him. We're going our for a fancy brunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and then having some friends over tonight. He does have to cook tonight, but I did make him Guinness chocolate cupcakes to take to work! And will make dessert tonight, too ;) Perhaps, strawberry pie with pastry cream and a glaze?]

A little while go, I wanted to create a smoky eye using Bare Escentuals Kiko, which is a warm, yellow-toned gold. While I was pleased with the way it came out, it didn't look as smoky as I initially wanted. And, inspired by some of the comments I received (which were all very kind, thank you all!), I decided to give the "gold smoky" eye another shot, but this time I used Fyrinnae Polar Bear instead of Kiko; it's a cooler, silver-toned gold, vs. the warm, sunflower Kiko.
Silk Naturals Stick 'Em Eye Shadow Enhancer*
Fyrinnae Polar Bear (gold), Fire Opal (dark coppery brown)
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-on Pencil in Zero (black), Tarte matte black shadow (Jewelry Box)
Tarte shimmery white shade (Jewelry Box)
Buxom mascara

Here's the version with Kiko instead.
Swatched on bare skin, just for reference.
I suppose this is just an exercise in shade comparison - seeing how the effect changes with slightly different shades of the same color.
Chanel Perfection Lumière B20
Stila Natural Beauty palette (brows)
Dior Aurora powder
MAC Harmony blush
Hourglass Aura Sheer Lip Stain in Flush
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment
I changed up the lip color a little bit, but I felt it was necessary to suit this variation. Which one do you prefer? Neither? Ha. I'm not sure which I like better, or which suits me better. S. picked this version.

*Items marked with a star were sent by the company for evaluation only.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Foodie Friday! #6: Vegetarian Dishes

Neither S. nor I are vegetarians, but we only eat meat two or three times a week, because it's cheaper and to me, healthier. S. doesn't mind, either, so there goes the stereotype of "men only eat meat." Not true. I also include eggs on the dinner menu once a week, usually, but I won't include any of those here.

Here are some of the recipes we've had in rotation for a while now. A lot of these are pasta dishes, since that's really easy to incorporate vegetables into, but we also do stir fries, soups, etc. Hopefully you can find something to add to your weekly rotation! I find these recipes for S., but he makes them; typically, I choose simple ones without tons of ingredients. (If you missed my meal planning post, it's here.)

Eggplant Spaghetti, from The Wednesday Chef
I like eggplant, though I know a lot of people find it textually weird and tasteless. This one doesn't involve tomato sauce and it's a nice variation on pasta. Yummy! S. and I both agree it goes in the recipe book (er, document - everything is online). If you like heat like I do, add lots of crushed red pepper!

Three Cheese Orzo and Spinach, from How Sweet it Is
We made this with regular pasta and frozen spinach, and it turned out fine. I'm not a huge fan of cheese, but on pizza and in some pasta, it's okay. If you keep pasta, cheese and frozen vegetables on hand (we keep lots of cheese in the freezer; I'm not a cheese person but S. likes it. We buy cheese in bulk from Costco) this is an easy weeknight meal.

Veggie Burrito Bowls
No real recipe for this one, but it's another easy one if you keep a well-stocked pantry. The basics are canned black beans, rice, salsa; you can throw whatever other vegetables you have on hand into the mix. Sauted onions and peppers, canned corn or other beans, fresh tomatoes, avocado, cilantro are all good options, though you don't need all of those, of course. We often make these with just onions and avocado, beans, rice and salsa. This is a household staple and one of S.'s favorites.

Butternut Squash Pizza, from AllRecipes
This one probably can't come out of the recipe book until squash season again the fall, but it's a nice change from traditional tomato sauce pizza. If you're looking for a good homemade pizza dough recipe, this is S.'s go-to. Or, you could just go with a basic cheese pizza - also a good meatless alternative!
Cheese pizza. S. was experimenting with a chewier, thicker crust than we normally go for. It's nice to have variety sometimes.

Cabbage Soup from Home Cooking Adventure
Cabbage is cheap and always readily available, so this is another good one for rainy, cold days. I like soup. It's perfect with fresh baguettes and a salad or some fruit.

Lemony Kale Soup, from Running With Tweezers
I like leafy greens, and I like soup. Perfect combo! You can go less lemony if you don't want all that citrus up in your soup; it's a good basic recipe. You could just add more garlic and give it a heavier, fuller taste.

Garlic Potato Soup, from Sweet Pea's Kitchen
Served with fresh French bread (or store-bought, nobody will know!) and a crisp side salad, this is a great dinner for a cold winter night. If you have an immersion blender, it's much easier, but S. just used a regular blender (he did it in batches) and it was just fine.

Okay, how's that? See any that you'll be adding to your weekly menu? Do you have any recipes for me?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Thursday Post

Meg Myers: Monster. Amazing, amazing, amazing. My best find of the year so far (ha!).

Last week it snowed, and we got snow days! So did the animals at the local zoo! We love the zoo and usually go at least once a year.

I am loving these frothy, light, pastel, ethereal creations!

Collections like this make me very, very sad about my ban. I have such a soft spot for Dior polish. And deep purples. *tear*

Love this. Tilda Swinton as David Bowie.

Food pr0n. Canlis is arguably one of the most expensive, extravagant restaurants in the city, and we will prolly never be able to eat there. So I will just ogle.

I think this may be slightly *too* science geek-y for us, but I'm really glad that someone out there did it.

Shop MAC, Cook MAC? It seems like this collection has gotten a lot of controversy, though I personally am not offended; I think it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Which isn't to say that MAC is always in the right (remember Rodarte?). Ah, well. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The Tendertones look interesting, but I'm skipping this entire thing (the ban, you know?). However, I'm sure some of you will be interested to know that they're re-promoting Runaway Red in this collection... ;)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dior Electric Blue

Squee! It's as blue as I had hoped.
This is Dior 606 Electric Blue, from the Anselm Reyle collection. I *think* it's exclusive to Saks and Dior.com; I ordered mine from Saks because at the time, the Dior website was not functioning properly.

I wanted more of the Anselm Reyle collection colors (specifically, that hot pink), but I made myself stick to the one that I wanted the most. I love blue nail polish and I find that bright royal blue creams are rare. They're either navy, or teal, or baby blue (which are all lovely in their own way, but still not royal blue) - or they're chock full of glitter/shimmer. I love the intensity of a good blue nail color. I have Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear Pacific Blue, which would be my favorite except that it has horrible wear - it chips and cracks off in a day or two, which is abominable. I was hoping this would match the intensity and brightness of that shade but improve upon the wear with Dior's awesome formula. Does it?
Dior Electric Blue, Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear Pacific Blue. Can you see the snow???

Well, yes, and no. The Dior is slightly darker, less fluorescent, and thinner; Pacific Blue is nearly opaque in one coat, but Electric Blue takes two. However, Dior's formula is much easier to work with, and while Pacific Blue chips on me insanely fast (sometimes even before the 24-hour mark), Dior wears well for about a week with only minor tip wear. I think it's worth the trade-off.
One coat each on bare nails. You can see that Pacific Blue is lighter, more opaque; Electric Blue has a bit of gravity to it and is thinner.

The difference is more obvious in two coats, here.
Two coats of each, on bare nails. Let's ignore my wrinkly looking fingers, shall we?

And here's one with flash, to show you what they look like under most lights.
Two coats on bare nails, with flash. I should have drawn faces on my fingers or something. Bah. Opportunity lost!

So while I am a bit sad that Electric Blue isn't quite as neon as Pacific Blue, I am by no means disappointed in this purchase. This is how I generally feel about "almost-dupes," anyway; if you don't have them both on your nails to compare, you can't really tell the difference, sometimes. Electric Blue is plenty blue and plenty electric, and it satisfies me immensely. Even though Pacific Blue is brighter, the wear is so horrible that I'm happily retiring it, now that Electric Blue sits in my stash. My Dior polish count is up to four! Ha!
Two coats of Electric Blue over a Zoya base coat and topped off with Zoya Armor. Glossy and perfect! This one wore for a week with minor tip wear, as well, just like the other Dior polishes I have.

Electric Blue is part of the limited edition Anselm Reyle collection and retails for $23 at Saks Fifth Avenue or Dior.com.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sweet Anthem Juliet and Elliott

Lots of "t" sounds going on there...JulieT and EllioTT. :D I'm a geek, I know.

But a geek with perfume! Bwahaha.

Anyway. I've already confessed that I have the least sophisticated perfume preferences in the world. I like light, floral, green, citrusy, sweet scents, in general (though not necessarily all at once!) and I've got a lot of them. I decided I needed variety. I want to be one of those dangerous, sultry chicks who smell like leather and erm, other manly scent notes (???) and all of that, but those fragrances just don't suit me. My nose is like "red alert! Abort!" and it's back to the fruity, sugary sweet concoctions my brain apparently loves.

In an effort to break out of the rut, when I visited Sweet Anthem's booth at the UCU in December, I deliberately tried to seek out perfumes that were different from my norm. I was surprised to find that I liked Juliet (described as a "spice" scent on the site) as well as Elliott (described as "woodsy,") as they are both from scent families that I've had limited or no success with in the past.

The descriptions are from Sweet Anthem's site; my thoughts follow. I bought both of these in a 10 mL eau de parfum format, thinking that the alcohol based version might be slightly less intense than the perfume oil. I didn't want a full-strength variation when I wasn't sure that these scents would work well on me.

Juliet: "A starcross'd love – balmy jasmine sambac flowers and orange blossoms are encircled in enchanting spices. Nips of fresh mango and a faintly glimmering sea shore lay the scene in fair Verona. (Spice)

• Head Notes: Mango, Pink Pepper
• Heart Notes: Clove abs., Jasmine Sambac, Neroli
• Base Notes: Muskwood, Tobacco"

My thoughts: Since I have an eau de parfum of Juliet instead of a perfume oil, the experience is a bit different than with other Sweet Anthem perfumes that I've tried in oil format. My initial thought is that this EDP isn't at all "watered down" or diluted because of its alcohol base; it's plenty strong. It can get a little too strong, if I'm not careful - one spritz is more than enough! I usually spray a cloud, wait a moment, and then walk through it (and then leave it lingering for S. to walk blindly into, *giggle*). On first sniff, I get lots of jasmine sambac, but the powerful floral is sweetened by the mango and the orange blossom (neroli). I honestly don't get a lot of fruity mango here, but I do get its sweetness; it keeps the jasmine sambac from completely dominating the scent and turning it into a boring white floral. I also recognize the neroli; it's a favorite of mine because it contributes a sweetness that is also almost musky, and it tempers the floral aspect well. The drydown is softer, sweeter; I get a musky, creamy, almost vanilla note out of it. The spice of the clove is there, and the floral note remains. Most scents, given a fair chance, tend to turn sweet on my skin, and this one is no different. If I'm careful and manage not to overspray, this is a very feminine and youthful scent. I have to admit that it's not one I pull out very often; I appreciate the sentiment and the complexity of the perfume, but I think I am, in the end, more Beatrice than Juliet.
Pikake lei. Image source: Sweet Blossoms Hawaii
Interestingly enough, Juliet also kind of reminds me of home. Jasmine sambac is called "pikake" in Hawaii and it is often made into very fragrant leis. Thus, the smell brings me back to Hawaii, and Juliet reminds me of the ocean, rather than the doomed Shakespearean heroine. Don't get me wrong - it's not a tropical scent, and there is nothing traditionally aquatic about Juliet. But you know how everything smells stronger, clearer, sweeter at the beach? True here. Think of clean white flowers, the spice of the salty seawater crashing foaming against smooth shores...that is Juliet.
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Peninsula. Image source: wikipedia
Elliot: "Our favorite parts of summer here in Seattle. Strolling down by the waterfront, hikes through the Puget Sound rain forests, and days down on the beach. But it wouldn't be a Seattle summer without just a hint of grunge. (Woods)

• Top Notes: Pine, Rain
• Heart Notes: Labdanum
• Base Notes: Oakmoss"

This was another risky choice, as anything under a "woods" category usually doesn't suit me. The first time I gave Elliot a try, I was a bit wary and nervous, because I really wanted it to work for me and I wasn't sure that it was going to cooperate.

As with Juliet, I spray a bit of it, wait, and walk through it, so that I don't get a full blast to the face. Even though the bottle says Elliot is "for gents," it is, of course, unisex. It is probably aimed toward men, and it does have characteristically masculine notes - the pine, the slightly resinous labdanum, the clean rain. It smells a bit spicy, a bit woodsy, a bit clean - notes I do like on men. Do I like it on me? Well, I don't object to it, although I have to say that I could probably live without the oakmoss. I know that's what the scent was crafted around, but it's not my favorite. I like the first few sniffs of Elliot, but then it grows a bit more bitter, a bit musty and mossy - exactly like the wet rainforests around here - and then I fall out of love with it. Outdoorsy men are not my type, I guess. If they are yours, though, I'd definitely give this one a try; it's multi-faceted, like those gruff, quiet hiking types who look all rugged  and bold, but have a soft spot for, say, teddy bears. And spicy, warm cookies. And you.

And then, because I know you want to know, I did make my "gent" wear it. It didn't even take too much wheedling. S. gave it a spray and mulled over it. Verdict? "I don't know, I don't like making opinions." Um. Yeah. But he said he'd wear it (which is as high a compliment as any, with him), so it's been gifted to him. I like it on him better than on me, anyhow. 

I do have to say that while I enjoyed testing each of these, trying to identify the notes and pick out the complex layers, neither of them is really me. But I think that's part of the perfume journey, you know? Even the ones you don't end up loving, teach you something.   

Sweet Anthem has all kinds of new things going on this year; Meredith has introduced "The Vault" (which is explained here) and I've already pre-ordered a spring sampler set of perfume oils (available now) - before the ban, of course! I love reading other perfume reviews, so if you try anything, please do share!  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Blog Tag!

The awesome fantastic Liz tagged me for this one, and they're fun to do every now and again (I especially like reading them!) so I decided to go ahead and do it.

The rules (paraphrased from Liz, haha):
  • Thank the person who tagged you and link back to them.
  • Share seven facts about yourself. 
  • Pass it on to fifteen other bloggers (15? 15???)
Erm, so, here we go (and we'll see if I can even come up with seven. I'm boring.)! 
  1. We'll start with a confession. Though I love books and read pretty voraciously, I admit that I have thrown books, mostly in extreme annoyance. Which, erm, scares the dog. One of the books I've thrown? Well, I'm sure you've heard of or read the Hunger Games trilogy. Yes, I read them. Yes, they were action-packed and the first one, at least, was a page turner (although I still maintain that Battle Royale is a better book and a more original idea - it is one of my favorites). However, am I the only one who finds Katniss to be one of the most annoying female characters in recent literature??? I can't stand her! If the movie Katniss is anything like the book one, I refuse to see it. Which doesn't matter so much, because they're going to make ridiculous amounts of money off of it anyway. 
  2. On that positively sparkling note, I do really like bookstores and can spend tons and tons of time in them; I used to do that quite frequently as a little kid. New books smell nice and comforting and crisp. My pet peeve about bookstores (though I've noticed it's gotten better in recent years): why are science fiction and fantasy always lumped together? They're not even close to the same thing. I can see that people who have an interest in one may have an interest in the other, but robots are not fairies. The end. 
  3. I'm a Bowie fangirl. I have a playlist called "the god otherwise known as David Bowie." *blush*
  4. I like my beats fast and my bass down low. (Okay. No, I'm not a fan. But I do like lots of bass booming in my music. I could be the person driving in the car next to you with the bass pumping way too obnoxiously loud. I'm sorry. I'm prolly swearing at you, too. I'm an awful driver). Also, I play DJ Hero on the Wii. *giggle*
  5. I love breakfast, and LOVE going out for brunch. It's the one time of the day I can also eat massive amounts of food, too, because when I wake up I am normally starving. A typical brunch meal for me? One savory dish, one sweet. So I might get a 3-egg veggie omelette/scramble + a side of pork sausage, with a short stack of blueberry pancakes. And coffee. And yes, I do eat all of it. 
  6. Worms and slugs freak me out. They're wriggly and slimey and squishy. Um. Ew. This is the only exception:
  7. Slimy! image source: Muppet Wiki
  8. However, I do find bats cute. This horrified my mum, who pointed out that bats are essentially flying rats. Well, I think rats are cute, too. Maybe not the vicious ones lurking in the sewers, though.
All right, yay! Like Liz, I would love for you all to leave me a comment with your seven facts, or do a whole post! *puppy eyes* Especially the wonderful folks on my "Favorite Reads" page ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cartoon EOTD: Make it Blue! Make it Pink!

Another Saturday, another fairy. Or handful of them. I did Tinkerbell last time and this week I'm doing two of the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty. Mostly because Tracy is doing Princess Aurora for Danielle, and I decided to jump on the train with her, ha.
image source: thisdistractedglobe.com
Why did I just do two? Well, one of the scenes that sticks in my head from this movie is when Flora and Merryweather are arguing over the color of Aurora's dress - the one they make for her. They go through "Make it pink!" (Flora) and "Make it blue!" (Merryweather) and then they end up changing each other and making a disaster of the dress - and of the situation. Remember this?
Oh well. Silly fairies. Anyhow, that was the inspiration here!
Silk Naturals Stick 'Em Shadow Enhancer*
Antoinette's Revolution Cosmetics Powdered Wigs (matte white)
Tarte Jewelry Box (base pink and blue shades)
Shiro Cosmetics A Neat Gun (blue with orange sparkles), Wheeeeeee! (pink)

Hee. It also reminds me of cotton candy. Right?
Don't forget to check out Tracy's look!

*Items marked with a star were sent for evaluation only.

Friday, January 20, 2012

This is it. Doom.

Doom! (This is his terrified vacuum face.)
Hahaha okay, I couldn't help myself. But in all seriousness, the time has come. The wedding is this year (which I'm still sort of processing, actually - it hasn't quite hit me, the gravity of this whole marriage thing) and I could use some extra money, so I need to cut the superfluous expenses (also, am I the only one who finds the word "superfluous," superfluous?). You know what that means, my pretties: a ban. But there will be rules! And structure! And also exceptions, because I still haven't found the perfect, SPF-free foundation for the wedding.

But. Otherwise, I really don't need any more stuff. I have a huge backlog of things to post about and try out, so don't worry - the product reviews, looks, color features, etc. won't stop. Here's a preview of some of the things that are upcoming:
  • Illamasqua Libido cream blush
  • Dior Electric Blue, Butter London The Black Knight, A England Camelot, Tristam nail polishes
  • MAC Neon Orange lipstick
  • MAC Narcissus cremesheen
  • MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium
  • Real Techniques + EcoTools brushes
  • more Sweet Anthem perfumes
  • skincare products
  • Sephora Hot Hues shadow palette
  • Smashbox Be Legendary lipstick
  • more Foodie Friday and Fitness Friday posts
  • FOTDs, EOTDs
I'm getting a little bit intimidated just looking at that list. See? This is why I need to cut down. I'm also going to be posting some updates on how the ban is going, hopefully to share some tips and successes along the way. I'll probably keep a running wishlist of all the things I want and am passing up, and the things I'm doing to try to keep myself from breaking the ban. Feel free to share any tips that you have, as well, and if you're doing a ban - I'd love to know about that, too!

Here are the details of my self-imposed beauty ban:
  • The ban is going from Jan. 20 (today) to June 20. Eeeeeek.
  • The exceptions are: skincare and basics; I don't want to be without sunscreen or black eye liner, for example. However, I can only replace items I'm running out of as necessary, not hoard excess products.
  • I do need to find makeup basics for my wedding. I think I want to have my makeup done by a professional, but since I have a paraben allergy, I need to prep my own kit so that I know all of my items are safe for me to use. I need a foundation that is photography friendly with no SPF or shimmer, so the hunt has begun. I also need a shade for my brows. And for my nails. I know the wedding is not until October, but I am doing this a little at a time, here and there. I want to give everything a proper test run before then! Don't want to be stuck with nail polish that chips after five hours or melty, awful foundation, right?
  • My best friend is coming to visit in March and I know we'll shop, so I'm allowing myself a small break when she comes up; still, I don't want to go nuts, so I'm going to say I can buy 2 things < $75.
  • Gift cards don't count, but there are no holidays coming up for little old me, so I doubt this is a necessary rule.
  • PR/company samples do not count.
I know there are a couple of other bloggers who are on the quest to cut down; Liz, MM, Ashley, Latoya and Tracy are all doing different bans, so be sure to keep up with them to see how they are doing!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't Want No Drama! ...Or Do We?

I wanted to do a gold smokey eye for a while now, but I didn't think I had the right colors. Turns out, I do (of course I do. Ugh. Gotta check the stash more thoroughly, more often): Bare Escentuals Eye Glimpse in Kiko, which I actually really love. On a side note...what the hell is an eye glimpse? I think Bare Escentuals' loose eye shadows have really weird names/categorizations.

The problem with a smokey eye, for me, is that I feel I need to line my lower lashline and add mascara in order for it to really work, and you know how much I hate both of those things. Getting black on my lower lashline is a chore, and an even bigger hassle to remove. Mascara just sucks, in my opinion, though I have to admit the effect is amazing. It's sticky, though, and smudges, and it's hard for me to apply because I'm a klutz and usually end up with some in my eye or all over my eyelid. But this time I just went for it - complaining all the while, of course. Here's my take on a slightly more dramatic look than the kind I normally do.
Bare Escentuals
Kiko (shimmery warm gold), Fyrinnae Fire Opal (dark coppery brown)
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-on Pencil in
Zero, Tarte matte black shade from the Jewelry Box (liner on upper and lower lashline)
Clinique Teddy Bear quad lightest shade (highlight)
Buxom mascara

The smokier, the better, perhaps, so next time I could go smokier. I just didn't want to overwhelm my face, you know? But I think I'm a little bit afraid of overdoing it, so I tend to under-do it, if that makes sense.
Chanel Perfection Lumière B20 (all over face)
Stila Natural Beauty palette (brows)
Fresh Honey Mineralize blush + MAC Harmony (cheeks)
Rouge Dior
Pisanelle Pink (lips)
My brows need work, I know. Ah, well. Such is life. It's always something, you know?

Erm, so, thanks for reading (FOTDs make me nervous, can you tell?) What do you say? Should I ramp up the drama in the eyes, pair it with a red lip - what?

The Thursday Post

Drake: Forever, feat. Kanye West, Lil' Wayne, Eminem. Pretty much an "all-stars of rap" song. Explicit, be warned. I'm not playing favorites, but you know which part of the song I love the most. Right, MM?

The bear waves! Adorable.

Underwater photography = beautiful.

I kind of love these Vanity Fair Hollywood issues.

This made me laugh, because everything is so true.

Why yes, grammar matters.

Baby sloths. In a bath.

Another good post on perfume: where do you apply it?

We had an awesome snow day yesterday; three inches of snow in Seattle makes it a snow day. That wouldn't be the case in most other places in the country, I know, but we rarely get snow here and the city's not really equipped for it. We had fun in the snow!
Dennison had fun, too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I've Learned From Fashion Blogs #4: Have Fun

You should have fun with your fashion choices. Take fashion risks! It's only clothes, after all. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Try again. Fashion should be fun (excepting work environments and office-appropriate ensembles, of course).
Sorry for the craptastic quality of the photos; it's winter here and that means nonexistent light. I don't know how the fashion bloggers do it. S. says I look like a flying squirrel in the second photo. Flying squirrels are cute, right?
poncho: Gigi and Eddie (Nordstrom Rack)
White long-sleeved shirt: GAP
Skinny jeans: American Eagle
boots: DKNY
purse: Prada

I wore a poncho. It's quite fun, actually. We were at the mall, and nobody flashed their "Fashion Police" badge at me, so I assume it went okay. I like ponchos. I think everyone should have one. They're also warmer than I thought they'd be.

The poncho is from Nordstrom Rack. My mom bought it for me when we were shopping together last year - she thought it'd be cute, and I agreed. I knew I'd wear this, but I didn't know how often I'd pull it out, so it's a good bargain buy. Turns out, it's getting getting pretty regular wear. Score one for the poncho!

On a side note, my hair. It's not my usual cut, and I've since had it corrected. The stylist I used to have moved, so when I cut my hair (after trying to grow it out again), I had a new one, and we've been working on getting it back to my old style. It's a work-in-progress, but I adore the new stylist also, so I think we'll get there. Or to something better. Hair grows out again, no biggie.

So, what about you? Would you rock a poncho? Do you think I look absurd? 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Solstice Scents: Snowshoe Pass

Solstice Scents was on my list of "companies to try someday soon," which is, erm, really long. To be honest, it was prolly on the lower end of it, because just looking at their aesthetic I was afraid their perfumes would be too earthy or dark and fruity for me. But then I saw a tweet or a blog post or something - can't remember now - about how they restocked Winter items, and Snowshoe Pass was a super seller, etc., etc. I was intrigued, so I hopped on over to the site to see what the fuss was about. Of course, this was the result of my curiosity.
I ordered a full size of Snowshoe Pass; every order gets a free perfume sample, and first time buyers get an extra free perfume sample - just leave a note in the comment box saying it's your first purchase!

I placed my order on Dec. 31, 2011, received an "order processing" notification on Jan. 2, and a shipping notification on Jan. 3. I received my package on Jan. 6. Nice, no? It came well packed with a lovely card and business card! The full size of a perfume contains ~0.35 oz in a base of rice bran oil; Snowshoe Pass was $14 but the prices seem varied, I assume because of variation in ingredient prices. The frosted blue bottle for the roll-on is nice, but I wish that the labels weren't handwritten in ink. The visual is pleasing, but I find that these rub off, especially when accidentally touched with oily fingers. I have a few Solstice Scents samples from a swap and the labels are nearly gone.

Here are the scent descriptions, taken from their website. My thoughts follow.
Full size of Snowshoe Pass; comes in a beautiful frosted blue rollerball. 

Snowshoe PassWhite Amber, White Musk, Vanilla Accord, Peppermint Cream, Cold Winds

My thoughts: I love this one even more than I thought I would; I have not been this instantly enamored with a fragrance in a long time. On my skin it is slightly smoky, like fire, and slightly creamy, and I love the white musk. It kind of reminds me of that Fireside Marshmallow candle from Bath and Body Works that I love, though it's not really the same set of notes - just a similar overall feel, with smoky candle and vanilla notes. This is much less sweet, though, and more complex. It's cozy. I don't get a clean crispness or anything very minty, though I do get notes that evoke cold winds. The peppermint stays close to my skin, which is fine; I'm not a diehard fan of minty smells. 

To me, this does feel very wintery - but warm, as if I'm settled in my warm house with plenty of blankets and a hot beverage. I'm not usually one for wearing perfume at night; once I've showered, I like to be clean and product-free (besides moisturizers and lotions and the like), but this is one I've taken to applying at night. It's my pajamas perfume. That makes it sound unglamorous, but it's so lovely. One thing though - the first time I wore it, I delightedly shoved my wrist under S.'s nose, and he recoiled. He said it smelled like incense. Later, though, after I let it dry down and mellow out some, I tried again, and that time, he said it was nice. I can't see wearing this much in the summertime, as it's a bit too...warm for that, but I am going to get a lot of use out of it until then! And let's be honest, it's not properly summer here until July, so...there's a lot of time to love this.
This beautiful postcard came with the order. Manor, one of the samples I received, seems like an embodiment of this scene to me.

Manor: Woody-Vanilla Musk, Vanilla Accord, Glorious Black Agarwood & Exquisite Aloeswood

My thoughts: I like this one on the dry sniff, but the drydown is very much not my thing. I think it's from their Autumn 2011 collection. This is the sample they picked for me (the first time sample is seller's choice, though the free sample w/ purchase is buyer's choice). The initial sniff in the vial and on the skin is smoky and sweet - like a more intense and darker version of Snowshoe Pass. Then it dries, and I get a very definite leather note. And then it becomes even darker, quite Oriental, and...I do not like it. It's a very specific smell that I recognize but can't place, and I know I'm not a fan. I suppose I am just not a sophisticate. I know two people who would probably adore this, though: Liz and Su.

Amber Rose Petals: Warm, Rich, Golden Amber Fragrance, Rose Fragrance and Rose Essential Oil.

This is the sample I chose, because I have come to terms with the fact that I usually like rose perfumes, even if they have a reputation for being granny-esque (though I don't think the ones I love are granny-esque?). However, I think I like my rose perfumes to be lighter, more youthful and ethereal. This one is dustier and darker because of the amber, as if I had opened a very old book and found dried, pressed rose petals in its ancient pages. It reminds me, perhaps, of Miss Havisham, surrounded by aged, withered bouquets of roses in her dusty room (does she have flowers? Haha, it's been a while since I've read Great Expectations. I'm not much a fan of Dickens).

So. There you have it. My clumsy attempts at describing fragrance (again). I love indie samples because they allow me to explore different scent regions and notes, and help me better define what scent families and traits I like. It's a never-ending journey! I will definitely purchase from Solstice Scents again, and in fact, I think I will try some of their whipped soaps and their oatmeal mask the next time I make an order. What fragrances have you been loving lately? Do you have a pajamas perfume?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Picks from MAC Naturally: Blush Fiend-in-Training

I wasn't initially excited by this collection (and to be honest - I've given up trying to keep up with MAC collections) but then Danielle swatched Fresh Honey and I was like *__* and raced to a MAC store to do some swatching of my own. They only had the preview for the collection out when I went at the end of December, so I wasn't able to bring anything home, but I got to try things and found out the general release date. Then I saw on Twitter that these babies were posted on the website on the 2nd, so bam! I ordered. It was bad.
You see? Bad. Clockwise, starting from the left: Fresh Honey, Early Morning, Subtle Breeze. All are mineralize blushes.

I was trying to be good, you see; when I went in to see the collection, the SA (who was surprisingly sweet and helpful for a MAC associate - come on, you know that's not the norm there) applied Early Morning on my cheeks (on top of the Dior Aurora I was wearing that day) and I was smitten, but I came home and attempted to see if I had a dupe in my stash (warning - long stories and some blush pr0n here!).

At the end of the day, I wiped off one cheek, and then tested my blushes on the other cheek to compare. (This is the important thing, I feel, as some products look vastly different in arm swatches but virtually identical on the face, so I always try to swatch on my face or my eyes or wherever the product was intended to be used when I am checking for dupes.) I even got S. to help me. I'm going to share that exchange with you because it was hilarious. The partners of beauty bloggers need to start their own club, I think. They do absorb some of the nonsense we talk about!
This was comparison 1. They don't look alike in the pan, and they don't look at all alike on my cheeks, either. Frankly Scarlet is cooler, redder; Early Morning is warmer, browner.

Anyway. Back to my comparison efforts. First, I tried MAC Frankly Scarlet, which from the pan, I thought would be slightly cooler and too red, but I tried it anyway. Verdict? I was correct - it's a cool, matte red on my cheeks and nothing like Early Morning. S. concurred. I moved on.

Next was Tarte Tipsy. I thought it might be close, but when I put it on it was obviously much peachier than Early Morning. I asked S. what he thought.

Me: "What do you think?"
S.: "No, that one's definitely darker (pointing at the Early Morning cheek)."
Me: "Yeah, you're right - it's warmer, more brown."
S.: "That's what I said."
Me: "What? You just said it was darker."
S.: "I'm a boy. Things are either darker, or lighter. Brown is darker, is it not?"
Me: "..."
S.: "Well, next time don't ask the color blind kid to help you, then." (He is partially shade-blind, actually. It's quite hilarious when we go climbing, as he can't always distinguish between the different colored tapes...while he's on the wall.)

The consensus was, they were still different. So I tried putting some MAC Harmony on top, to try to add some brown to the peach Tipsy. The color was getting closer, so I asked S. again what he thought.

S.: "That one...(pointing to the Early Morning cheek), I dunno if it's just because you wore it all day so now it's absorbed the oil in your face or whatever, but it's got a sheen to it."
Me: "Oh! Yeah! It's supposed to - they're mineralize blushes so they're supposed to have this glow to them." (I was utterly stunned that he noticed this, by the way).
S.: "Oh okay, yeah. It's there. The other one is...not...it doesn't -"
Me: "It's matte?"
S.: "Yeah! Yeah that."
Me: (Rummaging through and taking out the Laura Mercier Rose Rendezvous illuminator, applying it over the Tarte Tipsy + MAC Harmony combo): "Okay, how about now?"
S.: (peering closely at both of my cheeks): "No, this one (Early Morning) is like overall glowy, but the other one (Tipsy + Harmony + RR) has individual sparkles that you can see. It's still the one on the bottom plus individual glitter things on top."
Me: (absolutely astounded): "Huh. Yeah. You're right. Well." (Pause). "I guess I tried. They're not the same, after all! Hurray! I get to buy a new blush!"
L-R: Subtle Breeze, Fresh Honey, Early Morning, swatched with my finger. You can see that they have that "mineralize" sheen, which is glowy but not sparkly or glittery.

And, erm, well, I bought all three...*hangs head in shame.* Early Morning is reddish-brown, nothing like the weird peachy-pink description that MAC gives it, but I prefer this shade to their imagined product. It is gorgeous.
I thought maybe Fresh Honey would show up brown on my cheeks, but it's definitely orangish. Harmony is brown/rose, so they're quite different.

Fresh Honey is the second one, and I bought it because...it is orange. Orange, but not red. I like!

And then Dani made me buy Subtle Breeze. I blame her entirely. I was sitting all good with my two picks, and then she tweeted "I hope you're getting Subtle Breeze!" and I was all "Noooo...should I??? But it's pink!"
They all are, admittedly, quite different - even on cheeks. The other pinks I have are even cooler (actually...why do I have two of those?) and Subtle Breeze is a slightly warmer, rosier color.

Cue conversation between Dani and Danielle about the nuances of pink blush and how it's different from the pinks I have, and there it went, into my cart. Damnit. Liz and Tracy and Paris are proud of me, I know it. They're the big boss blush fiends!

The blushes are beautiful and I don't regret springing for all three; I feel they are actually distinctly different on my face. They are definitely powdery - when you run a stiff brush against them, all kinds of fallout happens, but I just try to gently dip my brush in and it seems to be fine. Plus, blush pans are so big, I'm not really worried about running out due to a bit of fallout, you know? They are not powdery on skin - they blend seamlessly in. The pigmentation is great and they wear all day (though I typically do not have problems with blush fading over the course of a day), and they have that nice sheen (that even S. picked up on, ha!) to them which gives me a bit of a glow. None of my other blushes have that quality, since I usually pick matte or cream blushes. I like! I also need no more blush. Ever.

Okay, so that's all I bought from the collection. I passed on both MSFs and all four lipsticks because I can't pull off corpse face very well. I'm still looking for a nude lipstick, but I swatched one that I liked from Smashbox's new line (though I forgot what it was called, eh) so I'm gonna hold out for that one. I did pick up MAC Neon Orange (this time the blame is on Tracy) and the Narcissus Cremesheen. I haven't had a chance to give either of those a go yet, but they look pretty.

Did you buy anything from Naturally or Iris Apfel?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fitness Friday #1: Bouldering

Why yes. That's me. 
So, here's another mini-series I'm doing (remember Foodie Friday? I'm going to do a few more of those too, here and there), to remind myself that I do have other hobbies besides beauty blogging. Also, I know a lot of people have new fitness and health goals, so I thought I'd introduce a sport that not so many people realize is very accessible, and a lot of fun: rock climbing.
Photo of climber Natasha Barnes. Image source: Climbing

More specifically, bouldering. That is where you climb without a rope or harness, and the greatest height you'll reach is probably no more than 20 feet or so. You can climb indoors or outdoors, and the great climbers are usually outside, working on nature's problems, but here in rainy Seattle, we're more often found in gyms. In all of rock climbing, the course you work on is called a route or a problem (generally interchangeable, although more specifically, "routes" are used to describe roped courses - where you strap into a harness and a rope and climb to great heights while someone down below belays you and keeps you from plummeting if you take a fall - and problems are used for bouldering). At indoor gyms (like in the photo above), a route is marked off with a sequence of colored tape.

The first hold - or start hold - is marked off with a V of tape, like the one my left foot is on in the top photo. The start hold usually has a description, as well, with the name and the grade - how hard the problem is. Grades start at V0, which is the easiest, and then just go up numerically in integer steps. V1 is the next hardest, and so on; S. says he thinks the hardest climbed boulder problem in the world is currently a V16. Grades vary by gym, usually; the UW indoor gym we climb at has a reputation for steeper grades. I've been climbing for about four years and climb at about the V3-V4 level; S. has been climbing for about 6 years (he is the one who got me started!) and climbs V4-5. Our gym sets routes up to about V8, max, I think, just to give you an idea of where hobbyist climbers are usually at.
Not the most attractive photo, but I was tired by this point and couldn't pose for too long :P

All of your holds are marked with the same color of tape to denote the path of the route, and then the finish is either another hold (marked again with a V), or the ridge of the wall, or the very top of the wall - it depends on the problem. When you climb indoors, generally you can only use the holds that are marked with the color of tape corresponding to the problem you are working, and your feet as well. In these photos, I'm climbing that teal problem!
image source: Evolv
These are the shoes I have! 
All you need to start climbing is a pair of climbing shoes, and all indoor gyms will rent these out to you if you don't have your own, so there's really no upfront investment if you just want to try it. You also need to pay for a day pass ("admission"), and sign a waiver, of course. Safety first, right? That's it! (No really...safety first. Only go to a gym with sufficient floor mat padding and a good reputation for upkeep. You are climbing to heights of 10+ feet without a rope and you will fall. You need a soft landing pad).

We try to go at least twice a week, for about 1-2 hours. You tackle a problem, and then take a break, so it's not like you're actively climbing for two hours straight. However, it is an intense workout - you are using your arms, your legs, your core, everything! And there are different kinds of problems, too; some are more about arm-strength, some are more about balance and finesse. It's an interesting experience and really highlights the difference between the male and female physique. Men are built with stronger shoulders and have much more arm strength; they're also top heavy and less flexible. Females have weaker arms (comparably) and our center of gravity lies in our hips, but we're usually more flexible. Which isn't to say that female climbers are junk - definitely not true. There are tons of women climbers who are arguably at the top of their game. It's an individual sport, you know?

The fact that I'm shorter than S. and not as strong means that I have to climb the problems differently - using more feet placement, or different techniques - so it keeps things interesting. I never feel inferior, really, just...challenged. It's good. When you're not actively climbing, you're using thinking about how to get further in the problem - where to put your feet, if you should make the move dynamically or more controlled, if that hold way up there is really as crappy as it looks...it's an intellectual sport, as well - as they all are.

So, what do you think? I personally am very much in love with it, which is exciting to me as I was never athletic. I hated sports as a child and I don't like competing, so team sports or competitive sports were really just not things I wanted to subject myself to. As I got older, I became more interested in exercising to be healthy, and have found things that I enjoy. This is one of them. Is it something you would try? Google rock gyms in your area! I have seen climbers of all ages at the gyms. Here are some videos of climbers, just to inspire you ;)
Lisa Hathaway.
Natasha Barnes. Watch her. It's a good one, because there are a lot of successive fails, and then she finally (at the end, after the annoying ads) sends it.
Enzo Oddo.
Two different climbers try the same problem - you can see the difference in style. Chris Sharma, and Koyamada Dai.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Thursday Post

Ryan Adams: When the Stars go Blue. The Corrs have a really lovely cover of this, and so does Tim McGraw, but his is the original. I love his music - it's damn good. Also, did you know that he's married to Mandy Moore? Bet he didn't see that coming - especially when she broke into the music scene with that awful pop-licious Candy song.

I laughed.

What the F*ck Should I Make for Dinner? (Explicit language!)

Gorgeous, glowy silhouettes. But doesn't it remind you of when Sailor Moon transformed and got all pink and glittery? No? Just me? Okay.

A good post on perfume myths.

I'm kind of loving this press release - the lipsticks and the polishes both look awesome!

I wish I had learned to play the violin. This is really cool - they ask professional violin players if they can tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a violin made in 1980.

I have a hard time swallowing a $228 price tag for a J. Crew shoe, but these are gorgeous and look so versatile. I want them.

Math geekery. I hate math (why yes, I'm a physical chemist, what of it? :P), but there is beauty - and wonder - in things like this, I have to admit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Yu-Be Foaming Skin Polish

Last year I used a Dr. Brandt exfoliator that I received free during the skincare promotion that Sephora was doing at the time. It was nice, though I don't know that it's worth the $75 it costs to buy a full version, so when I ran out, I went looking for another option.

Vijaya of Fierce Nerditude had reviewed this in the past, so I looked this one up again and decided to give it a go. It's pretty affordable, given how big the tube is (7 oz!). It's touted as a "face and body scrub," which is probably why it's so big. I usually just exfoliate my face, though, so even sharing this with S., this may take a while to go through (why yes, I make S. use a few products. Wouldn't you?); only the smallest of dabs (about a pea-sized drop) is enough for the entire face.

The scrub itself is pretty grainy, though not nearly as rough as that St. Ives stuff. It's definitely coarser than the Dr. Brandt's, though. It's not too abrasive on my skin (I rub it around gently all over my face and then rinse it off) and my skin does really feel great afterward; it's got a little bit of a glow, and feels refreshed. I use this about two or three times a week. One note - I was curious, so I watched when S. washed his face, once (I'm a creeper, I know) - and I am happy to report that yes, it does foam. So its name is not misleading. I'm not sure why an exfoliator needs to foam, but this will fulfill your foaming quota. If you have such a thing. I don't know.

The one problem I have with this is the smell. It's not extremely strong and doesn't last at all after you rinse the scrub off (thank goodness), but it's...odd. It smells kind of like plastic, but also faintly herbal, so it smells like...herbal...plastic?

... ... ...

Yeah, that's what I'm going to go with. It kind of reminds me faintly of ginseng (which is in here, and I can't stand that stuff as food/drink, even though it's supposed to have all kinds of nutritional value) and faintly of weird plasticky stuff, and I can't decide which one is more accurate. I just hold my breath, scrub my face, and wash it all off - ta-da! S. has been using this, as well, and hasn't mentioned anything about the smell, though, so it could be that I'm just overly sensitive (or he's just horrifyingly insensitive) to fragrances.
You will notice that this contains camphor. From what I could tell, camphor is FDA approved in small concentrations and for skin treatments (it's also in Vick's Vapor Rub, apparently). If you have a sensitivity, though, of course it's best to find something better suited to you. And, as always, please do your own research - I am not a health care professional and can only report on information that is already available to the public.

Try it if: You're looking for a reasonably priced facial scrub to exfoliate a few times a week. I wouldn't recommend using this more often - it is rather coarse. I do notice a change in my skin after use, so I'd say it does its job, and my skin does feel nice afterward. Not sure if I would repurchase - there are just so many other things out there, and this is probably a little more rough than I would really like.
Skip it if: You hate scented products or prefer chemical exfoliators. I don't think it's an added, synthetic fragrance - probably just a result of the ingredients - but it's a bit, erm, unique. Also, it is quite coarse, so if you want a gentler scrub, I'd skip.

$18 for 7 oz (which is huge!) online only with Sephora.