THANK YOU!

In a few hours, 2014 will be coming to a close and I’ll be ringing in 2015 with some of my good friends. Before that happens, however, I wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you that has visited my humble little blog. I frequently check my blog’s stats and I can’t tell you how giddy they make me. I started this blog back in April but have truly only become active in the past couple months, yet even what I’ve seen in that time has amazed me. From what I’ve started to now, I’ve been viewed over 2,100 times and have had visitors from 47 countries. 47!! That’s almost a quarter of all the countries in the world. It may sound a bit ridiculous that I’m this excited about that because, well, it’s the internet and it may have only been one or two random hits from some of those countries, but to think that this dinky little blog was viewed by someone thousands of miles away from me for even a second is still pretty awesome, because even for just that one second, someone clicked on a link that led to my blog because even for just that single second, they thought something that I wrote would be of value to them in some way. A second may seem like nothing in the grand scheme of things, but to me they make all the difference. They’ve encouraged me to keep doing this when I haven’t felt motivated or felt like it was pointless to keep going, especially in a sea of hundreds of other beauty blogs and food blogs. Even for a second, I was still chosen, and for those seconds I’ll still strive to put out something worthy of that second–and hopefully more–of your time.

I’m still a beginner. I’m still a novice when it comes to makeup application, and maybe an advanced novice at cooking. A lot of what I’m capable of is still only being realized, and while it’s incredibly daunting for me to put that out on the internet for literally the world to see, seeing that stepping up to the challenge is reaping some pretty great rewards is all the more encouraging. And who knows, perhaps me making a potential fool of myself will give someone else the courage they’ve been looking for to do the same.

So yeah, I guess what I’m saying is this:

Source: Tumblr… but probably Imgur… but probably reddit.

😛

I hope you all have (or have perhaps already had) a wonderful night celebrating the start of what I hope to be an excellent year for everyone. And remember to celebrate responsibly and stay safe, I want to see you back here in the new year 🙂

Until next time, stay well, stay beautiful xx

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Quest Protein Chips Review

One of my biggest challenges with leading a healthier lifestyle is snacking. I love me some crunchy, salty snacks (especially when I’ve been drinking… shhh). When I saw that Quest Nutrition–the makers of my beloved Quest Bars–had come out with a line of protein chips, I knew this was a product I needed to try.

The Quest Protein Chips come in five different flavors: BBQ, Sea Salt, Cheddar & Sour Cream, Salt & Vinegar, and Sour Cream & Onion. I chose the Sour Cream & Onion flavor as my pick for the taste test.

Source: QuestNutrition.com

Each bag is 120 calories and packed with a whopping 21 grams of protein thanks to that protein blend. I won’t comment too much on the rest of the ingredients but everything seems pretty straight forward.

Like most pre-packaged chips, the bag was half air, half actual product, but you still got a decent number of chips. As you can see, they look very similar to how most baked chips or other snacks look these days. With everything looking normal, I took my first bite…

…and that’s when the regret began.

The initial taste of these is fine: you’ve got that nice potato chip crunch with sour cream and onion seasoning hitting your tongue. It’s once the chip itself gets chewed and dissolved that it gets weird. It’s difficult to describe but… You know how a lot of people say that rice cakes and stuff like that taste like cardboard? Well, once you popped this chip in your mouth and let your saliva do its work, it literally felt like I had a very thin piece of paper or cardboard sitting on my tongue. That is the best way I can describe the consistency of it. And it ruined the experience for me. As I’m not a person to waste food, I grudgingly finished the bag, resenting the texture of these chips more and more as I went on.

I then followed this experience with two truffles from the assorted box of chocolate truffles my boyfriend got me for Christmas. Desperate times, y’all.

I really, really wanted to like these chips. They would’ve been a very welcome addition to my diet. Sadly, I cannot get past that ending texture. That’s the gamble you take with enhanced protein products. While I love Quest Bars (and plenty of people cannot get past the texture of those), another miss from the company for me is their Cravings Peanut Butter Cups. To say I’m a fan of peanut butter is an understatement, and when you combine it with chocolate my life only gets better, so naturally I was drawn to these. I could barely finish one of them; the peanut butter inside is so dry and hard to get through without coupling it with so much water just to swallow it. I will stick with my Reese’s Cups and accept all dietary consequences that come with them.

I’ve got one more food item to test from Quest Nutrition from their pasta line that I’ll also post a review for but I’m incredibly skeptical about it at this point. For now, I shall hold tightly to my boxes of Bars and let them make things better.

What about y’all, have you tried any Quest products? Any that you like? Have you tried these chips, and if so, do you like them? What are some of your favorite alternative, healthy snacks? I’m also looking for more options!

Until next time, stay well, stay beautiful! xx

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Haul

It’s that time of year again! No, I’m not referring to Christmastime exactly. More specifically, I’m referring to the several weeks where your inbox is bombarded with the endless onslaught of emails advertising this BOGO or X% off or free shipping or whatever sale companies have concocted up for the holiday season. Black Friday alone I had upwards of 100 emails, and that was just on Friday.

Doesn’t mean I didn’t still take advantage of a few of them. 😛

As I’ve pointed out in the past in my post “A Frugal Beauty’s Guide to Not Making Your Wallet Cry”, sales, unlike Santa, don’t only come once a year. This is something I definitely had to remind myself of when I was in “BUY ALL THE THINGS!!!” mode. I didn’t even take advantage of all the sales I had initially looked at going into Friday (this includes Sigma, which you’ll see soon in an upcoming post why I chose to skip that one), and plenty of those were brands that were having great sales but on products that I didn’t need quite right this second. However, this is a great time of year for sales on particular brands that typically don’t offer as great of deals at any other point in the year, and taking that into account as well helped me pare down where it was best to put my money.

Without further adieu, here’s my haul!

*This is solely the products I got from the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend. As many of you know, Sephora also had their sale shortly after where Beauty Insiders, VIB and Rouges got a certain dollar amount off a $50 purchase. Those I’m saving for future posts.

Target – Rise by Beyoncé

I would like to welcome you into my bedroom. That is indeed a stuffed animal Golden Retriever in the background. His name is Doug, like the dog from Up! He says hello.

I fell in love with this scent as soon as I smelled it in the Target display over a month ago. What I wasn’t in love with? The price tag. $30 for 1oz. Luckily I waited on it. Target was taking 40% off their celebrity fragrances, and that was all I needed to snag this immediately. From the description: “Top notes: Italian bergamot, golden apricot, ice basil sorbet. Heart notes: gold symphony orchid, freesia blossom, natural jasmine sambac. Bottom notes: autumn woods accord, cashmere musk, vetiver extract.” It’s a really great all-day scent but is really perfect for a night out. And the bottle is awesome.

How this perfume makes me feel:

Urban Decay – Electric Palette and 24/7 Liner

I could not resist this. I had gone back and forth so long on this palette because it is truly beautiful but the price point kept me from picking it up right away. Even with 20% off at Ulta or Sephora, it was still $40, and at the time of those sales I didn’t see myself using it until spring or summer so I couldn’t justify the purchase. Then UD put it at $35 and I said f*** it, it’s now or never. Then, thanks to Nouveau Cheap’s Instagram, I saw the code for an extra 20% off, putting this baby at just under $30! Now that I could justify, plus having this little liner on hand will be great for doing some smokey eye looks in the future. I’m excited! It’s so pretty and I’m happy to finally call it mine.

Black Velvet swatch

Ulta – LORAC Champagne Dreams palette and NYX Wicked Lippies

I had already settled on getting the palette when Ulta sent an email saying their Cyber Monday deals were live and that they were giving 3X points on purchases. That only sweetened the deal! I love my LORAC Pro and this little baby was calling my name as colors in the champagne range suit me very well.

I can’t say that I was totally wowed by the pigmentation of these on bare skin without any base but I went into this knowing that this would be a good palette for creating neutral looks for myself so I’m not in the least disappointed, and as well as they perform over a base as well as their Pro big sisters, I’m content. Plus it was only $15, so no regrets here.

Wrath, Sinful, Power

The NYX Wicked Lippies were a welcome addition to my order to round it out to $25 for the free shipping. I’ve fawned over this collection for a good long while and am so ecstatic to play around with these three babies!

Wrath, Sinful, Power

Coastal Scents – 252 Ultimate Palette and Pro Blending Fluff Brush

Technically I placed this order on Tuesday when Coastal Scents extended their sale for one more day but I’m still including it here.

I had gone back and forth on the 252 Ultimate Palette for months as a way to add color to my collection after seeing so many rave reviews about it. It has been on sale for 50% off a couple times during my deliberation but I bit the bullet and have happily not looked back. It may seem silly considering I also bought the Electric palette yet this gives me even more variety on top of that for a bargain price. It was also a better way to see what colors I actually like on myself without overspending on single shadows that I never get to try until I have them in my hands, which is kind of what I was doing before and certainly wasn’t effective.

The pots are small, which I know is one of the complaints about the collection, however you’re getting 252 of them–and in my case I got them all for about $13 before shipping–and many only differ slightly in shade that if you run out of one, you’ll no doubt find something close nearby. I love the simple black packaging with the three different palettes, and while it certainly isn’t the most travel friendly collection, that’s not what I’m looking to do with it, and I can always build my own palette in the future once I see what I like from here. That is my only complaint is that there’s no key or names to the shadows for if I do find something I like, as Coastal Scents does sell their individual “hot pots” or making it easier to be led to a dupe in another brand. Oh well, I think I can manage.

I also picked up the Pro Blending Fluff Brush which has been touted as a cheap alternative to the Mac 217. It was a little over $2 with the discount so it really didn’t hurt to add this guy on. I’ll see how it holds up to the Mac 217 but for now it’s a nice soft brush that will be welcome amongst my blending eye brushes. You really can’t have too many of those in my opinion!

Lastly, CS sent along a four shadow sample of their Revealed palette with a $5 off coupon code on the back. I’m pretty impressed with the swatches from this little sampler, and while I passed on both the Revealed palettes for now I may have to reconsider in the future!

Quest Nutrition – Bars, Chips and Pasta

This is also a food blog after all, and even among my beauty goodies I could not wait for this Cyber Monday sale most of all!! I have had a lack of Quest Protein Bars in my life and this was the perfect time to restock. Seriously, I love these. They’re my favorite protein bar. If you’ve never understood the saying “Cheat Clean”, try one of these and you will. Quest Nutrition was giving 25% off orders between $39.99 and $250.00. With a box of my faves costing $25, it was easy to meet the minimum. Ugh, babies, I’ve missed youuuu.

Quest has also expanded their line to include Protein Chips and Quest Pasta. I’m intrigued. And a little scared. Thus why I only bought a bag of each to start. I plan to taste and review these, so be on the lookout!

Whew, that’s it for the big sale weekend haul! I’m really excited to get around to playing with all my goodies after the holidays when life slows done a bit. I hope you all got some great deals as well! Please feel free to share your Black Friday/Cyber Monday experiences in the comments below 🙂

Until next time, stay well, stay beautiful, Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!  xx

Kat Von D + Sephora 24-Hour Charity Challenge

KVD+Sephora 24-Hour Charity Challenge

I’ve made it a recent goal in my life to be more charitable, including contributing more to charity organizations, as I want to leave a better mark on the world and help it the best I can. Now, when you combine that goal with something like I’m very passionate about, such as beauty/the arts in general, how can I pass it up?

Kat Von D is celebrating the launch of her new site today, KatVonDBeauty.com, and coupling it with a charity challenge in collaboration with Sephora. From December 18-19, for 24 hours (I’m assuming starting from the site’s official 8am PST launch time), for every unique email signup on the website, KVD+Sephora will donate $1 to The Art of Elysium. They are a non-profit organization that encourages working actors, artists and musicians to volunteer their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions. They provide workshops in the following disciplines: fashion design, fine arts, music, theatre/media arts and arts based self-esteem. To find out more about their organization and programs, please click here.

Some of you may remember back in 2011 when Kat released two palettes, Kimberly and Evelyn, in collaboration with The Art of Elysium, so this is clearly an organization she is very passionate about. And helping out is so simple. Click this link, fill out the form with your name and email, and that’s it! If you’re a KVD fan and want to receive emails about product updates, sales, specials, etc., from the website anyway, then this is a no-brainer for you. Even if not, I still encourage you to check out this charity challenge and at least check out this organization anyway. It could be as simple as you signing up now and unsubscribing after the first email, all to help make a difference in a child’s life.

Their goal is to raise $10,000 for the organization and they’re already 10% of the way there! Come on makeup addicts, I know there are millions of you out there, we can crush that goal easily 😉

Until next time, stay well, stay beautiful! xx

Egg Nog Bars

Something miraculous has happened–I finally have a recipe to share for the first time in a long while! A lot of the cooking I’ve done lately, if I’ve done any, has been very hodge-podge meals made from stuff I have on hand and not any true recipes, so I’m very excited to finally have something to share.

Every Monday from about the end of September to the middle of December, then once again starting in January and going to the middle/end of March, we hold Soup Club at work. Each week, four people make soups and one person makes dessert. I signed up to do dessert this week, and since I was already making cookies for our Christmas cookie exchange, I decided to make another recipe that fit the season.

These Egg Nog Bars are absolutely simple to make and so delicious. I’m not quite satisfied with how mine turned out, but with how well they were received I will certainly be making them again and can hopefully perfect them to my liking!

The recipe is taken from Jen’s Favorite Cookies and can be found here.

Egg Nog Bars

Crust:
– 2 cups gingerbread crumbs
– 1/2 cup butter

Egg Nog Filling:
– 8 oz softened cream cheese
-1/2 cup egg nog (not homemade)
– 1 T. floor
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
– 1 tsp. rum extract
– 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Combine gingerbread crumbs with butter, and mix until all crumbs are moist. Press your crumb-butter mix into the bottom of a 9×13 pan and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.

While the crust is baking, combine the cream cheese, egg nog, flour and sugar. Add egg and egg yolk and mix well. Add extract and nutmeg, mix.

Once the crust is ready, pour egg nog mixture over baked crust and return to oven. Bake an additional 25 minutes, or until the center is set and not loose when jiggled. Allow to cool before serving.

For my version, because I lack a food processor (and lacked the energy to crush up enough cookies), I bought Betty Crocker gingerbread mix and mixed that with the butter instead and it turned out just fine. This will obviously result in a slightly different, more cookie-like crust than one made with crumbs from already-baked cookies, and if you want to go for a more authentic cheesecake feel to these bars–as they are technically egg nog cheesecake bars–you may want to go the crumb & butter route. My filling consistency was also a little off sadly; I could have incorporated the cream cheese better but could not for the life of me find the electric hand mixer so I had to do it the old fashioned manual way. I did the best I could this time around. Considering these were still a hit with my co-workers, there’s no where to go but up next time I make them!

I’d love to share what I made for the cookie exchange with you but I had intended to get a finished product shot this morning after they settled and my alarm decided it wasn’t going to go off this morning so I had to hurriedly pack them before dashing out of the house 😦 Perhaps I can make more after the holidays to show them off!

Let me know if you make these bars yourselves and how they turn out for you 🙂

Until next time, stay well, stay beautiful! xx

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I believe I’ve previously alluded to the fact that I would like to up my game with this blog, ie. by giving it its own domain (not just be a “.wordpress.com” blog), give it my own personal design, etc. It’s a slow going process but still a process that I’m fully committed to. I wanted to use this post to talk about that a little more so y’all can be aware of what you can expect to see from the blog over the next several months.

If you’re a frequent reader, you’ll have noticed by now that I changed the theme for my blog. I’m not 100% satisfied with it, but I like it a little more than the previous one I was using, so it’ll do for now but don’t be surprised if it changes again. As of this post, I do not have my own domain for the blog and can work only through WordPress’ limitations, meaning that my theme selection is limited to the choices that WordPress gives me. With getting my own domain, I should hopefully have more control and make a setup that is wholly my vision, but that is further down the line.

Now, this blog is not my fulltime gig. I actually am employed full time as a laboratory technician and the blog is my side project. Everything I do on and for the blog is done on my time outside of work (with the occasional posting when I can sneak it in at my desk). This includes the posts, the extra work that goes into the post of swatches, cooking or baking, taking photos of the results, etc., and learning the necessary skills to make all of those things better. I have no photography background other than pointing a camera and taking pictures. I have a very minimal coding background that extends to the CSS and HTML work I did back in the day when I played Neopets and customized their individuals pages (true life, man). On top of producing blog content, I’m learning and practicing to make that content better for my audience. I want to put out the best product that I can, because really this blog is a brand, my content is the product, and the world of bloggers is the market. My product needs to be polished and the best that I can produce to be competitive and gain your interest and continued readership.

I know I haven’t been the best at posting consistency and this is something I’m trying to work on, but I want you all to know that my primary focus is a lot of those other skills that will enhance the blog and in turn the posts. In comparison, the posts are the easier part; while I still put work into what I write, what I am writing is my opinion, and I know that well enough to communicate it well and get it out to you. What enhances my opinion and is the more difficult part is putting it into a format where you can then analyze and form your own opinion after I’ve stated my case, and that means having a blog that is appealing and easy to read and navigate, as well as complementing my words with photos that are clear and really let you examine what it is I’m talking about. Fortunately I also love photography and learning how to program so it makes the process worthwhile but still difficult and time consuming. And granted, for as long as I have this blog, I will continue to learn and modify my skills in these areas, however I would like to have a solid base that is still very good and can only get better yet still leaves me satisfied when I present it to you.

So that’s where I’m at. For now, I will still be producing content and working behind the scenes on getting a blog together that feels a lot more my own than what I have on WordPress yet, but I want to keep on a role with posting. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how pretty and sparkly I make this place if I’m not producing anything to draw you in and show you just how pretty and sparkly it is. I’m hoping to get at least one post out a week and fall into that rhythm, which shouldn’t be too difficult as I have a lot of ideas written down on paper that will soon turn into blog posts! And I’ll do the best I can to keep you updated on my progress as far as getting the blog free-standing.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and if you have any suggestions or resources that you think will help me along in my goal, I certainly welcome them. I’ll take all the help I can get!

Until next time, stay well, stay beautiful! xx

Tarte Cosmetics Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Palette Review

Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Palette

Since I gained my serious interest in makeup beginning earlier this year, I’ve learned a lot about myself, primarily from a beauty standpoint. A couple of the finer points were that I have neutral-leaning-cool toned skin and semi-hooded eyes. While I do love my shimmer shades, I find myself, because of my semi-hoodedness, reaching more for matte shades, and ones on the more cool side of things. That’s why when Tarte Cosmetics introduced their Tartelette palette, I could not resist.

The Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Palette ($44.00 USD) was released for a special week-long “presale” of sorts and will be rereleased to the public in Spring 2015 (the exact date has not been announced, but Temptalia has said January 2015, which I don’t consider spring, but that may be my Wisconsin bias). It is an all matte palette that remains rather neutral, with some shades leaning warm and some leaning cool. Some may see this as being in the same vein as the Be MATTEnificent palette (which is back in stock at that link, in case you missed out on it last year!). When I found out about that palette, that was the all-matte palette I really wanted but had been too late to the game to get, which is why I grabbed the Tartelette immediately. I can’t confirm whether the shades in the Be MATTEnificent appear exactly in this palette but looking at them side-by-side I’d say at the very least there are dupe shades in the Tartelette, and obviously no blush.

The Be MATTEnificent and Tartelette appear to be similar in size though, and the size is one of the things I like about this palette. It just feels a little more compact than my rectangular palettes. Plus it’s slim in thickness too, which I also like because then it doesn’t feel bulky, a total plus. I mean, don’t even get me started on the original packaging of Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar palette…

L to R – free spirit, force of nature, dreamer, multi-tasker, caregiver, natural beauty

L to R – free spirit, force of nature, dreamer, multi-tasker, caregiver, natural beauty

L to R – best friend, bombshell, super mom, wanderer, power player, fashionista

L to R – best friend, bombshell, super mom, wanderer, power player, fashionista

Now to the shadows themselves. I took a risk purchasing a palette that no one else had gotten their hands on yet and while I was excited for the prospect of this palette, I was also equally terrified that I may have made a mistake. I had also never used Tarte shadows or any of their products up to this point so I was making quite an investment in a new brand for me. I did not come out disappointed. The shadows are soft to the touch and for the most part feel buttery or silky with a few that are perhaps a bit more powdery.

All the swatches you see above were done on bare skin, no primer/base to them. I’ll just get it out of the way now: fashionista is superrrrr pigmented and I love it. The rest have good pigmentation as well. free spirit, caregiver, super mom, wanderer and power player were all shades that I did have to go in for a second swipe just because they are on the lighter side, but these are shades that I would be using as a base shadow on the lid, highlights and/or transition shades, so they perform as I would expect and do not disappoint. The rest speak for themselves, though sadly I feel my this-is-the-last-light-I’ll-get-for-the-day-because-it’s-winter post-work photos don’t do them enough justice. When it gets dark by 5pm these days, there’s only so much you can do.

There’s also this handy little guide that is included with the palette.

Sadly my experience wearing the palette has been limited due to a hectic holiday, but I did create two simple neutral looks for Thanksgiving with my family and the day after. Both looks held up well through the eight hours that I wore them, even as I was getting increasingly sleepy at the end of both nights, which is when my eyes start to water and everything generally becomes a mess on my face! There wasn’t any creasing that I could notice, and perhaps the worse thing to happen was the colors beginning to fade. Bottomline, if you use a primer or some other base underneath, these should play nice for you.

I know many people are bored to death with neutrals at this point but I still feel that this is a welcome player to the game, especially as an all-matte palette. There are of course other options out there that are less expensive, for example the Sonia Kashuk Eye On Neutral Matte palette for $19.99 USD or theBalm’s Meet Matt(e) Nude which is $42.00 USD but can often be found on sale for half off, just to name two. However, most all-matte palettes I’ve seen up to now have always felt a bit more warm-leaning on the whole than I’d like, and I embrace my cool side more often (oh girrrlll, give me all the silver jewelry!). With the Tartelette having such a nice variety that works for both cool and warm tones, I have that flexibility to choose which way I want to lean with a look on a particular day. I get the feeling I’ll be reaching for this palette quite a bit on its own or in combination with my other palettes and shadows as it is a great complement to my current collection.

What are your thoughts on this palette? Did you pick it up during the limited pre-release? Will you pick it up in the spring during the general sale? Let me know! Feel free to ask questions about the palette as well.

I’ve got some Black Friday-Cyber Monday haul fun coming your way so be sure to stay tuned! 😀 Until then, stay well, stay beautiful! xx

Update 12/9/14: If you’re a VIB or VIB Rouge at Sephora, you can now pick up this palette at the link here! I will add another link when this palette becomes available to non-VIB customers.