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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#WeekendGoals: Strobing, Fluttering, Prancing -A Guide to Weekend Getaway Makeup

This summer has been well spent. I’ve made new friends in Austin, explored some pretty cool places, and eaten darn good food. But I’m also grateful that I’ve spent a good number of weekends traveling to Houston, Waco, and Dallas to see friends and family (and attend ALL THE WEDDINGS EVER).

Because of all my weekend getaways, I’ve become a pro at packing the absolute essentials when it comes to makeup. I aim for a polished, slightly flirty look that can go from dinner with friends to a chapel wedding. I focus on the big three: skin, eyes, and brows. (I’m not a big lipstick girl, but just throw in your favorite lip color and you’re set for the weekend!)

Skin

Since my skin is pretty decent, I don’t usually wear foundation. Also, it doesn’t help me with my goal to get better about reapplying sunscreen, so most of the time, I forego the stuff.

But on that note . . . the first goal always is to fix a week’s worth of sleep deprivation. I have the worst under eye bags ever – puffy and prune colored – so concealer is a must. After moisturizing my under-eye area (I prefer a little face oil to do this), I use an iota-amount NYX’s Gotcha Covered Concealer in 06 Golden. I pat that in with a damp sponge, making sure I get the inner corners of my eyes – this makes a world of difference in making me look awake!

If I still need a little bit of brightening after going to town with NYX, I’ll use the Glossier Stretch Concealer in Dark (here at NovelNests, we are all fiends about Glossier #NotSpon #ButWeWish). What I love about this concealer is that it’s so user-friendly – just use a clean ring finger to pat it on and you’re good to go!

Next up is blush. I LOVE BLUSH. I LOVE ALL THE BLUSH. Blush just makes me look more alive and free – like I’ve spent the morning prancing through a field of wildflowers with a hunky cowboy. In reality, I probably spent the morning having my bootcamp trainer yell at me to do “One more pushup, dammit!”

But I digress.

I’ve been favoring a glossy, melty look this summer (if you can’t beat the heat, join the heat), so I’ve been ditching powders for creams and liquids. I’ve been defaulting to two blushes this summer: Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff and Revlon’s PhotoReady Cream Blush in Nude. Both give a natural-looking flush and are easy to apply with just a few swipes of your fingers. These don’t have the longest staying-power, so I do need to touch up once or twice during the day. But that’s a low price to pay to look like I’ve been breezily prancing with a cowboy Casanova.

And there’s no contouring here – I want to look effortless! So I turn to strobing the planes of my face with Milk Makeup’s Highlighter in Lit, a pearl champagne. This highlighter imparts a subtle sheen that embodies the glossy look I’m going for. I don’t apply straight from the bullet; rather, I smear some on my fingers then press down on my cheekbones, eyelids, and Cupid’s bow.

Eyes

When I really want to amp my look, I turn to eyeliner. It makes my eyes look bigger and bolder. I’ve been using the Mally Evercolor Starlight Waterproof Liner in Midnight for a while. Smooth, long-lasting, and the blackest of blacks, this liner is a winner in my book. I have the oiliest eyelids though, so applying a primer is a must for extra hot days (I like the Urban Decay Priming Potion.)

I’m all about a big, fluttery lash. Like Ella, I love the Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara. It’s iconic for a reason.

And while I want the melty, sweaty look, I don’t want to look like a melty, sweaty raccoon. I layer the L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara over the Too Faced. (Since waterproof mascara can be pretty harsh on your lashes by itself, I recommend using a non-waterproof version first then layering a waterproof mascara to mitigate eyelash damage.) Is Lash Paradise a dupe for Better than Sex? Maybe, just maybe. Either way, it’s a good one for getting dramatic lashes!

Last step for my eyes, is to tight line. This step may be last but it’s definitely NOT LEAST. Tight lining makes the lashline look fuller so I get Bambi Eyes . . . which is all part of the master plan to look like a CAREFREE COQUETTE & PRANCER OF WILDFLOWER FIELDS. Sweaty sheen + Bambi eyes – where dem cowboys at? Anyway, my weapon of choice is NYX’s Jumbo Eye Pencil in Black Bean. How do you tight line, you ask? That’s a post for a different day . . . or go to YouTube and watch one of the millions of videos on how to do this. Either way, get yourself a good liner and go to town.

Eyebrows

Time to frame the face! My favorite is everyone’s favorite: Anastasia Brow Wiz in Granite. This stuff is SO GOOD at filling in sparse areas.

I take my time when I use Brow Wiz, but if I need to get out the door a little faster, I like using ULTA’s Brow Tint in Deep. While my NovelNests comrades like Glossier’s Boy Brow, I find that this is comparable in quality (and cheaper!). The formula is a little wetter than BB, so before use, I wipe off any excess product on the brush because it can get a little thick if I don’t. I focus this on the last half of my eyebrows which is where I need the most help. I also layer this over Brow Wiz if I want a bit of a thicker eyebrow.

And there you have it! I swipe a bit of Chapstick, Glossier’s Balm Dot Com, or Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm and I’m good to go for the weekend! Come at me, Monday, because my face is already here.

 

–Amanda Cordero

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

 

Cindy’s Summer Evening Skincare Routine

 

After a much-needed hiatus I am back with my evening skincare routine! For the summer months, I’ve streamlined it (and I really mean streamlined) down to a few light-weight essentials. To begin, I’ve got the ever-annoying combination skin that tends to veer oily, so moisture, contrary to popular belief, is very important.

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I start off with the Khiels Ultra Facial Cleanser, which is just a basic face wash. However, it has squalane in it, which makes it more moisturizing than your average cleanser. It also does a pretty fantastic job at removing makeup, although I prefer pre-cleansing with a cotton-pad soaked in micellar water first.

Next I apply one and a half pumps of my Curology formula. I’ve been using it for about six months now and it has made a massive difference. I rarely break out now, and if I do it’s because of travel or bad diet habits (cheese is so good, y’all, but so bad).

Every other night I’ll use The Ordinary retinoid 2% emulsion. It is not the best retinol I’ve ever used, but it does its job and it is hella affordable, so definitely will continue to use and repurchase.

Before moisturizer I dab on a bit of the Khiels Creamy Avocado Eye Treatment, which is one of my favorite eye creams. I use my ring finger, since it is the most delicate, and use light inward strokes.

My current go-to moisturizer is the Khiels Skin Rescuer (there seems to be a Khiels theme emerging). It is light but super moisturizing and very safe for sensitive skin. I don’t usually have super sensitive skin, but I like this one because it is light-weight and gentle on sun-burned skin–which I try to avoid, but sometimes life happens.

My lips are perpetually chapped, so I like to slather on a ton of lip balm before bed. For the last 6 months I’ve been using the Glossier balm dot com in mint non-stop (and the tube still isn’t finished!). It has such a refreshing feeling and really gets the job done. I wake up with a smooth and flake-free pout.

I top everything off with a spritz of the Mario Badescu Rose Water, which is heavenly and just the perfect thing for hot summer nights.

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My summer-time treats are the Glow Recipe Watermelon Mask, which is so extremely amazing, and the Fresh Brown Sugar Lip Scrub. The mask is moisturizing, exfoliating, fragrant, and glow-granting. I love this stuff. Just a spatula full will do the trick. My skin drinks it up right away and in the morning it is plump and glowing and smooth. Miracle worker! The lip scrub is an amazing physical exfoliant. It isn’t rough at all because the sugar particles will start to dissolve and it is super moisturizing while it sloughs away dead skin. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even need lip balm after using this scrub, but I just like the Glossier one too much.

And that is it! My super-simple, hydrating summer evening skincare products. Which of these do y’all use and which do you want to try?

-Cindy

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!

Summer into Fall Look-book

The month of September is always a bit tricky; moving into slightly cooler weather and seeing the PSL’s return to Starbucks drives me to pull out the over-sized sweater and my ever-so-trusty pair of Ralph Lauren booties. BUT, I live in Texas at the moment, which means days start out cool and breezy and by midday they have reached 90 degrees again. Sigh. Two seasons in the space of 24 hours. I’m not entirely ready to pack up my summer wardrobe either. I am definitely not the only one in this predicament, so I figured I’d shoot a look-book of summer looks that can be easily modified to suit the awkward, in-between season that is September in the South.

 

This first outfit is something Cindy threw on whenever she couldn’t think of anything to wear. Denim dresses were big this summer as well as block-heels. To move this look into the fall, swap out the denim dress for the popular denim jacket or a more fall-friendly version Replace block-heeled sandals with block-heeled pumps.

 

 

Midi length skirts in broderie anglais and bold patterns, such as classic stripes, graced the streets throughout the summer and continue to be quite popular on the runways for fall. For the summer these skirts can be styled with brighter colors. I love how the striped skirt looks with red flats (get them here!) and this amazing circle bag. Circle bags, especially wicker ones, were featured all over instagram and Cindy had been wanting a red purse for a while. This piece from Mango checked both boxes in one go! Red is a universally flattering tone, though I like to go for more brown and wine toned reds as I transition to autumn. Utilizing the same lady-like and flattering shape, midi-skirts take on deeper colors and 80s plaid for the fall.

 

Of course one of the easiest wardrobe-transitions is simply to swap out your favorite shorts for a pair of jeans. Vintage-style graphic tees always give you a trendy – now more than ever with the recent popularity of 80s fashion – but laid-back attitude.  Cindy’s top is actually truly vintage and was owned by our mom back in the 80s. The fun, fruity print channels summer vibes with the fruit motif, though the color scheme can easily be switched over to a warmer fall look. With a denim jacket for an on-trend, double denim look, vintage levis, and cognac boots, this can be quite easily transitioned to fall.

 

Mixed patters and bright colors were staples of the summer and as we move into fall, the mix-and-match theme continues. Here Olivia is wearing a gingham top paired with a polka-dotted skirt. The neutral tones of the skirt pair well with the bright saffron top, reversely the high contrast of the skirt compliments the monochromatic look of the top. Summer gingham is replaced with autumn plaid and dramatic polka dots with demure stripes and vintage floral prints.

We love going to downtown Fredericksburg to shoot or just to hang out and shop. It’s such a versatile area; you can go for a chill coffee date or shop or visit the battlefields. Whatever your inclinations, there are plenty of hot spots to hit up in the ‘burg. Here are a few of our favorites.

Hyperion Espresso
coffee daze

A popular coffee place downtown, Hyperion Espresso.

Goolricks Pharmacy

While the entirety of the downtown area retains a strong retro vibe, Goolricks Pharmacy transports you back in time. It is a real pharmacy, but in the front it serves old fashioned cream sodas, milkshakes, and comfort food.

 

There are loads of shops, from food to books to tattoo parlors.

 

My personal favorite store downtown is Blue Shark Antique’s and Collectibles. They have an impressive collection of vinyls and records—not to mention any nerd’s dream hoard of comic books!

Bella Hair
Ask for Libby!

We’ve been getting our hair cut at Bella Hair for years. It’s a wonderful salon with amazing service. If you’re ever around, ask for Libby. She will not only give you the exact styling you are looking for, but also professional and personalized tips and product recommendations.

 

We’ll close with one of our favorite topics. Food. The Virginia is the perfect place for lunch or a midday snack. And for any history fans, George Washington is said to have eaten here!

So there you have it! A rather lengthy, but hopefully informative and helpful post! Welcome, again, to our corner of the internet and thanks so much for visiting!

Shop some of our fall picks:

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