Monday, December 30, 2019

Beauty Favorites - 2019

Last year I did not do a dedicated post to yearly beauty favorites mainly because it was a shitty year for me, personally :-) So I just stopped caring about makeup. But I am really glad that this year I am back to having fun with makeup :-) I love reading and watching Yearly Favorites posts! As you can see, I have significantly cut down on purchasing new makeup products (I still buy a lot makeup/skincare from Sephora) so almost all these products are old favorites that I have fallen back in love with!

Different bloggers/YouTubers have different criteria for selecting the favorites products. I look at it from a few different angles - how often did I reach for these products throughout the year, is it long lasting and easy to apply etc etc. But for me I think it has to be something that fills my heart with joy or something that I have been constantly using in my everyday life. Sometimes a product may not excite me all that much but for some reason I find myself wearing it to work everyday. Or sometimes it is something I may have worn just a few times but it just has made me happy for those few times. Whether I discovered the product first time in that particular year or not does not matter to me! 2019 was also the year I rekindled my love for jewellery and here you see some favorite jewellery pieces that I accumulated this year! I was especially obsessed with the gold-pearl trend this season :-)

Here are the products -

PAT MCGRATH LABS MatteTrance™ Lipstick in Elson 013: I think it is the only product in this bunch that was new to me in 2019. It is a matte red lipstick; quite a lightweight formulae that stays put very nicely. I love this shade, it is VERY pigmented and just a tad bit darker of a red. Somehow it makes me feel fancier and  more posh than I am in real life you know! I love the dinky size as well. The design of the bullet also makes me feel fancy! My only problem with the lipstick is that it bleeds a little if I am not wearing a lip liner. Anyway, I did wear it throughout this year and loved it!

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Stylist: This is a very classy lipstick bullet with a very standard old-school lipstick formulae. In a day and age when brands are coming with different lipstick formulae and crazy creative names for the lipsticks this can seem very boring. One of my close friends gifted me this around July and I have been regularly wearing this to work since September. I love the comfort it provides; simple lipstick formula that stays put without drying out my lips. It does fade towards the end of the work-day but it fades gracefully. Sometimes simple things are the best! I also love the soft pink shade - it helps me to remain close to my softer, feminine, emphatic side which can be sometimes difficult as I work in engineering and more often than not I am surrounded by masculine energy. Hope that makes sense!

Cover FX Bronzer in Sunset: Another product that comes in a seemingly boring pan and a boring formulae. But I like the no-nonsense approach Cover FX takes. Simple classic packaging that is not going to get dirty every time you use it. And I love the formulae - it is a simple matte powder but is not dry at all! I love the shade also, it is not always easy to find a bronzer that is a good color for a medium dark Indian skin-tone! It is also super easy to blend.

RMS Beauty Living Luminizer & Buriti Bronzer: Do I even need to talk about these two? They were favorites the first I bought them and they are still favorites. I still feel the excitement every time I wear them. I love, LOVE them and use them almost everyday! Especially the Living Luminizer! And I loved using the bronzer during the summer. I have full review on the Living Luminizer here. I will definitely repurchase these once I finish them.

Makeup Geek Cosmetics Eyeshadow in Creme BruleeCocoa Bear: Creme Brulee is MUST-HAVE shade for me. I wear it on my crease every time I wear eyeshadow/eyeliner; I use it with everyday simple eye look and with any intricate colorful look. I cannot do my eyeshadow without it. Cocoa Bear is my favorite brown - it is so warm & happy. No matter how many brown shade I try from other brands this remains irreplaceable!

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Eyeliner in Midnight and Indigo: I did not buy a lot of makeup this year. I think that has helped me to go back to a lot of my "tried and tested" favorites. This eyeliner in 'Intense Black' shade has been my #1 liquid liner for a long time now. I have gone through a few of those. And with time, I have collected many different colors from this range. Out of all those, Midnight and Indigo have been my most used and most favorite colors this year! My soul, in general, is obsessed with colors. Both these shades are just colorful enough to satisfy my soul but also have enough depth (in the shade) that I can easily wear them to work. The blue in them does not clash with any bold color lipstick I want to wear - that is a plus for me. They are very long wearing, quite pigmented and easy to apply! I love them :-)

Viseart Eyeshadow Palette in Dark Matte (Read my full review here): "Dark Matte" is an old love! It was a big investment when I bought it; obviously I did expect a lot from it.  And my god, it did not disappoint! I have been wearing a lot of color on my eyes, especially this fall & winter season. And I have been using this palette on my crease or outer V area to complete my looks. I adore all the shades in the palette but the two brown shades at the top left corner have been used and loved a lot this year!

Urban Decay Perversion Mascara & Lash Primer: I have gone through a few of the travel size tubes of Perversion Mascara. But I finally decided to invest on the full size version as I found a good value set that included the primer. I have used a few of lash primers from different brands but never noticed any kind of improvement on the way my lashes looked. But I love this combo! I have tiny eyes; my lashes have a curve to them but they are quite short. Despite that, I don't really ask a lot from my mascara! I hate plastic wands - they poke at my eyes. And I hate mascaras that flake off or  are painful to remove. This one does not have such issues. The brush on both the mascara and the primer is quite soft and perfectly sized. The formula itself is wet but not too wet; it also does not dry within a month like some other mascaras. And for the primer, I can see that it helps my lashes look more voluminous and thick. Definitely a favorite this year!

Real Techniques Deluxe Concealer Brush: Oh man! It's such a versatile brush! It is called 'deluxe concealer brunch' but I never really used it for concealers; I am sure it works great for that purpose. I actually use it to apply my eyeshadow. It is just the perfect shape and size for blending my eyeshadow on the crease area. I can also use the outside edge of the brush at an angle to apply darker shades on the outer V area. I also use it to apply matte eyeshadow on my lid area! It is soft, fluffy and because it is a bigger size brush, I can use it for at least a few days before I need to wash it. Overall, I LOVE using it - it has become an essential for my eyeshadow application. I can get decently detailed eye look by using only this brush. I need to buy one more but this only comes in a set - that is my only gripe about it.

Earth's Nectar Green Olive & Lavender Scalp Oil: When I first bought this oil, I did not use it mindfully and I obviously did not notice any improvement or difference in my hair. I neglected my hair for all of 2018 and first half of 2019, obviously my hair was getting all frizzy and lifeless. My already existent dandruff, itchy scalp issue was getting out of hand. So I revisited this oil in my stock and for last 3-4 months I have been using it generously on my scalp overnight before washing my hair next day. I use a different oil on my hair though! Anyway, I would generously massage my scalp for at least 10-15 minutes. I think it s positively affecting my hair and nursing it back to health.

Also, because I am a stupid woman I totally forgot to add this nail polish in my photos! I managed write and edit my posts where I did include it but I just completely skipped to add the polish in the flatlay. I typically keep it near my living room sofa as I paint my nails watching TV, so I totally forgot about it when I was collecting my favorites from my vanity. :-(

Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer in Peaceful Paranoia (check short review here): I got this nail polish in a value set in Spring, 2018 and I fell in love immediately. I wore it a few times but I did take a break from Social Media in 2018. During that time and after that also, I kind of lost my interest in nail polishes. I did not even wear nail polish for most of 2019 but whenever I did wear nail polish it was this - at least 90% of the time. I absolutely adore the shade. Such a perfect nude on my skin tone, it has a slight purple-y delicate shift to it! Simply gorgeous! The shade makes me look and feel fancy; like I am some retired CEO of a very successful company - poised, graceful & full with life experience :-) It even makes any jewellery I am wearing on my hands (like rings, bracelet) look daintier and prettier! :-)

That was everything that loved and used the most this year. Hope you had a wonderful year and hope you are excited for this new decade!

Happy New Year guys!


Friday, December 27, 2019

Products I've Used Up/Empties Vol. 17

My empties bin was getting full, and I was sick of looking at it :-) Typically I wait at least 2-3 months between my empties but I just could not look at these empty jars :-)

Here goes :

Dr. Teals Lavender Foaming Bath: My favorite bubble bath, I love everything I tried from Dr Teal's. I don’t get a lot of time to have bath everyday, but I do use it whenever my body is aching for some relief. I work on compressed work week so I get Fridays off every other week; I have my yoga class on Thursday evening. So every other week Thursday night is my self-care pamper night! I enjoy my Yoga class, grab something to eat, have a relaxed bath and get ready for a good nights sleep (or may be for a watching a movie). The whole ritual is very soothing and very relaxing to me. I will continue to repurchase

Shea Moisture Damage Rehab Treatment Masque: It was the surprise of this bunch. It really, really impressed me! I have thick, coarse but very very frizzy wavy hair. This mask was so easy to apply, I only needed a little bit to coat my entire length of hair and I only needed to keep it on my hair for just 3-5 minutes. That short time really impressed me because I hate conditioner that needs 10 minutes - 10 minutes in bath is hard especially in winter. I think this mask made my hair softer and moisturization and softness was there till my next wash! I was also shocked to realize that this tiny sachet packet lasted for four uses on my hair. I have a long, voluminous hair and I totally thought that I will need the entire packet in one wash. I would like to repurchase but looks like it is out of stock everywhere.

Maybelline Classic Eye Makeup Remover: I used to love this remover, I think I have gone through a couple of bottles. This was the last backup I had! I have found better makeup remover now so I would not repurchase.

Shieshedo Cleansing Oil: I absolutely loved this oil. It removed makeup quite easily; even stubborn eye makeup! It would stink a bit if it gets into my eyes, and I would need to use eye makeup remover if I had heavy eye makeup on. But I really did enjoy this. I am not sure if I repurchase as I have quite a few remover to use up.

Philosphy Ultimate Miracle Worker & Clinique Pep Start Hydrorush Moisturiser: Just some tiny travel size moisturizers that was bugging me in my backup. I am glad that I was able to finish them up. Nothing special about either about these two.

Korres Greek Yoghurt Sleeping Facial: I love Korres products and collect them in value sets but they are quite pricey. So I never really repurchase them in full size. It was nice though, both of these!

L'OCCITANE Immortelle Divine Cream: Absolutely loved this moisturizer. It smelled incredible and it really did moisturize my skin. I finished two of the travel size cute little jars. I already have a few moisturizer backup so I don't think I will repurchase this right now. I loved it though!

Farmacy Sleep Tight Firming Night Balm: I love the smell of this - very herbal and relaxing. Also, the consistency/texture of the formulae kind of threw me off at first. It is very slippery, almost like a thin Vaseline. It is almost like a solid layer of protection against the hard cold winter. I will not repurchase but I did enjoy it.

Tata Harper Purifying Mask: I tried a travel size jar of this mask and I was so impressed with it that I invested in a value set that had this in full-size. But now that I have finished the full size jar, I realize that it is over priced. It is a "purifying" mask, and it does function as intended. And it smelled amazing. My skin felt cleansed but somehow I feel the affect of the mask to be less noticeable compared to how I felt in the beginning. Hopefully I am making some sense! I do not see myself repurchasing it. 

Fresh Beauty Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream: It was my moisturizer discovery back in 2018 and it has now become a staple now. The texture is silky smooth, the smell is natural & beautiful. It is also easy to apply and it absorbs almost immediately. The best part is that it keeps my dry, parched skin moisturized. I collect travel sizes whenever possible from Sephora and I am currently going through a fill-size and have a backup. So, yes I will definitely repurchase.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Booster Serum: This serum had an intresting gel-like texture. It was so easy to apply and it absorbed quickly. It is an expensive product and this here was a generous sample I got from Ulta as GWP. I really liked it for the 1-2 week I was using it. But as a brand, Juice Beauty does not intrigue me much! I don't understand why is that! It is a organic and clean brand but for some reason it just comes off as boring. I will not purchase.

Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing sorbet: I don't use Caudalie products on a regular basis but I love the brand and almost all the products I have tried from this brand. This is no exception! It is a very lightweight formulae but it is quite moisturizing. It is great for summer  and fall weather but might be a little bit thin for winter. I may not repurchase an individual full-size but I would definitely love to get it in any value set. 

Karuna Hydrating & Clarifying Face Mask: I am slowly finishing off the face masks from a value set I got some time ago! I enjoyed it. It was the hydrating mask and I think it worked. However it is very expensive and I do not think I will repurchase. The clarifying was just ok but did not do a whole lot. I enjoyed but I don't remember noticing anything extra-ordinary.

Renewal Eye Mask: I have no idea what brand this is and I am not able to find a link. Also  for some reason I don't feel or see any visible difference on my skin after applying an eye mask. It feels nice and it hydrates my skin under my eyes but that's about it. I will not repurchase.

BeautyBlender The Original Beauty Blender: My holy grail foundation application tool! I do not care if beauty market is filled with newer and cheaper sponges, I will forever love this! I have extremely dry skin and if I am not careful, I end up with dry patches after I apply my foundation. Even with a lightweight liquid foundation and even with a hydrating primer. Beauty Blender helps in applying a good seamless layer of foundation on my face without this issue. I don't wear foundation everyday (in fact I only wear foundation may be 5-8 times a month) so this sponge lasts for a long time. I definitely get my money's worth. Besides, I always buy them during sale or in a value set - so I will repurchase it.

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge: Yes, I finished two beauty sponges at the same time :-). But my Beauty Blender lasted me much longer. This was working just fine, but one day it just stopped working. It started cracking up at places; would not completely get wet soaked when I would wet them and started to become difficult to use. Where as the beauty blender works good enough even on its very last leg. The miracle Sponge did a good job, very comparable to Beauty Blender if not better. But because it lasted only a few months (out of which I used my Beauty Blender in tandem with this at least 70% of time), I will not repurchase.

Too Faced Hangover Face Primer: I could not really use it up. But it has expired and time to throw it away. It was not anything special. It felt like a glorified moisturizer. 

I finished so many perfumes this time but nothing that stood out. I liked using most of them but I don't think I will invest in full-size in any of these.

So, that was it for the last empties of this decade! Not too shabby, ha?


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Birchbox Limited Edition "Hello Hygge" Box ::: Quick thoughts!

Hello everyone,

Today, I am talking about a limited-edition value set from Birchbox. If you don't know me, hi :-) My name is Aru (short for Arundhatee) :-) I love, LOVE value sets. I adore them! And when it comes to value sets, Birchbox does an amazing job at curating wonderful and cost effective sets. This was probably my 3rd or 4th limited edition sets from them. With every box I have bought from them, I have discovered new products. Products from familiar brands or even new brands that I have now grown very fond of! I check their website from time to time to see if they have good sets. They offer a lot of such sets but sometimes I already have tried the products and they don't appeal to me. But every now and then, I find great sets that really intrigues  me.

One such set they have available right now is the Hello Hygge box. As far as I understand, hygge is feeling in Danish Culture that signifies "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being". The concept of self-love and me-time has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and the grouping of products in this set definitely promotes that concept. I don't really share a whole lot of personal information about myself but here goes - I live alone in USA whereas my entire family is in a different continent, I have a job that tends to be stressful from time to time, I drive 2 hrs everyday for work and I have only a handful of friends that I can meet on a regular basis. What I am trying to say is that most of the time I am entirely responsible for keeping myself in a good and healthy state of mind! I always truly believed in the concept of self-love before it even began a popular trend but last few years I have truly started to practice it in my life. So, this box seemed right up my alley.

Additionally, I bought their How to Hygge box (reviewed here) last year and I really found little gems of products in that box. So, I had to try out this box :-)

Here are all the products and nifty little table breaking down the price point. The set is priced at $60 so as you can see, this whole set is quite cost effective :-)

Birchbox You-Time Candle - Spiced Rose: I lit this yesterday and oh-my-god, I loved the scent. The scent is "spiced rose" and  I thought it would be a tad strong for me. But it reminds me of home - India. The throw is strong and enough to make my entire living room fragrant. It is a little tiny jar but I never say no to candles :-)

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask: Out of all the products, I must admit that this was the item that was the most intriguing to me. Ever since Glow Recipe launched at Sephora, I was eyeing this product but never really pulled the plug to buy this. Isn't this such a cute product? I have severely dry skin and winter it is the absolute worst. So, I am excited to try this.

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt: Aah - another product that I feel like was included just for me. For the 100th time let me state that I have very dry skin which means I fight with a lot of dandruff related issues. It is especially more problematic during winter. I have tried one-or two different scrub type shampoo before but nothing has really clicked for me. I tried this weekend and it was a little bit odd! I may need to use it more to get a better feel of it. There are such large bits of sea salt and it needs a little getting-used-to. I had to spend a some time rubbing it in. It was not harsh but I don't think it cleared up my dandruff. May be I have stubborn dandruff?

NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Repair Treatment Masque: I tried this as well. And I absolutely enjoyed it. I needed just a little bit for my hair - I have long, thick and voluminous hair - so I almost always need more than average amount of hair products per wash. I was really surprised to see how little I needed to coat my entire hair and it really did condition them. I could feel my hair feeling smooth and in a healthier state till my next wash! Definitely excited about using it more.

JUARA Candlenut Hydrating Shower Gel: I love trying out different bath products from different brands. I love discovering new brands and I go through body products very quickly. I have not tried anything from this brand! I used it today and the smell was so simple and yet invigorating! Plus it is a cute little travel bottle - it will for sure come in handy.

Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches with Soothing Cornflower: This is a product that I have used and loved before. I enjoy getting more of these for my collection. I especially love using them while travelling - they are very easy to carry around.

STARSKIN® Sunset Strips™ 3-Step Advanced Pore Cleansing Expert System: I am going to try this out next weekend. My T-zone like most of you, is comparatively oily then rest of my face. I do face black pores type of issue so we will see how this works out for me.

Fourth Ray Beauty The Lightweight Hydrator: Fourth Ray Beauty is the sister brand of Colourpop Cosmetics and I love Colourpop (I mean who does not!) I have dry skin and that means I am always up for trying out moisturizers. This is a full size and it is an affordable brand.

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Clay Cleanser: Sunday Riley is an expensive brand and unfortunately I have not had a lot of success with this brand. That is why I like to try their product whenever I can get them in value sets instead of spending money on full-size products. 

DERMA E Arnica Warming Sore Muscle Rub: Yes, yes, and yes! I am so excited about this body rub. As I age more and more :-), I find myself feeling more muscle pain which was never an issue before. Especially on long days when the work is long and hectic, then I go to Yoga class or may be have some chores to do. I am pretty sure I will get good use out of this. Really excited :-)

HUM Nutrition Beauty zzZz™ Supplements: Another product that was really made for me. I have trouble falling sleep. I have always had that issue. I will love to try these out but I am a little skeptical and nervous about trying this. May be I will try it out during the weekend. But I am definitely curious.

DAILY CONCEPTS Beauty Headband: I mean, who does not need another headband, right? :-)

I am very happy with the set and look forward to use and love a few of these products. If you are looking for some self-care products to gift someone for some of your near and dear one during this holiday season, take a look at this set, this could be awesome!


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Products I've Used Up/Empties Vol. 16

I hoard a lot of beauty products so for me it is always so fun to write about the products I have used up!

All the Makeup & Fragrance Empties:

Bvlgari Omnia Coral Eau de Toilette: Cute little perfume bottle! I got this in a set with three other scents and I want to display the set once I am finished with all of them. This is a nice scent but I will not repurchase.

Burberry Perfume:  Nice & long lasting perfume in a cute little fragrance bottle. Whats not to love?

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm: A makeup remover that I really enjoyed! No wonder the Internet beauty community absolutely loves this. You need a tiny bit but it will remove all the makeup on your face. Even the toughest of the eye-makeup; & it does not irritate my eyes! Typically, all eye makeup remover have a tendency to irritate my eyes if I have a lot of eyeshadow & mascaras to remove. I am currently finishing up another small travel-size jar but I am definitely interested in purchasing this in full-size.

Sephora Collection Soft Touch Cotton Pads: I love these cotton pads. They works very nicely and are quite cost effective. Right now, I do have something else from other brands that I am using up but I can see myself repurchasing these.

Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer - Hydrating: I finished this face primer awhile ago but somehow forgot to put it in my empties basket. I remember liking this. It did really hydrate my dry skin. Will I repurchase though? not quite sure.

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation: This is my regular foundation. I love playing with makeup but honestly, I don't enjoy wearing foundation that much! And I don't really experiment a lot with foundation either. This is the only full-coverage foundation I use on a regular basis. I love it and will continue to use it. I do collect all these tiny travel-size bottles whenever I can.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion - Original: I finished this awhile ago but somehow forgot to put it in my emtpies basket. It is a cult favorite eyeshadow primer and I can see why it is such a favorite. I do remember using and liking it. But I don't think I will repurchase. But I will definitely use it if I get it as GWP or in value set.

Bioderma Micellar Water: This is a good micellar water and it does work nicely to remove all traces of makeup; especially eye makeup. But I think it is a bit expensive for what it is! I still have one big bottle to finish but after that, I am not sure if I will repurchase.

Here are skincare products:

Milk Makeup Hydrating Oil Stick: This is a definite hit for me - I enjoyed this so very much! I got this in a value set from Birchbox last summer, and I started using it around thanksgiving and this is the only face oil I used the entire winter! My life was very hectic and very sad (read all about my PE Exam here) at that time and the sheer convenience of using it was so helpful! This is a face oil in a stick. Convenient easy to use mess-free face oil stick for a dry-skinned girl is a dream come true! I mean, give me more of that! I took this with me for my 5-week vacation to India in January '19; oh, it was perfect for the mild winter there. The convenience of carrying it around during all my travels was incomparable. And it was fast to use so I did not need to spend half an hour in my skincare. My sister got so impressed that she got herself one. So, packaging and convenience-wise, 100 out of 100 marks! It is a good oil, I have used better oil than this. It did not absorb as fast as I would have liked it but for the convenience alone, I will definitely repurchase.

Clinique Pep-Start HydroBlur Moisturizer: Travel size moisturizer; nothing special about it. I will not repurchase.

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence: This is an old school favorite essence for me. I believe this is my 1st full-size bottle but I have finished a couple of travel-size bottles. When my skin goes absolutely haywire, and is riddled with acnes and everything else - I use this exclusively with may be just a moisturizer! I love this essence. Right now I am finishing up a couple of other serums but I will continue to repurchase it.

Sephora Collection Coconut Protecting Oil: Oh, I am disappointed about this product. I typically love Sephora Collection body products. They are one of the affordable brands that are found in Sephora and they really perform quite well. But this was not worth the price tag. First of all it is a tiny bottle and I used this in 2-3 weeks. It wasn't even that moisturizing! I did not enjoy it at all, & I will rather stick to my Neutrogena Light Sesame Body Oil.

Korres Body Butter in Guava: I loved Korres body moisturizers. This "Guava" smell was not the best that they offer but it is a great body moisturizers for my dry skin. I would absolutely repurchase it but I have not been to find a good value set anywhere. Full-size at regular price can get a little expensive.

L’Occitane Almond Smoothing and Beautifying Supple Skin Oil: I love using body oils because my dry skin really need it. I have been trying and  using a lot of different body oils for a long time now. And I was quite excited about this one because it is a cult favorite within the beauty community. I liked it but at times it felt a little bit heavy. It also has a sweet smell from the almond which I am not a big fan. I am not quite sure if I want to purchase a full-size just yet. But I do enjoy these mini sizes when I get them in value-sets. They are really handy when I am travelling.

Rituals The Ritual of Happy Buddha Shower Oil: I have stated before - I love trying out body care products from different brands. I bought this oil in the pursuit of trying and enjoying a new body wash! This was really nice and I absolutely enjoyed the smell of it. It reminded me of fragrances I used to find in a typical temple like settings in India. Perfect for cozy fall/winter showers. Would I buy it again - not sure! It is a little pricey and it was not that exquisite! 

Philosophy Amazing Grace Shower Gel: I love experimenting with different body products from different brands! But this is a body shower gel that I have been using every now and then for a couple of years now! It's a good shower gel and I will definitely repurchase at some point of time! 

Farmacy Hydrating Coconut Gel Mask - Brightening: I have used some other masks from Farmacy! I enjoyed this one - love the gel consistency of the mask and it was quite hydrating. I could not really tell if it really helped brightening my skin though. I bought a value set and I have a few more masks to finish off. 

Karuna Brightening Face Mask: This was in a value set that was packaged like a book. It was a cute packaging. This is an expensive brand and some time ago, it did have a lot of good reviews. That is why I saved them for special occasions. They are really good masks; moisturizing! To be honest, I do not have a lot of special occasions in my life and every time I do, I am always running out of time. Either I am too busy packing for a trip or I am cooking & caring for house guests or something else! Point is, I am never relaxed enough and free enough to enjoy the joy of the mask. So, I am not sure if I will spend this much money again! I did enjoy it though!

Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask: This has been one of my very favorite clarifying mask. I use this mask very regularly; at least 2-3 times a month. It helps keep my skin clean; at least to an extent. I still get acnes but I think this helps in somehow keeps my skin from going completely crazy! This was my 2nd jar and I have already repurchased.

Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment: I also love masks from Boscia. But not this one! It had white and black clay and it was quite weird for me to manage which part (white or black) should go to which part of my face. My skin is combination type - I have lots of acnes in my cheek area but I have a lot of dry skin patches as well. I felt like the mask was trying to do 2-3 things at once but could not shine in anything. So, I am not interested in repurchasing. 

Fresh Beauty Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy Boosting Face Mask: When this mask came out, I was mesmerized by it. I had to try it; I love Fresh for face masks. However, I was probably over-excited about it and could not garner much love for it. I have little packets that I will happily use up!

Origins Original Skin™ Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay: Origins is one of the my favorite skincare mask - especially for masks. This one probably is not as favorite as some of the other ones I enjoy from Origins (like their black charcoal mask or clear improvement mask). It is a good mask but I did not feel anything special about it. So, I will not repurchase.

Oribe Supershine Moisturizing Cream: I am so very SAD that this is finished now. I absolutely loved using it. It smelled so incredible and when they say "supershine" they are not kidding! It really makes your hair very shine-y but in a natural way! It is quite expensive though, so I am debating if I should repurchase. I want to!

IT'S A 10 Miracle leave-in Plus KeratinI absolutely love this leave-in conditioner! It’s been much more than 2 years since my last hair-straightening treatment and hence my original hereditary crazy waves are coming back! May be because of that its effect has not been as mind-blowing as before. But it still does a great job in managing my uncontrollable wavy hair and makes them look smooth & presentable. I will continue to use it.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Fall & Friends : A trip to the Smokey Mountains!!!

United States of America is known for the fall foliage every Autumn. I have lived 8+ years in this country, but for some reason I never managed to take a dedicated trip to enjoy fall colors! This year finally a few of my closest friends made a plan to visit the Great Smokey Mountains and I decided to join in. It was rather a quick plan; the phase of life we are currently in, if it is not an impromptu plan, it is not happening!  😊 

I do experience a little bit of fall here in Chicago. And I have travelled to nearby Lake Geneva during fall. These places are pretty but they are not particularly known for fall color. On the other hand, Smokey Mountains has quite the reputation! I was obviously excited! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this fall phenomenon, here is the definition directly from Wikipedia – “Autumn leaf color is a phenomenon that affects the normal green leaves of many deciduous trees and shrubs by which they take on, during a few weeks in the autumn season, various shades of red, yellow, purple, black, blue, orange, magenta, and brown. The phenomenon is commonly called autumn colours or autumn foliage in British English and fall colors, fall foliage, or simply foliage in American English.”. 

The colors look absolutely brilliant in photos but unless you see it in real time with your own eyes, it is almost impossible to believe that nature can be this beautiful! These gorgeous, rich hued leaves trembling in wind - as if the trees are on fire! Fire with intensity that you find in Meji’s jui (if you are an Assamese you will understand); fire that is not destructive but calm and centered; fire that heals your soul with warmth and light! It is breathtaking! 

This phenomenon also helps me acknowledge, at a deeper level, the resilient nature of life itself! These trees that are putting up this stunning display of colors right now will lose all their leaves within the next few weeks. They will be empty & sad. But they will stand tall; braving the harsh winter and come spring, there will be new leaves. It is the promise of hope! It is nature telling us that life is beautiful and come what may, life goes on! The entire experience is surprisingly soothing for my perennially poignant soul! 

We were 6 people and 2 kids from Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina; we decided to travel by road. 4 of us met in Cincinati and got a rental car from there for the 5-hr drive to the Smokeys and join the rest at the destination. We were driving through Highway 75 to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Along the way, we got a few glimpses of fall colors in  Ohio and Kentucky, but it was only after we entered Tennessee that the colors got vibrant and more visible! By the time we reached Pigeon Forge it was already 4.30 pm. We decided to visit the Alum Cave trail before checking in to our cabin. We did not go on hiking, rather just drove around. It was raining incessantly, but that rain added a freshness to the leaves and certain charm to the trees! There was a melancholy in the overall atmosphere and I loved that! We managed to stop at one or two places at the top of the mountain to enjoy the view! It was definitely worth struggling against the rain! The trees of different hues peeking through the hills and clouds so visible that you feel like you can touch it - it was so serene! Somehow it reminded me of the family trips to Cherrapunji (Meghalaya, India) when I was little. The hills there are smaller in comparison, but the feeling is the same.

We drove back to check-in to our cabin in Pigeon Forge that we booked through VRBO. It was near the city & all the amenities but it was very conveniently tucked away in a no-disturbance calm zone. We had to cross one or two steep uphill sections during the drive but it was expected! Because it was a last-minute trip, we did not really expect a “great house”. We were pleasantly surprised though. It had fantastic structure, and even beautiful interior elevated by fall décor! It had a karaoke machine (which worked perfectly), a teepee, a barbeque grill, 2 bunk beds and 3 patios overlooking more fall colors! It was more than perfect. Me and my friends are quite the lazy-bums and we were discussing how we could easily and happily spend an entire week or a weekend without wanting to go outside the cabin looking for fun. It cost us $301 per night and it was a good price, I feel.

The next day we started around 10.30 am towards the Clingmans Dome. It was about half an hour drive from Pigeon Forge. But once we reached Sugarlands Visitor Center, the road to the dome (Highway 441) was blocked. There were no signs or any warning to explain anything - they just barricaded the road! Even the ranger/traffic personal did not mention a thing. We could not figure out anything and we just turned right in the hope that GPS will re-route us to the dome. It is important to mention that there is no cell service as soon as you get in the mountains. Even in the city area the network is a bit spotty. So, if you are travelling in 2 or more cars, communication is impossible unless you are tailgating. We were in 2 cars and we lost touch with the other car. In hindsight, we could have really used a printed-out map. Anyway, after half an hour of wandering aimlessly, we decided to return to Gatlinburg city in order to try to contact our friends in the other car. We returned to the visitor center, when we asked, the traffic personal told us that because of high wind Highway 441 is closed and there was no road to get to the dome. Finally in Gatlinburg we met with the other group and had lunch at Callahan’s. Lunch was fantastic; fantastic enough to tend to our hungry, disappointed selves! Gatlinburg is a cute little mountain town serving as a base for the visitors to the park. Apart from strolling about in the main strip, there were plenty of fun things to do. We really did not have time or interest in exploring any of these activities. So, after strolling and taking some pictures, we head back to the same trails along Fighting Creek Gap Road near the visitor center.

These fall colors are omnipresent! Originally we planned to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway and some other recommended main scenic trails. But it did not work out as Highway 441 was already closed. As the day progressed, all the other roads/trails were also closing down. We were still able to stop at 4-5 viewpoints and enjoy the views while clicking hundreds of pictures. Given that this was a hurried plan and that we (me and my friends) suck at making elaborate itinerary, I consider this trip a success. We only had a day for roaming around looking for the fall foliage. An extra day or two would have given us more time to explore but we are glad for the little time we were able to manage.

We returned to the cabin around 7 pm and started prepping for one of the kid’s birthday party coupled with Diwali celebration! It was tiring but oh-so-much-fun! In this day and age where time is money, I am glad to have friends who make time for each other and try our very best to meet up a couple of times every year, despite the distance! We ended the night devouring on delicious Indian food (it was Diwali after all!) and birthday cake & Diwali sweets! We also had some fun with the karaoke machine even though we were really bad at it 😊

Are there any fall foliage where you live? Have you taken any adventure to see the colors? I am interested to know everything! 😊


Photo Courtesy: Adarsh Angadi, Mokshyadananda Mahanta, Jahnabi Chetia, Kabita Barman and Arundhatee Talukdar.