June 2015: In a Nutshell.

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Where does the time go? It feels like I was launched out of a cannon at the beginning of the month and have been hurdling forward ever since! June was crazy, hectic, and most certainly a blast- although I did fall behind on my posts just a little bit. Now that I’ve got a couple of quiet days ahead of me before Fourth of July weekend, I’ve been playing catching up.

I thought I’d be writing this from San Diego right now- but with my work schedule, current case load, and friends moving to and from the area in recent weeks- I’ve been grounded here on the East Coast for the time being. I’ll be returning to SoCal soon, though!

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I didn’t spend all of June in Massachusetts sitting behind my desk or helping friends pack/unpack their belongings, though. A considerable amount of time was spent hanging around NYC, too. A few weeks ago I had my aura read in Chinatown, and last weekend a group of friends and I caught an early morning train into Grand Central Station to give one of our own a nearly 16-hour tour of some of the city’s most famous landmarks since he had never been to NYC before and was itching to go. We started in Times Square, made our way to Radio City Music Hall, then Rockefeller Center, Central Park (where our friend had his first authentic pretzel cart experience,) One World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park, Wall Street- and then worked our way to Brooklyn before we caught an evening subway back to Grand Central. We did it all on foot- and I’m pretty sure I’m still sore from it!

The only two landmarks we couldn’t make it to were the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, which were closed by the time we made it to where the ferries were- and the top of the Empire State Building. The weather was rainy and foggy the entire time we were there- so much, in fact- that we couldn’t see the top of most of the skyscrapers! With visibility being next to zero- we all collectively decided to head back on a sunnier day to finish the tour properly.

June2015InANutshell2The 9/11 Memorial especially stood out to me. The last time I was down by where the Twin Towers once stood was in the Spring of 2002- and there was nothing left. It was both horrifying and heartbreaking. Now, over a decade later- and this beautiful memorial stands in it’s place. It’s truly something to behold. While I was there, I leaned that a white rose is placed on name plates to commemorate victims’ birthdays- which I thought was so touching (because everyone deserves to be recognized and remembered- especially on their birthday.) It happened to be Martin N. DeMeo’s birthday while I was in the area, and I snapped a photo of his rose.

I haven’t checked out the 9/11 Museum yet, but the memorial itself was worth the trip.

So what’s in store for July? More travel, of course (and not just to NYC this time!) some fashion and recipe posts I’ve been meaning to put up for a couple of weeks now, a head-to-head breakdown of Hampton Beach v. Old Orchard Beach, the usual subscription box reviews- and maybe a good old fashioned camping trip (weather permitting!)

And while I may not physically be at San Diego Comic-Con in the coming days- I’m very much there in spirit (and my spirit just happens to be cosplaying!) I might be writing up a couple of posts about upcoming projects that are displayed/revealed there based on the panels and press releases that are provided to those of us not in attendance. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new trailer for the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” and anything pertaining to Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight!”

July is the prelude to what might be my busiest and most exciting month yet- August- but we’ll get to that when the time comes!

Until then- I’m ready to slow things down a bit and enjoy all the fun July has to offer!

xx

Ipsy Bag: June 2015 Review.

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The last of June’s subscription services to arrive was this month’s Ipsy bag. The theme, “Swim Into Beauty,” was a nod to the hot Summer months. Everything came packaged in a black, waterproof bag that felt as though it was made from bathing suit material. As someone who spends a significant amount of time at the beach during the Summer, it’s nice to have something I can carry my keys and my phone in when I head to the water and not have to worry about things getting splashed and ruined!

The products, which were a mix of long-lasting makeup and skin care, were tied into the beach/poolside-ready theme.

What I Received:

LAVANILA LABORATORIES The Healthy Body Butter in “Pure Vanilla”

tre’StiQue Mini Shadow Crayon in “Kona Coffee”

J. Cat Beauty Liptitude Hydrating Lip Stain in “Blow Your Mind” (*Full Size!*)

Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Foundation Primer

IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil (*Full Size!*)

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Product # 1: LAVANILA LABORATORIES The Healthy Body Butter in “Pure Vanilla” ($19)

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but upon going to use this sample for the first time- it seems that there was only a small amount of product in the tube. It wasn’t even half full (and believe me, I shook and squeezed it in every conceivable way to be 100% positive!) I could only get enough body butter to cover one of my legs and that was it. Needless to say, I was disappointed, since I had hoped to write a more thorough review. All I can really say about the amount of product I was able to use is that it smells strongly of vanilla, and the scent lingered on my skin overnight- and that while it did not absorb easily by any means- once it did, it left my skin (including dryer areas around my knee) very, very soft. There was no greasy residue or sticky feeling left behind.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. I won’t let the aforementioned packaging issue push me away entirely from this body butter. It smells really nice and it hydrated the skin I was able to apply it to, which is really all I ask from a product like this. The only thing I’m on the fence about is the amount of time it took to absorb into my skin. I like lightweight lotions and creams that don’t require a lot of effort to apply since I’m usually rushing between work and home, etc.- so this might be better reserved for those days where I’m able to relax and pamper myself without being in a hurry.

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Product # 2: tre’StiQue Mini Shadow Crayon in “Kona Coffee” ($26)

Because it’s Summer, I’ve been wearing a lot of golds, aqua tones, and corals on my eyes and lips. When I first saw this shadow stick, I was a bit concerned about how dark the color looked but still intrigued at how it applied. The pencil- soft to the touch and highly pigmented- did appear very dark on my lids, and did NOT blend easily- which was a bit frustrating. The photo above shows the “Kona Coffee” shade on my eyes after I blended it to the best of my ability. As you can probably see, it looks a bit uneven and patchy. The only upside to this product was it’s longevity. The shadow didn’t budge, crease, or flake all day and well into the evening.

Would I Purchase?: No. As much as I appreciated the pigmentation and how long this shadow lasted on my lids, applying it was nothing short of a hassle. Once it was on, it was on- and it couldn’t be evened out or blended without using other products and utilizing a lot of time. For that reason alone, I’ll have to pass and stick with the shadows I’ve been using regularly that are much easier to apply and last just as long.

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Product # 3: J. Cat Beauty Liptitude Hydrating Lip Stain in “Blow Your Mind” ($5.99)

At first glance of the bottle, this lip stain seemed bright, fun, and perfect for the Summer. Although the applicator was an odd shape, which made working the product around my lips to achieve an even look a little awkward- the stain itself was VERY rich and pigmented. A little goes a long way, and it didn’t take much to make my mouth pop with a vibrant pink/peach color. Like it’s name indicates- this stain was in no way drying, and it lasted a very, very long time before it required a touch-up.

All of those perks are great, but the one downside to this stain was how messy it was. Because of the rich/thick consistency of this product, it came off on pretty much everything- my coffee mug, my breakfast/lunch,  my fingertips when I accidentally grazed my lips, my teeth, etc. and it seemed that whatever it touched- it would NOT come off of. If you wear this stain, you have to be extremely careful not to transfer any of it onto your skin or clothes!

Would I Purchase?: No. Don’t get me wrong, the pigmentation, the bright color, and the longevity are all great- but this product was entirely too messy for my tastes. I like my lip stains to be lightweight, and this one was heavy and came off in thick globs on anything and everything it came in contact with. It was almost like having wet paint on my mouth. I’ll just continue using my Summer stand-bys of balms and glosses.

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Product # 4: Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($36)

In my skincare and makeup regimen, I’ve never really had a need for a foundation primer. In the Summer I use BB creams, and when I require more coverage- the long-wear foundation I use has a primer already added to it- so I typically gloss over this additional step. Even still, I’ve heard great things about this oil-free Smashbox primer from multiple sources, and decided to give it a try to see if it made any difference in how long it could hold my makeup in place and keep me looking fresh.

Firstly, I really liked the texture of this foundation primer. It was lightweight, almost “fluffy” feeling (if that makes sense) and it absorbed very quickly into my skin without making me look shiny. It also kept my foundation in place all day. No touch-ups were necessary at all. That’s a great thing.

The bad news is that this primer- despite being oil-free- made me break out really bad all over my face. After using a deep cleansing mask and a harsher facial scrub for a couple of days- my skin returned to normal. I wanted to be absolutely sure the bad reaction was the result of this product, so I applied it- and only the primer- to my face again. Sure enough, the same thing happened- and I had to scrap what was left in the tube while I cleared my skin up from the painful blemishes once more.

Would I Purchase?: No. While this may be an excellent foundation primer to those looking for all-day wear, I can’t use it. I don’t know exactly what it is that is causing such an adverse reaction, but I have to stay away from it. If anyone has any recommendations for other, similar primers- but won’t cause such bad breakouts- please let me know!

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Product # 5: IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil ($12)

Eyebrow products are tricky for me, because I’m fortunate enough to have brows that never seem to get too bushy and have a natural and noticeable arch to them. Even when I let them grow out for a few weeks, they sustain the arch and require a minimum amount of waxing/plucking around the edges. I rarely use pencils on them and only swipe a clear gel formula over a couple of stray hairs now and then until I can find the time to visit the spa. That’s really all I do for brow maintenance.

I decided to go for a darker brow look using this taupe twist-up pencil, which was thin enough to be very precise but not too thin where it would crumble or snap on contact. A little bit went a long way, and my brows looked fuller and darker with only a couple of light sweeps. I liked that a lot- and the other half of the pencil served as a mascara-like wand to comb everything into place. I liked that, too. While I don’t think I’d use this product every day, it’s a good thing to have on hand!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! This is definitely a product I would keep in my makeup bag for those days between waxings where my brows require just a little touching up or when I want them to look a darker and more defined. The pencil isn’t flimsy and the brush is very helpful at keeping hairs in place. The color is universal, too. It’s not too light and not too dark- so it’s perfect on me.

Oh dear. June’s Ipsy bag has found itself in the same territory as last month’s bag. I wasn’t impressed. At all. Sure, the bag itself is great and I liked the full-sized eyebrow pencil very much- but the lip stain was a mess (literally), the shadow stick was a pain, the primer broke me out- and then there was the issue with the barely filled body butter tube.

I don’t want to complain about a $10 a month service, because things could be a lot worse in terms of quality and quantity- but Ipsy has found itself in a slump as of late. They continue to stick with the same brands (some of which just aren’t good no matter what they send out,) the same type of products, or samples that are just poor quality overall. I understand I’m not paying a fortune for the bag every month- and that there are services that are FAR more expensive out there- but I’d like just a little more effort to keep me interested. Please!

I’m going to see how July’s bag compares to the last couple I’ve received and go from there. Here’s hoping it’s an improvement.

xx

Loot Crate: June 2015.

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The second subscription box to arrive at my door this month was my personal favorite- Loot Crate! This month’s theme, “CYBER,” was perfectly timed with July 1st’s release of the new ‘Terminator’ movie (which I will absolutely be seeing since I’m a sucker for the franchise,) and the box included multiple collectibles, t-shirts, and gifts I will be passing onto friends.

Let me show you what I received!

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Up first are the usual items- my monthly collector’s pin and mini-magazine. June’s issue featured a pretty great interview with Sam Esmail, who is the creator and executive producer of USA’s upcoming hacker drama, “Mr. Robot” (I’ve seen advertisements all over the place recently and it looks really interesting!) and a Q&A with one of my celebrity crushes, Zachary Levi- among puzzles, subscriber photos, and item break-downs. I think the “CYBER” mini-magazine may have been one of my most favorites to flip though!

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The first, most noticeable item in June’s Loot Crate was this 1/2 scale replica of the Terminator endo skull. I really loved the “Terminator” movies as a kid, and have toughed it through the more recent films that have made the story more convoluted than necessary (I believe in seeing things through to the end once you start them!) but I thought this replica was pretty neat and incredibly detailed. I’m sure I can find a spot for it somewhere!

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I get pouches every month with my Ipsy subscription, and they’ve always proven to be useful in storing makeup, money, odds and ends, etc.- but none of those pouches have ever been glow-in-the-dark before, so right away I liked this circuit patterned bag. I’ve already found a use for it in my bathroom where it’s currently holding some of my smaller toiletries and beauty samples.

I haven’t worn patches on my clothing or bags in a long time, so this Future Replicant Corporate Logo patch might not necessarily find a permanent place with me, but I’d love to pass it along to someone who would have a use for it! It’s a decent size and looks pretty bad ass.

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The second “Terminator” related collectible in June’s Loot Crate was this brain chip key chain. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I collect key chains- from when I travel, or from different movies and television shows- so this fit very nicely with the collection I’ve built so far. I actually love this so much that I think it’s going to find a home on my current key ring with my car and office keys. It’s definitely a conversation piece.

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While I do play some computer games from time to time, they don’t require an external mouse- so I don’t think I have a need for this 10″ x 12″ Borderlands gaming pad anytime soon. It’s good quality, and the description in the mini-mag says it’s designed to improve precision and responsiveness of your mouse movements during game play, so I’ll be passing this along to one of my gamer friends to use!

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Summer is here, which means it’s water gun and NERF weapon season for those of us who never quite grew out of that aspect of our childhood. What better way to prepare yourself than by getting some aiming/firing practice with these Battlestar Galactica target posters? Simply tape or tack these to the wall, load up your NERF gun (or in my case, your NERF crossbow,) and perfect your shot so that you can decimate your friends when the time is right and they least expect it.

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San Diego Comic-Con is swiftly approaching, and as attendees prepare their costumes or comfortable walking shoes and studios and vendors prepare to showcase their upcoming work- those of us who can’t make it this year can still live vicariously through panel feeds or social media posts- and with little gifts like these stickers from Nerd HQ. I plan on sharing these with my niece, since there are a couple on the sheet that I like!

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The last item in June’s “CYBER” crate was this fitted Optimus Prime t-shirt. Loot Crate shirts are hit or miss for me in terms of whether or not I’d wear them outside the house. Despite every shirt I’ve received being soft and comfortable- sometimes the designs aren’t exactly my style and for that reason I reserve them for sleepwear or when I’m just lounging around. I actually love the retro look of this shirt and would happily wear this out and about. I’m more of a Megatron fan, personally- but this will do nicely.

Overall, I really enjoyed the “CYBER” crate. There was a great assortment of items that fit the theme nicely and quite a few things I’ll be keeping/using! My favorite things were by far the “Terminator” collectibles, and they have me all pumped up to see the new movie this coming week!

July’s theme, recently revealed to be a sequel to the “HEROES” crate- will hopefully be as fun as this month’s was!

GLOSSYBOX: June 2015 Review.

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I’ve been a little lax with my subscription box reviews this month, and with posting in general. I’ve been putting in some overtime at work before everyone in my office takes some vacation time, helping a couple of people close to me move into a new home, and preparing plans for the coming weeks that will see me spending some time out of town. I also recently came back from a Tour de Force around NYC that has left me recovering from a touch of fatigue (I’ll be sharing that story and the photos that accompany it soon!)

I most certainly have received my usual assortment of monthly beauty products and geeky goodies- and I’ll be reviewing them in the order in which they arrived- starting with June’s GlossyBox! May’s box, which garnered a mostly positive review, had consisted of a nice arrangement of makeup, skin care, hair care, and nail polish- and June’s box was very similar to that. There was a nice mix of different things to try and the items that weren’t full-sized were still deluxe samples- so right off the bat I was pretty pleased!

What I Received:

Too Faced Cosmetics “Better Than Sex” Mascara

être belle Cosmetics Aloe Vera Ultra Moisturizing Gel (*Full Size!*)

NEXXUS New York Color Assure Restoring Conditioner

City Cosmetics City Lips Gloss – Clear Formula (*Full Size!*)

ORLY Nail Lacquer in “Red Flare”

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Product # 1: Too Faced Cosmetics “Better Than Sex” Mascara ($23)

I’ve actually purchased “Better Than Sex” mascara in the past, and I’ve loved it- so receiving a travel sized tube in June’s GlossyBox was a treat (I’ve already stored it in my overnight bag for the next time I hit the road for a weekend.) This formula makes my lashes look longer, darker, fuller and more dramatic overall with just a couple of swipes of the hourglass shaped wand- and it doesn’t flake, clump, or smudge all day long.

The only downside I’ve encountered with the full-sized tube I owned was that the handle/wand somehow broke- coming loose and making it impossible to get excess mascara off of the brush. That was a bit upsetting, especially considering the product is $23 a pop- but other than that- I really like this mascara and I recommend it for those who love a good dramatic eyelash look without having to apply falsies.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I don’t think I’d be opposed to re-purchasing another full-sized tube of “Better Than Sex” (I love the name, by the way,) although I plan on using up this travel-sized one first just to see if I have a similar issue with the handle. If I don’t, then I’ll know it was just bad luck with my first tube- but if this handle comes loose, too- then Too Faced seriously needs to fix their packaging. We’ll see how it goes.

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Product # 2: être belle Cosmetics Aloe Vera Ultra Moisturizing Gel ($24.95)

When I was little and took dance classes, aloe vera gel became a lifesaver to my dance troupe and I- especially around recital and competition season. My teacher at the time- bless her heart- seemed to have a penchant for putting us in the scratchiest, most uncomfortable sequined and glitter-covered costumes imaginable.  By the end of the day- our skin would be red, raw, sore and splotchy (and our faces wouldn’t look much better, since we’d be crying a lot because of it.) After years of suffering this same fate over and over- our moms FINALLY began bringing aloe vera gel to every class, every rehearsal, and every competition leading up to the final recital in the Summer. Before and after each performance, we’d line up and get some of the cooling gel rubbed onto our skin to soothe us and keep us from itching.

Since then, I’ve rarely used aloe vera gel (maybe because it gives me flashbacks to those agonizing days?) only rubbing some on after I’ve been out in the sun for a while to keep my face from looking and feeling dry- but I liked the way this product smelled (very clean and refreshing,) and felt compelled to use it on my face and neck for a few days just to try it out. Sure enough, my skin felt softer and looked more supple almost instantaneously. Even with makeup applied over it- my complexion stayed bright and youthful- and my skin felt tight but hydrated all day.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I think I’m finally over my trauma of past uses of aloe vera gel, and it’s all thanks to this product. This is a great moisturizer to keep on hand when you need a boost of hydration (especially in the Summer months when the sun is beating down) or just some fast relief when your skin gets dry or irritated. I also think that every little girl currently suffering through dance recitals in uncomfortable costumes would love this- so take notice, parents out there reading this post!

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Product # 3: NEXXUS New York Color Assure Restoring Conditioner ($16.99)

I haven’t used NEXXUS shampoo or conditioner in a long time- not since my platinum blonde days, anyway- when my stylist at the time swore by them and convinced me to purchase full-sized bottles of their shampoo and conditioner set. After repeated usage, I came to the conclusion that the shampoo dried out my already-damaged hair a bit too much and that the conditioner was overpriced considering how much of it I’d use to hydrate and untangle my thick, unruly curls. I’ve steered clear since then. I always see their products at the pharmacy or at the grocery store- but I tend to skip right over them and go straight for my usual hair care arsenal that hasn’t failed me over the years.

I was surprised to see such a large sized bottle of their “Color Assure” conditioner in June’s GlossyBox, and having recently touched up the red in my hair- I figured what better time to see if this product worked better for me than the NEXXUS conditioner I’d tried in the past?

This product smelled pretty strong, and I wasn’t a fan of how overpowering it was as I worked it through my hair- but thankfully the fragrance didn’t linger for too long once I’d combed it through (with difficulty) and rinsed it out. The other downfall to this conditioner was that it didn’t really soften my hair. I still had a hard time working my comb through my curls while it was wet and my fingers through as it dried.

The perks of the “Color Assure” conditioner was that it didn’t weigh my hair down or make it feel greasy- and my color hasn’t faded since I’ve been using it- which is nice to know when I’m going over products that are safe for my hair and won’t make my red run orange.

Would I Purchase?: No. Like my first try with NEXXUS, I just wasn’t really impressed with this product. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever used in my hair by any means, but it just didn’t give me the softness and manageability I would expect from something that costs close to $20 per bottle. I like that it didn’t fade my color (seriously- I’m always so happy when I find something that doesn’t!) but I can achieve similar, if not better results with what I use on a regular basis for a fraction of the price.

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Product # 4: City Cosmetics City Lips Gloss – Clear Formula ($35)

There was a time- long before I settled on the good ‘ol lip liner and gloss method- where I was on the prowl for a certified “miracle in a tube” lip gloss that would give me fuller, almost cartoon-like lips in one quick, easy step. I’m not stranger to “Lip Venom” or any of it’s competitors/imitators- and I’ve toughed it through enough of the warming, tingling sensations the ingredients in plumping formulas provide, so I had no problem giving City Cosmetics’ clear formula a shot.

First, the good: the formula didn’t burn, and it also didn’t feel sticky or tacky on my lips. Because this particular color was clear, it was hard to really get an idea of it’s longevity, but I felt the gloss on my lips for quite some time after I’d first applied it- even after eating and drinking- so I think it’s safe to assume that it stays in place.

BUT (here comes the bad,) this gloss didn’t plump my lips. At all. Not even a little. You can see no difference whatsoever in the above comparative photos I took- or at least I can’t. I essentially applied clear gloss and that was it. For $35 dollars for a relatively small tube, I expected SOMETHING noticeable.

Would I Purchase?: No. This product was a let-down. While I appreciate a non-sticky gloss as much as the next person, that alone is not enough to convince me to throw away money for another tube of this. There were no results. My lips didn’t look any plumper- and I could achieve the same look and feel this gloss gave me with a significantly less expensive balm, instead.

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Product # 5: ORLY Nail Lacquer in “Red Flare” ($8.50)

First, I must apologize for the state of my nails. I’m long overdue for a proper manicure and my last attempt at a DIY-job left them little more short and rounded than what I’m used to. I wanted desperately to show off this lovely shade I received in June’s GlossyBox, however- and snapped a quick photo of the color in natural lighting. Although “Red Flare” looks like a bright cherry tone, there’s a bit of purple in there too, which may be hard to notice at first glance. I’m really liking this formula so far, which has been pretty resilient. There hasn’t been any chipping or peeling or anything in the days since I’ve applied it- which is always a good thing if you don’t like doing or can’t find the time to retouch your nails every other day (which I absolutely don’t/can’t.)

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I don’t know if I’d re-purchase “Red Flare” again, not because I don’t think it’s lovely but because I already own a lot of red shades- but I’d love to try some of the different colors ORLY has available. It applies smoothly, dries quickly, and stays on strong- and for $8.50 a bottle- you can’t really go wrong!

With three out of five products being very much to my liking, June’s box- like May’s- wasn’t half bad. As noted above, the assortment of items was good and the sizes of the samples were even better. While I wasn’t a fan of the conditioner or the lip gloss- the other products I received made up for it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what GlossyBox has in store for July. I’m hoping it’s another themed box to commemorate Independence Day!

xx

My Guide to Boston!

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Whenever friends are visiting from out of town (and sometimes from even out of the country!) they always ask me what there is to do around Boston- and the answer isn’t always easy. I mean, what isn’t there to do around Boston? As bustling and as busy as it is picturesque- Boston has something to offer everyone from all walks of life: rich (and sometimes really insane) history at every turn, breathtaking museums and galleries, incredible restaurants, unique shopping experiences, distinguished and esteemed universities, a thriving night life, plenty of space for those focused on fitness to get their workouts on, a top notch music scene and some championship-hoarding sports teams.

Sure, there are the accents (guilty as chaah’ged,) the not-so-friendly drivers, the mind-boggling roadways, or our questionable and unspoken rules when it comes to parking spaces during snowstorms- and there’s always the comparisons to Boston-centric movies like “The Departed” or “The Town” by those outside the city/state who have never stepped foot in or have met anyone from the Greater Boston area before- but the good outweighs the bad.  Boston is a city filled with some of the brightest, most colorful, brilliant and strongest individuals on the East Coast who never hesitate to band together to show the nation- and the world- how united we truly are in the tougher, more challenging times (like in the days following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing,) to the happier, more celebratory times (like the rolling rallys following a championship win!)

I first started spending a significant amount of time in Boston when I was 16/17 and my friends (some of whom had cars that barely ran) and I were eager to stay out late and see what the city- just an hour or so outside of our small and quiet town- had to offer a group of teenage troublemakers. As we grew up, Boston became less of a late night and weekend-only destination and more of a second home- until it eventually became an actual home for some of us. Over the course of just over a decade leading up to now, I’ve become a regular at some establishments and am still discovering new places now and then that open up doors to whole new worlds, possibilities, interests- and friends.

While there are SO MANY places to go and things to see in Boston, I thought I’d compile a small list of the ones- some well-known and others more well-kept secrets- that I frequent regularly and encourage others to visit while they’re in town and are looking for a good time (or good food) without spending a ton of money. I’ve also included some of the more “tourist-y” staples, too- because why not? If you’re in the city- you may as well participate in some good old fashioned local goofiness!

I’m really going to miss this place once I eventually head out to San Diego. I really, truly am.

*NOTE: Please keep in mind that the places I’ve listed are just some of my own, personal preferences. If you’re looking for other options around the city- there are a lot of helpful resources available (including Yelp and some of the blogs listed in my sidebar under “Local Lovelies!”) I plan on doing another, updated post like this somewhere down the line where I’ll include different locations- but for now- these are just a few of my favorites!*

Let’s start with what most people ask me about- the food! I like to cook, but I also love trying new food at new places, too. Many of my friends who visit ask me about Quincy Market- which is one of the more busy and tourist-friendly areas to dine in the heart of the city, but in my opinion- you can get a generic slice of pizza or a bowl of clam chowder anywhere (without having to be in such a crowded space.) For an unforgettable “foodie” experience, all you have to do is head off the beaten path- just a little bit. Here’s some of my usual go-to spots to dine out.

DINING (BREAKFAST/BRUNCH)

South End Buttery (314 Shawmut Ave): Although you might have to wait a bit for a table at this cute corner cafe, I promise you it’s worth it. The food is incredible- the perfect way to start a Sunday morning- and I highly recommend the herb and cheese omelette. It’s my favorite. If you don’t have time to sit and dine, the South End Buttery also has an equally delicious and impressive take-out menu.

Kelly’s Diner (674 Broadway – Somerville): If you’re looking for a classic diner experience (or want to nurse a hangover,) with some delicious food and a really friendly staff- then you just need to head a couple miles Northwest to Kelly’s Diner in Somerville. On those mornings where I want to cheat on my diet- just a little- I come here and scarf down pancakes like I mean business.

Masa Restaurant (439 Tremont Street): If you’re in the mood for a breakfast/brunch with a more spicy flare- look no further than Masa. Their Southwestern-inspired menu is unique, affordable- and hits the spot. If you’re looking for a pre-noon kick, their specialty drinks are worth a taste, too.

Cafe Luna (403 Mass Avenue – Cambridge): For solidified brunch plans with a group of friends, consider making a reservation at the Cafe Luna in Cambridge. Their menu is a teeny-tiny bit pricier, but their pancakes and omelettes are so, so worth it! I’m also a big fan of their chocolate stuffed French toast- which completely satisfies my sweet tooth.

DINING (LUNCH/DINNER)

Assaggio (29 Prince Street): Definitely one of my favorite spots for an intimate Italian meal, Assaggio is located right in the middle of the North End- making it perfect for a romantic night out with someone special or for a quiet get together with friends and some wine. Definitely call ahead to make a reservation to save yourself some wait time!

Taquería Jalisco!

Taquería Jalisco!

Taquería Jalisco (293 Bennington Street – East Boston): In San Diego, there’s a Mexican food restaurant called Pokez that I LOVE. I always try to stop there whenever I’m in town because their food is authentic and delicious- and Taquería Jalisco is the East Coast version of that. The restaurant is small- but lively- and their menu is expansive and so, so good.

Beat Hotel (13 Brattle Street – Cambridge): I was recently introduced to this fantastic restaurant located in the heart of Harvard Square, but it has quickly become one of my favorites with it’s ever-changing menu of mouth-watering entrees, specialty drink selections, and live jazz and blues performances. They have brunch options that I have yet to try out- but if it’s as good as their dinner menu- I know I’ll be a big fan.

Wagamama (Quincy Market, Prudential Center, and Harvard Square): There’s nearly a handful of Wagamama’s scattered around the Greater Boston area, which makes it convenient when I have a craving for some of their fresh and filling Japanese food but am not quite mentally or physically prepared to deal with the heavy flow of pedestrian traffic around the Quincy Market area. If you’re looking for a couple of menu suggestions, I enjoy the ebi gyoza, yaki soba, yasai cha han- and any of their raw juices.

Boston Burger Company (1100 Boylston Street):  I’m a carnivore, and sometimes- I just want to devour a delicious, juicy burger. While the BBC offers chicken, soup and salad selections, too- their burgers are hands down some of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. I love the Waikiki Beach Burger and the Green Monstah Burger the most, but they’re all fantastic. Pair them with your choice of wedge cut fries and you are in for a meal you won’t regret or forget.

Grasshopper (1 North Beacon Street – Allston): Vegan. Chinese. Food. That’s really all you need to know. To some, the concept might be confusing and maybe mind-blowing, but trust me when I say that you will never, ever regret stopping here. The food is fantastic and filling without that gross “I think I might die” feeling you get with regular Chinese food orders. I can eat an alarming amount of their veggie chicken fingers and best of all? They offer a takeout option. YES!

 DINING (COFFEE/DESSERTS)

 Caffé Vittoria (296 Hanover Street): If you’re craving something sugary and sweet while walking through the North End, you may feel inclined to hop into the ALWAYS RIDICULOUSLY LONG line at Mike’s Pastry to wait for one of their famous cannoli- or, if you want to save yourself some time- you can walk just a few feet down the street and stop in Vittoria for a cappuccino, a piece of tiramisu and take in the charming aesthetic of the cafe. I love gathering here with friends here after a night out or sitting down by myself to sip on espresso and catch up on emails when I have some down time. It’s just a lovely little spot.

The Thinking Cup (165 Tremont Street): Bostonians love their Dunkins, and that’s all well and good- but if you’re looking for something bolder and stronger than whatever ice cream flavor infused coffee D&D is cooking up this week- then I recommend stopping by the Thinking Cup (which also has locations in the North End and Back Bay.) Their coffee is rich and their pastries and sandwiches are fresh- making this place an ideal choice for that early morning brew or evening snack on the go.

Crema Cafe (27 Brattle Street – Cambridge): Crema is another gem located in Harvard Square that boasts a pretty good breakfast and lunch menu, but it’s their coffee and pastry/dessert selection that I rave about the most. I always make it a point to grab an iced chai whenever I’m passing through the square or doing some shopping around Cambridge to keep a little pep in my step- and their coconut macaroons are the stuff dreams are made from. So, so good.

DRINKS (THE 21+ KIND)

McGreevy’s (911 Boylston Street): I swear I’m not putting McGreevy’s at the top of my list just because I’m a big Dropkick Murphys fan (Ken Casey owns the place,) but because they have great drinks (the Pineapple Piper is the best,) awesome specials, a friendly staff- and a ton of historical Red Sox memorabilia on the wall (authentic- NOT cheesy.) It’s a sports bar, so if you’re looking to kick back and watch a game with some good food and a hard drink- this is the spot.

The Junction (110 Dorchester Street – South Boston): Southie gets a bad name sometimes, but if you’re not falling for the tall tales and notoriety often tacked onto this area of the city- it’s a lot of fun to explore. I’m not a big beer connoisseur by any means, but I’ve always enjoyed myself at The Junction when I’ve popped in. The service is good and the atmosphere is welcoming- and you’re guaranteed to have a good time if you stop by when there’s any type of sporting event going on.

Tavern at the End of the World (108 Cambridge Street – Charlestown): I love Irish pubs. I love pub food- and I love Charlestown- so TatEotW is a nice stop whenever I’m hanging around Bunker Hill and want to grab some not-so-diet-friendly food and a couple of drinks. This place sometimes has live music and stand-up comedy shows, too- which can be a fun way to end the night.

Highball Lounge (90 Tremont Street): If cocktails (or cocktails with little rubber duckies floating in them) and unique finger foods are more your style, then you’ll love Highball Lounge. With a sprawling space, fancy furniture, board games and occasional live DJs performing- Highball is perfect for bigger get togethers and parties that require a little flare and pizzazz to keep everyone entertained. Also- did I mention the rubber duckies in the drinks? Because I love that.

Sunset Cantina (916 Commonwealth Avenue): In the Summer, and typically before/after I catch a show at the Paradise (more on that later,) I like to swing by Sunset Cantina to grab a margarita and some snacks. This place has such a HUGE menu filled with fantastic drinks and food, and it’s within walking distance from pretty much anything and everything- shops and restaurants, to music venues and the Green Line (in case you have somewhere else you need to be.)

Brick & Mortar (567 Mass Ave – Cambridge): One of my favorite hidden gems in Central Square, B&M lies within exposed brick walls above Central Kitchen. Skilled bartenders mix your poison behind a copper top bar, and the atmosphere is very laid back and relaxed. I like to come here on low-maintenance dates from time to time, and I’m never left disappointed. This is a great spot in Cambridge and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Jillian’s (145 Ipswich Street): Following shows at the House of Blues down the street, I like to bring people to Jillian’s for a nightcap and some highly competitive pool and/or bowling (highly competitive for me, anyway.) Jillian’s is a three-floor bar equipped with a fully functioning bowling alley. Some nights are busier than others, so I recommend calling ahead if you want to get a couple of games in- but I’ve always had a tremendous amount of fun here every time I’ve stopped by.

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LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

When it comes to live entertainment around the city, Boston has all of your needs covered. With an active theater district, a couple of stadiums and arenas for bigger shows and events, and plenty of smaller venues to house independent artists, comedy, poetry, and everything in-between- all you have to do is look- in any direction, really- and you will find a lengthy list of easily accessible places to go to be entertained.

Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Avevnue): By far my favorite music venue in Boston, The ‘Dise is a small, intimate venue that has played host to some of my favorite rock artists. The sound carries really well throughout the building, so if you’re standing in front of the stage or you’re up in the balcony area- you’re going to have a great view and hear everything perfectly. I have so many fond memories and have met so many friends while hanging out here.

Middle East (472-480 Massachusetts Avenue – Cambridge): This is another smaller venue in Central Square where I’ve seen plenty of awesome shows and have danced ’til dawn during DJ nights. If you can get past the fact that it can get humid and musty in there (it is basically a cellar, after all,) than you’ll have a lot of fun here. There’s also an upstairs area that houses shows and events, and serves food as well.

The Comedy Studio (1238 Massachusetts Avenue, 4th Floor – Cambridge): Boston has no shortage of comedy clubs, but The Comedy Studio is hands down the best- and not just because I worked there for a while, either! Located above the Hong Kong restaurant in Harvard Square, TCS features some of Boston’s funniest stand-up comedians and plenty of talented up and comers every night. They also serve a mean scorpion bowl. Stop by and tell Rick, the owner- that I said hello!

The Cantab Lounge (738 Massachusetts Ave – Cambridge): If you like poetry readings, both watching and/or participating, then you should head over to the Cantab on Wednesday nights where the venue hosts weekly poetry slams. The lounge also serves as a spot for open mics and live bluegrass and blues shows, too- and serves up drinks and food if you’re looking to make an evening out of the trip to Central Square.

Tunnel (100 Stuart Street): I’m not big on going to dance clubs much these days, at least not as much as I was in my early twenties- and many establishments I used to frequent have long since closed. I’ve been to Tunnel, located inside the W Hotel, a few times- and each time has been fun. I like the atmosphere of the club and the efficiency of the bar staff. The space is tiny, but unless you require a tremendous amount of room to dance- you can make it work. There’s also some seating, and VIP tables are available for reservation.

House of Blues Boston (15 Lansdowne Street): Formerly the Avalon and Axis night clubs (R.I.P.) across from Fenway Park, the HOBBoston serves as a multi-floor bar, concert venue, and night club (if you do, in fact, need a tremendous amount of room to dance.) I’ve seen a lot of great shows here since it’s opening, and it’s just a short walk away from other bars, restaurants, cab stands, and the T- which means you can get back to where you’re staying quickly and safely.

STRETCH YOUR LEGS

I don’t tell every visiting friend or family member to sign up for a gym membership in the city if they’re looking to get a workout, because there’s plenty of places to get some exercise that are both free and picturesque. My friends and I pretty much walk everywhere- reserving our cars and the T for when we need to be at a certain place in a hurry (like work or the airport, for example,) but if you’d rather I list a couple of places where you can run/walk/bicycle/stretch in peace- then here you go!

Commonwealth Avenue Mall (484 Commonwealth Avenue): Located right next to the Public Garden, The Commonwealth Avenue Mall is a strip of trees, greenery, and statues that stretches through Back Bay alongside beautiful brownstone homes and businesses. I love passing through this area at night in the warmer months, and I always see people jogging along the pathway or stretching on the grass. It’s just a clean, pretty area to work out.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir (400 Chestnut Hill Avenue – Brookline): If you want to get a nice walk/run in somewhere that isn’t right smack in the middle of the city, then I recommend the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which is located within a reasonable distance from Boston College but is still tranquil and scenic enough to make it feel like it’s miles away from civilization. There’s wildlife, plenty of greenery, and space to move around.

Castle Island HarborWalk (2010 Day Boulevard – South Boston): If you want to spend a day at the beach without making the drive to New Hampshire or Cape Cod, then Castle Island is a great destination. Sandy beaches, boating, and plenty of space to run/walk or stretch out on the grass and get some sun- this is a nice spot to spend a Summer afternoon.

SHOPPING

Narrowing down places to shop around Boston was almost as difficult as selecting some of the restaurants I listed above. There’s just so many places scattered around the city where you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for. Instead of doing a shop-by-shop list, which would have required an entirely separate post on my blog- I condensed this part of my guide into areas that feature a variety of stores and items for everyone’s tastes and interests. I hope it’s helpful!

Newbury Street (Back Bay): I have a love/hate relationship with Newbury Street. It’s a great mix of high end boutiques (including Chanel, Tiffany’s, and Armani) and affordable shops (Forever 21, H&M, ALDO, etc.) as well as restaurants and bars, but traffic- both auto and pedestrian- is a nightmare. My best advice if you attempt to brave this very busy area is to take the Green Line to Copley or Hynes Convention Center and learn how to maneuver yourself around and between the slow walkers and the groups of people who walk side by side across the sidewalk and block everyone’s path.

If you can’t take it anymore, the shops at the Prudential Center are only a hop, skip, and a jump away!

Assembly Row (340 Canal Street – Somerville): Relatively new, Assembly Row offers a wide array of shops, restaurants, a movie theater, Boston’s LegoLand, and special events like free riverfront yoga classes and weekly outdoor concerts. This place is great to shop in during the warmer months, and has the same charm as Newbury Street without all of the overcrowding.

Harvard Square (Cambridge): I’ve already mentioned a few places around Harvard Square to dine, drink, and see some live entertainment- but I can’t NOT talk about how the square is a great spot for shopping, too. There’s a lot of eccentric little stores and fantastic finds just waiting to be discovered between more well-known shops. I’m a big fan of Raven’s Used Books and Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, but I’m always being introduced to new things whenever I’m in the area.

Garment District (200 Broadway – Cambridge): Boston has plenty of department stores, but if you want something a little more alternative, unique, and affordable- then you don’t need to look any further than The Garment District. Specializing in buying and re-selling gently worn clothing, GD carefully categorizes their inventory to make it easier for shoppers to find whatever it is they’re looking for- from swimwear to shoes, work clothes to Halloween costumes. There’s seriously SO much to peruse through and they are always updating their stock. Every once in a while you can find a great designer piece for a fraction of the cost- so keep your eyes peeled!

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TOURIST-Y FUN

I can’t give someone a tour of Boston without taking them to at least one “tourist” hot spot. Let’s be real- Boston has a lot of history and even more famous landmarks. While some people may get annoyed with certain places and areas being overtly crowded with out-of-towners stopping to snap selfies or check a map- I think it’s great. I’m proud of my city and I’m always thrilled that other people are taking time to check it out, learn, and experience it firsthand. I encourage tourism as long as visitors are being respectful of the area and of the locals (so no making fun of our accents to our faces, okay? We know they’re obnoxious.)

Here’s a few places I typically bring friends to get the “Boston” experience.

Fenway Park (4 Yawkey Way): The Green Monster, The Cathedral of Boston, and home of the Boston Red Sox- you have to visit Fenway at least once in your lifetime and you have to catch a Sox game there at least twice in that same lifetime. I love this ballpark, overpriced drinks and all- and seeing a home game doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg if you don’t mind standing for a few innings or just want to experience your first real sing-along to “Sweet Caroline.” I buy standing only tickets all the time and enjoy myself just as much as the people in the more expensive seats. It’s all about making the most of the event.

The Freedom Trail (Boston Common): Look, The Freedom Trail is boring. I’m just going to say it now. You follow a red line marked on the sidewalk around Boston for a couple of hours and see some historic sites and that’s about it. I know a guy named Rob who is a tour guide- he wears a colonial costume and everything- and even that’s not enough to get me to go through with this more than once- but if you love history and you REALLY want to see  Paul Revere’s house or the Granary Burying Ground- then I say go for it! You’d probably spot these sites while walking to something infinitely more interesting and fun anyway- but by all means- take the tour if you want.

Boston Duck Tours (Museum of Science Driveway): Getting stuck in traffic behind one of these monstrosities is infuriating, no doubt- but I can absolutely understand the appeal of the Duck Tour- especially for those with small children or elderly companions who can’t navigate around Boston on foot quite as easily as others but who still want to see the city. For $35 bucks (adult price) you get an 80 minute tour of Boston- riding around on these bus/boat hybrids that bob and weave through the streets and eventually take a dip into the Charles River while a guide points out places and facts for your listening pleasure.

Cheers (84 Beacon Street): The biggest misconception about ‘Cheers’ is that a lot of visitors seem to think the interior of the bar resembles that of the bar from the television show. It doesn’t. The only thing that is the same is the exterior of the building- but that doesn’t make “Cheers” any less of a fun tourist spot while you’re in the city. With really good food, a lot of memorabilia on the walls, and a gift shop with plenty of assorted “Cheers” themed knick-knacks to buy- this is a must-do while you’re in the city. There’s actually two locations in Boston, but the better of the two is on Beacon Street- in my opinion.

Boston Common (139 Tremont Street): This is actually a spot that both tourists and locals love and appreciate, and is one that I spend a lot of time in on nicer days. Boston Common and the Public Garden- a sprawling park with greenery, sculptures, vendors and areas for live entertainment- is the ideal place to spend an afternoon reading under a tree, having a picnic, playing sports, strolling around, etc. It’s also just minutes away from Downtown Crossing, Newbury Street, the State House, Beacon Hill, and a lot more. I always make it a point to proudly show it off to anyone who is visiting Boston for the first time because they usually fall in love with it right away.

Faneuil Hall (1 Faneuil Hall Square): When passing by Government Center or the Waterfront, I encourage people to admire Faneuil Hall from a distance. It’s lovely to look at but is kind of a mess to walk through unless you’re in the area later on at night after the street performers and vendors have gone home for the day and most of the shops have closed. It’s a very, very packed area for pedestrian traffic, but it’s historic and has some intriguing stores and restaurants if you’re feeling brave enough to face the crowd and uneven cobblestone (wear comfortable shoes!) I do admit I really like this area at Christmastime though, when it’s lit up and the gigantic tree has been set up and decorated. It’s very, very pretty!

Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Avenue): Boston has a lot of great museums, and I would have gladly listed them all- but I wanted to feature my favorite of the bunch and that is the MFA, without question. I can spend hours in this place going from room to room and admiring paintings and sculptures and the new exhibits that are set up every few months. It’s a beautiful space with helpful tour guides and stops to rest, shop, and eat whenever you need a break. The museum also has a lot of special events and offers classes, too. You can get a heads up on upcoming activities and exhibits by subscribing to their monthly e-mailed newsletter.

Boston Harbor (1 Long Wharf): Like Boston Common, I enjoy spending time outdoors down by the waterfront on warmer Summer days. There’s plenty of places to sit and watch boats passing by or grab a quick bite to eat- and if you’re not prone to seasickness- you can always kill some time by catching a harbor cruise or by going on a whale watch. I particularly like bringing my friends from England to this area- just so they know where we threw all of that tea that one time (Hi Imogen!)

And there you have it! My guide to Boston. As I stated above- there’s still SO much more to do and see- but I simply cannot list it all! I thought the locations I linked to were a good place to start, and I do intend to write a follow-up in the future- but I hope that this post is helpful to newcomers who are visiting the area for the first time or who are back again and may have missed some of what I’ve listed.

Are you from Boston? Have you visited? Is there anything you think I should add? Do you have any questions about anything I’ve written about or linked to in this post?

Let me know!

HELPFUL LINKS:

CityOfBoston.gov

MBTA.com

Hotels in Boston

ARTSBoston (includes theater and city festival schedules/tickets) 

*IN CASE OF EMERGENCY*A comprehensive list of hospitals and medical centers in and around Boston.

xx

(All photos included in this post are my own.)

Summer Nights…

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As much as I love my kitchen and as relaxing as a soak in my bathtub can be, my bedroom is by far the most sacred room in my place- not only because it’s where I rest my head at night- but because it’s where I go when I want/need to think and contemplate, cuddle my dog, listen to music without disturbing my neighbors, or dance like a fool to my favorite songs (also without disturbing my neighbors,) or write, draw, and have a good cry- or just sit still in the quiet for a while and not do anything. My bedroom is where I go to find moments of peace after a long day at work or when I come back from a trip and am acclimating to being home again (and maybe recovering from jet lag, depending on where I went.)

For that reason, I like to occasionally update my room to keep it looking and feeling fresh. It could be something minor, like rearranging my furniture a bit, lighting a few candles, or hanging up a new picture- to something a little more time-consuming- like putting a new coat of paint on the walls or performing a major clean-out of my old clothes, shoes, bags, etc.

I was recently inspired by the good folks over at Parachute to share what do I do to prepare my bedroom- my sacred space- for the Summer months. Since I’m currently in the middle of a full-blown bedroom renovation (complete with picking out paint swatches,) I had a few tips and tricks for those who might be trying to prep their own bedrooms for this time of year!

For those who aren’t familiar with Parachute, they are a bedding company based out of  Venice Beach that specialize in creating premium-quality and exceptionally comfortable bedding at a reasonable price that won’t break your bank. Their sheet sets and pillowcases are simple, yet beautiful- and made with the utmost care and precision before they’re delivered right to you!

Parachute also gives back in an awesome way- partnering with Nothing But Nets. With every Venice bedding set that the company sells, a bed-net is donated to a person in need in Africa to protect them from Malaria-carrying mosquitoes (because everyone deserves a good, peaceful- and safe night’s sleep.) Customers who don’t purchase a Venice set can also make a donation at checkout to Nothing But Nets if they choose. It’s an incredible cause and Parachute has really impressed me in a lot of ways since I was introduced to them- not just with their earnest (and cute- because we’ve all wanted to find and recreate hotel style bedding at one point or another after a great vacation) story of how they came to be or the quality of their products- but with their charitable endeavors, too.

But I digress! In the Summer, when the New England days are hot and the nights can get really humid- I focus a lot on my bedding and keeping my room as uncluttered and “light” as possible in order to stay de-stressed and cool as a cucumber while the temperatures rise. Throughout the warmer months, I’m a minimalist with my decor. My heavy blankets and flannel sheets get put into storage bins until the Fall, and I like to make sure my room looks and feels spacious- and always smells crisp and clean- so that I’m refreshed every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up to take on the day and beat the heat.

I have four must-haves when it comes to my Summer bedroom look and feel:

BeddingCollageSummer2015

Clockwise from the left:

– Clean Cotton Sheets: There’s nothing worse than tossing and turning all night and sweating bullets because you’ve forgotten to put away any and all fleece and flannel bedding, Although I do keep a duvet folded up and within reach for those rare but still possible nights when the temperatures in New England drop unexpectedly (usually when in the midst of a tropical storm working it’s way up the coast,) my bedding consists of lightweight cotton sheets and pillowcases which are so comfortable and easy to care for.

I try to keep the colors as basic as I can, too- sticking to white, creams, and light blues- so that the overall look of my room is brighter and more Summery as opposed to the Fall and Winter when I have more forest greens, dark browns, and grays splashed across my bed. (Bedding image via Parachute.)

– A Fresh-Scented Candle: As much as I love my heavier pumpkin spice-scents and dessert-fragranced candles in the colder months- the Spring and Summer is all about fresh citrus, light florals, clean, beachy/ocean scents- and soothing lavender. I love walking into my room and being greeted by crisp notes that make me feel refreshed and invigorated. I typically light candles in my bedroom and let them burn while I’m elsewhere in my place so that the fragrance has a chance to really work it’s way around my room and adjacent hallway- and only blow them out before I leave the building or before I go to bed so that my room always smells good! (Candle image via Parachute.)

– A Small Desk Fan: I need some white noise and total darkness to fall asleep soundly. Leaving a radio or the TV on isn’t an option and those “soothing sounds” recordings aren’t quite enough to help me doze off peacefully- but the whirring of a fan does the trick. Not only is the noise soothing to me (and drowns out the sounds of any birds, insects, or unruly neighbors should I leave my window open at night,) but the air circulation keeps me, my pillowcase, and my sheets cool so that I don’t end up waking up feeling sweaty and gross. (Fan image via Pinterest.)

– Cooling Eye Gel: While not technically considered bedroom decor, I do keep a bottle of cooling eye gel and/or cream on my night table at my bedside during the Summer to dab on under and around my eyes before I go to sleep at night. The gel is cold to the touch and soothing to the delicate eye area, which is refreshing when it’s hot and humid in the evenings. It reduces puffiness and redness (definitely important when the pollen is flying around,) and brightens up my face overnight so that I don’t have to weigh my skin down with a ton of concealer the next morning that’s probably going to melt off in the sun anyway! (Eye Gel image via YesTo)

I also really like that it doesn’t thaw out and leak all over my nice cotton sheets the way some refrigerated eye masks tend to do when left out too long- and it stays in place without staining my pillowcases- unlike those cucumber patches and sticky under-eye peels. I simply tap this on, flip through a book or magazine while lounging in front of my fan while it sinks into my skin, and then get some sleep!

Those are my must-haves when it comes to my bedroom in the Summertime, and have been for years! I’m sure if and when the day ever comes where I’m living in a cozy beach-side bungalow, my routine might change a bit (like substituting the desk fan for the natural sounds of waves crashing against the sand, for example-) but while I’m here in New England- just outside a bustling and hot city- these have worked really well for me!

Do you have any bedroom essentials in the Summer? Any rituals? I’d love to hear them!

xoxo

“Your aura is purple!”

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On occasion, I hear about places and things to do that are so unique and so unlike anything I’ve ever seen or done before that I don’t hesitate to grab my bag, my camera, hop in my car- and go check it out for myself. I love trying new things and exploring unfamiliar territory that it’s like a rush of adrenaline to just get up and go.

This past Saturday, I did just that- catching an early morning train into New York City for a day trip that put me right in the middle of Chinatown. My reason? To have my aura photographed and explained/evaluated to me in detail at Magic Jewelry on Canal Street.

AuraReadingJune20151

I believe in many things (I’m beyond fortunate to come from a very diverse family and have very diverse friends- all of whom practice different beliefs and all of whom I’ve learned many different things from,) so I approached Magic Jewelry- tucked away between massage parlors, nail salons, and souvenir stands- with an open mind. I was buzzed into the small shop where I was greeted and given a cup of really good green tea by a friendly older women while the other lady working attended to a group who were there for the same reason as me.

My photograph only took a few minutes to snap. I was seated in a little corner of the shop and told to rest my hands- palms flat- on two metal slates at my sides as I looked into the camera. While I waited for my photo to finish developing, I caught a glimpse of some of the photos taken of the other people who were waiting inside the shop with me and noticed that each one was very different from the next in terms of colors and intensity.

The photo of mine is above, and it’s very, very red! I was given a summary of the past three weeks- including things I’ve been concerned with and things I’ve been feeling (which was both remarkably and eerily accurate since I offered no information about myself leading up to it!) as well as predictions for the next three weeks. From there, I was given more tea while I perused the shop’s assortment of available crystals, charms, and jewelry- none of which were pushed on me- which was much appreciated!

I was pleased with the overall experience. It was new, different, exciting, and enlightening. If you ever find yourself in Chinatown and you’re looking to have an interesting experience- I recommend checking Magic Jewelry out!

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With my aura photograph tucked away safely in my purse and the sky opening up to make way for what proved to be a beautiful afternoon, I spent the next few hours walking around Manhattan and window shopping. I did stop to refuel at The Hummus & Pita Company/The Juice Shop on Broadway where I picked up a chicken, brown rice, and Moroccan bean pita and a smoothie that were made fresh (and were super tasty) before I opted to head back home for the evening before it got too late.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday. I’m going to be back in NYC with friends within a couple of weeks (for one of my friends, it’ll be his very first time there!) so it’ll be nice to spend more than a few hours hanging around town for a change.

And depending on how accurate the prediction I was given for the upcoming three weeks turns out to be- maybe I’ll take him to have his aura photographed, too.

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xx

May 2015: In a Nutshell.

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Under the Boardwalk - Old Orchard Beach, May 2015.

Under the Boardwalk – Old Orchard Beach, May 2015.

Happy Sunday, everyone! I’m stretched out by my window and enjoying the breeze as I type this right now, being unapologetically lazy before I head out for a drive (and to get some tea) this afternoon!

I can’t believe tomorrow marks the first day of June (which also means that we’re nearly halfway through 2015!) I had mentioned earlier this month how Spring came and went in the blink of an eye this year- only leaving behind a lot of pollen in it’s wake- before New England was fully enveloped in Summer. The days are longer and hotter, the beaches are already getting packed with people- and throughout May I ate more than my fair share of delicious BBQ at family cookouts- an indulgence I’m sure will continue well into the next three months or so.

I definitely spent a lot of May enjoying the outdoors. taking long drives and hikes throughout places like Concord, Hampton, and Old Orchard Beach (as well as around the city, too!) and making more outdoor plans for the coming months. I saw a couple of shows throughout the past few weeks when I wasn’t working or doing the aforementioned minor traveling- and I’m continuing to see and feel great results with my diet and healthy eating regimen (I’m actually ready to buy a new bikini!)

In June, I have more travel planned- including a couple of stops in NYC and a possible adventure in San Diego (if my schedule allows for it!) As for my blog content- I’ve perfected some more recipes I’m excited to share, and will FINALLY be putting up my personalized guide to Boston (I know I’ve been working on it and promising it since as early as April, but I kept getting sidetracked!) as well as some other posts I’ve been drafting that have unintentionally fallen to the wayside amid all my busy-ness at work, frolicking around on the weekends, and succumbing to seasonal allergies.

I’m excited that the pollen will (hopefully) be washed away with some impending Summer storms we’re supposed to have in the coming days- because I’m ready to stop sneezing and get back to writing, my photography, and posting more often. Although the first *official* day of Summer isn’t until June 21st- it’s already here as far as I’m concerned- and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

xox

Loot Crate: May 2015.

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Rounding out my monthly subscription box reviews for May is Loot Crate (my personal favorite.) This month’s theme was “Unite,” and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect as I waited for it to arrive. I knew there would be a team/teamwork element to it, and probably a nod to the recently released and hugely successful “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie, but there were a LOT of ways it could go.

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Up first were the usual items- my monthly collector’s pin and mini-magazine. May’s pages featured a list of some of the greatest teams in the comic world (including the Justice League and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,) and a Q&A with Boom! Studios’ President of Publishing & Marketing, Filip Sablik.

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May’s Loot Crate included not one, but two comic books- the first, a Bravest Warriors book from Boom! Studios, and the second- a MAD Magazine (which I haven’t read since I was a kid, so that was a nice kick of nostalgia!) I’ll probably skim through these and pass them along when I’m done.

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I KNEW there would be some Avengers stuff in this month’s crate- and I was quite pleased that I received three items! The first, a decal that I have every intention of putting on my car now that it’s washed and pollen-free, the second, an Avengers ice cube tray- and the third- Avengers shoelaces! I loved all of these things and am absolutely being selfish and keeping them for myself.

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And now for two items from brands/cartoons that I’m completely unfamiliar with- this 300 piece jigsaw puzzle from ‘Rick and Morty,’ and this set of four pins from ‘Team Fortress 2.’ I’ll be giving these away to someone who may enjoy them more. My niece loves puzzles!

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Finally, I received this soft and fitted Power Rangers’ Green Ranger t-shirt. I was never really into the Power Rangers as a kid (I remember a lot of kids beating the hell out of each other on the playground while trying to imitate the karate moves, though-) but I like the unique design on this and will keep it to wear when I’m lounging around since it’s so comfortable!

Overall, with the exception of the Avengers stuff- I wasn’t really sold on May’s Loot Crate. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but it wasn’t particularly memorable for me, either.

June’s theme was recently revealed to be “CYBER,” so I’m hoping they have a better selection of stuff!

Ipsy Bag: May 2015 Review.

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While nearly all of the Ipsy bags I receive are cute and fun with their designs and colors- every once in a while I get one that just wins me over before I even see what’s inside. May’s bag did just that. I thought the simple and clever lipstick logo printed on the side of the bag was fun (and yes, I’ve since stored my now minimized lipstick collection in it!) and a nice change from the usual floral prints I receive this time of year.

What I Received:

Briogeo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray

AMIE Morning Dew Matte-Finish Moisturizer

BelláPierre Cosmetics Waterproof Mineral Gel Eyeliner Pencil in “Ebony” (*Full Size!*)

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide on Lip Pencil

Products I Didn’t Use:

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Product # 1: Luxie Beauty Tapered Blending Eye Brush 205 ($12)

Why Not?: I say this pretty much any time I receive a brush in a beauty subscription service- but I have so many makeup brushes as is, that using this one seemed unnecessary! Sure, the handle is a pretty pastel pink and the bristles felt super soft when I grazed them with my fingertips as I removed the brush from my bag- but I’d much rather give this away- brand new- to a friend than use it on myself just for the sake of writing a quick review about it! If anyone is really curious about the quality of this brush, and any of Luxie’s other brushes- I’m sure there are plenty of reviews floating around YouTube and the Blog-o-sphere!

Onto what I did try, though.

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Product # 2: Briogeo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray ($20)

First things first, if you have curly and unruly hair like I do- this lightweight but VERY strongly scented spray is not going to be enough to simply style-and-go. It’s not very effective at taming frizz or giving the hair any type of texture or definition- and you will need to use another product/products to get your desired look.

That small set-back aside, I liked how soft and shiny my curls felt and looked each time I spritzed some of this product from my roots to my ends while my hair was damp after the shower. There was no crunchiness, no greasy residue, no scalp irritation and no flakes. The product helps mend split strands and protects the hair from UV damage and free-radicals- which is especially great in the Summer when I spend a lot of time outdoors in the city.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! While the floral fragrance can be a little overpowering at first, it doesn’t last long- but the results from this spray certainly do. This is a quick and easy addition to any post-shower styling routine, and I’d definitely purchase a full-sized bottle in the future to have on hand.

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Product # 3: AMIE Morning Dew Matte-Finish Moisturizer ($9.40)

Until now, I wasn’t familiar with the brand Amie- but I was intrigued by it’s natural ingredients and was quick to try this moisturizer. The yellow color, the light texture, and the fragrance sort of reminded me of Clinique’s ‘Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion,’ but once I applied this product- I noticed my skin felt a bit tighter once it had fully absorbed. It wasn’t uncomfortable by any means, but it was unexpected- and it would probably please those who are looking for something with firming benefits.

The downside to this moisturizer, though- is that it made me break out. After a few days of use, I had painful blemishes along my chin, the bridge of my nose, and my forehead- all of which cleared up once I stopped using this product. That was a bit of a let down.

Would I Purchase?: No, for obvious bad reaction reasons. This moisturizer might be great for someone with less sensitive skin and who is looking for something lightweight that will hydrate and firm- but for me- it just didn’t work out.

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Product # 4: BelláPierre Cosmetics Waterproof Mineral Gel Eyeliner Pencil in “Ebony” ($14.99)

And now, for my least favorite product in May’s Ipsy bag- this black eyeliner from BellaPierre. I typically post a picture of how the liner looks on my lids after I apply it, but this time there is no such photo- because the second I gently pressed this pencil to my lid- the tip completely broke off. Thinking maybe it had just dried out a bit while in transport, I attempted to sharpen the pencil down to a point- only to have it continually crumble over and over (and over.) Considering this was the only other full-sized product I received- I was really disappointed that I couldn’t even use it.

Would I Purchase?: No. This product was a mess from start to finish. I can’t describe it’s pigmentation or staying power- because I couldn’t apply it! I’ll skip over this liner in the future and stick to my tried and true, instead.

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Product # 5: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide on Lip Pencil ($20)

Oh, Urban Decay- how I love you. Your shadows. Your liners. Your lipsticks. You are a bright, shimmering, and highly pigmented beacon of light in the cosmetics world. I’ve been meaning to try UD’s new Revolution Lip Glosses for a while now, but haven’t had the chance to head to Sephora just yet- so I was pretty excited to receive two different samples of the gloss alongside an *almost* full-sized version of their lip liner in the clear formula, called “O-Zone.” Now, it was kind of hard to determine whether or not the liner stayed in place- what with it being colorless and all- but it didn’t feel drying and it didn’t feel greasy after I’d applied it to the best of my ability.

Now, the glosses. Out of the two, “Bittersweet,” the purple color shown above- was my favorite- but both glosses went on easily and stayed in place for hours before they began to fade. I loved how pigmented they were, and really the only downside to the formula was that they felt a little sticky for a while after they were first applied- but that’s only a minor setback in what was otherwise great gloss.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe on the pencil- but yes to the glosses! I’d like to try the lip liner in a subtle but more noticeable shade to get a better idea of it’s staying power since “O-Zone” was a little difficult to gauge- but I am head over heels in love with the Revolution Glosses and will be stocking up when I finally get to Sephora to replenish some of my skin care next month!

May’s bag was more like the “Meh” bag (I’m so clever,) because while I loved the Urban Decay products and the leave-in conditioner sample- the moisturizer caused a bad reaction, the eyeliner was a crumbling, dried-out mess- and I didn’t use the brush at all. I just wasn’t all that impressed this month.

I think it’s great that Ipsy occasionally ventures away from the usual brands they collaborate with and mix it up a little with new companies- but I’d like more of a variety in terms of products. No more black eyeliners or oily moisturizers- and PLEASE– no more brushes! I’ve altered my profile on their site countless times but I still get brushes every other month. I have plenty!

Here’s hoping June features a better selection.