Wednesday, May 4, 2016

DIY: Minimal Nail Art

I've gotten back into doing my nails recently, after a stretch of only occasional (at home, duh) manicures and plenty of naked nail time. I started getting used to the look of bare fingernails on my hands for once. Also, it's nice to not have to do something you once found compulsory, especially when that thing makes your whole apartment stink like a science experiment gone wrong.

Even so...I'm back, baby! Screw the stinky fumes and time consuming nature of manicures! Screw the fact that I spend an hour minimum on something that is literally designed to start coming undone the second I'm finished with it! It looks fun, okay?

I like an intricately drawn wintery scene or a smattering of spring flowers as much as the next nail art enthusiast, but lately I've embraced the idea of minimal nail art.

Minimal nail art is an easy way to have some unique fun on your nails, but without the effort and commitment of a full scale design. I like to do simple, basic shapes and lines on bare nails for a decorated, but not overly fussy look. Let me just show you:


Nail Polish Colors of Your Choice
Clear Tape
Top Coat
Dotting Tool, Stickers & Nail Polish Pens (optional)


Start by applying a base coat. I like Beauty Secrets Moisturizing Base Coat, but any clear polish, or none at all, will do. It's good to shape them first too since we'll be showing a lot of naked nail.

I like to do a different design on each nail just to keep it extra loose. Some ideas are the diagonal stripe, seen here, or a basic triangle, below. I cut strips of clear tape and create a stencil of sorts right on my nail, then simply paint inside the borders of that tape. When it's dry, remove the tape quickly but carefully and you should have some nice designs.
It doesn't have to be perfect either! Minimal = easy, guys!

It's also totally fine to freehand some designs, like I did on the heart and eyelashes, or use a dotting tool to make polka dots. You can literally drop of splash on polish on the middle of each nail if you want - the point here is to be minimal and easy! Don't you love easy things?

Finish by adding a top coat and that's it! I like to mix up colors and designs, but again, do whatever feels fun to you. Sometimes I just doodle on my nails and call it a day.

I forgot: the absolute best part of this manicure is that it will last way longer than a regular paint job! You know how nail polish usually chips away around the edges first? There are no edges here, guys. Meaning your designs are safe in the center of your nail bed like a little, brightly colored island that only you have to power to remove when you're done with it. Look how powerful you are!

Are you into minimal nail art? How often do you paint your nails? How much do you love low-commitment beauty?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BEAUTY: Morphe 35S Palette Review/Swatches

Doesn't it seem like makeup brands spring up overnight sometimes? Think about it - two years ago we were not even talking about ColourPop (and probably would've mocked the unneccesary "u" right?), but now their name is thrown about so frequently we can feel like we're missing out on something we barely just learned existed.

The same can be said for other YouTube-famous online makeup brands like Morphe. I saw the brand written about on beauty sites, reviewed in videos and used in tutorials, and since I like to keep an eye on these up-and-comers, I had checked out their offerings and maybe even pinned a product or two. I can be skeptical about beauty newbies, but when I saw their 35S Smokey Eye Palette, I was interested in trying it out for myself.

Because I have a wonderful and generous sister, I received this palette as a surprise gift in the mail, but you can buy it either directly from Morphe or from Amazon, where it seems to be a couple of bucks cheaper with free Prime shipping.

The Pros
I was instantly struck by the palette's size upon opening the package - this thing is a full 9" x 6" and each individual eyeshadow is about a 1" circle. You get a lot of product here for the price, but I was curious if that product would be worth it.

I'm happy to say that, overall, I think this palette is certainly worth the price, as even though not every shadow is well pigmented, the majority are at least useable, with many being supremely soft and colorful. There is also a great mix of colors here. I don't feel drawn to the million neutral palettes available these days (how the hell did we, as a society, decide to get this excited over taupe?!), but this palette offers a selection of useful neutrals, as well as bold brights and some unusual shades you won't find many other places, like the banana yellow and magenta.

There are both matte and metallic finishes, and several groups of shadows that can be worked into no-brainer smoky eye looks. This is a very user friendly palette, meaning that you can either choose to play around or work within a given color family or zone to get whatever look you're going for.

The Cons
My biggest complaint is that there are too many similar shades in this palette. Looking at the above photo, you'll see several bright blue shades, each appearing slightly different from the others. In the swatches below, you'll notice they come out of the pan looking nearly identical. Just kind of a bummer since this is a missed opportunity for even more color selection.

The same can be said for black shadows, and you might wonder why the bottom row of this palette appears to have three of them. I did too, but after swatching I saw that they are each different, with the first black in the bottom row being deeply pigmented, while the others are weaker and read more like dark gray. Again, just a missed opportunity to stuff even more color into this palette. 

Some shades are too weak to use, specifically the tan shade at the end of the top row, and some are crumbly, like the pink at the end of the fourth row.

First Row Swatches (the last shade showed up so lightly that I accidentally cropped it out of this photo!)
Second Row Swatches
Third Row Swatches
Fourth Row Swatches
Fifth Row Swatches
I get a lot of use from this palette, and love having such a mix of colors on hand. It would also be great for traveling, since it could get you through many looks. Honestly, the super metallic shades make this completely worthwhile to me, as they're so bright and unique I go back to them again and again. Also, even though I disparaged the color earlier in this post, the taupe eyeshadow third from the left in the fourth row has become a constant in my makeup life - it's even more gorgeous in person. Wait, one more con - I wish these colors had names so I could reference them a little easier!

Have you tried any Morphe palettes or brushes? What is your favorite affordable makeup product? What other beauty newbies are you dying to try?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

STYLE: 3D Geometric Earrings

Lately, I've really been loving these bold, geometric earrings I keep seeing around. Cubes, pyramids, whatever - the 3D designs feel like they're jumping right out at me. They can be simple, like the subtly raised gold triangles in #11, or super bold statement pieces, like the comin-at-ya cubes in #6, which, incidentally, really bring me back to notebook doodling and feeling like a master artist for my newfound cube-drawing skills.

Check out some cool 3D geometric earrings I've been eyeing:

Have you seen these designs popping up lately too? Which one above is your favorite? More of a pearl studs kinda gal?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

BEAUTY: Ulta Birthday Gift 2016

Just like our old pal Sephora, beauty hotspot Ulta loves to dish out annual birthday freebies. Honestly, I'm usually much less excited about Ulta's birthday offerings than I am about Sephora's, which is exactly the inverse of how I feel about each store in general. It's a confusing time. This year, though, Ulta is kinda going all in and giving us a deluxe sample-sized tube of Benefit Roller Lash.

Isn't she lovely?

If this was, like, a year ago, I probably would've freaked out over this gift because I was very much in love with Benefit mascaras, and very much averse to shelling out the $20+ they wanted for them. In that time, I haven't lost love for Benefit, but rather gained the knowledge that my kinda-long-but-very-straight lashes need, nay deserve, a waterproof formula, which is able to keep a curl all day and use my lash length for something more useful than poking me in the eye over and over again.

The thing is, though, Benefit actually claims that Roller Lash works without a lash curler, and can, in fact, curl your lashes all on its own, lifting them up and holding for 12 hours. This is all due to the "Hook 'n' Roll" brush, which features "tiny custom-designed hooks to catch, lift and curl even short and straight lashes," according to Benefit. Try not to think of tiny hooks going into your eyes, okay?

They also say that it contains conditioning ingredients (B5 and serine), is easy to remove and has the ability to "super-curl," which sounds to me like the lead character in a beauty-themed hero movie, and I'd like one ticket, please.

To see how it compared to my usual lash curling routine, I applied 2 coats of Roller Lash,
without curling my eyelashes either before or after:
Top Row: bare lashes  //  Bottom Row: 2 coats of Benefit Roller Lash mascara

Up close, you can see that this is a somewhat clumpy formula, which I actually don't mind. It definitely gave my lashes more curl than they have with a regular mascara sans lash curler. I pretty much always curl my lashes first, so to see any root lifting from just the wand alone is pretty remarkable to me.

The mascara is very black and seems a bit lengthening perhaps, but in a negligible amount. The big draw here is the curling effect, which I agree is impressive, but ultimately I'd just rather use an eyelash curler (I love my Japonesque Power Curl) and a cheaper mascara. I get better results from my current favorite drugstore formula, and the difference in price could legitimately buy me a fancy Italian dinner. Yes to linguine, no to expensive mascaras.

Okay, just don't call me 'birthday curl' again.

I'll definitely use this tube up, but I won't purchase the full size. If you can visit an Ulta, make sure to ask about Ultamate Rewards and how you can get a free birthday gift when your big day rolls around!

Have you tried Roller Lash? What's your favorite high end or drugstore mascara? Please entertain me with tales of your best birthday freebies.

Monday, February 29, 2016

BEAUTY: Sephora Birthday Gift 2016

Awww yeah - it's that time once again! New year, new free Sephora Beauty Insider birthday gift!

This year, Sephora gives you a choice for your birthday freebie: a skincare set including Fresh Soy Face Cleanser and Rose Face Mask, or a cute little Marc Jacobs cosmetics set. 
Decisions, decisions...

I went the makeup route, because duh, and the set includes a black eyeliner pencil and a rosy nude lipstick. Specifically, you'll receive the Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon in Blacquer and the Le Marc Lip Creme in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The eyeliner is 0.01 oz and the lipstick is 0.03 oz.

I'm pretty happy with this set overall (I mean, it was free so I'd be kind of a jerk to complain), and I'll actually use up both products, which is nice. I have many black eyeliner pencils in my life, but I can see a spot for this lil' guy to work his way in. The formula is very creamy and smooth, and it glided easily on my waterline without hesitation or the pigment weakening. The darkness you see in the swatch (below) is what you'll see on your eye. 

I'd compare the velvety feel of the pencil to Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil in Perversion, as both are incredibly black and almost shockingly smooth. Yes, shockingly. I guess I'm easily shocked?

One note - you CAN sharpen this eyeliner, despite its plastic/metal packaging. Some people assume these can't be sharpened (like NARS lip pencils or NYX Jumbo Eye Pencils), but they can if your sharpener is sturdy enough. I use the NARS sharpener, which is only $6 and honestly life-changing, assuming your life only needs changing in sharpening-related matters.

This lipstick is a sleeper hit; at first, I was like, 'oh cool, another pinky-nude, whatever' (side note: when did I get so spoiled and jaded about free designer lipstick?), but once I applied it I was surprised how much I loved it. The color is more pink on my lips and reads as more of a standout shade than you might assume by looking at the tube. It's just really good! It would also work nicely on a large spectrum of skin tones, I think.

The tube if small, but not flimsy so it's perfect to throw in your purse. It also has a satisfying 'click' when you close it, and I love nothing more than a satisfying click, lipstick or otherwise.

It goes on opaque in one creamy swipe, with a satin finish that lasts for hours, provided you don't eat or drink anything, making it the perfect lipstick for both fictional characters and ghosts. Humans will probably have to reapply every few hours.

Swatches: Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (top) and Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon in Blacquer
Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on my lips

Are you looking forward to the Sephora Beauty Insider birthday gift this year? Any other awesome birthday freebies you'd like to share with the class?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

DIY: Gumball Machine Costume

Oh, hello.

You didn't think I was going to let Halloween pass without an update did you? Of course not.

I'll just say it: it's unreasonable that we only have one day a year to wear costumes. I fantasize about a Second Halloween - we'll give it a catchier name, probably - in late April, about six months after the big day, so everyone gets another chance to dress up and fit in those costume ideas they never got around to. Plus, topical costume options will be doubled! When something great happens pop-culturally in the winter, it's way too late to costume-ize it at Halloween. With Second Halloween, this MAJOR problem is solved.

My brain is basically a snow globe of raining costume ideas all year long. I make mental notes and ponder construction options pretty much weekly. I just love costumes! I generate a lot of ideas; some I try to force on others, and some I'm storing away for future Halloweens when I have it in me to wear another costume that I can't sit down in. This year, though, I actually pulled inspiration from my own past brain! When I made this post about DIY Halloween costume ideas, I included a gumball machine option, and this year it struck me as a fun thing to try. Thanks, 2014 brain!

Here's how I made it:

The Gumballs
There are a lot of ways to go about this portion of the costume - last year I suggested a glass bowl full of pom poms, but I was committed to using real gumballs so I bought enough bags of those at Target to arouse suspicion at checkout. 

I then cut a 15" circle from cardboard, covered it in white felt, glued approximately one million (ok, like 300) gumballs to it, and used black felt as a trim to give a finished look. 

I added that cartoon-style "shiny" detail at the top to imply that the circle was glass. Just like when I was drawing a balloon as a child, it just seemed like the right thing to do. 

Finally, I attached some black straps to tie around my neck. Side note: that kind of hurt so BEWARE.

The Hat
The base of this hat is a paper bowl. Yup, that simple. I snipped off the lip of the bowl to give it a straighter side.

Next, I cut a circle out of red fabric, wrapped it around the bowl and glued it on the inside. I suggest glueing in small sections to keep the edges as neat as possible. I have some folds, but I made peace with it after some soul searching.

The top piece is the bottom of a small plastic cup covered in gray felt. If you're keeping track, that means this hat is about 95% disposable dish ware.

Finish by gluing some elastic string to keep it on your head.

The Machine
For rational people, step one should be: Buy a red skirt. Since I always have to be a hero, I made this one myself after deeming all store-bought options "too red," "not red enough," or "lacking the spirit of a gumball machine." Don't be a hero.

I used gray, white and black felt to make a metal-looking piece for the coin slot and spinny dial. I attached this to the skirt with tape, since I wanted to wear the skirt again.

I put a "hole" at the bottom when the gumballs would come out, and glued a gumball there, as well.

Finish with some silver trim courtesy of duct tape if you wish.

The Finished Costume

Classes are starting now at my distinguished photo posing academy! You'll be a pro after covering such topics as "Why are these hands on my face?" and "Hey, what's over there?"

So now I have to know - what were you for Halloween? If you didn't dress up, what do you wish you could've been? Because sometimes imagining costumes is just easier, right?

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