31 December 2014

Hey, here's a thing!

Cheers to the final day of 2014. To be perfectly honest, I can barely remember what happened this year (I keep blurring 2013 and 2014 together into one big super-year) but I know it was both good and bad and unfortunately it's mostly the bad that I remember.

But now is not the time to focus on the negative. 2015 is guaranteed to be better for a number of reasons, so there's that.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

13 August 2014

Almost as Good as the Real Thing

Today's weather is not so great - it's already chucking it down with rain outside and it's supposed to do that for pretty much the rest of the day. Waaah.

Before I left for work this morning, I spritzed myself with a couple sprays of sunscreen - obviously not because of the weather but because I really like the scent. It reminds me of sunny days off and since today is the exact opposite of that, I thought it might be a good mood booster...

Nothing fancy, just basic Target brand spray sunscreen, but it works really well and smells amazing.
 ...which got me thinking about fragrances and wondering if anyone out there makes a sunscreen-scented perfume. Surely Demeter or someone else must?

A quick Google search reminded me about CB I Hate Perfume, who makes a fragrance called "At The Beach 1966" and describes it as:
The prime note in this scent is Coppertone 1967 blended with a new accord I created especially for this perfume – North Atlantic. The base of the scent contains a bit of Wet Sand, Seashell, Driftwood and just a hint of Boardwalk. The effect when you wear At The Beach 1966 is as if you've been swimming all day in the ocean.
 Um, yes please.

A couple years ago Amy and I bought a few of their 2ml sample sizes. I got "M4 A Room With A View" -
This perfume captures the scent of the hills above Florence - the vineyards, the wild grass, the finocchio, the hot dusty Florentine earth. And of course a torrent of Violets...
- and it smells exactly like that. It's got some sort of Harry Potter-level scent magic going on, so I can only imagine that the sunscreen-y, beachy smelling one delivers as promised as well. I've got to try it.

09 January 2014

Coconut Oil for Beauty

I know I've professed my love for skin oils here before, and the love is still going strong. It looks like I'm not the only one in love with them! They're all over the place and this even popped into my inbox today - http://www.sephora.com/oils

Oils are the best. I still love lotions and creams, but there's something really indulgent and satisfying about using oils, like you're bypassing the middle man and just going straight to the elements that count.

Beauty oils can sometimes be a bit pricey. In an attempt to find a less expensive solution with fewer ingredients (just one ingredient, actually!) I decided to try out everyone's new BFF, coconut oil.

I stopped by Trader Joe's and bought a 16oz jar for $5.99. Compare that amount and price to the other oils I use and love:
  • Desert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil - $13.99 for 4oz ($15.99 for organic)
  • Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Usage Dry Oil - $45.00 for 3.3oz
  • Caudalie Divine Oil - $49.00 for 3.4oz
  • Josie Maran 100 percent Pure Argan Oil - $96.00 for 4.0oz
Clearly the coconut oil is quite a steal!

My experiences so far:

Hair masque/moisturizer This was what I was most excited to try. My hair has been so dry and tangle-y lately that it's actually been hard to get a comb through it. I trimmed the ends quite a bit and since oils have been working so well for my skin, I decided to try some on my hair hoping I'd have the same result.

I applied a somewhat generous amount of the coconut oil to my hair at night, melting it in my palms and combing it through my hair with my fingers and rubbing it into my scalp. Coconut oil is quite thin and didn't feel as satisfying on my hair as argan oil. Argan oil feels straight up greasy, but in a good way, like it's actually doing something. The coconut oil smelled really good, at least. It wasn't cloying, so I didn't feel like a giant piña colada or anything. You just kind of get a subtle whiff of it every now and again. Anyway, I clipped my hair up in a top knot and went to bed.

When I pulled my hair down in the morning, it didn't really feel like anything had happened. My hair was still oily, but somehow it also felt squeaky and dry? I don't know how to explain it. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and shampooed and conditioned my hair as usual.

On the day after I used the argan oil, I kept touching my hair because it was so soft. I didn't notice as much softness with the coconut oil (it was still slightly softer than normal, though) and by the middle of the day, I felt like my hair was just plain dirty-greasy like I hadn't washed it in a day or two.

I think I'll give it another try or two, though. Maybe it takes more than one application?

Lip balm Waaaaaay too thin, doesn't last 5 min on my lips. Nope.

Facial moisturizer This is where coconut oil works best for me. I spooned out a small amount of the oil in its solid state and melted it in my palms, then gently rubbed it all over my face and neck. It's not so thick that you feel like you're slathering olive oil on your face, but not so thin that it feels ineffective (on your face, at least). It sinks into my skin pretty easily and smells so so nice, and so far has not caused any skin irritation (redness, breakouts) at all.

Body moisturizer I used the same application method as I did on my face (duh). I wish the consistency was thicker, especially for my legs. My shins get so, so dry in the winter and I always get the urge to use super thick creams to combat the problem (hello, Nivea Creme!) - anything less just feels like it isn't going to be enough to work. But the coconut oil does seem to moisturize pretty okay without making me feel uncomfortably greasy, so that's good.

Side note: My dog apparently loves the smell of coconut and whenever I apply this stuff, she won't stop licking me to the point where I have to actually push her away and maybe go lock myself in the bathroom for a bit until she chills out.

Verdict I know these reviews are more individual perception than actual science. Even if the oil felt too thin and like it wasn't doing anything, I have to admit that both my hair and skin are soft and moisturized, just not shockingly, astoundingly so.

So, no fireworks, but I would definitely continue using it. I like that it's natural and organic and cheap, I like that there's no petrolatum involved since that stuff is derived from crude oil (and crude oil derivatives are in, like, everything). I'm assuming coconut is available in abundance and TJ's extraction process seems pretty simple so it's probably environmentally friendly? I like that it comes in a glass jar that I can reuse or recycle. I can see why everyone has jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon!

15 November 2013

Friday Five

  1. I am kind of obsessed with not martha's series of posts detailing the opening of each of the Kinder Eggs she purchased while abroad. I am also kind of obsessed with Kinder Eggs (WHICH YOU CAN BUY IN THE STATES AGAIN NOW HOORAYYYY!)

  2. Do you find the French Exit to be rude behavior? I've always been a big fan, to be honest.

  3. I've been slowly testing / teaching / re-teaching myself some world geography and for some odd reason I find it really fun.

  4. 101 travel tips. Some of these are pretty smart, especially this one:
    78. Take a range of see-through plastic bags with you. You can use them for keeping your dirty clothes separate, replacing lost make up bags, storing souvenirs, and just generally keeping your bag organised without having to empty it every time you want to find something.
    Also good for protecting your belongings in case something inside your suitcase spills/explodes!
  5. I'll be too busy working on a couple commissions for the next several days to do any special cooking or baking, but as soon as those are done, I plan to make a batch of homemade soft pretzels (and maybe even some obatzda to dip them in!). YUM.

01 August 2013

Bye bye, BBB

I'm still a little bit too lumpy-throated to properly express how I feel about the end of the Bazaar Bizarre Boston, but Sarah did a really good job saying all of the things that I'm feeling right now.

I can easily say that that highly anticipated day in 2005 when Sarah, Megan, and I got the acceptance email saying that we'd gotten into the Bazaar Bizarre Boston was one of the greatest and most exiting days of my life. At the time, I couldn't possibly have known what the BBB would come to mean to me in the wake of that acceptance, but something inside me definitely felt that it was a turning point in my creative life. My 8 years of involvement can attest to that fact.

The BBB has meant more to me than I can explain right now without getting teary. I'm just so happy that I was able to be a part of it to the extent I was.

It's going to be a little bit strange this December when I won't be frantically running around trying to do eight thousand things at once. I have a feeling that month will feel quiet and empty and I'm not really sure I'm looking forward to it, to be honest.

But sometimes tough decisions have to be made. As sad as I feel right now, I am looking forward to participating in new projects with The Small Craft Advisory. I'm sure something awesome will be born out of the BBB ashes.

Onward and upward.

05 July 2013

Nuxe ❤!

Oh, Nuxe! I am totally in love with your products, I have to confess.

So, I had this kit on my wishlist for quite some time, but I couldn't justify buying it until I was actually going on a trip. The moment I booked my tickets to Europe, I went to purchase it only to find out that it was sold out nearly everywhere.

On a whim, I used the "Shopping" option on Google, which showed the kit in stock on a site called Skin-One. Not only was it in stock, but it was available for $15 with free shipping, and they were having a 10% off sale at the time. Never having ordered anything from that site before, I took a chance and I'm really glad I did. Skin-One is now one of my favorite sources for really great skincare brands like Nuxe, Caudalie, Avene, etc.

In fact, they were pretty much my only source for Avene until I stopped by the new giant Walgreens that they recently opened in the old Borders space in Downton Crossing and saw that they sell Avene (and Nuxe!) and oh boy, am I in trouble or what. But anyway, I digress.

So about that kit. It was pretty perfect for my trip. It came with a micellar water cleanser/makeup remover, cleansing gel, dry oil, hand and nail cream, and a face cream/moisturizer. I'll link to the full sized items on skinone.com for more info about each item and purchasing info.*

*Note: The product description on skinone.com still says that the kit comes with:
  • Micellar Cleansing Water
  • Reve de Miel Ultra Comfortable Face Cream - Day
  • Huile Prodiguese dry oil
  • Reve de Miel Hand & Nail Cream
  • Reve de Miel Face and Body Ultra-Rich Cleansing Gel
but the photo on that page shows a different kit. It looks like the current kit for sale has Crème Prodigieuse day cream and Body Fondant Shower Gel in place of the Reve de Miel Ultra Comfortable Face Cream - Day and the Reve de Miel Face and Body Ultra-Rich Cleansing Gel (which is also a different kit than the one that is for sale on nuxe.com [and $3 less expensive!]).

Eau Demauillante Micellaire cleansing water

This is a pretty nice cleansing water. I use cleansing waters as makeup removers, which is what I think they are intended for? I guess you can use them as an overall general cleanser/toner type dealio, but I like to use them for "spot treatments" (aka removing dark kohl eyeliner and waterproof mascara). Anyway, this one is good. I do actually like the Bioderma cleansing water a bit better than this one (how cliché!) but I genuinely do find that Bioderma works wonders on removing heavy eye makeup, which is the #1 reason why I love it.

Reve de Miel face and body cleansing gel

THIS STUFF, YOU GUYS. This is the star of the kit for me, hands down. The moment I uncapped the tube, I completely fell in love. The scent is incredible, but it is strong. Normally I don't care for strong-scented products (really, this stuff and the Caudalie beauty elixir are maybe the only exceptions in recent memory), but for some reason the scent of this stuff is just my favorite thing on earth, so much so that I made it my mission to find a full-sized bottle of this when I was in Europe. It smells kind of floraly and kind of honey-ish and almost herbal? And normally honey scented things are gross to me (too cloying!) but this is perfect. The scent description is really hard to pin down but it is SO nice and I actually wish they made a perfume with this scent because I would so wear it.

I used this on my face every day of my Europe trip and perhaps it was coincidence, but my skin totally cleared up over those 9 days. Normally, I break out like crazy on trips (different water, different routine, different products, different food, etc.) but not so this time. I really suspect this cleanser was the reason why!

Huile Prodiguese dry oil

It's no secret that I love this stuff, so I knew I had to take some on my trip with me. I didn't want to carry a full-sized bottle (I just had visions of the bottle uncapping itself in my suitcase and noooooooooooo), so this tiny bottle was actually the reason I bought the kit in the first place.

Reve de Miel hand and nail cream

This cream has the same scent as the Reve de Miel cleansing gel, but the scent isn't quite as strong. It sinks into the skin nicely and doesn't leave your hands greasy at all. I ended up buying a full version of this as well.

Reve de Miel ultra comfortable face cream (day)

This cream feels really nice on the skin and it didn't sting my skin at all when applying it just after cleansing my face (it contains SPF, which I find can sometimes irritate newly-cleansed skin). Unfortunately, it seems to leave my face greasy all day long. I kept waiting for it to sink into my skin, but it never really did. This is a bummer particularly because I love how when I wear it, I can smell the scent very faintly every once in a while throughout the day (the next best thing to wearing it as a perfume!). Like the hand and nail cream, it has a lighter version of the cleansing gel scent, which is really pleasant. But I just can't deal with the greasiness :(

And all of these cute little containers come packaged in a nice, little, clear plastic zippered cosmetic case.

I love this kit so, so much and I wish that other skincare brands would put together little affordable kits like this for trying their products out as well as for travel sizes. I may never have purchased the full sizes of the cleanser and the hand lotion had I not been able to try out the trial sizes first, so I think it's such a smart idea!

10 June 2013

Köln 2013

I've been putting off finishing this entry about the final city on our European tour (ha!) and I suppose it's because posting it means the vacation is really over. I mean, it's been a month - time to move on, right? Reality and I haven't exactly been getting along recently.

Anyway. It's odd, but I somehow (surprisingly!) didn't have any (or many) expectations about Köln/Cologne before arriving in the city.

I've been pretty stoked on everything German/Germany for awhile, and so it would make sense that I would step off the train with inflated hopes, but to be honest, I was just happy to be there. In fact, that was sort of the theme of the trip - I kept saying "I'm just happy to be here!" and it was the honest truth.

So maybe that was why it was so easy to fall in love with Köln!

We took the 8:00 AM Thalys train from Paris Gare du Nord and arrived in Köln around 11:15 AM. It was a nice, quiet, smooth, comfortable, and very swift ride. We sat in "Comfort 2" which is second class/coach and I have no complaints. I did some research before booking the tickets as to whether or not it was worth it to spring for Comfort 1 class and the general consensus was 'no'. The main difference (that mattered to me) is that wi-fi is free in Comfort 1 and not in Comfort 2, so I bought wi-fi on board and it was a bit expensive (around $17 for the whole journey - I can't remember if that was "unlimited" or enough to cover 3 hours, though), but even with the added wi-fi fee, it was still less expensive than a first class ticket. Sitting captive on a train for a few hours is perfect downtime when you're on a trip that is go-go-go so I thought that having internet access during that time was worth it.

We got off the train and made our way to the hotel, which is so close to Hauptbanhof that you can basically see it from the station, but not too close that it's sketchy/dirty (as far as I could tell). The main train stations in Paris (Gare du Nord) and Rome (Termini) and their immediate surrounding areas are not exactly spots in which I'd want to hang out, but it seemed different in Köln. The Kölner Dom (Cathedral) and the main shopping areas (Hohe Straße and Schildergasse) are very close to Hauptbanhof and the area felt safe during the day as well as at night. Of course it's hard to say that with 100% certainty because we were only there for 2 nights, but that's the general feeling I got, anyway. The only time the area seemed less-than-stellar was late on Saturday night when the plaza next to the station was littered with glass shards from broken beer bottles, but I think that was more of a result of overzealous drunken celebration than anything threatening.

We stayed at the Marriott Köln, which was able to provide us with an early check-in and a very comfortable (read: huge!) room. However, the wi-fi wasn't free (it was free at both of our [less expensive] Paris and Rome hotels, though! Why do the chain hotels always charge for it?) and connecting was actually pretty pricey. Ugh. Also, I would've like to have had a room on a high floor with a view, but unfortunately because of our arrival time, we were put on the 1st floor. We were given the option of waiting for another room, but we didn't feel like waiting so we took the room that was available. Other than those issues, the stay was quite nice and you can't beat the location.

My friend Melanie (a native of Köln) met us at the hotel and took us out to see the city. On the way to lunch, we met up with my friend Leonie who was in nearby Düsseldorf from Vienna and we all had lunch at Keule. I had kölsch and the "Zigeunerwurst with paprika sauce, coleslaw and french fries" and it was SO GOOD. There was zero chance of me eating vegetarian on this trip, and I'm really glad I decided to just go with it, otherwise I would've missed out on some amazing meals.

After lunch, we visited the Kölner Dom (Cathedral), which was enormous and really beautiful. A weathered black stone Gothic cathedral? How could I not love that? I mean really.

Then we hit the shopping areas, namely the Hohe Straße and Schildergasse, where I challenged Melanie with a new request every couple of minutes ("Find me a hat!", "Find me some greeting cards!"). Luckily for me, she came through every time and I found a super cute hat for Sarah's wedding the following weekend, some cards, and a little gift for my Mom for Mother's Day. Yay!

After a bit of shopping, we took a break for kaffee und kuchen (natürlich!) at Cafe Fromme and I had the most delicious slice of banana-chocolate mousse cake and COFFEE. I didn't drink a lot of "regular" coffee on this trip and so this cup was a very welcome treat.

After our break, we said goodbye to Leonie who had to get back to Düsseldorf and then we did some more shopping and lots of walking around. Melanie took us all around the city, pointing out public landmarks as well as her own personal landmarks. It was a really great tour and I'm so glad I got to see so much in a small amount of time and got to spend that time with Miss Melanie!

We had some cheap pizza and burgers (and more kölsch, of course) for dinner and then stopped at a grocery store on the walk back to the hotel, where I loaded up on gummis and chocolate. Heaven.

On Saturday, we met up for breakfast with Melanie and our friend Anna, who was in town from Poland, at the Kamps by the cathedral where I had this ridiculous strawberry danish thing that was filled with vanilla pudding. WHAT? You heard me.

We chilled out for awhile and chatted and after breakfast, we said goodbye to Melanie and then headed off to the hotel for a bit because it had started to rain - but, of course, not before we stopped at the little kiosk by the train station for currywurst. It was my first time trying it and it was so good, even better than expected!

After a little rain break, we met up with Anna again and got on the U-Bahn alllllll the way out to Sparkasse am Butzweilerhof to the Coloneum Film and TV Studios for the taping of the Deutschland sucht den Superstar season finale. I'd been watching DSDS this season because my favorite person was a judge and when we got the opportunity to get tickets and realized that we could easily fit Köln into our itinerary, it was kind of a no-brainer.

DSDS was sooooo fun. It was, of course, all in German so I was a little lost on what was happening much of the time, but I also kept up with the action better than I thought I would. And I've never been to a taping of anything before and so it was cool to see the behind the scenes stuff and of course, to see all of the contestants, hosts, judges, etc. that we'd been watching all season back in the States. And, to top it all off, we got a personal wave from Bill as he walked out of the studio at the end. It was basically the cherry on top of an already amazing trip!

We got back home quite late but luckily were just in time to get another currywurst on the way to the hotel before the stand closed up for the night. This time I had it "mit Brötchen" instead of "mit Pommes" because the currywurst man had already cleaned out the fryers for the night. It was still super good, of course. We ate our very late dinner while we watched the re-run of the DSDS show we'd just been at, which was kind of totally surreal.

The next day was travel day, ugh, which meant we had to be up at like 5:00 AM to catch our train back to Paris for our flights back to Boston. I didn't want to go. I'm actually still in denial that I ever left.

So, in short, Europe was ah-may-zing. I can't pick a favorite among Rome, Paris, and Köln. There were so many chances for things to go so terribly wrong but instead, everything worked out as perfectly as possible. And I absolutely cannot wait to go back.

24 May 2013

Paris 2013

Oh, Paris.

I should hate you. You're expensive, your men are pushy and creepy, parts of you are filthy and smell terrible, your ticket machines don't take regular American strip credit cards, a (not-bottomless) glass of Coke at some of your café's cost 9,50.

And yet - AND YET - I just can't stop loving you.

Paris: Tues 7 May - Fri 10 May

We landed in Paris - well, technically, Beauvais, around 10AM. It was raining, we'd been up since who-knows-when, Ryan Air had been... an experience, I was exhausted and a little bit miserable. After about an hour on a coach, we arrived in Paris proper and made our way to the hotel.

We stayed at the Hotel La Manufacture and I can't recommend it enough. It's in a super great area (safe, quiet, right at a metro stop that is convenient to sights and Gare du Nord) and the hotel itself is clean, comfortable, and staffed by some of the nicest people I've encountered at any hotel anywhere.

After a little bit of running around the city to try to complete an errand (successfully!), we found a nice little place near our hotel for dinner, stopped at Marche Franprix for some snax, and settled in for the night. We must've gone to bed really early that night because I honestly don't remember much of anything after we got back to the hotel.

On Wednesday, we were awoken by a marching band on the Place d'Italie. Turns out, it was a holiday in France (Victory in Europe Day) which meant some of the things on our to-see list were closed, but on the flip side, there were also a LOT of French flags all around which made for great photos. We composed a loose itinerary for the day and set out on our adventure. The list contained a lot of repeats for me, but I didn't mind so much - I mean, *who* is going to complain about seeing the Eiffel Tower twice in their life? Not me. (This was the 3rd and 4th time for me, technically. Still, a-okay.)

The Catacombs were closed due to the holiday, so we had lunch at Café Indiana nearby. It was the same place I had lunch after we went to the Catacombs in 2010, and it was still delicious.

After lunch, we headed to the Eiffel Tower for some picture-taking on the Champ de Mars and then across to the Trocadéro on the other side for some more photos. After that, we walked up Avenue Kléber to the Arc de Triomphe and then down the Champs-Élysées. We did some shopping at Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, and H&M (haha), made a tiny pilgrimage down Avenue Montaigne, and then continued back down toward the Place de la Concorde. We were getting pretty hangry by this point, so it was time to find some dinner. We found a decent place on the corner of rue Saint-Honoré and re-fueled.

After dinner, we had another serendipitous experience. It was getting late and we knew we wanted to see the Eiffel tower sparkle before we went home because Darcy had never seen it at night. We also figured it might be nice to go up it at night, but it was about 10:30PM and the last admission was at midnight, so if time didn't allow for it, that would also be okay. We decided to try to find a bottle of wine and then head back down to the Trocadéro to watch the sparkles and that proved to be a difficult task. But after about 15 min of walking, we found a tiiiiiiiny convenience store selling small bottles of wine and they also had one €2,50 bottle opener left on the shelf. Score.

We raced back toward the Seine and as we crossed it, realized the first bridge we came to was one of the "lover's" lock bridges, which had been on Darcy's to-see list. Score, again! We quickly followed the river toward the Eiffel Tower but it became increasingly obvious that time was not on our side, so we decided to hop in a cab. We got to the Eiffel Tower with 7 min to spare, ran across to the Trocadéro, found a perfect place to sit, and had our wine bottles open only moments before the tower lit up in sparkles. Super score.

We hung out there for about a 1/2 hr and then decided to go up the tower - why not? There was no line to go up, so we boarded the elevator with about 10 other people (and they didn't confiscate my wine opener!) and made our ascent. The top wasn't open at that hour but the middle level is high enough, trust me. A few minutes after we got off the elevator and had a look around, the tower began to sparkle at midnight. Super, duper score.

On Thursday, we decided to go to Versailles. This was another repeat for me but I loved Versailles so much the first time that I was excited to see it again (and it's no secret that I have a total fascination with Marie Antoinette, as cliché as that may be). The palace is still breathtaking, duh. Unfortunately, the gardens weren't free on this trip like they were last time because now they do some sort of music water show at the fountains, and by the time we got out there we would've had to pay 8.50 for about a 1/2 hr of garden time. We decided to skip it and instead headed back into the city for dinner and to see if the pharmacy I wanted to stop at was still open (it was! And I loaded up on Nuxe products and Bioderma).

We had dinner across the street from the pharmacy at Café de Flore, where by chance, we were seated one spot down from where Bill Kaulitz sat with Wolfgang Joop during Durch die Nacht mit Bill Kaulitz & Wolfgang Joop (none of you care about this I know just let me write it down haha) and had Croque-madame and some wine.

Café de Flore was pretty pricey and we didn't eat much, so we took another break at a café at Place d'Italie and had some drinks and snacks before going back to the hotel for the evening.

We soon settled into bed because we had to be up bright and early to catch the train to Germany!

Up next - Köln!