GLOSSYBOX: January 2015 Review.

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Much to my shock (and delight,) my January GlossyBox actually arrived a few days before I flew out to California last week as opposed to showing up during the last couple of days of the current month/first few days of the following month. For packing purposes, this was great- because I could just take the (mostly) travel-sized products with me in my luggage and try them on the road! Best of all, January’s GlossyBox included a cleanser, toner, and serum- which meant I didn’t have to pack all of my full-sized products from home.

I don’t know if more prompt shipping is a 2015 resolution for GlossyBox, but I certainly hope it is!

What I Received:

Teeez Trend Cosmetics Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush (*Full Size!*)

VICHY Purete Thermale 3-In-1 One Step Cleanser

Kueshi Revitalizing Face Toner (*Full Size!*)

Skin&Co Roma Truffle Therapy Serum

Lollipops Eye Pencil in “Goodbye Moon” (*Full Size!*)

Products I Didn’t Use:

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Teeez Trend Cosmetics Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush ($23.50)

Why Not?: In my recent review of January’s Ipsy bag, I had also received a makeup brush, and opted to gift it to a friend who is currently replacing her brush collection since I had received an entirely new set of my own for Christmas. Although I loved the design on the handle of this natural-hair brush, I don’t really have a use for it right now and would hate to only try it once or twice for the sake of a review instead of passing it forward to someone who needs it or who would appreciate it more.

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Product # 1: VICHY Purete Thermale 3-In-1 One Step Cleanser ($19.50)

I’ve heard of facial cleansers that doubled as makeup removers and vice versa, but never a cleanser that worked as a makeup remover AND a toner. When I think toner, I think of the cool, tingling sensation that comes when I swipe some over my face with a cotton ball. This alcohol-free formula, which can be used with or without water- left my face feeling soft, clean, and comfortable- and helped gently remove excess makeup that I may have otherwise missed with just a regular cleansing pad (or with only my facial soap) without drying out my skin or causing any type of bad reaction. It’s an interesting product that really came in handy while I was traveling because of it’s multiple purposes.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I like a product that saves me a little time and space in my bag/shower by doing more than one thing. I used this cleanser twice a day, every day while I was in California- and my skin continued to feel and look fantastic. I’d definitely purchase a full-sized tube of this in the future- especially for when I travel again!

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Product # 2: Kueshi Revitalizing Face Toner ($13.50)

See, THIS is the type of product I think about when it comes to contemplating toner. This not-harsh-at-all pink liquid ended up being a lifesaver while I was on vacation (and again when I was snowed in during the recent blizzard.) My skin, after being on an airplane for a few hours and adjusting to changing climates- tends to get a little crazy- either producing too much oil (and making me look shiny all over,) or not enough oil (and making me look dry and patchy.) This toner evens out the skin’s texture and tone, hydrating dry areas while absorbing excess oil in slicker ones. My skin felt refreshed for hours after use- and the product itself reminded me of candy with the way it was scented- although that could have just been my imagination.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I loved this product, and was so tempted to carry it around in my purse to use for when I was done working out or walking in the warm San Diego sun. It evened out my complexion and the overall feel of my skin without stripping it the way some other, harsher toners tend to do. I’m absolutely going to purchase another bottle of this when I’m done with the full-sized one I was lucky to receive this month!

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Product # 3: Skin&Co Roma Truffle Therapy Serum ($80)

In February of last year, I had received a sample of this very same lightweight serum in my GlossyBox and had enjoyed it very much. Nearly a year later, and my feelings haven’t changed at all. This product still makes my skin feel soft, smooth- and it still smells like a delicious dessert. Although I have yet to see a considerable difference in the brightness of my skin or any noticeable changes as far as the anti-aging aspects go from just the serum by itself- it’s still a great warm-up to my daily moisturizers.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! Although I still feel the price tag on this product is a little outrageous, it really is a great serum that gives phenomenal results- and when I’m ready for my next big splurge- I’ll be picking up a full-sized bottle of this.

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Product # 4: Lollipops Eye Pencil in “Goodbye Moon” ($14)

Between the unique packaging and the unconventional name of this retractable black eyeliner, I was eager to try this product to see how it stacked up against the (also retractable) liner I had received in January’s Ipsy bag. I had finished giving myself a fine-lined cat-eye on one eye, noticing that the pencil was considerably softer and more pigmented than it’s Ipsy competition- but when I went to apply the same look to my other eye- the tip broke off. I twisted the liner up slightly and went to try again- but it broke once more- and then one more time. When I did finally finish applying the liner to my other eye, it had come out thicker and more uneven due to the repetitive breakage and consequent uneven tip. I was so frustrated that I ended up just removing the liner from my eyes all together.

Would I Purchase?: No. Despite it’s pretty packaging, this liner was pretty much a disaster from the second the tip first broke until I eventually called it quits. I liked the pigmentation and how soft it felt when applying pre-breakage, but I’ll be sticking with more reliable formulas from now on when I want a dark, dramatic cat-eye.

With the exception of the eyeliner, January’s GlossyBox was pretty great. I loved the skin care products- and even though I will be giving away the brush I received- the overall value and quality of nearly everything in the box was impressive.

With the on-time shipping and great assortment of products, I’m having a good feeling in the direction GlossyBox is taking this year. I hope they keep up the great work!

With Love to San Diego…

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Whenever I write a post related to my leaving San Diego (and it happens frequently, since I’m here a lot!) the tone always feels- to me- like I’m writing a eulogy for a dearly departed friend or family member or something. I just feel so sad whenever I have to pack up my bag and head back home to Massachusetts- no matter how long the initial trip out here was.

That feeling is especially poignant today since most of Massachusetts and New England is set to be slammed with a pretty serious blizzard shortly after my plane is scheduled to touch down in Boston. Going from Summertime temperatures and being able to run around the beach in a sundress these past couple of days- only to return home to snow, slush, and frigid temperatures- is like a kick to the stomach. Yuck!

Pushing the impending cold out of my mind as best as I could, I spent yesterday- my last full day in SoCal- at Ocean Beach watching gigantic waves crash against the pier, window shopping at different little stores along the main strip near the water’s edge, and snapping photos while trying to get just a hint of sun-kissed color on my skin (it didn’t work. It never works.)

Despite my intensifying sadness at having to leave in just a couple of hours, overall I had an incredible post-birthday weekend. It was nice to see some familiar faces, enjoy the sunshine, surf, and sand- and just relax for a couple of days!

Another thing I always say in my San Diego-related posts is that I have every intention of moving out here but just never actually get around to starting the process. I promised myself that in 2015 I’d at least make an effort to get the ball rolling on re-locating- and once I’m done shoveling myself out of whatever this winter storm throws at me back in Boston- I’m going to start looking at potential condos and houses, both online and through my friends and networks out here.

Until then, it looks like I’ll be seeing everyone back on the East Coast shortly!

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xx

Planes, Cakes and Automobiles

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Hello from my hotel room in Downtown San Diego! I arrived in SoCal late yesterday afternoon for a long weekend of sun, sand, Mexican food, and some rest and relaxation. My 29th birthday was this past Thursday- and since I’ve spent pretty much every celebration of my getting yet another year older bundled up in frigid New England temperatures- I thought a couple of days in warmer weather would be a nice change and do me some good.

So far I’ve spent a little time working out, breaking into even more of a sweat in the sauna, and indulging in a little pampering- and I’m planning on doing some shopping this morning before I head to the beach and then meet up with some local friends for dinner and drinks later on tonight.

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Last year for my birthday, my mom surprised me with a small party where she went above and beyond to satisfy my love of all things “The Walking Dead.” This year, knowing how excited I am for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” to be released in the Spring- she decided to stick with a Marvel (and specifically Captain America,) themed party at her house for me with some of my family because even though I’m 29 now- on the cusp of 30- I can still love and appreciate cute toys to add to my growing display of nerd-dom.

I especially loved the chocolate “Hail Ashley” cake, a play on the Marvel baddies, HYDRA- which was so good it was practically evil (see what I did there?) The cake was also huge- so at least I know when I get back to my place from California next week I’ll have more than enough pieces waiting for me!

I can’t wait to see what she does when I turn the big 3-0 next year.

Ipsy Bag: January 2015 Review.

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A new year brings a new series of monthly subscription service reviews. To kick off these posts for 2015, I decided to begin with my January Ipsy bag, themed “Fresh Start.” The bag itself, a plain, kind of boring blue and white pouch that gave me a sort of clinical-vibe- came packed with mostly makeup- and only had one product in it that I didn’t use.

What I Received:

Elizabeth Mott All Over Shadow Brush (*Full Size!*)

Hikari Cosmetics Mechanical Eye Liner in “Storm” (*Full Size!*)

Probelle “Into The Blue” Nail Lacquer (*Full Size!*)

Pacifica Natural Mineral Coconut Eye Shadow in “Ethereal”

La Fresh Eco-Beauty Be Good. Good Day. Day Moisturizer

Products I Didn’t Use:

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Elizabeth Mott All Over Shadow Brush ($9.99)

Why Not?: For Christmas last month, my mother was kind enough to purchase an entire new set of  really great makeup brushes for me. For that reason, I didn’t see a point in using this one- despite it’s cute pink handle and brightly tipped synthetic bristles- and will instead be gifting it to a friend of mine who is looking to replace some of her own brushes in the coming weeks. I will say that price-wise, I think $9.99 is a steal for something that seems to be such good quality when I’ve seen other brushes like this being sold for much, much more.

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Product # 1: Hikari Cosmetics Mechanical Eye Liner in “Storm” ($13)

I have to admit I was relieved when I first twisted up this retractable liner and saw that the color wasn’t black. I have so many black eyeliners from various subscription services over the years that to get something different- even a slate grey like “Storm”- is a breath of fresh air. After priming my lids, I gave this product a try to test it’s pigmentation and longevity- the two biggest selling points for me. The liner felt kind of hard, almost scratchy- as I applied it- not at all like the creamy pencils I’ve grown accustomed to- and it required more than one sweep to get the grey to really show up the way I wanted.

Application and poor pigmentation aside, this liner did have one saving grace- and that was it’s staying power. I wore “Storm” in the midst of a torrential downpour, oddly enough- and while some of the rain had caused my hair to frizz and some of my mascara to smudge- the liner didn’t budge at all. Sadly, that wasn’t enough for me to fall in love with it.

Would I Purchase?: No. As impressive as the longevity of this eyeliner was, the application process was a hassle and the lack of pigmentation was a let-down. I’ll stick to my Urban Decay liners and gel liners (like I usually do,) since they apply easily, show up with one stroke, and stay in place all day.

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Product # 2: Probelle “Into The Blue” Nail Lacquer ($6)

Blue nail polish seems to be THE color these days, having made appearances in my Ipsy bags and GlossyBoxes in the past. I’ve been wearing my powder blue “Provocative” Formula X lacquer from Sephora non-stop as of late, and this shade from Probelle- free of Formaldehyde- is a little bit darker but goes on just as smoothly. The photo above was after three fast drying-coats. So far, there hasn’t been any signs of chipping or peeling- so I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I don’t think I’d re-purchase “Into The Blue” again, because I already have a variety of blue-toned polishes in my collection, but I’d love to try some of Probelle’s other available colors.

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Product # 3: Pacifica Natural Mineral Coconut Eye Shadow in “Ethereal” ($14 for Full Palette)

When I was reading about the formula for this Pacifica eye shadow, I was really intrigued by it’s being infused with coconut water. I don’t believe I’ve ever tried anything like that before, but I noticed right away that it certainly made a difference in the shadow’s texture- which applied almost like a cream despite being a powder. “Ethereal,” a light nude hue, felt comfortable on my lids and stayed in place all day without creasing or flaking. Pigmentation wise, the color looked pretty light with my skin tone- and might be more suitable as a highlighter, instead- but overall I was impressed.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! Sadly, I don’t believe Pacifica carries individual shades in this formula- but I don’t think I would hesitate to splurge on a palette in the future if the other included colors were half as nice as “Ethereal” was!

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Product # 4: La Fresh Eco-Beauty Be Good. Good Day. Day Moisturizer ($40)

I’ve never heard of La Fresh or Eco-Beauty, and after receiving this moisturizer and doing a little research on the brand, I’m kicking myself for not being introduced to them or discovering them sooner. The company, which uses all-natural ingredients and is cruelty-free- has a series of products for nearly every skin concern in interesting, clever packaging. This lightweight day cream, which smelled strongly of plants (but not in a gross way,) absorbed into my skin quickly and left it feeling soft and supple without any greasy residue. After a few days of dedicated use- I noticed my face looked brighter, more even-toned, and smoother. I was pleasantly surprised!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first began using this sample of day cream, but I found myself frantically squeezing the tube to get the last little drops out of it when I’d run out because I loved it so much. I am definitely purchasing a full-sized tub of this cream in the future, and might even splurge to get the matching night cream and serum (and maybe their facial masks, too!)

In conclusion, January’s Ipsy bag featured three products I loved, one I wasn’t a fan of, and one I’ll actually be gifting. While the design of the bag was a bore and it wasn’t a “five-out-of-five sample success”- overall I still enjoyed the bag very much. I found a moisturizer that gave me amazing results, a lovely blue nail polish, and a great, long-lasting shadow to use as a highlighter.

Not a bad way for Ipsy to start off the year!

The Morgan Library

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This past weekend, I found myself in NYC for a couple of hours. It was pouring out in the city- damp, frigid and pretty miserable- and I ended up ducking into The Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue for a short period of time to dry off, warm up, and browse Pierpont Morgan’s private library and study. I couldn’t resist snapping some photos (without flash, of course,) of the collection- because the rooms were just so gorgeous and awe-inspiring. I wound up slowly walking from shelf to shelf- exhibit to exhibit- staring through the glass at rare books and artifacts that had been accumulated over the years.

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Admission to The Morgan Library was $18 (for adult entry) and I recommend it for anyone who wants a quiet and quaint museum experience for a couple of hours while they’re in New York- with or without a torrential downpour outside.

Afterwards, prior to catching my train, I made a quick-stop a couple blocks down and around the corner at Black Shack Burger to grab a bite to eat- and although the service left a lot to be desired (the guy at the counter obviously wanted to be anywhere but there and seemed kind of irritated while I was doing a speedy browse of the menu-) the food was really, really, REALLY good. I liked the atmosphere of the place, too, which felt like an underground punk rock club with all the gig posters I saw tacked up by where I had sat down. I’d definitely stop by again- and hopefully the employees are in better spirits when I do.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a rainy, chilly Sunday- although next time I’ll be sure to bring or buy an umbrella.

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xx

10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

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I’ve recently embarked on my third year of blogging here at “Legally Redhead,” making connections I value and creating content I’m proud of. It’s been an immensely fun, rewarding ride- and one that I hope I can continue with for many more years to come!

Prior to “Legally Redhead,” I had a handful of older, less focused blogs that spanned my mid-teens through my early twenties- and although the content was all over the place (and predictably more embarrassing to look back on-) they served as rough drafts of sorts to this blog. Through them, I got a feel for how I wanted to write and what I wanted to write about, who I wanted to be as a blogger, and the types of connections I hoped to create.

I also gained a lot of perspective and experience from those older blogging endeavors- and continue to do so even now. While I wouldn’t call or consider myself an expert of a guru in the blogging realm- I do have some tips and tricks for those who are taking to their keyboards to express themselves in an ever expanding world of writers!

Whether you’re new to blogging or are a seasoned veteran- I hope some, if not all of these pointers I’ve learned over the years can help in some way, shape or form!

1. Find your audience (and help them find you!)

Once you’ve created your blog, chosen or designed a layout, and have started to put together your content- it’s important to seek out your audience and make it easier for them to locate your blog, too. When I first started writing, one of the biggest mistakes I made was failing to tag each of my posts and never even attempting to promote them on social media or message boards/forums- so it was essentially like I was writing for myself and no one else. Whatever your posts are about, be it travel or food or video games or even basket weaving- make sure you tag them with keywords! Not only is it a great way to organize your posts by content, but it enables people searching for those keywords to find your writing so much easier!

And message boards/forums are a great way to put yourself out there, too. You can connect with so many people with similar interests and who post similar content and share posts/blog links, collaborate, get feedback, etc.

There’s also great (and free!) sites like StumbleUpon, where you can type in your interests and be directed to blogs and posts about them- or submit your own posts for other users who are browsing. I really have “stumbled upon” some fantastic blogs since I started using the service that I would have otherwise missed, and have seen my own share of referrals when I check my stats.

2. Network! Network! Network!

This one goes hand-in-hand with finding your audience, but is more about the benefits of having a presence on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram- each website offers it’s own unique perk to a blogger looking to connect and expand with different settings and tools. I like to connect with readers and other bloggers alike using Twitter and Instagram- where I share previews of upcoming posts or photographs of things I’m working on.

Whether you use your personal account(s) of create new one(s) specifically to sync up with your blog activity- I can’t recommend staying active and in-touch on different social media platforms enough. Like the aforementioned message boards/forums, it’s a great way to stay in contact with with readers and other bloggers and keep people informed about what’s happening with/on your blog.

I also recommend looking into Blogger groups in or around where you live. Planned events and meet-ups are a lot of fun and can help bloggers- old and new- connect on a local level, make friends, and promote themselves in a bustling, positive setting. I’ve been a part of the “Boston Bloggers” group for a couple of years now and have never regretted attending any of the scheduled meet-ups or social groups. I’ve made a lot of empowering, interesting and intelligent friends- and have both given and received feedback on my work which has been so helpful- all while enjoying great food, a couple of drinks, or even getting pampered together!

3. Get organized and plan ahead.

As someone with a pretty hectic work schedule, I try to stay as organized as possible for my own sanity. It’s a practice I’ve since introduced to my blogging, too- and it’s been really helpful in keeping me on top of my posts, my planned posting schedule, and when I can put time aside to curate content/take necessary photographs/etc. I’ve managed to cut back on stress and late night-typing sessions while simultaneously creating posts that I’ve been really pleased with.

For example, I use a planner to note what posts I want to create and what date I want to publish them a week in advance. I draft the posts in the evenings after work for a half hour-an hour at a time (so I don’t burn myself out,) and put aside a little time on the weekends to take the necessary photographs (when I won’t feel pressured to get it done quickly and can adjust my lighting and settings accordingly at my own pace,) do some editing, and/or travel to any desired locations. This method leaves me with enough free time where I can still maintain a healthy social life and go on spontaneous adventures (because those types of posts are fun, too!) My posts go up in a timely manner, as scheduled, and by that point- everything is edited and spell-checked to satisfaction. No last minute scrambling required!

4.  Seek out your inspiration.

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced when blogging is drawing inspiration in the midst of a packed schedule. That’s not to say I’m incapable of finding any when I’m swamped. It’s everywhere- in music, movies, books, photographs, and scenery- but it can be easy to forget certain things that inspired you when you have a lot of other stuff on your plate. That’s why I carry a pen and notebook with me at all times and utilize my voice-to-text notebook app. on my phone. When I get an idea or am feeling inspired for a post- I write down what I was doing, where I was, how I felt and what my ideas were at the time so I can refer to it later when I sit down to write.

I’ve heard of many bloggers making “inspiration boards,” as well- which include photographs, drawings, writings, recipes, etc. to use when curating content. Sites like Pinterest make this even easier and are a great tool when comprising or drafting posts since there are thousands upon thousands of ideas and photographs to browse and draw inspiration from.

5. Set the mood and your environment to write the way you need to.

When writing, it’s important to feel comfortable and relaxed in your space to ensure you’re putting together the most focused and wonderful posts you can. Sometimes I like to listen to music, and other times I like to write in silence. Sometimes I can have people in the room with me while I’m typing away- and other times I prefer to be alone. It all depends on my mood and the type of content I’m writing. Before I begin to blog- I make it a point to set the mood- whatever it is at the time. I clean and organize my writing space (which in turn clears my sometimes cluttered mind,)  get the audio- if any- at the volume I’m okay with, and relax.

Lately I’ve found that a little background noise actually helps me be more productive- but if I can’t get to the local coffee shop or there’s no rain falling against my window outside- I turn to sites like Coffitivity and Rainy Mood, which offer adjustable and soothing white noise (like the sounds of early morning murmuring you’d expect to hear in a café or a Spring rain shower,) to break up the silence without breaking my concentration. Make your space your own- and the words are bound to come to you as you type!

6. Utilize the free tools available out there.

The internet is a vast and endless source of information- and can be especially helpful to bloggers who might need a little help but don’t want to break the bank while seeking it out. Sites like Pixlr (which I use often) is a completely free photo editing site that offers users- no membership required- access to a ton of quick filters or advanced editing options that rivals Photoshop in terms of ease of use and quality- and doing basic (or elaborate, depending on what you need) YouTube searches can turn up detailed and informative tutorials to assist you with anything from coding to photography to marketing- and anything in between.

Long story short: there are plenty of business-savvy bloggers out there who can (and will) market personalized classes or seminars to help you bring out the best in your blog while validating the often staggering price tag of those classes/seminars with a lot of fluff and fancy words. If you don’t mind spending the money and truly feel it will benefit you and your writing- then by all means go for it- but I recommend doing a little bit of browsing around free sites like YouTube (and even other blogs!) first- because some of that very same information you’d be paying for can be found at no cost to you at all!

7. Do your homework- especially when opportunities come knocking.

A brand representative approaches you and asks you to review a product in exchange for promotion for your blog. It sounds exciting, right? It is! Collaborating with a brand or company can be a lot of fun and is a great way to get your name and your blog out there to an audience you may not have otherwise connected with- but before you agree to anything, as is the case with any business transaction or agreement- make sure to do your homework. Does this brand/company share similar values as you (cruelty-free, no history of scamming customers, etc.?) Have they worked with anyone else before like this- and if so- did they hold up their end of the bargain and provide the promotion they promised in exchange for the review?

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with a few different companies here at Legally Redhead, writing reviews for goods and services that were generously provided to me free of charge- but on more than one occasion- I’ve had certain brands/companies not do what they said they would in return. As a result, I’ve since pulled the posts from my blog. because at the end of the day, while receiving free stuff is fun- I still put time and effort into my writing and/or photography- and not having the other party respect their part of the agreement is not only frustrating- it’s insulting.

I’ve also had a few different companies approach me about “reviews-in-exchange-for-promotion” agreements in which I would have to pay for their products/services with my own money. I’m not saying that every company that does this is looking to scam eager and unsuspecting bloggers- but just be cautious about what and where you invest your money! You don’t want to hand over your hard-earned cash, use your time to write a review- only to not get the promotion you rightfully deserve and were promised. Always, ALWAYS- do a little research and never feel ashamed or intimidated about asking questions. You have the right to be informed and they should have the decency and professional courtesy to be as transparent as possible when answering those questions!

8. Writer’s block is normal (and nothing to get discouraged about!)

I fully admit that I’ve had my days (and weeks) where I just hit a wall in terms of creating content or drawing inspiration that I can translate into a post I take pride in. I’m not one to put a fraction of effort into something, either- which can make my inability to write even more frustrating. Listen- don’t beat yourself up if you have a bout with writer’s block. Everyone does. It’s completely normal. Don’t struggle or strain yourself trying to think of what to say or how to say it. The best thing you can do for yourself when the words just aren’t coming to you as easily as you would like is to take a step back and do something to decompress. Watch a movie, eat a good meal, go for a walk, or even just get some sleep- anything to take your mind off of your writing for a little while.

I guarantee you, when you return to it after you’ve rested and recharged- it’ll be a piece of cake to pick up that pen or take to your keyboard and get back to work.

9. It’s okay to take a break if you need to.

Blogging is supposed to be fun- whether it be a hobby or an earnest career endeavor- you should be enjoying yourself while you do it. If there ever comes a time when you find that the very idea of trying to come up with a new post or networking is so endlessly frustrating or depressing- it’s absolutely necessary that you take a break (and for as long as you need to get yourself back on track.) Life is far too short and uncertain to be doing something that makes you unhappy or causes you unnecessary stress- and if it has a negative impact on the writing in which you’d previously prided yourself- then all the more reason to take a vacation or a hiatus to clear your head and take care of yourself.

Your readers will miss you while you’re gone, sure- but just remember that they’re human, too- and they’ll understand! If and when you’re ready to come back to blogging- they’ll be ready for you and all the new, refreshed content you’ll bring them!

10.  Be yourself!

Yes, I know the “BE YOURSELF” mantra is a little contrived and more than a little cliché- but it’s really important in blogging and if I had to choose just one piece of advice from this list to give to anyone- this would be it. The world and the blog-o-sphere is filled with so many individuals, each with something unique to offer. Being inspired by or enjoying someone’s writing is one thing- but don’t model yourself or your own blog after someone else and their work. You’ll only fall flat and end up disappointing yourself. Write about what you want- your passions and interests, connect with others through honest and meaningful dialogue- and do so in a way that reflects your own individuality.

Trust me- you’ll be satisfied with yourself when you’re done publishing your post and your readers will appreciate it even more than if you tried to be a carbon copy of another blogger/blog.

And that’s it- the ten things I’ve learned about blogging over the years that have helped me stay focused and create content! If anyone would like to share their own blogging tips/tricks, feel free to share! I’d love to read them!

Quick Eats: Clementine Cake

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One of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years has to be Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” The story. The visuals. The soundtrack. The entire film is beautiful from start to finish and is one of the only movies I can recall leaving the theater after seeing and not only being moved to tears by how perfect it was- but feeling immensely satisfied- like every dime that had been spent on my ticket was worth it.

I’ve since watched the movie a handful of times On-Demand, each viewing just as enjoyable as the last- and the most recent being just the other night. One of the minor, but re-occurring plot devices in the film is the clementine cake Walter’s Mom (played by Shirley MacLaine,) bakes. No spoilers here- because I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet watches it as soon as humanly possible- but I felt inspired to try my hand at baking my own!

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YOU WILL NEED:

* Food processor

* 8-9 inch springform pan

* Parchment paper

* 6 eggs

* 5-6 clementines

* 1 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar

* 2 1/4 cup of ground almonds

* 1 teaspoon of baking powder

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Pre-heat your oven to 375°F.

2. While the oven heats up, butter the springform pan and line with cut and fitted parchment paper.

3. Poke washed clementines 5-6 times with a knife or fork before placing in a covered, microwave-safe dish/bowl and heating for 3-4 minutes or until the clementines are soft and mushy.

4. After letting the clementines cool for a few minutes, place them- peel and all- into the food processor and grind until they reach a smooth, puréed texture.

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5. Beat the 6 eggs and 1 1/4 cups of sugar in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is light in color and thick in consistency.

6. Add the puréed clementines, the 2 1/4 cup of ground almonds, and the teaspoon of baking powder to the eggs and sugar and continue thoroughly mixing.

7. Pour the mixture into the springform pan and bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. It may need to stay in for a little longer to ensure the middle is cooked through and evenly. If this happens, be sure to cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of tin foil to prevent the surface and edges from getting burnt.

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8. After removing the cake from the oven, let it cool. Once it’s cold- and therefore won’t crumble into pieces on contact- remove the pan and parchment paper. Glaze and decorate.

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To create the glaze, I just mixed some powdered sugar, a little butter, and a cup of freshly squeezed clementine juice- and topped the cake with some candied sliced clementines (simmered sugar and water!) The total cooking time, sans-cooling the cake pre-decorating- was about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes- and the cake can serve up to 8 or 10 people!

And of course, the last step to this recipe is to stuff your face, (and be sure to bring a few slices along when you set off on an adventure into the unknown- just like Walter Mitty!) The cake is decadent, tangy, and goes really well with a nice cup of coffee or tea!

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And to close out this fun foodie post, here is my favorite quote from the movie- taken from a screen-grab as Walter examines a gift left for him in the beginning of the film. The saying, the “Life Magazine” motto, is lovely- and has become my mantra for 2015 because of how powerful it is.

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xx

New Year’s Sephora Haul!

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ANOTHER makeup/cosmetics post? I know, everyone. Please just bear with me. We’ve reached dangerously low temperatures here in New England (and are currently dipping into the negatives with the wind chill,) which has left me mostly bundled up indoors over the past few days. I’m hoping to brave outside this coming weekend to venture out of the city and take some photos without getting frost bite- and maybe do a little baking in-between- but right now I am all about staying in close proximity to heaters at all times.

When I haven’t been sprinting between my place, my car, and my office in a desperate attempt to avoid the frigid chill- I took a little time to stop at Sephora the other day to pick up some face wash, moisturizer, and eye shadow primer I had recently run out of. I had a little extra cash put aside for splurging purposes, and with it being a new year- I thought I’d treat myself and pick up a couple of extra things, too. It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper haul post- so here’s what I got to start me off for 2015!

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Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap (Extra Mild Formula): My skin tends to get a little more dry in the colder months, and I’ve found that my usual facial soaps- which contain blemish and blackhead fighting ingredients- can often leave my face feeling uncomfortably tight and looking patchy or flaky. I’ve switched over to this extra mild, milky cleanser- which gently melts away makeup and dirt from my pores and leaves my skin feeling comfortable and soft.

Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion # 2: After I use my soap, I go in with this mild toner on a cotton ball to remove any excess oil or bacteria I may have missed during cleansing and gently exfoliate and polish my skin- evening out my overall tone and texture while ridding the surface of my face of any dry patches.

Clinique’s Dramatically Different Gel: When moisturizing my skin, even in the winter, I like to stick to oil-free gels (since I’m still prone to the occasional breakout.) This lightweight moisturizer has been my go-to for years now. It keeps my skin hydrated, smooth, and clear for hours.

Clinique’s ‘Moisture Surge’ Extended Thirst Relief Gel: To add a boost of hydration to my Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel- especially in these Arctic Tundra-like temperatures, I slather on a little of this pink, soothing, oil-free moisturizer on top. It sinks in so easily and quickly and makes my skin feel AMAZING. I swear by this stuff- and highly recommend it for all skin types!

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NARS Sheer Glow Foundation: I like to have more of a full-coverage foundation in the Winter, but I’m switching things up a little in 2015 and that includes my usual makeup look. I picked up this NARS base, which has a buildable coverage- and I’ve been really liking it so far. It doesn’t have the matte finish I’ve grown used to, but my skin looks luminous and natural- and it feels like I’m not wearing anything at all- which is a big perk.

Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder: Because I’ve switched up my foundation, I thought it was important to switch up my setting powder, too. It didn’t seem practical to continue using a loose, matte powder when my liquid base is now a more sheer finish. I like this Laura Mercier one- which holds my makeup in place all day long but lets my skin breathe and doesn’t make me look like I have a ton of product on my face.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (Original): This was one of the products I had initially gone into Sephora to replenish. I use this primer nearly every day. It’s the only thing that keeps my eye makeup (shadows, liners, etc.) from creasing, flaking, or fading. It’s another product I swear by!

Sephora Pantone Universe Marsala Metalshine Liquid Liner: 2015’s ‘Color of the Year’ is Marsala, a really lovely wine shade that looks good on everyone and can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways. I am gradually working my way into the color, being careful not to overdo it since my hair is currently a very similar hue- and decided on this liquid liner to give my eyes a bold, metallic pop. The formula is easy to apply, stays in place, and color is lovely against my pale skin and blue eyes. It’s unlike any other eyeliner I’ve ever used. I love it!

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Formula X for Sephora – Base Coat: I’ve heard so many good things about Sephora’s Formula X collections in recent weeks, and finally decided to try them for myself. When it comes to my manicures, chipping is a big concern for me (I do a lot of typing- both at work and when I’m blogging,) so I picked up a bottle of this “sticky” base coat, which is supposed to hold nail polish in place for longer than competitive brands and through the toughest of trials fingernails face throughout the day.

Formula X for Sephora – “Provocative”: I typically wear darker colors in the Winter on my lips, eyes, and nails- but, again- 2015 is all about change and trying new things. I’ve been feeling powder blue shades as of late, and fell in love with this pretty pastel as soon as I laid eyes on it. It just screams “icy Winter air” to me and I’m not quite sure why- but I had to have it.

Formula X for Sephora – “Pedal to the Metal”: Apart from light blues, I’ve also been incorporating touches of deep violets into my wardrobe and makeup here and there. This metallic purple, as eye-catching and as lovely as “Provocative,” was another must-have for me. I think I’ll be alternating between these two for the next couple of months.

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*Birthday Bonus!* NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil & Satin Lip Pencil: My birthday is in January, and as an added bonus to my purchase- Sephora gave me these two free NARS lip pencils to celebrate! I like that one is a more subtle nude (perfect for work,) and the other is a bolder, deeper red (perfect for the weekends, of course-) and I can’t wait to try them both!

So now, with my skincare, makeup, and nail polish refreshed and stocked to get me through the rest of the Winter (hopefully,) I won’t need to splurge again for a few months…

… Although I probably will, and soon- since I was tempted by a lot of other stuff that caught my eye while I was shopping!

Inspired By: Peggy Carter

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One of my favorite female characters from the Marvel universe has got to be Peggy Carter. Smart, strong, brave, and beautiful- Peggy was never the damsel in distress and never tolerated any B.S. from any man (and she had the mean right hook to back herself up.) Portrayed perfectly by the stunning, talented Hayley Atwell in the “Captain America” movies, I was thrilled when I first heard the news that Hayley would once again be reprising the role and that Peggy would be getting her very own mini-series spin-off on ABC this year.

Premiering tonight at 8 P.M. (EST,) “Agent Carter” focuses on Peggy’s life following the events of “Captain America: The First Avenger” and WWII, where she’s attempting to make it in a male dominated, not-so-female-friendly society while working for the SSR and completing missions for Howard Stark. I cannot wait to watch the series- groundbreaking for women in it’s own right- and once again get emotionally invested in a character I find so inspirational.

Of course, Peggy’s no-nonsense, overall badass-ery isn’t the only thing I love about her. Her makeup- simple yet timeless- and her 1940’s fashion is on point, too. Inspired, I took to my own makeup collection in an attempt to re-create Agent Carter’s look. I’m nowhere near as beautiful as Ms. Atwell, but it was fine to try nonetheless!

My tools, consisting mainly of a natural finish foundation, light rose-colored blush, a nude/light brown eye shadow, black eyeliner for my top lids (and a medium brown for a small section of the bottom lid as to not appear too harsh,) was aided by a lightweight moisturizing gel on my face to plump up and smooth my skin, and a primer for my eyes to hold everything in place.

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And for my lips, I turned to Besame Cosmetics- who, according to Hayley Atwell herself, are the masterminds behind Peggy’s signature red shade. I purchased the exact color, “Red Velvet,” after perusing the website and falling in love with nearly everything. Once I received it, I immediately took a liking to the creamy, comfortable texture of the lipstick- and it’s longevity. The color stayed in place for hours without needing touching up or reapplication!

Also- the packaging. Can we stop and appreciate the packaging for just a moment? It’s lovely.

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Perhaps the easiest part of this “Inspired By” look was my hair and wardrobe. With naturally spiral-curled hair, there was no need for curlers or pins. I simply parted my hair on the side and let it flow freely- and since I work at a law firm- mimicking Peggy’s crisp white blouse and navy blazer was a breeze (I have a collection of them in my closet!)

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I had a lot of fun playing around with this look (although I wish I had Peggy’s snazzy red fedora to complete it!) and am hoping to do more “Inspired By” looks in the future- but first- I have to get ready to finally watch “Agent Carter” tonight!

GLOSSYBOX: December 2014 Review.

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Where this past December’s Ipsy Bag fell flat for me, capping off an otherwise impressive year with a disappointing holiday bag- GlossyBox went above and beyond for their last assortment of samples for 2014. From four of the five products I received being full-sized, to the variety of what was included, all the way to their lovely and festive packaging (which I will most certainly keep and use for storage or shipping in the future-) I was blown away by the quality and generosity from the subscription service last month, and I hope to see more of it as I begin my third year as a subscriber.

Of course, I have to determine whether or not I enjoyed and/or saw results with what I received in December’s box (enough to re-purchase them in the future, anyway,) so without further delay!

What I Received:

Nuxe Masque Crème Fraîche de Beauté (*Full Size!*)

Bellápierre Cosmetics Mineral Lipstick in “Burlesque” (*Full Size!*)

Ciaté London Mini Paint Pot in “Humbug”

Rituals Cosmetics Miracle Scrub in Ginseng & Ginkgo Biloba (*Full Size!*)

TONI&GUY Hair Meet Wardrobe Leave In Conditioner (*Full Size!*)

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Product # 1: Nuxe Masque Crème Fraîche de Beauté ($32)

Whenever I hear the words “Crème Fraîche,” I always think of the ‘South Park’ episode where Randy is obsessed with The Food Network and cooking elaborate meals. I digress, the colder temperatures and fighting off a nasty little cold has taken a toll on my skin in recent weeks and I decided to treat my face to this mask, which is supposed to be ultra-hydrating and nurturing to skin in distress. The first thing I noticed was that the mask, thin in texture, smelled like plants (and given that many of the ingredients are derived from plants and blossoms, it’s not surprising,) and spread evenly and easily. Once applied, I left the product- which felt more like a moisturizer than an actual replenishing mask- on my face for the instructed time before massaging the rest into my skin.

My skin did feel somewhat better after I used this mask, although it left my face looking a little shiny (which was resolved with powder when I applied my makeup later on,) but the feeling didn’t last for as long as advertised (24 hours.) It wasn’t an awful product by any means, but I wasn’t exactly blown away by it.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. I think if I re-purchased this product in the future, I’d use it as a moisturizer (and probably over my oil-free one to give my skin an extra boost of hydration,) but as a replenishing mask- it fell a little flat. I think if it had fully repaired my dry skin and lasted longer, I’d be sold on it for sure- because the consistency is nice and it’s convenient enough to use regularly.

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Product # 2: Bellápierre Cosmetics Mineral Lipstick in “Burlesque” ($19.99)

In April of 2014, I had received a Bellápierre Cosmetics lip gloss in my GlossyBox that I had been on the fence about. I had loved the texture, the color, the finish- and even the fragrance- but it’s lack of longevity had been a bit of a deal breaker. When I saw this bright, berry lipstick in December’s box- I had been prepared to have the same reaction. Fortunately, this highly pigmented and creamy formula not only went on smoothly, but it stayed in place for much, much longer than the aforementioned gloss without drying my lips out. The color was beautiful and bold- and is perfect for this time of year when I’m wearing darker shades in my wardrobe and on my eyes!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I’m so glad Bellápierre has seemingly corrected it’s staying power with their lip products, because the quality of their merchandise is otherwise fantastic. I’d definitely re-purchase “Burlesque” again in the future, as well as some of the other available shades, too (especially “Mandarina” and “LA Diva.”)

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Product # 3: Ciaté London Mini Paint Pot in “Humbug” ($10)

For New Year’s Eve, I traded in a sparkly (and itchy) dress or top in lieu of a backless, little black dress I’ve had since my teens, but hadn’t worn for a long time. Of course, SOME sparkle is required for such an evening- be it in the form of accessories or makeup. I opted for sparkly nails, however- and this mini paint pot from Ciaté arrived just in time. The perfect mix of black glitter and small, silver sequins- the formula of this polish was a little gloopy, and it took three coats to get the finish pictured above.

As far as staying power- it didn’t take long for the polish, rough to the touch even with a top coat- to snag on random surfaces and fabrics and flake off in certain areas- although it wasn’t as noticeable as when solid color polishes begin to chip and peel. It got me through New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day- and barely a day or two after that before I had to scrape it off.

Would I Purchase?: No. Even though I liked the concept of this polish, it was a hassle to apply, had an uncomfortably scratchy finish, and didn’t last as long as I would have hoped. Next time, I’ll stick to a metallic finish without all the glitter and sequins- and go back to wearing itchy dresses again- instead.

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Product # 4: Rituals Cosmetics Miracle Scrub in Ginseng & Ginkgo Biloba ($17)

Every weekend, I like to take a half hour or so to go to my local nail salon and get a manicure. I’m rubbish with applying polish evenly, and keeping my cuticles maintained is a whole other nightmare in itself. My manicurist is quick, diligent, and very talented when I feel like trying a design or otherwise attempting something different- and I look forward to catching up with her about her week while we sit across from each other.

Sometimes, though, I can’t always make it to the salon (such is the case this week,) and I have to take matters into my own hands (pun intended) to get my palms and digits ready for the work week. One of the most relaxing stages of my manicure is the exfoliating scrub, which buffs away the dry skin and leaves my hands super soft. This scrub- designed specifically for the hands- does just that. Lightly fragranced, this product is applied to dry hands and vigorously rubbed in for a minute or so before it’s rinsed off. Afterwards, my hands were left so, so soft and supple. They felt amazing.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I loved this scrub- which would be perfect for a weekly treatment in between manicures. I plan on re-purchasing this when I run out, and may even bring it into the salon to show my manicurist. It’s a great product!

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Product # 5: TONI&GUY Hair Meet Wardrobe Leave In Conditioner ($14.99)

One of the good things about my hair type is that leave in conditioners work well as both a repairing treatment and as a styling product- since they rarely make my hair look and/or feel oily or greasy. My curls are left healthy and full of volume- so adding extra products afterwards isn’t always necessary. Such was the case with this lightweight leave-in from TONI&GUY. With a mild fragrance that didn’t overpower me, I’ve been combing this product through my hair after showering and letting it air dry. The result is frizz-free, shiny, bouncy curls that aren’t stiff or crunchy to the touch and feel hydrated until my next wash. I’m impressed!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I’m a big fan of this conditioner. It kept my hair soft, manageable, and moisturized- and with a $14.99 price tag- you can’t really go wrong since a little goes a long way. I’ll definitely be stocking up on more of this product down the line.

With three products I loved, one I wasn’t a fan of, and one I’m still on the fence about- December’s GlossyBox was an impressive collection of value and variety. I loved that so many of the products were full-sized, covered the spectrum of hair care, skin care, makeup, and nails- and came in such creative, cute packaging. I look forward to seeing what the subscription service has in store for this coming year!