May Favorites

5.30.2013


This month's round-up of favorites is short and sweet. There's something for everyone, and I know I'll be loving each of these products throughout the summer. First up in skincare is Biafine, a rich multipurpose skin cream. I hadn't heard of this until last year when Mr. E gifted me a tube and referred to it as a French woman's beauty secret. Biafine is a cure-all of sorts: it helps minor cuts and burns heal faster, it works as an intensive hydrating face mask or a super-rich night cream, and it's the perfect after-sun lotion. It contains avocado oil and has an herbally smell, and it's a quick-fix for dry patches of skin. Another hydrator I've been loving is the Lierac Diopticalm Anti-Fatigue Eye Balm & Mask. I heard about this product from several other bloggers and decided to give it a try after finishing my Clarins Eye Contour Balm. I use this as my everyday eye cream; it's really affordable (currently $16 on Amazon here!), cooling and lightweight. Lastly in skincare is the Evian Mineral Water Spray. This creates such a fine, refreshing mist and is the perfect on-the-go pick-me-up. Plus, the minerals and extra hydration it provides are great for your skin. 

For makeup, I've been keeping my routine easy but bold and defined. Benefit's Brow Zings has helped me add natural-looking definition to my brows. I use the color "dark," and although the kit comes with a darker pigmented wax and a lighter setting powder, I mainly just use the darker wax, which is a perfect match for my brow color, and then set my brows with clear brow gel. This stuff will last ages and is easy to apply with an angled brush. One of my go-to lip colors has been the Revlon Kissable Balm Stain in "Romantic," a cherry-red color with impressive staying power. It gives the perfect red lip for the summer months. And of course, there's my newest favorite, the Bobbi Brown Lash Glamour Extreme Lengthening Mascara, which I raved about in my last post. 

My last random favorite is Pacific Organic Chocolate Almond Milk. I've been experimenting with the vegan-'til-6 plan on and off over the past week (more on this later!), so I've been drinking almond milk as an alternative to dairy and soy. This chocolate one is a healthy fix for a sweet tooth too!

The fact that it's already June is just starting to sink in, and I can't believe it! Hope you're all getting excited for the summertime!

Bobbi Brown Lash Glamour Extreme Lengthening Mascara

5.29.2013


When it comes to mascara, I almost always go for the drugstore variety. But the other day I chanced upon a 3-for-2 on all high-end mascaras, so I asked a makeup artist to suggest some mascaras that would hold a curl without clumping. I left with three different tubes from three different brands: YSL's "Babydoll," Dior's "New Look," and the item in question, Bobbi Brown's "Lash Glamour Extreme Lengthening Mascara."

Okay I confess, when I lined them up side by side, my first thought was that the Bobbi Brown one looked a lot less exciting than its gold and silver partners in crime. It wasn't love at first sight, but it was most definitely love at first flick. The formulation is meant to lengthen, separate and hold a curl, and the brush has plastic bristles and an ever-so-slight curve to its shape. My lashes in their natural state are long, straight and stubborn. With certain mascaras, even after curling my lashes with my Shu Uemura eyelash curler, my lashes fall flat in five minutes. That's not the case with this mascara, which leaves them curled with cat-eye flair all day long. This mascara also gives a more natural and "feathery" rather than clumpy look to the lashes. Even the packaging has grown on me; the tube has a weighty, metallic, understated-lux feel.

New favorite everyday mascara? I think so. My zoomed-in eye photos were a bit too freaky to include here, but I'll feature this in a face-of-the-day soon so you can see the results. And not that I'll be needing any new mascara for a long time... but I'd love to know your top mascara picks!

Sephora + Whole Foods Skincare Shopping

5.24.2013


Yesterday I visited a couple of my favorite shops for some skincare replenishments. I've stuck to a pretty strict "one in, one out" policy so that I don't convince myself I need five different products that do exactly the same thing. It's actually satisfying to use the products I have down to the very last drop... I should probably save up for an "empties" post at some point! 

My views on diet and skincare/cosmetics are very similar. In general, I look for healthy, safe and natural ingredients whenever possible. But sometimes I'll make allowances, as long as they're not super high-risk, because I can't find a perfect all-natural alternative. That said, most of what I picked up today is natural-based and free of nasties. 

I'm on my last drops of the Clarins Lotus Toner, so I decided to pick up the ACURE Balancing Rose and Red Tea Facial Toner, which was on sale at Whole Foods for $10. It's formulated for combination/oily skin and contains witch hazel, a natural antibacterial. It comes in a glass bottle with a spritzer, so you can mist it onto your face rather than applying it with a cotton pad. I tried it out and it's very refreshing, even though it smells a little strange (the one potential downside of going natural!); I think it'd make a good pick-me-up throughout the day and not just after cleansing. From Whole Foods I also picked up the ACURE Coconut + Pumpkin Extra-Hydrating Body Wash, which smells buttery, and then from a local health food store I purchased the Alba Botanica Eye Makeup Remover, which costs the same as the Neutrogena one I usually go for. 

Lastly, I wandered into Sephora in search of a mirror (I had just had my brows threaded and wanted to examine the results!) and came out with the Dr. Jart+ Premium Beauty Balm. Last year I used the Water Fuse one, and although I loved the consistency and the coverage, something in it aggravated my skin. It might have been the chemical sunscreens, which the "premium" one doesn't contain, so I'm going to give it a try. I'm on the hunt for something lightweight to replace my Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, so if you have recommendations, let me know!

I'm excited to try these out, and I plan to review them for you too. Happy Friday!

Currently

5.23.2013


Just a quick bedtime post. Today, unintentionally, I pretty much followed Mark Bittman's "vegan til 6" plan. As the name suggests, you maintain a vegan diet from when you wake up until 6ish or dinnertime, and then the cheese platter can come out. This means that you have one meal for indulgences and keep the rest light and plant-based. I tend to eat this way when left to my own devices, and I think it works well, especially if you fill up on the good stuff throughout the day and don't overindulge at night. People tell me that going dairy-free might be a healthy choice, but I can't imagine not eating brie or ice cream! Anyways, I promise I'll move on from Paris and cheese to other pleasures in life. Such as those lilacs and sweet peas in a champagne flute, and a mini Sephora/Whole Foods skincare haul, which I'll share here tomorrow after a good night's sleep! 

The Souvenir Scarf

5.22.2013


It's easy for me to explain why this scarf knotted its way into my heart. Even though at the same time, it's a bit embarrassing. Because it looks like something a tourist from the fifties would wear: there's a "Paris cafe" on one corner and the Eiffel Tower on another, and it says "Beautiful France" above a map of France in the center, and there may or may not be a cheese platter too. I couldn't pass it up.

But when it's tied up like so you can barely tell what it depicts, unless you look closely, in which case you might wonder why my scarf says "cheese" in French. It's made of light and airy chiffon that's very feminine, especially when paired with a pink lipstick like my favorite, Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick in #536 "Lucky." I like to wear it with my hair up, not stuffed into the scarf as the impromptu snapshot suggests. I need more of these handkerchief scarves for summer; they're a refreshing alternative to the oversized ones that end up stuffed in my handbag on a warm day. What this one depicts can be our little secret, non?

This Week #2

5.19.2013





ANNIVERSARY CARD, EARLY MORNING MINI CUPPA, LUNCH OUT, HEALTHY COOKING, SHE STOLE MY FAVORITE CHAMBRAY, ME AND MY ROSE, MAGAZINES GALORE, JAPANESE NOTEBOOK FOR FRENCH LESSONS, LOVE AT FIRST SPRITZ

Just a few bits and pieces from the past week, courtesy of my phone, my instagram and my trusty point-and-shoot. I like making posts like these because they remind me of all the good in a week, even when the week feels short and uneventful!  Someday I want to work up the courage and know-how to do a vlog, but for now, I'm loving photo diaries!

Weekend Reading

5.18.2013


Before presenting you with my favorite reads of the week, let's just get a small disclaimer out of the way. Yes, that thing balanced precariously on the stack of books is a holiday Starbucks mug. No way was my favorite red cup going in storage after December 25th. 

- Garance Dore's hilarious post on her eye makeup revelations had me nodding along in agreement. The story begins when she commits the beauty sin of sleeping in her makeup and wakes up looking "drunk hot." If heavy eyeshadow doesn't suit you, or if you've woken up to a Sunday morning smokey eye and thought, not bad!, you must read her tips. Don't worry, "don't remove your makeup at night" isn't one of them!

- If you want to stalk the closets of artsy, stylish ladies, head to Closet Visit for a browse around. Best inspiration ever to clean out your wardrobe and build up a collection of pieces you love.

- My sister and I spent a significant portion of our childhood pretending we were cats. When asked to draw a self-portrait in preschool, my sister drew a cat face. This article from the NY Times reassured me that this was totally normal behavior. It also has some interesting answers to why most children's books feature anthropomorphized animals. It does not explain why years later, Mr. E calls me "grumpy cat" and "mini bear."

- Akiko's midi rings are making me want to add some more to my collection! Any ideas on where to get some good silver ones?

- I'm still reading To a God Unknown, and my goal is to finish it before my next weekend reading post. In other news, this week I installed Rosetta Stone French on my laptop, and armed with a dictionary and my awful pronunciation skills, je suis prête à parler français! Is that right?! Unfortunately, flipping through the dessert recipes in Essential Pepin doesn't count as learning French. 

It's so rainy today that all I want to do is have all-day-breakfast-in-bed and continue this reading list. But I'm off to work... happy (un)weekend!

Workout Motivation

5.16.2013


The gym and I have had an on-and-off relationship for the past year. After a rather long break I've decided the excuses are over... time to renew my vows of commitment! I feel at my best when I exercise regularly. I have more energy, feel more positive and level-headed, drink more water, eat less sugar, and am a happier human being. That's more than enough motivation to get my heart racing!

I'm going to mix it up to keep things interesting. For me, working out loses its appeal when it gets boring. It helps to alternate between cardio workouts at the gym (different machines), walking/running outside, doing the 100 workout, and going to yoga. Also, workout playlists are crucial! I cannot run without music, so I always upload a peppy playlist or two to my iPhone. My goal is three workouts a week. Totally doable... I'm slipping on my Zella leggings and heading out for #1 right now!

Who else is trying to make exercise a priority? Tell me what your plan involves!

New In: Shellac + Julep Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum

5.15.2013


Yesterday I got off work early and decided to treat myself to my first ever shellac manicure. I usually chip my nails two days after painting them, but a shellac manicure dries instantly and can last for at least two weeks, so these glossy, bright red nails are mine for a little while! I've heard conflicting arguments about whether shellac weakens your nails more than regular polish. So I've decided to take preventative measures by using the Julep Might Nail & Cuticle Serum. This product contains a protein-peptide concoction that builds keratin and collagen, which keep your nails strong. According to the instructions, you apply this to the cuticle area twice daily for two weeks and then once a week for maintenance. The claim is that your nails will be visibly stronger in two to three weeks. I've been using OPI Nail Envy for the past few months, but I don't see a huge improvement in my nails, so I'm hoping this product will be more impressive! Have you tried it?

If you're thinking about shellac and concerned about nail damage, here's what I found from a little research. I went to a salon that uses CND Shellac, a brand which claims zero damage to the nails if used according to the instructions. CND Shellac also is "3-free," meaning it doesn't contain the carcinogenic chemicals formaldehyde, toluene or DPB. A few don'ts: do not go to a salon that uses drills to remove the polish, and do not try to remove the polish yourself. Also, even though shellac can be addictive, I've heard that you should take breaks to let your nail "breathe." I'll keep you posted on my shellac experience! 

Skincare Picks: Cleanse and Tone

5.13.2013


Following from my current favorite moisturizers and treatments, these are my top picks for cleansing and toning. I am quite prone to congested skin, but my skin is also sensitive to harsh antibacterial cleansers, so my goal is to achieve a deep cleanse without stripping my skin or adding anything unnecessary.

Makeup Removal: At nighttime only, I start by removing my eye makeup with the Lancome Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover. This stuff works well, removing waterproof eye makeup without leaving an oily residue, but a cheaper drugstore alternative is good enough for me. Next, I saturate a cotton pad with the Vichy Claming Cleansing Micellar Solution and use it to remove all of my face makeup. This is a great alternative to Bioderma, and in the US it's slightly cheaper and easier to find. A bottle is under $20 and lasts at least a month with daily use. Even though I use a facial cleanser, I like to use the micellar solution first to make sure I remove every trace of makeup. 

Cleansing: My current cleanser of choice is the Michael Todd Charcoal Detox Deep Pore Gel Cleanser. This is the first product I've tried from Michael Todd, and I am so impressed... apparently everyone else is too, because this product is out of stock on the website! The cleanser is jet-black (a little jarring at first!) because of the charcoal, which absorbs impurities. It creates a gentle lather, but it's not drying and it's sulphate-free, so it doesn't sting your eyes, and it rinses off completely, leaving no residue behind. The only thing I'm not thrilled about is the smell... a small trade-off when you use a product with no artificial fragrances! I use this morning and night. Every other night or so, I use my Clarisonic with this cleanser to give a deeper cleanse. Also, once or twice a week when I'm not using the Clarisonic, I swap the Michael Todd cleanser for the Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser. This cleanser has tiny beads that buff away dead skin cells. I've read that chemical rather than physical exfoliants are better for your skin, but this product does make my skin smoother, so I'll keep using this and then look for an alternative once it's finished!

Toning: aka... the step that I've ignored for most of my life. A gal I know at the Clarins counter talked me into purchasing the Clarins Toning Lotion with Iris, so I use this morning and night after I cleanse. Iris is a natural antibacterial, so this is formulated for combination or oily skin. I think it works... I'm not too sure, but I've obviously used a lot of it and my skin is happy, so I'll keep going until it's gone!

There you have it... my super simple and refreshing cleansing routine. I know I'll be trying new things soon enough, so I'd love to know what your favorite cleansers and toners are!

This Week

5.11.2013






MACARONS, RILAKUMMA IPHONE CASE, ITUNES SHOPPING SPREE, THE PRETTIEST CUPCAKE, CREPE DE FRANCE, THE FINEST CREPES IN SEATTLE, PIKE PLACE MARKET, OLD LONGCHAMP = YOGA BAG, FRENCH PHARMACIE GOODIES, THIS IS ME ON A LAZY WEEKEND

What I've been up to in my free time lately involves: spending unreasonable amounts of time and energy finding French cafes and then feasting, going to hot yoga, and making a few sneaky orders online for my Rilakumma iPhone case and skincare goodies. That iPhone case was a total steal, but I swear the price goes up every time I check to send the link to someone, so snatch it up while it's cheap, peeps! I did some shopping around Pike Place and had lunch at this hole-in-the-wall place called Crepe de France, which was absolutely delicious. Also, yesterday my sister surprised me with the prettiest cupcake ever from Trophy Cupcakes... such a doll, thank you!  And now I'm rich on iTunes, so I'll spend a good part of today listening to music and finding some new albums to purchase... suggestions welcome!

Paddy Wax Ocean Tide + Sea Salt

5.10.2013


The best candle ever to grace my bedside table is Ocean Tide + Sea Salt by Paddywax. It has a crisp, clean, subtle smell, and I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about this candle that reminds me of being seaside... but yes, that's exactly what it smells like. I think the fact that it's not sweet makes it more soothing; this isn't the kind of scent you'd get tired of easily. Bonus points for the translucent blue jar.

This candle also wins points in the health department. What, a healthy candle? While many popular aromatherapy candles are made of paraffin, a petroleum by-product that's not very healthy to breathe, Paddywax candles are soy-based with a tiny amount of food-grade paraffin. Also, the wick is cotton rather than metal-core, which can contain lead. Always good to know your candle isn't putting you at risk for anything other than a good night's sleep!

Skincare Picks: Hydrate and Treat

5.07.2013


When it comes to skincare, my ambitions sometimes get the better of me. I hear about the latest and greatest, and next thing you know I'm comparing ingredients lists and switching out one product for another. A couple of months ago, all that experimenting irritated my skin, so I made it my mission to put the "routine" back in my skincare routine. I did some research and consulted a couple of clever ladies for recommendations, and fast-forward to now: I have a step-by-step routine, full of products that have rebalanced my skin. I love them so much that I haven't even felt the urge to cast a wandering eye around Sephora! Okay, let's keep things real here...

I'll be sharing my current skincare routine in parts, starting off with moisturizers and topical treatments. Morning and evening, after cleansing and toning, I apply one pump of the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster, a serum packed with vitamin C that defends against free radicals and has a brightening effect. I follow that step with my Clarins Eye Contour Balm. I've been using this same tube for the past nine months (it's almost empty now), but it was worth the money and the consistency is perfect as a base underneath concealer. In the morning, I will next apply a pump or two of the ARCONA Magic White Ice hydrating gel. ARCONA is a natural brand based in LA; the ingredients are cold-pressed so they retain their nutrients. Magic White Ice is the lightest-weight moisturizer I've ever tried; it sinks straight into the skin and leaves a matte effect, but unlike other "lightweight" moisturizers that leave my skin tight and dry overtime, this one hydrates all day long. It contains cranberry extract, hyaluronic acid and a load of vitamins, and it also has the most incredible berry smell. 

You can use the moisturizer AM and PM, but I prefer something a little more intensive at night, so I opt for the boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil after my serum and eye cream. This is an antiaging blend of fatty and omega 3 oils, camellia (tsubaki) oil, which is calming and soothing, and rice bran oil, which is a natural source of vitamin E and antioxidants. I pat three to five drops of this all over my face and wake up with soft, dewy skin. It's suitable for all skin types, and it comes in a bright pink bottle... need I say more? If my skin is congested or has any blemishes, I will sometimes swap the Ole Henriksen serum for the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo. I use this as a spot treatment rather than an all-over cream because it's a little dehydrating. If I use this, I'll let it sink in and then follow with a few drops of the boscia beauty oil. 

You know a skincare product is working for you when you want to use it down to the very last drop. That's certainly the case with these products, and I know when they're gone I'll want them back in my life! To be continued with my cleansing and toning picks...

Weekend Reading

5.04.2013


Happy weekend everyone! I'm enjoying a sunny clean room, fresh sheets, pastries for breakfast and my Rilakkuma iPhone case, which I purchased on Amazon for the price of a Starbucks latte. Worth every penny! I was inspired by Carin at Paris in Four Months to start doing "weekend reading" posts of my current favorite reads. Here are my picks this week...

-  If you want a feast for the eyes, head to Carin's blog. Her photos make me daydream about eclair-tastings and picnics under the Eiffel Tower. 
-  Coco of The Beauty Milk wrote a beautiful post about a Becca Mineral Blush, which has got me lusting after Becca products. I've been more conscientious about the ingredients that go into my makeup and skincare products lately, and Becca products are free of nasties. 
-  My mom sent me a link to this NPR article on Japanese latte art. Too cute to drink!
-  This just in... Meg makes some great health points in her post on cutting down your sugar intake. 
-  I'm reading John Steinbeck's To A God Unknown. It won a Nobel prize, and if it's as good as the back-cover promises, I'm in for a treat. Have you read it?

April Favorites

5.02.2013


Choosing favorites has always been a little challenging for me. My favorite food as a child was apparently "everything," or (when asked to be more precise) a list including "cake, butter, whipped cream, lobster...". But for April's favorites I think I did a good job of narrowing it down to my top picks.

In the beauty department, I've been loving the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster as a post-cleansing, pre-moisturizing treatment. This product is filled with vitamin C, which brightens and protects against free-radicals that can damage collagen and cause wrinkles. The product also claims to hydrate and soothe sensitive skins. My skin drinks this up; I apply a pump onto cleansed skin morning and night and it absorbs instantly. My skincare regimen is really working right now, and I'll be speaking about the other products I'm using soon, but this one is definitely a keeper! In April I also rediscovered Benefit's blusher-bronzer "Dallas." Pale gals, don't be afraid of the brownish dusty-rose color! It's buildable and adds such a healthy glow to the skin. 

Last month I purchased two cheap thrills that have quickly become my springtime must-haves. Revlon Brilliant Strength Nail Enamel in "Provoke" might just be my favorite spring/summer nail polish ever. It's an orangey-coral color that would flatter every skin tone, and the formulation really is incredible; it lasted for days and my nails chip easily! On sunny days or when I'm looking a bit worse for wear, I don my sunglasses from Aldo, which were about $10.

Throughout April I consumed almost a whole jar of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. It's basically the healthy version of Nutella: the ingredients are pure and it has a sweet-salty flavor that goes so well on top of toast, or just out of a spoon. But it's ok, I've been exercising too! That strange chart of symbols is the schedule for hot yoga classes at the studio I joined last month. Hot yoga (basically, yoga in a studio heated to 105°F) releases tension, builds muscles and helps detox the body. I went to "Sculpt Yoga" today: an hour of strength training exercises with weights. "2 Legit 2 Quit" may or may not have been blasted. After a bedtime read of the May issue of Vanity Fair, I know I'll sleep like a baby tonight! 
 

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