Sephora Haul – Beauty Insider Appreciation Sale

~ Sephora Beauty Insider Appreciation Sale ~

Any time I can save some money at Sephora, I get excited. Sephora typically only holds two sales a year, one in November and one in April. However, they are changing up their rewards program and apparently that also means sale time!

As a VIB Rouge Member, aka someone who spends far too much each year, I was eligible for 20% off my entire purchase. Woo hoo! I like to use this opportunity to restock on my favorite items that are running dangerously low as well as grab some pricier items that have been sitting in my wish list.

Check out my YouTube video to see what I purchased during the sale. Don’t forget to “Like” and Subscribe, lol!

Building the Perfect Cheese Plate

~ My ideal dinner ~

This week it was my turn to host our Book Club Group at my house. Book Club…cough, Wine Club, cough… is one of my favorite ways to have some quality girl-only time with some awesome women. You never know what might happen at book club – sometimes we celebrate job changes, weddings, pregnancies, babies – and in this week’s case – engagements. Other times it’s an awesome support group to discuss the tougher, non-glamorous parts of life, but you can always count on great company, food and wine.

I could literally eat cheese plates for every meal for the rest of my life and be happy – not kidding. When they are done right and include all the scrumptious components, there’s just nothing better. (This was just an appetizer, I fed them “real food” for dinner lol). However, there are some key things to pay attention to when preparing your cheese board if you want it to be a real success. Here’s what I included in this particular mix.

So yes, obviously cheese, but what kinds make up a great spread? The key is to have a variety of flavors and textures. You want a range of mild to bold tastes. Just be careful of going all the way to the blue cheese end of the spectrum as those can be too strong for some guests. You can usually attain a variety of flavors if you get cheeses made with different types of milk, ie. goat, cow, sheep etc. And clearly you can feel the hardness or softness of the cheese when you pick it up at the store. Diversity in texture and flavor is the key for a successful spread.

I already had some Brie (top right), which is a nice soft creamy cheese made from cow’s milk with a mild flavor which requires a knife to eat. So when I went shopping, I looked for cheeses that would be good additions to the brie. The cheese in the top left is a salty Manchego which is much firmer in texture. Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese originating in Spain. This is one of my sister’s favorites, so I knew she’d be happy to see it on the plate. Bottom left is a Young Goat Gouda cheese that has a little softer texture than the Manchego and more of an almost sweet buttery flavor. Not at all like the bold goaty chevre that most people associate goat’s milk with. And lastly on the bottom right is a Whiskey White Cheddar made from cow’s milk. I always pick a cheddar of some variation because it’s the most commonly loved cheese so it makes for an easy crowd-pleaser. This is a little more bold than the Goat Gouda with a slight tang. Pro Tip – Where applicable, pre-cut all of your cheese and arrange them in little piles. It keeps your guest from having to do extra work by cutting off pieces themselves and they can just dive in to the food!

Now that the important part has been selected, it’s on to some meats. I’m more of a cured and “toothier” meat person, I don’t really love squishy terrines or pates. So, I went with a Calabrese Salami (above the center), which is a pork infused with Sangiovese wine, cayenne, and paprika as well as a Genoa Salami (below the center), which is pork seasoned with white pepper and garlic. Delicious accompaniment to the cheese.

Now, I don’t typically include this on most arrangements, but we had just been to our local farmers market a few days prior and ran into the No Double Dipping Company. They sell nearly 50 different flavors of  little spice packets that you add into sour cream and mayonnaise to make delicious dip. We picked up 10 so I was dying to make one for the party. I went with the Vermont Maple Bacon flavor which was a great sweet/savory combo and served it with some crisp pretzel sticks (top of photo).

If you are like me, I’m happy just eating cheese straight-up, but most people like some sort of delivery system to the mouth in the form of a cracker or fruit. Plus, if you are going to include a spreadable cheese, you are going to need something to accompany it. I added pear and apple slices around the plate and included a side dish of two types of crackers – a standard thin water cracker and a stiffer sea salt cracker. I like my selection to have neutral flavors so it doesn’t compete with the cheese unless I’ve picked a super mild cheese that could really benefit from a flavored cracker.

For some extra visual and taste appeal, I sprinkled some red grapes and cherry infused Crasins around the plate. Lastly, a ramekin of Castelvetrano Olives – my favorite! Pro Tip – Buy olives without pits if you can. If you cannot, make sure your spread includes an empty ramekin that your guests can use to easily dispose of them. 

Other items I like to use depending on the selections are honey, jams, balsamic glaze and nuts. You can always include bread in place of or in addition to crackers, and of course you could include a multitude of different fruits – think about what might compliment the wine you will be drinking.

~ Takeaway ~ If I spot a cheese/charcuterie board on a restaurant menu, I almost always order it just to see what they include. I’ve definitely found that some are far more spectacular than others. Building a delicious cheese plate is an art, but it can be easily done. If you really take the time to search out a diverse variety of flavors and textures, your cheese spread can look just like a pro’s. And don’t forget the wine!

Power of the Lipstick

~ Petal Pout Lip Colors from Flower Beauty ~

Let’s face it – there are just some days when you don’t feel like (or don’t have the time to) do a full face of glam. In fact, for most of us, that’s probably most days. Realistically on the day-to-day, most of us are concerned with doing a little complexion rescue, looking like we actually have eyes with the help of some mascara, and that’s about it. 

If that’s your look, or some variation thereof, I can tell you there’s a great way to add one thing and fool people in to thinking you actually tried hard and are the ultimate style maven – lipstick. 

I once picked up a friend from the airport verrrry early in the morning. I was expecting to see a tired mess of a buddy, which she probably was, but she surprised the heck out of me looking chic and put together with just some bright red lipstick. No one should look that good coming off a red-eye flight, no one. I’d always been a fan of bold lip color, but she really sold me on the true power and magic of it that day. 

For this reason, I think it’s key to have a type and brand of lip color that you can build a collection of and have on hand to instantly amp up your look when desired. For me, it’s the Petal Pout Lip Color by Flower Beauty. Flower Beauty is a drugstore priced line created by Drew Berrymore. Truly, there are a lot of products in this brand that I adore, but these bullet lipsticks are true love. They have a mix of 24 matte and creme shades – I currently own half of them and it still isn’t enough lol. The color selections are just so perfect, they wear comfortably and for a pretty good length of time, and they are at such a great price you don’t feel bad for buying 12 of them.

~ Takeaway ~ Feeling drab? Add some lipstick. Want to instantly feel more stylish? Add some lipstick. Want to trick people into thinking you tried harder than you did? Add some lipstick. Seriously, try it. Find what type of formulas you prefer and from which brands. Once you find your go-to, stock up on a variety of colors to curate a fast easy collection that can suit any look. 

Seating for Two Please

 ~ The Sunday Drinking Room ~

Raise your hand if there are parts of your home that you truly haven’t used in days, weeks, months…. I think it’s more of us than we might like to admit. At my house, it is just my husband and I and our three kitties, so there’s a lot of space that could potentially go unused around here. Even the cats have their certain go-to hangout spots. As comfortable as we might be in a couple rooms of the house, it’s a crime to have space that you don’t use. 

This is why we’ve deemed our front living room “The Sunday Drinking Room”. I did a little renovation and redecoration to this area of our home a while back after which my husband commented sarcastically: “Wow, maybe we should actually sit in here now”. But in a way he was right. We really didn’t use this room very often – usually only for entertaining as it is adjacent our dining room. But when it was just the two of us, we always defaulted to other parts of our home. 

As we were sitting in these chairs, enjoying the completed renovation of this space (and a cocktail), we decided it should forever be our cozy new part of the house to sit and enjoy some time and a beverage together. So on any given Sunday, take a peek through the front window and this is where we might be – wine glass in hand and a kitty on the lap!

~ Takeaway ~ It’s your house, so use it! Don’t let any areas of your home go to waste. If there’s a room you never go in, ask yourself why. Change up your space to give that spot a purpose – something that is going to make you excited to enjoy it. Cheers!

Truth, Transform & Nurture

~ My absolute favorite skincare products from Ole Henriksen ~

Taking good care of your skin is an absolute must, I think we all know this. But what is the best skincare out there? When should you splurge and what actually works? Which brands make the best products? Of course that all depends on your skin type and what you are looking for, but here are some products from the Ole Henriksen line that hit the top of my list.

The Face the Truth Gel Cleanser lives in my shower. As soon as I’m done with a workout, I can jump in and use this baby with my Clairsonic to make sure I get any sweat blocked pores cleared out. Pro Tip: Just remember to always turn down the water temp when washing your face in the shower – hot hot water can dry out your skin! This has a great energizing citrus scent and contains grape seed oil which helps cleanse and soften the skin.

On days when I want a little extra face fun, I’ll start with either the Transforming Walnut Scrub or the Transforming Almond Facial Polish (looks like maybe the almond one is now only sold as part of their 3-step Power Peel set.) These both have a pretty gritty consistency and work as a physical exfoliators to work off some of the dry texture and dead skin cells on the face.

After rinsing, I slather on a layer of the Instant Transformation Lemon Facial Peel. This is literally one of my favorite skincare items from any brand. It contains glycolic and lactic acids which go to work on any skin discoloration. As a person who has quite a bit of melasma, this product is a life changer. I’ve gotten my skin pretty used to acids, so I leave the Lemon Peel on for longer than the 10 min. recommended time. After rinsing off, I can see a noticeable brightness and reduction of the dark spots. My skin instantly looks better and that is why I love this product!

Then I’ll apply their best selling Truth Serum which has vitamin C which helps brighten as well as firms and supposedly fights wrinkles. I’m not sure I can speak to any change in wrinkles from any product I use – if you ask me Botox is the only thing that truly helps in that department (wink) – but I do think this helps with evening out the skin tone.

Lastly, the Nurture Me Moisturizing Creme….(sigh). If you haven’t smelled this product, I don’t know what you are doing with your life! It is the scent of the best fruit smoothie in the world. It is literally the most delicious smelling lotion and is a delight to put on your face. Besides smelling wonderful, it is the perfect medium weight creme where it actually moisturizes all day but does absorb into the skin and isn’t greasy. It has a variety of vitamins designed to nourish and soothe the skin. 

~ Takeaway ~ If you are looking for a line of great skincare products, I definitely recommend checking out Ole Henriksen. They have so many products available to help you with whatever your specific needs are. These are just the ones I like best for my dry and age-spotty skin. It is important to take the time and really pamper your skin. Not only is it fun, but you’ll thank yourself when you start to see results and in my opinion, these products truly do the trick!

Capri Blue Candle Haul

~ Finishing out the season with some delightful Summer fragrances ~

If you’ve ever shopped in an Anthropology store, then you’ve definitely had the pleasure of experiencing the power of Capri Blue Candles. Part of the Anthro experience is the pleasant aroma that hits you as soon as you enter the shop and envelops you all the way back to the sale rack. They are almost always burning the infamous Volcano candle by Capri Blue. Definitely one of my favorite store environments and I think this is why! It is so cozy and inviting – it feels more like your are in someone’s home as opposed to a mall.

Capri Blue have been making candles for 20 years with the intention of: “where fashion meets fragrance”.  They sell all of their candle fragrances in a wide variety of sizes and in a multitude of designer containers so you can match your candle to the style of your space – genius! The containers are so beautiful and they are intended to be reused – a planter, makeup brush holder, snack dish, whatever you can imagine. The candles are made of mostly soy wax with the addition of some paraffin to achieve a longer burn time and more fragrant quality.

Volcano is definitely their most beloved and most used scents. You’ve most likely smelled this somewhere even if you weren’t aware of it. “With its familiar feel and cult following, Volcano is the perfect blend of citrus and sugar notes. Like the excitement and energy of a summer night rendezvous, this fragrance is simply unforgettable.” I had just happened to come across a Volcano jar in my home the other day and it inspired me to hop online and order some of their other scents so I could enjoy some of their Summery aromas through the tail end of the season before everything switches over to Fall vibes.

Here’s what I purchased and their fragrance notes according to Capri Blue:
Paris – White tea, ginger, violets, vanilla
Lola Blossom – Sweet orange, lemon mist, gardenia
Cactus Flower – Peonies, peach, cactus flower
Volcano (couldn’t resist picking up another) – Tropical fruits, sugared citrus
Pomegranate Citrus – Grapefruit, pomegranate, rose
Coconut Santal – Flowering hibiscus, lime, coconut, amber

~ Takeaway ~ If I’m spending any considerable amount of time in a room, I need it to have an actively burning candle in it. It is just so important for a space to not only appeal to your eyes, but to your nose as well. Candles provide an added level of personality to a space when their aroma fills the air. Double bonus with Capri Blue – you also get a stunning looking candle that fits seamlessly into your decor because of their multitude of jar options. And if you love the Anthropology feel, do yourself a favor and pick up a Volcano candle – guaranteed you will love it!

Getting started – setting up my YouTube equipment

Obviously when starting out on a “Social Media Content Creator” path, technology plays a HUGE part in getting ready to do your thing. I’ve spent countless hours researching, watching videos, checking out reviews, comparing products, and seeing what my favorite YouTubers use in their setups. It is a daunting and confusing task as there are so many options out there and just as you think you’ve settled on the right product, you catch one negative review of it or see an even more tempting deal and suddenly you’ve started all over (sigh).

One of my main goals with my content is to help you shop by saving you the time and hassle of this process described above. While I have more beauty/home/style products in mind for my channel & blog, perhaps some of you could find use in seeing my behind-the-scenes technology setup. Whether you are wanting to become a content creator as well, or if you just might be looking to get some upgraded items to photo/video your adorable children and pets, here’s what I’ve found!

All of these items are currently en route to me so I want to tell you what I discovered through my research that made me lay down the credit card for these items and then I will do a follow up blog after a month or so of actually using them. That way we can find out together if they stand up to what I am expecting (fingers crossed).

After hunting around to learn about the basic setups being used by my most beloved YouTubers I came up with this basic list of necessary items I wanted to purchase: Camera that takes video and still pictures, ring light, softbox lights, an an external microphone. 

Since I am committing to hit the pavement hard and shoot for this being a full-time job for myself as opposed to a casual hobby, I knew I wanted to find items that were a little more serious and a little more high-end so that I can come right out the gate with great quality videos/photos.

One of the YouTubers I used to really get a better sense of the right camera for me is Think Media. He has a lot of videos discussing pros and cons of different types of camera setups specifically for YouTubers as well as very detailed videos comparing two or three makes/models of cameras.

I immediately honed in on Canon Cameras because of their Dual Pixel Autofocus System and face/eye tracking features so at least I had one brand that I was set on researching. After reading and watching a TON of info, I ended up selecting the Canon EOS M50. It is an interchangeable lens camera with infinite settings and adjustments to manually create the exact look you want, as well as automated default settings while you are a beginner. It is a lot lighter and more compact than some other models so it will be able to be used as a vlogging camera as well as being used on a tripod – a lot of YouTubers I watch use two separate cameras. It has a full flip-out rotating screen/monitor which is perfect for selfies and vlogging. It has wi-fi/bluetooth capabilities which also means you can control the settings directly from your phone. It records in full HD as well as even 4k (although not deemed perfect in this mode yet). I also wanted to make sure it was compatible with an external microphone, had a decent battery life as well as record time. I found a great bundle on Amazon that included the camera, the recommended 15-45mm kit lens, vlogging tripod, full standing tripod, a bunch of filters, and cleaning/protection accessories. Now the hard part was over, I could more quickly decide on my accessories.

Next was the ring light, a necessity for the videos I need to create – up close portrait style for beauty reviews/tutorials and just talking/teaching to the camera. I selected the 14″ model from Neewer on Amazon. I was interested in one with LED light source for bulb longevity that would also be fully dimmable to control the amount of light as well as having warm and white diffusers to control the color temperature. This comes with an adjustable angle stand and a hot shoe adapter where you can mount your camera or phone directly in the center of the ring. It also has a wireless remote that can control the settings from afar. 

I wanted some supplemental lighting that could be used for the more close-up videos but could also be positioned to light up room scenes when making home design/decor videos/photos. I went with this set of 2 Softbox Lights by LimoStudio on Amazon. They are nice and big – 24″ x 24″, come with stands and a carrying case, use daylight neutral toned compact fluorescent bulbs, and have white fabric diffusers to soften the light source.

Last stop was to grab an external microphone to ensure better sound quality. This mic from Takstar on Amazon was a very inexpensive option that can attach to my Canon camera easily and should greatly improve the clarity of sound on my videos without breaking the bank or being overly complex for what I need.

~ Takeaway ~ So there you have it, the four main camera/lighting equipment pieces I am starting off this journey with. After I put everything into action, I’ll revisit and review my own thoughts on how it is all working for me. I did choose to purchase everything from Amazon because they have amazing customer service/returns in case anything comes broken or missing or just isn’t what I expected. I also don’t have to wait very long for it to be delivered, so the fun will begin soon!

Handmade Seasonal Wreath

~ My DIY Spring/Summer Door Wreath ~

I love a good craft and I love some seasonal decor. Put it all together and what do you get? A fun seasonal wreath for your front door of course! Lol. I had seen so many awesome designs on Pinterest – black hole of DIY inspiration – and I knew this was one I could easily conquer myself. After a quick trip to Michaels and JoAnns – don’t forget your coupons! – I had all the supplies necessary to make this piece.

I simply bought a plain circular wreath made of branches – this one happens to be painted in a dark blue hue which I thought was an interesting alternative to your typical brown look. Then I picked out a variety of fake floral bushels all in white/cream/and green tones. Lastly, I hunted down a thick cardboard “hello” sign that I spray painted gold.

I dismantled all the floral components with wire cutters and laid them out along the edge of the wreath. Once happy with my starting layout, I used a glue gun to affix them to the wreath and filled in with additional foliage here and there until it was lush and full. I enjoyed the look of some of the sprigs of greenery extending off the borders of the circle – a little whimsy (wink). Fun fact – the “hello” sign is just nestled into the branches as opposed to being permanently glued so I can use it again when I swap it out for my Fall wreath – stay tuned for the reveal of this beauty once it finally becomes Autumn! 

I have a little clear zip tie that loops around some of the branches from the back so that it can hang from a 3M hook I stuck to our front door. This makes it easy to change up as you move through the seasons.

~ Takeaway ~ Making a wreath is one of the easiest and most foolproof crafts you can do to entertain yourself for a couple hours and have a usable end result for your home. Decorating your home for the corresponding season is one of my favorite ways to personalize and stylize your environment. It really helps you embrace the season and get excited about all of the unique aspects of that particular time of year. Is it Fall yet?!?!?!

J’adore Paris!

~ Our perfume souvenirs from Parle Moi De Parfum, Paris ~

Anytime I go on vacation, I’m on the hunt for an awesome, unique souvenir that I can remember my trip by. While I’d love to bring home some art or decor pieces for the house, things like jewelry are usually easier and more convenient to pack in a suitcase, so that’s typically what I end up purchasing. 

On our recent trip to Paris in July, we stayed in Le Marais District which was an endless supply of amazing shops and restaurants on every street. We literally could have just hung out in that neighborhood the entire trip and been happy as clams.

I’d spotted this cool looking Perfumerie as we were dragging our luggage from the parking garage down the street in search of our hotel and made a mental note to stop by once we’d settled in. Near the end of our trip we finally made it in on the way to a wine tasting event. We were helped by the sweetest young ladies working the store who patiently showcased all of the perfumes and told the story of the brand.

Here’s a snippet from their website: Parle Moi de Parfum is all about family. Benjamin Almairac grew up with stories about perfume that his father brought home from work. He dreamt of creating a venue right in the centre of Paris where the public could discover the finest fragrances that Michel Almairac had always dreamed of creating and staging.”

Michel Almairac is a world famous perfume designer who has formulated dozens of best-selling scents for big global brands such as Burberry, Gucci, Chloe, Joop!, and Escada. The man knows what smells good, that’s for sure!

After explaining that I am mostly drawn towards fresh, citrusy type scents as well as vanilla, I was shown a handful of selections they thought I’d enjoy most…problem being I actually loved them all! Normally with any line of scented products, I only am drawn to one or two and the rest are completely wrong for my taste. However, at Parle Moi de Parfum I felt like it was a collection of fragrances that were literally curated specifically for me! 

I narrowed it down to the Guimauve de Noel which is described as: “orange blossom and vanilla-scented sugar offer an instant of respite, of letting go, of tender and reassuring memories.” and the Flavia Vanilla which is described as: “a dark and sugary vanilla. Sweet, fascinating and totally seductive.” I decided to have her spray me down with the Guimauve de Noel so I could take it on a test drive while we hit up our wine tasting. It’s always important to see how your body’s chemistry interacts with a perfume before making the purchase!

After our amazing wine and cheese experience, I was sold with how the perfume was wearing so we made our way back to the shop and I signed up to buy the Guimauve de Noel. I think my husband started feeling a little jealous with my awesome purchase, so he decided to select his own fragrance to take home.

Many of their scents are unisex formulas including the Tomboy Neroli which is what he ended up selecting. It is described as: “a novel creation starring orange blossom. Neroli and amber notes give this fragrance a careless sophistication that boys and girls adopt with the same ease.” I was super happy he went with this one as I can steal it and wear it as well. We also brought home their Discovery Set which has little testers of all their current scents just so I can continue to enjoy all of their aromas. Let’s be straight, I’m most likely going to online order some additional creations to add to my collection!

~Takeaway~ When on vacation, always keep your eyes peeled for one-of-a-kind, hand-made, or specialized items that you couldn’t get at home. While a light-up key chain of the Eiffel Tower is fun, I’d much rather walk away with something a little luxe for my daily life that will instantly remind me of the vacation I so much enjoyed. Smell is one of our most powerful senses when it comes to recalling memories – every time I smell this perfume I am taken right back to our time in Paris and that is the best souvenir possible!

Labradorite Pendant

~ Gorgeous Labradorite Pendant by Love Harper Boutique ~

This summer, Cherry Creek Shopping Center opened up an exciting new concept called The District Shops. What was previously a two-story Bed Bath & Beyond has been renovated into a market-style shopping experience consisting of local Colorado small retailers and artisans each with their own little vignettes filled with their specialized merchandise. Here’s the description they list on their website: “From all the latest fashions to one-of-a kind-finds, you won’t be disappointed. Showcasing vintage, clothing, jewelry, home decor, bath and body, pottery, pre-packaged foods and so, so, so much more! The District Shops in Cherry Creek has it all!”

I stopped by during a day of shopping with one of my girlfriends and was definitely impressed with what they had to offer. If farmhouse style decor floats your boat, there were a lot of “Joanna Gaines” inspired vendors. A lot of hand-made jewelry designers which I’m always drawn to, along with women’s clothing shops, candles/body scrubs/lotion type stores, and a small handful of honeys/jams/hot sauce type sellers.

My favorite stop of the day was at Love Harper Boutique – a local Colorado jewelry designer. Here’s how she describes her style: “Love Harper is a glitter dipped boutique with a bohemian feminine vibe. My mission to for you to feel how I would imagine MOST woman would want to feel- not only comfortable but beautiful, strong but feminine, and confident like your alter ego 😉 ….all while NOT breaking the bank.” – LOVE THIS!

I picked up this gorgeous triangular labradorite pendant with a very unique gold chain for $29. If you are a believer in the transformative power of crystals/stones, (I personally know nothing about this but looked it up once the woman at the check-out stand was really excited over the fact this was labradorite), then you may be curious to know that it is said to be excellent for awakening one’s own awareness of inner spirit, intuition and psychic abilities… I just loved the look of this blue-green-grey stone and didn’t have anything like this in my collection! 

~ Takeaway ~ The District Shops is a pretty great place to pick up some special pieces, perfect for finding a gift for someone special, and a very cool way for small, local business to be seen and supported. Love Harper Boutique has some awesome jewelry designs – see her instagram to explore what she’s all about!