new york city

Life Lately: Photo Dump

Surgery and milkshakes and flowers, oh my!

The good news is Winnie is fully recovered from her surgery, spring is springing, and we’re all starting to feel a little more settled in New York and our new jobs. I, personally, am feeling ready to make up for lost time and cannot wait to explore more of the city now that the weather no longer makes me yearn for my couch.smiley

blog sig 2

all natural, beauty, makeup, skincare

February Empties

Huge slacker, as we’re already a full week into March, but you’ll have to forgive me! Life’s been busy – Winnie had surgery to remove a benign tumor on her paw, my sister and her best friend are here for their spring break, and my husband and I have been planning next steps (likely a move to the Financial District this summer!)

Anyways, short and sweet, here we go –

feb empties.jpg

Acure Day Cream – natural, organic, ‘cone-free, lightly moisturizing, and a fresh scent? Really like this. It’s not quite holy grail level, so I think I’ll try a few more products first… but I have a strong feeling I’ll be back to this

Shiseido Ultimune Eye Power Infusing Eye Concentrate – kinda love this, despite the goopy feeling… but for $65 ($120/oz) I can do better. Will not repurchase.

Paula’s Choice Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster– just ok. I prefer other facial oils and will not repurchase.

Eco Modern Essentials Organic Argan Oil Face Serum – I blew through this little guy (0.5oz) and have replaced it with acure organics argan oil. can’t tell a difference and I’m saving $16/oz.

Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Mascara – love, love, love. Will continue to repurchase (however, I’m sticking to travel size – this guy dried out before it was emptied). I’ve been rotating between this and Benefit’s RollerLash with no plans to change!

eSalon Perfect Ending – Received this in a sample bag but didn’t want to use it on my hair because of the silicones. It made for an excellent shave cream. 🙂 Obviously won’t repurchase

Befine Exfoliating Cleanser with Brown Sugar and Derma E Microdermabrasion Exfoliant Scrub are getting combined into one blurb, because they were both entirely too rough on my skin. I’m all for physical (and chemical!) exfoliation, but anything this rough leads to irritation, redness, and angry blemishes. After sampling on my face, I ended up using both of these as overpriced body exfoliants.

L’Occitane hand creme – heeeeaven. But I’m too cheap and seem to *always* end up with samples of hand cream to purchase this on my own. Enjoyed using this while it lasted though!

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser – nice gentle cleanser with a fresh/light scent. This was good but not great (and my handy pH testing kit tells me it’s slightly too alkaline for my skin), so I won’t be repurchasing. I’ve swapped this out for derma e Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid; both my skin and wallet have been happier!


That’s that for February. Thanks for reading!

blog sig 2

all natural, beauty, makeup, skincare

Natural Makeup Review: DeVita

Finding natural, silicone free skincare? No big deal. Finding natural, silicone free makeup? Ugggghh.

In what seems like a never ending journey, I decided to try some products from DeVita, a skincare and makeup brand that’s new to me but has been around for 10 years. They are certified by PETA and boast a line of all natural, paraben-free, vegan products.

After browsing their site, I settled on the absolutely WHIPPED foundation (liquid minerals) and Moisture Tints with the hopes of finding my everyday makeup base.



Absolutely WHIPPED “great, healthy coverage you can count on”

  • Cost: $29.95 50ml bottle ($17.72/oz)devitafoundation

  • Ingredients: Aqua (purified water), Cocos nucifera (certified organic coconut) oil, Buxus chinensis (jojoba) oil, Aloe barbadensis (certified organic aloe vera) gel, Rosa damascena (rose) water, Emulsifying wax NF, stearic acid NF, Kosher vegetable glycerin, Persea gratissima (avocado) oil, Punica granatum (organic pomegranate) fruit extract, Lecithin phospholipid, Polysaccharide (xanthan) gum, Palmitoyl tripeptide-5, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Ascorbyl palmitate, Octanediol, Ethylhexyl glycerine, Citrus Grandis (grapefruit) seed extract, Artemisia princeps (Japanese mugwort) extract. May contain Titanium dioxide, Iron oxides.

  • Immediate impression: WHY does this feel so dry on my face? Mid-day check-in: Why am I peeling? What’s happening?? I can’t explain why my face didn’t like this foundation. It’s made with a ton of skin-friendly oils, so I thought it would be a homerun. Unfortunately, this guy is not going to work — it made me peel for two days! No redness or burning, just super embarrassing peeling. Perhaps someone with oily skin would do better?

  • Pros: Hygienic squeeze bottle, reasonable price, no offensive odors, natural ingredients
  • Cons: Somewhat difficult to blend out, made my dry skin peel, light coverage (advertised as medium)
  • Rating: 1/5

Moisture Tints Light “multi-beneficial Beauty Balm”

  • devitaCost: $31.95 for 2.5oz ($12.78/oz)
  • Ingredients: Micronized Zinc Oxide 9%, aloe barbadensis* (certified organic aloe vera) gel, Purified water (aqua), Capric/caprylic triglycerides (derived from coconut oil), Glycerin (vegetable), Iron oxides, Pomegranate extract, Japanese green tea, Hyaluronic acid (vegan source), Glyceryl stearate SE (derived from vegetable oil), Stearic acid, Lecithin phospholipid, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Allantoin*, Vitis vinifera* (grape) seed extract.
  • Immediate impression: Why does this feel so slippery? Blend, blend, buff, blend. This took a while to dry down on my face so it requires a little more work than other BB creams I’ve dried, but once it dried it seemed to stay in place. Mid-day check in: looks pretty good and feels good too! I probably should have gone lighter with my pre-makeup moisturizer because I’m looking a little more dewy than I prefer, but overall seems like a nice product!
  • Pros: Hygienic squeeze bottle, good value, no offensive odor, natural ingredients
  • Cons: Blending takes some effort, low SPF
  • Rating: 4/5

I’m not rushing to repurchase either product, but I think I’ll definitely enjoy using the moisture tints. Hopefully my sister gets lots of use out of the whipped foundation, because it’s in her box-o-goodies for the next time she visits. smiley

Thanks for reading!

blog sig 2

beauty, makeup, skincare, subscriptions

Birchbox Review: February 2016

It’s subscription time!

This month’s birchbox was more skincare/product-y and less makeup, but that’s quite all right with me. I got a few goodies from brands I already love, and I don’t think anything will go to waste.


The goodies: birchbox2


The breakdown:

JUARA Candlenut Body Creme

  • Value: $1.72 ($38 full size)
  • Impression: I love this creme – the nutty smell, the thick texture, how easily it absorbs into my dry skin. In fact, I currently own the full size. Regardless, this travel now has a home in my purse and is a welcome addition to my collection. If you haven’t tried this creme, I’d highly recommend giving it a whirl! It’s pricey but so lovely.

Hey Honey Take it Off Exfoliating Honey Peel Off Mask

  • Value: $5.80 ($29 full size)
  • Impression: LOVE! Peeling masks are so very satisfying, but so many of them are drying or irritating. This mask was neither — plus, I love the smell of honey. There are still so many masks I want to try, so I’m not sure if I’ll repurchase this one but I’m definitely looking forward to using it again!

Whish Revitalizing Cleaning Oil

  • Value: $10.70 ($30 full size)
  • Impression: I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m so excited to have received this. I love to use oil cleansers as step one in my nightly routine and I’m happy to see this guy is free of mineral oils!

Parlor Detangling Leave in Conditioner 

  • Value: $4.90 ($24 full size)
  • Impression: Have yet to try this guy as well. As silicones tend to mess up my hair, I’ll probably give this to my sister when she visits next month.

ModelCo Lip Enhancer Illusion Lip Liner

  • Value: ~$10 ($20 full size)
  • Impression: I have yet to try this on my lips, but it watched nicely on my hand. A smooth nude lip liner will definitely get used!

Total value: $33.12

Cost: $10 + tax

Rating: B+

Favorite product: Hey Honey Exfoliating Mask

Another solid month, Birchbox!

blog sig 2

family, holidays

Happy Valentine’s Day (& a thoughtful gift idea!)

Normally I am the underachiever in the relationship. A card and some heart-shaped skittles packaging does the trick. But I felt inspired this year (maybe because it’s our first V-day as a married couple?) and got a little creative and made this


This gift was pretty easy to create and would make a wonderful anniversary gift — it could also be adapted for children (how cool would it be to not have to imagine yourself as the protagonist in your favorite book??).

To add a little whimsy and make all of the photos look cohesive, I edited the images on using the “cartoon” effect. I then designed the book and selected binding options on The total project came to $26 (including $5 shipping) and came out beautifully.

Here are just a few sample pages:








Hope your day is everything you want it to be!

blog sig 2




Fashion: The Third Piece Rule

I am fashionably challenged. Mostly because I just want to wear leggings and tunics with my hair in a messy bun every. single. day. but also because outfit planning stresses me out and I like to sleep.

But I’m not in college  grad school  my fellowship anymore (I have clung to my excuses with the desperation of a drowning woman) and could stand to look like I’ve put in slightly more effort. And I just might have an easy solution!

Recently I came across the “Third Piece Rule” (which I’m sure is old news by now). The idea is simple – if you want to look a little more polished, throw in a third piece. This can be a jacket, vest, scarf, sweater, hat, or even a bold necklace. Just add something.

The information isn’t exactly brand new, but the explicit formula is helpful for rule followers like myself. And if it’s a good enough rule for Madewell and Banana Republic to encourage in their employees (source), it seems good enough for me! After looking through some of my old photos, I do tend to like outfits where I’d followed this “rule” without thinking of it.

So what’s a gal to do with this information? Go shopping!

I picked up a few items from Zara and LOFT to mix in with my current basics. I opted for less structured pieces since my work environment, and my taste, tends to be more casual.

Zara Faux Suede Overshirt in Camel

Zara Long Blazer in Dark Red

Loft Dotted Line Poncho

blog sig 2

beauty, skincare

Acure Organics

I recently discovered Acure Organics and wanted to share the love. After receiving their day cream in a subscription box (I cannot remember which one; this is bad, huh?), I’ve added a few more pieces to my skincare collection in an effort to move towards more natural products.

And the best part? They’re affordably priced and available on Birchbox so I can take advantage of their killer rewards program.

Recently I picked up the rose and red tea facial toner and the morocco argan oil. They both retail for $12.99 each (!) but I got them for free with points.


As for what’s inside? It’s pretty simple.

The argan oil has 100% Certified Organic Argania spinosa.

The toner has: Fair Trade Rooibos, Calendula, Chamomile, Witch Hazel, Bulgarian Rose Water (Hydrasol), and Glycerin. Nothing else!

free acure

And look at all of these descriptors. Don’t you feel good just reading it? smiley


And the products come in these pretty frosted bottles.

I’ve already incorporated both products into my daily skincare routine and am very happy.  For $6.50-$12.99/oz I cannot believe the quality you get here. I’d definitely recommend the brand to anyone looking for new skincare products.

If you want to order through birchbox, don’t forget to use a coupon code! (Try TAKEALEAP20 TAKEOFF20 COMEBACK20 MOBILE20 WELCOMEOFFER20).

Happy shopping!

blog sig 2

beauty, skincare

My Silicone-Free Skincare Routine

You know those people with naturally radiant skin? I’m not one of them. For years, I’ve been battling dry, flaky, sensitive skin that’s highly reactive and prone to hormonal breakouts (the painful, under-the-skin kind) around my jawline. I see a dermatologist, I’ve tried a few prescription treatments, I bought a clarisonic… but nothing made too much of a difference.

Recently, I decided to try an experiment. For 30 days, I would eliminate silicones (with very few exceptions; see below) to see how my skin would react. Before you tell me how silicones are non-comedogenic or how the molecules are actually too large to be absorbed by the skin, anecdotal evidence suggests they may be irritating for some people. And, well, it’s winter so I’m hibernating and have too much time on my hands.

While it’s too soon to tell for sure, my skin seems more balanced since eliminating silicones. It’s far less red and reactive, my flaking is gone, and I find that I can tolerate certain ingredients (hyaluronic acid in my moisturizers!) that used to sting before. In all fairness, I still had a hormonal breakout last week BUT the blemishes were pretty superficial, and they all healed within days (as opposed to weeks). Now I’m working on addressing that post-inflammatory pigmentation. Enough chatter for now — check out my routine and products below.

Step 1: Cleanse

In the evening, I have been using a 2-step cleansing process + toner for a few weeks now, and I love it. The oil cleanser does an excellent job of breaking up makeup and (theoretically) drawing oil from my pores. I follow up with a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser. I’m currently alternating between Derma E Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid, Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel, and Fresh Soy Face Cleanser. All three are excellent products, super gentle, and don’t leave my skin feeling tight or dry.

Final step in the ‘cleansing’ process is to tone — the idea is you neutralize the pH of your skin so targeted treatments (next step) can be more effective. Whatever. It feels nice.

In the a.m., I skip the oil cleanser. I don’t have makeup to take off, and I don’t have time to waste before I need to make it to morning rounds. 😉 2-3 times per week, I’ll use my clarisonic for a deeper clean.

Products: The Face Shop – Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil, Derma E Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid, Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel, Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, Thayer’s Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera 

Step 2: Treat

Here’s where you pick your treatments based on specific skin concerns — dryness, wrinkles, dullness, sun damage, acne… you name it. My biggest skin concerns are acne and the hyperpigmentation it leaves behind. I’ve listed the actives (acids and antioxidants) I use below and why.


  • Tretinoin/retinoic acid (Rx only): A form of vitamin A thought to increase cell turnover via boosting collagen production, making it excellent for treating acne as well as reducing discolorations and fine wrinkles.
  • Beta hydroxy acid (BHA): Lipid soluble formula that penetrates and dissolves oil clogging your pores, making it another excellent choice for acne-prone skin
  • Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA): water-soluable formula that promotes cell turnover by breaking bonds between damaged/dead skin cells, exfoliating skin’s outermost  layers.
  • Vitamin C: Antioxidant protection shields the skin from unavoidable free radicals (sources include pollution, oxygen, and sun damage) and reduces skin discoloration from previous damage.

While I use all 4 products, I don’t use them at the same time. In the mornings, I use the AHA only. In the pm, I rotate between BHA/Tretinoin every other night, followed by the vitamin C serum nightly.

Products: Tretinoin Gel Microsphere, 0.04%, Cosrx AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, Andalou Naturals Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum

Step 3: Moisturize

This has been the hardest part of my routine as of late, since so many moisturizers contain silicones! Luckily, natural oils (like argan oil) are ‘cone free. Because the silicones are what trap moisture on the skin many of the ‘cone free moisturizers I’ve used are lighter and seem to very quickly absorb into my skin. I find combing my traditional moisturizer with an oil in the evening gives my skin the TLC it needs.

moisturize (1)

Products: Air Repair Complexion Boosting Moisturizer, ECO. Organic Argan Face Oil, Paula’s Choice Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster, Dr. Schwab Flawless Skin Fluid, Acure Organics Day Cream

And that’s it! As I mentioned above, the jury is still out but so far this routine seems to be working very well for me. I like all of the products above but am always interested in learning about more options, so please comment below if you have any cone-free products you love. Thanks for reading!

blog sig 2

beauty, makeup

January’s Empties!

In an attempt to buy less stuff, I made a real effort this month to use what I have. I’m happy to have several empties to show for my dedication. 🙂


St Ives Even & Bright: I recently started a skin experiment and switched to all silicone-free products (more on this later!). My skin was responding SO well to the change — less dry and overall more balanced. Then I used this on my face (the second ingredient is silica, a close relative to silicones) and my sensitive skin is angry again. Red, reactive, and clogged pores in all their shining glory. Rather than tossing immediately, I used the rest as a body scrub. While the formula is too harsh for my face, it’s great for dry elbows, feet, or arms. And I love the citrusy-grapefruit scent — very refreshing!

Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil: I like cleansing oils and have recently been following the 2-step cleansing method, so I was excited to receive this sample in my Ipsy earlier this month. Unfortunately, this guy has too much fragrance (albeit from natural sources) for me to purchase.

Nivea In-Shower Body Lotion: This 2.7 oz sample came in a target beauty bag. It was nice to try and had a neutral scent, but I didn’t find it to be moisturizing enough to make much of a difference. I still had to apply regular moisturizer so this added another step to my routine. No thanks!

Jour Essential Lip Enhancer: This product is advertised to contain “clinically proven Maxi-Lip to increase fullness of lips while decreasing fine lines.” My lips appeared neither fuller nor noticeably smoother (compared to other lip balms) so I wouldn’t count on either of those claims. This was nice enough — not sticky, non-offensive scent, non-irritating… but it just doesn’t work as well as C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Night Balm (holy grail!), so I will not repurchase.

Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Firm: This under-eye serum has Vitamins E & C (yay!) but also silicones (meh). Either way, I didn’t notice much of a difference and wasn’t super into how oily this looks on the skin.

Smashbox Full Exposure Mascara: I actually like this for everyday wear — it’s almost as good as my go to formulas (Benefit Rollerlash and Tarte’s Lights, Cameras, Lashes). I also love sample size mascaras as I’ve never been able to finish a full-size before it goes bad/dries up.

Various perfume samples. Nothing of interest here, I’m just glad to be de-cluttering my vanity!

I feel good getting rid of this stuff and am going to try to make my way through even more products in February! Thanks for reading. 🙂

blog sig 2

new york city

Happy Friday!

I feel some personal responsibility for storm Juno — like we brought the awful Chicago winters with us. 🙂 Working in a hospital means going to work regardless of the weather or the state of public transit. It makes for some cool photos when you’re walking on intact snow in the middle of a very quiet Manhattan.



After work on Saturday (half day!), NYC started showing signs of life again. While the stores and transit systems had closed up shop, the streets became grounds for sledding and snow angels.


With sunny skies and moderate temps (40F!), this weekend is shaping up to be a little more calm — as long as you can avoid the melting snow.



I guess I’ll be wearing rain boots until June.

Happy weekend!

blog sig 2