Thursday, June 30, 2016

Project 13 Pan 2016: Halfway Update

Similarly to my progress on Project Pan That Palette, I'm quite happy with how my current Project Pan is going. I have worn make-up a lot more often the past two months (due to working and socializing more, as well as using my products during our two week holiday), and I think it shows in the results. Here's a flat lay of all 13 products from the beginning of the Project two months ago, in May:
And here's a current shot:
Now let's talk about my progress on each individual item and how I'm doing on my goals stipulated in the Intro post (here):
1. MAC Blot Powder in Medium. I've expanded the pan but not as much as I would have liked. You may be able to see that I've been concentrating my brush in one area mostly and there's a definite dip showing, so my goal is to further expand my pan there in the next two months. I don't think I'll be able to use this entire powder up by the end of the Project.
2. The Body Shop Honey Bronzing Powder in 02 Fair. This again is moving, but moving slowly. I also picked one side of the compact to focus on and there is progress there, but there's no way I'll be finishing this entire bronzer up in the next two months. My deep down motivation to include this product was to toss it at the end of the challenge and replace with a new product, but now that I've been using a bronzer every single day, I don't think I'm much of a bronzer person. I like to wear one occasionally, but definitely not all the time - and since I have two more bronzers aside from The Body Shop one in my stash, I definitely don't need to purchase another one for my collection.
3. Buxom Full-on Lip Cream in Cherry Flip. I've been working quite hard on this and there's very good progress - I'm definitely on the way to finishing it all up in July and August.
4. OPI Nail Lacquer mini in Red Lights Ahead... Where?. Decent progress here but I could have done better - this is just three applications, one mani and two pedis. I would have liked to wear it more on my finger nails, but I don't like matchy-matchy fingers and toes, and it's all I've been wearing on the toes in May and June. Hmm. It is getting thicker though so it should be done in two months either way.
5. Giorgio Armani Rouge d'Armani Sheers in 301. I'm anticipating trouble on this lip product - even though I made alright progress so far, the formula of this lipstick is so thin that it doesn't go down as quickly as most other products with thicker textures, like Revlon Lip Butters for example. That's okay though - I still really like it so I don't mind having a small nub left at the end of the Project.
6. Bite Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencil in Sablé. Really good progress and I'm certainly on track to finishing it all up by the end of August. I'm still really liking this shade although I think it's better suited to the cold season when my skin is at its palest. I sometimes like pairing this nude lip pencil with a slightly darker mauve lipstick, or a MLBB gloss to give it more depth.
7. Pixi Beauty Endless Silky Eye Pen in Black Noir. Again, great progress and should be very easy to finish the rest off in the near future - especially that I can't sharpen these pencils all the way down. I'm still enjoying this pencil but it's better suited for the upper lashline than the waterline - it smears in the outer corner for me when I tightline with it, so I won't be replacing it once I run out.
8. NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Taupe. Woohoo, all done! I quite liked this eyebrow pencil for its precision, but the past week I've been using eyeshadow in my brows instead and I think I may like that softer effect a bit better than pencil.
9. Laneige Cushion Concealer SPF30 in Light*. I could be doing better on this concealer but there were two weeks when I haven't touched it at all, so all things considered my progress is fine. I'm still not a huge fan of this product: I like that it's lightweight and melds into the skin seamlessly (I can even use it alone on bare skin on days when I can't be bothered with foundation), but it never sets and moves around a lot during the day unfortunately.
10. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly. Despite using this nearly every day, there's not much progress to be seen here. Yeah, so maybe it wasn't the best idea to put this product in my Project - I don't think I'll actually be able to use it all up in the next two months. I don't know how some people can use up a concealer like this in just a few months; I have to use it very sparingly or else it looks heavy and cakey on my face. Anyway - I'm still doing my best.
11. Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 31 Ivory. My progress is more or less what I expected it to be. Even though I wore foundation on more days than I usually do, I use very little for each application, so I'm not flying through this tube. My plan is to try and use a bit more and see if that helps to use it up faster (my initial goal however was to use up 3/4 of the tube, not the whole thing).
12. Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer. It seems that I'm right on track to finishing it all up by the end of August. I think this product works all right but I wouldn't repurchase by any means - it has also separated a bit in the bottle and I can't mix it back up.
13. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Just Beige. Slow going on this one - I'm using it every time I wear make-up but these Maybelline Color Tattoos are very difficult for me to use up. Either way, it's drying out more and more, so I'll be tossing it at the of the Project.

I'm content with my results so far and I haven't been feeling too terribly bored or constrained by my choice of products - and I think that once I use a few more items completely up, it'll be fun to play around with adding other products from my stash into the mix and coming up with new color combinations. I find it interesting how by panning a contour powder in my first Project Pan this year, and now a bronzer in my second Project, I have completely lost the interest in purchasing more products in those categories. I found that while I consider blush to be a must-have for me, bronzing and contouring is just not essential and doesn't even look all that great on my fair skin most of the time. I think realizations like this are the biggest reason why I do these panning projects - it's just fun to know your individual preferences and taste a bit better and adjust your make-up routine accordingly.

How are you doing with panning your make-up? Have you discovered anything new about your likes and dislikes in the process? I'd love to hear about that!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Project Pan That Palette 2016: Update #3

It's hard to believe, but I have now been using ONE eyeshadow palette for six months straight! That's half of the year gone wearing the same palette day in day out. I mean... Wow. But yes, another two months have passed, and I wanted to show you my progress. Just to recap, here's how my theBalm Nude'Tude Eyeshadow Palette looked like at the end of April:
My palette after 4 months of use, April 2016.
At that point, after four months of use, I had hit pan on three shades: Sassy, a pearly white, Stubborn, a light pink, and Selfish, a greyed taupe. I also had some dips going on in Snobby, a pale yellow, and Sultry, a warm medium brown - as you can tell, I'd definitely been staying within the lighter half of the palette, which isn't surprising considering my fair skintone as well as my opinion on some of the darker shades in this palette, expressed here. Now here's how my palette is looking today:
My palette after 6 months of use, June 2016.
MOAR progress! I have now also hit pan on Stand-offish, a metallic champagne, and Sultry, my matte crease shade. I have also further expanded the pan on Sassy, and have good dips going on Snobby, Schitzo and Serious. To be honest, I think I'm just milimeters away of hitting pan on the matte black, which I use to either darken my lashline or set my black pencil liner. I have also sporadically used Stubborn, the light pink shade, but the pan hasn't moved really, and I have not touched Selfish since hitting pan - it's not my favorite taupe in general, but I also haven't been feeling very cool-toned eyeshadow looks.

My plan for the next two months is to hit pan on Snobby, Serious and Schitzo - although I feel that this last one will be a bit of a struggle because this shade is firmly pressed in the pan and also has great pigmentation. I would also like to expand the pan on Sassy, Stand-offish and Sultry, and deepen the dip in Sexy, a matte burgundy. Even though I use Sexy multiple times a week to darken the outer corner of my eyes, this shade is pigmented and hard pressed in the pan, so my progress is very slow.
And there you go! My current feelings about panning this palette oscillate between 'OMG, I've never hit pan on so many eyeshadows in my life!' to 'Why the f*ck am I even doing this'. I have realized that there's no way I'm going to finish this palette within the span of a year - I don't even think I would empty it completely within two years. I'm not sure how other 'palette panners' do it, but I just don't use that much eyeshadow in one application. And I'm certainly not going to rock smokey eyes for four months just to use up the dark shades in my palette.

While I'm okay with not finishing the palette and simply putting in my best effort instead to see how far I can get, I often question my motives to continue this Project. I have a lot of eyeshadows I like better than this palette that I have not touched in 6 months, because I'm stubborn like that - once I decide to do a panning project, I want to do it the best I can, even if I would rather wear different products, or a different style of make-up altogether. On the other hand, I'm glad I've embarked on Pan That Palette this year, because the project has very effectively quenched my interest in new eyeshadow palettes, as well as taught me valuable lessons about my own preferences when it comes to eyeshadow. So there's that - I do think it was worth it - but am I still learning new things now, after 6 months of panning? I'm not so sure.

So these are the thoughts running through my mind most days when I open up the Nude'Tude to do my eye make-up. I haven't really come to any conclusions and for now I just keep going, but I do sometimes incorporate other eyeshadows, housed in my small Z-Palette (shown here), to break the routine a little bit. I will tell you now I'm definitely not doing this Project next year - and possibly, never again. I actually seriously question if I should wrap it up at the end of September, before my baby is due - realistically, I don't think I'll be wearing much eyeshadow for the last three months out of the year.

Anyway, how are my fellow panners doing? Do you ace your powder products, or are they always a bit of a challenge? I find all powders pretty hard - even face setting/ finishing powders move very slowly around here, despite daily usage. Do you have any tips?

Friday, June 24, 2016

2016 Skincare No Buy and Make-up Low Buy Update #2

Another three months have passed in a blink of an eye and it's time to update you on my beauty shopping freezes. I know many of you are trying to limit your cosmetics purchases as well, and ramblings from other sufferers can be both helpful and motivating, so I like sharing my progress with you - please comment if you're doing anything similar this year, I'd love to hear from you!

Let's start with my make-up low buy, which consists of limiting myself to purchasing no more than two products per month, with the possibility of rolling unused purchases into the next month. Soooo... You guys, I haven't bought any make-up in the past three months. Nothing. Nada. I don't know exactly why it turned out this way, because I wasn't actively trying to go on a no buy - it just kinda happened that I wasn't too terribly tempted by anything, and the things I've tentatively put on my wishlist in the meantime, I decided to purchase at a later date - maybe for my birthday in September.

I couldn't however resist the Sephora 15% off sale in April, even though I said in my last update that I wasn't planning to shop, or would only get one utilitarian thing, the Beautyblender Solid Cleanser. I did purchase that, along with a fresh Beautyblender (mine's on its last legs but I'm still refusing to trash it), some skincare for my husband, a new hair brush as we left ours in a hotel in NoLa, and lastly - I'm feeling a tiny bit guilty over this - I cashed in my points for the Laura Mercier lipgloss mini in Bare Baby, because I've had one before and enjoyed the formula. I was also somewhat tempted to purchase two Wayne Goss brushes from Beautylish since I've been really enjoying the one eye blending brush (I believe it's number 06) from his range that I own. But then, I was able to convince myself that these brushes weren't going anywhere and Beautylish doesn't really do sales or promos anyway, so there was no rush to get them then and there. I have also downsized my nail polish stash by further 13 bottles - I have snapped a shot of them on my Instagram if you're curious - I just figured those shades weren't exciting me much anymore and I was happy to see that when I brought them to work, every single one found a new home rather quickly; even our security guard took some for his wife to try out (I believe he called them nail make-up :).

Overall, I'm very happy with my progress, but what makes me even happier than the result itself is the fact that I wasn't really obsessing over any new products in those three months. I still watched YouTube beauty gurus and read blog posts about new releases, but personally, I wasn't too interested in any of the products. What I think helped the most was shopping my own stash, especially when it comes to eyeshadow (here's a recent bronzy/ orangey/ warm brown swatchathon), coming to some realizations on my personal preferences while using the products I already own, and also distracting myself with past times not related to beauty. In April and May, I completed shopping for my maternity wardrobe, and then going on vacation also helped to occupy my mind elsewhere. I have also been spending more time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes. This week, I'm planning to bake my first sourdough bread in two years (I've made bread a couple times in the past but wasn't satisfied with the result) and try my hand at making apricot jam. (*Update*: My first sourdough bread was a complete fail, most likely due to a poorly starter, while apricot jam turned out wonderful!) The abundance of summer produce is making me feel inspired and curious to experiment with new things.

Back-up drawer in March 2016.
Now when it comes to skincare for the face and body, I think I've been equally successful. Above is a shot of my back-up drawer from March, and the one below is what it looks like currently. I have replaced some of my recent skincare routine empties with those back-ups, used up quite a few bar soaps as well as skincare minis, and I've also been focusing on using my body oils. Again, I have also received a number of new PR samples, so the drawer may look nearly as full to you overall; I'm however succeeding in finishing older products from my stash before moving on to the fresher stock. Two factors that have been helping me in moving products out is the fact that my husband is now more into skincare and uses a cleanser, moisturizer and an oil from my stash, as well as my attempts at using up the bar soaps by making them into a countertop cleaning spray and possibly a liquid hand soap (haven't tried that last project yet but it's on my list).
Back-up drawer in June 2016.
As for skincare purchases, I have bought one skincare product in the past three months - an exfoliating mask - but since I've used up all my other masks with that same purpose, it's a replacement and doesn't break my no buy rules. I was a little tempted by some organic bodycare from an Icelandic brand while we were on holiday, but in the end, I didn't think the products were all that special and I resisted. I bought an Icelandic wool hat and a silver necklace from a local jewelry designer instead :)

I think that's all I wanted to say! Maybe it's not the most exciting update since I wasn't really torn over anything in the past three months, but that's just how it is: if you're just starting out with a no buy or low buy challenge, it does get a lot easier as the time goes on. I'm thinking part of it is just getting used to the new self-imposed rules, but perhaps a bigger part is learning strategies to cope with lemmings and getting to know one's preferences and priorities a lot better. How have you been doing with your minimalist challenges? Any major breakthroughs or lightbulb moments you'd like to share?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Not Quite Strobing: Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in 700 Spotlight Review

It seems that thanks to Influenster, this year will be all about discovering Marc Jacobs Beauty range for me - and I'm not mad at it. This time we've received a very trendy product to review: the Marc Jacobs Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator in the shade Spotlight 700* ($42 for 0.49 oz/ 14g). I'd only tried two other cream/ liquid highlighters in the past - Benefit Watt's Up and MAC Strobe Cream - so I was excited to give the MJ version a go.
The highlighter stick is packaged in a minimalist short but fat tube; at first I thought the price of this product to be rather high, but you really do get A LOT of product here - I can't really see how you'd be able to use the entire thing up in a reasonable amount of time, unless you were using it all over the face under foundation and/or on your body - which you absolutely can. That's definitely one area where I believe cream highlighters have a leg up over the powders; they can be layered with other products and multitasked more easily.
The shape of the stick is oval, which may look like it would come in handy to apply directly on the cheekbones; however, for my face at least, the size is too big, and with its impressive pigmentation, I find the Glow Stick more user-friendly when applied with my fingers, a beautyblender, or a smaller brush.

It's quite an emollient formula; I don't own the Watt's Up anymore so I can't compare there, but it is definitely thicker/ more viscous than the liquidy MAC Strobe Cream. Nevertheless, the Glow Stick's formula is very blendable, both under and over foundation. I don't think it sets necessarily, but when sheered out in a thin layer, it doesn't move anywhere on the face and wears beautifully for the entire day. I would recommend this formula to anyone in the combination-normal-dry skintype spectrum; if your cheeks are oily, it may migrate more for you.
On Sephora's website, the shade Spotlight (which is the only shade available) is described as 'universal glow'. I don't believe that's really the case. As you can hopefully see from my close-up shots and swatches, this highlighter is a very, very pale white gold - I can't pick up much of the golden tones once it's blended out on the skin, so you could also describe it as a very light ivory shade. It's fantastic on my fair skintone, and I think it would suit a variety of undertones as the shade is quite neutral; but if you're medium to dark skintone, I believe this shade would look quite stark and maybe even ashy.
The finish of Marc Jacobs' Glow Stick is a fine pearl, no large shimmer or glitter particles in sight. It packs quite a punch though so you can definitely get a more dramatic strobing/ mirrored effect if you want - that's not really my style, so I'm glad that it can be sheered out more easily too. In my experience, it doesn't accentuate my pores or fine lines on top of my cheeks, and layers just fine over both powder and cream blush, although I like the finish better when worn with creams - just looks a bit more natural.
Highlighters are definitely one of the more challenging products to photograph but I hope you can see the tone of Spotlight quite well compared to some of my other highlighters. In my review of the Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator in Starlight, I called that shade a 'pale white gold' too, but as you can see, compared to the Marc Jacobs Glow Stick, it's definitely more peachy pink. Surratt Eyeshadow in Scintillante has a less dramatic pearl finish, and the base shade leans more grey (but somehow nearly identically matches my skintone).
L-R: Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight, ABH Illuminator in Starlight, Surratt Scintillante. I'm sorry you can't see these shades more clearly in the arm swatch, but that's just the consequence of swatching products which are incredibly close to my skintone.

In the face shot, I'm wearing the Marc Glow Stick on tops of my cheeks, tip of my nose, Cupid's Bow and a tiny bit under my brows. My base is Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream in 31, applied with a damp blender sponge and lightly set with MAC Blot Powder on the T-zone. I think the Glow Stick looks lovely and fresh - I applied a bit more than I would usually do for the photo, but I still think the overall effect is not too overdone. Even though I've been a lot more into highlighters these past two years, I'm still not convinced by the strobing trend, and I'm glad the Marc Jacobs product can be made to look more natural for every day wear.

Are you into strobing? I know a lot of us beauty fanatics just love shopping for and collecting different highlighters - and I can definitely see why, so many of the limited edition highlighting powders are just too pretty to pass up! Do you prefer highlighters in the cream, liquid or powder texture?

Disclaimer: Item marked with an asterix (*) is a press sample I received from Influenster for testing purposes. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the products featured were purchased with my own monies or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Food Subscription: Degustabox Unboxing & Overnight Oatmeal Recipe

We're back from Iceland! While it's sad that our holidays are over and it's now back to the daily grind, I'm actually glad to be home. It's just nice to have everything on hand for when you need it and not have to live out of a suitcase, you know? Moreover, whenever we travel, after about a week of being beyond happy about eating out (as in, someone else having to cook and do the dishes while I can just kick back and enjoy the deliciousness), I do start missing making my own meals. I guess I find it hard to maintain my normal diet while traveling and at the end of the trip, I'm itching to get back to more balanced meals.
You guys may remember from my mentioning in passing that I cook about 90% of our meals myself, and both me and Mr consider ourselves 'foodies' - by which I mean that we like to eat, and we like to eat well. I've wanted to incorporate some more food-related content into the blog for a while but wasn't sure how to start, and then Degustabox*, a new food subscription service, reached out and asked if I'd be interested in showcasing their box and coming up with a recipe incorporating the products they sent. Not only was I excited about the prospect of free food (I mean, who wouldn't be?), I also thought that it's a subscription service I could actually put to good use - the products from various beauty boxes I've tried in the past would usually end up lingering in drawers untouched for years, but food really is a consumable resource, and thus more in line with my somewhat minimalist tendencies. It's fun to share food porn, so why not? Maybe it'll be inspiring for someone out there.
Degustabox* is a subscription service that will set you back $19.99/ month, including delivery, and each of the monthly boxes contains between 10-15 food products, some full size, some trial/ snack size. Obviously all the products that come in the box are non-perishable food items, and many of them are products that are just being released on the market, so that you get a chance of trying something new you may not have heard about before. If you're interested in signing up, you can use my affiliate link here to save $10 off your first box (or not - whatever you prefer!), and you can cancel your subscription at any time.

 Now, onto my first Degustabox unboxing! The box was delivered about 5 days after I received my shipping confirmation and everything inside was packed with care (lots of bubble wrap, heavier items on the bottom). The box also came with a welcome card and a page detailing all the products, their prices and short descriptions, as well as two recipes featuring two of the items. I have received 10 different items but there were more than one packet/ bottle of some:

4 snack-sized bags of Wise Popcorn (2 x reduced fat sea salt and 2 x Cinnabon flavors) - $0.75 each
1 bottle of Briannas Italian Vinaigrette salad dressing - $3.99
3 foil packets of Vita Coco Coconut Oil - $1.29 each
2 bottles of Topo Chico Mineral Water (one unflavored sparkling, one lime flavored) - $1.00 each
1 jar of Jif Peanut Butter in the Cinammon flavor - $2.99
2 snack-sized bags of Orchard Valley nuts - $1.98 each
1 bag of Haribo Sour Gold-Bears candy - $2.79
1 carton of Elmhurst Harvest Pistachio milk-alternative beverage - $3.00
1 bottle of Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce/ Marinade - $4.99
1 bag of Honees Cough Drops - $2.75
Total Value: $33.34 for $19.99 

I find this to be a pretty good value - and to be honest, if I were to shop for these products in store locally (in Brooklyn), I would probably pay closer to $40-45 for all of these items (NYC livin' ain't cheap). You could probably find some of these items cheaper if you shopped around online/ used coupons, but I still think the box is great value. Also, I found all of the products included to be relevant to my lifestyle and preferences - I was excited to see a nut milk since my husband is allergic to cow's dairy, and while he's also allergic to garlic so that we won't be able to use the Soy Vay marinade, I can easily pass this item on to a friend (I'm keeping the garlicky cheesy Italian dressing for myself though, muahaha). We eat lots of nuts and peanut butter in this house and I like snacking on popcorn, so those are all great as well - and I'm excited to try the sour version of Haribo Bears, which used to be one of my favorites candies when I was a kid.

As for the creative aspect of this post - a recipe featuring some items from this month's box - I was a bit pressed for time so I went for something very simple (not that the food I make is generally complicated; rather the opposite, to be honest). Most mornings, we eat homemade granola with Greek yogurt (me) or soy milk (him) and berries for breakfast, but I decided to make this Triple Nut Vegan Overnight Oatmeal this time. I'm sure most of you have heard of and tried overnight oats before, but if you haven't - here goes:

1/4 - 1/3 cup of old fashioned oats (I use Bob's Red Mill - don't use the instant kind!)
3/4 - 1 cup of grain/ nut milk: I used the Elmhurst Harvest Pistachio Beverage, which is sweetened - if using unsweetened variety, add in some sugar/ honey/ maple syrup to taste
1 tablespoon of flax seed (you could also use chia - or skip altogether)

Mix everything in your breakfast bowl the evening before and set in the fridge overnight to soak and thicken. The flax seeds/ chia seeds expand and get more of a jelly consistency when soaked in a liquid, which gives this oatmeal a pleasant creamy texture, while the oats soften so that you don't actually have to cook them. In the morning, you can reheat in the microwave if you like, and top with just about anything - I used unsweetened coconut flakes, raspberries and blackberries, and a teaspoon of Jif Cinnamon Peanut Butter in the center; hence the Triple Nut (Pistachio, Coconut and Peanut) - get it?
And that's it, a quick, simple and customizable breakfast that's also filling and relatively healthy (although a bit on the sweet side from the sugar in the Pistachio milk and Jif Peanut Butter - we normally eat unsweetened kinds of both of these items). Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this somewhat different post, and let me know what you usually have for breakfast; I recently tried dairy-free overnight yeast waffles on the weekend (which you may have seen on my Instagram) and those were a big hit too. Now I'm thinking of venturing further into the world of yeasted deliciousness... I'll keep you posted.

Disclaimer: Product marked with an asterix (*) is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. The post contains an affiliate link, which means I'll earn a commission if you decide to sign up to Degustabox after clicking. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog!

Friday, June 10, 2016

What's In My Travel Beauty Bag: Two Weeks in Iceland

As you're reading this, we will have actually been in Iceland for over 10 days - but thanks to the magic of scheduling posts in advance, you get to see the contents of my beauty bag before they're actually put to use. Like I've mentioned in my previous pregnancy update post, we're currently on vacation; it's long been our dream to see Iceland's spectacular outdoors  for a couple years now, and we've finally pulled the trigger (and yes, I'm hoping to take you along via my Instagram - so go follow if you're interested!).
Before I dive into which beauty products I'm bringing with me, let me tell you a little bit about the trip itself. We're flying from NYC into Reykjavik and staying in the city for two nights, but after that we're hiring a car and hitting the Ring Road, which is a highway circling the entire island that lets you access all areas of the country. We'll be driving shorter distances every day for 12 days, staying in a different town every night or two. In case you didn't know, Iceland doesn't have a huge population, and most of it is concentrated in the capital city - which means that the other towns we'll be visiting are rather small and the accomodations are more along the lines of a B&B than a chain hotel.
Which is why I've decided to pack most of my bathroom essentials into this hanging bag (it was a gift with purchase from Dermalogica a few years ago, but I'm sure you can find a similar one on Amazon). From practice, I know that I can pack more into a regular pouch without any compartments, and that's what I prefer when we stay in one accomodation for the whole duration of a trip. However, for travelling around, I think this bag will be more handy - I can hang it in the bathroom, easily take out only what I need at any given time, and quickly repack everything when we're ready to head out in the morning.
I've decided to pack all of my skincare, haircare and make-up brushes into this bag; I'll have a separate make-up bag (which also makes sense as I rarely do my make-up in the bathroom) and one more pouch for bodycare and bulkier extras like a hair brush, deodorant or contact lens solution. The mesh bag I keep my make-up brushes in snaps off easily, so that I can keep it with my make-up bag but protect the brushes a bit more than if they were just floating loose among other products.

The top two compartments contain smaller items: the topmost has just a few foil sachets with different face masks (because maaaybe I'll remember to use them some time...? At least after and before our flights?), the other one houses q-tips, cotton squares, a catridge for my razor and a lip balm.
The two larger bottom compartments contain all of my main skincare and haircare products. They're sort of mixed all together because I was packing to fit the dimensions of the bag. For my face, I'm mostly following my standard skincare routine (recent posts about the AM and PM regimes here): I'll be removing make-up with the Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi Cleansing Oil (small green bottle) and following with the First Aid Beauty Facial Cleanser for the second cleanse, or first cleanse in the morning. I've filled the spray bottle with my Pixi Glow Tonic (reviewed here), and after that, I'll pat in some SK-II First Treatment Essense* (review) for a boost of hydration. Lastly, I have two serums to choose between: the Paula's Choice C15 Booster and the Dermalogica Hydrating Booster, as well as two moisturizers: the Nuxe Creme Fraiche de Beaute* (reviewed here, for nighttime or to layer with) and the Paula's Choice Hydralight Daily Mineral Complex SPF30* (review). The weather in Iceland at this time of the year is still quite cold, so I'm not packing a separate sunscreen for the body - I doubt much of my skin will be exposed at any given time.
For my hair, I'm only taking four products. I'll be sharing my travel sizes of Pacifica Beauty Super Kale Juiced-Up Shampoo* & Conditioner* with my husband, and to help detangle my hair after washing, I'll be using the 12 Benefits Instant Healthy Hair Treatment* spray I received in a Glossybox a long time ago. I also can't go anywhere without a bottle of my trusty Batiste Dry Shampoo to extend the freshness of my hair between washes.

And that's it! The bag still folds comfortably and it isn't too big and bulky - my suitcase isn't very large and I need the extra space for warm weather clothes and boots (and btw, I had to take my husband's snowboarding jacket - I no longer fit into any of my winter jackets, lol). I'm super excited about our Icelandic getaway! How do you usually pack your skincare for travel?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pregnancy Update: I'm Halfway There!

Just to forewarn you - this post features not only a lot of pregnant lady talk, but also a somewhat creepy 3D ultrasound picture of our baby. But if that doesn't scare you, carry on - and thank you for reading!

As of writing this post, I'm 20 weeks and 6 days pregnant - and as you're reading it, I'm actually 22 weeks and some change, so actually already into my second half of pregnancy. I can't say it has all flown by super fast so far, and not because of any unpleasant symptoms; it's just that the first 14 weeks are rather anxious because of the relatively high risk of miscarriage, and to be honest, I just wanted them to be over and done with and not have to worry about the safety of our baby.

So, big news - at our 16 week initial anatomy scan that my husband accompanied me to, we learnt that we're having... drumroll please... a little BOY! He was not at all shy to reveal his gender and we could actually see it ourselves on the monitor before the ultrasound technician even told us. I had a rather strong feeling from the beginning that it was going to be a boy and we kept referring to the baby as 'he' well before we knew - I was actually so convinced at one point that I began to worry about feeling disappointed if I turned out to be wrong. More importantly, both at the 16 week and the 20 week scan (which I just had yesterday), the baby appeared to be developing well and he weighted exactly as expected - he's 14 ounces now, already twice the weight he was at the 16 week appointment. We saw his little hands and feet, and yesterday I was even able to see tiny fingers and toes. As you can see in the alien 3D ultrasound picture, he likes to keep his hands close to his face - he may actually be sucking a thumb in there for all I know :)
I can also feel his movements a lot more now. I first started feeling some subtle nudges at around 17 weeks, mostly after taking a bath in the evening and relaxing in bed with a book. My ultrasound technician said I have a posterior placenta, so I'm going to feel his kicks and somersaults all the more - and to be honest, now at almost 21 weeks, I think I can even feel them a little from the outside, although attempts to have my husband feel them too have proven futile so far; the boy quiets down as soon as Mr lays his hands on my belly.

Speaking of the belly, it has definitely grown and now looks a lot more like a proper baby bump versus a weird bloat. It's sort of a funny shape - it sticks out a lot in the lower part, which my husband finds especially amusing. It's beginning to be noticeable even to strangers; believe it or not, someone wanted to give up his seat for me on the subway yesterday, and that is not a common occurrence in New York. Because of the larger belly - and to an extent, my boobs as well - I now have to mostly wear the maternity clothes that I purchased so far. We've had a rather cool spring in New York City this year, so that one pair of maternity jeans I purchased from the GAP got lots of wear; some threads have actually started coming loose here and there. Right now, I feel that we're rapidly moving towards summer weather, so my maternity dresses and shorts are starting to be indispensable.

But other than the larger belly that sometimes gets in the way - especially when I'm bending over picking this up, or trying to polish my toes - I've been feeling pretty great. I have a lot more energy than in the first trimester, and especially in the mornings I can get a lot of things crossed off my to-do list. I do have to get up about 2 times at night to go to the bathroom, and then the third time in the morning, somewhat earlier than I would have liked to wake up, but all in all, I feel quite rested. I do sometimes get what I believe doctors call 'round ligament pain' - sharp pains at the sides and below my belly when I'm moving around a lot - but they subside quickly and are nothing to worry about; it's just my uterus stretching and things rearranging themselves to accomodate the growing baby.

In other news, we're leaving for a 2-week holiday tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited! We're finally going to visit Iceland (this post is being scheduled in advance, so we're already there and enjoying our trip!). It's been on our bucket list for a couple years now, and we decided to go this spring/ summer even before we learnt about my pregnancy, although we booked the trip about a month earlier than we were originally planning to so that it'll be easier for me to fully enjoy it. It's not really a babymoon; to be honest, Iceland is probably not an ideal destination for a pregnant woman, and we didn't foresee this trip as our last holiday as a family of two - but when I thought about it, this is the first longer vacation just for me and Mr (without the rest of our families) since our honeymoon 7 years ago. Our plan is to rent a car and drive all the way around the island, staying in a different town nearly every night and exploring the great Icelandic outdoors. There is going to be mostly driving, hiking and taking lots of photos, which I'm hoping to share on my Instagram. However, we're going to take it all pretty easy and allow plenty of time for relaxing, dining out and bathing in geothermal waters; in fact, our first stop after the flight to Reykjavik is the Blue Lagoon Spa.

I think that's all I wanted to say for now, but if you have any questions - be it pregnancy or Iceland-related - don't hesitate to ask! I'm sure you're wondering if we already have a name picked out for our little boy, and we do in fact have one strong contender - but I'm going to be a tease and keep it a secret until he arrives in October. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

My Current Facial Mask Wardrobe

For a few years now, I've been really enjoying keeping three types of facial masks in my medicine cabinet: a purifying clay one, an exfoliating one, and a hydrating mask. I usually also have at least a few different sheet masks on hand as well, but I think their results sort of overlap with a good wash-off hydrating mask, so these three really allow me cover all the bases and act accordingly to what my skin needs at any given time.
I mask about 2 times a week, so most weeks one of these masks is not even used at all. For the past couple of months, my routine has been to use my exfoliating mask towards the middle of the week, and then on the weekend, I'll either do the clay or the hydrating one; or you know, if I'm feeling really fancy, I could apply the clay to the areas that need more decongesting, and the other one everywhere else - but to be honest, I'm too lazy to do that :)
Let's start with the newest addition to my mask wardrobe, the newly released Nuxe Nuxuriance Ultra Re-Plumping Roll-On Mask* ($53 for 1.6 fl oz, available at here). This anti-aging mask promises to smooth the skin, reshape facial contours and enhance radiance. It contains sweet almond oil, glycerin, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid as well as saffron and bougainvillea extracts.
The novelty factor of this mask is that it comes with a cooling roll-on applicator; I thought it would get very messy in use, but thanks to an off/on switch, you can easily control the amount of product dispersed onto the metal part, and I'm not going to lie, it's very satisfying to roll your face with it, especially on the cheek and jaw area. That being said, I'm very skeptical as to the 'face reshaping' claims - I can't really observe anything to that effect on my nearly 30 year-old skin, and I don't think you could hope to minimize sagging with a facial mask that you leave on for 10 minutes.

Nevetheless, I find this mask pleasant to use and effective at hydrating and moisturizing my skin. One negative that I have experienced is that I may be slightly allergic to one of the ingredients, because my face feels a bit hot after application, and after I remove any remnants of the mask that haven't absorbed with a hydrosol/ toner, my skin looks a bit red. Like all Nuxe products I've tried thus far, the Re-Plumping Mask is quite strongly fragrance, so bear that in mind if you're sensitive.
The exfoliating mask I've been reaching for in the past three weeks is a cheap and cheerful find: the Freeman Feeling Beautiful Facial Peeling Pumpkin Mask. I haven't had it in my back-up drawer for very long so it didn't even occur to me to check, but I can't find this anywhere online - I believe it may have been discontinued :( At any rate, if you do manage to find it somewhere, it's a very decent exfoliating mask with both AHAs and enzymes, and I would look into repurchasing if it weren't for two things (aside from it being discontinued): it unnecessarily contains large pieces of walnut shells, and the scent is a bit over the top - like an inexpensive cinnamon candle. Oh well - I did go ahead and purchase a different pumpkin mask in its place, a review coming soon.
Lastly, when my skin is feeling especially oily or congested, I like to use the Caudalie Instant Detox Mask ($39 for 2.5 fl oz; I have a deluxe sample size). This mask contains grape marc, pink clay, coffee and papaya enzymes, as well as a whole host of essential oils - bergamot, lavender, clary sage, myrrh, sandalwood. For this reason, it smells absolutely beautiful - reminds me of an herbally cocktail, but again, sensitive skin types beware; it also contains alcohol.
The scent is more or less the only reason why I still reach for this mask - I don't think it's particularly effective as far as clay masks go. You certainly won't get the intense results like with the Aztec Healing Clay (reviewed here) when you use the Caudalie mask; and I wouldn't even mind the gentler effect if I didn't feel like this mask was also quite drying at the same time. Sure, I have observed that my pores are less noticeable immediately after removing the Instant Detox Mask, but I don't think it helps all that much with breakouts or blackheads. So there - I much preferred the Clarins Pure Matte mask with pink clay that I reviewed here.
And that's a wrap for my current skincare routine series - you can catch my morning and evening routines here and here if you've missed previous installments. I hope this was helpful for you and let me know if you have any questions about the products mentioned. Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: Product marked with an asterix (*) is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. The other two products were gifts. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured were purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!