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Monograms & Margaritas

    Book Report: Food Swap by Emily Pastor

    Food Swap is an Food Swapinteresting book that covers everything you would need to do to start your own food swap. While participating in or starting a food swap isn’t necessarily in my future, I definitely appreciated and could see the value in the way Emily Paster researched and explained how to find and join the local food swap movement if it’s in your area or how to create your own food swap if there isn’t one. I really enjoyed the ideas that were presented, especially the tips for ensuring that your swap is a success.

    Along with ideas of how to join or start a swap are ways to prepare and preserve a variety of foods for a swap. Safety is definitely taken into consideration and there’s also a great section on the laws regarding food swapping and how to make sure you’re in compliance with local health codes. I can really appreciate the sections on labeling, which delved into making sure your products are labeled well, so if someone has an allergy they won’t risk a reaction. The sections I was most interested in, were the sections that gave ideas and recipes for foods that would are easy to swap. While I don’t intend on actually making these for a food swap, I love to ship and share deliciousness with friends and family around the holidays. These recipes are ones that travel well, hold up decently, and they’re great for shipping out.

    Some of my favorite recipes include an interesting take on flavored salts that don’t take a lot of time to put together, but when placed in cute containers make great gifts for neighbors. Other goodies that caught my eye were matcha cupcakes with ginger frosting, chocolate truffles, buckeyes, and small baked pies. I think I’ll be sending boxes of those out this December.

    Food swaps aren’t for everyone and to start one takes real dedication. I enjoyed the recipes in Food Swap and if I was going to start a swap, this book would be the ideal roadmap to do so.

    four out of five

    Food Swap by Emily Paster is available for pre-order now and will be released on May 17th, 2016.

    Curiouser and Curiouser: Fake Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence

    I’ll start this post off by acknowledging that Benton’s had its share of contamination issues over the past few years. I think it’s incredibly important that you research products before putting them on your skin and before I purchased the Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence back in February, I read about the issues with the preservatives. When so much of your product is natural and can essentially go bad or begin to grow things like mold, preservatives that keep the products stable are a must. I am of the opinion that following the problems Benton had in 2014, the company learned from their mistakes and I was incredibly excited to try out the Snail Bee High Content line. What I should have been concerned about was the products were coming from.

    Here’s where it gets weird. I ordered Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence from Amazon on February 11th. It arrived a few days later and I immediately used it, forgoing a patch test (because I was an overly-excited imbecile). I woke up the next morning with little red dots all over my face, everywhere I used the essence. At first I thought it was an allergic reaction. Then I took a look at the bottle and the white print on it was already coming off. It hit me that it could be counterfeit. I immediately contacted Amazon to do the return. It was a painless process, Amazon processed my refund that day, and a few days later my skin was back to normal.

    Not my picture, but my red dots looked identical to these.

    Not my picture/skin, but my red dots looked identical.

    At the beginning of May, I noticed that Memebox has a Benton Box for $30 that includes Snail Bee High Content Skin, Snail Bee High Content Lotion, Snail Bee High Content Essence, Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream, Honest TT Mist, three Snail Bee High Content Mask Packs, deluxe samples of Aloe BHA Skin Toner and Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel. Basically, the best deal ever. To say I jumped at purchasing this box would be an understatement.  It arrived last week and this time I was smart enough to patch test. And guess what… A week into using this line everyday, no little red bumps. My skin looks and feels great! I want a few more weeks of using these products before I wrote an official review, but here’s the thing I really want to stress:

    Amazon doesn’t always source the products, sometimes they only fulfill the orders. Which means the products that aren’t sold by Amazon are sourced by individual sellers and the products they sell might not be authentic.

    I am incredibly hesitant to order beauty products from Amazon that are not sold by Amazon or the manufacturer. In fact, I probably won’t ever again. It’s scary to imagine the level of desperation required to fake a $14 essence. What’s even scarier is wondering what exactly you just put on your face.

    Book Report: To Catch a Treat by Linda O. Johnston

    cover78455-mediumTo Catch a Treat is a cute cozy mystery, especially if you happen to be a dog owner. Honestly, it was the basset hound on the cover that convinced me to read this second book in the Barkery & Biscuits series. It was easy to pick up on the story line and become invested in the characters, even though I never read the first book.

    The main character, Carrie Kennersly, works as a tech in her town’s vet office and also is the (recent) owner of Barkery and Biscuits bake shop – a split bakery and shop that offers mouth watering options for those on two and four legs. Carrie comes across as independent, running her shops and balancing her part-time vet work, along with spoiling her own dog (Biscuit), and dating one of the town vets, Reed.

    At the beginning of To Catch a Treat, we find Carrie on a hike with her brother Neal, Reed, and the girl Neal recently started dating, a rather sad young woman named Janelle. We find that Janelle is one of the victims of a recent string of dog-nappings, following the suspected culprit, Ada Arnist, into town. When Janelle’s dog Goliath (Go for short) is dropped at the local shelter, Janelle finally confronts Ada. The celebration of recovering Go is short lived as Ada’s body washes up on shore the day after. With the police on the wrong path, Carrie is determined to help Janelle clear her name and locate the remaining dog-napped hounds.

    There are a few glaring issues in To Catch a Treat. The plot gets slow and Carrie is incredibly off-putting. Carrie describes the physical attributes of each woman she meets and believes that every man is flirting with her. For a woman who is suppose to be observant, Carrie comes across as incredibly shallow. Like a kiddie pool of depth. While it’s impressive that Carrie can juggle two shops and a separate part-time job, she stays so busy that the story gets repetitive – bakery from early morning till lunch time, maybe lunch at Cuppa-Joe, vet tech job where she drops Biscuit at the on-site doggy daycare, dinner with Reed. It made it easy to put the book down and pick it up later, but that’s not something I look for in a mystery. I want to be so drawn in that I can’t put the book down. Ending had a few twists and I’d read another book in the series, but I’d really like to see a bit more character development.

    3 out of 5

    You can purchase To Catch a Treat on Amazon.

    May Love List

    May Love List

    It’s officially hot out and time to update my makeup. Mostly so it doesn’t melt off by lunch. My May Love List is packed with makeup picks for Summer, a must read, the upgrade you need for your pool trips, and the TV show I can’t wait to watch! It’s been a minute since I used an e.l.f. product, but I love how they replicate designer makeup at much, much lower price points. I missed the memo on serum foundations, so when a friend recommended the Beautifully Bare Foundation Serum ($8) when I mentioned my love of BB creams and tinted moisturizer, I decided to give it a try. I love that there’s SPF 25, along with about a million vitamins in the serum. I wasn’t expecting a ton, but I’m now considering ordering a case of this foundation. It’s light, makes my skin look healthy-dewy, not Britney-Spears-I’m-a-Slave-4-U-coated-in-oil-dewy, and when I apply it with my new favorite brush ever, the Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 ($12), it looks flawless. After a light layer of powder, it stays put all day. My foundation now takes two minutes to apply and I love how it looks and feels (like it’s not even on).

    When I was ordering the foundation serum from e.l.f. it made more sense to hit the free shipping minimum, so I added a few things to my bag, including the Beautifully Bare Total Face Palette ($8). To my fellow pale ladies, this is your new contouring and blush bestie. I seriously cannot tell you how awesome this palette is. The contour has a grey cast instead of orange and it just works. A little Hanky Panky from ColourPop, swipe of mascara, and ColourPop’s new Matte X Lippie in Cami, then I’m out the door. It’s an easy natural look that takes ten minutes.

    I’ve been searching for affordable Turkish Bath Towels for years. They are perfect for pools/the beach and dry so much faster in sticky Georgia summers than regular towels. I finally found the right mix of quality and price in the Etsy store TurkishTowelArt. Also a requirement for the pool is Mary Kay Andrew’s The Weekenders, which will be out on May 17th. I’ll be posting a review closer to the release date, but trust me, you don’t want to miss this book!

    This is a weird one – I can’t wait for the second season of Scream! I love horror movies and I’m giving Scream a second shot. It was a little slow during the first season, but I think it might find it’s about to find it’s groove. The second season premiers on May 30st on MTV.

    The Best Hits Skincare Box from Memebox

    The Best Hits Skincare Box

    The Best Hits Skincare Memebox showed up last Saturday! While it’s a little wash-off mask heavy and I would have liked to see a little more variation in products, I’m pretty excited to try everything. Apart from the Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Mask, which I’ve tried in the past, prefer to use as a cleanser, and am happy to have a second as a backup. Other products in the box include Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peeking Gel, Elizavecca Milk Piggy Hell Pore Clean Up Mask, Jelly Pack, Botanic Farm Milk Pudding Sleeping Pack, and Etude House Cat Headband (not pictured). I only paid $45 during the pre-sale and while I went in blind, apart from the Jelly Pack, I think the whole box is an amazing value.

    • Cat Headband
      Cat Headband
    • Black Soybean Milk Pudding Sleeping Pack
      Black Soybean Milk Pudding Sleeping Pack
    • Jelly Pack Jelly Pack
    • Milk Piggy Hell Pore Clean Up Mask
      Milk Piggy Hell Pore Clean Up Mask
    • Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel
      Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel
    • Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask
      Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask

    The Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask is great skintertainment, but also works as a great cleanser. I generally only use it though right before I take a shower, because washing it off can get messy.  I really like the smell and the bubbles help your face feel clean. Milky Piggy packs a punch with charcoal powder and it’s currently on sale at Memebox for $11.

    Currently, the Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel from Secret Key is sold out on Memebox. It’s got a lot of rave reviews and from what I understand, it’s great if you’ve got acne scaring. I haven’t had the opportunity to try this product out yet, but I have the feeling it will have it’s own post, fully devoted to it, soon. When it was last available on Memebox, it was selling for $1o.

    Um, ouch! Elizavecca’s Milk Piggy Hell Pore Clean Up Mask hurts more than a little when you peel off the mask, but it leaves behind baby smooth skin that makes that quick peel (please for the love of everything wonderful, make it quick) completely worth the uncomfortableness and pain of removing the peel. Mask is currently $22 on Memebox.

    I’d be lying if I said the the product I was most excited for in this box was anything other than the Jelly Pack. It’s the spoiler that listed this product that convinced me to pull the trigger and order the rest of the box blind. This pack is used instead of a primer, between your skincare and your makeup. It takes a few minutes to apply and you do have to work with it and pat it into your skin. Once you apply this thick, almost glue-y pack, you want to give it about five minutes to lose the sticky feeling it gives your skin and allow it to fully sink in. It makes skin incredibly soft, give a “tightening” effect, and makes a great based for applying tinted moisturizer or foundation. I’ve only used it for a few days, but I’m already in love. This pack is currently $42 on Memebox.

    The biggest surprise in The Best Hits Skincare Box was the Black Soybean Milk Pudding Sleeping Pack. I think I found my Holy Grail sleeping pack. I’ve woken up with incredibly soft and moisturized skin the past few mornings. Oh, and it smells exactly like chocolate pudding! I can’t wait to see the long term results of this product. The Pudding Sleep Pack currently sells for $25 on Memebox.

    Also included in The Best Hits Skincare Memebox was the Cat Headband from Etude House. I actually already have this headband, but a second one doesn’t hurt my feelings. I considered gifting it, but then I decided to keep it because I love the fit. Which is good, because somehow my basset hounds got one last night and completely destroyed it. These ah-dorable handbands go for $5 right now on Memebox.

    The Best Hits Skincare Box from Memebox Total Value: $115

    Stated Value at Time of Purchase: $130

    Amount Paid During Pre-Sale: $45

    Referral links are present in this post.

    30 Masks, 30 Days: Reviews Part IV

    It’s been an amazing 30 days for my skin. It’s never been clearer or smoother. It’s moisturized and balanced. While this is the last round up from 30 Masks, 30 Days, you can follow me on Instagram as I continue to try new sheet masks and share my standbys.

    SD Hair 7 Days Steam Hair Pack

    SD Hair 7 Days Steam Hair Pack 🙆🏼, left on 25 minutes, purchased from Memebox ($7). The hair pack smelled amazing. It was a little confusing to put on for the first time, but there’s plenty of room for all of your hair. Massaging in the extract is awkward, all of it is positioned at the top and you have to move it down. When the pack was removed, my hair was rinsed out, and dried, the result was silky and incredibly soft hair. I’m not sure how many days/washes it will last, but I love the results and will purchase again.

     SNP Birds Nest Aqua Ampoule Mask

    SNP Birds Nest Aqua Ampoule Mask, left on 35 minutes, purchased from Memebox ($2). If you dislike anything heavily scented, this isn’t the sheet mask for you. This mask is packed with swiftlet nest extract and there was a good bit of extra left in the packet. The mask is a single sheet that fits and sticks to my face ok-ish. Mask didn’t deliver the promised results of moisture. While it didn’t dry out my skin, there are much better masks at the $2 price point.

    My Beauty Diary Strawberry Yogurt Mask

    📢 PSA: Smelled so good I wanted to eat it! My Beauty Diary Strawberry Yogurt Mask, was left on for 40 minutes, until it went almost dry, purchased from Amazon as part of the MBD Carnival All-in-One-Party Set ($24.99 for 16 different masks). Mask has a noticeable (and delicious) strawberry scent. Fruit acids and lactic acid seem to be the most impactful ingredients. This mask was dripping in essence. I probably could have soaked a second mask in the packet if I wanted. Instead I used the extra extract on my neck and arms. Mask has a plastic backing to help you unfold and apply the mask. I needed to widen the eye holes, but that’s standard for MBD. Mask stuck to my face well. My skin felt amazing! Much more moisturized, so incredibly smooth, and the pimple I’m rocking (thanks shark week) is smaller and less red. I will definitely be purchasing more! I L😍VE this mask.

    Leaders Pore-Scaling Black Aqua Mask

    Leaders Pore-Scaling Black Aqua Mask, was left on for 20 minutes, purchased from Memebox ($2). Mask has a light scent. Volcanic Ash, Sugar Maple Extract, Soybean Extract are the ingredients that aim to clear out pores and tighten skin. This mask was packed with essence and there was a lot left over in the packet. Mask has no backing and took about a minute to unfold and apply. This is one of the best fitting sheet masks I have ever used. The mask helped zap a white head, it’s a lot smaller/barely noticeable, and my skin feels smooth. I didn’t notice any clearing of sebaceous filaments on my nose, but my pores do look smaller. At this price point, I will definitely be repurchasing.

    Dr. Morita Hyaluronic Acid Facial Mask

    Dr. Morita Hyaluronic Acid Facial Mask, was left on for 30 minutes, purchased from damimilife ($7.49 with coupon for 10 masks). Mask has a noticeable, but not unpleasant scent. I’ve been incredibly stressed this week and between that and the increase in the Tret script that is finally catching up to me, my skin is really starting to dry out. Hyaluronic acid helps your skin hold in moisture and draw more moisture in, which is exactly what my skin needs. This mask was had a ton essence and a lot was left over in the packet. Mask has a plastic backing and was extremely easy to unfold and apply. Mask fit well and it left my skin feeling smooth and hydrated. At under a dollar a mask, I will definitely be repurchasing.

    Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Aqua

    I was going to use a TONYMOLY mask today, but my skin was screaming for moisture. I loved the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Healing when I used it last week, so I decided to give the Aqua mask a try. I left it on for 35 minutes, until dry, purchase from Memebox ($2). It had the same light, almost medicinal scent as the Healing Mask. I’m actually starting to really like the scent. It’s a one piece sheet mask and it has a thin plastic backing to help you unfold it. Be careful handling the mask, it’s slippery. Mask fits the face well and is loaded with essence. I applied the left over essence to my neck, which sucked it down. Just like the Healing Mask, the Aqua Mask left my skin looking a little glowy and feeling soft. I can’t believe how calm and moisturized my skin was after using this mask. Donkey Milk still weirds me out a little, but I’ve never gotten these results at this price!

    Mediheal Dress Code Mask in Blue

    I can’t believe it’s the last day of 30 Masks in 30 Days. Mediheal Dress Code Mask in Blue (Aqua Care), I left it on for about 40 minutes, until dry, purchase from Memebox ($2.50). There was a noticeable scent from the fragrance added to the mask. Not my favorite, but it didn’t stop me from using the mask. Some of the standout ingredients include hyaluronic acid, lavender extract, and rosemary extract. The mask is one piece and while it has no backing, it only took a minute to unfold and apply. Mask fit well and was dripping with essence. If you don’t feel super fancy in this masquerade inspired mask, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of this mask. My skin felt more hydrated after using the mask. Might repurchase.

    Book Report: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

    Holy introductionThe Obsession Batman! If the first section of The Obsession doesn’t grab you and pull you in, then you might as well put down this bestseller by Nora Roberts. Naomi Bowes, who at almost 12 is both a little naive and very mature for her age, discovers a secret her father’s been keeping and it’s far from the bike she was hoping to receive for her birthday. Instead, on a hot and muggy night in West Virginia, just a short walk from her family’s home, she follows him to the woman he’s been holding captive in a hidden and locked root cellar. Helping the young woman, Ashley, to safety, Naomi discovers this isn’t the first woman her father has tortured, raped, and killed. Her young life changes in almost an instant, as do those of her brother Mason and her mother.

    The hold Naomi’s father has over the family doesn’t change when the family takes her mother’s maiden last name, Carson, nor when they move in with her uncles and hop from West Virginia to Washington D.C. to New York to further escape the press. In fact, Bowes has a hold on Naomi’s mom that’s both hard to understand and reads as one of the most disturbing bits of the entire book. Unable to let go and move on, the Bowes family has a shadow that follows them constantly. While the book gives a pretty good look at Naomi in the direct aftermath of her father’s capture and until she graduates high school, it then skips ten years and the reader is reintroduced to Naomi in her late twenties.

    Naomi as an adult is a surprisingly complex and rootless woman, living her life behind the lens of a camera, capturing the world, but never really becoming a part of it. That is, until she finds a gorgeous old house to bring back to like in Sunrise Cove, Washington. As she breathes life into the house, the town and the incredible community in it, allows her to plant roots and become one of them. A woman who had no wish other than to be alone, now has a house full of repairmen, a loyal dog, friends and she’s caught the eye of the town mechanic Xander, although he’s so much more than a one-dimensional love interest. He’s also complex, interesting, and surprisingly imperfect. We’re also reintroduced to Naomi’s brother, now Special Agent Mason Carson.

    With Naomi’s new life comes new complications. Still running from her past, she’s not looking to come clean to Xander and then the impossible happens. Women are being abducted from Sunrise Cove and their bodies are found bearing her father’s signature trademarks. Her father who is serving a life sentence in a prison across the country. Naomi must now go deep into her past to find the answers to ensure her and those she loves, have a future.

    I appreciate that Nora Roberts doesn’t offer up a love story with the traditional perfect characters and circumstance. She offers up flawed, but interesting characters and a story so far from normal that it’s hard to get caught up in the steamy moments. The Obsession will make you lose sleep. The sections about rape and murder will make you feel sick. Having the perspective of the killer in the later part of the book made me feel more than a little uneasy.

    By the end of the book, which was slightly more predictable than I would have liked, those questionable sections felt worth it. I was reminded multiple times of The Witness, another Roberts’ book, while reading The Obsession. It seems as thought there’s a formula to the characters and plots in her books. Women experiencing trauma early in life, living extremely independent as adults, falling in love and finally trusting a man who helps them heal, surviving an attempt on their life, then living happily ever after. I’m not knocking it, the circumstances are certainly creative in each book and The Obsession was a solid read.

    four out of five

    Book Report: The Useful Book by Sharon & David Bowers

    The Useful The Useful BookBook has a vintage design, but all of the advice is modern and incredibly, well, useful. I never had the option to take Home Ec or Shop in high school. Instead we were offered classes like Business Law and Theory of Knowledge. So, I left my formative years being able to explain what a tort is, but I having no idea of how to make a torte.

    While my Home Ec skills weren’t established in a classroom, I learned how to sew to make my wedding invitations and I love relaxing after a long day at work by cooking and baking. The basic skills I picked up mostly through trial and error. Ok, the sewing came from a class taught by a wonderful women who use to make costumes for movies. What I missed and still regret not learning though, are the basics of home maintenance. Like how to stop my sink from dripping or caulk a bathtub. Which is where The Useful Book comes in. Instead of cuing up a handful of Youtube videos and watching until I understand or trust one, it’s easier and faster to grab the book.

    The Useful Book should be handed out when you move out or get your first home. There’s even a helpful section that lists the basics for your pantry and fridge, along with a “Cooking Toolkit” that covers the basic pots, pans, power appliances, knives, utensils, and misc. equipment you need in your kitchen. It would be ideal to bring with you when registering for your wedding, just to make sure you get the essentials.

    If you’ve never boiled water or maybe you are a little more domestically blessed and just want to know how to get gum out of your rug, regardless The Useful Book is your nonjudgemental guide. It’s filled with over 200 life skills and in the few weeks I’ve had it, I’ve reached for the hefty tome multiple times. So while my Pinterest boards fill up with DIY projects that I may or may not get around to, I’m now confident I can take care of the basics of my home.

    four out of five

    The Useful Book by David and Sharon Bowers will be available May 3rd. You can click here to order it on Amazon.

    Book Report: Mastering Your Mean Girl by Melissa Ambrosini

    Melissa Ambrosini breathes freshMastering Your Mean Girl air into the self-help genre with Mastering Your Mean Girl. Aiming to inspire you to get past that sneaky voice in your head that’s telling you that you’re are not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to achieve any other life other than the one you’re living right now, Melissa goes after your inner mean girl. She offers up a process that helps you choose love over fear, to get to the life and achieve the goals you’ve always imagined. Pretty lofty claims right? Mastering Your Mean Girl is a journey to appreciating and loving yourself.

    Sounding much like a friend, Melissa encourages and guides you through each section, from finding your truth in your career to living healthy, providing mantras, along with exercises and tips on loving yourself and always choosing love over fear. This book is so packed with information that was almost overwhelming. It’s was easier for me to process this book in individual sections, ending with the exercises and putting it aside until the next day or the next time that I needed a little lift. I feel Mastering Your Mean Girl motivated and deeply inspired me, it really was a loving book.

    There’s a lot of information from Mastering Your Mean Girl on Melissa’s website. I recommend checking it out before buying the book, as it will give you a good glimpse of Melissa’s mind set. Melissa’s view might not be for you, but, this book really surprised me. I did an eye roll the first time I read the words “Fear Town”, but was taken back when her prescription of meditation worked. While I won’t be fitting in Melissa’s two 20-minute blocks into my schedule, I did download the Calm app. I’m half-way into the seven day intro program and 10 minutes a day of meditation has been great for relieving stress and refocusing after work.

    Melissa recycles ideas found through other thought leaders, such as Brené Brown, but she gives full credit and also links the ideas inspired by others into her own frame work. She also makes harder concepts really easy to understand and even easier to implement, while still adding her own twist. This is the type of book that you leave beside your bed or carry with you during a rough patch so you can find something that inspires and lifts you right when you need it. I can’t imagine not re-reading or referencing this book in the future.

    four out of five

    30 Masks, 30 Days: Reviews Part III

    Last week I found two absolutely amazing masks, including one with the real MVP, Donkey Milk. Also, all the masks I tried last week were new to me. A few were good, a few not so much. I can’t believe I have less than a week left of my Thirty Masks, Thirty Days challenge. I saved some interesting ones for last, so be sure to check out the Monograms and Margaritas Instagram this week. You can find the first set of reviews here, along with the second set here.

    Mediheal Mogongtox Soda Bubble Sheet

    Mediheal Mogongtox Soda Bubble Sheet, was left on for ten minutes, purchased from Memebox ($2.50, link will save you 20% off your first purchase). Mask didn’t have a noticeable scent. Mask was soaked…with cleanser? Mask covered my nose and the area under my eye to my chin. There is no true forehead coverage. The mask didn’t have a great fit. The area above my lips kept slipping down to my top lip. Which kind of dried out my lips. Once the mask is applied, it immediately begins to bubble. And it doesn’t really stop. It gets a little crazy with the foam. It also tickles. My pores definitely feel cleaner. There was an exfoliation effect that I like. I would love to see this as a full face mask.

    TONYMOLY I'm Real Pomegranate Mask Sheet Elasticity

    TONYMOLY I’m Real Pomegranate Mask Sheet Elasticity, was left on until it went dry, for about 30 minutes (I was in a rush to meet a friend for coffee and think I could have left it on for another 10-15 minutes before it dried out), purchased as part of a TonyMoly package from Amazon ($10.76 for 11 masks) can be purchased individually from Urban Outfitters ($4). Mask had a very pleasant and light sweet scent. The wonderful smell (seriously one of the best smelling sheet masks I’ve ever used) is due to added fragrance. Mask was saturated, but didn’t have a lot of extra essence. Mask fits my face well. Surprisingly moisturizing and my skin did have that healthy Gwyneth Paltrow sheen after using the mask. Will repurchase.

    My Beauty Diary Platinum Snail Total Effects Mask

    My Beauty Diary Platinum Snail Total Effects Mask, was left on for 30 minutes, until it went dry, purchased from Amazon ($10.90 for 3). Mask has a light, but hard to distinguish scent, my allergies are really messing with me. It appears that snail trail (or snail secretion) is missing from the ingredients. This mask had the least amount of essence I’ve ever seen in an MDB mask. It had enough for use, but I didn’t have any left over. This mask is from the premium line, but nothing about it justified the price. My Tretinoin prescription was just doubled and I was hoping for hydration and calming. Mask has a plastic backing and a bright blue front that you also peel off. The whole fit was weird and off-putting. Mask stuck to skin ok. Skin felt maybe a little more moisturized. I’m incredibly let down and won’t be repurchasing.

    Laneige Water Bank Soothing Gel Mask

    Laneige Water Bank Soothing Gel Mask, was left on for 40 minutes, included in my April Target Beauty Box (can be purchased from Target in a five pack for $24). Mask has a light and pleasant scent. This is a two piece mask, one part for the chin and upper lip area, another one for the under eye area and forehead. Mask has a backer and a section in the front that needs to also be peeled off. Mask feels slippery, but when placed on the face, it sticks and fits extremely well. The best fitting mask I’ve ever used. As your face absorbs the essence, the mask becomes thinner! I’ve never used a mask like this before and I’ll be looking into other gel masks! My skin was calm and incredibly moisturized. The results are well worth the price and I really like that my local Target has these in stock. I’m actually adding these to my shopping list and picking up more tomorrow.

    Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Healing

    Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Healing, left on 45 minutes, until dry, purchase from Memebox ($2, link will save you 20% off your first purchase). Light, almost medicinal scent, that didn’t bother me in the least. This is your standard one piece sheet mask and it has a thin plastic backing to help you unfold it. Mask feels slippery, but sticks to the face well, fits pretty good, and is loaded with essence. There was enough remaining in the pack to rub on my hands. While this is listed as a gel mask, but it doesn’t have the same thickness of some of the gel masks, but gives better results. Once I removed the mask I noticed my skin had gone from a slightly pinkish shade (from the increase in my Tret script) to my normal skin tone. My face looked a little glowy, felt soft and smooth and my pores appeared a bit smaller. I immediately added ten of these masks to my Memebox cart. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

    My Routine: The Cleansers

    Back in February, I introduced a new series that focused on my skincare journey. My goal at the time was to present solutions that I had used for at least a month, that were working for my skin type. What I didn’t realize at the time was how deeply I was going to fall into the rabbit hole of Asian skincare or that I was about to start a skin changing prescription from Curology. I’ve found over the past four months solutions that work so incredibly well for my skin that I cannot stop talking about them, but resisted talking about them here until I felt comfortable with the results. It’s about time to relaunch, this time with a better understanding of my skin and solutions for a combination of issues. I thought I should start by redoing my post on cleansers.

    • Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleanser Stick
      Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleanser Stick
    • ROHTO Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil
      ROHTO Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil
    • SKINFOOD Egg White Pore Foam
      SKINFOOD Egg White Pore Foam
    • The Face Shop Green Tea Phyto Powder In Lip & Eye Remover
      The Face Shop Green Tea Phyto Powder In Lip & Eye Remover
    • SKINFOOD Honey Black Tea Cleansing Cream
      SKINFOOD Honey Black Tea Cleansing Cream


    My Morning Cleansing Routine

    I double cleanse in the evening, but in the morning, the cleanser I reach for most often is the Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleanser Stick. It’s low-pH and incredibly gentle on my skin. I’ve been aggressively increasing my Tretinoin prescription through Curology, from .019% to .o4% in the past two months, so some mornings I want something with a little bit more moisture. Those mornings I turn to SKINFOOD Honey Black Tea Cleansing Cream. It smells fantastic, exfoliates gently and leaves my skin feeling soft. Read more

    Book Report: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

    The NestLeo Plumb, the golden boy, who at a young age achieved success with a publication that seems part Politico, part Newsweek, and part Gawker, only to sell it, becoming listless over a decade before the story begins. Bored and incredibly high at a wedding, he picks up a teenage waitress and in the midst of a handjob, wrecks his Porsche and with it, many lives. He leaves in his wake a young woman who must adjust to life without the use of both of her legs and his mother has to break her children’s trust to keep Leo out of the news and jail.

    The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, starts with the Plumb siblings realizing their trust fund is nearly depleted from the fallout of their eldest brother (Leo) doing his best impression of Charlie Sheen on a bender. With the date the fund is to be released, on the 40th birthday of the youngest, Melanie, fast approaching, the influx the siblings have been counting on to pay down debts and put children through college is now gone in the wind. Leo has the ability to replenish the fund, but instead seemingly chooses the promise of his own future over those of his brother and sisters.

    No one exactly remembers when the family began calling the modest trust started by their patriarch “The Nest”, but their late father never meant for it to hit two million. The intention was a modest mid-life boost, not a life changing payout. Unfortunately, Melanie needs the money to cover her ballooning mortgage and college for her twin daughters. Jack, the younger brother, needs his share to cover a line of credit he took out on his husband’s country home. Bea, a literary has-been and the oldest sister doesn’t exactly need the money, she just wants to publish her second book and get Leo back in her life. Read more

    Book Report: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

    EligibleEligible can easily stand on its own, apart from being a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and part of The Austin Project series, which matches modern authors with Jane Austin’s works.  Curtis Sittenfeld, best known for Prep, hilariously brings the Bennet family into the land of Kardashians and Botox. The plot remains the same, but the journey for Elizabeth (or Liz) and Fitzwilliam Darcy is entirely present day (erm, rather 2013).

    Even the Bennet sister’s choice of careers, or lack there of, take a modern twist. Jane is a yoga instructor lives in New York City along with her sister, the protagonist, Liz, who happens to be a writer for a women’s magazine, with a solid feminist stance. The middle sister, Mary, is living with her parents and working on (her third) master’s degree. The youngest two sisters (Kitty and Lydia) are carbon copies of each other, living under their parent’s roof, obsessed with CrossFit and lunching. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (of Cincinnati) are living in denial about their dismal financial situation, not helped by Mrs. Bennet’s shopping addiction and Mr. Bennet’s lengthy uninsured hospital stay.
    The aforementioned hospital stay is what brings Jane and Liz back from New York, to their crumbling childhood home. While the more current take of the story provides us with less balls, and instead substitutes the grand affairs with cookouts and hosted dinners, the reader does have Mrs. Bennet’s constant fertility quips and efforts to marry off her daughters to remind them that the content the book is based on is anything but modern.

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    Zoya Earth Day Nail Polish Exchange

    Zoya Earth Day Promo

    Zoya’s brought back their Earth Day Exchange again this year! Show the Earth a little love by sending in your old polish to be recycled or donate it (women’s shelters and foster care programs for teens generally love receiving it, if it’s still in useable condition)and grab some new BIG5FREE polish. Zoya is one of my favorite nail polish companies, not only because they focus on offering a healthier polish, but because the colors are always on point. I’m more than a little obsessed with the Matte and Satin collections and if I wasn’t on a buying freeze (thanks Meme Box!) I’d be filling my cart! Read more

    30 Masks, 30 Days: Reviews Part II

    This past week I mixed up the sheet masks a bit, including masks from, innisfree, Too Cool for School, SK-II, My Beauty Diary, and TonyMoly. I was asked on Instagram if using a different mask everyday has impacted my skin and so far, if anything, it’s helped. My skin hasn’t been irritated and I haven’t experienced a breakout. It might actually be the best it’s ever been. Be sure to also checkout part one of the sheet mask reviews!

    innisfree Jeju Volcanic Nose Pack

    innisfree Jeju Volcanic Nose Pack, was left on for 10 minutes (should have left on longer), purchased from Rose Rose Shop ($0.35). You can also find them on Amazon ($6.55 for 6, Prime Shipping). Nose pack comes dry, not wet like sheet masks. I cleansed my face, then wet my nose with warm water, peeled the pack off of the clear sheet and applied the strip. Smelled slightly medicinal. After ten minutes, I pulled the strip off. Should have waited at least five more minutes. Had some sebaceous filaments/gunk/blackheads on strip, but if I left on a bit longer, I probably would have had more. These work very similar to Biore strips, but because of the amount that the nose pack pulled (and I think it would have pulled even more if left on for 15 minutes), when I use a nose strip in the future, it will be innisfree. 

    My Beauty Diary Hyaluronic Acid Treatment Mask

    My Beauty Diary Hyaluronic Acid Treatment Mask, was left on for thirty minutes, purchased as part of the MBD Carnival All-in-One-Party Set ($24.99 for 16). Allergies are killing me, but I didn’t notice a scent. Mask is packed with Hyaluronic Acid and also features fruit acid and root extracts. Like all MBD masks, this one was packed with essence Mask has a plastic backing, but like most MBD masks, the eye holes are a bit too small. Mask sticks to my skin incredibly well. My skin felt softer, but not moisturized when I took the (still slightly wet) mask off thirty minutes later. I wasn’t impressed and would choose a different MBD mask going forward. MBD has so many good ones, but this one isn’t one of them.

    Too Cool For School's Egg Cream Sheet Mask

    Too Cool For School’s Egg Cream Sheet Mask, was left on for 30 minutes, purchased as part of a set ($8.41 for five) from Rose Rose Shop, also available from Sephora ($6 per mask). Light scent, not egg-y. Mask is packed with egg white and yolk. The mask is thicker than most I’ve tried, features a net backing, making opening the mask easy. It is soaked in a thicker than normal essence and you won’t have a problem hitting up your neck and upper chest with the leftovers. Mask stuck to my skin and fit well. When I removed the mask, my skin was glowing, soft, and plump. I can’t believe how moisturized my skin looks and feels. Highly recommend.

    TonyMoly I'm Real Aloe Face Mask Sheet Moisturizing

    TonyMoly I’m Real Aloe Face Mask Sheet Moisturizing, was left on for about 30 minutes, purchased as part of a TonyMoly package from Amazon ($10.76 for 11 masks) can be purchased individually from Peach & Lily ($3) and Sephora (2 for $7.50). Packaging, as everything from TonyMoly, was adorbs. Mask had a very light, fresh scent. This mask, like the rest of the I’m Real masks, does have fragrance in it. Mask was fully saturated, but didn’t have any extra. Mask fits me well. My skin was moisturized, though a little sticky. No redness at all on my face; my skin looked calm and healthy. Would use again.
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    Book Report: Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

    What if you founMost Wantedd out you were carrying the baby of a serial killer?
    That’s the central question that carries the plot of Most Wanted, a disjointed mystery by Lisa Scottoline. When we first meet the protagonist Christine Nilsson, she’s two months pregnant after having tried for a baby for years. With summer vacation a few days off and with no plans to return at the beginning of the next school year, she is celebrating her pregnancy with the teachers and other staff at the elementary school where she works. Her husband Marcus even surprises her by showing up, even though he’s still getting comfortable with their decision to use a donor.

    While cleaning up after the party, Christine looks up at the TV and sees a young man being put into a cop car. A young man that looks exactly like their donor. He’s been arrested for the murders of three nurses. This pushes Christine and Marcus to find out if their unborn child’s biological father, Donor 3319, is a murderer.

    When her doctor and sperm bank refuse to give her an answer, Christine ignores the pleas of her (incredibly immature, without any redeeming qualities) husband and caution from her (sadly, one of the few likable characters) lawyer and heads to the jail where the serial killer is being held with her best friend in tow to find out the truth. Read more

    Book Report: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

    The Murder of Mary RussellThe Murder of Mary Russell is built on the Sir Conan Doyle original, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott. The reader quickly learns that the man saved from the shipwreck of the Gloria Scott by the name of Hudson was none other than the father of the iconic Mrs. Hudson. We’re also taken back to the time a young Clarissa Hudson spent her days as a petty criminal, long before she met Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Mary Russell.

    I believe there has been a huge gap in my mystery library, as The Murder of Mary Russell has been my introduction to King and her wonderful take on the world of all things Holmes, including his captivating equal, Mary Russell. Mary is so much more than Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, she is bright, wise, strong, and interesting enough, that it leaves me feeling zero doubt that the series is truly focused on her, not her more well known husband. In this particular book though, the story is truly that of Mrs. Hudson, her relatively secret past, and how it influences her (and those she loves) in the present.

    A knock on the door of the country farmhouse where the Holmeses reside is opened by Mary to a stranger, a Mr. Samuel Hudson. He wastes no time in forever changing the lives of Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson as he holds his gun to Mary’s head and throws around a most particular set of demands. Mary plays along, biding her time as she prepares mentally and physically to fight for her life. What the opening scene sets in motion is a wonderfully written set of events that jump around in both time and location. Read more

    Stilettos and Scoundrels: Excerpt & Interview with the Author


    I was recently offered the opportunity to interview Laina Turner, the author of the Presley Thurman mystery series. Laina recently released a re-edited version of the first book in the series, Stilettos and Scoundrels. Not only was the interview a ton of fun, but I can’t wait to dive into the book this weekend. Be sure to keep reading for an excerpt and a very special offer through Amazon.

    Stilettos and Scoundrels

    Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?


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    Book Report: Southern Spirits by Robert F. Moss

    Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South, with Recipes

    The South isn’t all sweet tea and enchanting drawls. It’s got a long and slightly complicated, but incredibly interesting history with alcohol. And thanks to Robert Moss, the history is one you can learn about while making the actual Southern spirit. This isn’t your Momma’s mint julep. It’s the actual history of the hard ones thrown back by our ancestors.

    Starting each section is a recipe and while I didn’t have the opportunity to partake myself, it would be perfect to create and sip on each cocktail while reading about it’s main ingredient. The purpose of Southern Spirits is to highlight what we drink and why (or in some cases, how it was made), the book gives such a great glimpse into the historical South, that both drinkers and those who abstain will both be intrigued and delighted. There’s no softening of the facts and Moss doesn’t hesitate to take on incorrect perceptions or knock a tall tale down to size. Read more