Saturday, April 28, 2012

In this Issue No. 10 - Nail design

Simply type in #nailpolish as tag search on Instagram and you will see more than 280,000 pictures of people's uploaded nail art and polish stashes. Look around in the blogosphere and you'll find tons of written instructions and video tutorials shared by people who are getting increasingly creative with their nail designs, almost to a point where nail technicians are no longer needed. From water marbling to using dotting tools to spot-on movie character recreations, nail art is becoming increasingly more sophisticated as jaw-droppingly amazing designs are conceptualized and carried out every single day. This ain't your mama's nail polish any more. Nail art has come into its own as an alternative form of artistic expression that is gaining serious respect.

Personal websites such as All Lacquered Up, Vampy Varnish and The Daily Nail are just a few examples that document the amazing things that can be done with polish. In much the same way that personal style blogs really took off, nail bloggers are attracting corporate sponsors, PR pros and advertisers to their sites due to the large amount of traffic from viewers.

Though inspiration can be found everywhere for ideas on nail art, I liked InStyle's August 2011 spread on "10 New Style Statements" which featured a dark maroon and gold nail combo. Even though the style statement that goes along with the picture is about the new trend of long nails, I simply liked the color combo and the fresh approach to a slightly off-kilter french manicure.

The version I carried out was a bit different than that seen above, but the inspiration is still there.. I did the reverse french manicure using a dark maroon for the base and a shimmery gold for the crescent of the nail, and I really loved how it turned out.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Great design - Cosmetics

Innovation is a key component to great design and packaging, as novelty catches a consumer's eye and entices her in to take a closer look. Innovation is what makes a product stand out from the pack, even if beyond the packaging there are no discernible differences between Product A and Product B. 

It's safe to say that I'm a happy, much-inspired individual after browsing sites like The Dieline, Core77 and Behance, all of which provide constantly updated arrays of products and places that have been gifted with lovely, visual awesomeness.

To marry two of my great loves - beauty products and package design - here are a few of the brands that stand out from the crowd, and how they've carved a niche for themselves.

1. Mor Cosmetics is an Australian line of bath & body products, cosmetics and fragrance that prides itself on its beautiful packaging. Actually, if you read the 'About Us' section on Mor's website, you'll note that more information is given about the outside of the products as opposed to the ingredients. Mor prides itself on having some of the prettiest-designed products on the market. I guess you could say that Mor Cosmetics is the cool kid in the room and it knows it.

(Fresh Lychee, left, and French Vanilla, right, Lip Macarons)

(Indian Pomeo, left, and Italian Blood Orange, right, Emporium Collection soaps)

(Marshmallow Body Butter, left, and Belladonna Lip Nectar, right)
(images c/o

2. Lollia is similar to Mor Cosmetics in that they both create bath & body products, perfumes and candles, but Lollia also designs bedding as well as sleepwear apparel. All products are feature the pastel, Victorian wallpaper-esque designs that lend a girly, yet romantic appeal. Also like Mor, Lollia's About section on its website gives much ado to its signature packaging and distinctive, luxurious designs. My favorite Lollia products are the candles, due in large part to the range of names that describe each scent, such as, 'I Can Still Smell The Rain', 'Silently Across The Snow', 'When The Leaves Turn' and 'Staring At The Ceiling'. I can actually visualize each of these scenes in my head and almost smell the scent that would accompany them. Brilliant, brilliant. 

(Calm Shea Butter Handcreme, left, and Relax Eau de Parfum, right)

(Tomorrow No.77, left, and Stacks Of Pretty Paper No. 18, right, candles)
(images c/o

3. Urban Decay is a popular cosmetics brand whose aesthetic is less about the luxurious and pretty, and is instead focused on the appeal of alternative, gritty design. The line of single eyeshadows is my favorite offering from the brand, as each is contained within a metallic disk made to look like a subway token. Another plus for the brand comes from the funny, tongue-in-cheek names of the shades carried within each product. For instance, some of the eyeshadow shades are named 'Mildew', 'S&M', 'Smog' and 'Virgin', while two lipsticks have been dubbed 'Oil Slick' and 'Peroxide'. Another fun series of products is the line of primers for face, cheek and lips, which all are called "primer potions". As such, they have been made to look like tiny genie bottles. Cheeky, indeed. 

(My eyeshadow, Baked)

(Eden, left, and Original, right, Eyeshadow Primer Potions)
(image c/o

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Local Spotlight - Bloom Bath and Body

Bloom Bath and Body is a small women's boutique in Lawrence that carries product designed to pamper. From the uber-soft pajamas that line the upstairs loft to the candles, body lotions and lip balms that dot every table and shelf, the store is a smorgasbord of items dedicated to the sole purpose of providing a sense of decadent luxury to whomever should own them. Even Bloom's location - situated above an in-ground pizza parlor - adds to its inviting appeal.

Upon entering the store, there is a tiny staircase to the right that leads up into a loft area that hosts an array of pajamas, books, coin purses, stationery, scarves and other enticing odds and ends.

Straight ahead are several tables and shelves that are stocked full of heavenly aroma-ed items. Literally, if there is something that can contain a scent, it can probably be found dwelling in this area. And since men usually come in looking to buy something for their lady loves, Bloom has created small gift boxes wherein are pre-selected goodies. These remind me of Easter baskets for adults.

Brands such as Tokyo Milk, Lollia and Love & Toast are prominently displayed, with little nooks in the store designed to house each line. On a side note, these brands have the most amazing packaging and design. And since I'm a sucker for beautiful packaging, the mix of pastel colors, gilt font and box borders,  and medieval/Victorian illustrations roped me in before I even got close enough to determine if I liked the actual fragrances. Ah, such are the first world pains that I go through on the regular.

 Pastels + roses = Chelsea is a goner.

And behold...the wall of soap, courtesy of Pre de Provence. If you read my earlier post on local shop Au Marche, I've given two thumbs up to this brand before. As for the wall, if you're looking for a specific scent,  it's there. Or, would you rather choose your bar based on your favorite color? Be my guest.

If you're looking for a girly wonderland that will delight the senses, do stop by Bloom Bath and Body. Your nose will thank you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In this Issue No. 9 - Red trousers

I distinctly remember the moment when I first saw this photo in Elle Magazine's April 2011 issue. On a surprisingly warm March day, my roommates and I were lounging on the roof of our Lawrence house, talking about heading to the pool, when I flipped to this page in the magazine. The whole outfit immediately grabbed my attention. The magenta, bright green and orange-red pieces meshed together seamlessly, while I felt that the black overcoat and amazing heels grounded the outfit, keeping it from being too neon. After my initial infatuation with the whole outfit, I homed in on those freaking beautiful red pants. I mean, just look at them! That perfect crease down the front of each leg, the hem grazing the tops of the heels, the lack of awkward pleating. This is minimalism at its best.

I had to snap out of my pants-induced reverie when I realized that soon it would be summer, and hot, humid weather would be the norm. Not only would humid summer prove to a bad time to be wearing full-length trousers, I wouldn't even know where to buy a pair of red pants. It was time to face the facts - I would have to wait until fall to renew my infatuation with the pants and actually search with intent for a pair.

(Fast forward to October)

I am digging through the pictures and magazine cut-outs in my inspo folder when, lo and behold, I find this picture. I personally like the tiny arrow that I'm guessing I penciled-in to indicate (to myself) exactly what item it was that I liked on the page.

Being that it was October and that the slightly chilly weather had made its appearance, it was time to search for a pair of these bad boys. The search wasn't easy. I tried on pants that were made of cheap material, some that were too short, some that had bulky, unsightly pockets. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I felt like a fish being lured in by bait because I was always so close, but my pants were always out of reach.
And, as luck would have it, I found a pair when I wasn't actively searching for them anymore. Figures.

Whether worn with or without tights, on soul crushingly frigid nights or on breezy days, I like 'em.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

At the Vanity - Comparing Beauty Balms aka BB creams

Beauty Balms are the trendy new beauty products on the US market, and it seems as though every women's magazine has praised these all-in-one items for one thing or another.

As the story goes, Beauty Balms originated in Germany a few decades ago when a dermatologist saw a need for a product that would help soothe and protect the skin of his patients that had recently undergone facial rejuvenation surgeries and/or treatments that had left their skin sensitive, tender and/or scarred. So a balm was created that provided both hydration and sunscreen to sensitive skin, as well as adding a tint of color to the face that would mask any tell-tell effects of procedures, should the patient choose to go out in public.

Years later, Korean actresses found the product and, upon realizing the multifunctional, positive effects of using such a cream, became the first public spokespeople that promoted the products. These Korean actresses, always being seen with flawless complexions, then spawned a nationwide fervor for beauty balms that spread throughout Asia, and now has come to the United States.

This was a brief "nutshell" description, so more in-depth behind-the-scenes information can still be found. One of the most comprehensive articles I found on Beauty Balms can be found HERE.

In the United States, Beauty Balms are now marketed as the all-in-one products that will eliminate the need for separate primers, foundations, concealers and sunblocks. This claim intrigued me, and I wanted to try out the formulas of various brands that offered BB creams. Since so many brands have decided to ride the wave of popularity that Beauty Balms have enjoyed, trying to find the perfect Beauty Balm is akin to finding the perfect's going to take some digging. A brief list of the brands that have released Beauty Balms include: Dior, Too Faced Cosmetics, Maybelline, Revlon, Dr. Jart, Boscia, Lancome, Dr. Brant, Sarah McNamara, Clinique and Smashbox. This is not an exhaustive list. There are several more foreign brands that are available online or overseas.

The four brands that I chose to swatch and test out are, from left to right: Sarah McNamara's Miracle Skin Transformer, Smashbox's Camera Ready BB Cream, Dr. Jart's Water Fuse Beauty Balm and Dr. Jart's Premium Beauty Balm. The first picture is of the BB creams outside, in a shaded area. The second is in direct sunlight. Seems pretty self-evident, but there's always that one person...

Each swatch was applied straight down the arm, but toward the bottom I patted each product out a bit to give an idea of how much pigment was left when it was sheered into the skin, as would be done when applied to the face.

The results:

Sarah McNamara's Miracle Skin Transformer is the softest, most luxurious anything I've ever put on my skin. It felt like creamy silk, like...I will never be able to accurately describe the feeling without sounding like a fruitloop. Simply put, it feels like clouds on your skin. didn't cover anything. This product may hydrate and leave you feeling soft and pampered, but it left out the foundation and concealer element of the BB cream's appeal. There are a few different pigments available for a variety of skintones. The scent of sunscreen is also present, but isn't a deterrent. The price is $42 for a 1.7 ounce tube.

Smashbox's Camera Ready BB Cream seems to defy gravity, as the product itself gives the impression that you are squirting a heaping blob of moussey cream into your hands, but it sheers out into a soft, lightweight cream foundation. Unlike Sarah McNamara's product, the Camera Ready BB Cream does offer enough coverage to function as a foundation, as the pigment it provides is somewhere between that of a tinted moisturizer and of a liquid foundation. There is a slight sheen to it that gives off a dewy vibe. There are four colors available, and surprisingly, they match most skintones quite well. Sunscreen scent is also present, but isn't a deterrent. The price is $39 for a 1 ounce tube.

Dr. Jart's Water Fuse Beauty Balm is very hydrating and super dewy. Unlike Smashbox's formula, though, the sheen that it gives off can quickly make skin go from looking refreshed to just plain oily. Sunscreen scent is present, but it isn't a deterrent. Ultimately though, there wasn't enough coverage in this formula to consider it to be anything more than a hydrating balm. It also only comes in one color, and that color runs very light. If I had liked the formula more, the color would have been perfect for me. The price is $30 for a 1 ounce tube.

Dr. Jart's Premium Beauty Balm is less water-based than his Water Fuse Beauty Balm, which takes away the issue of inducing the look of oily skin, but the formula is still just as emollient as the Water Fuse formula. The best part about the Premium Beauty Balm is that more pigment has been added to it, thereby guaranteeing more coverage. I really liked this formula as it seemed to perfectly do everything that Beauty Balms were claiming to do for the skin: prime, conceal, even out and provide SPF protection. The sunscreen scent is the same as it is in the Water Fuse formula. The price is $39 for a 1.4 ounce tube.

Overall, for me, the winners were Dr. Jart's Premium Beauty Balm and Smashbox's Camera Ready BB Cream for the way they delivered on their claims to offer sun protection, radiance and coverage in lightweight, soft formulas.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In this Issue No. 8 - Keel's Simple Diary

I've always been, and likely will always be, fascinated with journals and/or books that prompt the reader to document things in its pages. Regardless of if I walk into a bookstore with a purpose, that is, with intent to buy one predetermined item, inevitably I will be stopped in my tracks by a "write-in-me" book of some sort. For instance, some examples of popular (and very fun, from experience) "write-in-me" books include:

Wreck This Journal, where each page denotes a new task for the reader to accomplish, such as lighting a page on fire or coloring a page with food.

 (image c/o

My friend brought this book out for a group of us to play with, and though the prompts were intriguing, my mind started to wander after completing a few pages. It started to feel like more of a task than a rebellious act of fun to do something weird to a piece of paper.  *Side note: However, it could also be due to the fact that I thought the whole "put food on this page, then continue using this book day after day while the stench grows more foul and permeates your nostrils" thing probably turned me off of it.

The Listography book set is a series of journals that are comprised guessed it, lists. I love this book because I make lists all the time. All the time. List-making keeps me sane by lessening the amount of stress I put on my brain and by appeasing my ADD at the same time. Win-win, no?

 (image c/o

Anyway, these books are fun and thought-provoking. For example, one of the lists featured in the book asks, "List what you've been for Halloween," while another prompts the reader to describe bad habits that he or she would like to overcome.

The other book that I found via Nylon Mag's website is Keel's Simple Diary.

(image c/o

The diary, conceived by artist and author James Keel, was created so that people may document their days simply, without worry as to the time and introspection needed to put meaningful words to paper, you know, the things that hinder people from starting to journal in the first place. The pages within the diary can be nonsensical, but they definitely promote introspection, and can show us a lot about ourselves should we look back to page one after a month or a year of jotting down daily summaries. The fact that copies of the journal come in the ROYGBIV color selection and that there are two versions should be motivation enough to grab yourself a copy.

The bright and sunny yellow copy is what caught my attention as I was waiting in line at my local bookstore, and so that is the color I chose for myself. As you may remember from an earlier post, the color yellow and I are getting acquainted now that I've ascertained that we aren't enemies. Here is my copy of the journal as well as a few of the cool pages that you can find in the book.

And a nice little note tucked into the back cover pocket was waiting for me. Nothing like a custom note (intended to be viewed by thousands of people) to make one feel special.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

At the Vanity - Comparing St. Tropez, Lorac and Pacifica bronzing lotions

Ah yes, springtime. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, the sky stays blue past five o'clock, and the sun is bright and shining. And the sun's presence brings with it a bronzed population of people basking in it's warmth. (By the way, stop basking. SPF PA+++ is the new black, I hear.) However, should you wish to protect your skin from cancer and/or wrinkles, sun spots, vitamin D overdose (has this ever actually happened?) leathery skin, sunburn, and more, there are other options available of the faux-tan variety.

Aside from gradual self-tanners that can be layered day after day for darker color, there are bronzers on the market that add color to the skin, but that wash off at the end of the day. As anyone that has tried gradual self-tanners or bronzers knows, finding a formula with a color that looks natural, doesn't reek, applies evenly and won't stain skin or clothes is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Especially because I am fair-skinned, I have to be super careful with what I apply to my body, else I can end up looking like one of the following: 1) bruised, as though someone stood close range and threw golf balls at me; 2) like Snooki; or 3) like I have jaundice. Therefore, I've become quite the product patch tester in order to avoid all three of those unfortunate scenarios.

The three bronzers that I've tried are the St. Tropez 'One Night Only' Instant Glow Body Lotion, Lorac's 'TANtalizer' Body Bronzing Luminizer and Pacifica's 'Coconut Crushed Pearl' Bronzing Body Butter.

I swatched each of the three formulas on my arm for an easy comparison. There is a dark, more concentrated swatch of each formula paired next to how the it looks once sheered out on the skin. Just to show the hue, amount of pigment and shimmer of each one, the comparison pictures were taken in outdoor shade, direct sunlight, and indoors.

 (Outdoor shade. From left to right: St. Tropez, Lorac, Pacifica)

(Direct sunlight.)

(Indoor lighting.)

St. Tropez - This product already has a cult following, and it has been endlessly mentioned from magazines to blogs, but this is my first experiment with the brand. I must say, I'm a believer. The addition of a green pigment to the formula keeps that dreaded orangey pigment at bay and creates very natural-looking color. I love that, unlike some clear formulas, you can see where the color is being applied when you put it on your skin, and even though the color looks dark against my own skin, it can easily be sheered down to a lighter wash without getting splotchy. Of the three formulas, this one was the only without any shimmer to it. Another plus? The scent is wonderful, as it smells like a light Ralph Lauren perfume. Finally, the price of $18 for five ounces of product really can't be beat. 

Lorac - This bronzer won Allure's Best of Beauty award last year, so it's had it's fair share of acclaim. The main reason that I gave this brand a go was because while I was in Sephora, I saw that a fair-skinned redhead had applied product to only one of her legs, leaving the other intentionally bare so as to compare it to her natural skin tone. It looked amazing. I wouldn't have been able to tell that she wasn't naturally as tan as the 'TANtalizer' made her look. On the small swatch I applied to my arm, it looks slightly more red-tinged when compared with St. Tropez, but once sheered out, it looks uber-natural. 'TANtalizer' doesn't contain any glitter, but it does have a shimmer-sheen to it. The scent isn't off-putting, but it does smell artificially fruity, a bit like how scented ChapStick smells. The price is $32 for a 5-ounce tube.

Pacifica - This particular product seems to be more moisturizing than the other two, with less pigment, almost as though it is a body lotion first and the bronzing element comes as a perk. The color is a reddish bronze that, while not necessarily unnatural looking, does contain glitter pigments that would alert onlookers to its faux-ness. This lotion can be sheered out to the point where only the teensiest amount of color - with plenty of glitter - remains. The smell, unfortunately, turned me off of it almost entirely, as it smells like old, fake, stale coconut. I don't even know if coconuts can get stale or what a stale coconut actually does smell like...but I imagine it would be something akin to the scent of this lotion. The price is $24 for an 8-ounce tube.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My search for the perfect black leather flats

Like dark, well-tailored jeans, a fitted black blazer, and a good handbag, black flats are on the priority list for things that every woman should own. Black flats are my go-to shoe as they are a staple that makes everything classy by association.

I've worn flats by numerous brands, provided that the shoes are unadorned, are comfortable, and are made of leather. If each of these three stipulations has been met, then we're in business. I always dread the moment when I notice wear and tear on my current pair of black flats, because this means that a new replacement purchase is impending. And while browsing around for new shoes is usually a fun endeavor, my search for new black flats is usually a daunting task. This is due to the fact that I want simple, well-made shoes, and I find that many brands choose cheap fabrics and use a lot of decorative accents to make their flats stand out WHEN ALL THAT IS WANTED IS A PLAIN, SLEEK STYLE.

Basically, anything close to this Lanvin ballet flat would be the ideal shoe.

 (photo c/o

I remember becoming mildly obsessed with this style when I kept seeing photographs of Angelina Jolie running around town in these babies, and I loved how the flats weren't clunky, but rather made a seamless transition from legs to shoe. I already know that a pair of these flats will be my first big shoe purchase for myself, and I can't wait for that day to come. It hasn't come yet, but I will use the style for inspiration toward other purchases. Therefore, whenever I look for shoes now, I ask myself, ''Will this give you the 'Lanvin effect'?" If the answer is yes, then I've got a new pair of shoes.

After six months of searching both online and in stores, I found the best flat in the form of Dolce Vita's Lucca style. Leather? Check. Unadorned? Check. Nice, pointy toe? Check. Comfortable? Check check. 

Should you be in the market for a wonderful pair of black flats, I can attest that these would be a lovely addition to your wardrobe. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Local spotlight - Au Marche

On the list of my top five favorite shops is Au Marche, a small store that is modeled after a European marketplace (hence the name).

 (My bag of October goodies, including: a coffee sampler, fruit gummies, cola Mentos and a pistachio truffle.)

Au Marche brings goods to Lawrence, Kan. that usually can only be found across the pond. Owner Lora Wiley was inspired to open Au Marche after studying abroad in France and traveling throughout Europe where she not only fell in love with the culture, but happened upon a small store that sold hard-to-come-by American products such as Oreos and Snapple. She thought that opening such a shop in the United States - selling European wares, of course - would be a great idea. And thus, Au Marche was born.

The store, though not massive, is packed with treasures in the forms of paper goods, small eatables and body care products. Upon walking into Au Marche, directly to the left is an assortment of body lotions, soaps and lip balms that will keep your nose entranced for hours. Though I don't use bar soap, the brand Pre de Provence makes the most tantalizing scents, like Pineapple and Vanilla Woods, for instance, that have me willing to switch from using my tried-and-true body washes. Anothe bar soap brand, Nesti, has the most interesting - yet still delightful - soap scents, such as Red Grape and Blueberry, Fig and Almond Milk, Artichoke, and Olive and Tangerine.

The store even carries the cult product that many cosmetic mavens rave about - the hard-to-find Nivea face cream that's manufactured in Germany, as opposed to the more prevalently found, less hydrating formula that's made in Mexico.

The center of the store is host to meats, cheeses, chilled drinks, spreads, spices and even handmade ice cream and truffles by local celebrity chef Christopher Elbow. The piece de resistance? An expansive middle table devoted exclusively to an assortment of tiny candies, all of which are individually wrapped and ripe for the plucking. And pluck I do.
This candy buffet, such as it were, makes me a glutton. How can you resist grabbing one of everything when it's packaged so enticingly?

It is through my forays into the candy brands presented on this table that I found a product that marries my two great loves, coffee and chocolate. The product in question, Pocket Coffee, is a candy that consists of a thin, crunchy square chocolate wafer that houses a half shot of liquid espresso in its center. When you take a bite and the decadent mix of chocolate and espresso hits your lips, you'll be so overwhelmed that you'll forget your name.
Yes, it's that good, and I've turned half of my friends on to it. The candy is hard to come by and is usually on backorder from abroad. Once it arrives in store, it is snatched up almost immediately by customers. There were crates full of Pocket Coffee boxes that were delivered to Au Marche, and within three days, the store only had four small boxes left to sell.

Some other middle table goodies that I'm a fan of include: Zots sour candies, Kinder chocolate-coated, hazelnut-infused vanilla wafer Happy Hippos, cola-flavored Mentos and Hopjes coffee-flavored hard candies.

Found situated against the wall and housed on gondolas are Euro-centric stationary, postcards and gift tags, most of which are pastel-colored, some of which contain glitter and all of which are adorable.

I've fallen prey to their spell many a time, as you can see from my tiny gift tag stash.

Along the walls, packaged goods such as jams, teas, coffee, seasonings and sweets can be found. In a corner I've unofficially dubbed "chocolate paradise", there are rows upon rows of pastries, cookies and full-size candy and chocolate bars.


And these foreign candy bars, by the way, have the most delectable combination of ingredients that seem to be missing in their American counterparts. For instance, there are banana-hazelnut combos, cappucino-filled milk chocolate, pear-infused dark chocolate, bacon and chocolate combos, plus many more. *Side note: I've tried the Vosges Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar, and despite the eyebrow-raising ingredient combination, the taste is anticlimatic. I honestly couldn't taste any bacon. This isn't to say that I was expecting a ham-cocoa-fest to happen in my mouth, but I was expecting something more than a slightly salty chocolate bar. Meh.

A dark chocolate spread by a company called Nusco is a divine creation I'm glad I bought on a whim. If I thought that I was blown away by the taste bud oasis that is Nutella, then I wasn't prepared for Nusco. This dark chocolate topping is the bee's knees, though the brand also offers a sweet spread that is a swirled hazelnut and milk chocolate combo. I haven't tried that one yet, but I'm sure it's worth a taste.

Should coffee be your thing, Au Marche also offers sample-size packages of several of its flavors so that you can try a coffee flavor before committing to a full bag of grounds. My favorite time to peruse the coffee selection is right around fall and winter when the seasonal selections come out. Pumpkin flavors during September and October and vanilla-run combos in November and December are delicious (and great stocking stuffers). 

Obviously I'm an Au Marche fan. Exemplary customer service from the staff combined with a stellar selection of amazing products not only keeps me coming back for more, but also encourages me to tell everyone about the store.