High Five for Friday!

This week went by really fast for me! Here’s what happened:

1) I wrote my first paper of the semester. I got my bachelor’s May 2012, but since I work at a college I’ve been taking a few classes as I have time. This semester, I’m very excited that I get to have a class of just reading. I love reading, I just don’t take time for it like I should. I’m reading four World War books over the course of the semester, and then I write a paper and have an oral presentation on it. My first presentation was Tuesday, and I thought it went well! I read this book:

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2) I made laundry detergent! This literally costs pennies. Do it. Save yourself SO MUCH MONEY! I’ve been using different forms of DIY detergent for a while, and I love it.

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3) I found this on Pinterest. And felt stupid that I’ve never figured it out before.

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4) I opened my Closet store on Storenvy! I’ve already had a couple sales, and I love that people get to wear and enjoy the clothes that were just sitting in my closet! Link is on the sidebar.

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5) This is probably cheating, because it hasn’t happened yet, but I am just too excited to not share that J&I are headed to the Great Smoky Mountains in a couple weeks. I seriously cannot wait. It is my favorite place in the world. I never want to live there, because I never want to get tired of going there.

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Linking up with Lauren Elizabeth for High Five for Friday!

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Introducing Your Favorite New Boutique

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(click the pic!)

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So, without a doubt, one of the things I miss most about dorm life is the closets. Oh, the closets. When your wardrobe wasn’t in a good mood, you could just move on to the next one and suddenly there were new, wonderful clothes just asking to be worn. You hadn’t bought them, you weren’t tired of them, they fulfilled all your wardrobe needs. Oh, those beautiful borrowed closets.

My husband’s closet isn’t quite so magical, although his long-sleeve thermals are perfection on a cold morning. Theoretically. We don’t have cold mornings in Tampa. They’re just less hot.

So, for all of those of you out there that have no qualms about wearing other people’s clothes, this is for you. I’m tired of looking into my jam-packed closet and thinking, “I have nothing to wear!” And it’s because I have so many clothes that don’t fit or match my staple items. I have a problem of buying things that don’t fit very well. “I know it’s not petite, but it’s only $4.29!” No more. I’m going to be good now. But, I couldn’t let these perfectly good, often barely worn clothes go to waste! They’re still so good, I just can’t use them! But you can!

So, I created Lauren’s Closet. This will hopefully be something that I can keep adding to as I update my closet. I’ve tried to price things very reasonably, and if you purchase more than one item it will combine shipping to make that not much extra. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know! I want to know that it makes sense and works for y’all. There’s a link on my sidebar that you can check back and see when I’ve added new things.

(If you’re local to Tampa/someone I see often, let me know and we can arrange for you to pick up the items free of shipping charges.)

Go take a look around! Even if you can’t afford to get anything, go take a look and see what you think about the layout and let me know.

Happy Thursday! Happy shopping!

Travel Tuesday

A momomentous event has occurred in our journey to Europe 2014 …

*pause for effect*

… we finally applied for our passports!

J’s never had a passport, but I already had one from when I went to Jamaica in 2008, and from 2010 when I went on a trip my college put together to Greece and Rome. However, a slight change has occurred in my passport information; namely, my name! (Get it?)

I’ve had the forms filled out for months (available here if anyone’s interested), but they’ve been sitting in a drawer until we finally got our passport photos taken, which we never got around to doing — meaning, I was never sitting around at home with nothing to do until I suddenly came to the realization that my hair and makeup looked awesome so I should go get my picture taken that would live on, unchanged, for 10 years, to be viewed by many stern airline employees and curious acquaintances  Yeah, for some reason, that moment hadn’t happened yet.

If one wants to be technical, we could have taken our own photos. We are photographers, after all. But, I mean, have you seen the requirement list?

  • In color
  • Printed on photo quality paper
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
  • It goes on (oh yes, there’s more)

Yeah, I didn’t really want to tackle that baby. I’m scared enough of government offices when I have all the right paperwork. I didn’t want to invoke any more wrath than necessary with my amateur passport photo. I really want to know if someone has come in and showed them their bathroom mirror selfies to see if that would work. I’d love to be a fly on that wall.

BUT, the day arrived. I had the morning off and J had the day off, and we were already getting ready to go get our FREE CFA BREAKFAST (!!) biscuits, so we thought we might as well get our photos done too. Even better, Walgreens is currently running a $2 off passport photo promotion, making them $9.99 apiece, and you get two prints each (which turned out to be helpful. Details to come). I can’t find the link to it on Walgreens’ website, but when we got ours the cashier said it was running through the end of the month. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.

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So we got our portraits. I didn’t quite imagine it would be a $99 point-and-shoot camera in front of a white window shade, but, hey, he’s the expert. I had Jon check my hair and makeup, then took my place. The employee told me my ears had to be visible. K, hair behind the ears. Not my favorite, but whatever. Then he told me all my hair had to be off my shoulders. So, hair behind my ears and pushed back. I narrowly escaped a ponytail. SO glad I curled it this morning. Neverless, they turned out okay, and it’s actually making me consider a haircut. Didn’t look half bad. The photos were ready in about 10 minutes, which was great. And we’re PRETTY sure he smoothed out our skin, because my makeup ain’t that good.

We got our photos and went home, but realized we still had some time before I went to work and decided we should try to go ahead and apply for the passports themselves. I assumed we would have to apply downtown (doesn’t every important thing have to be applied for downtown?), but found out the post office could take the application if it wasn’t a rush job. So I gathered our birth certificates, marriage certificate, social security cards (turned out we didn’t need those, believe it or not), drivers’ licenses, my former passport, our photos, and our applications. Is there anything more terrifying than carrying all of that around together? Hey, world, you want to steal my identity? Here it is! Like a good little proactive girl, I signed my application where it said to, and then told J to sign his. He signed, then looked his application over, and read off to me the big bold letters, “DO NOT SIGN UNTIL TOLD TO BY AGENT.” Awesome. Turns out renewals have different procedures than first-timers. And of course, like the good little proactive girl I am, I had already stapled his photo to that application (hence the two photos. Well done, Walgreens). So, I typed out the application again, printed, did NOT have him sign, grabbed his second photo, and off we went. Walked in to the post office and promptly saw the “Passport applications only seen by appointment” sign. Awesome. We waited in line anyway just in case, and one of the sweetest, most helpful government employees I’ve ever worked with came out, said she would let us do it anyway so long as the line stayed manageable, which we were TOTALLY okay with. She looked over our applications, pointed out some small errors, told us what fees to expect, and got us right in. The passport agent was efficient and helpful, and answered all our questions. We were in and out in about 15-20 minutes. Perfect conclusion to what could have been a really frustrating experience.

Moral of the story? Read the fine print, and be grateful for helpful people.

To be technical, I may not have needed to renew my passport, since I’ve only had it for 5 years. I had been told that I could bring along my marriage certificate to prove my name change, but I was a little terrified of having different names on my documents. I couldn’t help but imagine Jon and I being pulled away from each other in a strange airport by foreign speaking security guards claiming I was a spy, shoving me into a black car and dumping me in an underground prison, never to be heard from again.

That’s probably not exactly how it would go down, but, hey, I watch BBC drama. It’s how I view European life.

Here’s an action shot!

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Foundation Roundup

I’ve tried several foundations over the years in my search for “the perfect” foundation, and I wanted to share my thoughts on a few. I hope if you have been on the fence wanting to try one of these, that this will help you make a decision one way or the other!

Just so you know, my skin is pale, oily, prone to breakouts, and easily burns. Also, I try to keep my foundations as clean and natural as I possibly can. Someday, I dream of every beauty product I use being natural, but until I can afford that I try to make sure that my face and lip products are clean, because they come in the most contact with my skin/mouth, and because they are the least likely to make my breakouts worse.

So, here we go! I’ll list the products in the order I’ve tried them.

Sheer Cover

#1: Sheer Cover ($29.95)

I tried this in high school. I was itching to try Bare Minerals at the time, but couldn’t swing the $60 to get the starter kit, and Sheer Cover was a good alternative at half the price. They’ve changed around the kits a bit, but the basics are the same. The $29.95 starter kit comes with foundation, concealer, bronzer, mascara, and lash extending fibers (? they didn’t have those when I tried it. Not even sure what that is.), as well as a bonus of a foundation brush, concealer brush, and bronzer brush. It says it’s a 30-day kit, but I’m sure I stretched it much further than that, and the brushes are a nice bonus to keep. Instead of having a dozen shades you have to choose from from a dime size swatch on a website, they just have Light, Medium, Tan, and Deep. I had no doubts that I was (and always will be) Light, so I got that one. Overall impression — it was fine. Not a life-changer. I don’t remember the foundation being a great match, and I remember the concealer being very yellow (although, to be fair, concealer needs to be a little yellow) and somewhat cake-y. That being said, that was a few years ago, and it looks like they’ve beefed up their products. I would be interested in trying them again now just to try the new formulas. There’s a 60-day money back guarantee, so you can’t beat that! I still use the concealer brush, and it’s a great little brush. Nutshell: If you’ve been wanting to try mineral makeup, but Bare Minerals is too steep for you, give this one a try.

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#2: Bare Minerals. ($29.99 or $59.98)

I eventually did try Bare Minerals. I think there was some promotion + coupon I figured out that made it doable. Again, they’ve changed around their starter kits a little. They actually now offer one that rivals Sheer Cover’s price. The one I tried included two foundations, one powder, one bronzer, two fluffy brushes, a concealer brush, and a sample size primer. I think it may have had a mascara as well. That much, plus a new fun powder compact (because let’s be real, carting around all of that loose powder and brushes in your purse is not gonna happen), is now the $59.98 kit. The foundation lasted me a while, and the bronzer, called Warmth, lasts FOREVER. Seriously. You only have to use a tiny, tiny, microscopic bit, so it never goes away. Overal impression — it was good! It felt very clean and fresh, and I knew it wasn’t hurting my skin. Still, I didn’t feel like my colors were spot on. They give you two shades so you can mix them to match you, but one was a little orange/dark, and the other was a tad yellow. And mixing the two every day was a little tiresome. I would have stuck with it though, except the one thing I felt it was lacking that was a deal-breaker for me was blemish coverage. But, I love the brushes, and still use them every day. Nutshell: If you’re looking for natural makeup, and only have redness or some slight blemishes, this might be perfect for you.

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#3: Origins Stay Tuned ($24.00)

I honestly don’t remember what all I tried my first couple years of college, but around my junior year a friend with similar skin tone to mine suggested Origins. I had never heard of the brand, but they are another company who guarantees natural makeup, which is a must for me. I had been wanting a good, natural, liquid makeup to get better coverage, so I tried this one. It’s a really good product that I’ve bought multiple times. It is pricier than you would pay for a drugstore product, but it lasts a LONG time, at least in the amounts I use, and they will occasionally run promotions. Overall impression — It covers pretty well, blends well, and feels good on, but my one frustration was that with my oily skin and living in humid Tampa, I always felt like by the end of the day the makeup had slid off my face. The goal of the product is to balance combination dry & oily skin, but my skin is not dry ANYWHERE on my face, it’s just oily. So, I tried the next foundation I will talk about. Nutshell: Good, natural liquid foundation, but if your skin is particularly oily, you may need a different formula, or a heavier powder finish.

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#4: Origins Brighter by Nature ($30.00)

I tried this because I liked the idea of a powder foundation specifically made to combat oil. Pros: I love that the powder holder lifts up to have a place for the sponge underneath, keeping the sponge full of oil and skin cells from sitting in your makeup all day. I liked the texture for the most part, and it did reasonably well controlling oil. Cons: I don’t feel like the product lasts very long, and I didn’t like the amount of coverage. I needed the coverage of Stay Tuned, with the matte finish and oil control of Brighter by Nature. So, for a while I alternated between the two. Nutshell: If your main needs are oil control and some discoloration or uneven skin tone, this is your product. If you have dry skin or much acne, this probably isn’t it.

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#5: Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation ($42.00)

Introducing my new favorite product! I was introduced to this product watching Kate @ The Small Things Blog‘s video of her going through her daily makeup routine. She doesn’t have the skin problems I do, but just watching her normal skin discolorations disappear when she put this product convinced me it was magical. I was running out of my Stay Tuned bottle, and really want to try something new, but this foundation is FORTY-TWO DOLLARS?! That’s a water bill, people. I couldn’t handle that. But, through some deals I’d found, I had about $15 in Amazon gift cards I could use towards it. Because all sellers on Amazon are third-party sellers (as far as I know), the prices for different shades were all over the map. The fair and porcelain shades were only $17 (?!) but as hard as I tried to convince myself they would work, I knew I would hate myself if I didn’t get the correct shade (my shade is Soft Blush, the same as Kate’s, strangely enough). So, between gift cards and the Amazon price, I got it for about what I would have paid for my Origins makeup, which I could stomach. Conclusion: I really, really like it. It’s not quite as magical as the video made it look, but it’s the first liquid foundation that I feel like stays on my face all day, even in Tampa. It blends beautifully, and has really good coverage. I still use concealer on blemishes and under my eyes, but other than that I’m very pleased! I can’t speak as to how long it will last since I’m on my first bottle, but I’m being conservative. Nutshell: If you can afford it, or are one of the lucky people who’s shade is super cheap on Amazon, go for it! I love it.

So there you have it! I hope you’ll try some of these products out if you’re looking for something new, and I hope my comments are helpful. Have a wonderful Monday!