Sunday, January 31, 2016

Frugal February

The party season is officially over, life is back to normal and it is a good time of the year to start managing and planning your finances.

I did Frugal February for couple of years now and it helped me to achieve my goals. Last year my goal was to get rid of credit cards and get a better home loan. Those goals were achieved and I have gained more freedom and happiness while stress and anxiety reduced in a lot of aspects of my life.

Throughout the year I have also referred to a lot of articles, videos and books on more streamlined, minimalistic and simplified way of living. I've read The Joy of Less by Francine Jay, listened to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up audiobook by Marie Kondo and found this great post on Apartment Therapy blog. I did improve in many ways but I am still not perfect. My apartment doesn't resemble a minimalistic display home but it is much tidier. My wardrobe has way more than 30 items of clothing but I am more assertive with my choices.

By doing Frugal February challenge I hope to achieve the following:

- Invest time I would normally spend shopping into other more productive and useful activities like embracing my existing hobbies without spending more money, pleasantly surprising someone with email or phone call or relaxing and having me-time.

- Avoid eating-out and embrace home-cooking instead. Better for my wallet and my health, esp. if I learn a few new healthy recipes.

- Become more environmentally-conscious, reduce consumption and re-cycle where possible. Think turning old t-shirts into wiping cloths or embracing fun projects like turning an old pair of jeans into a skirt or making a funky knitted bath rug out of old towels.

- Save towards my holidays later in the year. I hope to have enough to take me to Europe for few weeks in September - October.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

S/S 2016 empties

I haven't done empties post for a while now and in that time I've finished more than 30 items. So here is the list of most recent ones that I finished since October.

1. Guerlain Terracotta Light Bronzer in  02 Blondes

My overall impression - I did a review of this bronzer back in 2013 and you can read it here. I did enjoy using it and never got sick of it. It lasted me over two years as well and it was used several times per week. It was super sheer yet it gave my complexion a nice glow without making my skin look too shimmery or dirty. Gorgeous compact however broke at the hinge after few months so I couldn't take it anywhere with me.

Would I buy it again? - Yes, definitely! It is one of the most natural-looking bronzers I've used. I hope Guerlain won't discontinue it but I wish that packaging would be a bit sturdier.

2 + 3. MAC Brow Pencil in Fling and Lingering  

My overall impression - Precise and long-lasting brow pencil that doesn't need sharpening. Due to extra fine point it is very easy to create perfect strokes and achieve a very natural look. It does however finish up pretty quickly. I went through few Flings before I was introduced to Lingering. I like Lingering better now as it is not as ashy and matches my light brows eye brows better.

Would I buy it again? - Yes, I would get Lingering again.

4. Pre Tan Pure Bronze Gradual Tan
My overall impression - Coconut scented gradual tan with SPF. It does feel quite moisturising but sinks into a skin quickly. I see the difference after just one application. Little goes a long way as once I think I've applied too much and it did go patchy.

Would I buy it again? - Yes, it does cost a bit more than supermarket gradual tans but Myer often has it on special and you can pick it up for about $15.

 5. Bondi Sands Self-tanning Foam in Light/Medium

My overall impression - Step aside St. Tropez because this product is amazing! It has pink and green undertones that do a great job at neutralizing yellow and orange tones. It is tinted but tends to wash out easily from sheets and clothes. I would apply it in the morning on my day off, wear a dark shirt for couple of hours and wash it off. That way it absorbs into the skin and fully develops into a natural looking streak-free tan.

Would I buy it again? - Yes, yes, yes! I think I am addicted to this stuff and already managed to collect few other products from Bondi Sands.

6. Redken All Soft Velvet Whip

My overall impression - All soft line gets lots of good reviews so I got this product when my hair was long, dry and fragile to put some life into my ends and mid-length. It had soft scent but very strange almost powdery texture. Ingredients revealed that it had corn starch in it which is a bit strange for a leave-in conditioner.

Would I buy it again? - No, it didn't make noticeable improvement to my hair and I switched back to Anti-Snap once it was all gone.


7. Toni & Guy Reconstruction Mask

My overall impression - Deep conditioning mask that was still light enough for my fine hair. It had tick and creamy texture and neutral light scent

Would I buy it again? - No, it was a bit meh to be honest and was very similar to any conditioner.


8. Vichy Normaderm Deep Cleaning Foaming Cleanser

My overall impression - This rich foaming cleanser did a good job at removing my make-up, felt soft and non-drying but it tremendously helped me to get rid of breakouts. I got it for $10 in US and it lasted me for a year!

Would I buy it again? - Definitely. I am using Vichy gel cleanser right now but wouldn't mind getting this one again as my night-time cleanser.


9. Vichy Aqualia Thermal Light moisturiser

My overall impression - Very light yet effective moisturiser that my breakout-prone but sensitive skin seems to love. It doesn't sting, makes my skin feel tight or greasy. It performs well under the foundation and doesn't cause me to break out. In fact my skin looked a lot better when I was using it in conjunction with other Vichy products than before.

Would I buy it again? - Yes, definitely. It is not available in Australia but can be easily obtained from online stores.


10. Youngblood Concealer in Medium

My overall impression - I actually randomly won this product from a magazine promotion. They sent it to me in medium shade but it actually suited my fair skin well. I wasn't familiar with the brand at a time but was very impressed with blendability and coverage of this product. It took me ages to hit the pan and at the end I ended up throwing it away as it started to separate a bit from being quite old with probably 50% still remaining.

Would I buy it again? - Not sure. Maybe if I start to get pimples again. Mt skin is a lot better these days and I use concealer just under my eyes. I prefer the more liquid concealers and highlighters for that area.

Monday, January 04, 2016

How to rescue an Orchid

You probably have seen Phalaenopsis orchids that look a bit sad at you local supermarket. People buy them when they are in bloom to enjoy beautiful flowers for months and after that they usually get abandoned or discarded. I always feel sorry for heavily discounted orchids as they can be rescued.

So I got this pink beauty from Woolworth and it completely lost all its flowers. It was packed tightly Sphagnum moss and was very very dry.

As a bonus it came in cute ceramic pot.

You can see how wrinkly and dehydrated leaves are. I soaked it in water for about 10 minutes. Then I gently removed Sphagnum moss.

I used sharp scissors sterilized with rubbing alcohol to cut the spike off just above the first nodule. I sprayed roots with Hydrogen Peroxide to prevent mould and inhibit bacterial growth.

...and left it sit in water. It is called Full Water Culture method. Note that water shouldn't touch the base of the plant, just tips of the roots. I change water weekly, keep an eye on rotting roots and trim them off as required if they go mushy and brown (it is normal to lose a few after changing from media). Also once per week I let it stand for a day or two without water. I use this method on all my Phals and they are doing great. Several are growing new roots, spikes and leaves. They love not very bright diffused light so right now they live in the garage and come upstairs when they are on bloom.

Two weeks later we have a secondary spike forming. It will take months to bloom again but I am sure it will be well worth the wait.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

My top 10 make-up discoveries of 2015

I went through a period of time when I wasn't buying much make-up and was resisting blogs, youtube channels and other triggers to go on a binge. It was good to detox and discover several new products in 2015 that I absolutely love using. So here is my top 10 discoveries of 2015.

I got the majority of products on sale, but had to splurge on Hourglass palette, L'Occitane BB cream and Nars duo as I simply couldn't resist.

1. Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette
I've heard a lot of good things about Hourglass powders so trying it out as a palette was a perfect option for me. It has one universal all-over shade, one highlighter and one bronzer. It gives my skin luminous finish and has medium coverage. I would prefer the bronzer to be more reddish rather than orange but other than that it is a perfect palette. It perfect for travel too.

2. MAC brow pencil in Lingering
Finally a brow pencil that is not too grey, yellow or waxy. I've tried so many "blonde" brow pencils that just make my brows weird colour of taupe. This one is warm light brown that goes on like a dream due to very fine point and doesn't need sharpening.

3. L'Occitane BB cream in 02 - Light
It was given to me as a sample and after trying it I knew I had to get it. It feels like a light and creamy moisturizer, has gorgeous natural scent and covers imperfections better than any other BB-cream I've used. My skin loves it too, no breakouts or redness and the shade is perfect for my fair NC25 complexion.

4. L'Occitane Brightening Touch pen
I got it as a complementary product for my BB cream. Ot comes in very nice and heavy metal pen with a brush. It it quite light but works well for hiding dark circles and minor imperfections. On top of everything it also acts like an eye cream improving the areas under the eyes.

5. NARS Dual-Intensity eye shadow in Pasiphae
It was a blind buy from StrawberryNet as they had it heavily reduced on their daily special. It is one of the most gorgeous eye shadows I've ever used! It has duochrome (pink-green) shimmer throughout suspended in reddish dark brown base. Think MAC Club but more stunning. Used dry it created a wash of colour and if you wet the brush it is going to go darker and more intense. It has a gorgeous grape candy scent too.

6. MAC lipstick in Lady Danger
I swapped 6 empties for this lipstick. It is very bright almost neon red that suits most skin tones.

7. Illamasqua nail polish in Harem
Move over Essie and OPI, I have a new favorite. I have several Illamasqua nail polishes now and yet to be disappointed. They have perfect formulas, eye-catching and unique shades and great lasting power. Harem is gorgeous cool purple-pink that looks grown-up and stylish.

8. Lancome Miracle Air Teint foundation
I saw this product on sale and decided to try it out despite the fact that it had light coverage. I am on my second bottle now with two back-ups as I've heard rumors that it might get discontinued. It feels super-light like a serum, glides and blends perfectly yet it still makes my skin look polished. My skin improved tremendously too after ditching a super-heavy foundation. Two thumbs up for this product.

9. Guerlain Meteorites Pearls in Palm Spring
My most recent buy picked up during Boxing day sales. Meteorites been around for over 20 years but I never paid attention because I wasn't sure how they work and used to use full-med coverage powders. This product acts as a finishing powder, setting foundation and creating a glowing sheer veil over skin. They are not cheap, but you get a lot of product! 25 g to be exact compared to the usual 7-10 g you get from normal compact powders.

10. NARS eye shadow duo in Kalahari 
Versatile pearly bronze and milk chocolate shades in Nars classic buttery formula. Perfect for every day as well as special occasions. I took this duo only for my trip to NZ and was happy using it for 7 days non-stop.