Saturday, July 22, 2017

What We Pack For Outdoor Day Trips

Let's give it up for Kirby being my Vanna White for the day!

I mentioned possibly writing a post about what Kirby and I take on our outdoor day trips, and I received a surprising amount of "That'd be awesome!"-type comments. So here it is: a quick overview of what we like to pack! This is the stuff that keeps us fed, dry, and safe from ticks while we take long walks through the forest or faff about on a canoe.

An important note: this is what we pack for a casual day trip in a safe, well-populated, well-maintained state park. It is not enough for more intense outdoor activities, like a weekend hike through the mountains. Always read up on the necessary equipment for a longer or more intense trip.

If you're hiking in the Appalachians for a week or completing a 70 mile bike ride across Pennsylvania's more rugged terrain, you probably have some of the best equipment on the market, including a top-of-the-line backpack. I do not. I have a backpack that I bought for $5 at my local Goodwill. I give zero shits about the fact that it's pink or a "Polo" product; I care that it has tons of pockets, is lightweight, and is super easy to clean. (I scrub mine down with lukewarm water and Dr. Bronner's soap.)

Most thrift stores I've visited have an entire box full of cheap backpacks for you to sift through, many of them in like new condition. If that's not an option, stalk the stores shortly after the school year begins and see if any of the backpacks go on sale, or check in at an army surplus store. Last, but not least, you can give a shout on social media and see if anybody has a spare backpack they'd give you. A few of my older friends with high school aged children say that their kids change backpacks every year, so they've often got an extra bag stuffed in a corner.

Now for the goods in the bag!
  • A tarp. Most public parks have picnic tables, but sometimes, we just want to sit out on the grass. Yeah, a picnic blanket is prettier and more romantic, but it won't keep your butt dry if the ground is still wet from a recent rainstorm. Tarps are also easy to clean and cheap to buy; this 5'x7' blue one cost me about $10.
  • A map. All of the public parks in my area provide free maps. You can also print one out before you leave the house.
  • Extra socks. It doesn't matter if you plan on going in or even near the water: there's the possibility your feet will get sopping wet, and few things are more uncomfortable than wet socks. I always pack an extra pair for each of us. If we're actually going swimming (which almost never happens, since Kirby isn't a fan), I bring an entire change of clothes, my swimsuit, and a towel.
  • Sandals, if we're canoeing (not pictured). You often have to step in to the water a bit to get in and out of your canoe, and my graceful self always manages to splash water in to the boat.
  • A poncho. We avoid rain like the plague, but you never know in Western Pennsylvania. A poncho is easier than an umbrella, since it leaves your hands free. 
  • Plastic freezer bags. We keep a few of these in the backpack so we can keep a few essentials in the canoe without worrying about them getting wet. And by "essentials," I mean "my phone," since I keep forgetting to buy a cheap-o watch so we can return our rented canoe on time. I really need to get an actual water-resistant case when I have the chance, I know.
  • Bug repellent. I draw mosquitoes like no other and Kirby is terrified of ticks, so we always coat ourselves in bug spray. We've been using Off! Deep Woods VIII for a while now and are relatively impressed with it. It reeks to high Heaven, but it does a pretty good job of keeping most bugs away from us and it doesn't feel heavy or greasy on our skin and clothes.

While we don't usually go on longer hikes, and we're generally good about staying on the designated walking paths outlined by the parks department, I'm still in the habit of bringing a little extra safety equipment. Pictured above: an LED headlamp, a compass, a lighter, and a safety knife. Altogether, this equipment cost me less than $20 and was totally worth it to ease my paranoid mind.

Not pictured is the small-but-powerful LED flashlight, chemical mace, and safety whistle I have on my key chain. If you're going to bring a whistle in case you get lost or hurt, make sure you bring an actual safety whistle; mine is a Shoreline Marine whistle that cost me a couple of bucks and can be heard for several miles. The basic whistle code is one whistle to announce your location, two as a call back, three to call for help.

There's also an assortment of first aid stuff that we keep in a Glossier pouch. Yes, you read that right: we use a Glossier pouch. It has nothing to do with them being "cute" or "hip;" they're just the right size, lightly padded, and easily replaced if they get damaged.

Inside the pouch:
  • Tampons, because I have a uterus and whatnot.
  • Bandaids and Neosporin. Despite being supremely clumsy, I almost never get cuts when we're in the woods, but better safe than sorry. Hilariously, I actually use Neosporin more on my cat's popped chin pimples than on myself.
  • Benadryl Cream. We pack this for two reasons. One, lakes are full of bugs, and even with an extreme amount of bug spray on our personages, we can still get bit. Two, I have trouble with chronic hives that can appear out of nowhere. Both are horribly itchy situations that can ruin a trip, so we nip the itch in the bud with this ointment.
  • A hairbrush. This cheap, plastic brush was given to my partner by the airport when they misplaced his luggage. Stylish? No. Comfortable? Not really. Effective? Eh, it works well enough if I topple out of the canoe and have to brush out my wet hair to prevent tangles.
  • Body Glide. I've written an entire post about this stuff, I love it so much, so definitely check that out for more details. I'll just add this: I won't go on any sort of walk, vacation, or day trip without Body Glide these days, and my chubby thighs are eternally grateful. 
  • Moleskin. Getting in to hiking and boating exposed me to moleskin, and holy shit, how did I not know about this stuff before? Basically, it's soft cotton padding, usually sold with an adhesive back so you can adhere it to your skin. What do you use it for? Blisters. Guys, this stuff is fucking mana in the wilderness if you have a blister and you want to stop the rubbing. Maybe I'm being a bit intense, but trust me, it's essential if you're spending time outdoors. You can sometimes buy moleskin that comes in pre-cut little circles, but we usually buy the full pads and cut it to size.
  • A nail kit, primarily for the tweezers and the scissors. These are useful for splinters and cutting moleskin, respectively.
  • Ibuprofen 800mgs. We rarely use these on the trip itself, since we stay home if one of us gets a bad headache, but again, better safe than sorry. I actually had to pop one on a trip last month because my period snuck up on me, and I started having back pain on the way to the lake. 20 minutes after popping one of these, I was pain-free and ready to row.
  • Extra sunscreen. We always slather on a thick layer of Blue Lizard Sensitive before leaving the house, and that will hold us for our walk and our picnic. If we're going to be outside for more than a couple of hours, though, we obviously have to touch-up, and that's easiest with a travel-size spray. We're currently using Banana Boat Sun Comfort, since it was one of the few sprays to get an "excellent" rating from the most recent Consumer Report. (NOTE: Again, Kirby and I usually don't go swimming; if you do, you may want to make sure your sunscreen has marine life-friendly filters.) I'm also carrying the Sun Bum SPF30 lip balm. I don't love it, but it's cheap, so, I mean...I won't weep if it gets ruined. In the bag it goes.

Kirby and I are also the picnicking sort...and even if you aren't, you should probably bring some food if you plan on being out for more than an hour or two. You should also eat a filling, but not too heavy, breakfast. My personal favorite? Oatmeal. It's so damn easy to make, very filling, and provides plenty of energy.

The basic oatmeal recipe is one part rolled oats to two parts liquid, but you can of course add extras to spice it up. My pre-hike oatmeal for the two of is 2/3 cup of oats, 1 1/3 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Pour it all in to a pot and stir it regularly over medium-low heat until the oats soften and the liquid thickens. I like to top that with a cup of fresh blueberries and chopped strawberries for each of us.

For lunch, I try to once again focus on "filling, but not heavy." I drop some reusable ice packs in to the cooler, then add sandwiches (a half for me, a whole for Kirby), a beverage for each of us, some raw vegetables with ranch or hummus for dipping, small containers of nuts, and a yogurt for each of us. I also throw in a fiber bar for each of us on the long car ride home. I fill a plastic freezer bag with ice, then put our water bottles on top. (The bonus with this method? You can steal some ice cubes out of the bag and drop them in your bottles if the water starts to heat up throughout the day.) These Brita bottles are nice if you plan on refilling them at the park and the water fountains are a bit suspect, but honestly, I just like them because they're soft and easy to squeeze.

I should note that we almost never eat everything I pack. On this trip, for instance, I didn't eat my yogurt and Kirby didn't touch his cashews, so we just took them home. Always dispose of your trash properly!

Last, washable hats! I highly recommend a hat with a brim that goes all the way around, like mine, so you can get some extra protection on your ears and the back of your neck as well. Kirby is addicted to his baseball hat, though, and that's better than nothing. "Washable" is key, because these get covered in sweat and sunscreen throughout the day, and we purposely blast them with bug spray to keep the gnats and flies off of our faces. It works, but at the end of the day, they are beyond smelly. All we have to day is toss them in the washer on a delicate cycle and hang them to dry.

So that's what a couple of filthy casuals like us takes on a day trip outdoors. If you think we're missing something incredibly important, or you have a few favorites of your own for outdoor adventures, please let us know! We're considering saving up for prescription sunglasses, for instance--any thoughts on that investment?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

VIDEO: The Return of Stink Pretties

I'm on a quest to find my perfect warm weather fragrance, and my fiance Kirby is here to help! Today, he sniffs scents ranging from the bright, citrus-full Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine to the flowerrific Thierry Mugler Alien Eau Extraordinaire.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

You Guys Ask Awesome Questions

Shortly before I went on my summer break, I invited you guys to ask me almost anything you wanted. I ended up getting an amazing assortment of questions, ranging from "What's your favorite ____?" to "What the fuck is with that weird picture on Instagram stories?" I've gathered everything from Instagram, private messages, emails, and blog comments, and now I think I've got our answers! Thanks again to everyone who participated.

Social Media and Blogging

What's up with that "two braids" hairstyle you wear to bed?

Okay, I had to show you guys this, because I usually go to bed with these two braids, and it's just so dippy looking. That said, I've been braiding my hair before bed for years because it prevents tangles. I let my hair air dry, brush it out, braid it, sleep, and wake up with easy-to-brush out locks. Because I started getting my hair cut in layers, though, it's impossible to get the shorter strands braided unless I separate them. Hence, one braid for the short layers, one braid for the long layers.

Did...did you cut the top off of that potato chip bag?

I always do this when I get toward the bottom of a bag of chips. I hate having to reach way down in to the bag to get a handful; it crinkles too much and it makes my hand super greasy. #firstworldproblems

What makes a review compelling for you? What are the things you want to know and find useful?

Before I answer, let me make it clear that I'm not trying to call out any particular person or shit on somebody else's blogging style. I know my overly-sharpened product photos and close-up shots of my nose hairs are not to everybody's taste, and that's totally fine. You do you! Like anybody else, I just have my personal preferences.

First, I am attracted to nice photos. They don't necessarily have to be SUPAH AMAZING HD; they just have to be thoughtful and interesting. Second, I like blog posts that are helpful. If you're reviewing a foundation, but the only photos in your review are a picture of the bottle and a super-far-away-from-your-skin model-type shot of you on a windowsill, I mean...that doesn't help me much. I need a before-and-after, or some swatches, or a close-up of the texture on your skin. I need to see how the product performs. Third, I need to see some attempt to find the good in a product you hate or the bad in a product you love. I think that's my job influencing me: I'm very big on teaching students that 99% of viewpoints will always have a logical counter-argument. Sure, some products just outright suck, but I find those are few and far between. And  yeah, you love that foundation or that lipstick, but who might dislike it? What could be some possible downsides?


It's not. It's very good skin, I will not deny it, and that's a mixture of genetics, being as careful with skincare and makeup products as I can be, and trying to have a decent diet. But my face is not perfect. Remember that most of my selfies on Instagram are showing my skin at its absolute best (if I'm makeup-less) or are me wearing makeup. I deal with chronic hives, my skin is regularly itchy or reactive, and I do break out. Nobody's skin is perfect. (Well, almost nobody. We all know that one unicorn who treats their body like shit and still looks like a porcelain doll.)

I've realized, though, that when people say this, they're often referring to the texture of my skin. It's relatively smooth and my pores are not visible. Two things contribute to this:

1. Exfoliation: I use 10% AHA once every two weeks and a gentle physical exfoliant once or twice a week.

2. My skin is dry as a bone. The pores are so tiny because nothing comes out of them. You win some, you lose some!

Work Stuff

What subject do you teach?

In broad terms: "English" and "Humanities." More specifically, I teach writing and rhetoric 95% of the time. I've taught literature once, which was really fun, and I've been scheduled to teach speech, though the classes have never filled up. I've also offered to teach classes like "Critical Thinking," which just seems like the most amazing opportunity to instruct a class subtitled "Miss Renee's Random Class of Cool Shit." But believe it or not, teaching composition is my favorite.

Do you plan on staying in academia and being a professor for life?

A post shared by Renee (@reneesanatomy) on

This answer will upset or depress some of you, so I apologize in advance. My only intention is to answer you honestly. A few people asked this and specifically mentioned that they want to be academics, too, and I want to say that I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors.

Yes, my goal was to be a professor. I love teaching young adults and helping them improve their writing; I love showing them how to conduct research properly, carefully consider their viewpoints, and engage in constructive dialogues with others. As corny as it sounds, I've always felt that teaching wasn't just my job, but my vocation--I was born to do it.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that higher education is becoming adjunctified, especially with regards to the arts and humanities. College costs are rising, but the number of full-time positions is declining. With a few exceptions, adjuncts are paid very little, have no job security, are almost powerless to enact change in their departments, and do not receive benefits. I don't receive any sick days, for example, despite the fact that I'm a professional, and I do not receive health insurance or the guarantee of work. Opportunities to advance and obtain a full-time position are rare, and as someone who stopped at her MA and focused more on teaching than research, I'm at the bottom of the pile when candidates are reviewed. As much as I love teaching, and as valuable as I think it is, I simply cannot continue living this way. Hence, I've been trying to find work in other fields.

What's the biggest misconception people have about professors?

Oh, God, I could pick a dozen, ranging from "Professors love to flunk students" (you earn your grade and I hate typing that 'F' in to my gradebook) to "Professors take forever to grade because they're lazy" (100 papers x 25 minutes per paper = 2500 minutes, or ~41.7 hours of grading). If I had to pick the biggest one, though, it's "Professors are all uber-elite snobs living luxe lives on fat paychecks."

I think people get this misconception from two things. One, many of the most visible academics are people existing in the top 50% of the field. The experts you see on CNN, the ones who are quoted in NPR articles, the guys recruited for Big Think videos? They're usually the rockstars, and they make good money. Two, people see six figure salaries listed on sites like Glassdoor. They don't realize that these numbers generally include almost all colleges, including schools like Harvard and Columbia that pay big bucks, and they often include all types of higher education faculty or exclude adjuncts. Adjuncts are separate on Glassdoor, for instance, and the data is really sparse.

It's also a little misleading: they list "hourly" wages, but in my experience, most adjunct positions are paid by the credit hour, not actual working hours. For instance: if adjuncts are paid $700 per credit hour, and you teach two 3 credit classes, you're making $4200 before taxes for the entire semester's work. You are not getting paid $700 per hour.

Favorite Things

You talked about Basquiat, and it seems you love art. Who are your favorite artists?

 Yayoi Kusama on the left, Leonora Carrington on the right.


I really do love art; going to the free galleries in Pittsburgh and eating Millie's Ice Cream is my idea of a hot date. But if I had to pick one living artist and one deceased artist, I'd go with Yayoi Kusama and Leonora Carrington. Kusama's pieces always feel so dream-like to me, and Carrington had that perfect mix of surrealism, fairytales, and creepy shit that I love.

PS: If you got to see Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrors" in person, I envy you.

Coffee or tea?

99% of the time, I am all about coffee. I drink a cup every morning, I make my own cold-brew in a mason jar cause Just Hipster Things, and I am honestly a little perturbed when I can't have my morning coffee for some reason. I'm very routine-oriented and coffee-addicted.

BUT! I stick to decaf green tea with loads of honey when I have any kind of cold, flu, or sinus infection, and I have recently become addicted to the Dunkin' Donuts iced berry hibiscus tea. I am forever pissed that Dunkin' Donuts doesn't have a product page for it on their website.

Favorite makeup item ever?

Ahahaha, I so want to cheat on this one and pick an entire category of makeup, like, "If I could only have one piece of makeup for the rest of my life, it'd be a great concealer!" But I know that's cheating.

Instead, I'm going to list the products I have depended on for years and would immediately repurchase if they spontaneously combusted or fell out of my bag or whatever. If you've been here for a while, you're going to recognize pretty much all of these, so I apologize in advance.

  • Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil in Seal Brown. There is no pencil more perfect in all this world, seriously. It's pretty much impossible to overdo, so you can get a natural look with a few strokes or layer it for fuller brows. Also, this shit lasts forever because it's such a hard formula. I have decided that if it outlives me, I'll pass it down to my niece. (I'm not joking.)
  • MAC Face & Body Foundation. No matter how many other foundations I try, I always come back to Face & Body. I always get compliments on my skin, not my makeup, when I wear this one. The only thing that sucks? How fussy it is. I have to mix in the White shade to get a good color match, you really want to pat it in to your skin, it takes a few minutes to set, etc.
  • MAC Strobe Cream. It was tough for me to pick just one highlighter, believe me, but I think this is the one I'd miss the most. That's probably because I don't just use it as a cheek highlight: I also use it under my brows, under my foundation, mixed in to my foundation, on my shoulders for date night...honestly, there are probably 50 other ways I could use this stuff, so I'm going to stop.
Favorite book?

Once again, this is a dirty question. I can't pick just one, and I don't even think I'd say, "Oh, these are my favorites."  But I will say these books occupy a special place in my heart.

  • "Memoirs of a Geisha," by Arthur Golden. I know it's a big cringey, but I've read this book about a dozen times, and I've enjoyed it every time. The main character, Sayuri, lives a fascinating life, but the rivalry between Hatsumomo and Mameha is what makes the novel. Don't take this book as a 100% accurate account of how geisha live(d), though, and read some non-fiction for more context.
  • "House of Leaves," by Mark Z. Danielewski. I originally read this book because Danielewski is Poe's brother. Then I read it because it was an absolutely wonderful mixture of horror, humor, and romance. It's also full of wonky pages that pissed off my friend when I selected it for our "Modern Gothic Literature" independent study, which is a funny bonus.
  • "Madeleine is Sleeping," by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. I first read this book when I was in highschool because the title intrigued me and I like almost anything that deals with the circus. It quickly became one of my favorite pieces of magical realism.
  • "In a Grove," by Ryonusuke Akutagawa. This is technically a short story, but whatevah, I do what I want. If I had to recommend just one short story to people, it'd be this masterpiece, which forces readers to consider what is truth, why humans lie, and why we believe some people more than others. As a funny sidenote, I assign this one to my students, and trying to figure out who committed the murder drives them nuts.
  • "We Should All Be Feminists," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Again, this is technically an essay that's printed in a 50 page book with large font and big paragraph breaks. However, it's a truly wonderful essay. My favorite part is where she breaks down negative reactions to feminism, like "Women can get what they want by using their sexuality." The essay comes from this amazing Ted Talk.
Favorite song?

For the past few years, it's been a tie between Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" and Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat." I swear, I'm actually an upbeat, generally positive person in real life. I just like depressing music.

Other Stuff

How does life outside of a big city affect your purchasing and usage habits?

I'm just now realizing that I may have misunderstood this question. I thought it meant, "How does not living in a city impact your makeup habits?", but now I realize it could be, "How does living close to a city impact your makeup habits?"

Just to clarify, I live in the suburbs, less than 30 miles away from Pittsburgh. Hence, the city is convenient enough for me to visit regularly, but not convenient enough for me to just pop in for an hour or two on a daily basis. Bus rides usually take less than an hour due to traffic and multiple stops, and I'm fine with that.

I think there are two main ways this has impacted me. For one, when I go to the city with friends, I often make beauty products part of the day. There are multiple freestanding Sephoras in Pittsburgh, for instance, which I don't have in my suburb. So when we go to the city to see a show, or visit another friend, or eat dinner, we like to take an hour just walking around Sephora and playing with products. If I really want a product and it's only available in the city, I can get it; I just have to plan a bit.

It's also made me more keen to shop online. I can be very socially awkward, and I like to brood over my purchases, which I think makes sales associates nervous, especially in a busy environment where they're watching dozens of customers at once. And of course, with very few large beauty retailers next to my hometown, there are a lot of products that are only available to me online. This includes my Verb hair mist and my Glossier products: Verb isn't sold in my Sephora in JCP, and unlike a few of my friends in NYC, I can't catch a Lyft to the Glossier showroom. (When I go to NYC, though, I definitely browse the many beauty offerings and make a purchase or two. Make glittery hay while the sun is shining on your boutique sunscreen, or whatever.)

In your experience, have the different areas you've lived in or visited had different makeup cultures?

Oh, absolutely. For instance, when I visited Hawaii, I was struck by the differences. You'd see a Caucasian woman who was tanned as much as possible and wearing warm, bronzey makeup, and right next to her would be an Asian woman holding a UV umbrella with some pale, dewy foundation and little else visible. It was weirdly cool.

The biggest difference for me, though, was when I moved to the upper midwest for a few years. Almost nobody wore visible makeup, and if they did, it was just eyeliner and mascara unless they were going out for a night. A few of my students wore more full-on stuff, like foundation and highlighter, but it was pretty rare. Meanwhile, my friend from California and I would walk around with bright red lipstick, multi-colored eyeshadow, glittery cheeks...we kind of stuck out. I'm not saying we were the only ones who wore a lot of obvious makeup on the regular, but at least where we were living, we were some of the few.

What's something you're looking forward to?

Well, eventually, I'm gonna marry this guy:

So that's pretty cool.

I'm also damn excited for my niece to start talking. She's in the babbling stage and I'm trying to teach her to say "Dump Trump," but it's more likely her first word will be "mum" or "dance." Eh, I'll take what I can get.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sample Rundown #13

I tried a slew of new products while I was away this summer, so it's time for Sample Rundown! Yet again, I've kind of accidentally worked with a theme here; this post features products I ended up having a love-hate relationship with, or they were really good with a few caveats.

Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Volume Shampoo and Conditioner -- "Caviar" is right: a full size of either the shampoo or conditioner will set you back $34. Verb is usually as high-end as I go with hair products, but they were free and I was intrigued, so off I went! On the bright side, this stuff really made my hair voluminous; my hair looked twice as full and felt much thicker. It also maintained a lot of the softness that is the one benefit of having hair as fine as mine. Unfortunately, it seemed to amplify my frizz, even when I used anti-frizz products on top. I didn't get a lot of definition with this shampoo and conditioner combo, either. I'd go from having curly hair to...well, just big, poofy hair. The volume was nice, the frizz was not.

Living Proof PhD Night Cap Overnight Perfector -- I got this in a Sephora Play! box before I halted my subscription to save money, and honestly, I wasn't too excited to see it. I haven't had the best luck with Living Proof's extremely expensive range. I've ended up really enjoying this particular product, though. First, I decided not to cut my hair this summer, since I usually wear it up anyway to combat the heat and oppressive humidity. Second, my partner is visiting, so I've been spending more time outside, in lakes, and covered in sunscreen, all of which can damage my hair. Night Cap has been a great deep conditioning treatment for me, providing glossiness and taming split ends. Of course, there are a few issues. This product is clearly considered an "overnight," "pillow-safe" mask because most people shower in the morning; I shower at night, so I quickly learned that leaving it in for 24 hours is overkill. 4-5 hours was totally sufficient for me. Furthermore, I didn't notice that this lasted for "five shampoos" as promised: it was one wash cycle and done for me. Despite those minor quibbles, I'd still repurchase this product if it was available in this sample size, which is more than enough for me.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil -- Let's get this out of the way: argan oil only works for me when it feels like it. It makes my skin incredibly soft and smooth, but it also tends to break me out, and I can never tell if it's going to leave me looking more hydrated or more pimply. Hence, while I love the hydration I get from just 2-3 drops of this oil, I quickly decided it wasn't worth the unpredictable breakouts. That said, I honestly think it's hard to beat Josie Maran as far as argan oil quality goes. This product feels lighter and smells less than other kinds I've tried, and while the price tag is cringe-worthy, a couple of drops of this bad boy went a long way.

Bobbi Brown Lipstick in Sandwash Pink -- I used Bobbi Brown's lipsticks almost a decade ago, and my analysis of them at the time was "sedate, aimed-at-working-ladies shade range in a solid, but not spectacular, formula that kind of smells." Testing Sandwash Pink in 2017, I'm still feeling roughly the same way. The small range of mostly my-lips-but-better shades and the same black packaging that gathers fingerprints like a mofo feels a bit dated, I have to admit. But the formula is creamy and pigmented, and while it tastes a bit waxy, at least it doesn't reek of fake fruit or dry out my mouth. I don't know if I'd drop $29 on this mauve pink shade when I could get a cheaper formula I like more, like Besame or MAC, but I'll likely finish this one up. It's...decent.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Here's a Post About June

I thought I'd be insanely bored without blogging this summer, since it's probably my current favorite hobby. However, I ended up being totally immersed in Stereotypical Summer Fun with my partner, and I had quite a few products on my to-test list that kept me busy. (Actually, I still have a big list of products to photograph and document...why does this take me so long?!)

First, let me run over a few of my MVPs from this summer. I managed to snag one of these Sephora Chic It Easy sets when it went on sale for $25, which is a crazy awesome deal:

I gave the nail polish to my cousin's daughter, since I already have that shade, and got rid of the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer (not my shade and my mom still has half a tube) and Caudalie mist (contains alcohol). Everything else stayed with me. I was especially excited to have this small vial of Atelier Cologne's Orange Sanguine fragrance, which smells like a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. I'm not usually big on citrus fragrances because they're so fleeting, and this Atelier offering is no different, but it's been perfect for carrying around in my purse this summer.

I've been continuing my use-stuff-up journey as well, and I managed to finish a deluxe sample of the Kat Von D Lock It Concealer Creme in L3. This is still the best color match I've found for my foundation-free face, and as I've gotten more and more in to the no foundation look, I decided it was worth purchasing a full tube. I'm also working through another sample of Clinique High Impact Mascara, a great choice for full but relatively natural volume and minimal flaking or smearing. And while I've been lazy about wearing highlighter when I'm sans foundation in the past, I've honestly been loving the glow I get from Glossier Haloscope in Quartz. (It helps that I've had my hair pulled up almost every day this summer because it's so humid.) Glossier recently posted something on their Instagram stories about wearing all 3 Haloscope shades at once, and I won't even lie, I've been tempted to try it.

Now for a few product-related downers I've experienced. Influenster sent me the new Maybelline Brow Drama Shaping Chalk to test, and the shade 120 Medium Brown was definitely Not Okay. It's a little too dark for me and way too warm; it's so red on my brows, in fact, that when I wore it, my partner couldn't look at my face without laughing. (I removed it as quickly as I could to avoid being banished to the couch for bad brows.)

I will note, though, that I actually like the formula of this product. The packaging is a bit fiddly--it's a loose powder in a tube, so you'll get a few flakes on your desk when you pull the doe foot out--but the actual chalk is super pigmented and gives you a soft, filled-in look in seconds. If I could find a lighter, ashier shade, I'd probably buy another tube and use it for my lazier days.

They also sent me the Brow Precise Micro Crayon in 265 Auburn, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why they sent that shade. Medium Brown in one product, Auburn in another? WTF? Auburn is even more red than Medium Brown, so clearly, I won't be wearing it out and about.

Things have been rough on the face sunscreen front, too. Most of the American and European options I've been testing have irritated my skin, dried out my face, or produced a swath of pimples across my cheeks, so I've ordered four alcohol-free Japanese sunscreens that should be, some time this month. In the meantime, I've been using my La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion Spray SPF60 on my face. The lightweight formula is totally workable for the face if you spray it on to your hands, then rub it in. The only downside is that I have to keep it away from my eyes because it makes them water. Also, my bottle has maybe one spray left in it. $35 for a spray sunscreen galls me in my current financial state, so I've been trying a few others that ranked highly on the most recent Consumer Reports list.

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Speaking of sunscreen: did I mention that my partner convinced me to try canoeing? I was nervous that I would look like an idiot (because I'm not athletic in the least) or fall out of the boat (DID I MENTION THAT I'M REALLY NOT ATHLETIC), but I managed to keep my seat and really enjoy myself. I mean, I freaked out a little when Kirby shifted his weight and the canoe rocked, but beyond that, I think this could become my new favorite summer activity!

Pittsburgh's Wood Street Gallery has also had a couple of robots scribing religious texts and duplicating a photo of Mars for the past month. I'm a little offended that a freaking robot has better handwriting than me, but the fact that I can still read and understand some German is a fair consolation prize. The robots will be here until early September, so if you come to Pittsburgh, check them out! The Wood Street Gallery exhibits are always free.

Kirby's friends visited the city at the start of July, and we intended to take them to see the robots and a few other art galleries. Then they heard that Pittsburgh is home to the National Aviary, and it was all over. BEAUTIFUL BIRDS! GIANT FRUIT BATS! A SLOTH! Damn, I love the aviary. Here's our friend Krista feeding some Lorikeets, by the way, which is only $3 a person and totally worth it:

Last, but not least, my incredibly generous partner decided to take me to see In the Heights yesterday. I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars: you can tell that Lin Manuel Miranda wrote this before Hamilton, since the latter is superior in most aspects, but it's still a damn fun musical. If you're curious, Amazon currently has a stream of the soundtrack available. I highly recommend "Breathe" and "Carnaval de Barrio."

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Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate the navy blue jumpsuit I wore to the musical. It's the first jumpsuit I've ever found that actually flatters me. (Unfortunately, I didn't get a very clear, super-flattering photo of the actual outfit.) My aunt is a seamstress, and she shortened the pants for my little legs and raised the shoulders a bit so it fit me even better. Seriously, guys, if you want to look your best in your clothes, spend a couple extra bucks on some tailoring for your favorite pieces.

I'm usually in my pajamas when my niece comes over, so when I came home jumpsuit-ed and saw she was visiting, I made sure to snag a photo with my best girl. She'll be a year old this month!

Oh, and have I mentioned that I've managed to tan a bit? Because I have. I've gotten a hair darker on my face, but because I'm sunscreen-obsessed and usually wearing a hat on longer outings, the change is most noticeable on my shoulders. Hence, I currently have an NC5 neck, and NC15 face, and an NC25 set of shoulders. I will be a patchwork for the next few months, and I apologize in advance.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

VIDEO: 2017 Lipstick Inventory, Declutter, and No Buy Prep

I've decided to go on a lipstick no buy for the rest of 2017, so of course, I had to take an inventory! I'll be working on these guys for the rest of the year.

In the meantime, my partner and brother are visiting for the summer, so the blog will be on hiatus until July. I'll still be active on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat), and I'll answer blog comments regularly. Have a safe and beautiful summer, and I'll see you next month!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I Tried Scrubbing My Sandals

People have strong feelings about feet or anything feet-adjacent, so if this post makes you recoil and run away from the blog screaming, I understand. But I've studied and prepped for this post for so long because...well, for one thing, I think it's interesting. More importantly, though, I absolutely love this pair of shoes, and I think they deserve all of my preservation efforts.

This is a pair of Dr. Martens sandals. I can't remember the exact style name because I purchased them back in graduate school; the Doc Martens website was having a sale one January to clear out summer styles, and I happened to snag the last pair of these sandals in my size for $35. I do recall the style name starting with an A, and it may have been something like "Alena" or "Alia." Regardless, I bought them cheap eons ago and they no longer produce this style.

Did I mention that I purchased these back in graduate school? Yeah, these guys are at least 5 years old. That's a long lifespan for shoes, especially sandals! So given that this pair has lived a long, healthy life, why bother trying to scrub the mucky things out?

Ignore the absolutely vile footbeds on these for a second and just look at the rest of the shoe. I've worn these for a good 8 months of the year every year I've had them, and they've been almost everywhere. They've visited cities, flown on planes, taken long walks through the park, and clocked in at numerous grocery stores and restaurants. Yet despite all of that, if you ignore the footbed, they look practically brand new. The rubber and stitching on the bottom don't have any obvious scratches, discoloration, or scuffs. And even though I've worn these on rainy days a-plenty, somehow, the plaid fabric is spotless.

Now, I want to point out that I treat all of my Docs with their Protector Spray, which helps prevent damage from water and sunlight. (Note: I also like their Wonder Balsam, and I use that and the spray on the few leather goods I own.) Still, it's unusual for a pair of sandals to look this damn spotless after so many years and so much wear.

Except for those footbeds. Those dirty, icky, footbeds, the footbeds that not only have a clear indent of my feet due to constant wear, but also rock an unsightly layer of caked-on grime. I couldn't take it anymore: these shoes deserve better. Unaware of the existence of actual footbed cleaner, I spent months scouring websites, magazines, and shoe boxes to figure out the best method for cleaning these guys up.

The most recommended tools were a toothbrush, some water with dish soap, and a damp paper towel or soft cloth. All of these items were readily available to me, including extra toothbrushes; my family always has a pack of the cheapo "6 for $1" brushes under the sink for scrubbing grout in the bathroom or on the windowsills. I put a few drops of Palmolive in a cup, added some lukewarm water, set my sandals on the side porch, and started scrubbing out my shoes. I initially used a back-and-forth motion, but quickly switched to small circles, which worked even better.

After scrubbing just the heel portion of one sandal, I pulled up all of the dirt you see in the above picture. I was actually stunned that this was working and that my footbeds were that scummy. I mean, subconsciously, I had to know, but...seeing it was weird.

After finished the left shoe, I ran a damp paper towel all over the footbed to rinse off the soap and pull up a little extra dirt. I also got a fresh cup of soapy water to prep for the right shoe.

Comparison photo time! The shoe on the left went through one round of gentle scrubbing, while the shoe on the right was untouched. Was the soaped-up footbed the soft, creamy beige shade it was when I first pulled my sandals from their box? Hell no, but it was clearly cleaner. Actually, I think this photo doesn't truly exemplify how much cleaner the shoe on the left is: the indents from my feet make some areas more shadowy than others, as does the fact that the bed is still a bit damp. The one bummer was that I couldn't remove the sap stain from the left heel, but hey, small victories!

I finished both shoes and left them on the side porch to dry out of direct sunlight. After they'd dried several hours later,I did another round of scrubbing and drying. At the end of the day, I was suitably impressed with how much nicer the footbeds looked and how much cleaner they felt. Again, the shadows play some tricks here, and they're not like new, anyway, but you can see in this photograph that they look leagues better:

Two final notes: first, scrubbing the footbeds of your sandals can cause some texture changes. A few articles mentioned using a bit of sandpaper, very gently, on the soles to soften up the texture. I did notice that my sandals were a tad rougher after cleaning at the very ends, but because I don't actually feel those parts of the sole when I'm wearing the shoes, I let them be. Second, I did not patch test this cleaning method because I figured that if it ruined my sandals, I still got 5+ years of awesome sandal-age for a measly $35. If you have a newer or more expensive pair of sandals, however, I'd definitely recommending testing this on a small portion of the footbed first. Better yet, you could contact the company to see what cleaning method they recommend.

Sandpaper and patch testing aside, I don't think this is something I would do constantly. It only restores the shoe so much, and I do think it would thin out your footbed over time. But as a yearly upkeep step? It's absolutely doable, especially if you have an old knock-around pair of sandals you love as much as I love these Docs.