Friday, May 30, 2014

Tarte Pure Maracuja Oil Review

Sometimes there are things in life that you lust after for ages (Ryan Gosling, anyone?), and then when you finally get your hands on them, they turn out to be an utter, devastating disappointment (not that Ryan would be, though!). Well, that's kind of what happened to me with the much raved-about Tarte Pure Maracuja Oil.

I'm telling you, that dude is big in the beauty community. Everyone uses words such as "luscious", "silky" and "wonder" when they refer to it. Me? more like "Oh no, you didn't!". Turns out, for some unknown reason, my skin decided to declare war on me when I put this on.

I need to say, this is the first oil I've put on my face EVER, because I produce enough as it is. However, anyone who understands skincare will tell you that putting the right oil on your face will actually stop your skin from thinking it's dry and overproducing oil. Fair enough. So i bit the bullet and got what I thought would be "the right oil". I put it on at night after my toner, a bit hesitantly but also quite smugly, thinking I was being so beauty smart.
The next morning my skin did have a lovely texture. That is, everywhere but those four zits that I had gained overnight. That's right: four. Up until then I had been feeling happy with my skin, it was (for once!) under some control, no zits in sight... and then comes this "oil" and all my hard work is gone all of a sudden... but such is life.

I was left heartbroken. My skin did feel amazing on the parts that weren't broken out, and I wanted so bad to keep using it. Not to mention I am in love with Tarte as a brand: their foundation is amazing, their lip tints are incredible, so are their cheek tints; they are an Eco-friendly brand full of good-for-you stuff, so why did the oil have to be so bad for me? I guess we'll never know...
My skin has started to recover but I still have some pigmented reminders of my short-lived affair with my first ever oil. However, I vow to remain a faithful Tarte consumer, I understand it was my skin's fault and not theirs. And I'm sure the oil won't be a waste either: my mom has rather dry skin, which I'm sure will love some of the "wonder lusciousness" that is this product.

Will I ever try another oil again? probably. There are still many my skin needs to come to terms with: tea tree oilRosehip oil and moroccan argan oil are next on my wishlist.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Updated Oily-Combo Skincare Routine

You know those people who are so uptight that whenever you change anything in their routine, they go ballistic? well, it turns out my skin is like that. Yes, it is a total a-hole. Whenever I see a product that sounds amazing, I'll be like "oh, good, let's try that one out!" and my skin will be like "yeah, nope". And if I dare do it, it will give me a nice little set of brand new breakouts. So I give in, and try to stick to the (very few!) products my skin will accept without throwing a huge tantrum.

So here they are, the products that have been working well for me and keeping that oil factory I have in my pores under control:

First off, I start the day cleansing my face to get rid of any gunk I might have accumulated overnight with The Body Shop Seaweed Deep Cleansing Facial Wash. This was a favorite of mine back in 2010 (I used it throughout my whole pregnancy) and I recently repurchased it. I can't believe I forgot how amazing it was, but I am so thrilled I rediscovered it. It is a very gentle everyday face wash that works really well for me even though it says "for combination skin" (don't tell my skin!).

However, two to three times a week I'll use a face scrub instead of the face wash to really deep-clean my pores. I tend to lean towards more abrasive scrubs. What can I say? the skin likes it rough, I give it rough. (okay, that might sound a bit weird!)
I am alternating between two at the moment: Alba AcneDote Face And Body Scrub, which is amazing when my skin is behaving badly (not to mention dirt cheap at $7), it makes my skin feel fresh and renewed, and keeps breakouts at a minimum. It is however on the more abrasive side of the spectrum, so be aware of that if you have sensitive skin. On days where I am looking for a gentler cleanse, I will use Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, which is more mild. I finish off my morning routine with my Neutrogena moisturizer/sunscreen and done. Nice and easy.

At night, I will start by removing my makeup with The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter. Let me just say from the get-go that I would have never ever EVER gotten this for myself: I usually keep my face miles away from anything that says "butter" on it (!!!) but this was a gift from my mother in law, so I decided to give it a try because I was really intrigued by the cleansing balm craze,(and you know, you don't reject gifts from your MIL!). I was terrified of what I would see in the mirror the next morning. To my utter bewilderment, my face seemed to love it. The makeup comes off very easily with a flannel or cotton buds, and it doesn't leave a tight feeling (like the wipes I used on my last skincare routine did!). But perhaps most importantly for me, it didn't break me out at all. Needless to say, I am a cleansing balm convert and I'm already on my second one. Afterwards, I cleanse my face again with The Body Shop Seaweed facial wash.

Twice a week I will also love me a good face mask and LUSH makes my favorites. The two I alternate at the moment are Cupcake and Cosmetic Warrior. I would get the former purely for the smell (it's like a chocolate bar for my face, yum!), even if it wasn't targeted at my skin type but it just so happens that it is perfect for breakouts yay! The latter is a more comprehensive treatment for the face thanks to the egg white and honey, which help with breakouts, blemishes and blackheads while also moisturizing the skin. My face is always happy happy after one of these.

Like last time, I still like to finish off with my Clinique Acne Solutions Clarifying Lotion and let it work overnight on my problem areas (which can be many, let me tell ya!).

This routine has proven to be a no-fuss, straight-forward solution that is keeping my skin pretty happy at the moment, so it is not likely to change any time soon if I can help it. But who knows... My skin might decide it has had enough of any of these at any point. You just don't know with that girl!
Am I the only one with skin this mercurial?

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Rad Find Time #1: Tarte Lipsurgence Lip Tint

Hi, there! Welcome to A Bunch Of Radness, version 2.0 if you will.
From now on, this will be a space dedicated to all things beauty, with some fashion and cocktail posts thrown in occasionally too. I am very excited about this. I had been wanting to streamline the blog for quite a while now, but for some reason didn't find a way that worked for me and that inspired me to create fresh, original content more regularly. One of my biggest passions for a long time has been beauty: I have devoured hundreds of beauty blogs and youtube videos on all things skincare, makeup and bath and body, and I finally decided to take the plunge and create one of my own.

Once again, welcome. The post for today, Rad Find Time, will be a regular series featuring a product I have absolutely loved and that I feel deserves to be raved about in its own post. Today's turn is for the Tarte LipSurgence Matte Lip Tint in Fiery. ($24).

I know the whole lip crayon craze is quite old by now, but this bad boy is something else. I was a bit hesitant when I first bought it. I didn't think it would be anything special, but I was so wrong. It definitely performs way better than other (cheaper) lip crayons, such as the Revlon Just Bitten, hence the larger price tag.

The first thing I noticed when I opened it was its very distinct minty scent, which is always nice and refreshing. Then I put it on and half-expected it to feel drying, as some lip crayons often are, but it was quite the opposite: the texture is super smooth and creamy, and made for a very pleasant application.

I immediately fell in love with the color, too. It has most definitely become my go-to red: it is obviously matte (hence the name: "Matte Lip Tint"!), which has been my preference for lip color lately. Also, I find that it's not too deep nor too girly, and looks sophisticated without looking heavy. It works for both daytime and nighttime (or at least I've worn it for both haha!) which is also a plus.

The pigmentation and lasting power of this crayon are incredible. It lasted a whole day of work (eating and drinking included) with only one touch-up. Usually with lip products, you either get amazing color payoff or a non-drying formula, but that is definitely not the case with this one, a win-win for sure!
In conclusion, I am more than happy to pay the $24 for more of these crayons, considering high end lipsticks are usually above the $30 mark.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Photography Tips For Total Beginners By A Non-Photographer

I am going to put it out there from the get-go: I am not a photographer. Nor do I consider myself to take perfect photos (I wish, though!). BUT recently I learned a few tricks that upped my photography game immensely. If you would like to take better photographs with just a few steps, without taking a whole photography course, keep reading. Be mindful, though, that it this post is very content-heavy, so take it easy, and read every paragraph several times if you have to until you fully grasp it.

Your Camera
Up until last year, I used a simple Fujifilm FinePix XP70 point-and-shoot camera. A point-and-shoot is a practical, affordable option. It is great for those who get it out every once in a while at parties or concerts, and aren't really too interested in photography. Point-and-shoot cameras are also extremely practical, as they automatically select the best settings for you by doing a quick reading of the lighting situation you are in. This means that you don't have to worry about adjusting all your settings in order to get the lighting just right (what you call the exposure).

HOWEVER: as you will see below, your photos turn out infinitely better if you are able to control and adjust those settings, because a camera (as smart as they are these days) will never read a situation as well as you would. This is why investing in a good DSLR (stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera is absolutely worth it and necessary.

Last November I got the Canon EOS Rebel T3. It is one of the most affordable ones out there (Amazon and BestBuy sell it for $399 USD) which isn't cheap but isn't outrageous either. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a DSLR if you want your pictures to be stunning instead of just nice.

The Two Basics
Now we get into the fun stuff. In photography, there are a million settings and terminology to learn, but who has the time for that. Instead, I think that focusing on just two of them makes a world of difference:

Aperture: Simply put, each lens has an opening, and the aperture is the measure of just how small or wide that opening is. The aperture will depend on your lens, not the camera model.

Shutter speed: This one is self-explanatory: it refers to the speed at which the shutter of your camera takes the picture and captures movement.

Now let's find out how to play with those two:

The aperture is the one that will determine if your background is blurry or not. I remember at the beginning when I made the switch from the point-and-shoot to the Canon, I was desperate to find out how to get a blurry background in my pictures, like I saw on all the blogs I loved. Well, the answer to that is very simple: the aperture. In a DSLR, it is represented by a f/ and a number.

Now, the tricky part is this: the wider the opening (aperture) of the lens, the blurrier your background will be (less of the picture will be in focus). However, the wider the aperture, the smaller the number. This means that f/1.8 is a very wide aperture with a very blurry background, whereas f/20 is a very closed one with the whole background in focus. The aperture will come determined by your lens. The one I have at the moment goes down to f/3.8, so fairly wide. Other lenses go all the way down to f/1.2 (super wide), but the wider they go the more expensive and bulky they become.

This photo was taken with a f/4.0 aperture. Notice how the background is very blurry, and only the little plant and my arm are in focus.

Shutter speed is a lot simpler to grasp. A slow shutter speed will make those subjects in the picture who are moving appear blurry. A fast shutter speed will freeze the movement, so that even if your subject is moving, it appears still in the image.
Now, having a super fast shutter speed will not always be the best option: the slower the shutter speed, the more light it lets in. This means that if you are in a low-light situation, a fast shutter speed will make the picture appear much too dark (what they call underexposed), and you will need a slower shutter speed that lets more light in. Similarly, at midday or with very bright lighting, you would probably prefer to use a fast shutter speed, otherwise your photo would be too bright (overexposed). Shutter speeds can go from 20 seconds (incredibly slow, letting in a huge amount of light) down to 1/8000 of a second (how any light gets in is beyond me!).

I took this photo with a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second. It was fast enough to even freeze the water pouring from the hose. 

How to adjust them
Ok, so by now you are probably saying: "Yeah, that's great and all, but how do I adjust them to get the correct exposure?". Well, my friends, I'm afraid you will have to use the manual setting on your camera. Every camera is different, but generally speaking, it is the big letter "M" on your dial.

The manual setting is the one that lets you adjust both your aperture and shutter speed. Let's picture a couple of scenarios and how you would adjust each one:

Scenario 1: You are trying to take a picture of your toddler son. He's cute and all, but the bloody kid moves at a thousand miles per minute. You are indoors, and you would like to have a blurry background so people can't see the mess in your living room.

In this scenario, the predominant aspect would be the shutter speed, as it has to be fast in order to freeze your child's movement. However, you can't go too fast, otherwise you risk the picture being too dark or underexposed. A shutter speed of, say, 1/250 of a second should do. Then you adjust your aperture and bring it down (widening it) as far as it will go (like I said, mine would be f/3.8) in order to get the blurry background you are after. Widening it also lets in more light, counteracting the effect of your fast shutter speed and thus resulting in the correct exposure.

Scenario 2: You are in Holland with your husband and you want to take a picture of the beautiful tulip fields after a nice lunch.

In this case, what matters most to you is the aperture, as you probably want the whole picture to be in focus to capture the landscape, so you close down your aperture to around f/20. This will mean, though, that you are letting in very little light, so you will need to slow down your shutter speed to compensate. It probably won't be too much though, as you are outdoors and it's daytime.
I do recommend that you don't go any slower than 1/60 of a second if you don't have a tripod: a slower speed wouldn't freeze the little involuntary movements we all make when we hold a camera, and your photo won't be as crisp.

The correct combination
Ok, so just how do you know the exact combination of aperture vs. shutter speed that would give you the perfect exposure?  Is it 1/250th of a second and f/3.8 for the first scenario, or  1/300 of a second and f/4.0? How to know for sure?

The only way to know for sure is to look through the viewfinder: that little window you look through to take the picture. When you are looking through it and focusing on your subject, press the shutter button halfway down and you will see a meter appear. Again, each camera is different, but it is basically a number line with positive and negative ends, and a center represented by an 0 or an arrow. Next to that line you will also find the aperture and shutter speed values that you've set.

This is how I explained it to my husband when he was taking photos of me:
- If you see that the pointer under the number line (or meter) is to the left side, your photo will be underexposed, meaning it will be too dark. If it is placed to the right of the 0 or arrow, it is overexposed and it will be too bright. Only when the pointer is right in the center will the exposure be just right.

- To get it to shift to the center, you will need to adjust one of the values: either the aperture or the shutter speed. In order to change one of the two, you need to use your dial. Read your camera manual if you are unsure how to do this, because every camera model varies slightly.

- In case of underexposure: You will either need to open your aperture more (smaller f number) and get a blurrier background (but remember that this is limited by the lens you've got!); or slow down your shutter speed and not freeze as much movement. Both of this options let in more light, and it is just a matter of deciding which one is best for you to adjust in each specific case. For the first scenario, for example, I would change the aperture, as I want the shutter speed to stay fast. Similarly, for the second scenario I'd change the shutter speed as I need a closed aperture.
This is a very underexposed photo I took when I was first becoming familiar with the concept of aperture and shutter speed.

- In case of overexposure: Your picture is too bright, so you need to let in less light. You can either close up the aperture (getting more in focus) or increase your shutter speed and freeze the movement.
Completely overexposed photo, taken the same day as the one above.

It takes a few times of trial and error, but once you get the hang of it and understand the concepts, it becomes much simpler. At the beginning, it took me a good 3-5 minutes to get the pointer to the center of the meter, but now I do it much faster and am much more familiar with which values to adjust for each situation.

The big difference
Now that you know the concepts, you will understand why I said before that in order to take good quality pictures, you need to be able to control your settings and values, which point-and-shoots don't do:

Say that you are at a party at night, and want to take a picture. A point-and-shoot will adjust all the settings automatically for you. Yes, there is no hassle at all and you just, well, point and shoot and it's done. HOWEVER the camera reads a very low-light situation, and it has to adjust the aperture and shutter speed accordingly so you don't get an overexposed picture. A point-and-shoot will not have a very wide aperture, which means that it can't adjust it much to let more light in. It will have to adjust the shutter speed, making it slower and slower until the exposure is right (where the pointer would be at the center of the meter). The result? an incredibly blurry picture, with a lot of detail lost thanks to the very slow shutter speed. Or, it might adjust the shutter speed and aperture only slightly, and then increase the ISO (the sensitivity of the sensor in recording light. In other words, raising the ISO lets more light in without having to alter the aperture and shutter speed). This should only be done if you don't get the correct exposure with your aperture and shutter speed, because the higher the ISO, the worse the picture quality. With a very high ISO, you will get white speckles all over your photo. You can find the ISO option next to the aperture and shutter speed in manual mode.

If you had a DSLR at the party, though, you would have been able to control the aperture and shutter speed levels in order to get the quality you desire. If you still can't get to the center of the meter by adjusting them, that's when you raise your ISO. The ideal ISO is between 100-400, but even up to 6400 will give you an ok quality. Anything above 6400, and those dreadful white speckles will start appearing.

Try it for yourself: grab your point-and-shoot and take a picture at night with the least light possible. I can almost guarantee that it will either be incredibly blurry or full of white speckles (or both!).

For this photo, my camera would have raised the ISO so much that the photo came out full of white speckles, not to mention super blurry. Not good. 

This was on the cruise where my husband and I got engaged in 2012. Our Fujifilm camera not only took an incredibly blurry picture, but it didn't even get the exposure right due to the poor lighting. 

Whoa, that was a mouthful! But I only learned these tips recently, and I thought, there will be some of you out there who also didn't know this and could benefit from it, so I decided to share my new knowledge. I hope I made sense and that this post was of use to at least one of you.
Please feel free to ask any questions you have below in the comments, or if you are a pro, feel free to leave more handy tips!

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

This Isn't Another Mushy Mommy Post

One of my very first posts talked about how I became a mother in my (very) early 20s, but how it was all worth it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat yada yada yada. That is all true of course, but I think there are two sides to every coin, and there are many moments to every motherhood.

Few things give me more contempt that mothers who smugly declare to the world that motherhood is nothing but joy, sunshine and rainbows. I call their B.S. right now. Motherhood is freaking hard, and yes, of course the rewards are more than worth it, but that doesn't make it any less of a bumpy road. Anyone who says raising a tiny human is all smooth sailing probably drinks a little too much wine with dinner or something and can they please share their secret with us mortals?

I have been a mother for just over 3.5 years and I already know that I've screwed up more times than I care to admit. But I'm only human, and my child is alive and well fed so I figure I must be doing a good enough job. In the spirit of the upcoming Mother's Day, this post is dedicated to all mommies out there who, like me, feel guilty way too often about their parenting. I'm learning to rid myself of unnecessary guilt and I'm starting here.

- Children can be really irritating creatures. Mix together a long day and about twenty "Mommmmy"s and you are bound to lose it a bit. You are allowed to lose it every once in a while, don't beat yourself up about it. Losing your temper does not equal abuse.

- Feeding them a Happy Meal when you are too busy to cook a proper meal every once in a while isn't going to kill them. I don't care how many smug moms say otherwise, a cheeseburger once every two months hasn't poisoned any kid I know.

- I really don't like cursing but I would be the biggest liar in the world if I said I've never accidentally uttered the f-word while driving, forgetting my super attentive child is in the back. Give me a break, he was going to hear it sooner or later.

- I've been known to put my kid down to sleep a bit earlier once or twice because I just really didn't want to miss an episode of The Big Bang Theory, or because I was getting dangerously close to murdering him and that would be unfortunate. And guess what? There were no dramatic consequences from him going to sleep 20 minutes before he usually does. Go figure.

- I have to admit that I have used the iPad or TV as a babysitter before. Look, when I'm sleep deprived and I know I can get a good half an hour of rest thanks to Thomas The Tank Engine, I'm only human and I give in it temptation. I'm pretty sure he is not going to get overly traumatised by that, as long as it doesn't become a daily occurrence.

- I feel bad sometimes (often, really) that I'm not the kind of mom who bakes homemade cookies every week, or the perfect perfect macaroons, or heck, even a simple birthday cake! I'll never be the kind of mom who when kids come to play, shows up with freshly baked goodies, and I need to come to terms with that. But I am instead the mom who tells him a story every night before bed, who drops him off at school every morning and picks him up, and asks about his day and has tickle fights with him. I can't be everything, nor do I have to. And that will be good enough for him.

I am a firm believer that even if you don't abide by every single rule in the "How To Be A Perfect Parent" book (who even wrote that!?), if you have a well-fed, generally happy child, you are doing a heck of a good job. So on Sunday, pat yourself in the back, let yourself be spoiled and pour yourself a well-deserved glass of vino.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

26 Before 27

I mentioned on yesterday's post that it was my 26th birthday. As it turns out, blogger Kaelah from The Clueless Girl also happened to turn 26 back in March, and she wrote this great post titled 26 Before 27: Goals and Intentions: a list of 26 things she wants to have accomplished by the time her next birthday rolls around. I absolutely loved the idea then, and thought it would be awesome to come up with my own list for my birthday. So here they are, 26 goals I want to accomplish before I turn 27 (we'll come back to this in exactly one year and see how I did):

1. Pay off 70% of my credit card debt
Yes, wouldn't 100% be awesome, but I know that's not realistic, for two reasons: 1. I freaking love me a good internet sale... They are my guilty pleasure, I just need to take it under control a bit more. 2. I have a few subscriptions that go on my credit card, such as Audible, Photoshop, and Netflix. Regardless, I think 70% down is reasonable/feasible enough, no?

2. Go on an overseas trip with my husband
Over the five years that we've been together, we have been fortunate enough to take at least one trip every year, which is a tradition I am not planning on breaking this year. It's a very important time to reconnect, change routines, and spend quality time together. This is where the best memories are made and I know we'll be glad we have them in our older years. (I know this might be contradictory to the previous point... But somehow I'll try to work it out.)

3. Get rid of guilt
I am going to admit, even though it is hard to, that I don't take failure very well. I don't like the feeling of knowing I am not very good at something (although some things, like cooking and sports, are a failed cause). So in my mind I feel like I have to be the perfect parent, perfect wife, perfect boss, perfect employee... And it's an enormous pressure! I am most definitely not perfect, and the sooner I understand it the happier I will be. I am allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, and not have to feel guilty every time I do. It's funny how life works sometimes: we are usually much more forgiving of other people's mishaps than our own.

4. Learn a lot more about photography
I discovered my passion for photography only last year, and there is still so much more for me to learn. I want to be able to take gorgeous pictures to look back on life's special moments.

5. Update my camera bag
If I'm going to get more serious about photography, then I definitely need a new, chic camera bag. I haven't decided yet between this one from Jo Totes, or this one (in green) from Kelly Moore + A Beautiful Mess collaboration.

6. Become a lot more organized with this blog
There have already been a couple of times when I have made big launches on this blog, but I still find myself so busy with other commitments that they kind of fall behind after a while. I really hope that will change from this year onwards. I am putting some strategies in place to that avail (read #24).

7. Attempt at least one DIY/Craft project a month
I could easily be one of the least crafty people to walk this Earth, but that doesn't mean it always has to be the case. I don't think my projects will be Pinterest-worthy any time soon, but hey, practice makes perfect. This is also such a fun activity to start regularly doing with our son as a family.

8. Exercise, exercise, exercise!
Sean would probably roll his eyes at this one, I have been so bad with my exercise (or lack thereof!) lately... But I really have to try and change that, I do want to learn to respect my body a little bit more.

9. Become more of a tea drinker
I love coffee soooo much! After all, I do come from the land of coffee. But I realize that it's not the healthiest either, and in keeping with the above point, I will make more of an effort to substitute it for tea more often. There are awesome selections out there!  Maybe cut out on the chocolate should be featured here too, but I'm trying to keep this list realistic, so...

10. Do more of what I like
I think this year I achieved a good balance of doing the stuff I have to do vs. stuff I want to do. I want to keep it up, but also do more activities where me and my son spend some true quality time together and I am really there in the moment.

11. Be more social with this blog
For some reason I can't seem to bring myself to use social media as often as I probably should. I really want to become more active, specially on Instagram, where I haven't posted a single photo in ages.

12. Decorate my home how I want it
I think I've mentioned that I am in the process of completely redecorating my home. So for this year I intend to have a home decorated in a way that truly fits our style and reflects our personalities. I am fast becoming a big fan of old-school, rustic vintage vibes and I want my home to reflect it.

13. Go outdoors more
I'm not an outdoorsy person. Not at all. But I really do want to go out more, if only to breathe some fresh air and have a change of scenery once in a while. This can be incorporated into point #8, where I'll do more stuff outdoors with my son.

14. Let go of the past
I struggle with letting go of events, people and experiences from my past. I think that's why life keeps bringing me change after change, until I learn not to look back so much and appreciate what I have right now, which brings me to:

15. Focus more on the present
One of my favorite quotes lately has been: "Don't let the things you want make you forget the things you have." For me this is much easier said than done, and that's really a shame: the thought of looking back towards the end of my life and realising I didn't really live for focusing on the past or the future way too much terrifies me.

16. Finally get a curling iron
I am so boring with my hair! I just can't be bothered styling it in the morning, so I pretty much end up with a headband, or a ponytail or the most boring chignon in the planet. I have my eyes on this curling wand by NuMe in order to vary my style with minimum fuss.

17. Don't forget my friends!
I get caught up in the busyness of daily life, that I sometimes forget to make some time for my friends. Sure, there are my closest friends who I speak to/meet with on a regular basis, but there are other very dear friends who I tend to spend ages without talking to or asking about their lives. I need to make more of an effort to open up my circle of friends more.
Point 17a could be make girls night out a more regular occurrence.

18. Don't let myself get overwhelmed too often
I'm often getting way more overwhelmed than I'd like. I really just need to take a moment sometimes, breathe in deeply, and remember that everything is working itself out. Overstressed is not my favorite state, but it is becoming quite common. This is the year to give myself a break!

19. Maintain date night
Date night has become so important for me and my husband. It is basically sacred. We don't have a set schedule or day of the week, it's more of a "when we feel like it" approach. Spontaneous date nights are the best, and I intend to keep doing them. They are very refreshing for our otherwise-boring lives. Again, a bit contradictory to point #1, but priorities! and also, date night doesn't always have to be expensive: here is proof.

20. Take more pictures of my family
Not only do I want my photography quality to improve, but I also want to capture more of our family's moments. Tommy is growing up so fast and changing so rapidly that it would be a true shame not to document his milestones and phases.

21. Go on at least three spontaneous road trips
What better feeling than packing up and leaving, driving somewhere different just for a short, sweet change? the three of us love them, they don't have to be super expensive, and make for some great change of routine, so I think at least three times in the next 365 days is reasonable.

22. Read at least one book each month
Thankfully, Audible is making this one pretty easy for me. I just need to remain consistent. I definitely want to have this list done and dusted by the time I turn 27.
Update on the list: I already read Inferno, and it was sooooooooooooo good (that's 13 o's; that's how good it is!). I couldn't stop listening to it! If you have been wanting to read it, run don't walk to get it!

23. Buy a nice, good pair of basic black pumps
I have ones that I absolutely adore but they are pretty well-loved by now. I need to get another good, dressy pair, because they are lifesavers when I'm in a pinch. I'm thinking something like these peep-toe Anthropologie heels.

24. Take and complete Blog Life
Blog Life is an online blogging course by A Beautiful Mess. It covers a huge variety of topics (25, actually) about all aspects of blogging, and how to make it something you are really proud of and inspired by. Can't wait to give it a go! And hopefully, this will also help me achieve #6.

25. Participate in at least two more blog swaps
Last month I participated in Buttons And Birdcages' Blog Swap. This is where a bunch of bloggers get together, get partners assigned, and then go and get them a box of goodies they think their partner would like. It was pretty rad to go around finding stuff from my country to send to my partner, who was Martyna, from Spoolish. I will blog about it once I receive my parcel. I am very excited to receive some awesome goodies, and for her to see what I chose to send her. Such a cool experience, I want to do it at least twice again in the coming year.

26. Be more assertive
This is the area of my personality I really want to work on. It will make my life so much easier.

So there you go. Those are my 26 goals for the next twelve months. Some are easily attainable, some will require a bit more work. Some I have been wanting to do for quite a while (hello, #16 and 22) and others have been very recent (#24).

What are some goals you want to achieve in the near future?

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Monday, May 5, 2014

OOTD: My Birthday Outfit

Today is my birthday!!  Yay!!!

I am one of those people that has always loved birthdays. I think they're great and even though they mean I'm one year older (I'm now officially in the second half of my twenties! yikes!), I try to see the glass half-full: presents! Just kidding. But really, it's as good a time as any to treat yourself to something nice. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, either: even a hot bubble bath with some good chocolate is a nice way to celebrate all you have accomplished.

Last week I decided to treat myself to this gorgeous pastel wartercolor dress. It is spring-y, feminine and delicate. But my favorite thing about it is the cut. It fits my body perfectly.

It wasn't cheap so when I saw it and immediately fell in love with it I was praying that it would look terrible on me, but then I tried it on and it was basically made with me in mind, (perhaps they knew my birthday was coming up?), so you know, I had to get it. Am I the only one who has ever had those "oh-God-help-me-'cuz-if-this-looks-cute-on-me-I'm-definitely-getting-it-even-though-I-can't-afford-it" moments? I certainly hope not!

I wore it yesterday for the first time as I had a special pre-Birthday dinner date with my husband, and as soon as he saw me his eyes went wide open and he said: "wow... That's a nice dress!" When he adds the "wow" before anything I know he really means it, so the splurge was totally worth it.

I kept the accessories simple as I wanted the focus to be on the dress, so I threw on a whimsical silver necklace with matching earrings, and basic nude pumps and I was ready. Brownie points to the dress for looking so put together with minimal accessorizing efforts.

I can already see myself wearing the heck out of this dress. It is super comfortable, and I love how delicate it looks thanks to the mesh detailing on the back. I think it will be perfect for multiple occasions: it is rather formal on its own but can easily be dressed down too for a more casual affair, like with some nice sandals. Even some tights would look great with this dress if the weather starts chilling down a bit.

Again trying to kept the main focus on the dress, my makeup was nothing too over the top. I wanted to try the lavender trend, which is all the rage now, and it pairs wonderfully with the dress. For the eyes, I used Stila In The Light eyeshadow palette, and for the lips I used the Dior Addict Lipstick in Tulle 214.

All in all this was the perfect Birthday outfit, an awesome start to a new year of life for me! Here's to many more awesome birthdays, and awesome dresses!

P.S.  I took my fair time getting ready, so by the time I wanted to take the pictures, all the light was gone and it had started raining!!  So I had to take them indoors, with very little light. They will have to do. Sorry about that!

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