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.