Bring it on, summer.

Summers in Chicago are not the greatest. We really go from one end of the weather spectrum to the other here! I’m doing everything I can to prepare for the miserable, muggy days that surely lie ahead, so that I can relax and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

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I wanted a matte, tinted sunscreen for beach days {or any other time I don’t want a full face of makeup}. I went with COOLA’s Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face {find it here}, because I had sampled it in a previous Birchbox and fell in love. It’s got a great, mousse-like texture, and blends like a dream. And it’s super lightweight–I can barely feel it on my face.

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For days I do wear makeup, though {which are most days}, I knew I needed a good base. I’ve been between primers lately, and hadn’t found one that I was crazy about. I’ve been curious about OC8 Professional Mattifying Gel {found here}, so I added it to my cart! So far, I love it. I apply it after moisturizer and sunscreen, and before my foundation. It dries to a matte finish {duh} and helps my face stay shine-free all day. Of course, when the sun is beating down on me, I sweat.. but once that dries or evaporates or whatever, my face is still matte. It’s great! I might even go so far as to say miracle product?

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Last but not least, I grabbed a new setting powder. My NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder was nearly gone, and to be honest–I wasn’t a huge fan of it, anyways. I know, I know…who am I to say anything less than positive about a product created by Francois Nars? But it just didn’t do it for me. I actually ended up using an Exacto knife to pry the pan out of the compact, and it was the perfect space to fit some bobby pins! All about repurposing. But anyways, I digress. I chose Dermablend Professional Loose Setting Powder. It’s wonderful! A super fine texture, and very light. It comes with a fluffball of an applicator, which I used a few times then tossed in favor of a big, fluffy powder brush. I was worried that my face would be too matte {my foundation has a matte finish as well} but I think it looks just fine. The Dermablend is great for touch ups, too. Get it here!

All right, Chicago summer. Bring it on! I’m more than ready for ya.

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Big News!

Last week, the formerly-what-I-thought-was-impossible happened. That’s right… after roughly fourteen months of job searching {and thirteen months since I graduated}, I was offered a job! It’s been a full week since the offer was extended to me, and I can still barely believe it. I accepted immediately, natch!

My new job is at a small startup called Blitsy. It’s basically a DIY-er’s dream: a Gilt or Rue La La for crafters. They offer brief flash sales on varying craft supplies–it’s so cool and unique. Check out their website here.

I’m so thrilled, because I first interviewed at Blitsy in October and completely fell in love with the company. Unfortunately, they restructured as I was in the process of interviewing, and the position I was being considered for vanished. I was bummed–it was my first major rejection for a job I really wanted. But–power of persistence here, people–I kept at it. I applied for a different position in January that had unfortunately already been filled by the time I reached out, but for some reason I felt totally welcome to keep emailing my contact there. I had no idea if they would ever have a position that was right for me or not, but I wanted to stay on their radar! I touched base with the CEO once more two weeks ago, and was invited in for a refresher of an interview. I was told ahead of time that the role I would fill wasn’t really open yet…they had a lot of major hiring to do before they could consider hiring me. But by the end of the meeting, I had an official offer! I was totally stunned.

My chase of a position at Blitsy was partly inspired by an article on Forbes that I cannot for the LIFE of me find anymore. My boyfriend’s college roommate sent it to me months ago, and it really helped! It suggested dialing back the job search for a while and really truly reevaluating what you’re looking for. In essence, stop mindlessly submitting your resume for anything that you could do, and apply for jobs that you want to do. What are your passions? What do you enjoy doing? Where do your talents lie? Take those answers and funnel them into your job search. As soon as I started tailoring my search to positions that better suited my personality and experiences, I got way more interviews and went further and further in the process each time.

Until Blitsy, though, the positions I were applying for didn’t match my own personal passions. Clearly, I’m obsessed with beauty and makeup. There aren’t many job opportunities in those areas in the fine city of Chicago {besides the weather, it’s only major downfall in my opinion}. However, I do also have a soft spot for anything crafty. I’ve always been like that–I just haven’t had the time/energy to take on any major projects since I moved to Chicago. But the thought of working at Blitsy got me so excited to dive back into the crafting and DIY world!

So, I’m excited to announce that I will be adding a DIY section to my blog, alongside the typical product reviews and wishlists! I’m not sure what my first project will be, but I do know that I’ve been planning on re-doing my dresser for quite a while {just a simple paint job and replacing the pulls}.. maybe that! I also ordered some supplies from Blitsy to make my own version of an Aurelie Bidermann bracelet, which I first saw here on Stripes & Sequins. Speaking of S&S…Grace Atwood’s many DIY projects are a huge source of inspiration for me, as well as the girls over at PS–I Made This…, and Emily at Cupcakes & Cashmere. I can’t wait to start DIY-ing again!

Amazonian Obsession

I found my new favorite makeup item in the WORLD last week.

I had found myself in a situation the other day where I was without my makeup bag and was borrowing someone else’s makeup. Normally not my ideal situation: What if their foundation doesn’t match my skin tone? What if I’m allergic to their mascara? But I was desperate. And holy moly, good thing I let my guard down, because I found an absolute gem in the form of Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation. O. M. G.

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You may be aware that I’d kicked foundation to the curb {temporarily, anyways} a few weeks ago after trying Benefit’s Big Easy. It felt nicer on my face, etc. etc. but I did miss the full coverage and airbrushed finish that foundation lends to my skin. BB cream is good and lets your natural glow through, but sometimes I like an artificial glow! And that is what I found with this foundation. I applied very little of it and blended with a huge fluffy brush, and I was stunned! It blends soo easily and doesn’t cake on at all. Best of all? It’s long lasting.

I picked mine up at Sephora, and have been applying it with this brush {yes, I know it says it’s for mineral powder application. But a Sephora employee used it to do a foundation demo on me, and I love using it!}. It’s basically a smaller-scale version of the Tarte brush made to go with this foundation. {I desperately want the brush, since that was what I first applied it with–but it’s expensive! I’ll have to wait for my next paycheck ;)}

Underneath, I’ve been using OC8 Professional Mattifying Gel and always always always some form of sunscreen. I’ve been switching it up a bit, trying different samples to see what I like. I didn’t have much success layering SuperGoop! City Sunscreen Serum underneath my makeup, which was disappointing; I held onto the sample, though, and apply it on a bare face with normal results. I also like using CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 as a primer–my sample is about to run out, but I think I might purchase the full size.

Magic Moisture

I just wanted to quickly share with everyone this moisturizer I recently fell in love with! It is amazeballs, and was hiding in my bathroom cabinet all this time {it actually belongs to my roommate, but I bought my own upon realizing how well it works}.

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It’s nothing fancy, just good old Ponds Dry Skin Cream! Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been battling some major dry patches on either side of my nose {so annoying–I don’t know why they’re even there, it’s not exactly cold outside anymore} and was at the end of my rope. None of my current moisturizers, creams, or gels was getting rid of them. In a moment of desperation, I reached for the little pot on the top shelf of the cabinet, knowing full well that it did not belong to me but only needing a tiny dab. When I woke up in the morning, my skin was smooth and hydrated. No signs of the dry patches. Amazing. Oh my God, you guys, and it is SO inexpensive! It smells weird, like old lady, but I’m more than willing to put that aside for the sake of a fresh face that doesn’t flake off when I put foundation on. Get it here!

May Birchbox

Finally here! I get so antsy waiting for my Birchbox to arrive each month–especially because my roommate and sister both seem to get theirs so much sooner than mine! This month’s box was interesting…at first I was overwhelmed by my samples {there were 7!}, then underwhelmed {some of the stuff came in ugly packaging and looked vaguely medicinal}, then overwhelmed again! There was a lot to try this month, and I’ve got mostly positive reviews for it all!

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{1} CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40–Something about this packaging turned me off in a major way. The bright blue, white, and red box made me think of something I would find on a drugstore shelf…something medicated. Yuck! I tried it, anyways, since it seems like a version of the COOLA matte-finish tinted sunscreen I’m due to receive any day now. I was pleasantly surprised! It’s got that mousse consistency that I love, and a little goes a long way. It blends easily and has decent coverage. I wore this out yesterday on my long walk outside, and when I got home my skin still looked great. Full size price: $20. Will I purchase? Yes, I think so!

{2} Marcelle New Age 8 in 1 Power Serum–I’ve heard rave reviews about the Marcelle BB Cream, so my curiosity was piqued when I saw this in my box. It’s a serum with–as you can see–8 benefits in one. The paraben- and fragrance-free formula boosts collagen production to increase elasticity, moisturizes and hydrates skin, smooth lines, firm, lift, and strengthen skin, as well as increasing your natural glow and overall improving texture! What more could you want from a beauty product? I love a good multitasker like this one. I’ve been using it in place of my moisturizer, morning and night. Full size price: $34. Will I purchase? If I continue to get good results from the sample, then yes, I think I will!

{3} 32 Oral Care Effervescent Breath Crystals with IsoVoxy–Ehhhhhh, these things were weird. They’re basically grown-up PopRocks that leave your mouth tingling and minty. Personally, I’d rather stick to gum or mints–but these were fun to try! Full size price: $14.75 for 30. Will I purchase? Probably not.

{4} PIXI Beauty Shea Butter Lip Balm–I really, really liked this! My sample was Pixi Pink, which is a very bright pink. I always enjoy brightly colored lip products, though, so this one didn’t scare me! The formula is that of a lip balm, but with the payoff of a lipstick. It’s sheer but super buildable, and doesn’t dry my lips out. And it smells yummy too–like the inside of Oberweis! Full size price: $8. Will I purchase? Possibly! I think they carry this brand at Target, so I’d be interested in checking out some of the other colors they offer, as well as other products in the line!

{5-7} Nexxus Color Assure Trio: Pre-Wash Primer & Vibrancy Retention Shampoo and Conditioner–I’ll be honest–I haven’t tried the primer yet. I colored my hair about a month ago, so I don’t really see the point in trying to preserve it now. I’m saving it for then I get it done next! I’m thinking about darkening my roots even more so my current subtle ombre becomes less subtle. I’ll definitely need the primer then! As for the shampoo/conditioner–I don’t really get the hype about color-protecting shampoo and conditioner. My hair always seems fine whether I use it or not. To me, this was just an ordinary shampoo and conditioner {in cute packaging}. It ended up falling somewhere in that gray area between like and dislike. Full size price: Primer, $17.99; Shampoo, $11.99; Conditioner, $14.99. Will I purchase? Definitely not the shampoo or conditioner. Maybe the primer, but I need to take it for a test run first!

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Aside from samples, I also received a super-cute Kate Spade Saturday necklace in my May Birchbox! {Disclosure: I had to preorder it ahead of time, and it was $20.} It’s long, with a gold sliding mirror disk on it! I love it so much. You can buy it through Birchbox here. It’s retailing for $45 online, so I’m glad I was able to get it for only $20!

DIY Frank Coffee Scrub

Have you met Frank? Frank is a supposed miracle worker of a coffee scrub, designed to battle cellulite and banish dry skin. Every single review of it I’ve read is absolutely glowing; and it helps that the brand itself is so cheeky and fun. I first heard about it on my favorite blog, Stripes & Sequins. I zipped to their website, ready to purchase. At $15-$18 a pop for 7 oz, however, I took pause. It’s really not that expensive, but after checking out the ingredients, I realized I could probably make my own Frank. As of right now, there are two variations of Frank you can buy. There’s the original: containing sweet almond oil, orange essence, brown sugar, sea salt, and–you guess it–ground Arabica coffee beans; and there’s the Coconut & Grapeseed version, containing much of the same as the first scrub, but grapeseed and coconut oils to moisturize and coconut flakes and jojoba beads to exfoliate. Not exactly rocket science to duplicate. The wheels started turning, and I came up with a recipe that seems to encompass the best of both scrubs.

Homemade Frank Coffee Scrub

Ingredients:

1 cup ground coffee, to target cellulite, dry skin, acne, stretch marks, firm skin, etc.
1/2 cup sugar, to exfoliate and smooth
1/2 cup sea salt, to also exfoliate and smooth
A health sprinkle cinnamon, to promote circulation and blood flow to the skin
A drizzle of melted coconut oil to bind the other ingredients together and add a moisturizing agent {I probably used a few teaspoons, but I wasn’t really measuring–it’s okay to eyeball!}

Instructions:

Easy as can be–just blend them together, and store in an airtight jar or container!

This mix can easily be doubled, or tripled! I imagine if you store it in a sealed container, it will last quite a long time. That was another caveat I had with the original Frank product–it comes in a paper bag. So easy to spill, or accidentally let moisture into! I like a jar so much better.

I picked up a bag of medium-roast coffee grounds at Trader Joe’s for less than $9. The coconut oil, sea salt, and cinnamon I already had; and the sugar cost me $3.49 for 24 oz. Total expenditure: ~14.00. About the same as one bag of original Frank. BUT. How much scrub did those ingredients yield? Far, far more than 7 measly ounces! I stored my first batch in an old {and well-cleaned} 24 oz pasta sauce jar, and it was filled almost to the top.

But does it work?

I say yes! The scrub is wonderfully gritty and you can really feel it smoothing your skin. My elbows are always so dry, and a few days after using this scrub, they still feel smooth and silky. It’s probably too harsh to use more than once a week or so, and I definitely wouldn’t put this on my face. It has yet to cure my cellulite, but that’s okay 😉

Drugstore Gems

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m a bit of a beauty snob. The majority of my makeup now comes from elite retailers, such as Sephora, Birchbox.com, and the right-hand side of Ulta. Same for my hair and skincare products. But seriously, there are some major finds lurking inside your corner Walgreens. I’m not talking about the ones with makeup boutiques within them {like this one}, either. Lately, I’ve tried to reduce my snootiness and open my mind to trying out some drugstore beauty products every once in a while. They are often insanely cheap, after all. Even the “fancy” brands, like Revlon and L’Oreal, are half the price of what you’d find at Sephora. I rounded up a bunch of my latest finds, and tell you which ones are worth it to purchase and which ones to pass on!

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Ban Total Refresh Cooling Body Cloths–These are awesome for those days that you oversleep or can’t make it to the shower after an early-morning workout. They smell fresh, and the towelettes are thick. Your skin dries quickly, and with a silky finish. I love these for a quick wipe-down when I’m feeling not-so-fresh. Basically dry shampoo for your body, in a wipe form!  $2.99 at Target.

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil–I switched to a cleansing oil at the suggestion of a friend, and I’m so glad I did! This oil dissolves facial and eye makeup, and doesn’t dry your skin out at all. You apply a few pumps to your dry face {make sure your hands are dry too} and massage it into your skin for a few seconds. Then add a bit of water to your hands so it emulsifies, and continue rubbing. Rinse off and revel at the baby-softness of your skin. $5.99 at Target.

Rimmel Eyebrow Pencil in Hazel–I’m an avid user of Benefit’s Gimme Brow, but sometime the gel doesn’t cut it. I have a couple bare patches in my brow that require a little extra attention. My Anastasia eyebrow pencil finally ran out {after over two years of use!}, and I was looking for something to use in the interim. I picked this up at Walgreens, thinking for the low price, it didn’t really matter if I didn’t like it! Luckily for me, it’s a great eyebrow pencil. The color matches perfectly, and it only takes a few, gentle strokes to fill in the sparse spots in my brows. The only downside is the weird brush attached to the cap–it’s almost too big and bulky to use on your eyebrows, so I’ve stuck with the tiny spoolie brush attached to my Anastasia pencil {which I have yet to throw away, despite its emptiness}. $3.79 at Walgreens.

CoverGirl TruMagic Skin Perfector–This product is interesting. That’s the only way I could come up with to describe it. It’s a strange balm that you apply with a small compact sponge, and it mattifies your skin. I struggled with how to use it, at first–it’s easy to get too much on that sponge! I started out applying it on top of my foundation to achieve the matte, flawless look it promises, but my makeup rubbed off on the sponge. So then I tried it in lieu of a primer–better results, but it just feels weird. It makes my skin feel sort of dry and silky, but not in a good way? I don’t know, this is probably the most confusing review ever. I’m going to continue giving it a chance, but this is definitely a very odd product. $11.49 at Walgreens.

Yes To Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Towelettes–I bought these thinking that maybe I needed a product designed to remove my facial makeup before I washed my face. I’ve never used makeup remover towelettes before, and I probably won’t be purchasing these wipes again. First of all, the package says hypoallergenic, which is why I selected it. My skin can be very sensitive, especially on either side of my nose, and is irritated very easily. These wipes make that area burn a little, and causes redness. Also {and this could be due to the fact that I never use facial wipes}, I just don’t like how they make my face shiny and sticky. I’m annoyed just thinking about it. Even though I wash my face seconds later, it drives me crazy. These might be good for some people, but I will be eliminating them from my routine. $6.49 at CVS.

CoverGirl Bombshell Intensity Liquid Liner–I’m not a frequent user of liquid liner, but I’m experienced enough to know when I’ve got something good on my hands. This is a wonderful little liner. I say little–it really is tiny! It fits so easily in your hand, and the cap screws on and off to avoid any leakage mishaps. The felt tip is flexible but not too floppy and not too stiff–perfect for creating an easy, flawless swoop. $8.99 at Walgreens.

Maybelline Master Glaze Glisten Blush Stick in Pink Fever and Just-Pinched Pink–I don’t usually spend too much time, energy, or money on blush. I just don’t see the point. Every now and then, though, I find my curiosity gets the better of me. I picked these two hues up at Target a few weeks ago, and have had a positive experience thus far! They’re smooth, creamy sticks of color; they glide onto your cheeks and blend to an impossibly silky finish. I’ve been favoring the paler of the two, but even the bright pink looks natural once applied. I may have been converted. $7.99 at Target.

Rimmel Fix & Perfect Pro Primer–This primer has just been an inexpensive stand-in for some of the other, more expensive primers I’ve used. I have yet to find one that I LOVED, so in between trying new ones {and trying to save a buck or two}, I picked this guy up. My review: meh. It’s not good, not bad. Nothing special. I’ll continue to use it until I find my Primer Prince Charming, but it’s nothing I’m over the moon about. $8.79 at Walgreens.

Essie Nail Polish in Madison Ave-Hue–The way I feel about Essie polishes is reminiscent to me of the way the boys in my fifth grade class used to feel about Pokémon. Gotta catch em all! I can’t believe I actually just used that line. But it’s true! I will never tire of collecting new Essie shades. I picked up Madison Ave-Hue, because I felt my collection was lacking some bright pinks. {I slightly overdid it with the nude variation this fall/winter.} My favorite Essie pink is Mod Square, and this looked similar but different enough that I wanted it immediately. It’s a hot pink with a very faint silvery shimmer {more noticeable in the bottle than on your nails}. I applied it to my toenails and noted that it dries to a darker finish than it looks in the bottle, but that’s okay. It’s very pretty! And now my feet are summer-ready! $8.50 at CVS.