My Cruelty-Free Journey | Update #1

So it’s been about three months months since I made my post about the start of my cruelty-free journey, and I figured it was about time I posted an update.

To be honest, it’s been a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I never thought the transition would be easy or fast – I mean, I’m calling this series a journey for a reason – but I’ve discovered that it’s going to take me a lot longer than I thought to be completely cruelty-free.

While I was conscious from the beginning that living a cruelty-free lifestyle extended beyond just skincare and makeup products, I didn’t take into consideration a lot of other categories of products where I’d have to make a change. Over the last two months, I’ve come to realize that I also will need to replace:

  • Toothpaste: I use Sensodyne, which is not cruelty-free. I have sensitive teeth, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a cruelty-free alternative. If not, Tom’s of Maine is cruelty-free, and my boyfriend already uses that, so I might just stick to that if I can’t find anything better.
  • Nail polish: Sadly, I really didn’t think about this category at all, because I really don’t paint my nails at all. The last time I can remember painting my nails was last October… Fortunately, this isn’t too difficult of a category for me to work on, since most of my newer nail polishes are cruelty-free (mainly Smith & Cult and KL Polish), and most, if not all, of my nail polishes that aren’t are old and need to be tossed anyways. I just need to find an opportunity to bring these to a household hazardous waste facility.
  • Fragance: My most loved fragrance, Glossier You (1.7 fl oz, $60), is thankfully cruelty-free. The majority of my fragrances, however, are not, so I’m planning to donate all of my unused deluxe samples, not only because they’re almost all not cruelty-free, but I have no need for so many fragrance samples and would like to pass them on to someone who would have use for them. Thankfully, most of my perfumes are actually not full-size products, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. The only full-size non-cruelty-free fragrance I have is a Chanel perfume that my mom gave me for my birthday a few years ago. I don’t use perfume often, so it’ll take me a while to use up my perfumes, but I will not be repurchasing any perfumes that are not cruelty-free, Chanel or otherwise. I’m actually interested in natural perfumes, but I don’t really want to fall down that rabbit hole until I actually have space in my collection for new fragrances.

At first, I was really disappointed that it was going to take me longer than I thought to reach a point where I was using only cruelty-free products. Though as time went on, I  realized that there was no reason to be disappointed – I’ve already made a lot of changes, decluttering my stash and making it a point to only purchase products from cruelty-free brands. I’m proud that I have no issue with letting go of my loved non-cruelty-free products and finding cruelty-free alternatives, even if it means I still need to use up what’s still in my inventory.

And if anything, I think the fact that I’m using up what I have first, even if it’s not cruelty-free, is better than just replacing everything that I have and starting anew. Being cruelty-free is important and is my ultimate goal, but it’s also important to me not to be wasteful. If I’m not giving something away, I should use it up instead of generating more waste. I’ve been making pretty good progress, and I’m aiming to be completely cruelty-free by the end of next year, though we’ll have to see how that goes 🙂

The good news is that throughout this journey so far, I’ve really become more conscious of what I’m buying. I’m choosing to be more informed about where my money is going, being more aware of what ingredients are in the products I’m buying, and being more selective about what I buy. I’ve always been guilty of being too easily sucked into sales and discounts, and this whole process has helped me take a step back from all of that. I’m getting better about not stockpiling a bunch of stuff that I may never end up using anyways… 😅

Hopefully, my documentation of this process can help those of you who are also thinking of transitioning to only cruelty-free products and ensure that, if you plan to do so, you won’t feel like you have to get rid of all of your stuff and replace them with cruelty-free products in one fell swoop.

Are any of you also currently in transition to a cruelty-free lifestyle? How is that going for you?

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BOOK REVIEW | Her Body and Other Parties

From the moment I first heard of Her Body and Other Parties, a collection of short stories by Carmen Maria Machado, I wanted to read it. Reading novels written by women and about women is really important to me, and this one in particular called out my name because it had elements of horror, one of my favorite genres of anything, incorporated into each of its short stories.

The collection of short stories in this novel focus on the violence put on women’s bodies, whether by society, other people, or the women themselves. Machado’s other-worldly and slightly unsettling writing fits perfectly with the topics of her stories, making each and every one all the more engrossing.

To be honest, some of the stories worked better for me than others, but I enjoyed reading all of them, something that I can’t say for every short story collection. And while there is the overarching theme of violence on women’s bodies, each story is very distinct, from a re-telling of the story of the girl with the ribbon around her neck, to a paranormal re-imagining of every Law & Order: SVU episode, to a woman’s recollection of all her sexual encounters as the world ends around her.

The stories in this book are unlike any others, and I look forward to reading more of Machado’s beautiful writing and evocative, creative stories. Her Body and Other Parties is also being developed into an anthology TV series, and hopefully, we’ll be seeing that on TV soon!

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BOOK REVIEW | Sharp Objects

As I’ve mentioned before, I love crime/thriller/mystery novels, and Gillian Flynn is one of my favorite authors when it comes to this genre. I had already read her other two books, Gone Girl and Dark Places, and finally got around to reading Sharp Objects this past month.

Sharp Objects follows Camille Preaker, a journalist at a lesser known Chicago paper, who returns to her hometown of Windy Gap, Missouri after eight years to investigate the murder of a young girl and the disappearance of another. While there, she also has to face her mother, Adora, who has never shown any affection for her, and her thirteen-year-old half-sister, Amma, who is a perfect little doll to be coddled by Adora at home, but a mean girl around the town.

Like most thriller/crime novels, this one was pretty easy to read. It was also relatively short, so it’s definitely something you could finish in a couple of sittings if you wanted to.  Gillian Flynn’s writing is very proficient and engaging, so you’re never bored as you go through the novel. I’ve mentioned that I’m not a fan of first person writing, but Flynn does it in a way that it’s not unbearable to read.

The material, however, is definitely very dark and is probably too disturbing for some people to read. If you’re triggered by cutting, abuse, sexualization of preteen girls, and graphic descriptions of violence, I’d say definitely pass on this. It is by no means a comfortable book, even compared to other books of the same genre.

Although I guessed a good portion of what would happen early on in the novel, the twist at the end still came as a bit of a surprise to me. Unfortunately, I think Flynn could’ve done a better job with that twist. Rather than write about it as if Camille was experiencing things in real time like the rest of the book, the twist was revealed in the form of Camille recapping it for the readers. It also felt very abrupt – Flynn built up the story very well until the end, when suddenly it seemed as if there were a rush to end the book.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this novel if you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn and/or crime/thriller novels. I’m really hoping Flynn will come out with a new novel soon…

 

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Mid-Year Reflections

It’s crazy that it’s already the end of June! I don’t know how to feel, but I’m starting to believe that as you get older, each year goes by faster… 😦 Anyways, as we are at the halfway point of 2018, I thought it’d be a good time to reflect on this year so far and what progress I’ve made for the goals and intentions I had set at the beginning of the year.

  1. Lead a more active lifestyle. I’ve been pretty bad about this, but also not really! I only have probably gone on a run once since 2018 started, but I’ve moved, and now I have to walk at least two miles a day as part of my work commute.
  2. Travel more, whether near or far. This is definitely happening, both intentionally and not. I didn’t do much traveling the first half of this year, but I’m traveling to the UK for work next month, going on a glamping trip with my best friends also next month, showing my boyfriend around Taiwan in the fall, and heading to Australia with my family during the winter holidays! I am beyond excited, as I haven’t gone on any vacations since the Mediterranean cruise a year and a half ago. Stay tuned in the next few months for some travel blog posts! 🙂
  3. Try new recipes more often. Now that my boyfriend and I live together, we’ve been really good about this. Having a few cookbooks on hand helps too.
  4. Read more consistently. I’m getting slightly better at this, but I can still improve. The travel will definitely help, since I always bring a book with me for the flights.
  5. Be more mindful of where and how I spend my money. This has happened pretty drastically just out of necessity. Some roommate/moving out drama on earlier this year on top of the usual moving in costs meant I took a hit financially. While I did quite a bit of retail therapy the last couple of months (haul coming next week, lol), I’ve definitely gotten better about really thinking about whether I need something before I buy it. Deciding to go cruelty-free has also helped with the mindfulness part – I make sure to do my research on a company, mainly to make sure it’s cruelty-free, before purchasing any of its products.
  6. Buy less but more mindfully – invest in better pieces, steer away from fast fashion. Minus a bit of a wardrobe refresh (I’ve been trying to incorporate more color and prints into my life), I’ve been really good about this. I’ve gotten rid of probably 25% of my previous wardrobe, either passing it on to my sister, donating it, or selling it. I don’t buy from fast fashion anymore (the temptation is real though, especially with Zara), choosing to buy less but pay slightly more for the good stuff that I know will last.
  7. Work harder on this blog and its content – more content and more variety. I think I’ve been better about this! I’m really trying my best to post at least once, sometimes twice, a week, and while every once in a while I drop off, I’ve been pretty consistent the last couple of months. I’m trying to improve on my photography skills to take better pictures of products, and hopefully I’ll start posting outfit pics too, once I gather the courage and am able to take decent pics.
  8. Wake up earlier, and make it a habit! I’ve been on and off about this, though having a dog makes it easier. My boyfriend and I take turns taking our dog, Zelda, out in the morning. Sometimes she decides she’ll want to linger outside and sniff away, which means I have to allocate time to allow her to do that. (Shameless plug: if you like dogs, check out Zelda’s instagram! Picture of her below.)
  9. Pay it forward more often. I’m not really sure how to measure this, but I do try to be nice, offer to pitch in and help when I see it’s needed, etc.
  10. LEARN, whether skills/knowledge needed for my field or otherwise. I think figuring out how to improve on photography skills counts for this? In my field, however, I’ve been slacking. I need to do better, sigh.
  11. Ask myself more, “Will it matter when I die?” I definitely have been better at this. Just going through the shit show that was my moving out situation really put things in perspective for me. When you witness people at their pettiest and are forced to deal with it, you really come to realize that some things just aren’t worth getting upset/stressed/angry over anymore.
  12. Put more effort in my daily appearance, even if it’s just fixing my hair or putting on some mascara… I am happy to say that I am getting better about this! I don’t necessarily do it every day, but when I have time, I try to put on a bit of light makeup. I also have been putting more effort into my efforts, at least most days…
  13. Use perfume more regularly. Adding Glossier You to my collection has convinced me into using perfume more often, whether it’s that one or another one in my collection.
  14. Become a daily sunscreen user!!! I know, I should be better about this… I probably remember to put on sunscreen 5 out of 7 days in a good week, so I’m getting there!

Overall, I think I’ve been doing pretty well, but I could be doing more! I guess that’s what the next half of the year is for 🙂

Also, since I mentioned my dog above, I’m going to shameless share a couple of my favorite pictures of her below, hehe.

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My Cruelty-Free Journey | The Start

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At the beginning of this year, I shared my goals and intentions for this year, and one of them was that I wanted to make more mindful purchases. I’ve been doing pretty well, staying away from fast fashion stores and definitely putting more thought into where I’m spending my money, and a couple of weeks ago, I decided that it was time to go cruelty-free.

I’ve done research on cruelty-free brands and products here and there over the last couple of years, but this decision was actually a pretty abrupt one, and now I don’t even remember what brought me to make this choice. I’m glad I did though because I really don’t want to be supporting brands that test on animals. As transitioning to be completely cruelty-free is definitely a journey and not something that can happen within just a few days, I thought I could start a series here on my blog to document my progress. If you’re looking to make the same transition, hopefully, this series will be helpful to you as well!

Cruelty-Free 101

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cruelty-free world, it’s really complex, as I have learned as I’ve done my research. If a company says it’s cruelty-free, there are a few possibilities for what that really means, which I’ll list and describe below:

  1. Certified by Leaping Bunny and/or signed the PETA pledge: If a company has either of these, it means it has an official guarantee that it does not conduct any animal testing.
    • Examples: Bite Beauty, Colourpop, e.l.f., Marc Jacobs Beauty
  2. Cruelty-free but no affiliation with PETA/Leaping Bunny: A lot of companies seem to fall into this category.
    • Examples: Drunk Elephant, Glossier, Sunday Riley, Youth to the People
  3. Cruelty-free but owned by a parent company that tests on animals: L’Oreal, Unilever, and Estee Lauder are just a few examples of parent companies that conduct animal testing. However, companies in this category are able to maintain their cruelty-free status even while being owned by one of these parent companies. Some of these companies even have the Leaping Bunny certification.
    • Examples: BECCA, Tarte (Leaping Bunny), Urban Decay (Leaping Bunny)
  4. Cruelty-free but sells in China: Selling in China is a big deal because China requires any foreign beauty products to go through animal testing if they are to be sold in physical stores in mainland China (Hong Kong is okay). Cruelty-free and selling in China were first brought to my attention when NARS, which is otherwise cruelty-free, decided to start selling its products in China. If a company says that it does not conduct animal testing “except where required by law”, it is likely that they are selling in China. I find this to be so shady, and any company claiming to be cruelty-free yet sells in China is betraying its own morals to make more money.
    • Examples: Caudalie, Kiehl’s, NARS, Origins
  5. Gray-area cruelty-free: This would be companies that say they do not conduct animal testing but don’t say anything or are vague about whether their suppliers do. Basically, read the company’s statement carefully and pay attention to the wording.

If you’re interested in finding out more, Cruelty-Free Kitty, Logical Harmony, and Ethical Elephant are all great resources. These sites all have lists of cruelty-free brands and brands that you should avoid, as well as a bunch of other helpful information. (If you’re already cruelty-free, please share any other resources you have in the comments below! 🙂 )

My Cruelty-Free Philosophy

As I’ve learned from doing my research, everyone has a different idea of what being cruelty-free is. For some people, if the brand is cruelty-free but its parent company isn’t, then they will not use products from that brand. For me, I will use a product as long as the brand itself does not conduct animal testing. However, I will not use any products that are sold in China. I’ve found some articles stating that it’s actually possible to sell products in China as long as the product’s in are white-listed, but I think that’s a black hole of research I’d rather not fall into.

Although it’s natural for a lot of cruelty-free people to use only vegan products, I’m not going to. I’m okay with and will continue to use products that have animal ingredients in them (mainly but not limited to bee byproducts like beeswax and honey) but will try to buy vegan products as much as I can.

IN SUMMARY: when I talk about cruelty-free brands from this post forward, I mean cruelty-free brands that: (1) do not sell in China, but (2) may be owned by a parent company that does test on animals, and (3) may or may not be vegan.

Current Progress

After I decided to become cruelty-free, I inventoried my skincare and makeup collection. To my horror, a good two-thirds of what I own is not from a cruelty-free brand, so it’s definitely going to be a while before I can call myself completely cruelty-free. The products I have photographed in the picture are all of the smaller sized items that I have that are not cruelty-free. I was getting a little overwhelmed gathering all of my non-cruelty-free products together for this little shoot, but, thankfully, this is the bulk of my items – I still have a few full-sized items not pictured here.

I’ll be using up any products that I already have that aren’t cruelty-free because I think it’s so wasteful not to use up products I already own, but I also plan on passing some items on to my family and friends and donating a lot of it to either local shelters or Project Beauty Share, an amazing organization that also takes gently used makeup products. However, from now on, I will only be purchasing from cruelty-free brands and will no longer be reviewing any non-cruelty-free products unless it’s part of a larger post (i.e. empties, cruelty-free journey update, etc.).

Sadly, Kiehl’s and Origins, which were two of my favorite brands, both have the “except when required by law” phrase that means they do still conduct animal testing, likely since they sell their products in China. Hopefully, they change their policies one day so I can go back to using their products again.

Going cruelty-free isn’t going to be limited to beauty products, either. I’m also going to do this for all of my household products, including cleaners, soaps, and more.

Look out for an update on my progress in a couple of months!

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How I Shop Online | Tips for Saving Money

As I’m sure a lot of you are as well, I am an avid online shopper, and as I get older and become more of a homebody, I’ve only embraced online shopping even more.

That being said, there is no way I am going to sacrifice saving money for the convenience and ease of online shopping. I’m going to maximize whatever savings I can get – from coupon codes, cashback, discounted gift cards, and more – to get the best of both worlds.

Level 1: Free Shipping

This is probably pretty obvious, and I’m sure most of you do this too. If a product is sold at more than one site, I will always choose the one with free shipping. If a site requires that you spend however much money to get free shipping, I will only wait until I have that much money’s worth of products that I want before making a purchase, or I will see if that site has a “pick up in store for free” option and do that. I used to fall into the trap of spending more to get free shipping, but then I realized I was spending way more money than I planned to, so I stopped. Don’t fall into that trap!

Level 2: Wait for a Sale

This is probably another obvious one, but if you don’t need it right away, wait for a discount. If possible, wait even more for a steeper discount. There have been a couple of times where I’ve jumped at purchasing something at first discount, only to see an even better one a week later. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, as some items can be so popular that they sell out before they can go on sale. And if you really love something and are worried you won’t get it, then get it! But most of the time, I think this is a good rule. And if it does end up selling out, and you’re not that bummed, you probably didn’t want it that much anyways.

Level 3: Coupons/Promos/Discount Codes

I am always on the hunt for some type of code to save money. I’m subscribed to most email lists and am on any reward programs for the sites that I shop at most, which often times will provide you with member exclusive codes. I also frequently just google “[store name] + promo code” to see if I can find any better codes as well. The Honey extension is also great, as it will list as many promo codes as it can find, and will even try inputting them all for you in the checkout window.

Level 4: Membership/Rewards Programs

This one is pretty much a no-brainer, especially if you frequent specific stores/sites, but is definitely recommended regardless. All it really requires is providing your email and/or creating an account for the site. Usually, this program involves points, and for every time you hit a certain point threshold, you get some type of reward.

Sephora Beauty Insider/VIB/VIB Rouge, Ulta’s Ultamate Rewards, and Birchbox Loyalty Points are three great ones to join if you enjoy buying beauty products – Sephora’s program allows you to redeem deluxe samples of various products for points, while Ulta’s and Birchbox’s programs allow you to redeem the points at a dollar value. Many clothing retailers now also have a rewards program, and drugstores like CVS also have their own programs.

Basically, before you make a purchase, check whether that site has its own rewards program. Even if you don’t think you’re going to shop there again, many times, there will be some type of new member bonus that makes it worth it.

Level 5: Cashback/Rebate Programs

I always use a cashback/rebate program, primarily CouponCabin and Ebates*. I have the Chrome extensions for both on my browser, so when I go to a shopping site, both will pop up and tell me how much percent of my purchase I can get back:

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You can’t stack different cashback sites, so usually, between CouponCabin and Ebates, I choose whichever site gives me more cashback. If you sign up for CouponCabin, every time you hit a certain number of shopping transactions using the service, you get a certain percentage of bonus cash back. Right now, I am getting 10% bonus on every purchase I make with CouponCabin (just goes to show how much online shopping I do…). This means that I usually end up using CouponCabin. You’d be surprised at how quickly even something like 2% cashback adds up if you’re shopping online often.

I’d say the only downside to these cashback/rebate type of deals is that you don’t get the rebate immediately. For CouponCabin, you get cash back when you hit a certain threshold of total cashback – the minimum is $7, which is what I have my threshold set at. For Ebates, you get your rebate every three months. Both sites offer many different methods to receive your cashback, including check, PayPal, and gift card. CouponCabin only offers Amazon gift cards for the gift card option, but you’ll get 10% bonus cash back if you choose this option (Amazon gift cards are like cash anyways, so no big deal). Ebates offers more variety for the gift card option, including Sephora, though the bonus cashback percentage varies depending on which card you choose.

Bonus: See if your credit card has some type of shopping rewards program. I have a Southwest Rewards credit card, so if I can’t shop through Ebates or Coupon Cabin, I’ll shop through Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping to get points. I can redeem these to use on a Southwest flight.

Level 6: Discounted Gift Cards

This was something I discovered in the last couple of years, but there are sites that exist where people can sell gift cards they’ll never use, and other people can buy them at a discounted rate.

There are plenty of these sites out there, but Raise** is my favorite. I’ve both sold and purchased gift cards on Raise, and there’s often times an additional discount on top of the already discounted cards. I most often buy Target and Sephora gift cards on Raise, and there’s never a shortage of these on the site. Usually, I can get Sephora get cards for about 5% off their value, though I’ve gotten some as high as 8% before.

If you see a gift card with a steep discount, you have to move fast – there have been too many times where I added the card to my cart, only to have it already gone when I go to check out. If you have more patience than me and/or have a specific purchase already in mind, I’d recommend checking Raise regularly so you can get the best deal.

Bonus: You can get cashback from either CouponCabin or Ebates for purchases at Raise.

Level 7: Drop

This app*** is literally free money. All you have to do is link your credit cards and add whatever offers you desire to your Drop account. There are ongoing and active (aka limited time) offers. Ongoing offers are always in your account, and you’ll always earn a set amount of points per dollar spent. For example, I get 15 points for every dollar I spend at Trader Joe’s, and this is all the time.

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Active offers are slightly different. They’re one-time offers more times than not, and usually, you have to spend x amount of money to get y amount of points. Y amount of points is usually a substantial amount. For example, my active Starbucks offer shown above will get me 200 points if I spend at least $5.

Drop also has this new thing where you can get points when you shop online through their app. I can’t say much about this feature because I haven’t used it yet.

You can redeem these points for gift cards. They offer quite a few, and the value of the gift card is basically $1 for 1000 points. I always like getting the $10 Amazon gift card right when I hit 10,000 points, since like I’ve mentioned above, an Amazon gift card is basically cash.

I hope you found this post helpful! I had tons of fun writing this because saving money/getting a good deal gives me life 🙂 What do you do to save money when shopping online?

*Get $10 back on your first purchase of $25 or more with Ebates when you sign up with my referral link!

**Get $5 off your first purchase when you use Raise via my referral link.

***Get 1,000 points when you sign up for Drop with my referral link!

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BOOK REVIEW | The Psychopath Test

 

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The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, by Jon Ronson, is, to put it simply, a nonfiction book that explores psychopathy, the psychiatric/psychological world, and more. With just that one sentence, it would seem that this book is boring. However, it is anything but.

Ronson takes the readers on a journey, starting with a baffling puzzle sent out to top neurologists in the world. From there, he starts his journey through the titular madness industry, which takes him from prisons to the church of Scientology to conspiracy theorists to the (also titular) psychopath test.

I’m very picky about nonfiction books, not because I’m a snobby reader or anything, but because I get easily bored if the information isn’t presented in a way that’s entertaining to me. I initially picked up this book because I’m very into crime and true crime, and the topic of psychopathy is in that vein. I wasn’t expecting much, but Ronson weaves all of these varying bits of information and anecdotes from his own research for this book that really made The Psychopath Test an easy and enjoyable read.

That being said, this isn’t a book I’d recommend if you’re actually trying to learn about psychopathy – it’s definitely more of a book where, as a reader, you’re just along for the ride as Ronson himself delves into this world, though it does still include a lot of history and facts about psychopathy, mental illnesses, and the madness industry. Ronson really did his research.

Regardless, I highly recommend this book, and I want to look into reading his other books as well.

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FAVORITES | April 2018

No excuses, but I failed to post last week 😦 I’ll really have to try harder to be more consistent in posting…

Anyways, April favorites! As I hadn’t really posted for most of the last few months, some of these items have been in use for more than just April. Can you believe it’s already May? The year’s gone by so quickly…

This month’s favorites includes beauty items, of course, as well a few fashion items, a movie, and a recipe!

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  1. Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask (2.25 oz, $48): Let’s just say this deserves all the hype it’s getting. Stay tuned for a more detailed review.
  2. Colourpop Super Shock Shadow in Weenie (0.074 oz, $5): I’ve been a longtime fan of the Colourpop Super Shock Shadows and of Kathleenlights, who created this shade as part of a collaboration with Colourpop. I had purchased this beautiful rose gold ultra-metallic shade right when it was released, but hadn’t used it until recently. It is as beautiful as it sounds. I actually use it as an everyday shade, applied with my fingers as a wash of color and shine on my lids, as the rose gold is rather subtle on my skin tone. However, I can definitely see myself using this shadow wet for a more dramatic look.
  3. Clinique High Impact Mascara in Black ($18 for full size): I got a deluxe sample of this mascara in one of those Sephora Favorites boxes, but just started using this in April after my previous mascara had dried up. I never expected much from this mascara, but I was so impressed from the very first time I used it. It’s definitely more of a natural look mascara, but it does an amazing job of lengthening my lashes. I never really purchase full size mascaras, but if I ever do, this one is definitely on my list.
  4. No7 Lift & Luminate Foundation in Warm Beige (1 oz, $15.99): From first application, I knew I was going to love this foundation. It was so easy to blend with a beauty sponge and looked like my skin but better. The formula definitely leaves your skin subtly glowy as promised, and I appreciate the SPF 15 as well. The relatively inexpensive price doesn’t hurt either.
  5. Botanics All Bright Foaming Face Wash (5 oz, $5.99): I’ve previously mentioned this in my post about Botanics, but didn’t get around to using it until a couple of months ago. Since I’ve started using it, it’s become a daily cleanser of mine. I started using it every morning, but now I prefer to use it at night. Despite being a foaming face wash, it doesn’t strip my skin at all, and my face still feels refreshed and clean afterwards. It’s also really affordable and easily found at Target, which only makes it more awesome.
  6. Glossier Body Hero Oil Wash (8.4 fl oz, $18 or save $5 with the Body Hero Duo): This body wash is amazing. I’ve never really used an oil wash before, and I loved how this one started as an oil, but lathers up as it interacts with water. My skin always feel moisturized but clean after using this, and it smells amazing. I also use it to shave. It’s more than I’d usually pay for a body wash, but I definitely plan on repurchasing in the future. I haven’t used the companion Daily Perfecting Cream yet, but plan on writing a review of the two together when I do.
  7. Face Brush ($1.50 at Daiso): To those of you who don’t know what Daiso is, it’s like the cooler Japanese cousin of the Dollar Store. Everything there is $1.50 unless marked otherwise, so it’s easy to get sucked into picking up things you didn’t intend to get when you set foot in the store. This face brush was one of those things. It looked like a tiny, manual version of the Foreo brush so I decided to give it a try. I love using this with the Botanics cleanser, and using this combo always makes my face feel extra clean and even slightly exfoliated without being abrasive at all. As a bonus, my dog loves when I brush her head with this, and it leaves her fur extra soft as well (yes, I clean the brush between using it for my face and for her face).
  8. Madewell Canvas Somerset Backpack in Acorn ($78): I’ve been wanting a cute but practical bag for a while, and I purchased this as soon as I had a discount code for Madewell. I wasn’t disappointed – the acorn color is beautiful, and it’s so nice to have my hands free, especially when I’m going on local hikes with my dog and my boyfriend on the weekend that don’t require a serious backpack. It’s also nice for just running out the door.
  9. Madewell Wrap Top in Star Scatter in Spicy Saffron (originally $69.50, now $29.99): I have been on a journey to incorporate more color into my wardrobe, and this top was just calling out my name. I’ve been loving shades of yellow in particular lately, hence the choice of this pattern and color. When I received the top, I loved it so much that I got another one Albury Stripe (originally $69.50, now $52.50). This wrap top is appropriate for work, but I can definitely see myself wearing it paired with shorts as well. For someone like me with a small frame but large bust, this is an amazingly flattering top that doesn’t also make you feel like you’re showing too much cleavage.
  10. A Quiet Place: I had been waiting to watch this since I saw the first trailer, and it did not disappoint. I won’t say much so as not to spoil anything, but if you’re into horror and/or thriller films, definitely give this one a watch.
  11. Mochi Muffins: These have been appearing at cafes everywhere in San Francisco and East Bay, and for good reason. They’re delicious. So I figured rather than spend up to $4 every time I want one, why not make my own? I found this recipe by the Tea Squirrel and adapted to my own tastes, replacing milk with coconut beverage (aka coconut milk in a carton), and omitted the sesame seeds and matcha. It was still delicious, though I may make more changes to adapt it more to my taste.

What were your favorites this past month?

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BOOK REVIEW | Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng, is a fiction novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. The story starts with the disappearance and death of the middle child, sixteen-year-old Lydia, and from there, explores how each member of the family deals with the grief while also delving into each character and their relationship with the other members of the family.

This is a type of book that I normally would not have much interest in reading, but with my desire to support an Asian-American author and the book’s appearance on multiple must-read lists when it was first released, I felt like it was a no-brainer for me to give this book a try.

(Minor spoilers ahead)

First of all, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find out quite quickly that the book was about a mixed-race family. The book is marketed as about a Chinese-American family, and while that is still true, I appreciate that the book also has a focus on the struggle of being a mixed-race family in the 1970s.

Otherwise, to be honest, I had mixed feelings about the book. It started off strong, when it focused on how each of the family members dealt with their grief and each character’s struggles throughout their life. I felt deeply with the characters, each instance of sexism or racism each of them experiencing cutting deeply as they reminded me of some of my own experiences growing up as an Asian-American woman. I felt the weight each child had on their shoulders, whether from their parents’ expectations or from the pressure they put on themselves to succeed. At one point, the characters’ experiences became all too real to me that I actually considered putting the book down and never picking it back up. In the end, I managed to push myself to finish the book.

The book is a beautifully written one that is pretty easy to read, so it didn’t take much for me to breeze through it after a couple weeks’ break so that the sadness in the book wouldn’t weigh on me. As I read more though, I found myself also breezing through it so I could be done with it once and for all. While the themes that I previously mentioned continued throughout the book very wonderfully, the book also became a melodrama. The mother’s wordless disappearance from the family and the father’s infidelity with his graduate assistant are just two of examples of what I think are absurd plot points in relation to the novel. It just felt that anything dramatic introduced into the plot was done so solely to make the story seem more dramatic, not necessarily to value to the story. There’s also a frustrating lack in communication between all of the family members, to the point where I wanted to  give up on the book because it was that ludicrous.

Overall, I would’ve enjoyed this book much more had it not contained the melodramatics. This is, of course, my own opinion, which may be heavily influenced by the fact that I’m just normally not a fan of this type of book. That being said, I still would recommend this book to people, just with the caveat that you have to be ready for some soap opera type drama.

Have you read this book before? If so, let me know what you thought of it!

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PODCAST SPOTLIGHT | The Daily

It’s been a while since I’ve done a podcast feature, but I’ve been listening to New York Times’ The Daily almost religiously for at least a month now, so I figured it was time to give my thoughts on it.

As the name of the podcast suggests, The Daily is a daily podcast, Monday through Friday, that is around twenty minutes long. Each day’s episode focuses on one or two topics that pertain to recent news and events and gives a recap of other news that happened that day. For example, earlier this week and at the end of last week, the podcast had a couple of episodes centered on the events surrounding the U.S. government shutdown. Sometimes, episodes delve into pop culture news as well. With the release of the movie I, Tonya, the infamous figure skater, Tonya Harding, has come back into the spotlight, and this past Tuesday’s episode featured her.

It’s amazing how the podcast can use just twenty minutes to give a better understanding of a current event. One of my favorite episodes was one from a couple weeks ago, around when North and South Korea decided that they’d march together at the Winter Olympics this year and would have a joint women’s ice hockey team. The podcast provided a very in-depth background into the situation, including a pretty detailed account, given the time restraints of the episode, of the events that occurred the last time the Olympics were in South Korea in 1988.

I’d definitely recommend this podcast to everyone. Episodes are brief and independent of each other, making it a low-commitment podcast that still allows listeners to be up to date on current events and offers listeners a better understanding of those events.

The podcast can be found here or wherever you listen to podcasts. I listen to podcasts through the Apple Podcasts app on my phone.

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