Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Brushes: RealTechniques by Samantha Chapman

As if I needed new brushes. But then again, I really can't help myself when it comes to makeup brushes--if they're soft, offer a shape that I've yet to try, or better yet can be used dual-purposely, I'm usually down to give them a go. When I heard that Pixiwoo's Samantha Chapman had assisted in designing a brush line, I magically found myself at Ulta on the hunt.

As promised, the RealTechniques by SamanthaChapman brush kits are affordable, and thoughtfully made. There are a few to choose from (you also have the choice of a few single brushes), but I went for the Core Collection as I had been eyeing the foundation brush.

The set comes with four synthetic taklon brushes--a detailer, pointed foundation brush, buffer, and contour brush. There is also a case, which can be used for travel or as a stand.

The detailer can be used for concealer or lip products. This will get its most use for the latter, as I'm always looking for something to perfect lipstick.

The pointed foundation brush is much smaller than I expected (I was hoping for something a bit wider), but the angled point is nice for hard to reach areas--around the nose, and closer to the eyes.

The buffing brush is my favorite so far--the slightly rounded top is something a little different than the typical flat-top stipplers, and it's extra soft yet dense.

The contouring brush will be great for highlighting. I tend to use a fan brush for this purpose, but with liquid highlighters this synthetic material will be useful.

Overall, the brushes are a good quality, affordable option. No hairs were shed during their initial wash, and their lightweight aluminum handles remind me a bit of Sephora's Collection I.T. line, yet at a lower price-point. The carrying case is just an added extra--a bit flimsy feeling--but I won't store them in there regardless.

Have you tried the RealTechniques brushes? What is the one brush you can't seem to have enough of?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Some Island Sun..(and a surprise)

During the time that I was away, the hubby and I were able to sneak away to Miami and the Bahamas. We love Miami--the culture is alive, there is some amazing food, and of course warm weather. I rarely share photos from our holidays, but as the weather has yet to truly warm up here (isn't it supposed to be Spring already?), I can't help but think about sunny skies and days spent by the beach. Soon, soon we will return.

Did I mention that Miami has some amazing food? One of my
favorite restaurants--SushiSamba is my first stop for shishito peppers, and a mix of Brasilian-Japanese fare. Their SambaDromo and Pacific rolls are my favorite.

Mornings in Freeport were spent watching the sun rise, followed
by days searching for conch salads and the little ordinary things that give the island its natural beauty.

Our hotel had enough pools to allow the whole island a swim, but my feeling is that those things are unnecessary when you have the whole ocean to play in.

It's easy to let time pass you by while you stare at the horizon, only to later realize you're catching the sunset.

Although the reason for our holiday was a little relaxation for just the Mister and I, there was someone else who tagged along. In fact, he's been hanging out with us for the past five and a half months...

He's our best kept secret...our most amazing dream yet...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Josie Maran: Beauty In a Box

There are loads of things waiting to be discussed, but I thought I would start with this one as it's only available for a limited time. I've never been a fan of Sephora's Beauty In a Box sets, as I'm usually just fine choosing items that I'd like to to test on my own. Typically, I find that the box sets are either a bit too generic, or they have sample-sized products (I mean, really?) that are meant to make the purchaser happy that they dropped a fifty. Either of these things make sense in my mind.

Lately, I've been on a bit of a Josie Maran kick (more coming your way). The way that she incorporates argan oil into her products always turns up sun-kissed and fresh. Nothing about her line feels heavy or cakey--just really good for you. It's as though you are actually making a healthy and intelligent move by applying the makeup to your skin.

The first thing that struck me about the Josie Maran Fresh-Faced & Romantic kit, was the duo bronzer/blush compact. I love when both can be found in the same compact--it makes it so much easier during travel, but also when finding the perfect pairing at your dressing table. When I realized that the kit came with several full-sized (and a few nearly full-sized) items, I thought the $52 price tag was a steal. After all, many of the items--the ones that can be sold separately--are priced at nearly half that, each. After searching a handful of Sephora locations, I found one today. They are no longer available online, so if you are interested, I'd run to your nearest Sephora, or call around to check stock.

100% Argan Oil Moisturizer, Instant Natural Volume
Argan Mascara, Argan Illuminizer, Argan
Color Stick, Argan Natural Volume Lipgloss, Blusher/Bronzer,
Argan Oil Hair Serum

I've used the colorless argan sticks in the past, but this has a twist--this full-sized product is tinted a rose hue. It has a slight minty scent to it, and is packed full of vitamin e and argan oil. This can be used on cheeks and lips.

Argan Color Stick - Rosey

The plumping gloss in Soledad, smells a bit like cookie dough and is a creamy peach bellini shade. This is perfect for Spring and Summer, and the only thing I'm not loving is the brush applicator. It splays a bit, and I noticed that the in-store testers were even worse. I can deal...or I can get crafty and snip those few hairs off.

Natural Volume Lipgloss - Soledad

The blush/bronzer duo is limited edition for this set. Hopefully it will be released in the full line, as it is so convenient. The colors blend very easily and wear well on the skin. Because this product is also infused with argan oil, the effect is very moisturizing--yet doesn't leave the skin shiny or too dewy.

Blush/Bronzer Duo - Flushed/Contoured

As of late, illuminzing products have been the first thing I think about when planning out a daily look. It may be that because Spring is now here, I feel the need to pretend that the sun shines every day...or it may just be that they brighten the skin so well, and add that subtle glow. This one is no exception. It's a liquid form (my favorite), and has a slightly gold tint to it. It's appropriate for cool or warm toned skin, as it's not a yellow gold.

Argan Illuminzer

Argan Illuminzer (blended)

The 100% argan oil dropper bottle can be used multi-purposely for skin, hair, rough patches, and even in the bath. However, there is also another hair serum that is meant to be used specifically for hair. I will give this a go in the same way that I use my Moroccan Oil. Additionally, the mascara is touted as being conditioning and plumping--but the best thing is that if you purchase a full-sized tube, the company gives one also to a cancer patient/survivor. Love that!

I can appreciate a company that keeps their line straightforward and simple, while still being philanthropic. The packaging is clean and uncomplicated and every product contains good-for-you elements.

What do you think of Josie Maran cosmetics? Do you have a favorite from the line?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Nga Waiata = Aroha

Greetings! Yes, it's been far too long--what was intended to be a two week break, turned into something much longer than expected. Ladies, it was much needed. I am feeling like my better self, and I owe it to stepping back and reassessing all that's been going on. There are loads of things that I need to update you all on, as there is some exciting news in the air. Stay tuned, and I will surely fill you in.

Before I went on break, I entered a giveaway on the fabulous SheBreathes site. If you haven't checked it out already, you've waited too long. Honest. The SheBreathes crew covers everything from fashion to beauty, to...HeBreathes! I could (and often do) read and read for ages on the site. If that's not enough, follow them on Twitter--their musings have me shouting an "Amen!" left and right. Anyhow, when they posted that they were having a giveaway for a custom designed Nga Waiata ring, I just about fell off my chair. One of my favorite sites, featuring an amazing brand from the Pacific?! I entered, but without any huge expectations of actually winning. I couldn't not though, you know? A Maori brand, now getting the attention it deserves in shops like Barneys--it was too good to be true.

And it nearly was, because I won! If I knew how, I would have been doing cartwheels--instead, I called my cousin in New Zealand and babbled on and on about how excited I was to have a Nga Waiata piece for myself. She was way into the news. I knew exactly which stone I was interested in--the fluorite--and was set on having the chunky pointy shape. It was so Wilma Flinstone meets South Pacific. The stone is said to bring clarity, balance, and also aid in finding the truth behind illusion. It was for me in every way.

When I first opened the package, I was taken by the details. Packaged so sweet and delicately, you could tell a lot of love was put into the process.

Descriptions for care were included, as the band can be made from either black maire, pohutakawa, or puriri--all native New Zealand woods. Also, a handwritten note. I was impressed.

And finally, the piece I had been anxiously looking forward to. It was more beautiful in person than on the site. It feels substantial, powerful, and is unlike anything else in my collection. It doesn't compete with wedding bands or other jewelry, as it feels so raw and honest. It's my own beautiful piece of the Pacific, here in the cold States.

I have to admit, I already have my eye on the flattened citrine, and am thinking that someone will be getting this as a birthday gift in the near future.

Inscribed on the back are the words Nga Waiata. The translation of this is the songs in te reo Maori. You can follow Nga Waiata's blog here.

Have you seen the Nga Waiata line before? What are your thoughts?
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