Category Archives: Reviews

It just makes (Lip) Sense – {GIVEAWAY!}

I think I’ve mentioned several times before that I’ve suffered from severely dry/cracked lips for a while now. And by a while, I mean the last decade. For real. I cannot remember ever consistently having the problem until I got pregnant with Ezra, but ever since, it’s been a real (literal) pain. They peel, sometimes in chunks (sorry for the vivid image), bleed, and hurt like the Dickens. Not to mention look a fright (can you tell I’ve been listening to British books again?).

They’re definitely worse in the winter, but it’s pretty much a year-round problem. Even when I drank a gallon of water a day back in the fall (I’m still drinking between 60-90 ounces now), they were a little better, but I still dealt with pretty much constant dry patches.

So, when my savvy friend, Alissa, whom I’ve known for over a decade and whose impeccable taste in products I’ve always admired, told me about LipSense, I was intrigued.

Lip Sense is essentially a color stain that bonds with your lips, which means that it stays on for hours–even through sweating, eating, showering, etc.–but it comes paired with a Shea butter based gloss top coat that not only provides a nice sheen to your color but actually repairs your lips in the process of wearing it.

Let’s just say I was skeptically hopefully. Because I’ve tried pretty much every lip product out there–drugstore, spa, medicated, organic, homemade–with very little improvement, and it just seemed a bit too good to be true.

Except that it was Alissa recommending it, and Alissa–a meticulous personality and a careful researcher–would not recommend something she didn’t love and which didn’t work for her.

Long story short, I’ve been using my Lip Sense products for about 2 months now, and I love them!

Alissa set me up with a starter kit, which includes a tube of color, a tube of gloss, and a special remover, and then, because she knew I struggled so particularly with dry lips, she also hooked me up with the LipSense Moisturizing Lip Balm, which…drum roll, please…WORKS!

I was honestly shocked at how well the balm works. Like, my lips felt smooth and soft as a baby’s you-know-what the next morning.

Like a doofus, I sometimes go days without applying because I foolishly think that my lips will stay moisturized without adding extra moisture (huh?), but every time they start to dry out again, I just head back to the balm, and, sure enough, smooth lips within hours.

Yeehaw!

Couldn’t be happier with that.

Add that to the fact that the LipSense color + gloss combo actually does what it says: goes on easily and actually does stay on for hours (I average between 4 and 10 hours of wear, depending on my activities) IF (and this is key) you use it correctly, and I was pretty dang excited to have found something I loved that was so low-maintenance.

And pretty!

Wanna see?

I have two LipSense colors, but my fave is definitely Plumeria, which is a deep, pinky-red.

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{Look, Mom! No unsightly peeling or lumps!}

I think I was getting ready to teach Combat in the above pic, and my participants were probably wondering why I was so dolled up for an exercise class, but, honestly, why not? It didn’t budge through all of the sweating, yelling, mike-adjusting, and water breaks.

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{Oh, don’t mind me…just hanging out in my giant van, listening to a book, and wearing lip gloss whilst waiting for my children to get done with piano practice}

One thing I will say is that, since my lips were so dry/jacked up when I started using this, it stung quite badly when I first applied the color. There is some cosmetic grade alcohol in the color (see below for more info). As soon as I used the balm for even one day, though, the stinging went away completely.

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Again wearing Plumeria (and gazing pensively out of an Anthropologie storefront window…naturally).

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I asked Alissa for the low-down to help you understand more about the technical side of LipSense, and she sent me a paragraph, not knowing how much of it you’d want to know, but I honestly thought she expressed it so concisely that I decided to share the whole thing!

In her words:

-LipSense is a long wearing lip color that molecularly bonds to the lips.  It’s worn with a permeable Shea Butter gloss which transfers through the color to hydrate the lips. You get the benefits of a hydrating lip balm combined with all the benefits of a beautiful color.  
-LipSense is available in over 70 shades and 10 different glosses.  It’s applied in 3 layers and topped with a gloss.  The layers can consist of one color, or a combination of any 3 shades for a completely custom look.  It’s important to wear LipSense gloss with the color because other glosses will break down the color and they don’t offer the same moisturizing benefits.  
-LipSense provides a mechanical shield from the sun, so you get the benefits of a sunscreen without all of the chemicals.  It’s also lead free, and the color is wax free. It’s also gluten free and kosher.
-When a person first uses LipSense, they may feel a tingling sensation.  This is an indication that their lips are quite dry.  LipSense contains SD40 cosmetic grade alcohol which will kill bacteria and help the pigment to disperse evenly, but it can also sting as it evaporates from damaged lips.  The tingling or stinging should go away as soon as the soothing gloss is applied.  This usually only occurs the first few times the product is applied, if it occurs at all.
-The color should last anywhere from 4-18 hours.  
-The starter kit costs $55 and consists of a Color, a Glossy Gloss, and an Ooops! Remover.  Additional colors are $25, and additional glosses are $20.  The tube of color should be equivalent to 4 tubes of regular lipstick, and it will last the average person around 5 months.  The amazing lip balm that you love is $20, and mine has lasted me about 6 months so far.  I still have a little bit left.    
-I like to use the original Neutrogena facial bar to remove it at night, but the Ooops! Remover that comes in the starter kit is great for fixing mistakes.  If you use the Neutrogena at night then the Ooops! should last forever.  
-I offer a 100% money back guarantee on these products.  If they don’t love it, they can exchange it or return it. 
And now for the best part!
Alissa is offering one of you lucky ducks the chance to win a starter kit–complete with color, gloss, and remover!
No offense to the rest of you, but I’m secretly hoping that one of you girls that struggles with dry lips like I do wins.
Entry is SUUUUUPER easy.
Simply pick a letter from the options below and comment.
FOR EXTRA ENTRIES: Head on over to Alissa’s Facebook page and give it a like, then leave me a comment telling me you did. I HIGHLY recommend doing this. She posts lots of good info and new colors and is very quick to respond to questions.
Okay, comment with either A, B, C, or D:
A) I have heard of LipSense but my interest ends with the giveaway
B) I have heard of LipSense but would like to know more
C) I have not heard of LipSense, but my interest ends with the giveaway
D) I have not heard of LipSense, and I would like to know more

Disclosure: if you express interest in knowing more, Alissa will follow up with you about this. She’s NOT pushy, is very efficient and helpful, and will happily return/exchange anything that doesn’t work for you.

Fine print: open to U.S. or Canada only. Giveaway ends Monday, June 29th  at 11:59 PM

That’s it! Happy entering, and happy LONG weekend (for the Americans, at least!).
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A Hammock and Some Thoughts on Rest

I’m tired, y’all. I fell asleep on the couch in between doing my Bible reading/prayer time and starting this post this morning. And not because I meant to.

I guess it’s kind of inevitable, what with the half a dozen children and the housework and the homeschooling and the fitness classes and a new business.

There are even a few other things in the works that I’m not quite ready to share yet, but they’re definitely adding to an already full schedule.

All good things, but I don’t ever really feel like I’ve “finished” anything these days.

That’s a hard feeling for a closet perfectionist. (You’d understand the “closet” part if you saw my laundry room some days or my flowerbeds pretty much every day). In an ideal world, I wouldn’t start another task before the job I’m working on is done. But that’s just not practical in this particular season. Either I’ll get halfway through organizing the girls’ clothes and transferring them to their new dresser, and someone will break/spill something, or I’ll have to interrupt homeschooling to feed/hold a fussy baby or break up a toddler cat fight. Or everything will just take twice as long as I hoped it would, and we’ll have to rush out the door to the gym, leaving piles of laundry on the floor until we can come back and put them away.

I rarely finish my entire list for the day–partly because I always put more on it than I know is realistic to achieve, and partly because…life, man. It never goes like it looks like it should on a piece of paper.

Add to this the fact that Shaun has had to work on weekends for the past month or so (and will for a while yet), which means even my beloved Sunday has been disrupted, and “rest” is a foreign concept at the moment.

I don’t say all of this to whine. In the midst of this especially hectic season, I’m reminded of things I need to work on. Like: I’m really, really hard on myself and am prone to mentally hiss: “You’re a failure!” if I don’t manage to “fit it all in.” (Which, as I just admitted above, I rarely do). Also, I can be a very anxious person. I don’t worry about the usual things, like whether someone will come and hurt us when we’re home alone while Shaun is traveling. But I can wake up feeling short of breath, like an elephant is sitting on my chest, if I am facing a too-full day of tasks I know I won’t be able to finish.

But I’m also learning, bit by bit, how to cast all of my cares on the Lord. I’m actually pretty awful at it, naturally. I will shoulder as many cares as I can find, then borrow a few that aren’t even mine, and lug them around, feeling my chest squeeze tighter and tighter under the load, until I wonder if my heart will explode.

But, thankfully, the Lord doesn’t leave me to wallow in my fretful tendencies. When I turn to Him, desperate for reprieve from the buzzing static in my brain (because all of this running does not lend itself to mental clarity, believe it or not), He is so faithful to remind me not to worry about tomorrow, since today has enough worries of its own (no kidding, Lord) and to cast all of my cares upon Him. He reminds me that he has shown me what is good and what the Lord requires of me–not more activity or more social media presence or more blog posts–but “to do justice to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.” He gently whispers that there is now therefore NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (when I’m busy shoveling condemnation into my lap with both hands).

And then, sometimes, He gives me genius ideas like buying a hammock for my husband’s birthday.

Huh?

Shaun’s birthday was last Sunday, and I was completely stumped about what to buy him. I don’t usually feel like this. I’ve mentioned before that we love to give gifts, and we both keep running lists of things that the other needs or has mentioned in passing. But I bled my list dry at Christmas and wasn’t conjuring up any new ideas. Until the thought of a hammock popped into my mind. Pretty much out of the blue.

So, I did a little research on Amazon and came up with this little gem.

It has over 2,500 almost five star reviews (more like raves), and it comes with a stand, which made it ideal for the deck outside Shaun’s office (he works from home).

So, I bought it. I honestly didn’t know what Shaun would think.

Turns out, he loved it.

hammock

{Please don’t hate me for our insanely gorgeous weather. I promise Theo was warm as could be in his skivvies}

Sunday (his birthday) was the most restful, relaxing day our family has enjoyed in months. We didn’t leave the house. We didn’t get dressed in real clothes. We ate and played and napped. In the hammock.

Seriously. Shaun and I took a nap outside, in the sunny, slightly breezy 75 degree weather, and it was glorious. (The hammock is super-easy to set up and adjust. And it’s crazy comfortable. That is my 5 star review in a nutshell).

And the entire family spent a significant portion of the rest of the day taking turns in the hammock.

We have yet to name it, but I think we all know that will change. (Harper? Hope? Hallie?)

After such a wonderful day, Monday morning felt like one of those Bugs Bunny slaps in the face with a glove full of bricks. The familiar vice around my chest started to tighten. There was no way I was going to get it all done.

And I didn’t.

But you know what? The Lord graciously reminded me of all the things I mentioned above, and I asked him to help me do the next thing and allow that to be enough.

And it was.

It was more than enough at around 4:30 when we had finished our afternoon chores but still had some school left, and I said, “Come on, kids, let’s go outside. Mama calls the hammock!”

hammock1

{I chose the Ciao color scheme in cotton, in case you’re wondering}

Yup. I homeschooled from a hammock, y’all. And it was ah-mazing.

hammock2

{It didn’t take long before everybody climbed in with me. You can’t see her, but Della was in there too on the other end. The hammock has a 400 lb. weight limit, but you can pile a whole lot of little bodies in there without too much discomfort. ;) }

I’m thinking I may have to prescribe myself some daily “hammock time.” It works wonders!

Do y’all struggle with feeling overwhelmed with your daily tasks too? I have a feeling I might not be the only one.

If you do, you can let me know in the comments, and I will add you to my prayer list. I’m already praying for my own rebelliously anxious heart. I might as well pray for yours too. :)

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A Near Perfect Leather Tote (at 1/3 of the Price of the Madewell Transport Tote!)

First, have you taken advantage of the Paint and Prose Buy 2 Get 1 FREE flash sale? You still can through midnight today! Our prints make great gifts!

I’ve been ogling the Madewell Transport Tote for nigh on 3 years now. I just never could bring myself to pull the trigger to spend $180 on an unstructured leather bag (or…any bag, actually).

Don’t get me wrong. I love it. It’s beautiful, and it holds tons of stuff. I’ve lovingly fingered them in stores and admired them on the arms of friends. I just…couldn’t do it.

I’ve even stalked ebay for a bargain but  never found a better deal than $100 for a used one with oodles of stains and scratches (I guess there’s that to be said–they hold their value!).

I’d all but given up my search until I typed “Madewell Transport” into the search bar on Amazon, and the Damero Tote popped up. I was intrigued. It looks really similar to the Transport, and the reviews consistently praise the quality of the leather and durability of the construction.

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But it’s only 1/3 of the cost.

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Whaaaaat?

Now, I had some Amazon gift card moolah to spend, so the purchase was a no-brainer. But, now that I’ve had the chance to carry the purse in real life, I can happily say that I think it’s worth every penny of the $60 I spent, and I would buy it even if I didn’t have a gift card.

tote

And, no, this is not a sponsored ad (although, the post contains affiliate links that give me a teeeny percentage if you purchase). I just thought any fellow cognac leather simple bag lovers might want to know that there’s a beautiful, high-quality alternative to the name-brand popular versions out there.

I’m not going to do a full-blown, nitty gritty review of every feature, but I will do a quick run-down of the pros and cons in my experience so far.

PROS:

  • The leather is very much real. It’s a rich milk chocolate brown with a beautiful grain and a buttery soft finish. No stiffness or starchiness here. And it doesn’t scuff or stain easily (I should know; I’m hard on my bags).
  • It holds tons, without feeling ridiculously huge/bulky. After my “what’s really in my bag” post, you already know that I carry a little bit ‘o everything with me. Well, I am pleased to say that I have cleaned/organized up my act considerably (you won’t find a random belt or still-packaged Chick-fil-a toys in there anymore), but I am still toting around a planner, notebook, wallet, coupon pouch, makeup bag, BODYPUMP/COMBAT choreography notes, diapers, wipes, a water bottle, and various other sundries, and there’s still room for (a bit) more.

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  • There’s a removable insert, which helps keep the bag clean. It’s not quite as big as the rest of the bag, which creates pockets between the insert and the actual leather of the bag, but I like it because I put things like diapers and wipes and stuff in the in-between section, which makes it another (albeit unintentional) organizational compartment of its own.
  • The straps have a good drop-length. They don’t hike up under your arm in some sort of weird armpit choke hold, but neither are they so long that they’re continually slipping.
  • The insert has a zipper. For me this is a hypothetical pro because I never actually zip it, but if you’re one who likes to keep your purse contents really secure, this is a nice option (and one that you don’t get from the Madewell version)
  • The stitching is very, very sturdy (see above comments about my hardness on my bags and how much I stuff in there).

Okay! And now on to the CONS:

  • I really only have one, but it’s kind of a big one–the snaps that hold the lining onto the leather outer are too weak and tend to pull loose, thus causing the lining to sag down into the purse’s exterior when they come undone. It’s a little annoying, especially if you’re holding a baby and trying to stuff something in your purse, and you snag one of the snaps, and everything sort of collapses on you. But ultimately, the snaps are easy to refasten, and the openness of the purse’s design insures that you can still find things, even when one of them has pulled loose, so even though I wish they had made the snaps of sturdier stuff, it’s far from a deal breaker for me.

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  • The lining is smaller than the purse. I already mentioned this, and I already said that, for me, it’s actually more of a plus, since it creates more compartments, but someone else might not like this.
  • I’m grateful that there are 3 small pockets (one of them zippered) for my small items like keys/gum, etc., but I wish they were made of something more substantial than the silky synthetic material that the insert lining is made up of. It would make it easier to slide items inside without tugging on the snaps, thus resulting in Con #1. I still can use the pockets pretty easily, and I’m grateful to have them, so overall, it’s no big thing.

Aaaaand there you have it, folks.

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{By the way, Ezra took the pictures of me…didn’t he do great??}

My very honest opinion of a purse that I really love, despite its flaws (which, when I think about it, is how I feel about my three-year-olds at the moment–ha!). I do believe it will serve me well for a long, long time.

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The Hunt for the Perfect Ankle Boot

In the grand scheme of life, as long as you’ve got shoes on your feet, you’re good. I mean, lots of people don’t. Style doesn’t actually matter.

But since I’m a first-world girl with first-world problems, I have been known to get a wee bit fixated on finding the perfect fill-in-the-blank for the style I want.

Usually, it’s house stuff. Like a rug with a certain pattern + colors for the kitchen or a bedspread for the girls’ room.

And there’s always the budget consideration.

I want exactly what I want for a really low price.

And in this case (back to the shoe reference), what I want is a pair of simple, genuine leather cognac ankle boots. Preferably with no higher than a 1″ heel.

Like, the ultimate hipster boot, basically.

Which, I’m not even sure I can pull off with my not-exactly-hipster style and my short legs to long torso ratio (I do much better with a heel of at least 2″).

But back to the hunt for this so-called perfect ankle boot. I’ve put a lot of nursing-the-baby-while-browsing-my-phone internet miles into finding said boot, and I figured that it would just be selfish (not mention the loss of a great justification for all of that time wasted spent) not to share my findings with you.

So, without further ado, I give you a round-up of 8 of my favorite boots that I stumbled upon in my research.

Disclaimer: I mentioned the budget consideration for my very particularly quests for the illusive ____________. And I’ll get back to that. But this particular list is not really that budget friendly. Because, apparently, real leather ankle boots are expensive. Period. Especially while they’re in season. So, if you were expecting amazing finds for $30 or something, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint. ankle boot

1/ 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

I’d certainly wear any of these boots (assuming they were, at least, marginally comfy), but my faves BY far are:

#3–the BP Trolley boot (which is shown in a maroon color because I couldn’t find a picture of the actual cognac that it comes in…but it’s gorgeous!)

…and…

#8 , which is the Kork-Ease Velma boot, and it comes in a rich brown leather like I want, but, for some reason, I’m really digging the grayish hue with the contrasting wooden heel.

So…did I actually pull the trigger on any of these?

Negative.

But I did buy a pair of cognac leather ankle boots.

Wanna see?

boots

Are they what I was looking for?

Yes.

And no.

On the one hand, they’re real leather. And the color on the box says “cognac” (although in real life, it’s more of an–intentionally–scuffy true brown).

But it’s not the super-simple silhouette I wanted (I wasn’t interested in buckles or elastic goring), and the heel is 2 1/2″ rather than the ideal 1″ I was looking for.

So, why did I buy them? (I bet you can guess).

They were cheap. The style is Steve Madden Spunkk, and it’s only available on ebay (that I’ve found). And a lot of the ones I found were still close to $100, but then I found one pair in my size with an (easily fixable) “defect” for waaaaaay less…and I went for it.

Am I happy with them?

Yes.

And no.

It’s complicated. :)

Have you found the perfect cognac leather ankle boot? (Because I’m so sure this is what everybody else is on the hunt for). If so, share!

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Beautycounter Review + a GIVEAWAY!

Way back in the spring, Erin, a sweet reader-friend, contacted me about trying out some products from a company I’d never heard of: Beautycounter.

Pretty much right from the get-go, though, I was intrigued, since Beautycounter’s mission is to provide safe, effective skincare products for the entire family. I had been on the lookout for a great skin care regimen for a while but, after trying out various samples of this and that, I was still pretty underwhelmed and undecided.

But with Beautycounter’s commitment to banning over 1,500 harmful chemicals and products that are regularly allowed into American skincare lines (whereas the European Union has banned the use of over 1,300 ingredients, the U.S. has only banned 11, so clearly Beautycounter exceeds both of those limits), I literally figured, “What harm could it do to try it?”

So, I sampled two of their lines: The Essentials and The Countertime.

I tried the Essentials first, but, while I thought the product was fine–gentle and soothing–I didn’t see a huge difference from any one product (except the Gentle Exfoliator, which I luuuurved). So, I wasn’t necessarily expecting too much from the Counter Time line either. I wasn’t even paying much attention–just going through the motions of applying the products faithfully each day in tiny amounts (I’ve been known to make samples last for a good month).

The thing was, without even looking for it, I was noticing that my skin looked brighter in the mornings. And then, several days later, it was undeniable: my skin tone was more even, my pores were smaller, my fine lines around my eyes diminished. A friend at Body Pump exclaimed, “Holy Cow! Your skin looks amazing! What are you doing??”

And then–the gold standard of all proofs–even my husband noticed and expressed his admiration.

So, I emailed Erin quick, fast, in a hurry and said, “Dude! This stuff works! How do I get more??”

She very patiently dealt with all of my questions and waffling until I finally decided to just bite the bullet and order the entire Counter Time line–a really big investment for me and the most I’ve ever spent on skincare (by a long-shot; I received no special discount other than that Erin was sweet enough to order it at cost for me)–because it provided a significant discount to each individual product to buy them all together.

Plus, I knew that there was a 60 day money back guarantee if I was at all unsatisfied with the products.

I’ve been using the Counter Time line for almost 3 months now, and I can honestly say that I really like it.

I cannot say that I’ve seen quite the drastic results that I experienced in that first week of samples, but I have been pleased by my consistently brighter, more even-toned skin + smaller pores.

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{While I will freely admit that this is super-flattering lighting, I would also like to point out that I have not edited this picture in any way or added filters or any such fancy work}

Honestly, I think that my skin needs regular exfoliation, and the Essentials Line exfoliator, which I was using in combination with the Counter Time samples back in the spring was the Holy Grail of product combos for my skin and really helped it glow.

Also, Erin ended up sending me the Essentials Line cleanser (since that line is her personal favorite) to try in combo with the rest of the Counter Time products, and I could see a significant difference after I added that in. AND I would like to point out that one of the products that came in the Counter Time line (the Enlightening Treatment Pads) did not work for me at all. It broke me out in tiny little bumps, but since Erin had specifically recommended it as doing wonders for her skin, it clearly depends on your specific skin’s balance whether it’s beneficial or not for you. That said, since I ordered the entire line as a unit and was happy with the other 5 products, I couldn’t return the Enlightening Pads by themselves. I understand why (none of the items were priced separately), but that was still a bit of a bummer.

So! I guess the biggest takeaway from this review is that, if you decide to try out Beautycounter’s products (which I heartily recommend!), try to sample different combos of lines first to see what works best for you because a) what works for me (or anyone else) may not be the ticket for you (duh) and b) it may not be the best idea to order one whole line, even if it’s significantly cheaper. Mixing and matching the best products for your skin is definitely the way to go!

Next up, I’m going to look into their kids’ lines for soaps and lotions–especially the sunscreen.

Oh! And speaking of lotions, Erin is being kind enough to give away this decadent-looking body butter, which contains zero synthetic fragrances and is really moisturizing for dry skin without leaving any greasy after-feel.

body butter

All you have to do to be entered to win is “the usual” round here at M is for Mama.

Simply comment below with either A, B, C or D (just as a heads-up: if you pick A or B, Erin will follow up with you with more info, per your request).
A) I have heard of Beautycounter, but I would still like more info
B) I have not heard of Beautycounter, and I would like more info
C) I have heard of Beautycounter, but my interest ends with the giveaway
D) I have not heard of Beautycounter, but my interest ends with the giveaway

Happy entering! May the woman with the driest elbows win!!

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Kiss your mascara goodbye (And say HELLO to eyelash extensions)

Here’s the thing: when I get asked to review something, if it doesn’t appeal to me, I just politely decline.

And, every now and then, if I agree to try something out, it just doesn’t work for me, in which case I don’t review it at all.

Which, as you might have already deduced, is why, anytime you see a review of something on this here blog, it’s positive. If I take the time to tell y’all about it, it’s because I really like something and feel like it’s worth sharing.

But then, every now and then, there are things that I actually seek out, breath held in hope that they will be as great as I’ve heard, and what I’m going to tell you about today definitely falls into that category.

Several years ago, Emily posted about her experience with eyelash extensions (all positive), and ever since, I’ve been pretty intrigued with the concept…but majorly turned off by the price (about $200 for the initial application).

So, when I saw a friend post about her experience with lash extensions on Facebook with a friend of hers who was looking to expand her part time business, I decided to seek her out and see if we could come to a mutually beneficial agreement. Code for: she’d do my eyelashes, and if I loved them, I’d tell you guys to go get your eyelashes done with her.

Y’ALL.

To say I l.o.v.e.d them would be such faint praise that it’s a little embarrassing.

(In other words: this not just a review. It’s a rave).

But more than anything, I loved Makenzie.

People, she comes to your HOUSE.

(Let me try that again)

YOUR house.

As in, you don’t have to find childcare for your children (assuming your husband’s around to watch them, or you can schedule a time when they’re all in bed, of course).

And then, she proceeds to play with your children, since you got home later than you hoped and are still running around getting dinner ready. I don’t think that’s technically part of her job description, but, considering that Evy (my shyest child) crawled up in her lap and started babbling away her life’s story in her ear within .03 seconds of Makenzie’s sitting down in my living room, I think she should probably add “Toddler Whisperer” to her business cards. Oh, and “Patient-as-all-get-out.”

And then she sets up all her gear and gets you all situated on this comfy table with an even comfier pillow and tells you, “I don’t mind if you fall asleep. You can even snore. I have people that do that. Doesn’t bother me at all.”

makenzie

Note: I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have snored had I fallen asleep, but…I didn’t. Because Makenzie is such an easygoing sweetheart that you feel like you’re just chatting away with a friend you’ve known for ages. And the time flies.

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I got my first round of extensions done about a month ago in anticipation of family pictures that we had scheduled. Sadly, “rain” has been the predominant theme of our weather this spring (with a heavy side of tornados…yikes!), and our pictures have been canceled so many times that I’ve lost count.

The lashes last about 3-4 weeks, so just this last Monday, she came back to make sure they were perfect for pictures (even though they got canceled again)…AND she brought her husband with her to hold Theo (Shaun was out of town), claiming that he wanted to ride along (pretty sure he could have found a football game to watch or something, but I wasn’t complaining).

Her husband, who was just as easygoing and friendly as Makenzie, proceeded to hold Theo for over an hour, y’all. And T loved him!

Again, probably not technically part of her usual job description, but I was just so impressed with her thoughtfulness and how she went the extra mile to make sure I was comfortable.

Another thing I love? Her rates. She charges $95 for the initial application, which is less than half of what salons cost, not even factoring in the fact that she comes to you. And she’s only $30 for refills (when I told my husband that, his eyebrows shot up, and he said, “She’s going to pay that in GAS coming to our house!” :) ).

When I asked her why she charged so much less, she said, “I just really love helping moms out, and I looooove doing lash extensions and making mamas feel pretty while simplifying their days, so I want it to be as accessible as possible, while still worth my time. And charging more just seems dishonest.”

The first time she comes, it takes between 1 1/2-2 hours as she meticulously glues either silk or mink individual eyelashes on top of your own eyelashes to take them from this…

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{Believe it or not, I have the exact same amount of mascara/liner on my left and right eyes, but the light coming in from the left makes it look totally lopsided; Also, for some reason the only thing I can think upon seeing this picture is: “Selfie of a camel.” Apparently, I shouldn’t take pics straight up my nose}

…to THIS

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That would be lash extensions with ZERO mascara. Zero eyeliner. Zero anything. And I still look awake. (Also, between the automatic “beauty filter” on the reverse setting of my phone camera and good lighting, I have the skin of a 12-year-old in this pic. Don’t be fooled).

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And the best part? They’re completely weightless. I remember sitting up after the first application, expecting to feel the weight of the extra lashes or for them to be tangling with my lower lashes, and I felt…nothing.

Makenzie just smiled and said, “That’s how they’re supposed to feel.”

Mission accomplished.

I’ve had so many people compliment me on my lashes in the past month, and pretty much nobody could believe it when I told them they weren’t real. One lady even told me how pretty and awake I looked when I walked in to teach a 9 AM BODYPUMP class and how unfair it was that I looked so good in the morning, and I thanked her but walked off truly confused.

Because the truth is that I don’t look good in the mornings. I have major puffy-eyes, and even when I wake up with a lot of energy, it takes a long time for my face to get that telegram.

I was puzzling over her words the whole time I set up my weights, until, suddenly it occurred to me–duh!–it’s the lash extensions. They just make my eyes look awake, which translates into a much better morning look, even though I haven’t changed anything else in my routine.

I ran back to tell her why I had made such a good impression that morning and that she should have Makenzie come over to her house ASAP.

Seriously, in case you can’t already tell, I’m Makenzie’s biggest fan. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

Of course, even though $95 is waaaaaay cheaper than you can get it done anywhere else (and did I mention she comes to your HOUSE??! Still blows my mind), it’s still a chunk of change on something that I certainly would not label a “life essential.” I get that. And totally agree.

You know me. I’m the cheap girl. The thrifter. The extra 60% off the sale rack shopper. And I’m usually very low maintenance. I don’t get facials or have my eyebrows plucked. And I can go months upon months without a pedicure or a manicure (I think I’ve had 3 in the last 8 months, and that’s higher than average). I get my hair cut about twice a year.

But this is different.

I would gladly scrape my pennies together for months or have this be my sole birthday gift, if that’s what it took. I can’t even fully articulate why being able to walk out the door with zero eye makeup on is so freeing and enjoyable. But it is. That much I can say for certain.

I would even go so far as to call this a #mamalifehacks post!

So! If you’re in the East Texas area (Makenzie lives in Tyler) and have ever even had an inkling of getting lash extensions, Makenzie’s your girl. All the way. I can’t imagine getting better service or results no matter where you go.

You can contact her at 3 zero 7-7 five 1-9 two 1 zero. (Just replace the words with the numbers they represent. I’m trying to protect her from getting tons of spam calls).

You an also email her for an appointment at: lashesbymakenzie{at}gmail{dot}com

Just tell her Abbie sent ya!

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Hey look! I made my bed! (New Comforters will make you do the craziest things)

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about spring that just makes me want to start fresh. I know this feeling is probably supposed to hit at the beginning of the year, but it just doesn’t for me. Especially not this past New Year’s, considering that, when 2015 rolled in, I had a 2-day-old newborn and hadn’t slept in about as many as hours as he’d been alive.

But when the sun starts showing his smiling face on a regular basis and the flowers begin to unfold, it just feels like the time to change things up, clean things out, and get everything all ship-shape.

I do believe they have a name for this? Spring cleaning, or something?

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Anyhoo, I was thrilled when Maple Harbour contacted me about trying out some of their bedding because the white comforter in our master bedroom was looking a little dingy and needed a break (i.e. a trip to the washing machine). I love white, but, let’s face it: with a couple of 2-year-olds making regular pilgrimages into our bed each morning to lovingly whisper, “I HUNG-EY,” in my ear or climbing up to “keep me company” while I put away laundry, the white was needing a refresher.

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So, I took a look around their site and was immediately drawn to the Elyse 5 Piece Comforter Set. I love the look of gathers on bedding, and this one has gathers galore. Plus, I hoped the gray would complement the mushroom-hued walls in our bedroom.

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When the set arrived (in record time, I might add), I was really, really thrilled to discover that the gray had slightly warm undertones rather than being completely cool, which works so well to ground all of the bright colors I tend to gravitate toward as accents.

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Not only did I love the color, but I was really pleased with the quality of the bedding itself. The stitching is really sturdy, AND, perhaps most importantly, it’s machine washable (a dry-clean only comforter would never do in our house).

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The set comes with two small accent pillows and two large matching sham pillow cases, but I’m more of a mix n’ match sort, so I plan to use the large shams in the guest bedroom and scatter the accent pillows around the house. As you might have noticed, I grabbed quite the assortment of other pillows from the house to complement the gray comforter.

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In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty jazzed about the new addition to  our bedroom. I snagged that colorful “throw” at the end of the bed (it’s actually a tablecloth) from Anthropologie on MAJOR sale during a girls’ trip the weekend before last, and I feel like, between it and the comforter, I finally have the inspiration I need to put the finishing details on the rest of our bedroom.

And now I leave you to run off and check out the selection over at Maple Harbour for yourself.

I think the reversible geometric + floral prints on the Calista 5 Piece Set are really fun. And the simplicity of this Tree Leaves 3 Piece Quilt Set really appeals to me for a calming space like a guest room.

So, tell me…are you a “Spring Cleaner?” Does the sunshine make you want to scrub things and change out your linens too?

Anybody still trying to fight off the last lingering clutches of winter? I’m so sorry. We’ve had tons of storms + rain + tornado warnings, but even with all of that, I can’t complain about the warm (though not yet searing) temps.

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I’m rockin’ my Rockin’ Baby Sling {Review and GIVEAWAY for YOU!}

Okay, first of all, let it be known that you guys are THEE best.

I got 475 opinions here on the blog and social media in response to my request for your input about my new glasses. And, while I’m still plowing through them all in search of a consensus, I’m just blown away at how sweet y’all are to take the time to share your thoughts with me about silly things like which frames best fit my face shape. I know I’ll never get to meet most of you, but I still feel like I get to pull up a chair and chat with a bunch of rad girlfriends several times a week. And, let me tell you, you can’t beat that with a rubber-spatula-cum-spanker (click if you want a laugh plus a priceless picture of Evy).

And now onto today’s business…

I’m not the world’s biggest baby-wearer at home. And I’m not talking about my physical stature either. I just don’t do it a ton.

Mostly, that’s because a) my babies tends to be of the non-fussy variety (please don’t e-stone me) and are usually pretty content to be in their swings or bumbo seats near me while I cook/homeschool/blog/whatever and b) I have a lot of helping hands. (I remember wearing Ezra, my firstborn, in his Baby Bjorn throughout many a meal prep, so I’d say the helping hands bit has been the biggest factor in my not baby-wearing at home that much of late)). I mean, seriously, I turned around in the middle of getting dinner ready last night to see Simon changing Theo’s poopy diaper without being asked.

(And then I belted the Hallelujah chorus along with the angel choir that descended through my kitchen ceiling).

But I am so, SO grateful for the ability to wear my babies when they do get cranky or when I’m out and about or if I just feel like snuggling my baby close, hands-free. So, when Rockin’ Baby contacted me about taking one of their slings for a spin AND giving one away to you lovely folks, you better believe I jumped on that one like a duck on a June bug. (Or, I should say, like my 7-year-old on a June bug; he’d beat out a duck any day).

I had never tried a ring-sling before, so I was excited to test something new.

Turns out, me likey.

It took a bit of maneuvering to get the ring to adjust easily at first, but the kind folks at Rockin’ Baby had warned me that there was a bit of a learning curve and that once I had the hang of it, I’d love it.

They were right.

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After the initial test, in which I did a lot of shifting and attempts at tightening–only semi-successfully–I tried again the next day and found the process at least twice as simple/intuitive. And every time since, it’s gotten easier and easier to simply slip Theo down inside the pouch and then cinch him up nice and cozy to my chest.

As far as his opinion on the arrangement.

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He’s a huge fan. He loves being snuggled up close to me and will happily ride around in the sling while I meal-prep or do chores for as long as I’m willing/able to carry him.

I have yet to find a single carrier that doesn’t produce a burning ice-pick point of pain in my upper right shoulder after about 45 minutes of wear–no matter what its claims for ergonomic correctness or superior weight distribution.

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And I’ll be honest–the Rockin’ Baby sling is no exception…although I can carry Theo in it longer than usual without the burning sensation, and it never reaches the heights it does with some other carriers.

But let’s face it: that has pretty much everything to do with the fact that I need to go see a chiropractor and nothing to do with the carriers themselves.

In fact, this sling is so comfortable that I’ve found myself reaching for it more and more recently, even when Theo didn’t necessarily “need” to be carried.

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I chose the “You Win Again” reversible sling, and I can honestly say, without reservation, that I was extremely impressed with the sturdiness of the stitching and the quality of the fabric. Not only impressed but surprised. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, since clearly, I would want a product that held my baby to be well-made and durable, but this sling exceeded even my highest expectations.

I also love that, since Theo is so happy in it, he often slides off into dreamland for a snooze while I’m carrying him. I can then loosen the sling super-easily, which allows me to lay him down still sleeping if necessary.

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And you know what else I love? The fact that, for every sling or pouch purchased from Rockin’ Baby, they donate another to a needy mother in Kenya or Haiti and educate her about the importance of its use.

Plus, on a much more frivolous note, Rockin’ Baby has so many fun prints that I had to do a FB poll just to help me decide which one I should choose!

SO!

The best part of all is that I’m not that only who gets to benefit from Rockin’ Baby’s generosity. Not only did they provide a sling for me to review, but they’re also giving one away to one of you lucky ducks.

To be entered to win, simply a) comment with a time when baby-wearing saved your bacon (mine would definitely be that time I carried Ezra all over New York City for 9 straight hours; not sure my shoulders have ever been the same, but it sure was convenient!), or, if you’ve never used a baby-carrier,  b) tell me about why you want to start now.

For extra entries, you can like the Rockin’ Baby Facebook Page or share about this giveaway via any form of social media (just be sure to leave me a comment telling me where you shared).

*Entries only open to residents of U.S. and Canada. Giveaway closes Monday, April 20 at 11:59 PM.

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A Jamberry Jamboree (+ a Giveaway for YOU!)

It’s always fun when blogging buddies go way back as real-life buddies too, which is exactly the case with my friend, Kelli, from Eat Pray Read Love. She and I grew up in the same small East Texas town, and it was really fun to reconnect over blogging years later and then over our shared love of scoring cheap deals (she’s great at money-saving tips and tricks and has tons of ideas on her blog), BODYCOMBAT, and small humans (she has four of her own).

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{Here she is with her pastor-hubby}

So, when she reached out and asked if I’d like to give Jamberry Nails a try, I bit. Hard. I mean, I’ve been pretty open here about my less-than-stellar nails. Also, my polish addiction. And while I can see a big difference in the appearance/health of my nails when I use It Works Hair Skin and Nails (my hair stylist told me the other day that my nails were so shiny, they looked buffed), I’m never going to have diamond-hard nails with lovely white tips. Which is fine. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with them anyway.

But I still like to keep them looking decent, which is why I try to apply a quick coat of paint every so often. Problem is, between washing dishes and wiping behinds and sudsing up small bodies at bath time, the paint usually only lasts a day…two, if I’m lucky.

Which is why I was especially intrigued–not only by all the cute patterns that Jamberry offers–but by the claims that their wraps stay put for two weeks +.

Do WHAT?!

I had a hard time believing it, but people I trusted (Kelli among them) were raving about these suckers.

So, I chose a fun, funky pattern called Birds of a Feather, and Kelli kindly popped them in the mail for me.

When they arrived, I carefully read through the included instructions and then started applying them…while my girls and I watched Young Victoria (we’ve been on a Jane Austen + period movie kick lately).

Honestly, I felt a bit unsure that I was doing it right and super-awkward. But I didn’t let that deter me. I had fully expected a learning curve. I also expected the process to be slow. I tend to be painfully methodical the first time I do anything, so when I finally finished my left hand after about 40 minutes of stop-start wrapping, I decided to call it good for the moment. Or rather I had to decide that or run out of time to get my children ready for the gym.

Here’s what I had at that point.

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Y’all.

I walked around with only my left hand done for…10 days. Ridiculous, I know. But the good news is that–even though my wraps had numerous little imperfections in the seal, due to my novice application–those babies hung in there for 10 days!

Of course, the second I posted the above pic to FB, I got a deluge of advice from Jamberry lovers about the best application process.

One particular term kept popping up, and it was intriguing enough that I tracked down this video of “the baggie method,” on Youtube. (Seriously. If you’re a Jamberry user and haven’t watched this yet, DO IT! So helpful).

People, if only I had done this the first time. I mean, yes, the instructions that come with the product are clear and good enough (potentially), but the whole stretching thing the lady in the video describes along with her method of simply clipping the ends instead of filing them…game-changers.

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{Ezra took this pic. Impressive, right?}

My second application took about 50 minutes total (still not fast, but I was going step by step through the process of the video, so it was kind of like starting over), and, whereas last time, my feelings at the end were, Maaaaaaybe I did that sort of right?…this time I feel confident that my jams will at least match the record set by their poorly applied predecessors. And I could feel myself getting faster and faster the more than my muscle memory absorbed the process.

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(Couldn’t resist including the slightly creepy, blurry Evy-head in the background :) )

ANYhoo, here’s the short list of what I like about my wraps:

  • They stay on forever. Seriously. 10 + days is an eternity for your nails to look decent.
  • They look fabulous on short nails. I keep cutting mine down, down, down to avoid the inevitable peeling I always experience at the tips, and even though it didn’t even seem like there was that much for the wraps to adhere to on some nails, they immediately made my stubby nails look pretty.
  • They come in pretty much an endless array of colors + patterns.
  • Each set gives you enough wraps to do your full nails twice + a pedicure (you’d have to do some trimming, but it’s not very hard).

As far as cons:

  • The time it takes to apply them is really my only complaint. But after only two applications, I can tell that I’m already getting a lot faster and more confident with the process, and I can only see that improving over time and with repetition. And plus, even if you wear them daily, if you get a good seal, you shouldn’t have to put them on again for 2 weeks. (TWO!)

I’m already dreaming up the next pattern + color combo I’d like. Here are some of my faves.

jamberry collage

Also, ALSO, Kelli is being kind enough to give away a single sheet of Jamberry Nail Wraps (you’ll have your choice of several options), a file, and an orange stick to one lucky gal!

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All you have to do to be entered is answering the following question using the options I’ve given you below.

Have you ever tried Jamberry Nail Wraps?

A) No, but I’d love to get my hands on some (hardy-har…punny)

B) Yes, but I’d love to get my hands on more

C) No, but my interest ends with the giveaway

D) Yes, but my interest ends with the giveaway

If you answer A or B, then Kelli will follow up with you about getting some Jamberry for yourself!

Also, also, ALSO (forget useful terms like “P.S.”), Kelli and I are hosting an online Jamberry party. Which is basically my greedy little way of saying, if you are intrigued by the wraps and want to try/buy for yourself, then would you pretty please do it at my party? (I know, I know. What an opportunist).

But seriously, no hard feelings if you don’t. I’m a fan either way.

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Well, this is Younique! (BB review + a Giveaway for YOU!)

If y’all remember, I did a review of Younique 3D fiber lashes, eye pigments, and brushes about a year ago. I was really impressed with everything I tried, so when my friend, Crystal, whom I’ve known since middle school, asked me if I’d like to try out Younique’s BB Cream, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

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{Such a pretty girl, inside and out}

The fact that I’d just bought a drugstore BB Cream that was not working for me at all miiiiiight have contributed to my eagerness to test out a more high-quality product.

Here’s the thing. I don’t have the best skin in the world. I don’t have the worst skin in the world either. But it’s just not naturally flawless (or even unnaturally flawless…never flawless is the idea). I’m super-fair (but with the 5,348 pictures of me on this here blog, I’m guessing you already knew that), which means that I’m prone to fine lines and wrinkles. And pretty much constant blemishes + splotchy redness scream, “Hormones were here.” (Hormones? Me, a mother of 6? Never). Not to mention my under-eye circles that stick around long after my babies start sleeping through the night.

Enter my skin’s saving grace: BB cream. I can’t do full-on foundation. It’s just too heavy for me. I end up looking like I have stage makeup on. And while, with three girls 4 and under, there’s enough drama for a dozen Tony awards a day up in here, I’d really rather one of them not be for “Best Cake Face.”

But a good BB cream gives me the right base I need for adding powder or one of my other fancy tricks…like, I don’t know, concealer (I know! What’s next? Contouring??).

Of course, a bad BB cream…well, that just makes things worse.

But I am very happy to report to that Younique’s Flawless BB Cream is not a bad one. It is, by far, the best one I’ve tried, in fact.

Here is my face au naturel. Well, there’s some leftover Sunday morning + afternoon nap eye makeup, but I’m not wearing anything on my skin.

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Honestly, while I did nothing to this picture except lighten it a bit, since it was taken in a rather dark room, it’s kinder than it should be. I didn’t get a chance to take pictures until late afternoon, and the lighting just wasn’t there for a super-sharp picture. So, feel free to imagine lots more wrinkles and blotchiness because they’re there.

Normally, I would apply a layer of moisturizer with sunscreen before anything else, but I wanted to show how smoothly Younique’s BB cream goes on unmoisturized skin, so I skipped that step this time.

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It’s not a huge difference (which I like; I still want to look like me), and I have yet to tackle my under-eye circles in this pic, but my skin is considerably more even-toned and less ghostly (but not orange! not a fan of the orange look) after nothing more than a layer of BB cream.

Just so you know, here is my entire arsenal of skin makeup.

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After concealer, a good pass with the powder/foundation sponge, some mascara, and lip gloss, here is what I end up with.

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Yes, I realize that it looks like I got all sneaky and changed lighting on purpose, but, honestly, my photographer (AKA Shaun) was out working in the garden with the boys, and by the time I finished my primping, we had lost our light for photos anyway, so a yellow bathroom light selfie it was!

So, here are my thoughts on Younique BB Flawless Complexion Enhancer:

PROS

  • It’s super creamy and has a nice “weight” to it, which means that it slides across my semi-dry skin with ease and soaks in nicely
  • It matches my skin tone perfectly. Like spot-on. Crystal told me she uses this shade (Bisque) for tons of her clients, and it works well on a variety of skin tones.
  • It smooths/evens out my blotchiness and tones down blemish redness.
  • It covers much better than any other cream I’ve tried (which are all a little too sheer) but isn’t thick and cakey like foundation.

CONS

  • It doesn’t come with a built-in sunscreen.

That’s really it. I love everything else about this cream, and I plan on reordering it as soon as I run out.

Also, I read recently that it’s a common misconception that when you layer moisturizer with sunscreen + makeup with sunscreen that you can add the coverage together for a combined total of the two SPFs. The actual truth, apparently, is that they cancel each other out a bit, and you can take an average of the two (ergo: 50 SPF + 20 SPF = 35 SPF).

So, I’m actually better off wearing a moisturizer with high SPF as my base (which is what I do anyway) and adding a BB cream without SPF on top of that.

Now, if only I could find a concealer that banishes under-eye circles to the 7th level of you-know-where…where they belong. (Feel free to throw suggestions my way).

ANYhoo, after that glowing review (har, har…glowing…for a skincare review…good one, Abs), I’m sure you’re all dying to try some Younique products for yourself.

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

One lucky duck will win a Younique lip gloss in their best-selling shade (read: universally flattering), Luxe.

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AND I’ll even send it to you in an adorable pouch of your color choice!

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Also, if you’re interested in getting some other products for yourself, Crystal’s got you covered! (You can also contact her at cmada{at}aol{dot}com. And she has tons of great pics and tips on her Facebook page).

All you have to do to be entered to win is answer the following question, using the options I’ve provided.

Have you ever tried any Younique makeup products?

A) No, but I would like to

B) Yes, but I would like to try more

C) No, but my interest in Younique products ends with the giveaway

D) Yes, but my interest in the Younique products ends with the giveaway

{If you answer A or B, Crystal will follow up with you about getting your hands on products!}

Just be sure to leave some way for me to contact you if you win!
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