Friday, August 28, 2015

Cheers to the End of Summer

I know, it's really mean of me to even suggest that summer is ending. It doesn't really end until SepteBut you must know that September is mere moments away, and unless you're gonna pull a Green Day, you'll be experiencing Labor Day next weekend with the rest of us. Try not to be too sad! Get out and celebrate the long weekend! And if you need some libations to help you mourn, I'm here to provide some solutions.

If you want to pretend it's still June...

White Peach Sangria
A blogger with whom I go way back, Carolyn Selheim-Miller of Boxes and Jars, has a delicious recipe that you'll love if you go for fruity dranks. I made this toward the end of June, and it was truly scrumptious. Just be careful, or you might find you've had more than your fair share of the pitcher o.O Check out her recipe here. Photo via.

If you're ready to embrace sweater weather...
Grown-Up Hot Apple Cider
I just loooooovvvvve apple cider. You know how I love it even more? With whiskey. Personally, I prefer Maker's Mark, but pretty much anything you personally find palatable will do. If you want to amp up your game, throw in some cinnamon and cloves while you're heating the cider to really get that fall feeling. Twelve cloves and two cinnamon sticks for a gallon of cider should give it a nice touch without overwhelming it. Once it's all simmered together, add the liquor to your cup to taste. I won't tell how much if you don't.

If you just DGAF...
Tequila Shots
Maybe you just want to go hard one last time. Pick your favorite tequila, grab those limes, and kiss the summer goodbye.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I'm in Love with My beautyblender

I am jumping on the bandwagon here. I got a beautyblender for Christmas, and after more than half a year of using it, I assure you, it is my favorite makeup applicator of all time. If you like a lightweight feel to your makeup while still achieving excellent coverage, this is your new best friend. It definitely takes a little more time than your average foundation brush, but it blends my makeup in such a way that it's almost impossible to tell I'm wearing any.

To use it, you just get it wet and squeeze out all the excess moisture, then bounce it around your face until your makeup looks perfect. I like to apply my foundation to the center of my face with my fingers first, then use this to even everything out. Quick tip: use the pointy end to really get your undereye coverage exactly how you need it.

beautyblender is available from Sephora for $20.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What I'm Reading, Week 33

Two miniatures from the Sarajevo Haggadah

Just yesterday, I finished reading Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book, a fictional account of the history of the very real Sarajevo Haggadah. The novel, unfortunately, failed to captivate me as intensely as the idea of the haggadah itself. Certainly, I have no complaints on the way it was written, or the characterization, or the plot in general, which definitely had enough thrills for the average fiction reader. But for a history junkie like me, I just kept thinking about the haggadah, and who really created it, and the people who used it for their seders over centuries past. This haggadah in particular is also of special note because it is one of the most elaborately illustrated and illuminated texts to survive from the medieval Jewish community in Spain.

If you're looking for an exciting story with a historical setting, you should definitely check this out, but if you have an interest in medieval European history, I think you'll find yourself wanting to go more in depth than is intended in the scope of this book.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Skin So Dull? Get 'Bland.

I recently used up the last of my precious pot of Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm, and as much as I would like to say that I already had a backup/money is no object, I didn't/it is. Still, the thought of going without a cleanser in the balm category makes me cringe considering how much more lovely it has make my skin texture. With that on my mind, I decided I would give the much talked about Ultrabland from Lush a try.

I've had it for about two months now, and I feel that it is good. Not great, and certainly not a true replacement for my beloved, but I do like it. It's best as a morning cleanser, I find, as the waxy texture doesn't lend itself to the sort of massaging I use to remove makeup. It's much thicker than many of the balm cleansers I've tried, so you really do need a warm washcloth to remove it. It leaves my skin feeling clean but not stripped, and I feel like it's had a bit of a smoothing effect for my face. The jury is still out on whether or not I'll repurchase, but while I still have it, I'll quite enjoy using it. Good thing, since a little seems to be going a verrrrrrrry long way.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mani Monday: Jelly Sandwich

I used to hate jelly polishes, but I have seen the error of my ways. In fact, I recently mentioned one in a post about Julep polishes. For those of you who have lives that revolve around things other than nail polish who aren't familiar with this polish finish, it describes a translucent polish that looks a bit squishy on the nail, for lack of a better descriptor. Certainly, there are bloggers out there who have scads of swatches you can google to see what I'm talking about. Go ahead, go look, I'll wait.

Okay, moving on.

Generally, I found these sorts of polishes a bit annoying, as one of the primary reasons I started doing my nails all the time was so I didn't spend the entire day cleaning out the stuff that accumulates under my nails, and being able to see through a polish kind of defeated this goal. This, however, was before I became aware of the what is called a "jelly sandwich." Basically, you do a coat or two of the jelly, then a coat of a glitter polish, and then top it with some more jelly polish.

The effect is intoxicating.

There are some nail looks that make me want to grow witch nails just so I can have more space to paint and then look at the pretty effect. This is definitely one of them. Unfortunately, my former aversion to this finish means I don't have a wide selection in my absurd collection. The drugstore brands also seem to largely stick to opaque cremes or shimmers, as well. I can't blame them, they do sell, and I have more than a few. Still, it's awfully annoying that I can't just run over to CVS and pick up a new jelly shade with which to experiment.

Have you ever tried a jelly sandwich?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Airbrush Without the Air

Fellow makeup addicts, I know you know the feeling when a product haunts you until you buy it. Last year, after an emergency dentist appointment in which I discovered I was in urgent need of a root canal (I KNOW), I found myself in the Sephora just around the corner. Intending to assuage myself with a new foundation purpose, that's just what I did, but what really stuck with me during the visit was the brush the nice lady used to apply the foundation I ended up buying.

Cut to ten months later and I finally took the plunge on the Sephora Collection Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53. It applies my full coverage foundations flawlessly, and the bristles are so densely packed that it doesn't leave any of that tell-tale streaking that a lot of foundation brushes can give. Did I mention it's so soft I wish I could wear it?

My favorite way to apply foundation using this brush is to spread a pump all over my skin with my fingers, concentrating on the middle, and then smooth everything out to a flawless, even finish with the brush. And there you have it! An airbrushed finished without any of the rigamarole. What could be better?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bad Hair Day Beatdown, Part 2

Ready for the styling products? Here we go...

Living Proof Prime Style Extender
My best friend once expressed shock at seeing what my hair looked like post-blow dry, pre-flat iron. For those of you wondering, picture the cartoon aftermath of someone sticking their finger in an electrical socket. Yeah. Not Great. One day, I stumbled across this stuff, though, and my life changed and getting my hair smooth and straight became a significantly easier experience. Seriously, I run a dollop of this stuff through my wet hair and it takes me all of 25 minutes to get my hair looking real nice. It used to take me an hour and fifteen minutes to get the same effect. THAT IS A BIG DEAL.

Oscar Blandi Dry Texture Spray
This remains one of the only wins from my admittedly brief experience with Birchbox a few years ago. I got a travel size in one of my boxes and I've been repurchasing ever since. It gives instant lift at the roots on those days when your hair just seems a little flat. I love it.

Bumble and bumble Surf Spray 
I got bangs in March. I love them, but I can't wear them right now because the sweat from my own head makes them do insane things, like form them into a pompadour. No me gusta. But my sister-in-law, who happens to be a licensed cosmetologist, recommended I use this on my bangs before blow drying to hold them in place, and boy was she right! This does a great job adding the right amount of texture to keep my bangs in place on most days. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite suit the texture of the rest of my hair, so I turned to...

Bumble and bumble Surf Infusion Spray
Like the original, but includes oil to nourish and get along with us ladies who have hair of a coarser texture. It turns my crazy weird curls into beachy curls, achieving what I had hoped for out of the original Surf Spray. Yay!

Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil
I'm gonna be totally up front: this is stupid expensive. But it gives me the best air-dried curls I have ever had using any product, bar none. If you're in the mood for a splurge, or someone is looking to give you a fancy gift, this turns my frizzy, temperamental hair

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I'm Reading, Week 32

I'm still reading the same book as last week because my migraines have reared their ugly heads and impeded my progress. Without further ado, I present to you the full list of all the books I've read to this point. While admirable, my pace is significantly off what I need it to be to achieve my goal. Sigh.

Note: due to a factory reset I performed on my phone a few months ago, these are no longer in the order in which I finished them. In fact, I can't even be sure this is the whole list. ::facepalm::

Total: 45
1. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
2. Authority by Jeff Vandermeer
3. Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer
4. The Martian by Andy Weir
5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
6. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
7. Yes Please by Amy Pohler
8. The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney
9. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
10. Obernewton by Isobelle Carmody
11. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
12. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
13. World After by Susan Ee
14. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
15. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
16. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
17. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
18. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
19. American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare by Karen Abbott
20. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
21. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
22. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
23. The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
24. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
25. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman
26. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
27. Black Heart by Holly Black
28. Red Glove by Holly Black
29. White Cat by Holly Black
30. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
31. Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah
32. The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Ann Noble
33. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
34. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
35. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
36. A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz
37. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
38. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
39. David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell
40. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
41. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
42. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
43. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
44. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
45. Feed by Mira Grant
46. Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bad Hair Day Beatdown, Part 1

Have you ever had a bad hair day? No? Then you're not human. Go get the pitchforks, everyone.

Ok, great, now that the government has taken custody of our alien infiltrator, we can move on. My hair is a real wily SOB. It can never make up its mind on its own, and it's prone to frizz, uncooperative volume, strange lifelessness, and general lack of shampoo commercial shine. The one thing I don't have to deal with is chemical damage, but I'm sure my hair would be happy to lose its shit if I ever tried to dye it. Nevertheless, as a result of its relentless and varied ways of misbehaving, I have developed a full-on arsenal of products with which I attempt to instill discipline into my strands.

Garnier Pure Clean Shampoo
I don't wash my hair that often. It's not because I think it's so great for my hair to be bathed in my natural oils, or because I fear the application of sulfates to a delicate scalp. I just work a lot, and I mostly wear my hair in a bun in the summer because I'm so hot. It's because I am lazy. That said, I do love a good scrub-a-dub, and this is my go-to shampoo when I want to rid my hair of all the crap I've put in it. I've heard it's a dupe for Bumble and bumble's Sunday Shampoo, which I've always wanted to try, but never have because I have a crap ton of hair and buying $24 shampoo is a dumb idea. At any rate, it costs about $4 and manages to make my hair squeaky clean without totally stripping it and making it super dry and gross. Thank you Pure Clean. I love you with all my heart.

L'Oreal Total Repair Five Hair Balm
As we all know, heat styling can do a number on your hair, what with the over-drying and such. I'm also really bad at getting my hair cut regularly, so I typically have a disgusting number of split ends. This drugstore hair mask alleviates both of those problems pretty well. I mean, no, it can't get rid of split ends, only scissors can do that. Still, it smooths everything out without weighing it down and leaves my hair pleasantly shiny. I only use this about twice a month so it doesn't build up too much, but when I do, its verrrrrry nice.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mani Monday: Easy Geometric Nail Art

Sometimes you have a lot of nail polish, so much that wearing one color at a time seems like a waste. Or maybe you're looking for a fun way to accessorize that doesn't involve all the hard work of figuring out what jewelry goes with your outfit.

To get this look, just paint a layer or two of any color polish you like, wait for it to dry most of the way, and then use opaque polishes in as many colors as you think will look good to make simple shapes on your nails. Rectangles and squarish shapes will be the easiest, since you can do them with just the brush that comes with the polish, but you can fake some triangles by just swiping the brush diagonally across your nail and using the edges as the other two sides. Just make sure you wait long enough between colors so it doesn't all turn into a muddy mess!

If you give this a try, post it on Instagram or tweet it with the hashtag #strandedinchi so I can check it out!

Friday, August 14, 2015

5 Tips for Better Skin

I used to be of the ranks of those who only wash their faces in the shower with bar soap. The horror. I never had terrible skin, so I really didn't give it much thought. But as I slide through my twenties, I've picked up a few habits that really made my skin go from "fine, I guess" to "awesome, I don't even need any concealer today."

Always Wash Your Face
I know we all fail at this, myself included. But the improvement I see in my skin when I wash my face morning and night every day is undeniable. Even if you haven't worn any makeup during the day, just walking through the world will get some grime on your beautiful mug, so why not take five minutes at the end of the day and refresh yourself? I'm an advocate of the double cleanse for days on which I do wear makeup, using a cleansing oil first, followed by a balm cleanser of some kind. My favorite oil is Julep's Bare Face Cleansing Oil, although I know a lot of people like The Body Shop's Chamomile Cleansing Oil, which is much less expensive. (Unfortunately, I am not a fan of the scent, so I don't use the TBS one.)

Avoid That Squeaky Clean Feeling
I feel like a lot of people, particularly those with oily skin, like to wash their face until it has that tight feeling when it dries. But that's actually not so good for you. Stripping the skin of all it's natural oils can dry it out unnecessarily and cause a rebound in oil production to make up for it. As far as I'm concerned, the gentler the cleanser, the better.

One of the most important steps I added to my routine was some gentle exfoliation. In addition to using a warm washcloth to remove my cleanser, which adds a bit of manual exfoliation, I am absolutely devoted to chemical exfoliants, glycolic acid in particular. Any number of products are available that feature different concentrations of this star ingredient, which helps remove dead cells from the surface of your skin. I happen to love both Pixi's Glow Tonic and the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads. They're on the gentler side, and I find that with regular use my skin looks much brighter and evenly textured.

Moisture, Moisture, Moisture
In my personal experience, there are quite a few skin problems I've been able to solve simply by amping up the hydration steps in my routine. First and foremost, drink water. No kidding, you gotta be hydrated inside as well as outside. Then, I try to put as many moisturizing steps into my routine as possible. My most loved products are Trilogy Rosehip Oil and Bobbi Brown Hydrating Face Tonic. I don't hear what the haters say about expensive water, that tonic makes my face look better, end of discussion.

No doubt about it, when you're tired, your skin looks tired, too. Getting enough sleep every night will go a long way towards improving your overworked face. As an added benefit, your mind will feel better, and when you feel good, you look good, right? Right.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DIY Erin Condren Planner Cover!

It's craft time! Personally, I specifically have an Erin Condren Life Planner, but I can't imagine it wouldn't work for pretty much any coil bound planner.

You Will Need
The measurements for your planner cover
Any patterned paper you like
3/8" hole punch
Double-sided tape
A laminator (if you don't have your own, you can just go do it at an office supply store!)

Bonus! I used the same method to make a reusable packing list. Follow along! First thing you need to do is measure out and cut paper for both the front and back covers. I like to use cardstock because it adds some extra durability to the finished product. Since I have sticker paper, for the back cover, I printed out a pattern I liked on glossy sticker paper, cut it down, and then stuck it onto a piece of cardstock cut to the same size.

I would typically do the same process for the front, but I got this super cool paper in my July Messy Box from A Beautiful Mess and I wanted to use it here. And no, I did not mean to cut it sideways, but I am a dork. But if you don't have sticker paper, you can just use double sided tape to stick the two pieces together to get that sturdiness.

Now go on and laminate that thing. I took mine over to FedEx and it cost me $2-3 each for the front and back.

Then, after you've gotten your laminating done, trace the edges and coil holes of the original cover onto the laminated sheet. I used my black Staedler Triplus Fineliner to do it because you can just wipe it off with a damp paper towel if you have some left on there after you're done cutting. Use your scissors to cut it down to size, and then punch out all the holes. This will probably make your hand hurt, FYI. After you've punched all the holes out, cut a slit from the edge of the laminate to the hole so you can slide it over the coils.

Repeat for the back cover, and any inserts you've decided to make in the meantime, push it onto your planner and voila! You've got your very own custom planner cover. If you're less forgetful than me, you might even add your name to the front cover before you laminate it.

If you give this a try, post it to Instagram or tweet a picture with the hashtag #strandedinchi so I can see your pretty planner!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What I'm Reading, Week 31

Sorry for those of you out there who don't go in for non-fiction, but I happen to find this book is truly riveting. Anyone who has even a passing interest in the history of the United States, or North America's indigenous people, should give S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon a try. I'm about halfway through, and it has been enlightening thus far. Like many people of my age raised in the United States, what little I learned in public school about the people who lived here before European settlers arrived was largely limited to the groups encountered on the eastern coast of the continents. Gwynne depicts the brutality of the American frontier two hundred years later without flinching. It really sucked out there, for everyone, and there is, of course, much more to the story than my limited education led me to believe.

Gwynne weaves the stories of the American frontier, Quanah Parker, and the Comanches together seamlessly as he elucidates how the three came through history, rushing headlong to meet each other in unmitigated violence. I'm thrilled at the amount of detail he provides, as it's unusual to find such a captivating work of non-fiction that doesn't skimp for narrative's sake. I can't put it down! When can most people say that about history? Not a beach read, but who cares when it's this good?

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Favorite Etsy Planner Supply Shops

What does one do after obtaining a twee planner, such as the Erin Condren Life Planner? Go on an Etsy planner sticker binge, obviously. NO REGRETS.

Sweet Kawaii Designs
If you like adorable things, this shop is going to do terrible things for your bank account. These matte stickers all have kawaii faces on them, and the price is definitely right. The shop owner, Tesia, recently started doing "itty bitty" versions of many of her stickers and they are even lovable than in the original sizes, if that's possible. I can't wait to get her fall stickers, they're going to make my spreads next level cute.

It's Planning Time
Denise, who owns and runs this little business, is such a dear that she includes a handwritten note in all of her orders. She just celebrated her first anniversary, but you'd think she's been making stickers forever! Her colors are lovely, and I am totally obsessed with her little pineapples. No, seriously, I have four sheets, I use them everywhere.

Scribble Prints Co.
I almost don't want to mention this shop because of how much insane hype it's gotten since Elle Fowler featured it, but I adore her functional stickers as a base for my weekly layouts. The stickers are all glossy, except for her "washi" sets, and the colors are always really bright and saturated. Like many Etsy shops, the focus is on stickers for the Erin Condren Life Planner, but many of the stickers can be used in all kinds of planners. Prices in this shop tend to be a little higher as shop owner Andrea has had to hire a couple employees to keep up with demand, but the variety of stickers available is really incomparable and the quality is unmatched.

Scribble Printables
Loving the above shop as I do, finding Andrea's printables shop was something of a godsend. Here, she offers sheets of full box and page flag designs, among other things, for really reasonable prices. The best part is that once you buy a file, you can print it for yourself as many time as you like. Many of the printables match sticker sets she has available in her other store, so this is a great way to cut down on costs while keeping your weeks magnificently coordinated.

Erin Bradley Designs
This shop sells digital scrapbooking paper and clip art, which is really useful if you're like me and you realize that it won't be that hard to cut full boxes out of full sheet label paper. It's also wayyyyy friendlier to my wallet. This shop has a really great selection of patterned digital paper that prints beautifully onto the adhesive label paper I picked up for cheap from Amazon. If there's any DIY spirit in you, this shop ain't a bad place to start.

Mind the Wrap
Washi tape heaven. I never understood washi until I got my this planner, but holy heck, do I get it now. Mind the Wrap has wayyyyyyy cooler washi than you're going to find in any store here in the US. I am obsessed with die cut washi in particular, and this shop has a fantastic selection. Their processing time is also really fast, so you'll get your order much quicker than with most other Etsy shops. I don't know how they do it, but I'm in love!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mani Monday: Ombre is for Everyone

If you've got some free time, this is a relatively easy, but very cool nail look that you can accomplish with just a few items from the drugstore. It'll get a little messy, but who needs precision when you can just use nail polish remover to clean up?

Two nail polishes, preferably one on the dark side and a lighter one (Mine are both Essie, Salt Water Happy and Style Cartel)
Cotton swabs
Nail polish remover
Disposable makeup sponge (seriously, do not use your BeautyBlender for this)
Aluminum foil

First, apply a basecoat (duh). After waiting for it to fully dry, paint your nails with two coats of your lighter color. Then, wait. Watch some TV. I hope you went to the bathroom before you started, because if you have to go now, you're screwed.

After about a half hour, realistically, get out a square of aluminum foil (or maybe you should have done that before putting any polish on?), and pour some of the light color and the dark color next to each other on the foil. I actually just use an overloaded brush to get the amount I want. Waste not, want not, kids. Using the toothpick, swirl the colors together where they meet, making sure to leave some of each totally untouched. If you can do this in a way that makes the whole puddle about the length of your nails, your life will be a lot easier.

Working quickly because the polish on the foil will start to dry, dip the edge of the makeup sponge in the mixed color so that you can press it down on your nail with the darker color on the top. Dab on your nail until you achieve the desired gradient. Don't worry, I know it's getting all over your fingers, that's what the polish remover and cotton swabs are for. Repeat on each nail, adding more polish to the foil as needed. I find using a fresh side of the sponge for each hand very helpful.

When you've done all your nails, take the cotton swab, dip it in remover, and CAREFULLY clean the excess polish off your fingers. This will take multiple swabs and more patience than most people have. Once that's done, use any top coat you choose, and then pray you can hold your pee until it finishes drying. Et voila! A really cool nail look that didn't require you to have freakishly steady hands.

If you give this look a try, post it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #strandedinchi so I can check it out!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Julep Does Purple

I've been a Julep Maven for a while now, and while I've been choosing their beauty/skincare over their nail polish pretty frequently of late, I have to admit that their selection of purples is really unique.

From top to bottom, I'm wearing Katie (Classic with a Twist), Ming (It Girl), Avni (Classic with a Twist), and Danica (Boho Glam). I don't go for purple polish most of the time, but college football season is starting to whisper in my ear, and I love to support my Northwestern Wildcats with a manicure. Katie and Avni are both shimmery creams that go opaque in two coats. Danica, my most recent edition is a pretty cool blue-purple duochrome, I'm liking it a lot more than I thought I would. Ming stands alone as the only jelly, but it's a good one that makes a great jelly sandwich, or just a soft spring mani on its own.

If you feel like becoming a Maven, you can use this link to sign up. While the polish formula can be hit or miss, the color selection is great, and I love many of their cleansing products.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Erin Condren Life Planner

I'm a little bit impulsive. And I like pretty things, especially if they're shiny. I'm kind of like a crow that way. So when I first discovered the Erin Condren Life Planner, it took me about 45 seconds to order one and leave my utilitarian Moleskine planner in the dust. I reserve the right to be superficial if it helps me remember what I need to do with my day.

It's a little surprising that it took me this long to jump on the bandwagon of glam planning, considering how devoted I was in high school and middle school to my planner, but here I finally am. Let me be perfectly clear, I AM VERY HAPPY WITH THIS PLANNER. The vertical layout suits me both practically and visually, and the amount of space available means I don't overplan my days.

You can no longer get the exact planner I have, but they have already released the planners for 2016, so don't worry. For few extra dollars, you can add the remaining months of 2015, which means if you want to start planning now, you can! If you'd like to order your own planner and get $10 off, click here to visit the site.

If you don't mind waiting a little longer, you can order a customized cover, but if you want it right away they also have a Ready to Ship version, which includes a coupon for a free cover to order when you feel like it. You'll have to pay shipping on the free cover, which is a bummer, but it's not a terrible deal. And don't forget, you can always DIY your own cover! I'll have a tutorial on that coming up soon :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What I'm Reading, Week 30

Aaaaaand, we're back. While I was away from my blogginess, one of the books I finished was A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. I must admit, it was beautifully written, but I found it less immersive than her previous novel, Life After Life. This is not to say that it was bad, but I think Atkinson wrote a more engaging main character in Life After Life.

That being said, taken together, the two novels give an affecting impression of the horrors of World War II. I find that, when trying to convey the scope of such a massive tragedy, using the microcosm of a single character's experience can be much more effective than simply stating facts and figures. Through Ursula Todd, in Life After Life, and her brother Teddy in A God in Ruins, Atkinson does just this. Somehow, the personal aspect engages the reader in such a way that it seems more, I don't know, real. Both are definitely worth a read, but if I had to choose one or the other, it'd be Life After Life, no contest.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Orly Color Blast True Neon Pink

Bold claim, Orly.

I apologize for my busted cuticles in this picture. They look that way because my cuticles are busted right now. Thanks.

My favorite nail polish of all time is Essie's Punchy Pink. It is the most neon pink neon pink of all time. Yes, it had a ridiculously difficult formula, but it literally made my nails glow. I once had it on my toes and my dad told me my feet looked like Miami. #goals

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find another bottle. I've been searching high and low for the past three years and nada. So whenever I see a new neon pink, I snatch it up and bring it home to compare to the dregs I have remaining of Punchy Pink. This jumped out at me while I was cruising the surprisingly lovely beauty section at Kohl's. It's from Orly's new Color Blast line, which has slightly smaller than usual bottles, as you can see. The name? True Neon Pink. How does it stack up against Punchy Pink? It's pleasingly close. Not quite as bright, but better than anything else I've found to this point. The formula is pretty good for a neon, too, I'm wearing three coats with a shiny top coat, since it dries a bit satiny matte.

But I won't stop looking for the true neon pink, Punchy Pink.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mani Monday: Put Your (Top)Coat On

Part of being a noob at doing your nails is thinking you don't really need topcoat. I myself used to think just that way. And you know what? My nail polish didn't last for shit. If you want your manicure to stand even a snowball's chance in hell of lasting a week, ya gotta add some protection over that pretty color.

I've used a number of different topcoats in the past six years, and I'm here to give you my thoughts on them so you don't have to waste your hard-earned dough, yo.

Seche Vite
Have you heard of this one? Of course you have. This is the be-all, end-all of quick drying top coats. Super shiny, crystal clear, dries in mere minutes. No matter how many different formulas I try in search of the perfect at-home manicure, this is the one I always come back to for its incomparable ability to hit all my musts. Careful, though, this sucker tends to get super thick in the bottle once you're about halfway through, and if you apply it before you've let your color dry enough, you will get craaaaaaazy bubbling. There, I just saved you the learning curve.

Orly In a Snap
Personally, I don't think Orly gets quite enough love as a brand, especially considering how wide the range of products is. That being said, this is not my favorite topper. Yes, it does dry quickly, but that's where the buck stops. The finish tends to dull pretty quickly, and I don't notice any advantages in its ability to prevent chipping over a few days. It's good in a pinch, but instead, I think you should go for...

Orly Sec'n Dry
I greatly prefer this to any of Orly's other offerings in this category. It claims to add shine and resist chipping, all while reaching down through your layers of polish and drying them all. By and large, it makes good, although I can't speak as well to the last one because I really like to give my polish time to dry a bit between layers. It's not as shiny as the Seche Vite, but it wins the not getting weird-in-the-bottle contest.

Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat
(Not Pictured) If you wanted to spend a stupid amount of money on a topcoat, you could give this one a try. As a long time Maven, I've gotten this a couple of times in my box, and I don't hate it. Its one big drawback is that you have to cure it under either natural light or a light bulb to get it to dry. What I actually tend to do is use a quick dry top coat underneath this to make sure nothing moves while I'm trying to cure it. All told, this gives a fantastic shine and a nice hard sheet of armor to protect your precious nailsies, but the steep price keeps it at more "fun toy" than "absolute necessity."

Honorable Mention
Essie Gel Effect Top Coat
I can't offer a full recommendation of this yet, as I'm just now trying Essie's new release for the first time, but thus far, the shininess factor is undeniable. I'll keep you updated when I've made a full assessment of its pros and cons, but it looks like it might be a real winner.