November 8, 2015

The Power of K-Beauty Products - Haul and Review of My Beauty Diary Sheet Masks, Elizavecca Milky Piggy Bubble Mask & More

Guys, I'm in love. I'm in love with Korean skincare.

Before this love affair began, all the way back in April, I thought French skincare was going to be The One for me. I spent ten days in Paris in the spring (which I will blog about... eventually) expecting to have a love affair with French skincare that Baz Luhrmann could direct a musical about. I was so, so wrong.
Bioderma cleansing water
Bioderma is this cleansing water that is super hyped in the beauty community. You've probably seen it mentioned at least once if you've ever watched a night routine video or a European haul. Lisa Eldridge, who is like the patron saint of informative and unbiased beauty videos, even recommends it. It's incredibly popular because you just squirt a little on a cotton pad and wipe your face with it and voila - your skin is cleansed AND all your makeup is removed in one shot. It's a product that allows you to be lazy but feel fancy while doing it because, hello, it's French. Coming home from a bar and being too lazy to take off your makeup AND wash your face in two separate steps is unacceptable but if you're using a product that says "Dermatologique" on it to skirt the issue? You're good. You're still sophisticated. It's all around praised by dermatologists, beauty gurus and consumers for its effective, yet gentle formula. What could go wrong?

So, while vacationing in France, it was at the top of my brain to purchase some Bioderma. Luckily, we were staying about a block away from a store that essentially seemed like a French Target. There was food and accessories and, mostly importantly, lots and lots of drugstore beauty products. They were selling a double pack of Bioderma for 13 euro which I bought because what a savings! When will I have the opportunity to buy another bottle? I'll obviously need another one because everyone loves this stuff and I will too! I get home and use it the first opportunity I get to remove my makeup and I'm honestly very pleased, initially.

Then I wake up and I see that my skin freaked the fuck out. I've never seen anything like it on my skin before.

I had CLUSTERS of tiny little breakouts, patches along my cheeks and chin just composed of a dozen zits. The areas were red and dry and just generally inflamed and angry looking, too. I was kind of at a loss - like what the fuck, this can't be a reaction to this beloved beauty product?? I told myself my skin was just reacting poorly because the product was too good and my skin was purging or something, maybe?? Right?? The nonsense I tell myself to justify using a beauty product, I swear. I continued to use it for another day or two and my skin just got worse. It wasn't following it's normal MO for breaking out and just kept developing these dry, red patches. I decided Bioderma and I needed a break. I quit using it for a couple months and just resumed use of my Clinique Take The Day Off cleansing oil until I ran out of the bottle. After that, I couldn't justify purchasing a whole new bottle of makeup remover - I already had a thousand ml of Bioderma stored in my closet.

I used the Bioderma for about two weeks. My skin instantly became inflamed, with my chin getting covered in a layer of scaly, lizard skin. It was easily the worst my skin has looked in three years. I went out and just bought a package of Neutrogena makeup wipes and my skin calmed down almost instantaneously. The breakouts cleared up, the redness went away. Makeup wipes are awful for your skin. The harsh ingredients and the pulling you're doing as you wipe is just bad news. My skin really hated some ingredient in that Bioderma if it was reacting so positively to wipes by comparison. I could sit down and analyze the ingredients list to try and figure out what it was but I decided to treat it like every other failed relationship. Just by cutting it out of my life, outwardly pretending I never cared in the first place. And by listening to bitter Spotify playlists and smirking to myself whenever I find out they've encountered some kind of obstacle in their life. I plan to text you one word responses that may include "k." WITH THE PERIOD, Bioderma, forever. Hope your hairline recedes.

I'm kidding, Bioderma really is a case of "it's not you, it's me" because just... it doesn't add up. It's such a well loved product, especially by people with sensitive skin. I have no clue why I had such a bad reaction to it. I scoured beauty communities hoping for someone to post about a similar problem with cleansing water but all I read was nothing but praise. Who knows.

At this point, I'm just trying to pick up the pieces of my life and fix the giant, scaly splotches on my skin. It's priority #1. My foundation can't cover them because they're too textured and try and I'm getting borderline ashamed of how my face looks. It doesn't look like normal acne but looks like I have some kind of flesh eating disease that's slowly working it's way up my face by the way of my chin. I decide there are two routes I can take - exfoliate the patches off or moisturize my skin within an inch of its life. I went with the latter option, just because my skin was so irritated and upset with me that I figured chemical exfoliation or harsh scrubbing wasn't the way to go.

I did some internet sleuthing and my timing was pretty perfect for developing an intense moisturizing plan that would deliver quick results. Asian, specifically Korean, beauty products seem like they're gaining popularity pretty quickly in the west and their philosophy towards skincare seems to be moisturize until you feel like you can't moisturize any more and then moisturize just a tiny bit more. Sephora has recently started to stock some Korean lines that are hugely popular in Asia and stores like Urban Outfitters have been carrying them for awhile now, too. I'm hopping right on that hype train (choo choo) - Korean skincare is incredible. I spent an entire Sunday online shopping and I made a big order of popular Asian products from a variety of brands and I'm obsessed with every single one of them. This is just the tip of the iceburg, I fear, because all of this stuff is just too good and if Asian products keep having their moment and becoming more accessible in the west then I'm just utterly screwed financially.

So, before the legitimate skincare products, let me just mention the novelty products that I purchased. This is truly the worst part of shopping for Asian beauty products. As a rule, in addition to being super passionate about moisturizing, the brands are very focused on creating cute and fun packaging which is always great, in my opinion. That Marie Kondo philosophy of only owning things that inspire joy is something that I've always believed in, and this is multiplied ten fold when I shop for beauty products. I've only recently distanced myself from the idea that packaging or a gorgeous color should be the biggest selling points rather than, you know, actual product performance or colors that don't read as garish on my skin. You can probably gather as much from this blog but I'm just a freak for aesthetics. Asian lines feed into this in the worst way because it takes things like a hand lotion from "there's no way I need this, I already have a generic one from CVS and it does the job fine" to "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!"

The brand that seems the most over the top about this is Etude House - their speciality seems to be in transforming virtually anything into something frilly and sweet. Their storefronts in Asia literally have faux plastic, pink shingles like they're a Barbie dream house filled with girly makeup. I imagine their corporate office has cotton candy as insulation in the walls and that everything is painted pale pink and that you'll be fired if you have your morning coffee without using a doily.

Etude House My Beauty Tool Headband
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
I'm compiling a disgustingly huge list of princess-y items that I plan to order in the future but for now, I only own one Etude House product. My new favorite thing, my spa headband, which just so happened to arrive on National Cat Day! Blessings all around. It's just a regular terry cloth-y headband to wear in conjunction with your face masks so you're not getting serum all over your roots - but it has cat ears! Needless to say, this is the most necessary thing that I've ever purchased, ever.

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

I'm crazy about this headband and invent reasons to wear it. I should probably put my hair back every single time I do my makeup, right? Every single time I get out of the shower? Every single time I exhale?

Sorry, sorry for using Snapchat photos to display products. I am truly the worst blogger ever.

Tony Moly Anti Aging Peach Hand Cream

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

The next "my sole motivation for this purchase is cuteness" K-beauty purchase is Tony Moly's peach anti aging hand cream.

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
I'd seen these Tony Moly hand creams at Urban Outfitters as long as a full year ago (they also have apple and blueberry versions in respective apple and blueberry casings) but passed them up because I didn't "need" peach scented hand cream inside a peach shaped container. But like most things you don't "need" it reared its adorable head when I was browsing for other products and I figured I might as well. There's not too much to say about this one. It does its job as a hand cream, it smells very strongly of peach tea Snapple and just be honest, the selling point is the packaging. It's cute. It's a lil' peach!

On to the things that I bought for reasons beyond poor impulse control.

Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
My pores are constantly clogged so I like to use a clay mask, like Glam Glow or Queen Helene, once a week. Unfortunately, my skin is also super sensitive and dry so even just infrequent use of clay masks shrivels my skin right up. Enter Elizavecca's Milky Piggy mask - carbonated clay masks are a way to get the pore cleansing and tightening effect of clay but without leaving your skin feeling totally stripped afterwards. You apply the mask and you would apply any clay mask (they include a little spatula, but fingers or an old foundation brush work). The mask then fizzes on your face and bubbles up off of your skin instead of drying on top of it and sucking away the moisture.

I think this mask looks so god damn funny on me, mostly because I already have a really round face and the extra two inches of foam puffiness are borderline undistinguishable as a mask. Like, it kind of looks like it's form fitting or something and I've just had my wisdom teeth out or something. Very reminescent of being a toddler and giving yourself a bubble bath beard in the tub.
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Mask My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
My nose has entirely disappeared, like I'm a bubble Lord Voldemort.

When you're finished laughing alone in your apartment at how strange you look, you kind of just mash the bubbles down with your fingers and then wash the mask off. You'll definitely need a washcloth because water, your hands and even soap alone aren't going to cut it. The end result is really smooth looking skin, like your pores have been blur tooled IRL. My favorite aspect is that my skin doesn't feel all tight and dry after I use this mask, as it does when I use most clay products on my dry, sensitive skin. Everything just feels smooth and soft instead of like I'm made some kind of ritual moisture sacrifice in order to cleanse my pores.

My Beauty Diary Sheet Masks

Finally, the star of the show when it comes to my Asian beauty product haul has been sheet masks. Sheet masks are THE definitive K-beauty product and with good reason. They're effective, inexpensive and deliver instant results. That last point is the biggest seller for me. There's a reason my freezer is full of Amy's frozen pesto tortellini bowls and why I quit my squat routine after 3 days - I want instant gratification. Sheet masks are something that you can apply, leave on your skin for a half hour and then see that your skin is brighter, luminous and moisturized.

Seemingly every Asian beauty brand makes their own sheet masks, which are fabric masks presoaked in serums. The most popular and affordable seem to be the My Beauty Diary masks. Wal Mart has even begun to carry boxes of these in the US. There about a dozen different varieties with ingredients ranging from strawberries to cactuses but they all basically aim for similar outcomes - brightening and hydrating your skin. Don't worry, brightening doesn't mean bleaching or anything like that but rather alleviating dark post acne spots and giving your overall face a nice glow. I own two My Beauty Diary masks - Apple Polyphenol which claims to minimize the appearance of your pores and Imperial Bird's Nest which is allegedly the best for the combination brightening/hydrating effect. Each box contains 10 masks for ~$11/$12, putting each individual mask a little above $1 apiece.
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
 My Beauty Diary Apple Polyphenol mask

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
My Beauty Diary Imperial Bird's Nest mask

These things are super easy to use. Rip open one of the individual package, remove the fabric mask from the pouch, position it over your face, remove the adhesive backing and pat down. Leave on until dry. It's foolproof. You can even add the extra step of squeezing off the excess serum as you're removing the mask from the pouch, pop it in a baggie and save it in your fridge to apply with a cotton pad later. The whole process is so soothing and simple.

The masks are a one size fits all kind of deal with holes for your eyes, nose and mouth and they look WEIRD on.
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

I generally feel like that character on NBC's Hannibal whose face got eaten off by dogs.
"Less have ah bahbe, Mahgoh."

Or like Dwight Schrute after he cuts the face off the CPR dummy on The Office.
These sheet masks were my lifesaver last weekend for Halloween. I'm almost 25 and that means I can't hang any more. I can have 3 drinks in one night, tops, and for the next 4 days I'm going to look like I'm going to crawl out of your television and kill you for watching a cursed video tape. Alcohol is a succubus. I was kind of fretting about going out 2 whole nights in a row for Halloween weekend, all while putting together a look that didn't make it look like I was going for the undead version of my costume on night 2. On Friday I was a cat because I'm lazy and slept in my makeup because things happen.

Halloween cat make up
There's really nothing better for your skin than sleeping in your makeup, especially super heavy makeup that involves having eyeliner rubbed all over your cheeks and nose. When I woke up, my skin looked like I had been drinking the night before, like I had stayed up until 3AM and like I had slept in my makeup. Just dull and and dehydrated.

The first thing I did after I got home and showered was apply a sheet mask and marinate in it for almost an hour. That's it, nothing else. That's all it took. I removed the face mask and my skin looked new and refreshed, like I had been drinking green smoothies instead of tequila sodas and gone for a jog before turning in early. I was able to go out on Saturday looking like the lazy version of Cheryl from Archer instead of the zombie undead version of Cheryl from Archer.

They're definitely one of the top ten beauty products I've ever used in my life. I have zero complaints. I'm going to repurchase these over and over and they're already a staple in my weekly routine. The Apple Polyphenol turns my pores into pinpricks and the Imperial Bird's Nest is beyond refreshing, like a mini spa treatment. Remember what a nightmare I was going through with my skin due to the Bioderma? Two My Beauty Diary masks and the dry patches were gone. Like they never happened. I wasn't expecting results that fast and I was in no way expecting them to improve my general skin as much as they did. My post acne marks have faded considerably since I started using these sheet masks and my skin just looks healthier even though I haven't made any other changes to my routine. I'm literally using less concealer and foundation because my skin looks brighter and a lot more uniform.

I ordered my products from this Amazon storefront and this website. They arrived fast and were authentic. As I've mentioned, stores like Sephora and Urban Outfitters carry select K-beauty lines as well and Wal Mart has about ten different types of the My Beauty Diary sheet masks for sale on their website.

The things I purchased are only the teeniest selection of Asian beauty products and Korean skincare. There's still a ton of brands I'm looking into, products I want to try and things that I think would look adorable sitting on my vanity. Still, if you're just getting started too then I recommend all of my purchases to start your own love affair with Asian beauty.

March 2, 2015

Rifle Paper Co "Monarch" Desk Calendar

Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
I absolutely love queens. I am obsessed with queens. They, as a group, are in my top 3 history interests, for sure. Women's history can be kind of monotonous because women just plain haven't had options for most centuries and in most civilizations. I think it's incredible that there have been queens, women ruling over groups of people, throughout all this time. There are multiple famous regnant queens of ancient Egypt, in biblical stories, in the middle ages - being a monarch is a profession that old for women. Women take a second class role in a lot of history but there have been queens through all of that, being opulent and living a life of luxury (which is fun to learn about) or being complete boss bitches and effectively ruling an entire country with their husbands or sons or even all by themselves which is sick. I love learning about them. What over the top things did they wear? What fashion trends did they set? What did their palaces look like? What kind of influence did they have over their son or husband? Did they rule alone? Was their power ever challenged? Were they effective rulers? Were they fair? Were they violent? What things clouded their judgement when they were ruling? What was unique about the way they governed their countries? How did their people feel about them? I love finding out the answers to all of these questions, even if the answer ends up being that they were ineffective rulers, or that they were disposed or mad imperialistic or something.
 You can see my tiny collection of queen related books here - Catherine the Great, the six wives of Henry XIII, Queen Victoria and her descendants and a few more. And Kendra Wilkinson's autobiography which I read completely unironically because I respect her hustle and just plain like her as a person.
Isabella of Castile is one of my all time favorite queens and is the reason my cat is named Isabella (of Catstile). This has already lost any kind of regal air because I call her "Belly" or "Big Belly" instead.

Then the idea of a queen alone is a pretty fantastic notion. Not even any specific queen but just the idea of a queen. It implies that you're a woman in charge, that you're a bad bitch. Beyonce even gets it - she dressed up as a queen with a fantastic bedazzled scepter in her Mrs. Carter tour's promo video. I don't need to explain why queens are objectively incredible. My blog name and my name on pretty much all social media is The Tsarina (because just plain Tsarina is always taken) which is the English version of the Russian word for empress. I'm just about being a Slavic queen at all times. I also scoff whenever I hear a girl being called "princess" or something by her significant other. Like, you're settling for princess? You're waiting to have your kingdom seceded to you while some other people rule? Get out of here. Why do you not respect yourself?? I am queen or I am nothing. Even though I'd be outsed in about a month if I were ever the actual tsaritsa of imperial Russia because I'd give preferential treatment to Ukrainian people and commission about a dozen opal Cartier crowns so I could have one for showering and one for sleeping and that kind of thing.

I also love illustrations. Some of my favorite illustrators:
Edmund Dulac (an illustration of The Little Mermaid) a late 19th/early 20th century illustrator who created the most beautifully soft and intricate scenes from fairy tales.

Ivan Bilibin (an illustration of The Firebird, my absolute favorite fairytale, there was a singalong VHS of it at the local video store when I was in kindergarten that I rented over and over again) who is pretty much THE Russian illustrator and who was a set designer for the Russian ballet.

Mary Blair, an illustrator and conceptual artist for a lot of earlier Disney animated movies like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland.

Richard Scarry, who my best friend had never fucking heard of? I mentioned him to her over the summer and she was like, "Uh, I never heard of or read those books as a kid..." and I pretty much sounded like I was on LSD as I tried to explain it to her. "It's about this cat and his friend who is a worm who wears only one shoe. He drives a car that's an apple. And everyone else drives food cars, like pickles or bananas and they're all things like bears and hippos and the books are about their jobs and all the things they do in day to day life and there was a TV show about it..." I was almost offended that I had to explain Richard Scarry. I thought he was a childhood staple.

Which brings me to how much I love the illustrations of Anna Bond, the founder of Rifle Paper Co. You probably know of or at least have seen her simplistic illustrations on Instagram or Pinterest or Tumblr or any of those sites where pretty pictures congregate.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
Rifle Paper Co sells everything from greeting cards to notebooks to phone cases, all featuring Anna Bond's feminine illustrations. My favorite thing is her "Monarch" desk calendar. It's a small little flip calendar and every month is a picture of a famous queen (or empress or pharaoh, whatever) from world history. I absolutely LOVE this calendar. It marries my obsessive love for queens and my not as obsessive love for illustrations and my over arching love for pretty things.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
I've already passed Isabella I of Spain and Catherine the Great of Russia. Typical, Catherine the Great is my favorite queen. I couldn't name my cat that because it's my sister's middle name via my Ukrainian great grandmother.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

One of my favorite things is that queens from all of world history are included rather than just Europe. The mainstays like Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth I are there but there's also queens of India, Nigeria and Hawaii.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

It's just so pretty and so girly and looks so lovely sitting on my desk. I was so excited when I realized it was a new month and time to flip to a new page and a new little queen.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

Rifle Paper Co also has a few other calendar options. Cities from around the world and flowers are nice and all but I feel they don't even come close to a calendar of fucking queens.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
I would probably cut this up and make the illustrations into a teeny little gallery wall if I was decorating a nursery for a baby girl (which, thankfully, I am not). I would consider buying almost any calendar and cutting it up to frame it. That's a thing you should be doing if you're not already doing it - buying calendars in lieu of prints to cut up and frame. A calendar is generally cheaper than a print (especially if you buy them at the end of the year when they're heavily discounted because who needs a 2014 calendar in 2015?) and the images will be pretty comparable in terms of quality. Plus, a calendar contains 12 potential images instead of one. Diversify your options here.

I'm almost certainly going to frame itty bitty Catherine the Great once this calendar nears the end of its life. I can't resign myself to never looking at it again. It's not a life I'm willing to live at this point.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

February 25, 2015

I'm Moving From DC Alexandria, VA. It's literally 8 miles from my current DC apartment but a whole different state. The DMV is weird. Not to mention how weird it is that I'll be living in the South. Nova isn't the South in the way that Alabama is but still, my new apartment is nearby Jefferson Davis Highway. I thought it was Thomas Jefferson at first, duh, why would anyone name a highway after the president of a failed country that was built off the idea that slavery was a good idea? The South would, that's who.

I'm moving in almost exactly two weeks. I was just living my life at my old apartment, saw an incredible deal for a brand new apartment building in (Lana) Del Ray, Alexandria, woke up early the next morning to see it and had the application submitted and accepted within an hour. Just went all in on this one. That's how done I am with my decrepit, old, small, dirty studio apartment. See ya never, I'm fleeing across the river to a building that was literally built last summer and I'd be moving sooner than two weeks if I could. Get me the fuck out of here.

I just can't even describe what an upgrade this is going to be. I've been living in Wesley Heights which is like a dead zone of DC. Pretty much just an area where nothing happens. No metro access. Absolutely nothing within walking distance that isn't a church or an apartment building. It's a mile walk to Rite Aid, a deli, a singular family friendly bar and a Starbucks. You'd think the benefit to a boring neighborhood like that is that it would be safe but nope - there was a string of armed robberies in October, one of which happened directly in front of my building a literal two hours after I left my at night, all alone. I live in a neighborhood with literal houses (most of which had Romney banners in their windows during 2012) and I have to clutch my purse and look over my shoulder when I'm coming home from work. Not that a woman walking alone is immune to that anywhere else but like... come on. My building is pretty much a nursing home and I live in probably the dullest, quietest neighborhood in DC. Cut me some slack, armed robbers. 
My new VA neighborhood is pretty empty (lots of buildings in the process of going up) but it's still a 5 minute walk to both a Dunkin' Donuts (which appeals to my inner Boston girl), a Target (which appeals to my inner suburban girl) and a Chipotle (which appeals to my outer fat girl). That alone is an improvement. I still have to take a bus to get to the metro but my metro stop is going to be way better connected. I work in Maryland and my commute is going to be a mere 15 minutes longer than it is from my old building.
Then the building itself. My building now is an embarrassment. I've invited two friends to this apartment in the 2.5 years that I've lived here and it's a shameful experience every time. One of my best friends stopped by to visit me once and only saw my building from the outside and was like, "Vanessa... you're living in communist bloc housing..." because it legitimately looks like that from the outside. The inside is worse. I live in a 400 sq ft studio with another person. I'm 24 years old and my apartment doesn't have a bedroom. Enough. Everything is decrepit and disgusting. I have no idea how old my apartment actually is but I want to say there's at least 30 years worth of dirt and grime caked on to every surface. Do you know how stressful that is when you have OCD? It's a lot stressful. I can clean all day and my apartment is still filthy. Plus, it's just ugly and old. Yellow beige paint on every wall, and inexplicably on a countertop, too, which is cracked and peeling in the bathroom. Parquet floors. Appliances that are easily older than I am. Wood laminate peeling off cabinets. The ugliest, most shameful bathroom I have ever used. My bathroom when I was 9 years old was bigger and nicer than the one I work for and pay for at 24. Just no, no to all of this. It hurts my eyes to look at it for a day longer.

My new apartment is $100 more a month than my current rent and it's brand new. No one has lived there before and the building was only ready for move in in November. I was pretty much shitting myself the entire time I was receiving a tour of the units. I had absolutely no chill. I was full on marveling at the apartments. Stainless steel brand new appliances, including a microwave and a motherfucking dishwasher. My apartment is going to wash my dishes for me. Hardwood floors. A washer and dryer in the apartment. I can pour red wine all over myself because I can just take my clothes off in my own apartment and place them in my own washer and clean them. A balcony. A rooftop lounge with a firepit in case a balcony isn't enough. A saltwater pool with a waterfall. Space age technology package lockers in the lobby. I didn't even know such things existed. Just amenities coming out of the ass. I feel like I won the lottery. I've lived in crappy or old buildings pretty much exclusively and I'm done with it. Places like that have "charm", sure, but you know what else they have? Bed bugs and mice and parquet floors and fridges in the closet. I'm over charm.

Like, this is my old apartment layout. 400 sq ft shared with my boyfriend.

And this is (similar to) my new apartment layout. Over 700 sq ft.
You can tell this is a kewl building for kewl people because they say kewl things like HYDRO instead of calling it a bathroom.
The storage alone is overwhelming. I have a singular storage closet in my old apartment. It has a sliding metal door and is pretty much impossible to open or close. All of the coats are in there, along with the vacuum and all of the reuseable grocery bags and the air mattress and all of the laundry supplies and all of the tools and a fan and more shit just stacked on top of each other. I keep everything else under the bed. There isn't one inch of free space under my bed. I keep all the out of season clothes under there. All the holiday decorations. My Christmas tree is under there. All of the extra sheets. All of my travel supplies. I have to slither under the bed on my stomach and pull out bins and bins to find anything I need. The closets in this new place are almost an embarrassment of riches to me. I'm sorry, I can put my coats in their own closet? I can put things on shelves instead of tetrised underneath my bed? What am I, a sheik?
The joke of a storage life I've been living.
I want to move in tomorrow and just sleep on the beautiful hardwood floors until my move in date. I can't believe the injustice of it all, that I have to wait two weeks before I can live in this palace with a bedroom separate from my living room and a walk in closet and actual storage space in my bathroom.

So, my next two weeks are going to be hectic to say the least. I constantly have about 30 tabs open at once of new furniture that will be going into this new apartment once enough money is saved up. My current apartment is so stuffed that I've been purging things for the past couple of months. I could not fit one more pair of shoes into this place because there isn't enough room. Now I'm going to have ample space for all of my shit and then some, since I obviously don't own things like outdoor chairs or kitchen stools since I don't have a balcony and have to eat at my coffee table in this teeny apartment. My furniture is also almost exclusively IKEA and falling apart and not part of the mid century modern Pinterest dream that I want to be living. I'm spending a ton of time on blogs and Pinterest because I can actually invest time and money into decorating this new place. I mostly have the art picked out (typical). There's going to be an abstract expressionism heavy gallery wall in the living room so I can live the dream of wallpapering with art.

Obviously, I have to worry a lot more about real, responsible adult things that go beyond the aesthetics of my bedroom or what I'll hang in the bathroom. My checklist is pretty much as follows, in order:
  • Throw away, sell or give away things I'll no longer need. Shelving specific to this apartment, the $20 IKEA coffee table, the dish drying rack, the microwave, the IKEA kitchen island, 2/3 of the rugs, posters, the shower curtain and the shelving unit over my toilet to name a few. Purge anything I don't want or need so I don't have to move it.
  • Stop into the post office to fill out a change of address form. Call places like my bank, car insurance and health insurance, too. Plus my half dozen magazine subscriptions. The next tenant in this apartment isn't getting their hands on my Art News.
  • Acquire free boxes from stores as well as masking tape, bubble wrap and a Sharpie for labeling. Pack in a crazed, OCD fueled mania and color label the boxes according to room. Pack clothes in with fragile items to keep boxes light and provide extra cushioning.
  • Book a truck.
  • Eat as much food from my freezer and refrigerator as possible.
  • Look at paint swatches, buy paint and stop in a day or two before the weekend move to paint.
  • Call Comcast and arrange for them to come and install the internet the same day I paint because I will obviously die if I don't have internet for a day.
  • Move small items that day, like clothes and hangers and fragile things I won't want on the truck.
  • Pack a box for the day of the move. Shower curtain liner, shower curtain rings, towels, sheets and bedding, plastic utensils and paper plates, toilet paper, garbage bags, scissors to open boxes, tools and a suitcase of clothes and toiletries. 
  • Move.
  • Somewhere in there I'll have to memorize my new address. 
I will miss nothing about my current apartment aside from the linen shelves I commandeered and turned into purse shelves and the Nando's that opened on Wisconsin Ave last spring. It's still pretty weird to look around and know I won't be here in two weeks. I've lived in this apartment for over 2 years, the longest I've stayed in a single apartment since I moved out of my parents house when I was 17. I have to try to pack in as many neighborhood specific activities that I can into these last two weeks. I live blocks from the Cathedral and the last time I visited it was when I was a middle schooler vacationing in DC with my family. Luckily the list isn't too much longer than that because this neighborhood is the boonies of DC. 

I feel kind of bad being so hateful towards this apartment but I'm pretty much just stewing in here now that I've seen the life of luxury I'll be living. That knowledge just makes it so much worse. This apartment was nice in the sense that my boyfriend and I paid for it and it was our own but that pretty much was it. There's a point where you want the apartment you pay for to be more than just 4 walls and a roof with indoor plumbing.

Oh, I found the new building's Facebook page and they posted about a contest to name a blue betta fish that lives in the leasing office. The name that won was Blue Ivy. That says enough about this place.

November 26, 2014

Nordstrom Rack Finds

My commute to work requires a bus transfer in a neighborhood that has a TJ Maxx, a brand new Marshalls, a World Market, an H&M, a Sephora, and a MAC all within a block of each other. I suffer every day, straining not to spend $500 per commute on discounted housewares and designer lipstick. The siren call that comes from the Nordstrom Rack is worse than all of the others combined. Sometimes I lay in bed and fantasize about breaking in there in the dead of night and loading my arms up with as much stuff as I can carry. That is my real go to fantasy to help me fall asleep. I don't even fantasize about an actual Nordstrom in this scenario, that's the kind of number the Rack has done on me.

As for things I actually have purchased and not fantasy stolen,
The ubiquitous House of Harlow 1960 leather station necklace. I'm about three years late on this trend.
Clearance rack tortoise shell earrings
This Tory Burch cosmetic bag might be my favorite birthday gift. Burgundy is almost a sleeper favorite color of mine. My best friend refers to it as my "power color" which I can see since it's a darker, moodier cousin of pink. The burgundy and butterfly combination on this bag made it love at first sight for me. Nordstrom Rack also had a navy blue flowered version which was prettier but I cannot choose against butterflies, ever. The main selling point is that this cosmetic case is enormous. It's big enough to take on a week long trip where I can fill it with not only my essentials, but some nail polish and palettes as well. Bigger items like Urban Decay setting sprays and MAC Fix+ can get dumped in there pretty easily as well. My old makeup bag was hard to zip up with only my daily face products in it so this roomier case is an upgrade. I'm going to test drive it this weekend when I go up to Jersey and see how much of my beauty regimen can actually be shoved in there.

I was so excited to find this candle. I recognized the hobnail jar was similar to a really fantastic candle I had impulse bought over the summer. There was no tag on either so I had to sleuth around the internet to figure out the brand was Simpatico. These are easily my favorite candles because the scents are always so rich and girly and the throw is great. I grab them whenever Nordstrom Rack has them for $14 or so but they're available at places like Anthropologie for $28. You know a candle is legitimate if Anthropologie sells it - Anthropologies always smell like what your home smells like in your fantasies of a totally put together, adorable life.

I don't know if you could tell but the lavender hobnail jar holding my brushes was one of these guys. The scent was "butterfly orchid" and I'm so mad that that descriptor is so vague because the smell was so god damn amazing that I want to live in a greenhouse of whatever butterfly orchids it was. This silver mercury jarred one is a vanilla/snowberry scent. The wax is also super creamy so it smells good even when the wick isn't lit. The jars are really easy to clean out and repurpose, like I did with the lavender one, too.

Peach suede crisscross slingback heels from Chinese Laundry. I wore these with jeans and a gray top to my birthday dinner at Founding Farmers which was one of the most gluttonous experiences of my entire life. I made multiple reservations for dinner at a few different places in case I had a last minute change of mind. I initially chose another place but ending up running late and defaulting to my later reservation at Founding Farmers. Completely serendipitous because my meal there was so good. People were also celebrating their birthday on either side of my table so I was eyeballing their desserts during my meal but ended up being too stuffed once my meal was over. They had fucking red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, the only kind of cake I actually love, and I couldn't stand to order it. I had THE best crab cakes I ever had in my life for dinner with a side of green beans and mashed potatoes. I was expecting the food there to be a bit overrated but I was practically Hoovering the scraps off the plate.

I also got a gorgeous, striped sweater dress from French Connection which I can't photograph because it literally no longer fits after eating like that for my birthday. I sized down because my actual size was a bit long so the dress just looks a lot like sausage casing right now.

Take note that none of these purchases are makeup. I'm on a 6 month makeup no buy which started at the beginning of October. The Lorac Mega Pro released then and the whole ordeal was just too much for me. For those who might not know, the Mega Pro was a limited edition, highly sought after eyeshadow palette that sold out online in a matter of hours. I set alarms so I could wake up in time to purchase it and spent a few hours just refreshing the website and frantically inputting my credit card information once it became available. That's behavior I indulged in when I was 16 and buying concert tickets. I should not be a grown woman doing that over eyeshadow, especially when I already have more eyeshadow than I can feasibly use. I bet I could never purchase eyeshadow again in my life and still have colorful eyelids until I'm a senior citizen. So, I've banned myself from purchasing makeup until March of 2015 unless I a. run out of something I wear everyday, like concealer, and there is absolutely no concealer of any kind whatsoever in my stash/collection/hoard or b. it's fake eyelashes or brushes. It just has to stop. I'm at the point where I go to Zara or pretty much any clothing store that isn't Forever 21 and balking at the idea of paying $60 for a pair of pants. I will easily drop $60 on an eyeshadow palette but $60 for one pair of pants is obscene to me. Be a grown woman, Vanessa, and stop paying $15 for pants at stores that are selling sweatshirts with "BAE" printed on them. I'm exasperating.

November 25, 2014

Spot Treatment with Hydrocolloid Bandages

hydrocolloid bandages band-aids patches nexcare acne spot treatment zit
I feel like every 20 something likes to complain about having trust issues. Mine don't come from a two timing ex or anything like that. They come from adult acne, exclusively. I do not have good skin. I have gaping pores and dry flaky patches and always, always at least one active breakout. It's absolute bullshit. Sorry, I was under the impression I wouldn't wake up with active breakouts the day after my 20th birthday and I feel like I'm entitled to some kind of refund. Preferably cash.

hydrocolloid bandages band-aids patches nexcare acne spot treatment zit
Since that's not going to happen, I'm constantly trolling the internet in an effort to rid myself of my acne. Surprisingly, the all time best resource for this has been Reddit's skincareaddiction community. Reddit has a very active beauty community, semi tucked away from all the conspiracy theorists and holier than though fedoras with vendettas against women. Skincareaddiction is one of such subreddits that kind of allows you to soak up their helpful information without really participating in typical Reddit things, like uploading photos or commenting on posts. They have a sidebar with a real wealth of knowledge and you can easily read through the information, pick up recommendations and troubleshoot and customize your own skincare routine. Plus, it's very no nonsense, science minded advice rather than women's magazine "Mash up ingredients in your fridge and smear them on your face!" bullshit. Dermatologists and representatives of popular skincare lines have had a presence in some of the threads and praised the advice the users dole out. It's pretty reliable stuff, as far as taking advice from strangers on the internet goes. I've almost entirely changed my skincare routine based on what I've read there but there's one product that is light years above the rest.

It's hydrocolloid bandages and they are amazing.

Hydrocolloid bandages are making those "zit on an important day" plot lines in movies unravel for me. I recently took the kids I nanny for to see Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. One of the crises that unfolded in the movie was that the teenage son of Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell had a giant forehead zit on the day of his junior prom. LIFE RUINING! Steve Carell was disgusted and told him to put a Band Aid on it. I almost threw the illegal gummy worms I had smuggled into the theater via my purse at the screen. "YOU IDIOT, A HYDROCOLLOID BANDAGE! NOT JUST A REGULAR ONE! YOU'RE SO STUPID!! NOW YOU'LL NEVER MAKE PROM COURT!!" I'm sure all my blog readers see movies marketed to children on a daily basis so you'll definitely know what I'm talking about here.
hydrocolloid bandages band-aids patches nexcare acne spot treatment zit
They're breaking up in this scene because the girl only cares about being popular and not about being true to herself. Note the regular bandage on the forehead of the guy in the Dumb & Dumber tux.
Hydrocolloid bandages are the kind of bandages you use for blisters if you're not a sick fuck who just pops them with a safety pin (like I am). They're these thick, gel dressings that are designed to suck moisture out of wounds. They work exactly the same way on zits but with sucking out pus and oil. It's ridiculously easy - you lance your breakout (and even that is an optional step) and then slap the bandage on top and leave it on while you sleep. Voila, you wake up and your breakout is inside the bandage rather than on your face! It makes complete sense and you'll wonder why you never thought to use them before. Like, obviously the bandages designed to trap moisture are going to do the same thing for a gross zit that they would for a blister. The bandage doesn't know to play favorites.

I don't know about you, but I'm obsessed with extrapolating disgusting things from my face. Magnifying mirrors are dangerous for me because I could spend plural hours squeezing out my pores and popping zits. I need the satisfaction. Obviously this is pretty awful for your face but at the same time you don't want to be the person walking around with a pussy whitehead. I promise, people on the bus or in line with you at the grocery store are staring at it and wishing you would just pop it already. I know people who are like, "DOCTORS" or "DERMATOLOGISTS" or whatever will urge you to leave it alone but like, to put it eloquently: gross.

Medical professionals do know what they're talking about though because it's rarely as easy as just popping the zit and moving on with your life. I always try and end up making the thing red, inflamed and swollen and 70% more noticeable than it was before. Hydrocolloid bandages allow you to both "pop" the breakout and be gentle to your skin. It just sucks out all the oil and pus into the bandage and deflates the zit for you (the point of popping) without any redness (the side effect of popping). As a bonus, they also create a safety seal so you don't feel tempted to poke and prod at the zit at all.

Here's a tutorial on how to use these things. It's stupid easy.
  1. Buy a package of hydrocolloid bandages. Some are marketed specifically for acne use and come in pre-sized circles or shapes, like stars or hearts. In my opinion, these are a cutesy ripoff. They were more expensive, all for the privilege of being pre-cut. These things aren't like a pizza or something where I would flip a shit in a hangry rage if they were delivered to me without being properly sliced. I can take care of myself, thanks, and I buy the actual hydrocolloid blister bandages from the drugstore and cut them to size myself with a regular pair of scissors like God intended. I actually prefer it that way because I can cut a larger strip for a particularly problematic area of my face or teeny, less wasteful pieces for a small breakout. 
hydrocolloid bandages band-aids patches nexcare acne spot treatment zit
Nexcare, the brand that markets these bandages for acne specifically. These didn't adhere to my face nearly as well as the regular bandages. I don't even have oily skin. These guys were just sleeping on the job.

hydrocolloid bandages band-aids patches nexcare acne spot treatment zit
What the bandages will look like, just cut to size and then peel off the adhesive backing.
Ask the pharmacist if you need help and they'll direct you to the bandages you want. Pro tip: Don't ask anyone who works in the drugstore but a pharmacist. I won't say where I used to work, but there is a C a V and an S in the name and I got yelled at once for telling a customer Crest White Strips worked well for me after she asked. You're supposed to save these questions for a pharmacist so the idiots up front don't give you faulty medical advice and cause you to sue the entire company when Crest White Strips make all your teeth fall out and use your credit card behind your back. So don't ask the cashier or the person stocking the candy aisle about your zit band aids.

2. Lance your breakout with a sterilized object. This step is optional but delivers the best results. I won't take off from your final grade if you don't do it.

3. Take your preshaped or newly cut bandage, remove the adhesive backing and place it directly over the breakout.

4. Sleep. Do something productive for 8 hours. Just leave the bandage on for awhile. I find the whole sleep method works best for me because it allows me to leave the bandage on for about half the day without even noticing its there.

5. Peel off the bandage and marvel over how much disgusting shit is living in your face. Weigh yourself because surely you just lost 3lbs, all in pus.

I am a benevolent blogger and have taken pictures of these bandages after they've been on my face for a night. These are the action shots, right here. Just posting photos of my breakout juice on the internet. I really want to drive home how effective these bandages are, though, and a picture is going to do the job a lot better than words. The photos you are about to see may disturb you.