Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Resolutions

One of my favorite things about the new year is how it always feels like a clean slate. I have a brand new year to tackle and none of last years mistakes to hold me back. Logically I know it doesn't work that way, but its a nice thought. I rarely do resolutions because I know I'll barely keep them past the middle of January, but I thought it'd be fun to list them out on the blog and maybe you guys can help hold me accountable. So here are my 2015 resolutions!

#1.) Fix my messed up sleep schedule. I'd like to blame blogging for this one but I've been a night owl since I was a teen. It's actually almost 3 in the morning as I right this, which is both hilarious and sad. I need to start sleeping eight hours a night, no more 4 hour nights with a pot of coffee for breakfast.

#2.) Get back to queuing up blog posts. During the summer I got really good at writing several posts at once, to the point where I was only writing once a day. I was doing less posts then yes, but I really need to get back into having at least a two day buffer for days I hit an unexpected snag and don't have time to write.

#3.) Work out more. I'm pretty sure this is everybody's resolution, but I want to do it anyways. Before I developed cancer (have I talked about that yet? If not, oops! I'm fine, don't worry) I was in amazing shape. Like 6 pack abs and could run a 4 minute mile easy. Then cancer, 3 major surgeries, and a baby later and I'm a bit squishier than I'd like. I'm not fat and I like my body, I just want it to be strong and tough again. So back to running and weight training is my goal. In the mornings, hence resolution #1 being so important.

#4.) I want to get better at being a blogger. I've got a pretty good gripe on the whole writing thing but I want to become a professional blogger instead of a casual blogger and to do that I need to step my game up. My social media skills need an overhaul for sure and I'm planning on doing some YouTube videos to bring an extra dimension to the blog. I will be redesigning the layout of my actual blog sometime in January, so keep an eye out for that.

#5.) And lastly, I need to let myself off the hook and just be nicer to myself. I'm to negative with myself and to focused on my failures, it is really draining emotionally. I have incredible patience and empathy with other people but I'm kind of an asshole to myself. So 2015 will be the year I'm actually nice to myself.

Those are my resolutions, none super hard minus the actually sleeping one. Is anybody else doing a resolution list? Share them below down in the comments, I'd love to hear them. Happy New Year everybody, let's go kick 2015's ass!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

At Home Seaweed Body Wrap + InstaNatural Seaweed Powder Review

*I received the Seaweed Powder free for testing and reviewing purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and freely given*

Growing up, I always thought the fanciest thing you could do was go to a salon and get one of those full body wraps. Something about them always seems so luxurious and pampering, so when I got my first job I decided to treat myself to one. Until I saw the price tag that is. Holy lip balm on a stick those things are expensive! So a few weeks ago I received a GIANT tub on seaweed powder to test out and review and guess what was on the side of it?!?! Instructions on doing a seaweed body wrap! I may have been more excited than is normal, but that's ok. So today I'll be walking you through the steps of doing a seaweed body wrap at home and reviewing this product, so a bit of two birds one stone.

First though is a health warning. If you are allergic to iodine or iodine products you cannot use this product. I did not know this but apparently seaweed is a natural source of it, so please avoid it if you are allergic to it. The tub also said not to use the body wrap recipe if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or susceptible to heat. And my own personal warning that if strong smells bother you or make you ill, this may not be a great product for you. It smells like seaweed (duh) times 100, super strong smelling, so keep that in mind. My husband wouldn't come near me while I did this, but it didn't really bother me.

To do this tutorial you will need:

  • InstaNatural Seaweed Powder
  • Warm water
  • Olive oil
  • Saran Wrap
  • Bowl, measuring cup, measuring spoon, mixing spoon
  • Large flat paint brush

First, measure out a cup of the seaweed powder and place it in a medium sized bowl. I used glass because I wasn't sure if the stuff would stain a plastic bowl or not. Be careful, the powder is very fine and will puff up at you when you open the safety seal or sneeze while measuring it out.

Now you are going to add enough warm water to create a thick paste. This actually took a lot more water than I thought it would, probably three times as much as I thought I would need. And no matter how much I mixed it I never could get it smooth. I actually added more water later, and that helped so I think next time I do this (only once a week) I'll thin it out some more. And yes, I know it looks like split pea soup.

Now you are going to add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to it. This helped smooth it out a bit and I assume will help make my skin really soft. Mix it really well

Now comes the fun part, or not so fun part depending on how you feel about covering yourself in a thick green paste. You are going to apply it with a brush in long, smooth, upward strokes, making sure to completely cover the skin.

This was the step that I realized it was still to thick, so thinner is easier to apply. The bottle suggests applying it in the bathtub to avoid messed but I never really had any drips. This felt really weird, looked super weird, and smelled super weird.

Once you are done painting it onto your chosen area you get to saran wrap it! This not only keeps it on your skin but traps heat in and makes your pores open up. Saran wrapping myself was hilarious, I'm not going to lie. And yes I have socks on, it's like 20 degrees F here right now.

Once fully saran wrapped you are suppose to cover the area in warm clothing to increase the heat retention. I used my new snowman socks and some sweat pants. This recipe makes a ton, I did both lower legs and my stomach and barely used half of what I made. I'm pretty sure you could do both full legs, arms, and your stomach easily with this recipe. So now that you are a wrapped up green monster you get to sit around for about 20 minutes before you get to wash it off.

I'll use this as my chance to talk about the actual product itself. This is a huge tub, 1.5 pounds of certified organic kelp, so it will last you quite a while. It comes with a few different recipes for face masks and this body wrap, and I've already thought of a few other products I can use it for. I'm really happy with the quality of the powder, there's nothing in this tub but the dried seaweed powder. It being organic makes me feel better about wrapping my body up in it, I don't think I'd be willing to do that if it wasn't organic to be truthful. 

InstaNatural is a brand I really like and generally trust as well, I think I've only found one product by them I did not like at all. They seem to strive towards giving you really great products with good ingredients and are decently priced. This whole tub is currently $21.95 with free Prime shipping on Amazon, which is a seriously good value I think.

You probably want to know what I thought of the results once I finally rinsed this stuff off huh? On my legs I didn't notice a huge amount of change. They were softer yes, but not more than using one of my sugar scrubs would cause. Where this stuff blew me away was when I washed it off of my stomach. I have stretch marks from my pregnancy and lots of scars from 3 major surgeries, so my stomach is kind of a mess. This actually made a HUGE difference in the visibility of my stretch marks. Like so much so I stood there just staring for a while. I can actually tell exactly where I stopped painting it on, there is that much of a difference. I will for sure be doing this once a month or so on all of my stretch marks and maybe by summer they'll be completely done. I am giving this two thumbs up for sure!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Quilted Mani Monday

Hello and welcome to the very last Mani Monday of 2015! The holidays are almost over (thank god) and I am sooo ready to get back to my regular schedule. Today's manicure is actually a last minute change from what I had planned, a few bottles of nail polish got lost in the Christmas chaos and of course they were the ones I needed for my planned manicure. So today's is a manicure that I was going to do in the Spring sometime, so it is NOT a holiday themed one at all. I've always really loved how quilted things look so this is my attempt at a quilted manicure.

To do this manicure you will need:

  • Base color. I used a robin's egg blue Ulta brand polish called Mint Condition.
  • Black polish. I'm using a black by Sinful Colors called Black on Black.
  • A dotting tool or thin brush.
  • Clear top coat. Again, I haven't replaced my ELF top coat but I just ran out of polish remover so I'll be going to Ulta this weekend for sure.
  • Nail polish remover and cotton swabs/q-tips to clean up the edges.

Step one as always is to apply your base color. I like 3 coats typically, it seems to give me a cleaner and smoother base to work with. Let this dry completely before you move onto the nest step.

Next, use your black polish to paint short and thin dashes doing at an angle across your nail.

Do a second row a little bit above the first, then a third row if you have room. Let them dry a bit before moving onto the next step.

Now do the same dashes going in the other direction, creating a dashed grid on your nails. It looks best if none of the lines touch but it'll happen so don't stress it. You mainly just want to keep everything evenly.

 Do as many rows as you have room for, I found most of my nails only had room for two rows in each direction.

Repeat on all nails, top with your clear coat, then clean up your edges. This isn't a hard manicure technique wise, but keeping everything thin and even can be very difficult. And keeping it even across all five nails takes a ton of skill, so please don't stress out if you don't get it the first or even tenth time. If they look good to you then they are good enough.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tutorial Tuesday: Peppermint Body Scrub

Sometimes I pick things for Tutorial Tuesday because I think they are neat and I want to share them and sometimes I pick things because I needed to make some anyways and it's a little "two birds, one stone". Today's Tutorial Tuesday is a little bit of both. I wanted something Christmas-ish AND winter has hit in full force where I live so my skin is gross and dry. A peppermint sugar scrub fit perfectly, and it's super easy to do for those who are looking for a last minute gift.

To do this tutorial you will need:

  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • Oil of some sort. I used Olive Oil because that's what I had on hand but an almond oil would be great for this instead.
  • Peppermint essential oil. I'm using one by Pure Body Naturals (I did receive this bottle for free for testing and reviewing purposes, full disclosure and all.)
  • Bowl and spoon for mixing
  • Container to store finished product in. I'm using a handy dandy mason jar as always.

First, measure out your half cup of sugar into the bowl. Check it for any clumps, mine always seems to have a clump or two, part of living in the Pacific Northwest I guess.

Decide how wet you want your scrub. I personally like a drier scrub so I drizzled my oil in until I reached my desired level, maybe 1/4 of a cup total. For a wet scrub you can use a half cup of your oil instead. Mix them up so the oil is evenly distributed.

Now add 15 drops of peppermint essential oil. I chose peppermint for two reasons, one is candy canes are an iconic part of Christmas and the second reason is peppermint is really good for nausea. The holiday season can be VERY stressful and I always get a raging case of what I call "stress belly", so sniffing peppermint or drinking peppermint tea always makes me feel better. So there's some therapeutic aspects to this scrub as well.

Mix everything up and place in your container of choice and you are completely done! If you are giving it as a gift you could buy some red soap dye and do half red and half white them pipe it into your jar so it looked striped like a candy cane. But since this is for personal use I'm not bothering to make it look fancy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Presents (Manicure) for All!

Hello and welcome to this week's Mani Monday! Its the Monday before Christmas so I thought a present manicure would be perfect. This uses the Homemade Nail Decals method, you it is super easy to do on your off hand, which I know can be an issue for most people. Plus it makes this an easy manicure to do that can be prepped ahead of time.

To do this manicure you will need:

  • Base nail color. I used an ELF polish in red to keep it extra festive
  • Ribbon color. I used a Sinful Colors polish in a sparkly gold.
  • Clear top coat
  • Parchment paper
  • Sharp knife
  • Nail polish remover and q-tips or swabs

First, paint a stripe of clear polish on the parchment paper. Make it nice and thick, review the link above if you don't remember how to do this technique or are new to the blog. I made mine bigger than I needed in case I needed to redo my decorations.

While the clear polish is drying, paint your nails the base color you chose. I always recommend 3 coats to make sure it is nice and opaque, but that will really depend on the polish you picked out. Let this dry before moving onto the next step.

Paint a chunk of your clear stripe with your ribbon color. If you have a sheer color like my gold I recommend doing more than one layer. I did a chunk about an inch wide just to make sure I would have enough stripes to do one hand.

Paint a little bow on the other end. A simple one is made with two little ovals and two little lines coming out of it. Again, if you used a sheer color do a second or third layer on the bow. 

Once everything is dry, use your sharp knife to cut a thin stripe out of the chunk of ribbon color. Using pointy tweezers makes this 100% easier but you can do it all by hand. Place a thin coat of clear polish on the nail you want the bow on (I did my ring finger) and lay one stripe across the middle going from left to right.

Cut out another stripe (try and keep all stripes close to the same thickness) and place it in the middle of your nail going from base to tip. This should create a cross on your nail, don't worry about any overhang we will deal with that later. Place your bow where the two lines cross, making sure to put another thin layer of polish underneath it. This acts as a glue and helps the layers to bond.

Using the remaining ribbon chunk, cut a stripe for each nail and place at an angle going across your nail. I tried to keep them in the middle of my nail but don't stress it. Once they are all placed top with a coat of the clear polish on all nails. Let this dry then use a q-tip or cotton swab soaked in nail polish remover to clean up the edges. If you let it sit on the overhang for a second they will dissolve right away. Repeat on your other hand then sit back and marvel at your amazing manicure!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

ELF HD Lifting Concealer

Eyes Lips Face (aka ELF) Cosmetics is a company I've talked about quite a bit on this blog. They tend to be fairly low prices ($1-$3 on average), and for the most part their stuff is decent. I say most part because some things are complete and utter crap, like the mascara and the liquid eyeliners. They use to only be available online but now they can be found in tons of stores, including my local 7-11. The availability in stores is great because ordering from their site is a horrible experience. I've ordered 3 times from them, each a large order, and had massive issues with delays, missing products, broken items, the list goes on and one. Sometimes they send you random things you didn't order as well, which can sometimes lead to finding a new product you love.

The HD Lifting Concealer ($3) is one of those mystery items that showed up instead of what I actually ordered (and never ever received by the way, ended up getting a refund on those items). I actually hated this the first few times I used it till I finally figured it out. This isn't a cover your acne sort of concealer, it really works best to cover your dark circles. This is a slightly yellow based concealer, so you really don't want to use it to cover up anything other than dark circles.

I actually really like this concealer, but there are some tricks to using it. You must apply it under your foundation, otherwise it looks really unnatural. It spreads really well so a little goes a long way. And never ever try to use the applicator to smooth out the concealer, it won't be pretty. Trust me on that. Use your finger to smooth it out and blend the edges, let dry for a bit then dab your foundation over top. Set with your powder of choice and nobody will know that you were up all night for the third day in a row.

I have seen this item at my local Targets, and I heard all Old Navy's will start carrying them as well, so you should be able to find them really easily. I haven't found an under eye concealer that works as well as this does, and honestly with a $3 price tag I'm pretty happy with it and won't be switching over to anything else.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekend Tips and Tricks

Try not to panic, but this is the last weekend before Christmas! If you are anything like me you have a million things to do still and have little to no time for yourself. Here are some tips and tricks to help you run a little smoother.

Tip #1: Dry shampoo is your best friend on those days you really don't have time to shower. Spray on your part, on your left and right side part, and on the front of your hair (like if you had your hair in a pony tail) then rub it in. Fresh looking hair in just a minute.

Tip #2: A white eyeliner placed along your bottom waterline and the inner corner of your eyes can help brighten up your eyes and make it look like you actually got 8 hours of sleep when you only got a few.

Tip #3: Hair frizzy but you are no where near home? Put a little bit of lotion on your hands and use that to smooth out any fly aways and tame that fizz. Just don't go overboard or you'll look like you lost a battle to a bottle of cheap hair gel.

Tip #4: No matter how desperate you are, never use markers (even non-toxic) in place of lipstick. That's just nasty and is not meant for your skin. Keep a tube of lipstick in your bag or drawer instead for those impromptu after work get together.

Tip #5: Tinted moisturizers are quicker to apply and don't require the blending most foundations need, plus they also typically contain SPF so they do several things at once. This can save you several minutes at home or can be applied in the car fairly easily (no judging, we've all been there).

Friday, December 19, 2014

December 2014 Birchbox

Of all the packages I typically get a month, Birchbox is my favorite. It really is like Christmas every month,minus the relatives causing drama and your pie not turning out perfectly. For those who don't know, Birchbox is a monthly beauty subscription program. For $10 a month you get an average of five deluxe sample sized higher end beauty items delivered straight to your door. I've been doing it since September and I love it. Even when I get a not great box, like last month, I'm still really happy that I'm a subscriber.

This month's theme is "Decked Out", and is all about being festive and party ready. As a cool little bonus gift to help you get in the celebrating mood all subscribers received a $10 gift card to the GAP, which minus technical difficulties was a really cool little surprise. I'll be popping in probably this weekend now that I have my code (the GAP website was having issues getting the codes to people) to pick myself up something, and by myself I mean get my son something because that's how it almost always works out.

The actual box this month is super pretty, I love when they do special boxes like this. I keep all my boxes anyways for storage options but this one is so pretty I'll have to find something extra special to do with it. I actually received an incredible 7 items this month, not counting the gift card, so this month is soooo making up for last month. Technically two of them were bonus items but I got to review them and get points so I'm counting them.

These packets of shampoo and conditioner are my "bonus items" (they go with the hair spray I'll talk about in a second) and are by the super fancy brand Davines. They are apparently a salon brand, and I had never heard of them before but I tend to avoid high priced places like salons and spas. I'm a $5 a bottle kind of girl, so when I saw the prices for full sized bottles I almost had a heart attack. A bottle of shampoo is 250 mL and is $25.50, whereas the conditioner is only 150 ml but still $25.50. These are suppose to plump up your hair and make it full and soft and awesome, which it did, but for $25 a bottle it better turn them into pure gold. For maybe half the price I'd consider buying them, but they are just to expensive for my budget. My sample of shampoo has a value of $1.22 and my conditioner had a value of $2.04.

The actual hair item was this really interesting hair spray stuff by Davines. I use and love hyaluronic acid for my face, so when I saw in the sneak peaks that this was a hyaluronic spray for you hair I was super hoping I'd receive it. This is suppose to plump up and compact your hair, which sounding intriguing. I think by compact they mean reseal the hair follicles but I could be wrong. One treatment is suppose to last through a whole week of hair washings, so this sample should last me a while. According to Birchbox this use to only be available to professionals, so that makes it extra exciting. I've only had one treatment so I haven't seen a big difference in "plumpness" but my hair is way shinier than usual so I'm pretty happy with it. The major issue I have with it is the smell. You know that really sharp chemical scent most salons have? That's exactly what this stuff smells like. It fades obviously but can be a bit overpowering for a while. A full sized bottle is 100 mL and is $39.50 (ouch), making my 50 mL sample size worth $19.75!! That's almost twice the value of the box right there, and as I said this should last me forever since it's a once every week or two sort of thing.

This was another sample I was hoping for just because I'd heard so many things about the scent. This is a Essentiel Elements shower gel in the scent rosemary mint, and you either love it or hate it from all the other reviews I've read. I personally love it, the smell is super refreshing and really kicks you awake in the morning. I'm actually going to try and recreate the scent for some bath bombs after the holidays, they'd be perfect for next time I'm sick. As far as the actual shower gel goes, it lathers really well and didn't dry my skin out, so a win in my book. It is expensive compared to what I normally spend on shower gel, so I doubt I'd buy more buy I will enjoy it for sure until I run out. A full sized bottle is 8 oz and retails for $19, making my 1.5 oz bottle worth $3.56.

This was another sample I was interested in trying because where I live it gets very cold, very dry, and very windy during winter months. This product was created in 1957 by a Japanese pharmacist to replace the petroleum based products that were so popular then and it a favorite among mountain climbers and snow sports people in Japan for protecting their skin against chaffing due to the wind and the cold. Last winder my toddler's cheeks became so chaffed it looked like I took a cheese grater to them, so as soon as this arrived I started using it on his face. So far I've been really happy with this product and I will for sure be buying a full sized one next month. It does smell strongly for a minute or two due to the camphor in it, but to me it smells just like carmex so I don't mind it. A full sized tube is 1.25 oz and retails for $16, making my .10 oz tube worth $1.28.

I'm an odd duck, I'll wear just about any shade of lipstick but I only really wear black eyeliner. So I'm not to sure about this eyeliner from Sum!ta. The brand is a really nice one and I'd be doing a happy dance if I received a black liner from them for sure, but I'm just not sure of my color. It's called Jaipur (gold), and is more of a burnished gold than a gold gold. It's actually not listed on the color list on, so not really sure what's going on there.

It isn't an ugly color at all, I wear jewelry this shade quite often and it looks good against my skin tone, but I just don't know how to wear it. I may consult a makeup artist friend and see what she thinks. It stayed put pretty well for a pencil liner when I tried to rub it off, and is just the right balance of hard and soft, so it is obviously a really nice brand. A full sized one is 1.6 grams and retails for $11 (comes in ten different colors according to BB), making my 0.7 gram sample worth $4.81.

My last item is actually one I have to call bullshit on. This is a BB cream/mineral sunscreen by Coola, which is a nicer brand of sunscreen I guess. It's suppose to give you a matte tint, so sounds awesome all around right?

I stuck a bit on my hand to test out the color and it blends out to clear. Like, there was no evidence that I had makeup on my hand at all. It super reminds me of my Dr Brandt primer, looks colored but blends clear and gives you a sort of velvety look. This is not a BB cream, I'm sorry. Not even close Coola. Unless your skin is flawless you'll have to top this with an actual foundation if you want to hide your imperfections (or holiday related stress breakout). My tube is also basically empty I discovered as I was writing this post. I will get maybe two full faces out of what's actually in the tube, which really pisses me off. The tube itself is a good size, I was really excited, so now I'm doubly annoyed at it. I will never buy from Coola because of this, I hate being lied to. Use a smaller tube if you want to include a tiny sample, don't stick a teeny amount in a big tube to look better. A full sized tube is 1.7 oz and retails for $36, so my 0.17 oz tube is worth $3.60.

All total my box had a value of $36.26, which is crazy high! That's over three times what I paid for it, and that's not including the $10 gift card to the GAP or the $7 in Birchbox points I received for reviewing everything. Minus the Coola I am really happy with my box and it more than makes up for my last box. If you want to sign up for Birchbox here is my referral code, I love Birchbox and cannot wait till next month to see what we get!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Hello and welcome to another Thursday Thoughts, a weekly link up I participate hosted by Ramblings of a Suburban Mom. Let's get started!

I am so sorry for not posting a blog yesterday, there was a sudden shift in my work schedule due to a medical thing so I've been a little busy and just did not have time to write it. Today and tomorrow will be busy work days as well so expect shorter posts this week. Very glad I have all of next week off, I want to do some serious blogging.

My Birchbox came this week (yay!) and I just had to share how gorgeous this month's box is! I save the boxes anyways to store stuff in, but this one would be to pretty to toss even if I didn't keep them. If you guys save your boxes what do you use them for? I've seen some really cool DIY projects done with them, has anyone attempted them before?

If you follow me on Instagram you saw this already, but after the first of the year I am going to start doing some vlogging on YouTube! As of right now it'll be just a video every week or so, but it should be fun and will be a good step forward for my blog. But like I said, this won't happen till after the first of the year.

I got another VoxBox from Influenster, this time it was a box full of Hersey's Kisses to make cookies with. I bake a TON, especially this time of year, so this was a really nice surprise. This is the third "box" I've received from them, the last one was a ear thermometer to use on my wee munchkin and the very first one had lots of different things in it like makeup, kleenex, neosporin spray, and other random stuff. I really enjoy Influenster and can't wait to make some cookies!

This is my "giant box of stuff to finish or make a huge dent in" update. I'm basically done with everything I think I can use up before the end of the month minus a primer that has maybe 2 uses left. I *might* finish a lip balm but that'll be it for empties from the basket. I am making a serious dent in some things, like an eye gel and this eyeshadow palette. Hitting pan on something is so satisfying, especially when it's something that normally takes me forever to use up. I think for January I will do another challenge of some sort, I'll post about it in my December empties post.

And that's it for this week. Next Thursday is Christmas so I may not have a Thursday Thoughts up, I haven't actually decided yet to be truthful. I'd like to wish my Jewish readers a happy Hanuka and I will see you guys tomorrow!