Friday, May 30, 2014

Essie Spring 2014: Fashion Playground + Baby's First Giveaway!

Sometimes you write an entire blog post and then accidentally delete it.

Anyway, one of the things I love most about Essie's spring collection every year is how well many of the shades transition into early summer.  It just helps keep your nails looking fresh and appropriate whether it's 80 degrees and sunny in March or 45 and raining in May. Such is the plight of the Chicago denizen.  But hey, that's why it's called "Stranded" in Chicago, not "Super Happy I Chose This" in Chicago, you feel.

Essie Spring 2014's standout in this respect for me is Fashion Playground, a gorgeous blue-green pastel. It's greener than cult classic Mint Candy Apple and brighter and bluer than the Braziliant collection's Absolutely Shore.  Honestly, this shade comes that closest to knocking Absolutely Shore off it's pedestal as my all time favorite Essie pastel, and I think this shade is a little punchier for the coming summer months.  I can't wait to wear this in the next few weeks as summer hits it's stride.  N.B. this color, like the aforementioned shades and many other pastels, can be a bit tricky to apply, so I recommend multiple thin coats to avoid any persistent streakiness.  It's totally worth it though, I assure you.

My new found love for this color brings me to an important milestone for my blog, which is now (shockingly) more than three years old.  I hope you'll be excited, as well! In celebration of the glorious summer, I'm going to give away a full size bottle of Fashion Playground to one lucky reader.  This giveaway is open to continental US readers only, sadly, which is something I hope to change for future giveaways. Scroll on down and follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter.  As always, thanks for reading, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Restaurantin': Zinc - New Haven, CT

While I do promise that I'll post about my little sister's actual graduation, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the outrageously delicious meal we ate the night before all the ceremonies began. (The Chinese food we had at Basil the night before the night before the festivities began also hit next level deliciousness, but after five hours on the road, I wasn't havin' no camera come between me and my dinner.)

After much anxiety and planning, my wonderful mother managed to score a reservation at Zinc, a farm-to-table restaurant that opened right around the dawn of this millennium (doesn't that sound cooler than just a number? Let's all get into it.) I'm not saying that so you'll think that we're all high and mighty and important and got a coveted reservation, just that we had major struggs what with having to be in approximately a bajillion places and everyone else graduating in New Haven also going out to dinner that night.

First off, the space's aesthetic hit all the marks for me. Semi-dark lighting, classic stemware, clean lines with modern touches? Yes, please, all of the above.  Since we had a 5:30 reservation on account of needing to finish in time for my sister's concert, I had the opportunity to capture the pleasingly empty table you see above. What can I say?  I love simple stemware.

Let me say that this day already had quite a bit of food in it, so I looked toward the menu's lighter options.  For a starter, I selected the soup of the day, a Asparagus Tarragon Soup that delighted me to no end.  It tasted vibrantly of fresh asparagus with just a hint of tarragon to add interest, and I'm pleased to tell you not a drop remained when I finished with it.

For my main, I decided on another of the small plates, House Made Salmon Gravlax, accompanied by puffed rices, tamarind vinaigrette, Madras yogurt, and pickled kumquats.  Can we get a round of applause for pickled kumquats, y'all?  'Cause that shit goes PERFECTLY with cured salmon.  Cuts really nicely through the fattiness of the salmon, yo. Speaking of the salmon, the delicate flavor hit the spot for me, though I must admit I rarely object to salmon in any form. If I have one complaint, it's that the amount of yogurt overwhelmed the finessed flavor of the salmon. In my opinion, the dish needed about half as much as was present. I can't lie, though, the yogurt was just as scrumptious as all the other components.

I couldn't bear to leave out a shot of my father's entrée, the Smoked Pork Chop, which surely would have found it's way to my stomach had I not already been full from the day's earlier culinary exploits. Isn't that just gorgeous? I was informed that it was cooked to perfection, as well.

All in all, a really bang up meal, and a lovely evening to boot. Price was as to be expected, always nice not facing surprises on that front (be real, though, you think I paid for this? I was eating with my parents...).  I would absolutely give this place another go 'round and try some of the well-curated menu's heavier offerings, but it seems my family's time in New Haven has come to an end with my darling little sister's graduation.  C'est la vie.

I leave you with this reeeeeeeeally cool piece visible from the alley next to the restaurant.  Apparently it lines up perfectly if you stand in precisely the right spot, which I think it is reasonably clear I did not manage to do. Still. Really cool.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Let's Ruffle Some Feathers

My apologies for the posting delay! Last week was crazy, what with my little sister's graduation. I'll have some pictures from that up this week, but for today, I've got a great color for this summer...

This is Essie's Ruffles & Feathers from the Summer 2014 collection. Of the six shades released, this struck me the most. It's a beautiful teal with strong green undertones that's just perfect for the summer. It's slightly bluer than it appears above, evocative of the ocean (or Lake Michigan) on a perfect ten day. The best part? We've got a bona fide one coat wonder here. The above picture shows a single coat with top coat after two days of wear.

Verdict: Expect my feathers to ruffle repeatedly with this shade in the coming weeks.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Numbers 10, 14, 18,19, 22, 27: Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

Did you forget I'm trying to read 100 books this year?  Don't worry, I keep chugging along.  I figured that if I'm actually going to accomplish this goal, I gotta balance the heavy hitters with some less...challenging, shall we say, fare. Since my library had the Vampire Academy series available, rotting my brain a little via teenage bloodsuckers seemed like the way to go. I'm reviewing them as a series rather than individually because that would take more effort than I spent reading them.  Truly.

In order, the titles are:

Vampire Academy
Frost Bite
Shadow Kiss
Blood Promise
Spirit Bound
Last Sacrifice

Crazy titles, right, right?  I can tell you're already titillated.

I'm not going to pretend I didn't enjoy this series and plow through it to its reasonably predictable, highly addictive, ending. Yes, there were some annoying grammatical and editing errors, but Richelle Mead writes much better than another teen lit vampire author who shall remain nameless. True, her name is Richelle, which doesn't seem like a real name so much as a speech impediment, but the prose, if you want to call it that, didn't make me want to rip my hair out.

The setup: Seventeen year old Rosemarie Hathaway, a dhampir (weird hybrid human/vampire), and her best friend, likewise seventeen, but a Moroi (Mead's word for living vampires that don't kill people but still drink their blood) try to graduate from high school and plunge themselves into adult life without being killed by various enemies, including Strigoi (evil vampires who have become dead and immortal by killing someone). Naturally, boys also insert themselves into the situation, much is made of the saint/slut dynamic, which pisses me off, and there's a good amount of general stupidity on behalf of almost every character.  On the upside, Rose, as she's called, definitely has a personality and feels strongly about being in full control of her life.  Except for the part where dhampirs are expected to serve and protect Moroi as their sole purpose in life.  I also find this problematic.  For obvious reasons.  But so does Rose, and this is light reading, and I am an adult with my own opinions. But problematic for the teens, who are probably still as stupid as I was when I was their age.

The Verdict: Want something to read by the pool this summer? Go for it! Doesn't tax the mind, fast-paced, generally enjoyable, and only occasionally annoying.  Surely, you didn't think these were great works of literature, but who doesn't like a beach read now and then. Definitely get these suckers from the library though, no reason to buy since I can't imagine anyone would feel strongly enough to give these a re-read.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Swatching Fun

With a trip for my little sister's graduation (WOAH) rushing toward me, for once I decided to be proactive about what makeup I'll be bringing with. I realized that I didn't actually know exactly how a shockingly large portion of my collection would look, so I got a little carried away with the swatching.

The only thing you can't tell in this picture is that I actually swatched highlighter all the way up to my upper arm! Doing this definitely helped me make the face chest for the looks I want to wear next weekend and with what outfits.

Knowing me, I'll probably still manage to throw in a few extra bits as I'm running out the door, but it sure feels good to be organized for once!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mini Sephora Haul!

In addition to adventuring at the Art Institute on Saturday, my friends and I took a long stroll up State Street and, of course, we stopped in Sephora.  I had intended to pick up a couple of things, and I did!  So I figured I'd share them with you...

Too Faced Melted Liquified Long Wear Lipstick in Melted Fuchsia These lipsticks have been all over the blogging world since they launched getting a whole lotta love, and as a lover of a longwear, more or less matte finish, I knew I had to grab one of 'em. After swatching all six shades, I settled on Melted Fuchsia -- quelle suprise, me loving a bright pink lipstick? Some of the other colors looked outright garish, but if I'd been feeling really brave, I'll admit that I could totally have gone for Melted Violet.  I wasn't feeling brave, though.  The texture is awesome, though, lightly hydrating, the only thing I would say is that it does tend to catch on flaky lip bits (ewwwww), so definitely exfoliate those suckers first

Anastasia Beverley Hills Brow Wiz in Brunette Duh. Getting into YouTube has coincided with a new interest in my eyebrows, I've found. I have pretty full brows, but filling them in a little bit just makes a whole look more finished, I think.  Brow Wiz is a pretty universally beloved option, what with it's absurdly small pencil and wide range of colors, and I'm pretty pleased so far.  It's not as warm toned as some of the powders I'd been using which definitely suits me a lot better.  I also adore the spoolie on the end, as it's stiff enough to actually make a difference when I comb it through my ample brows. Now to obtain a clear brow gel...

Tarte Bright by Night Skincare Discovery Set You know that gauntlet of minis through which you're required to run in order to check out at Sephora?  I get got almost every time.  This time, Tarte victimized me quite thoroughly.  I'd been considering this little set during the recent sale, but then it sold out online. Sad face. Quite a disappointment considering it was only $10, and would have been a good way to try the Maracuja Oil without having to spend a whole pile of dollars.  Naturally, when I spied it in its little holder on my way to the register, it leaped into my basket quicker than you can say "impulse buy."  It includes a 3ml Maracuja C-brighter Eye Treatment and a 7ml Pure Maracuja Oil, a pretty good trial size considering both of these are "a little bit goes a long way" products. I've only just started using it, obviously, so I'll keep you posted on how I like the oil and the eye cream after I've given them a good run.

Have any of you jumped on the bandwagon with these goodies?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Adventures in Art!

My best friend is in town! In my Googling of things to do this past weekend, I discovered that Bank of America has a program through which they offer free admission to select museums for BoA cardholders.  Since I love both museums and free things, I jumped on that like woah, and we decided to check out the Art Institute of Chicago. I've only been about twice previously, once to see a specific exhibit to the exclusion of many other works, so my excitement level reached pretty outrageous levels.

We decided to take this opportunity to focus on the museum's Impressionist collection, a truly admirable grouping of works from that movement.  I've always most loved Monet's paintings of Charing Cross Bridge and Waterloo Bridge in London.  The mellow mood calms me enormously.

It was a gorgeous day and I'm glad to have had it with my number one friend.  You better believe I'll be going back the next time I can manage so I can further explore the museum's beautiful collection of art through the ages.

Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the Art Institute?

Friday, May 2, 2014

April Favorites 2014

Back for more favorites! I meant to have this up two days ago, but my computer was being extremely uncooperative. Better late than never, though! For all the pertinent deets, click through to watch on YouTube.