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.

passport1

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!

passport

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.

bare

#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.

origins

#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.

bbn

#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.

arbonne

#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!

A little closer to home.

busch

Most of my travel posts will be about our 2014 Europe trip, but today I wanted to talk about a place a little closer to home.

While Disney World will always and forever be the most magical place on earth to me, my husband and I also have passes to Busch Gardens/SeaWorld and this last weekend we took an impulsive trip to SeaWorld to celebrate my husband winning a competition he was in.

We have never really considered getting Disney World passes because they run about $500 each. We’d love to have them at least once before we move our of Florida, but until we do, the Busch Gardens & SeaWorld annual pass is much more affordable, and through J’s work, we get significant discounts off the full price.

J loves Busch Gardens because it has several roller coasters, including Sheikra, an intense freefall ride that makes my stomach roll over, drop, jump, and then roll over again. I refuse to ever ride it again. I do love the animal exhibits though — you get a zoo and a theme park in the same place!

But of the two parks, without a doubt I prefer SeaWorld. I love the dolphin and killer whale shows so much — I could seriously sit and watch every show they play all day. But if I did, I would miss other amazing things — like feeding dolphins, like we did on this last trip. We were too mesmerized to take pictures (and too cheap to buy the ones the photographer took) but it was incredible. I have now fed and petted a dolphin. Check that off the bucket list. 

We also got the souvenir cups that both parks offer, that once you pay the initial $6 for the cup, every refill is only 99 cents (not including J’s  discount). It pays for itself SO quickly if you have passes. They also have the amazing new Coke machines that have every flavor combination you can imagine. I recommend raspberry lemonade.

Last December, we also went to SeaWorld’s Christmas party (no extra charge!) and it was great. They had a Polar Express ride, hot chocolate, ice skating show (my weakness), a Christmas killer whale show, and a Christmas tree light show. I have a thing about Christmas — the thing being that it’s my favorite holiday and I look forward to it every year starting December 26th. Nothing can top Disney’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but this one was delightful as well!

Anyway —  if you’re in the Tampa/Orlando area and can’t afford a Disney pass, consider a Busch/SeaWorld pass! Especially if you have a friend who works there who can get you a discount. 😉

Blue Horizons

Oh, hello there!

I have a blog? Look, I have a blog! I’m so glad to see it is still around after a two-week vacation. I’ve had nothing going on, other than getting our second car totaled, photographing a wedding in Texas, and opening week at the college I work at. Nothing much, really. I’m excited to get back to blogging!

I got several e.l.f. products when they had a good sale going on a few weeks back. The product I’ve been using the most out of that order is their e.l.f. Studio Translucent Matifying Powder. It’s a whopping $3 full price, and they run 50% sales fairly often. They’re currently running a $1.98 shipping special as well.

elf

I just discovered e.l.f. a few months back, and I am very excited that there is a line of very affordable makeup and brushes for when I can’t (or shouldn’t) afford some of the pricier brands. Obviously, at this price level, some of the makeup is probably not very “clean,” but I was excited to see that they also have a mineral line that I am looking forward to exploring. Their ingredient lists are encouragingly short!

This compact, however, is from their studio line. Both the mineral and studio lines are slightly more expensive than their essential line, but still, as I said, this studio powder was only $3.

It does not have an overwhelming amount of product in it, but it is a very light, sheer powder that is one-shade-fits-all, and I like it to wear over my foundation. Eventually I want to get a few more to have one at work and one in my purse.

I’d encourage you to try this line out! I believe some Targets and even dollar stores sell their products, but you won’t get as full of a selection as you do online.

Happy Monday!

An elementary couponing trip.

Through someone’s Facebook status, I heard about Southern Savers and have been slightly obsessed ever since. I hate feeling guilty going to the grocery store and always knowing in the back of my mind that I could be saving money if I knew how. Well, I’m learning how!

First lesson I learned: Don’t try to spend nothing. It’s impractical, and you’re not going to get what you really need that way. My goal is to average about 50% savings between sales and coupons.

publix

This is what I got. I spent $45.64 and saved $47.38 ($38.68 in store sales, $8.70 in coupons) BUT, I forgot a $5 coupon at home, and because Publix is awesome, they are going to let me get that $5 back if I show them my receipt and the coupon the next time I go in. So that will mean I’ve spent $40.64 and saved $52.38. I passed my goal of 50%!

Southern Savers is incredible because she does all the hard work for you. When you get the coupon inserts in the paper, stick them in a folder and don’t even look at them. Every week, she will post the sales/coupon matchups and show you the best deals that week. Then you can just go find those specific coupons in the paper and leave the rest alone. No needless cutting of coupons you don’t need or won’t use. And you can print out shopping lists with specific coupon matchups to take with you so you can get in and out of the store in half on hour and already have your coupons ready to go. I feel much less crazy-cat-lady that way. 

list

I forgot my list (of course), but since Publix has free Wifi, I accessed it from my iPad in the store.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a Publix fangirl. 

As you can see, I got 2 Freschetta pizzas (our favorite that we can rarely afford), produce, 2 HUGE jars of natural peanut butter, Ritz chips, Vanilla wafers, applesauce, granola bars, produce, chicken broth, crescent rolls, pasta sauce, french bread, salad dressing, 2 bottles of good olive oil, and 2 cans of vegetables, and I paid $40 (after I get the coupon money back).

I feel pretty good about it and we have a ton of snacks for our road trip to Texas this weekend.

Check out Southern Savers! There is an introductory video on the right side of her page. Watch that first — it will make it all less scary. J is totally on board with me too — and I feel excited when I get home from the grocery store, not ashamed or worried! That is a good feeling.

In the past I’ve spent about $50/week on groceries, which is a little high for just two of us, and I’m still sticking about to that, but I’m getting so much MORE for that money. My pantry/freezer/fridge are STOCKED. As I build up stock, I will be able to spend less and less each week.

Here’s to saving! I promise, it’s fun, rewarding … and slightly addictive. Give it a try!

– L

One Piece, Different Ways

I read Audrey’s Putting Me Together blog daily, and she has completely changed how I look at my closet! She is hosting a One Piece Different Ways linkup this week, and her post is here and you can see all the other posts who have linked there too. I wanted to try it, so this is my attempt!

I picked up this shirt on clearance at JCPenney. They were running an extra 50% off their clearance, AND they have a petite section, so I picked this up for about $3 bucks. I was so excited! So I wanted to challenge myself to see how many different ways I could wear it.

pants

First, I explored what different pants I could wear with it. Obviously, it works with jeans for a casual look. It has white in it so it works well with white jeans too. And here are the black pants that I talked about in this post! I love them.

skirts

Next, skirts. I’ve had this purple skirt for forever and it helps pull out the purple in the shirt. Jean skirts and a black straight skirt are so versatile! All of these are great for work or church.

layers

These I had to leave up to my imagination, because it’s about 170 degrees with 300% humidity in Tampa right now. But, I can imagine that a jean jacket works well with this. Another thing I love about white jeans — you can wear a denim jacket with it and not be blue denim from head to toe. The gray jacket helps because it’s 3/4 sleeve — something about having my elbows free makes me feel so much cooler. And a vest is a great way to add a layer without extra sleeves.

shirt

I also experimented with different ways to style the shirt itself. Loose, tucked, and belted. Tucking is a great way to lengthen the leg line because it makes your waistline higher. Belting has a similar effect.

necklaces

I experimented with different necklaces with it. I love the concept of statement necklaces but I’m starting small with the white one. The pendant was a gift and is made from an old piece of silverware and has an “L” stamped on it — love it! And you can never go wrong with pearls.

So there you have it! Over 10 ways to style one shirt. Try it out! It’s a great way to make yourself wear something in a new way.

Linking up with Putting Me Together’s OPDW and What I Wore Wednesday!

pleated poppy

Travel Tuesday

london

The first city we’re going to on our Europe trip is London! LONDON. I’m wondering what I will think when I get there, because my main impressions of London thus far have been from Jane Austen movies and have convinced me that London is filled with Mr. Darcys and Janes and balls and Pemberleys (okay, that was in Derbyshire, but you get the drift). It’s probably modernized slightly since the 1800s, but secretly, I hope not.

britmus

This is the British Museum. Well, I guess it has modernized a little. This will be our first stop in London.

chartwell

And then we will visit Chartwell, the Churchill estate. I’m so excited about this. Museums and exhibits are fascinating to me, but homes — that’s where history comes alive to me. I love how different people love history for different reasons. My advisor at college had an antique table in his office and he said he loved it because he loved examining it and figuring out how it was built. I looked at it and I imagined how many different families had sat at it, used it, the memories that had happened there. I am very people – oriented in my love of history, so homes are my favorite. That’s why I got married in front of one!

So here’s a few things Jon and I are going to see on our first day in London! Let me know if you’ve been there! What would you like to see in London?

“Wipe, wipe!”

I’ve been watching a lot of Monk recently so this post seems appropriate.

wipes

Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes

I love the convenience of makeup removal wipes at night. I hate getting makeup all over my washcloths. I usually wipe off the first layer of makeup, then wash with Dr. Bronner’s tea tree soap, then use Burt’s Bees Garden Tomato Toner, then Burt’s Bees Spot Treatment. My skin is very sensitive, oily, and prone to breakouts, but this regimen is keeping me mostly under control.

I started using these a while back when they were running a promotion on the Burt’s Bees website for a pack of 10 for $3. I later realized that the 30-wipe pack was only $6, so I got a better deal that way. I’ve since found out my co-op sells these at a wholesale price, so I’m getting them for under $4, and I cut them in half, so I get 60 uses/2 months per pack.

I love that they don’t just say “all natural” or “made with natural ingredients” — they give a specific percentage, and it changes per product. That’s more realistic/honest to me. These are 99.7% natural and they don’t make me break out at all, like most makeup removal wipes do. If you have extremely sensitive skin, they also have a “sensitive” version.

For another options, my mom just started using some Seventh Generation makeup wipes that don’t make her skin irritated at all either. There’s always an all-natural option!

Happy Monday, y’all!

Hi, five!

This has been a crazy, crazy week! Rehearsals and schedules and shopping trips, oh my! Looking forward to some normalcy. Here’s my high five!

1. I have made my first few “sale/coupon” shopping trips. And for the most part, they went well! I saved just under 50% at Publix, and right at 50% at Target in my first two trips. My last trip to Target was slightly disappointing as I got a little mixed up and spent more than I meant to, but I still got soap, cotton balls, a birthday gift, a NICE razor, frozen broccoli, raspberries, 2 jars of pasta sauce, carrots, and 2 folders for a total of $10, so I’ll say that was successful. Full price, the razor alone was $10! Southern Savers makes this so much easier and less intimidating, and, I have to say, addictive! And no guilt, because, hey, you’re spending less money than you used to, and you’re pantry is fuller. Win-win!

receipts

2. I’ve been spending a lot more time with my almost-1-year-old niece this week while here parents and my husband are rehearsing for a musical. She’s never been scared of me, but she’s gotten much more comfortable with me in the last week and it’s so heart-warming to see her smile when she sees me. She starting to use a few baby signs, and they are adorable!

3. Tonight is opening night for Fiddler on the Roof! I’m so excited to see all my family and friends’ hard work, and also to actually be able to spend some time with my husband again. 🙂

fiddler

4. I made Ghirardelli brownies this week. Oh man. If you’ve never had them, you must. If you have, you understand.

chocolate

5. We may or may not have made an exceedingly large purchase this week. Something that may or may not have 4 wheels. And may or may not be silver, with black interior. And may or may not have leather seats. And may or may not have been within our budget. And may or may not have cost an arm and a leg and a headache to get it registered. And may or may not be automatic so I can actually use it. 3 guesses what it is?

How’s your week been?

— Petite Peach

Linking up with Lauren Elizabeth for High Five for Friday!

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