Wednesday, November 16, 2016

10 Things

I want to catch up with everyone, but it has been crazy here. So, quick updates - and everyone, please tell me how you have been and any news you may have! Or, just share funny memes. We all need some hope and cheer.

1. I got a new job. It's my first permanent, full-time role (i.e., not a post-doc traineeship) in a field I'm really interested in. I'm beyond excited. I start in December. We don't have to move.

2. My birthday is next week and I am excited to go out to dinner. Also, lots of coworkers have been inviting me out to "best of luck and good-bye!" dinners and I feel so loved. It's always reassuring to know that people didn't hate working with you!

3. We're not traveling for Thanksgiving, and no one is traveling here. All set for a quiet, relaxing holiday. We're going to make trashy football food (potato skins, sausages, veggie sticks and dip), though my one concession will be homemade cranberry sauce (which I love) and pumpkin pudding (going to try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen).

4. I shopped the VIB sale (see #2). I bought an MJ blush brush, Becca poured highlighter in Moonstone, two liquid liners in black - one Sephora brand, and the other my go-to Smashbox, a Caudalie skincare set, and that little trio of BareMinerals liquid lipsticks. Fun observation: Caudalie skincare used to hate me. Now apparently it doesn't. Ch-ch-ch-changes! Milestone birthdays can be a bit of a downer, ha!

5. Last month, S and I got a family membership to EarthTreks, which is an indoor climbing gym. It is so awesome to be climbing again! I didn't suck as hard as I thought I was going to, after all this time off. I think Aerial training really helped.

6. Music on repeat: James Bay, Chaos and the Calm. Rachael Yamagata, Tightrope Walker, Jimmy Eat World, Integrity Blues.

7. The cold, dry season seems to be here. Dennison keeps shocking me with his whiskers. It's hilarious but also the worst. Sheeba doesn't seem to be as prone to static.

8. Aerie bralettes and bodysuits are the comfiest things ever. Best discovery this year.

9. Other awesome things we did lately: see Rachael Yamagata in concert again (she's amazing), have an anniversary dinner at Gramercy Tavern (also amazing), attend the Baltimore Whiskey Festival (we have new favorites!), attend the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas while they played the entire soundtrack (so cool! Such timing!), met the absolutely fabulous Gaelle,  have friends over, go out for brunch. Things we have planned: more brunch, seeing The Nutcracker next month, driving up to PA with the fluffies for Christmas.

10. One of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs. RIP, you dear man. The Civil Wars have a beautiful cover, as well.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Scents of the Week: Sweet Tooth Edition

[Products were gwp samples. No affiliate links.]

I thought that by the time I got my act together and actually wrote the post out, it'd be more seasonally appropriate for Halloween or something, but I forgot that I tend to get excited about perfume posts and pump them out as soon as I think of them.

So here is your not-seasonally-appropriate scents of the week! *applause*

These are all sweeter concoctions. Only one of them is truly gourmand, but they all tend toward sweet, and I like them. And we'll wrap with a palate cleanser, how about that?

Flower by Kenzo L'Elixir, edp
Pulpy Raspberry, Bulgarian Rose Essence, Addictive Praline, Bourbon Vanilla Absolute.
[image source]
I was afraid, because I originally liked Flower, but then I sat near someone on a plane once who was absolutely drenched in it, and I have never been able to go near it since (thank goodness I only had a very small free sample of it). This isn't really the same thing. It has a hint of that same powdery violet that reminds you of Flower, but this flanker is really quite a different party altogether. It is sweet, and a definite gourmand, but somehow, I really like it. I am normally not a fan of juicy berries in perfume, but the raspberry isn't overbearing or particularly prominent here - I get more of a powdery cotton candy, from the praline, vanilla, and rose. And damnit, I like it. It reminds me of Hanae Mori Butterfly, but I like this one better. One light spritz is more than enough to keep you smelling like a whimsical cotton candy cocktail all day (why are these all the rage?). It's so very unsophisticated, and absolutely unapologetic, and I regret nothing. I'm thinking of a bottle, although I'm not sure if I could ever get through even 1.0 oz.

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon, edp
Vanilla Bourbon. Oakwood. Tuberose.
[image source]
I like Nirvana Black a lot (I have a gwp rollerball) but don't like White at all, and the same thing sort of applies here - I like Bourbon, but don't give two figs about Rose. Bourbon is sweetly vanilla, but in a darker way than my favorite Diptque Eau Duelle - it's not as elegant or light, but it's not really meant to be. It's a darker, sultrier, more boho chick vanilla - like wearing a leather jacket over a fringed maxi at night, vs. that crisp white sheath for Sunday brunch. It's not heavily floral. 

Ralph Lauren Polo Red, edp
Red Grapefruit, Red Saffron, Redwood. 
[image source]
This is actually one of those sneaky samples I left on S's dresser. He wears Polo Double Black often (which I love on him), so I thought maybe Red might suit. It's really fruity, guys. Like, so fruity. On S the fruitiness turns a little spicy, and it's zesty-musky with the grapefruit. I don't get a lot of saffron, just a subtle something else that keeps it from teetering too far into generic man-smell territory. It's not too woodsy, so that does set it apart from the usual masculine musks. On me, though, it just smells like some explosive fruit-synth bomb, and I'm not into it. At all. S hasn't chucked it yet, and wears it occasionally, but I don't see this one being a full bottle purchase.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian: Petit Matinedu
Litsea cubeba, Lemon from Calabria, Lavandin from Provence, Orange blossom, Hawthorn accord, Musk, Ambroxan
[Image source]

Here's the palate cleanser! It's a lovely, bright "citrus wood" smell. I don't usually like lemon in perfume, because it's usually sugary sweet and reminiscent of cleaning products. Here, though, it's bright, crystal clear and clean, the very feeling that the bottle evokes - the early morning's softened sun, filtering through a window. There's a prickling wood base - litsea cubeba is an evergreen - and the ambroxan adds a subtle warmth. It's very balanced and quite linear, but in this case, I don't mind that at all, and am actually quite a fan of this one. Applied sparingly, it is quite fleeting, though, and applied more strenuously, it's a bit too woodsy, so I'm not really sure. At $215 for 2.4 oz, I'd like to be sure. I wish it came in a smaller bottle, like some of the other MFK scents. I also didn't think to smell Grand Soir, but that's on my list now, too (they were released as a pair).

So that's only four, but I thought I'd mention, as an afterthought, that Prada Candy smells different here on the east coast. It smells much more like Infusion d'Iris here - it's much more powder-iris-musk forward, and I miss my syrupy benzoin vanilla bonbon. Last year, I thought it was maybe just that the weather hadn't gotten cool enough, but right now we have delicious fall weather that is normally perfect for Prada Candy, but it just hasn't been the same. I'm really disappointed. Has anyone else ever noticed something like this?

What perfumes have you tried lately? What are you rotating in/out for the change of seasons?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Getting Cold Weather Ready with Neal's Yard Remedies Rehydrating Rose Facial Oil

[Product was provided by PR for review. All opinions are my own. No affiliate links.]
Every winter, I forget about rotating in heavier duty skincare items until it's too late - winter hits full force, and I'm left trying to repair wrecked, dry flaky skin. Never goes well.

THIS TIME, I WAS ON TOP OF IT.

(Because uh, the PR beauties are on top of it.)

Regardless. Here I am, all prepared, and you will be, too! Consider this your PSA. While you're tromping in the leaves (like Dennison, he LOVES tromping in the leaves!), and embracing beautiful, beautiful autumn, remember..
(I don't even watch GoT.)

While it's still fairly warm and humid here, winters can be brutal, and I want to be prepared in advance this year. I like to layer a facial oil in colder weather, and I've always gotten on with rose oils and ingredients in skincare, so I was really excited about the Neal's Yard Remedies Rehydrating Rose Facial Oil ($40 for 1.01 fl oz). It's targeted toward normal skin (they have an Orange Flower version that's targeted toward dry skin), but even though my skin usually tends toward the dry side, I don't feel like it's lacking. Of course, it is still warm here.

It has a pretty trim ingredient list: Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil*, Corylus Avellana (Hazelnut) Seed Oil*+, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil*, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Wax, Pogostemon Cablin Leaf Oil*, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil*, Citral, Citronellol, Eugenol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.

It's also labeled 99% organic, with other designations here on the product page (it's vegan and cruelty-free, for those of you who have those requirements). I don't shop exclusively cruelty free, but I appreciate the effort very much, and am trying to support those brands more. And, you guys, Neal's Yard Remedies has some great information on their website about ingredient transparency, what it means for them to be "99% organic," the role of "functional ingredients" (like emulsifiers), the certifications processes they adhere to...and they call out the emptiness of labels like "chemical-free." It's worth reading.

As for the product itself, I really like it and see it being a permanent addition to my regimen. The "damask rose" oil is meant to be rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and none of the carriers or additions here break me out. The scent is a pleasant herbal that doesn't linger (though it is strong initially, but that's to be expected, and I rather like these kinds of scents). The dropper packaging is sanitary and functional, with a dark glass bottle to prevent photo-degradation of the oil, and all of the packages have a bottling date. I apply 2-3 drops of the oil after serum and before my night cream moisturizer, for an extra bit of oomph, and my skin is really soft and smooth in the morning, a difference I noticed almost immediately after I started using it. I don't prefer oils for daytime use, because they can interfere with makeup application. At night, I can live with the feeling - it's initially oily upon application, as you might expect, but sinks in and the residue isn't really noticeable after a short period.

I'm really pleased with my first foray into Neal's Yard Remedies, and I'm looking through the rest of their line for other skincare products I might enjoy. The one thing I will mention, however is that in the US, you have to order through a "consultant" on their website, and I believe the consultant gets a commission. This kind of thing gives me the heebie jeebies, so I'm not sure how to feel about it. What do you think? Have you tried anything from Neal's Yard Remedies? What are your favorite winter skincare additions?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Clinique Pink Honey - A GWP Surprise

[Product was a gwp sample.]

Yeah, it's the equivalent of dogs/cats playing with the box it came in rather than the toy itself.

I ordered some skincare or something from Sephora, and one of the GWP promos was for a mini Clinique Almost Lipstick in Pink Honey. Wearable, soft pinks are the lip color family that I'm more or less lacking (this other blushing pink is a great addition, but different in texture & finish), so I figured what the hell.

Yeah, I like it.
It's pretty sheer, but emollient and actually feels rather moisturizing.

I had an Almost Lipstick before (which seems to have been discontinued); that one had a much harder texture, a bit waxy, and you could always feel it on lips. This one has a much softer texture that melds onto lips - more like a balm - and has a healthy, natural finish. There's a bit of shine, but it's not a gloss, you know?

I think it's super easy to throw on for casual days, because it's not strongly pigmented, and doesn't lean too cool or warm, so it won't clash with your blush or eye makeup in unpredictable ways. I'm also just really loving it with a simple, pared down look: clean skin, barely there eye shadow with liner and mascara, pink blush (like the FOTD here).

I'm halfway through the mini, so maybe later I might buy the full size. I'm also thinking about getting the original Black Honey, just because I've never owned it and it seems to be a classic for good reason. I wonder if the formula is the same for that? Does anyone own both? 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ilia Fall 2016: Classic Casual Lipsticks

[Products were provided by PR for review. All opinions are my own; no affiliate links.]
We went apple picking on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend; it was still warm and summery, but apparently this is the time for the Honey Crisp variety - my favorite! We came home with 21 lbs of apples. Some have been turned into breads, and apple crisp, and a pie is in the works. Baking with fall flavors has definitely put me in the mood, even though we've hit the 90s (F) again this week, and Ilia Beauty arrived just in time. These lipsticks are gorgeous. They're iterations of classic shades - a rosy, natural pink, a sophisticated mauve pink, and a drop dead brick red.
L-R: The Brides, Madam Mina, Lucy's Party

The three Fall 2016 lipstick releases are The Brides, Madam Mina, and Lucy's Party. They're housed in Ilia Beauty's signature recycled aluminum cases, and have a faint vanilla-esque "lipstick" smell. They have a waxier, harder texture and can drag a little at first, but once the bullet warms up a bit against lips, they wear beautifully. These are all shimmer-free. I call them "classic casual" because they have a really natural finish (they call it "semi-matte," but I think it's more of a semi-satin), which makes them great for both casual dates or dress-to-impress moments.

The Brides is a pretty, rosy pink - that classic "MLBB" shade, with the same "natural satin" finish that most of Ilia's other lipsticks have (see my review of Ink Pot here). It mimics your lips' natural texture - that's the best way I can describe it. Not shiny, not matte, not creamy or juicy. I'm really a fan, because I think it's hard to find this balance in other brands. The Brides is a touch on the dry side, but still comfortable to wear. Color wise, it's a classic shade that brightens my face and helps nail that "barely there but polished" look I've been partial to lately. Leans warm, but it's not too bright.
Wearing The Brides.
Next up is Madam Mina. I apologize for not being able to capture similar lighting across these photos. It would be a great nude for those with deeper skin tones - it's a rosy mauve that doesn't pull gray or too brown, thankfully. I feel like these kinds of shades age me, so I don't wear them too often, but it's nice to have a "grown-up pink" sometimes.
Wearing Madam Mina.
The last one is Lucy's Party, which is, of course, a classic red. It looks deeper in the bullet than it applies (on me, at least), and it has that same "natural satin" finish, though it's perhaps a little glossier than the other two. On me, it's a true red - not too warm, not too cool. It starts off sheer, but a couple swipes will get the color you see here. I think the harder texture of the lipstick also lends itself to only applying in thin layers. Having prepped lips can help (I like Nuxe's lip contour). I think there are a lot of great reds out there, and we all know I have a ton, but the finish, as I mentioned, is what I think sets these apart. They look and feel very modern.
Wearing Lucy's Party. Ilia Beauty 99 Red Balloons is a little more opaque, and darker.

These will retail for $26, I believe, and launch in mid-September on Ilia Beauty's website. I've waxed poetic about their Multi-sticks (here, here, and here), and I appreciate the vision of the brand. They are cruelty-free, made with USDA-certified organic products at percentages listed in ingredient labels, and are refreshingly transparent about what they are and are not (there is a way to filter by "vegan" on their shop page, and their certifications are here). I think efforts like these lend credence to smaller businesses and those looking for organic alternatives to mainstream makeup have really solid options these days.