Friday, January 31, 2014

January Birchbox Review

I went through and changed a setting or preference or two on my Birchbox profile and as a result, my box shipping time changed. The reason I know this is because I usually receive my box a day after my seester, but this time it was well over a week. The holiday didn't help move things along either. Anyway, because of all that and my weekend trip to Portland, my review got pushed back as well. C'est la vie. So, without further ado, here is my January 2014 Birchbox Review.

Motivation for the new year

The Box 

Camille Beckman Glycerine Hand Therapy in Morelia Monarch

Photo from Birchbox

Forget what I've said about any other hand cream I've ever tried because this one is the best one I've used thus far. My go-to moisturizing product is Jergens Soothing Aloe, but after dipping my fingertips in this goodness, I've found myself reaching for this rather than that. It has shocked even me! While I thought one of those other hand creams absorbed, I was completely wrong, because THIS one, oh this one absorbs nearly like my beloved daily lotion. It leaves my hands feeling moisturized without being extra greasy. It's ah-mazing. The scent took some getting used to because it's not something I've ever worn before, but after day 2, I didn't even notice it that much. 

Verdict: Hands down the best hand cream. EVER.

Ahmad Teas in Apricot, Lemon, and English

Photo from Birchbox

Tea is a funny thing for me. I'm not a big fan of green teas and I don't particularly care for the black variety either. I'm more of an herbal, chamomile blend kind of girl. So, while I'll definitely still try the Apricot Sunrise and the Lemon Vitality, I'll be saving the English Tea No. 1 for someone who actually can tolerate a black tea. 

Juicy Couture Eau de Parfum

Photo from Birchbox

Oh yes, this smells like couture. Again, a fruity and floral fragrance that I'll be dabbing on my wrists. Maybe it's the combination of passionfruit and apple notes I'm smelling, but it's just so addicting. I want to stop smelling the sample card I spritzed, but I just can't. There's a part of me that wants to spray it all over me because I can't get enough of it! 

Verdict: It is my definition of "perfumey" but I like it. Not sure if I'll buy the full size yet because I have perfume commitment issues, but I'd consider a rollerball size.  

TONI&GUY Prep Heat Protection Mist

Photo from Birchbox

I've tried heat protecting products in the past, but honestly I've always kind of felt that they hindered more than helped. So, while I was apprehensive about spritzing this mist on my damp locks, I was actually a little relieved to find that I enjoyed using it. I just sprayed some on my ends because that is where I was actually going to be focusing the heat when curling the ends with a round brush, and it gave it just a little added protection. I've noticed less split ends and my hair didn't frizz when I used the brush. I'll call this a win-win product. 

Verdict: Smells nice, works well and I'll be using this 75mL bottle in NO time. I'd even buy the full size. 

Nail Rock in Sequin Green
Photo from Birchbox

I was a little skeptical about this particular Nail Rock polish because it seemed to be a glorified glitter lacquer. I was disappointed that the color in the bottle was clear and I was just dipping my nails in a glitter pot, but it was that glitter pot that gave me the glittery nails I always want from a traditional glitter polish but can never obtain because it the glitter isn't concentrated enough. So usually you end up with a few specks here and there, but not that hardcore glitter layer. This makes it look like you're wearing sequins on your fingertips. Because the polish is clear, it doesn't detract from the glittery flecks you're applying. Overall, a success, although I won't be looking forward to taking this one off because if it's like any other glitter polish I've used, it's likely to be kind of a pain in the ass. Also, it's messy. So I recommend laying down a piece of paper for easier clean up when you will undoubtedly spill glitter everywhere. 

Verdict: I like the effect, but hate the 15-20 minute dry time. It's messy, but worth it for a glitzy night out or just to make a statement. I doubt it will last long on my nails alone, but it might hold up better if I add a top coat. I'll also be finding glitter EVERYWHERE for the next three weeks. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beauty Spotlight

I sampled this glorious product months ago, but I had been having issues with my skin recently, so I didn't feel like it was the right time to buy the full size just yet. Then, I had a reprieve and I figured it was now or never.

Immaculate by Hourglass
Photo from Sephora

I couldn't for the life of me figure out what color I decided was right for my skin tone and I alternated between wanting to go for Porcelain or Pearl. Pearl ended up winning out this time because I just didn't think Porcelain was the right fit at the moment. Maybe in a few more months when my skin is even more alabaster than it is now. 

Perhaps it's the dry weather we've been experiencing and my skin has been trying to compensate for it by being ridiculously oily, but I noticed by noon I was feeling a little, er, shiny. The "dewy" look might be "youthful" or whatever, but it is certainly not a welcome factor in my life. Anyone with oily skin knows exactly what I mean. So, when I started to feel the undesired sheen beginning to appear midday, I knew I was needing this foundation STAT.

Immaculate by Hourglass is a lifesaver. It covers imperfections surprisingly well and because it has a powdery finish, I don't need to top it off with a finishing powder. Applying it flawlessly requires a little trial and error because the consistency isn't like your normal medium to full coverage foundation, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be hooked. I apply mine using my favorite Dior foundation brush and it works wonders. Quite frankly, Immaculate lives up to its name by giving me an immaculate finish. By 4PM, I'm still feeling pretty good about how un-shiny my face is because the matifying effect of this foundation is amazing. Though I have yet to test the humidity-proof and water-resistant claims, I'm betting it still holds up fairly well.

While it can be a little tricky if you have areas of dry skin on your face, I've found it isn't really that noticeable, at least not on me. I'm pretty in tune with my skin, so I do still alternate between Hourglass and Dior, but when I need a little extra help with the shine, I'm picking up Immaculate every single time.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Convenient Carnivore

I commend anyone who can stick to a strict vegan diet. I enjoy the organic half and half in my daily coffee and I don't particularly want to switch to soy in my occasional Chai latte. I also don't think I can substitute tofu or applesauce or bananas for eggs in my cookie recipe (although I may try it out one day just to be sure). I even commend those who are full time vegetarians. It takes dedication and sacrifice.

I come and go with my vegetarianism. I had been meat-free for months and months, but on my last birthday, I wanted a steak. My body was seemingly craving it. So instead of denying myself the meal, I satisfied the hankering. Of course this started a cycle of carnivorous meals, but eventually, I tired of it and returned to my grass grazing once more. I feel better when I omit meat from my diet, and while I prefer to dine on vegetarian cuisines, I'm not going to pitch a fit when I can't. Which is why I like to refer to myself as a convenient carnivore.

The bacon I fry up to make my Nana's baked beans recipe on Thanksgiving. 

For example, at my best friend's wedding several years ago, I ate fish. Why? Because I wasn't going to make a big stink about the fact that I wasn't eating any type of meat, poultry, or fish at that time. I didn't want her to have to go through the extra trouble of finding something that was suitable for me to eat - I was her guest and I wanted it to be easy-peasy. Not to mention there was likely enough stress from the upcoming wedding that it was absolutely ridiculous to make my eating habits an issue, so I graciously ate what was given to me. I didn't die. Later on that night I even said screw it and ate one of her barbecued ribs because it's my prerogative...and I was hungry.

Prior to the Birchbloggers dinner at The Cavalier, I had been quite the scrupulous vegetarian; however, I wasn't about to let my meatless ways deter my adventurous side from sampling some really fantastic dishes that night. Instead I dug into the appetizers and let the fancy flavors dance upon my taste buds and I genuinely enjoyed every moment of it. In fact, there were quite a few dishes I would not have ordinarily tried, but discovered a newfound liking to them (like the venison tartare...mmmm).

Anyway, it's not that I don't possess the ability or dedication or the determination to be completely vegetarian, it's just that I don't believe it's wrong to eat meat every now and again. I would love to give up animal products completely because I do have quite a few gigantic issues with big agriculture business and the treatment of animals in general, but for right now I'm sticking with the way I am. More often than not, I'm indulging in a vegetarian diet, but if I'm a guest at your home, I'm not going to turn my nose up at a meal...unless you've made meatloaf, and then I'm afraid I will simply be unable to force it down.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shen Yun

I apparently wasn't thinking when I scheduled a Sunday outing during the playoffs. Luckily, the 49ers game was in the morning, so I still managed to catch a few minutes of it before riding into the city with my seester to see Shen Yun at the War Memorial Opera House. It was something we were both separately interested in seeing, so when she mentioned it to me a month or so ago, I was already in.

I hadn't done too much research into the show prior to going, but I did spend a little chunk of time reading the pamphlet that came in the mail some months ago while I was eating dinner one night and it piqued my interest. I knew it was traditional Chinese dance, but I didn't really know what to expect other than some ballet-esque moves which I assumed would be a part of it judging by the photo.

Let me just say, it was so much more than that. Sure, there were leaps and there were spins (some made me a little dizzy just watching them), but there were also tumbling techniques and sheer grace to each and every movement.

Part of the appeal is definitely the costumes. While the costumes for the men were fitting, the real showstoppers were the women's ensembles. They were bright, flowy, and the attention to detail was incredible. The women seemed to float across the stage in their long skirts and it's a wonder that not one of them had a single misstep, even in the heelless high heeled shoes. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I was surprised by a few things. I didn't realize there would be hosts to introduce each dance and give a brief backstory as to what we were about to see. It was convenient because you knew exactly what you were watching as it was happening, so there wasn't much second guessing unless you missed a part of the earlier dialogue. The other, was the digitally projected backdrop which added another element to not only the dances, but to the stories they were telling as well. It's pretty difficult to portray a person and a giant dragon fighting in the sky while on stage, so this allowed the full story to come to life in another way. I also enjoyed the way the dancers were able to go back toward the screen and drop down below, only to "reappear" on the screen and back to the stage again. One thing that really caught me off guard was that Shen Yun is not allowed to perform in China and they have apparently had to overcome quite a bit of opposition to even perform in other countries. I'm so glad they persevered because it was a great experience. 

I definitely had my favorite dances and the two I seemed to love the most were the ones just before and after the intermission. Mongolian Chopsticks was a dance comprised only of men and they were carrying what was supposed to be handfuls of giant chopsticks. As they danced to the music from the orchestra, they kept the beat with those chopsticks and the resulting sound was utterly amazing. I was in awe. The other dance, The Lotus Fairies was visually appealing because the fans the women were using had an extension of fabric, so when they quickly flicked their wrists, the fabric at the ends of the fans made waves. It was beautiful. 

If you have the opportunity to see a show, I do recommend it. It really is a cross cultural experience and you'll learn something while watching in awe at how graceful the dancers move across the stage. If you're lucky enough to have considerate people sitting around you who don't insist on making ignorant comments or speak loudly throughout the performances, you'll be swept away. The show changes every year, so even if you've seen it once before, you won't be seeing the same show twice.


Friday, January 3, 2014


I've never been one to make New Year's Resolutions. It's just never really been my thing. Most likely because halfway through the year I'd likely forget what it was I decided I was going to do and then I'd end up feeling bad about not doing it. This year, however, I'm going to break with tradition and set some goals for myself. They aren't things that are going to dramatically alter my life, but I'm bound and determined to do them nonetheless. When I set my mind to something, it's incredibly hard to change it (I am a Taurus after all), so I know I'm capable of accomplishing the tasks I'll present to myself. I just have to overcome my tendency to get a little lazy from time to time (again, I'm a Taurus). Anyway, I'm not going to start this by making excuses for my occasional laziness...

While I don't have 20lbs to lose or need to quit smoking, I do have some things I would like to accomplish. 
So here is my list of goals for 2014: 

Run a 5K
Read more books
Write consistently
Make Christmas cards (in advance)
Do more art projects
Learn a new knit stitch
Plan trips to Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego
Take more film photos
Be kinder to myself
Stop procrastinating
Focus on contentment
Forge new female friendships and strengthen the ones I already have

Twelve solid goals seems like PLENTY; after all the math works out to an average of one goal per month, which makes everything seem that much more attainable. While some things are going to take time (like making new girlfriends or training for a race) and some things will take planning (like the trips), there are others that will be a little easier to accomplish (like a new knit stitch). 

My list isn't comprised of great feats like climbing Mt. Everest, so I'm feeling confident that this list won't find its way into the circular file. We'll see how it all goes in the end, but I'll be checking back in with my goals fairly often to keep myself on track. Now to find a fun 5K. 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014


2013 was an interesting period of time for me. It wasn't exactly the fabulous year I had hoped for, but then again, thirteen isn't exactly my favorite number either. For a large part of the year I worked on improving myself and my outlook. I had to rebuild trust in my own instincts, get over my unmet expectations, and I had to learn how to let go of the anger I was harboring. Though I didn't get to see my friends as often as I would have liked, I did cherish the times we were able to get together. I even went on a few dates, despite not being entirely ready for some of them at the beginning. And I spent a few relaxing weekend days by the coast in Carmel and in Half Moon Bay.

I tried out new recipes and mastered others. I had a significant decrease in anxiety, but at times I was still overcome with it. I even learned that my black thumb wasn't quite so black after all and I could, in fact, keep a plant alive. I did many, many craft projects. Some were left unfinished, while others were done quite quickly. I started experimenting more with the clothes in my closet and adding more quality pieces to it. I exposed my devotion to Sephora and discovered my love for Birchbox, which ultimately ended up with an invitation to an exclusive Birchbloggers dinner. I flew first class with one of my friends to the east coast for a few days before jet setting down to Jamaica for yet another grand adventure. I went on a few auditions in the city, but I spent more time there socializing with new friends than anything else. I even splurged on tickets to BFD and rocked out on stage with Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars. Just as I was flying high, however, I learned I wasn't going to be able to purchase the condo I had been occupying for the last three years. A MAJOR bummer.

As I began to wallow in my own self-pity, I came across a video that truly inspired me and also made me sob like a freaking baby. Nothing like a healthy dose of "your life isn't as bad as you think" to get you out of a funk. Though I didn't have too many health concerns over the last twelve months, I did get the wonderful opportunity to experience the sober spins and remember what it's like to have tonsillitis.

I confessed that I still hold on tightly to a dream I've had for years and that I'd like to do something about it one day.

I was incredibly grateful I was able to visit with my great aunt and my extended family in Simi Valley again even though it made me miss southern California so much. I even got to attend my first Dodger game. I also made the rounds at the Oakland Coliseum during baseball season and football season.

This last summer I started running again and boy was it rough. Just when it started to get easier, I quit because I was moving (I realize this is a weak excuse), although I did manage to take in some beautiful sunrises. Even though I had to move out of the condo, I turned it into an opportunity to save some money by moving back home. It hasn't been a perfect arrangement, but I get along with my parents so well that it hasn't been very difficult. While I didn't save any money by buying a "new" car, it didn't take me long to replenish my savings and I've been able to cruise around town with the top down even during the very unusual not-so-cold fall and winter months.

Going back to summer time, I got to feel really old when I went to my high school reunion, but then not so old when the lady who worked at the department store where I bought a dress thought it was only my five year. Later on, at the Art & Wine Festival, I discovered an artist that I think is absolutely amazing. I'm so obsessed with his work, I bought three silkscreen shirts for myself and one for a friend. Then, when I saw him again on my glorious Palm Springs vacation with my seester. Of course I bought one more tee.

Since I didn't have plans for Halloween, I decided to dress up for the kids I was passing out candy to. It was an impromptu costume, so the makeup wasn't as good as it could have been if I were better prepared, but it still was a hit. It was a little scary for some of the really young ones, but I got plenty of compliments from the slightly older kids and even some adults.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were great as always, and even though I didn't have a man in my life to share the holidays with, I am eternally grateful to have such a wonderful family to spend time with. It helps that we actually like each other. New Year's was a tame event, but I still had loads of fun at dinner and a movie before coming home in time to see the ball drop at midnight and say hello to a brand new year.

Last year, like every year, was filled with good times and bad times. Did all of my hopes and dreams come true? No, but life is never going to turn out exactly the way you want it to. You have to ride out the never-ending waves that are the ups and the downs of life and make the most of what you've got. I'm doing the best I can at the moment and I'm trying to see the big picture. I don't have everything I want in life right now at this present moment, but that doesn't mean I won't have everything I've hoped and dreamed of in time. I am, after all, an optimistic realist.