General Summer Favorites

Semesters are starting up again soon (or for an unlucky half of the four Novel Nests editors, has already begun) so it’s time to discuss what we’ve discovered and loved this summer!

Amanda Cordero

This summer, I’ve started taking baby steps towards living better, specifically living more sustainably and more toxic-free. Part of that process has been switching up a few products in my beauty routine, starting with deodorant. I won’t expound on why traditional, aluminum-containing deodorants are bad for you, but I will say that I’ve found something special with Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant. I recommend the Charcoal + Magnesium and Bergamot + Lime scents.

As mentioned earlier, I’m trying to live more sustainably – and using a French press is a chic way to do just that! First pro: I’ve eliminated the need for coffee filters and plastic-lined tea bags. Second pro: I’ve been making bulk iced coffee for cheap. I simply pour my coffee from the French press to a large mason jar and let it chill overnight. The next morning, I add almond milk and some coconut creamer, let it sit in the freezer while I get ready, then I’m good to go! Buh-bye Starbucks!

I’ve been a workout addict this summer, and Austin’s HEAT Bootcamp has been enabling me. By far my favorite part of HEAT has been the trainers: their positivity is contagious and they never let you sell yourself short. There’s always one more push-up to be had, one more lap to be run, one more pull-up to struggle through. I love it. Going to HEAT five to six times a week has built my self-confidence, not to mention some muscle definition!

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I’ve been addicted to podcasts this summer. They’re perfect for traffic-filled commutes and long runs (especially if you get bored when you run). My recommendations are Fat Mascara (beauty and makeup), Full Coverage (more beauty and makeup), The Sporkful (food!), and Rewrite the Rules (interviews with interesting movers-and-shakers, hosted by my friend Alex Starr).

Cindy Liu

Glow Recipe Pink Juice Moisturizer: I have been loving this lightweight, gel, jolly-rancher smelling moisturizer all summer. It is so refreshing and just seeps right into the skin. The moisturizing benefits are long lasting o it keeps my t-zone from turning into an oil swamp by noon.

Cherries: a bit random, but I have been having a love affair with cherries all summer. They are so sweet and refreshing, especially straight out the fridge. Best of all, they’re a healthy alternative to satisfying my sweet tooth and they contain loads of antioxidants.

Not wearing makeup: another weird one, but it’s one I’ve embraced almost every day this summer. Thanks to a revamped skincare routine, my skin has been a lot happier recently which has left me confident to leave the house bare-faced. While I ADORE putting on my face, there is something so nice about letting my skin breathe all day and rocking an actual no makeup look.

Ella Liu

Smashbox 24 hour Photo Finish Shadow Primer: After literal years of complaining about my eyeliner smudging off, Cindy finally said “why don’t you use an eye-shadow primer?” I’m not sure why I hadn’t used it until now but definitely regret having such an easy solution to my smudgy problems and not noticing for four years. This smashbox primer basically glues any liner to my eyelids (though it all comes off easily enough with some coconut oil and micellar water). It was a bit pricey so I’m definitely in the market for an effective drugstore shadow primer.

Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint in Bronze: I know I’ve talked about this one before, but it’s honestly just such a fantastic summer find. It’s sheer and buildable and doesn’t come off with sweat. The slight shimmer in the pigment makes it the perfect for that glowy summer look. It does crease, but it supposed to.

Book by Commodity: I bought this a while ago but decided not to use it until recently because it’s a great summer perfume. It smells like the Dove cucumber body wash but in a super sophisticated way that makes it suitable for me to spray around until I choke.

Anna Lam

Every season brings its own newness. Change is a constant, and with change almost always the developmental process of growth. Sometimes the growth is painless, other times it’s uncomfortable and accompanied with the persistent feeling of being somehow unmoored. It’s the feeling of idle drifting that, unless you’re paying attention, can leave you with a sense of stranded-ness in a place unfamiliar. It’s precisely this feeling that has encouraged me to adopt certain stable “rituals” throughout my day. Though it’s summer, one of my favorite new habits has been drinking warm tea in the evenings. I’ve always loved tea, but making a conscious habit of drinking it at the close of each long summer day has a delightfully calming effect. I’m a fairly anxious person, always a little wired, and my productivity tends to feed most on my own stress-induced frenetic energy. So, naturally, I try to look for simple ways I can do daily to calm the nerves. Most recently, this has been the humble warmth of a favorite mug filled with freshly brewed tea. I drink everything: chamomile, mint, jasmine, lavender, red raspberry leaf, rose, bitter melon, ginger, chai. All of these teas have amazing health benefits (particularly, I’ve found, the ginger—boiling fresh ginger root definitely helps with sore throats and slight colds, although this is the one tea I recommend sweetening with a little of honey, as it has a bit of a bite to it). I typically drink these teas unsweetened, but share your tea with a friend and it comes naturally sweet.

This past summer I also picked up music again in earnest. It’s amazing how things come back to you—the familiar chord progressions of at this point well-aged soft pop hits from the likes of Coldplay and Regina Spektor are now tinged with just enough nostalgia to be fun to play again. I’ve also started writing my own music. What a pleasure it’s been to indulge a creative impulse again. There’s nothing like creating something you can call your own, especially when you’ve worked at it until you satisfy yourself. At this point, my music hasn’t hit many ears, but I’m hoping to share more of it in the very near future in the hopes of connecting my own personal experiences with others. Until then, I’ve been uploading covers of some of my favorites to YouTube as my creative project (check out my cover of “On Melancholy Hill” there—it’s my favorite so far).

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Austin: A Summer Guide

I’m lucky enough to live in one of the coolest, most vibrant cities in America this summer – Austin. I’ve visited a few times in the past few years for concerts, but living here has given me a better appreciation for all things Austin. The city definitely lives by its catchy motto – “Keep Austin Weird” – but I’ve come to love it for its hospitality, scenery, and ubiquitous laid-back vibes. Below are a few of my favorite Austin haunts – turns out, keeping things weird is working out after all.

Mozart’s Coffee Roasters

A few friends and I have been meeting weekly at different coffee shops for co-writing sessions. By far, Mozart’s has been my favorite shop. Right on Lady Bird Lake, Mozart’s is a perfect place place to churn out stories while catching the sunset over the water. And while I’m not a big fan of pastries, I have a hard time resisting Mozart’s cheesecakes!

Austin Eastciders

I’m not much of a drinker, but I’m always down for a good cider. Austin and its surrounding areas has some excellent local picks. Austin Eastciders, a brewing company located in the growing east side of the city (hence the name), has become a favorite spot of mine with its cool, urban vibe, live music, and of course, tasty brews. My favorite is the Ruby Red Grapefruit flavor, but I can’t wait to try the new Lemon Ginger flavor!

The Boardwalk Trail by Lady Bird Lake

I hate running. I hate, hate, hate, running. My mind wanders, my legs get too chafe-y, it’s hot . . . I hate running. But I will willingly run on The Boardwalk Trail to catch breathtaking views of the city skyline as the sun rises. Skyline views aren’t the only things that keep me entertained here: I love seeing turtles sunbathe on logs, crew teams row smoothly across the Lake, and egrets swoop in for breakfast. Once, I saw an Austinite scale the railing, jump into the water, and swim across the Lake to the other side because . . . well, because that’s what you do in Austin.

South Congress Books

Trying to find parking on South Congress is a pain . . . but if you can swiftly maneuver into some back-angled street parking before the light behind you turns green and five o’clock traffic rushes towards your bumper, you’ve made it in Austin, baby! Every time I successfully find parking on South Congress, I treat myself to a visit to this used bookstore known for its vintage and first editions. Small, cozy, and well-curated, South Congress Books is perfect for when I’m in the mood for lazy evening perusals.

I still have a few more weeks before I leave the city, but I’m already dreading leaving. Austin, you’ve been good to me. Thanks for welcoming me with open arms, good books, and some cold brews!

 

–Amanda Cordero

 

In Praise of Minimalism: Vegetarian and Italian Food Traditions

I love the ethos of Italian cuisine. Variety may be the spice of life, but simplicity is its main ingredient. Whether that’s a warm cup of tea before bed or a small, quiet moment with someone you love, it doesn’t have to scintillate for it to be recognizably beautiful. Thus, the food of Italia. There are no surprises when you eat, and the ingredients don’t attempt to impress you. To begin with, there are never usually more than three or four ingredients at all, but each is reliably fresh, local, and expertly-prepared. As an ethical vegetarian and one already slightly inclined toward minimalist habits, I felt as if I was among birds of the same feather during my stay in Italy and that no more a harmonious marriage of food philosophies could be made than between that of Italy and my own.

The simplicity of vegetarianism is in its economy, but I even find the attendant humility of plant-foods to be an attractive aspect of the diet. It’s true that eating at a low trophic level can be an incredibly sustainable dietary choice in a world of increasingly limited resources and can constitute an affordable diet for those on a college budget. However, for me the real charm of vegetarianism is in the daily ways it connects me to myself and to those I care about. During moments of intermittent relief from the daily deluge that life normally brings, I love to prepare my own food. It’s a simple pleasure to be able to wash and chop my own vegetables and take the time to prepare a meal for either myself or those I love. Whether it’s warm bowls of veggie soup or spiced porridge on wintry days, or colorful fruit salads in spring, it does satisfy something besides just hunger. It’s a way to care about myself, my friends and family, and the planet that we inhabit.

There’s a similar flavor that is imparted to the food you eat in Italy, not just in the way it’s prepared, but in the way it’s eaten. Everything seems to move just a little slower in Italy, and that includes the meals. That can be frustrating for those of us used to a hit-and-run, grab-and-go lifestyle, but the evening repast in Italy is less about the food one eats and more about who has joined you for it. And hopefully you like who joins you; it wasn’t uncommon when I was in Italy for dinner to push three or four hours long, with the expectation that you were involved in lively conversation with your tablemates. Therefore, a simple meal becomes more. It’s a facilitator, a binding agent, and the unimposing complement to something already good: human companionship.

There is something quite beautiful about the unassuming—the things that don’t ask for attention or reward, so simple that they can only be honest, so obviously good that they can be the first to get overlooked precisely because of their simplicity. I discovered a few of these things in Italy—whether it was line-drying my clothes in the orchard behind the Casale San Giorgio of Barbarano Romano, hiking up the San Giuliano plateau on brisk yet golden mornings, or traipsing over hills bespangled with wildflowers in the hopes of finding ancient Etruscan tombs. Yet the best part about the simple things is that they are for everyone, and you certainly don’t have to go to Italy to find them. They are likely right beside you.

 

— Anna Lam

Ella’s Travel Makeup Bag

I like to think I’m a minimalist. Or at least I like to think that I’m TRYING to get there. (Spoiler: she was not, in fact, doing much to achieve this goal). As it is, my travel makeup bag has shrunk a good deal in the past two years. When I’m traveling, I tend to gravitate towards smaller, lighter products and often ones that can multi-task. I’m visiting home for two weeks, so keep reading to see what I’m bringing along.

The Face:

I tend not to use foundation or even tinted moisturizer because my skin runs fairly oily and I still haven’t found a product that doesn’t end up looking cakey on me, so I’m just bringing my Milk Makeup Blur Stick and  Glossier Stretch Concealer. The blur stick is great for oil control and evens out the tone of my skin a little. The concealer is quite bright and dewy so it’s great for areas like my under-eyes and around my nose, but it doesn’t do much for coverage. Which is fine for me, because I don’t really look for that in a concealer. I’m also bringing Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk, which I use under my cheekbones to accent them, and my Glossier Haloscope for highlight. Although I generally use a bit of powder on my T-zone for oil control, I decided not to include it in my travel bag.

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The Eyes:

For my eyebrows, I’m just using my all-time favorite brow product: Glossier Boy Brow in black. It grooms and fills brows at the same time, which is great for people with sad brows (me) and people who don’t know how to do their brows (me). For eyes, I’m bringing the Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint in bronze, which is a sheer yet buildable cream eyeshadow. I also use cloud paint as eyeshadow, when I’m feeling a slightly peachy/brown eye.  My eyeliner situation is a bit strange. I haven’t found a single eyeliner that stays on my eyelids longer than two hours—gel, liquid, or pencil (even while using the Smashbox eyeshadow primer). What I did discover was that layering a liquid eyeliner OVER a pencil eyeliner somehow will last me through the day. So, much to the annoyance of my trying-to-be-minimalist-self, I’m bringing two eyeliners with me: a kohl liner by Jillian Dempsey and the Stila All Day liquid liner. My mascara is the Too Faced Better than Sex, which has very bulky packaging. But it’s such a good mascara that I don’t care.

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The Lips:

For lips I’m just bringing my Glossier lipstick in Leo, and the Cherry Balm dot com. These can be worn separately or together to create more intense looks or more natural lips.

And of course everything fits neatly into a Glossier pink pouch, which I really love using when I travel because it’s like I bubble-wrapped all my makeup. It fits quite neatly in my carry-on and I don’t have to worry about anything spilling or breaking during my flight.

So, there you have the ten makeup items I bring with me while traveling. I think I’d still like to downsize a bit, though everything fits pretty neatly into one bag so I’d be happy either way.

 

–Ella Liu

Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding

At the end of last year, I decided to make a few lifestyle changes. I started training regularly (shout out to HIIT classes!), incorporated more activity throughout my day, and became stricter with my sleep schedule (still working on this one!) And the changes started to come! I’m more focused, happier, and fitter than I’ve been in a while.

A major part of this lifestyle change has been changing the way eat. I have a weakness for sour and gummy candies – Sour Patch Kids, Lemonheads, sour straws, you name it. In fact, the last guy I dated took me to a candy shop for our first date and let me GO HAM because I loved candy that much!

So dilemma: what does a girl eat eat when she is 1) a serial candy nosher  2) who wants to nourish her body and take care of herself  3) but can’t get rid of her sweet tooth?

The answer is you don’t. I still eat my candy, but I’ve found alternatives to incorporate in my diet. This Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding uses all natural sweetness to knock out those cravings! I usually prep it the night before (#studentlife) so that in the morning, I just need to toss in some fresh fruit and drizzle a bit of honey and I’m good to go. An added bonus is that it’s packed with fiber – 20 grams! – which makes it the perfect post-workout snack!

Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding

 

 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (10 g of protein): I prefer plain yogurt because it doesn’t contain added sugar. Opt for “full-fat” because “non-fat” has extra chemicals (read: sweeteners) that replace the fat. Also, full-fat yogurt keeps you fuller for longer!
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup of chia seeds (10 g of protein)
  • Berries of choice: I like frozen blueberries and fresh strawberries, sliced into coins. Pro-tip: If you use fresh strawberries, don’t cut and use them until right before you eat. This helps preserve their antioxidants!
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Optional add-ins: hemp seeds (I love using these for added protein!), nuts, goji berries
    • Note: If you do use these additional ingredients, add a bit more almond milk to your mixture.

 

Steps:

  • Mix the yogurt, almond milk, chia seeds, and any other add-ins in a container with a lid. Stir until the yogurt and seeds are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Add the frozen fruit on top of the mixture (they will thaw out while your mixture chills).
  • Keep your mixture in the fridge for 4-6 hours but preferably overnight.
  • Before enjoying, drizzle a bit of honey and sprinkle some salt.

 

It’s berry easy to make and serve! Your sweet tooth – and summer bod – will thank you!

— Amanda Cordero

The Art of Practicing Self-Care…Cheaply

I moved recently to Austin for the summer. While it’s been great (read: hipster coffee shops galore), this is also my first time living truly on my own. I’ve lived for eighteen years with my family, and when I went off to university, I had the wonderful experience of living in a tight-knit residential college. I’ve always been around people, and I love it.

Living in Austin has been my first experience of living alone. As an extrovert, this transition has been radical . . . and difficult. I’m also processing some recent emotional upheaval, so I’ve had to practice self-care frequently. Below are a few of the things I’ve been doing (on the cheap!) to take better of myself:

Taking time to lose myself in a book (preferably one from the library). At the beginning of the year, I made the commitment to read for a half hour every day. Even though I study literature in school, I’ve used this commitment to discover new books on my own. I’m currently reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte and The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams.

Aside from enriching my literary taste, I always leave my hour feeling satisfied that I’ve done something concrete to help myself. The small victories count! Other books I’ve read and loved this summer include Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve by Lenora Chu, and the entire Harry Potter saga.

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Moisturizing. Don’t roll your eyes at this. If you know me, you know that I love, love, LOVE having super soft skin. And I’m guessing that if you’re reading this beauty and lifestyle blog, you probably have a tub or bottle of lotion somewhere. Take the time to slather some on and notice yourself.

I’ve upped my moisturizing game by using sweet almond oil or coconut fig-scented lotion. Another pro tip is to place your moisturizer in the refrigerator for a few hours – perfect for a hot summer day!

Seeking light. This year, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of light, how it affects my mood, and how I can harness it for my benefit. For example, when I need to feel productive or happy, I’ll go to places with massive windows and just sit there – my local Starbucks and Austin’s Faulk Central Library are perfect. When I need to prepare my body for sleep, I’ll turn off all the lights but keep on my crystal salt lamp. It provides the soft ambience to settle my body in for the night. While light isn’t on everyone’s mood radar, pay attention to where and when you feel the happiest and seek those places and moments.

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Communing with nature. I’m lucky that Austin is a city that loves nature. When I really need to check out emotionally, I’ll run by Lady Bird Johnson Lake. Google “hiking trails near me” to discover your local hidden gems. And pro tip: I like going early in the morning A) to avoid the worst of Texas heat and B) to set some good vibes for the day.

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Reaching out to people. I’ve been more aware that much of this sad feeling stems from loneliness. A friend of mine recently told me that she is adamant about not having a “phone relationship” with people, so she’s been building a habit of meeting with people face-to-face. While that’s not always possible for me, I try to FaceTime or call loved ones as opposed to just sending them texts. More often than not, many of my friends feel the same way I do and are equally happy to talk. Reaching out to people has been a practice of recognizing that while reaching out can seem inconvenient for both parties, it’s a beautiful and necessary practice of community and happiness.

Building small habits. My mother will tell you that she wishes I flossed more. And because I love my mother and my gums, I’ve been building the habit of flossing every night. Building habits like these aren’t always fun, but I’ve been reminding myself that ultimately, I’m winning. Try going for walk a few times a week, incorporating more vegetables in your meals, or making it a point to shut off your phone for a few hours each week. Small habits like this build up in the long run!

Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or trendy – really, it all boils down to being aware of your emotions and taking proactive steps!

 

— Amanda Cordero

January Favorites

It’s time for another favorites post! Check out what makeup, skincare, clothes, and more impressed us in January!

 

Makeup

Cindy:

By Terry Ombre Blackstar– I have been wanting to try these since they first came out. I’ve recently been wearing more eyeshadows (I used to be a mascara-only type of gal) and it was the perfect excuse to nab one of these beauties. They are definitely on the pricey side, but they are SO worth it. They are butter and creamy and blend stunningly well with your fingers or with a brush. The color pay off is intense and they are still so blend-able! I have the lovely purple color, Misty Rock, which looks great with brown eyes. I’m looking forward to trying out Bronze moon and Blonde Opal soon!

Ysl All Hours Concealer – Concealer is always a bit of a struggle. Between color matching, finding the right consistency, and the right tool to apply and blend and after all that actually concealing blemishes, I have found very very few (read one) concealers that work (my ever so trusty Nars Creamy Matte). Enter Ysl All Hours Concealer! This beauty almost, ALMOST, tops the Nars one. It is a more watery cream in a tube with a doe-foot applicator. The coverage is amazing and the shade I have is a PERFECT color match for me. The trick with this one is to dab it onto spots with the applicator, then WAIT a couple minutes while you do your eyes or lipstick or whatever, and then buff it out gently with a fluffy concealer brush. The coverage is complete and natural. You really can’t ask for more from a concealer. This one is amazing. Go and get yourself a tube!

Ella:

Glossier Haloscope: I’m generally too lazy and rushed in the mornings to do a full face of makeup, which means swiping on a heavy highlight over a bare face usually looks pretty silly. Haloscope in Moonstone is the perfect solution to my laziness and desire for a glowy complexion. It’s natural and subtle and isn’t caked with glitter, like many heavier highlights are. I usually just swipe this on over my milk makeup primer, for a that dewy “wet” look we all stare at on Instagram. It’s definitely build-able, though, and I’ve also easily worn it with a full face of makeup. I would suggest applying it with a finger instead of swiping it directly onto your face if you don’t want it to move your foundation around.

Skincare

Cindy:

Glossier Serums – I decided to try these out over the holidays and have been using them religiously every morning for the last month. They are AMAZING. I usually use all three at once, starting with Super Pure (niacinamide and zinc) to calm down redness after washing my face. Then I’ll pat on a bit of Super Bounce (hyaluronic acid) to help bring in moisture. Finally, I’ll top it off with Super Glow (Vitamin C) before moisturizer, sunscreen etc. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Super Bounce because I am having a love affair with hyaluronic acid at the moment. Big tip for fellow oily/combo people: Moisturize! Pretend you have dry skin! It’ll prevent your skin from producing extra oil and therefore combat acne! Be on the lookout for a morning skincare routine to see how these three fit in to the big picture!

Balm dot com Mint – There is a little trend in this post with Glossier… The balm dot coms are cult staples, and for good reason!  Little goes a long way and they will outlast the nuclear apocalypse. I’ve been particularly loving mint this month to use as a nighttime lip balm. The tingly and refreshing mint really makes it feel like its doing its job.

Stacked Skincare Dermaroller – Microneedling has been in the limelight for a while due to claims that it helps with skin elasticity and increased effectiveness of skincare products. It’s been about a month of me using this and I am seeing definite improvement. The overall tone of my skin has gotten better. It is more glowing and plump for sure. Additionally, it definitely helps skincare products do their job. One weekend I was particularly lazy and did not use the roller and the next morning there was a noticeable decrease in the noticeability (repetitive, I know) of the effectiveness of my overnight masks and serums. Regular use is key! There is a tiny bit of pain, but not very much and definitely bearable. I would definitely suggest using it only a couple times a week and following up with sunscreen.

Ella:

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% – At the end of the spring semester last year, I broke out in pretty horrific acne (I’m looking at you, stress-induced midnight Taco Bell visits. All thirty of you…). Although it went away pretty quickly, I was left with a few acne scars, which is not something I’ve really had to deal with previously. I bought this serum on a whim, which was definitely influenced by strategically placed Instagram ads, and was blown away by the results. My scars and blemishes have nearly disappeared and my skin tone evened considerably. I don’t think this necessarily prevents acne, but it’s an incredibly effective solution to scars.

 

Clothes

Cindy:

Keds – I have had these for years since I nabbed them for a couple bucks brand new from a thrift store. This month I’ve been wearing them a lot because Texas weather is bipolar and boots are too hot and flats are too cold. So, I turned to my Keds, which were being neglected in the back of the closet, and I fell in love again. They are oh-so-comfy and the navy polka-pattern goes with most of my wardrobe and adds a little quirk and fun to my every day uniform. I had forgotten how much I loved them and they are not going into the back of the closet anytime soon.

Ella:

Someday I will buy clothes that are not black, white, grey, or denim blue, but today is not that day. This sweater is from Costco, where I normally buy a sixty-pack of vitamin gummies. However, I was pleasantly surprised when this sweater turned out warm, stylish, and comfy. It’s easy to dress up or down and matches pretty much everything. Well done, Costco.

 

Other

Cindy:

Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – I’ve recently re-discovered this Netflix original. It’s upbeat, honest, quirky, and the best way to start a day or wind down in the evening. I’m on season 2, and I’ve got to admit, Titus is still my fav.

Ella:

Fleurie – I started listening to a lot of alternative/indie music over Christmas break and, thanks to Spotify’s convenient playlists, I stumbled on American singer Fleurie’s music. She doesn’t have a lot of music out yet, but what she has is phenomenal. Her music is haunting yet familiar, wistfully sad but powerful. And generally, if I can write to it, I like it.

Turtles All the Way Down – Cindy bought me this book for my birthday last year and, already being a John Green fan, I was pretty excited to read it. It’s one of those books which you can put down if you need to, but you could also read in one sitting if you wanted. It’s witty, sad, funny, and most importantly, addresses mental health in a realistic way that doesn’t leave you feeling bleak or hopeless.

 

In Flight Essentials

 

It’s only been a few weeks since most of us finished traveling for the holidays and, while Christmas Break is always the highlight of my year, traveling—especially planes—can be stressful, acne-inducing ordeals. We decided to share the in flight essentials that make everything a little easier for us.

Skincare

Even with oily skin, planes can dry the face. Especially my lips. Here’s what we bring to prevent dull, tired skin after a long flight.

Caudalie Beauty Elixir: This little beauty is one of my favorite skincare items of all time, not just for travel. It is more concentrated and powerful than most sprays and really makes you feel energized and moisturized and tops it all off with a little je ne sais quoi. Another option is the

Mario Badescu Aloe Water Spray: a few spritz of this and my skin is refreshed and hydrated. It’s light and smells amazing and doesn’t mess up any makeup I happen to be wearing.

Khiels Avocado Eye Cream: Since airplane air is SUPER dry, the under-eye area needs a little extra TLC. A cream eye treatment, like this fantastic one from Khiels, which I’ve had and loved for ages, will do the trick. Just dab a little on and get a little shut eye. When you land, voila! No dark circles. The best part, the full size is TSA regulation size!

Peter Thomas Roth Hyaluronic Moisturizer: I adore this for plane rides because of the hyaluronic acid in it. It takes moisture in the air, and brings it to your skin, which I guess is unfortunate for the rest of the passengers, but so good for your skin, which will parched by the time you land. After cleansing, slap a little of this one, bask in how moisturized it feels, and then continue with your skincare.

If you’re traveling with limited space, just tuck a moisturizer packet into your bag. I have a sample of Belif The True Cream – Aqua Bomb which works fantastically as well.

Glossier balm dot com: There’s a reason these beauties have achieved a cult status. They are moisturizing, convenient, and have the most amazing flavors. Featured here are rose, a lovely pink shade, cherry, a brighter red, and birthday cake, a nude sparkle. They serve double-duty as lipcare and makeup!

Simple Micellar Wipes: Makeup wipes are a must when travelling. Most of the time you won’t have access to a bathroom conducive to washing your face in the sink. There are millions of amazing wipes, but I’ve recently been loving these micellar ones from Simple. As the name suggests, they are simple and easy to use. The best part: they do the job and leave your face fresh, soft, and with zero grease or residue! Go buy a pack or 3.

Makeup

We don’t wear a whole lot of face makeup on the plane, but I do keep some products nearby to prevent me from looking like a zombie after the long trip.

Fenty Beauty Matchsticks: Rihanna. Need I say more? The stick/cream formula makes this travel friendly and super easy to use. I just use my fingers to blend it all in. The three I travel with are a concealer (in Ginger), a contour (in Mocha), and a highlighter (in Starstruck). They look stunning and make it look like you spend more than 2 minutes putting your face on.

Dr. Jart Cicapair Color Correcting Treatment: This is a tiny, TSA approved, jar of magic. The cream starts of green, turns beige, and removes the redness from your face. Every time I use this I’m shocked at how well it works. The only thing it doesn’t cover is major acne, which I then cover up with concealer. It has made foundation irrelevant for daily makeup!

Mini Mascara: One of my favorite tricks is to bring a sample size mascara in my travelling beauty bag because a) it takes up less room and b) it lets me try out new mascaras! Here I’ve been using the Lancome Monsieur Big mascara, which I’m loving and will be buying a full size of!

Glossier Boy Brow: I know, I know. Everyone and their mother raves about this product, but that’s just how good it is! I was born with very long but very sparse brow hairs so this product is perfect for filling in gaps, as well as keeping my brows in place!

Other:

Travel: I use a traveler’s wallet which can hold my passport, ID, ticket, and cash. It’s useful to have everything in one place instead of digging through my bag.

Headphones: Probably the most obvious essential for long flights. I use headphones instead of earbuds since they cancel noise a bit more effectively. I generally wear them around my neck at the airport so they don’t take up space in my bag.

Entertainment: I’ll either have a few episodes of a TV show downloaded on Netflix for me to watch on my phone or a book to read. Obviously, if you’re trying to save room, I wouldn’t recommend a book, but I happened to be flying back to Waco with Christmas presents, many of which were books. I also bring a portable charger, since looking for outlets in an airport is a hassle.

 

Monthly Favorites: September 2017

It’s that time of month! Here is our very first Monthly Favorites. Let’s just dive right into the skincare, makeup, and miscellaneous items that have impressed us in September:

Skincare

Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder: This exfoliating scrub has been go my go-to for a good while. I had been experimenting with some others, but I kept find myself returning to this when I wanted effective exfoliation without stripping my skin. This is a dry powder to which you add a couple drops of water to create a creamy and light mixture. The best thing about it, I think, is that the powder melts into the water, preventing you from over-abrasion and making sure your skin feels clean but moisturized.

Soap and Glory Peaches and Clean Cleansing Milk: I just discovered this on an impulse Target run, and it is absolutely amazing. I’ve only been using it for the past two weeks, but I know this will be one of my holy-grail makeup-removing cream. It removes makeup brilliantly, including waterproof mascara! It is incredibly moisturizing so that your face doesn’t feel stripped or oily afterwards. But the absolute best part of it is the SMELL! It smells exactly like fresh, white peaches; not an artificial peachy scent, like the Haribo Peach Gummies (which I am a little addicted to), but a true peach scent, as if you were rubbing a peach all over your face. Sounds weird. Smells divine.

Lancome Energie de Vie Pearly Essence: I tried this essence when it just came out a couple years ago and I was initially quite unimpressed, but recently I decided to give it another go simply because the reviews were stellar. This time around I LOVE it. First of all, it is incredibly hydrating, but in a plumping way, not an oily way. You can see the difference almost immediately and a little goes a very long way. It is quite viscous and spreads beautifully. Second of all, it makes such a great canvas for makeup, helping foundation sit better.

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser: I’ve always had a weakness for Glossier packaging so when I bought this, it was definitely for the cute bottle and the stickers. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the gentle effectiveness of this cleanser. I have sensitive skin that always seems to sting whenever I wash my face with water I’m not used to (aka Waco water). This cleanser took care of that problem immediately! It’s soothing on the skin, cleans effectively, and smells slightly like roses. Come for the aesthetic, stay for the value!

Glossier Balm Dot Com: From someone with perpetually dry and cracked lips (not to mention a slight chapstick addiction that I need to deal with), Glossier’s Balm Dot Com is the perfect solution. It’s hydrating, long lasting, and rejuvenating. I dab a little on my lips before I go to sleep and then rub whatever’s left on my finger onto my cuticles. The result? Super smooth lips. And cuticles. I got it in the rose scent, so it has a slight pink tint, which is perfect for days I don’t want to wear makeup, but also need a little extra color.

 

Makeup

L’Oreal Lash Paradise – Waterproof: This is an amazing mascara for being drugstore. It is very volumizing and lengthening without being clumpy at all. I may even like it better than my holy-grail Burberry Cat-Lashes. It is not a dramatic mascara that screams “Look at my lashes! They are fabulous!” Rather, it is a very natural but effective mascara for the “why yes, my lashes are naturally this fluffy and full.” I’m in love with this.

Becca First Light Priming Filter: This is amazing. Absolutely floored. As you can see I’ve used half a bottle already and it’s only been a month and a half. At first glance it looks odd, since it’s a kind of iridescent purple. Originally I thought it was a fluke, but I was convinced by another blogger to try it out. I’m so glad I did! It looks like an Instagram filter on bare skin and makes matte foundations glowy without losing the anti-oil aspect. It evens skin tone and is perfect for those no-makeup days when you want your skin to breathe but look amazing. It is so moisturizing and smells so good as well. I would recommend this to any skin type. It is the best primer I’ve ever tried.

Glossier Lip Gloss: I promise I don’t have a Glossier habit (or do I??). I impulsively bought this lip gloss one night, thinking I’d regret leaving my trusty matte lipsticks as soon as my hair started getting stuck in the shiny gloss. While I wasn’t a fan of the 2000’s drippy-lip look, I was pleased to find that this lip gloss, while it’s glossier (heh, heh…) than your normal balm, it’s not insanely shiny and doesn’t make you look like you licked your lips a billion times. It goes on pretty glossy but in a few minutes dries to a nice dewy finish. I don’t have to reapply super often during the day and it’s perfect either over another lipstick or on its own!

Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Liner: Although it has a mouthful of a name, this eyeliner is an easy, no hassle essential in my everyday makeup. I have oily skin, which means most of the time, my eye makeup ends up transferring down my face during the day. I’m sure it looks great on some, but the goth panda look isn’t for me. This Marc Jacobs eyeliner stays put, come rain, sweat, hurricanes, you name it. It glides on super smoothly has great pigmentation. Even though it’s slightly on the pricey side, it’s worth it.

Miscellaneous

Niall Horan – Too Much to Ask: I’ve been listening to this so much. One Direction was my guilty pleasure for a long time and now their solo albums have been fantastic and unique. Too Much to Ask is very nostalgic and lovely and perfect to listen to alone on a rainy day.

Sezane – LADP Wrap Dress: I’m in love with this dress that I daringly purchased from Sezane, which is my new favorite store. It’s an online, French boutique that sells the most beautiful and most well made clothing. I’d been looking for a true wrap dress and a red dress (both trends that have been big this summer and are carrying into the fall), and this checked both boxes. It fits beautifully and I get so, so many compliments. Additionally, it was created in collaboration with L.A. Dance Company, run by one of my favorite coreographers. In short, this is the perfect little-not-black-dress.

Maison Margiela – ‘Replica’ Jazz Club: This fragrance is, in the words of a dear friend of mine, my “sexy perfume.” It is technically a men’s perfume, but I ADORE it. It has notes of tobacco, whisky, and leather, making it the dream fall scent. Anytime I need a mood or confidence booster, I spritz a little of this. It is quite strong, so one or two spritzes is enough, and it lasts all day long.

Well, that wraps up this month! It is rather a long list, but hopefully you found it inspiring. Comment below if you were impressed by these as well! Thank you so much, again, for visiting. Let’s dive into October!

Italy Part 1: Rome

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It’s been a long time coming, but here is my Italy Travel Diary from this past summer! I spent a month shadowing a professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, but also got to thoroughly enjoy Rome and visit some of my favorite cities. Italy is such a beautiful country and I’m so lucky to have spent the last three summers traveling there. The first two years I did quite a lot of traveling going from the south of France – look for a post on that in the future! – down through Paestum. This year, however, I got to truly live in the suburbs of Rome and experience the city like a true Roman – or as true as an American Chinese girl can get.

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I spent the majority of the month alone – a few friends dropped in here and there – so it had the possibility of getting very lonely if it weren’t for the fact that Italians love to talk. I rented an AirBnB, which was absolutely lovely. The hosts, Chiara and Francesca, were incredibly hospitable and helpful. The apartment was set up rather like a Manhattan loft, small and efficient. There was a loft area for the bed, which was nice, but it was SO SHORT. I’m rather tall for a gal, but I had to well and truly bend over at the waist to walk around up there. If I had a penny for every time I hit my head on that ceiling… That minor inconvenience aside it was absolutely lovely. (Fair warning, though, Italians are rather adverse to air-conditioning and it can get quite hot!)

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I spent a large amount of the month in and around the Vatican as I did a bit of research there. The Basilica itself is so beautiful and restful, especially in the early mornings before the throngs of tourists arrive. Even then it is exciting and contagious to be around the pilgrims and visitors, all singing and happy to be there. 7 am, though, when the doors first open is the best time to arrive. It’s so very quiet and the light is more direct as it shines through the front doors and the windows. All you can hear is footsteps and the soft sounds of morning masses led in many different languages all at once in all the chapels.

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In quite stark contrast to the Vatican is the city itself. From 5am-1am it the city is bustling and busy and loud.  There are a million places to eat and get coffee and gelato. Watch out for the street vendors, they are very friendly and very insistent. Some are quite entertaining.

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My fondest memories of Rome involve gelato. Gelato alone. Gelato with friends. Dropping gelato on myself. Dropping gelato on someone else. Spending far too much on gelato in Florence. The list goes on. I am perfectly happy in almost any gelato store – minus the tourist traps with heaped up, non-melting, imposter gelato – but my favorite places in Rome are: Giolitti’s, Old Bridge, and Fatamorgana Nemorense. Giolitti’s is a massive experience. It’s tourist heavy, but if you can get in at a good hour you can sit down with amazing gelato in a gold-gilded room. Old Bridge is a hole-in-the-wall American-friendly shop. There are no seat, but you get a huge amount of excellent gelato for quite cheap. Fatamorgana is a chain, but a remarkably good one. It’s a neighborhood-shop and boasts flavors like peaches and wine (amazing!), basil honey and walnut, and figs with lavender!

 

The absolute best part of Rome, however, is the history. As someone who studies classical history and literature, the monuments and ruins around Rome are absolutely breathtaking. It’s a surreal experience to walk on the roads that authors and figures I’ve read about walked on thousands of years ago. The Colosseum is breathtaking and for once the crowds of tourists add to the experience, recreating what it must have felt like to be there as a Roman. The Forums are stunning and the Palatine – though a hike – provides a magnificent view of the rest of Rome. An added bonus: the cats wandering all over the city, sitting in temples like they are the kings and queens of Rome. And who’s to say they aren’t?

 

Every time I come back from Rome I miss it immediately. I miss the food and the gelato and the sounds. I miss the buzzing atmosphere and the laughing and warm people. All I can say is: Arrivederci, Roma, a presto!