A Dozen Summer Essentials
During the summer, I like to look put together with minimal effort, and being unprepared when you are trying to be effortless is...annoying. There are a few essentials that I like to keep handy, or use before stepping out on a sunny day. Whether I'm going for a walk or a hike, or even to the beach, I like to keep these these items on hand.
The first essential is poking up from the bottom of the picture above. That essential being, coffee. Delicious coffee. I love a strong cold brew and the bottle above is a Stumptown cold brew. It is my favorite and can be somewhat difficult to find. I am still working on making the perfect batch of my own cold brew. Also, to those naysayers who claim coffee dehydrates people, I've read a few articles that say the opposite and I am going to choose to believe those. It's always good to drink lots of water, too, if only because drinking 64 ounces of coffee in a day might be a tad excessive.
Red nail polish and lipstick scream summer to me. I like a cool red during the summer and this Hard Candy shade 050 Fishnet does the trick along with the Wet 'n Wild lipstick in 970 Purty Persimmon. Both of these makeup items are very inexpensive and work better than a lot of other products that cost ten times as much. Plus, they're cruelty-free (as is everything listed).
A good summer read is essential. When I was little, I didn't leave the house without a book, and as I grew older, I would select purses based on if they were large enough to fit a book. Short stories are great to read on the go because they're broken up into so many little pieces and able to be digested in shorter increments. So, if you're at the beach and want to nap, eat, take a swim, chat with friends, and so on, a book of short stories does the trick just fine. B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories has been my favorite book I've read this year. I'll talk about it more in my reading challenge post that will likely be up soon. I will say that I could not put this book down.
Pre-moistened wipes, like these Yes to Blueberries Cleansing Facial Wipes are wonderful to have on hand for many reasons during the summer. They're good for removing makeup before going in the pool or lake, or for running makeup in the hot hot heat. You can use them to clean off your hands and feet in messy situations. A few weeks ago, a friend and I went down to the Devil's Hole in Niagara Falls and were dying of exhaustion and thirst. We came upon a slushie truck and definitely got sticky, cherry-flavored juice all over our hands. It was nice to have wipes so that we didn't smear sugary syrup all over her car.
A backpack or girth-y purse is important because no one enjoys lugging around multiple bags. I like to be able to fit everything I have, along with whatever I pick up along the way in one single bag. I picked up this Herschel Supply Company backpack on major discount (90% off!) at a great little shop in Buffalo.
Sea salt spray is another great summer essential because it gives hair a 'I woke up like this' sexiness in the messiest, most untamed way possible. It says, 'I just spent the day on the beach. I'm relaxed and I look great.' There are a lot of DIY's out there for this product, but I haven't tried them myself. This is the Davines No. 14 Sea Salt Primer.
For your body and face, don't forget the sunscreen. I don't want to prematurely age and I don't want skin cancer. Now there are a lot more natural options out there, including this Coola Sport classic organic sunscreen in SPF 50 (pictured is a trial size). And because it's summer, keeping your skin subtle is so important. Coconut Oil is great because it is multipurpose. You can use it everywhere: hair, nails, body. It's a great moisturizer. It be used to remove makeup, as a treatment for chapped lips, as an ointment on baby bottoms, a sunburn remedy...the list goes on. Plus it smells of coconuts! And who does not love that in the summer? Pictured is the Jason Smoothing Coconut Oil.
Having a swimsuit that you feel comfortable in is so important. If your stomach bothers you, wear a one piece or high waist-ed 1950's style bottoms. If you want to conceal your breasts, wear a bandou top. This Madewell bathing suit (70% off this winter, which is a great time to buy a bathing suit because of sales) is conservative in the middle and dips very low in the front and has a fully exposed back. I show off what I want to show off, and still feel comfortable. Sunglasses, additionally, are important because they limit sun exposure and make you look really cool. These shades are from Free People.
Finally, shoes. Every year since I was little, I would pick out a pair of sandals and wear them until they died, usually in September when summer was essentially over. I have mostly kept up with the tradition and these are my summer 2015 shoes: the Kelsey clogs from Novacas from MooShoes. Made from real wood and vegan leather, these are impossibly adorable and comfortable. I had been wanting a wooden-sole shoe for a long time, but I could not find a vegan version. Enter, these sexy babies. I am short and like a bit of height. They can be dressed up or down and are made with such craftsmanship that I know they will not die in a few months.
So there you have it; those are my picks for summer essentials. Let me know if there is anything I missed in the comments section. Have a great summer!
DISCLAIMER: This is not a sponsored post. Items selected were based on the writer's own tastes. All items are cruelty-free and vegan.
The Honeymoon Capital of the World
In the 1950's and 1960's, Niagara Falls was seen as the ultimate wedding destination. People would get married and spend their honeymoons at one of the world's seven natural wonders, Niagara Falls. It was a convenient and affordable destination for many new couples.
People still travel to see the falls, and the amount of people getting married and honeymooning did increase when Pam and Jim from The Office wed there; however, it's not the same. The motels that catered to newlyweds are aging. Weddings now are so much more extravagant. Many people would not dream of staying in a motel on their honeymoon, opting instead for five star resorts in tropical locations.
I find something sweet about these motels, and the aesthetics of their signage in particular. I like to think about what this area was like fifty years ago, the excitement of the newly married back when people appreciated the natural wonders because they weren't overwhelmed with special effects from gleaming television and computer screens.
Recipe: Green Kombucha Smoothie
This is my favorite smoothie recipe. I developed it based adding and subtracting ingredients from another smoothie that I really liked. It's great for people who want a green smoothie, but still want a sweet drink that does not taste overtly green. It's super healthy, too.
Put it all in a good blender (one that will pulverize the greens) and let it run for a few minutes. I use the highest speed, which on the Ninja is "crush." Once it looks completely blended, pour and enjoy!
DIY: Stumptown Coffee Bath Scrub
Eating My Way Through Buffalo
Ten Years Ago
Last night, I was unable to sleep. When I'm having trouble sleeping, I usually read blogs or look through instagram, which actually makes me more awake so I need to stop doing that. I came across an instagram account for the University at Buffalo, where I went to school and earned my BA in English. Their instagram account had re-posted pictures of high school seniors who had gained acceptance to the university. I realized that it has been a decade, this May, since I graduated from UB. Whenever I look at my past I feel like I could have done more, but I think that's the feeling everyone has when looking back. I was just left with the feeling that life has changed so much in just ten years.
I can remember that year so well. So much happened and so much changed based on the decisions I made. Ten years ago I lived in my first apartment (before that, I lived in student housing) with Graziella; she's now is married with two children. I was dating Ian at the beginning of the year and was so enamored with him. I liked him so much and was crushed when he broke up with me and moved to California (this has happened twice, boyfriends leaving me for California in my twenties). Later that year, I met Alex and fell in love. I am so happy so say that I am still friends with these two men (both of whom are happily in relationships and I'm happy for them).
That year I met Colleen, and she has been one of my best friends. I remember someone telling me not to be friends with her because she had dated someone I had dated. Oh, the drama! I'm glad I ignored that because she has been a constant in my life for a decade. She is now married with a newborn son, Hans.
I made the decision to go to graduate school at the University of Vermont ten years ago. I moved away from Buffalo for the first time. Vince and Tom threw me a going away party at their apartment on Ashland. I gave away a bunch of stuff I didn't want to move. I went to a lot of dance parties and on Wednesday nights would go to La Luna for indie music night and stay out until 4am. Peter thew me a 22nd birthday party at his house on Breckenridge. I danced with my friends, listened to Rilo Kiley, Death Cab for Cutie, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Killers (Peter swinged me around the dance floor when Mr. Brightside came on). I read the Rick Moody book Ian gave me and the Don DeLillo one Ryan lent me.
That was the year I became vegan. It was the year I began forming new ethics and caring more for animals. I became more aware of the food industry. It was the year I met Todd McGowan, my professor at UVM who became a major influence in my academic career and in life and thought. I got my first cat, who now lives with my dad because she's grumpy and just likes to be outside, hunting mice. It was the year I became friends with Leda, Aya, Josh, and Janet. I lived in the most dilapidated, gross, fun, party house. The walls were sinking and shifting and we threw the biggest Halloween parties. Our television screen had a yellow filter because it was so old and broken. Aya, Leda, and I dressed up as the Asian Kill Squad. I wore the shortest duct tape dress to our Anything But Clothes party. Leda and I would cuddle up with bowls of ramen noodles and watch Korean horror movies.
I miss a lot about that year: being so young, feeling like everything is achievable, and not having to worry about being too late for love or career. What I miss most is that that year my health was so good. I had so much energy. I didn't get sick once. I could stay up all night dancing or studying or reading Freud and I ws fine. I walked everywhere. I was resilient.
I'm grateful for that year. I think it's important to relive memories and learn from them. I've learned that I've let ten years age me too much. I think it's time I look at the world new again.
Over the past year, I have become increasingly obsessed with YouTube beauty vloggers, soaking up their tips and trying them out for myself. It has helped me move out of my rut and gain more confidence. A number of people have suggested that I go through makeup routines on my blog because I use only vegan products. While so many brands test on animals--NARS, Estee Lauder, Cover Girl, Revlon, MAC, Clinique, the list goes on, unfortunately--there are so many that do not. This walk-through includes both high and low end brands. The best place to show your support of cruelty-free products is with your money in corporate America, so I'm happy to share some of my favorite brands and products.
For my face, I used the NYX BB cream in 02/Natural, just a pea sized amount. If I'm wearing my bangs down, I don't bother putting makeup on my forehead, aside from a little powder to soak up oil. I used a kabuki brush to set it with the NYX stay matte but not flat powder foundation in 02/Nude. NYX is by far my favorite for foundation, even compared to more expensive brands.
While putting on my foundation, I avoided my eye area because I have very dark circles and I like two concealers (yes--multiple!) and use highlighting powder to set it. I want to negate my dark circles, so spreading foundation and powder will not get it as bright as I want. The Too Faced Absolutely Flawless Flexible Coverage Concealer in Perfect Nude is a godsend. It's my favorite, and I have tried EVERYTHING. It's a tiny tube, but you only need a small amount. Using my ring finger, I dot on a sparse, even amount on my under-eye area. Next, I take a highlighter powder and dab it over the concealer to set it. Any HD/highlighter/translucent powder will do. After that, it's still a little dark, so I build it up, either with that concealer, or the Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer (I'm not sure of the shade because the sticker fell off). The main reason I use two is because the Tarte concealer did crease on me and didn't give me the coverage I needed. It works great as a second layer, though! I finish it off with more highlighter, and my base is done!
I am am amateur when it comes to contouring, but I try! I love the ELF contouring Blush & Bronzing Powder in St. Lucia. The bronzer a dupe for NARS' Laguna and is really gorgeous. Using a contour brush, I run the bronzer in the spot below my cheekbones to give the impression that my cheekbones are more prominent (like a shadow is falling over my cheek). I also run it along the circumference of my jawline and a little on my temples and either side of my nose. The blush goes sparingly on my cheekbones, along the side of my face and not too high up. I use the highlighter on the bridge of my nose, above the blush and around the under-eye area. If it looks too blocky, I take my Everyday Minerals kabuki brush and blend it all so it is seamless.
For my brows, I used the Youngblood Brow Artiste palate in Dark. After I brush my brow hair with a spooly, I line the top and bottom with the light brown and filled in any gaps with the dark brown using a small, angled brush. I set it with the brown wax. I try not to over do them. I already have color (brow tint) on my eyebrows, so they tend to stand out without adding too much makeup. Under my eyebrow I use a highlighter to show the arch a little better and hide brow hairs I haven't plucked yet! This time I used the Benefit Watt's Up stick.
I normally don't do lip liner, but I decided to try it. I chose a wine colored pencil (by Youngblood, but it's been discontinued) and outlined my lips, then applied a creamy lipstick--Wet 'n Wild in Light Beige Frost 510A. This stuff is 99 cents and worth twenty times that much! I love their lipsticks! Then I lightly filled in my lips with the same wine-colored pencil. I've been mixing a lot of darker shades with reds and neutrals, and I really like the results. I use a little more of the Benefit Watt's Up highlighter in my cupid's bow to accentuate my lips.
Moving on to eyes, I use the Walking on Eggshells eye shadow trio from Wet 'n Wild. It's my favorite! I believe it contains dupes for other high end shades, but I'm not sure what ones (NARS, maybe?). I use the light pink all over my eyelid and the brown color in my crease, and in a V shape on the outer end of my eye to give a subtle smokey affect. If it looks too blocky, again, I will use a brush to blend it. I used a tiny bit of the off-white on my inner eye corner. After that, I tight-line my eyes with the Smashbox Timeless Eyeliner in Onyx. Then I take my ELF Essential Expert Liquid Eyeliner in jet black and create a cat-eye. I am not the best with making a symmetrical cat-eye, but the tip on the wand is so small that if you make a mistake, it's usually not too hard to correct it. I like building them up because I'm just not that great at making them perfect in one swoop. I top that off with my favorite mascara, Better Than Sex by Too Faced. I do two coats on the top and one along the lower lashes.
So there you have it! This look takes me about 20 minutes so it's not an everyday process for me. These products are all really amazing and completely vegan.
*You can see in this picture the eyeliner is not even on both eyes. Damnit! I later fixed it, but I still like this picture.
AM&A's was a Buffalo-based department store chain founded in 1867. Known for its Victorian-style Christmas window displays, it had locations in downtown Buffalo, Lackawanna, Cheektowaga, and Tonawanda. It closed its doors in 1994 after Robert Adam III, the grandson of the founder, died and was acquired by The Bon-Ton.
I couldn't resist taking photos of these old advertisements, walking through downtown Buffalo on a nice fall day last year, and wondering what the shop was like in the height of its popularity.
In retrospect, it all seems so much more romantic than my own department store experience growing up. Shopping at JC Penny's in the 1990's for three to four new school outfits, choosing from three variations of Arizona Jeans before picking up my sneakers for that year, converse or Roxy, it all seemed so sad.
But I like it this way, the nostalgia of a time that I never encountered. The love for a bygone aesthetic.
A Year Measured in Pages
I have a lot in mind for 2015. I learned so much about myself this past year, and there are a number of ways that I want to challenge myself. I want to be the best person that I can be. I want to be understanding, compassionate, and healthy. I want to be as good to myself as I am to others.
Last year, I challenged myself to balance my life and I feel that I achieved that more in 2014 than any other year. I worked, had social and romantic relationships, held my family close, and made difficult changes. However, for this year, I wanted to add a tangible goal.
Last year, I didn't read nearly as much as I wanted to. Reading has always been a constant in my life. I know that the way I grew up, in a rural area with very little media, had a great deal to do with my desire to escape into literature. I could experience different countries, societies, dystopias and utopias, and people I would otherwise never be able to imagine or understand. I majored in English in college and graduate school, so the reading continued.
It's been nearly seven years since walking across the stage in my green and gold to pick up my Master of Arts degree, and it seems as though, progressively, my passion for reading has slowed.
I want to read more. So on December 31st, as I was perusing a local bookstore, chatting with one of the employees, it seemed like utter destiny that she told me about the 2015 Book Challenge. It's like a scavenger hunt for books. Each book has to fit a certain criteria (see below). I'm currently on my second book of the year and it's been wonderful and rewarding. At the end of each month, I will be sharing my thoughts. Stay tuned...
Black Friday Finds
I am not a fan of Black Friday, huge swarms of people trying to get their hands on the latest curved television or HD gaming systems or whatever the fuck people "need" these days. I do like Cyber Monday, though. I like deals and not having to wait in lines and efficient shopping. I hate purchasing something then finding it even less expensive somewhere else. Without a lot of disposable income, those extra dollars that could have been saved hit me in the gut.
It seemed like this year Cyber Monday started on Thanksgiving and it was just an entire weekend of email blasts from companies I've purchased from in the past however many years. I saw a few items on Amazon.com that I've been meaning to get for the past few months or years at ridiculous prices, so I went for it.
I only buy trashy celebrity gossip magazines when I am either sick or when it's a really good deal. Amazon was running a $5 subscription deal and People was listed. It's only for three months, but it's weekly so it's a pretty good deal. It also came in the mail when I was home sick, so I saw that as a nod from the Guilty Pleasure Gods.
Though I don't read it on the regular, I like the crafty Real Simple magazine. It's Martha Stewart Living 2.0--not quite as out of touch (i.e. 48 steps to decorating the perfect holiday cookies), more like her rebellious daughter's version of a lifestyle magazine. I still prefer almost everything crafty from Bust, and interior design tours from Dwell or Apartment Therapy, but it's a good alternative. It's modern but not necessarily innovative. I like the clean layout, and all-in-all it is definitely worth $5.
I had looked up some low cost bluetooth players about a year ago (I dream of Sonos or Bose when I hit the jackpot) and ended up choosing one that broke right after the 30 day warranty was up. The Jam Classic Bluetooth speaker was in the running and in retrospect, I really wish I had gone with it. On Black Friday, this little nugget was discounted to $18 (I've seen it around the $40 mark previously) and I'm really happy with it. It has a lot of sound for such a little guy, and is really easy to use and pair. It works with all of my devices (laptop, tablet, phone) and I'm so happy that they ran the promo with the simple black number instead of the slimer green color.
The Lumsing USB charger with two ports was discounted to $8 (retailing for $20) and I've been needing one of these to charge my phone on long road trips. I borrowed/tried to steal a similar model from a friend and found it to be handy. I like that it has two ports in case multiple people want to charge up. It's sleek, white, and super simple.
Lastly, I had been wanting an additional battery to keep in my purse for when my phone goes dead and I don't have access to an electrical outlet. This is perfect. I can keep the Jackery Mini Premium charger in my purse until I need it. It's small, cute, and best of all, GOLD. I love the way this device looks, and it was on sale for $15.95 (retailing at just under $70!).
So, that's my splurge. Did you find any good deals this year?
DISCLAIMER: I know that Amazon is packaged so nice and pretty despite the fact that the way it drops its prices makes it nearly impossible for small businesses to compete, stomping many of them out. It's not much better than Walmart in that way. However, these items are conveniences that I probably would not have purchased outside this price point.
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