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Friday, June 29, 2012

L’Oreal Sulfate-Free Shampoos and Conditioners (Part One)

So, what is sulfate and why should you care whether it’s in your hair care products? If a shampoo or conditioner contains sulfate, it refers to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). The biggest reason this chemical is added to hair products is to remove built-up oil and to help act as a cleaning agent. Sounds great if you’ve got oily hair, right? SLS is also included because the properties of this chemical help work up that really satisfying foamy lather when you’re washing your hair.

Well, the problem with sulfate is that it could have some damaging effects on your hair. People with really sensitive scalps or hair might find SLS irritating. In addition, SLS can weaken hair which in turn could lead to breakage, slower hair growth or overall damaged hair.

The person who actually recommended that I try the L’Oreal Sulfate-Free hair care system was my grandma. She specifically recommended the Everstrong Sulfate-Free Fortify System. Look at her being on top of beauty trends! I had heard about sulfate-free products a long time ago, but I never really thought I needed to worry about one ingredient in my shampoo. My hair has always been pretty healthy. I’ve colored it regularly over the past few years (I’m moving away from that now), but I’ve not experienced breakage and my hair doesn’t look damaged.

My grandma told me that her hair felt healthier and looked shinier, and that only a few weeks after using the shampoo and conditioner she noticed some new hair growth around her hair line. I was a little skeptical that a shampoo and conditioner could do such wonderful things, but since the L’Oreal products came so highly recommended from my lovely grandma, I decided to try it out.

I bought the shampoo and conditioner at Target, and they are pretty inexpensive. I am already on my second shampoo and conditioner bottles – they work great! One general complaint about sulfate-free shampoos is that they don’t produce a good lather when washing the hair. I can assure you that’s not an issue with this particular product. The shampoo does a good job of cleaning my hair—even without the sulfate—and the conditioner is extremely moisturizing. And I kid you not – I have also found some new hair growth near my hair line.

Amanda decided to try out the L’Oreal Sulfate-Free shampoos and conditioners too. She purchased the EverCrème Sulfate-Free Moisture System. Stay tuned for her review!

Have you used sulfate-free products? Tell us how they worked for you! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Trend We're Loving: High-Low Dresses and Skirts

I've been seeing this high-low skirt and dress trend everywhere lately. Adrianne and I refer to this as the "mullet" look and both love it. I think it's a great way to show off your legs without being too revealing. A lot of times I will love a dress or a skirt but the back is way too short for my taste. This trend is the perfect solution to this problem!


I know a lot of trends tend to be hot for a while and then burn out quick but I personally hope this one sticks around for a while - I love this look!

We purchased these skirts at Forever 21 a while back and love the dramatic effect they have without weighing us down.

I also purchased an off white high-low dress that I'm planning on wearing to my engagement party this weekend. I can't wait!

What do you think about this trend? Do you own any high-low skirts or dresses?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Quick and Healthy Snack

Sometimes people blame their tendencies to eat unhealthy foods on the fact that they have no time to prepare something. I admit – I really don’t enjoy cooking and I’m often guilty of just running out to pick up food.  But if you’re looking for a quick and healthy breakfast or snack, try apple butter spread.

I discovered apple butter within the past year and it’s become one of my favorite things. I’m sure that I was late to the game in finding out about this delicious spread, so that's why I'm passing it on.

I admit that this brown spread might not look totally appealing, but it’s low in calories, has no fat and tastes great. I typically put it on some wheat toast and that’s it. No room for the “I have no time” excuse here. :)

What is your latest healthy snack obsession?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Benefit High Beam Review

Typically during the week my makeup routine is quick and light due to the fact that I am not a morning person (at all) and I have to leave my house way too early to get to work on time. One staple in my beauty routine for both daytime and nighttime looks is Benefit's High Beam. I use this as a primer for my eyeshadow and also as a highlighter for my cheekbones.

This stuff is amazing. When I first purchased it I wasn't sure if it would live up to all the hype I had heard about it. The bottle was also intimidating because it looked like nail polish and even has an applicator brush similar to what you would find in a typical bottle. I didn't think it was big enough for the price tag it has but I bit the bullet and tried it anyways.

First of all - the hype is totally spot on. It makes me look like I'm glowing when I wear it and it lasts all day. And the small bottle? Very deceiving. I thought for sure I would run out right away but I've had this stuff for almost a year now and have yet to go through an entire bottle.

I just dab a little on my eyelids and cheekbones and lightly blend into my skin. I sometimes go sans eyeshadow with this product and still feel done up. It's such a simple quick addition to my beauty routine that takes virtually no effort.

If you're looking for something to amp up your typical look without having to spend a ton of time you should check this stuff out.

Do you use a similar product for primer and a highlighter? What are your simple makeup tricks?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Trend We're Loving: Colorful Pants

Now that summer has begun, it’s not uncommon to see people wearing bright colors – bathing suits, tops, vivid eye makeup... It’s one of my favorite things about summer. The colors just make me happy.

One trend that’s emerged in the past year or two is the colorful pant—in everything from neon yellow to coral to cerulean. 

colorful cropped pants

Whether a skinny jean or linen pant, the bright bottoms are everywhere. In my opinion, it’s a trend that everyone can pull off. With so many color choices, you’re bound to find something you like. I purchased a pair of skinny kelly green pants from The Gap. They weren’t the cheapest pair I’ve ever bought, but they fit incredibly well and are light and comfortable for summer. You might not think this type of pant to fit in with a lot of your wardrobe, but you’d be surprised. They can be worn with tank tops, fitted tees, flats, heels or strappy sandals. So many options. 

Another one of the good things about this trend is that there’s something for every budget. You can get a cute pair of brightly colored pants starting at $20. Check out Old Navy or Target for great deals.

Have you embraced this trend?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beauty: BB Cream Review

I'm sure by now most of you have at least heard of BB Cream (Blemish Balm or Blemish Base) before but when I first tried it a few months ago it was just starting to show up in stores. I was using full coverage foundation during the winter months and although it felt a little heavy, it was okay because my face was so dry. In the spring and summer I tend to walk around with a lot less makeup on my face and hate the feeling of slimy foundation. I was searching for a tinted moisturizer to start using but I wanted something that provided a little more coverage.

Adrianne (the makeup expert that she is) told me all about this miracle BB Cream. She said it was a big thing in Japan and was just starting to surface here in the US and that I should really check out some before buying a tinted moisturizer. I forced her (okay ... she lives in this store who are we kidding) to run over to Sephora one day on our lunch break to show me different ones and help me pick one out.

The makeup artist who ended up assisting us was super nice, but MAJORLY overdone. I was terrified when she started to remove my normal makeup to apply the BB Cream. I really hope I didn't walk back into work looking overdone like that. Luckily it was perfect. She tired a few on my hands before I decided to have her apply the Smashbox Camera Ready brand of BB Cream to my face. It was amazing - light, fuller coverage than a tinted moisturizer but did not feel like I was wearing makeup at all. I couldn't believe how much it covered and brightened up my complexion.
The makeup artist told us that the BB Creams actually could help improve your complexion over time and could also be used as a primer if you were searching for more coverage for an evening out or special event. The Smashbox brand offers SPF 35 which I love and doesn't have a strong scent to it. I've been wearing it every day for the past few months and still love it. It stays on all day and even Jay has told me he liked the way it looked (he actually noticed!) So if that's not enough reason to try some of this stuff I don't know what is.

Adrianne has tried some BB Cream by Garnier and said for a drugstore brand it was actually not that bad. You might want to try out a lower-end brand before committing to a bottle of the more expensive stuff. Trust me when I say it's worth it though!

Have you tried BB Cream yet? If so, what did you think? Do you have a favorite brand you think we should try?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The outfit I never thought I’d wear, but did.

I never thought I’d get into the romper trend, but on a whim, I tried on this outfit at Macy’s and had to buy it. It’s super comfortable and I felt very chic wearing it! It will definitely become a summer staple for me.

 Picture taken at my grandma's house in Florida <3

It may not seem like the most versatile piece, but the way you choose to style yourself once you’re wearing a romper can dramatically change the look. I chose to do messy hair and wear wedges. A nice updo, some jewelry and the right pair of heels could definitely make this outfit a bit dressier.

What trend have you tried that you never thought you would?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wedding: My Bargain Wedding Shoe Find


Calling all brides out there: let me tell you a little secret ... it's possible to wear high end accessories on your wedding day for a fraction of the price. How you ask?

Enter discount stores such as Nordstrom Rack, TJMaxx, Marshalls, etc. I frequently visit these places to see if there are any good deals going on and just happened to find some amazing shoes for my wedding.

Here's the thing though. You have to be patient and you have to hunt. Sometimes I go into these stores and sadly walk out empty handed. However, if you're willing to wait you can find incredible deals.

The shoes I found are Vera Wang and retail for well over $300. I paid $99. Yes - for the same shoes you can still find online and at major department stores for three times more. This is insane. They are not last season and there is nothing wrong with them.

I wasn't even searching for wedding shoes when I found them but I was freaking out when I did. I knew they had to be mine immediately -- it was too good of a deal to pass up on. I have about a year still to look but I didn't think I would find shoes that looked as good for the price between now and then so I scooped them up.

It's worth the hunt - trust me! When you're spending hundreds (read: thousands) of dollars on all other aspects of your wedding - saving a few bucks here and there adds up quick!

I can't share photos of the actual shoes on the blog because my loving fiancé (Hi Jay!) reads this and I don't want him to see. I've got to leave some elements of surprise out there for him!

Have you found an incredible deal at a discount store? What's your favorite bargain item to hunt for?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Adrianne's May Birchbox

It’s Birchbox time again! May’s box was themed after the show Gossip Girl. Though I’ve never seen the show, I can definitely appreciate a collection of products that were combined with the intention of helping you look your best for the weekend.

Here’s what I got:

1. Arquiste Flor y Canto Fragrance
2. Caudalíe Hand and Nail Cream
3. FusionBeauty LipFusion Balm
4. Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Conditioner
5. XOXO Notecard and Envelope

1. Arquiste Flor y Canto Fragrance: There isn’t a good way to say this, so I’ll just come out and say it. This perfume reminded me of something my grandmother might wear. It’s pretty overpowering, and it definitely isn’t for my taste. It’s a very deep floral scent. Maybe it’s just my sensitive nose, but wearing only a little of it gave me a headache.

2. Caudalíe Hand and Nail Cream: This hand cream has a very light citrus scent and isn’t greasy at all. I’ve seen Caudalíe products popping up a lot lately. On a recent trip to Sephora, I received a sample of Caudalíe face serum, which I really enjoyed using. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more and more about this brand. But I digress… loved the hand and nail cream!

3. FusionBeauty LipFusion Balm: For those of you who do need a little extra lip plumping, definitely check out this balm. It promises to make your lips look fuller without that awful tingling/burning sensation that some lip plumping products give. I didn’t feel any irritation while wearing the balm and it does a great job moisturizing. Oh – it has SPF in it too! I do love my SPF.

4. Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Conditioner: Though I don’t consider my hair very dry or damaged, I did end up liking this conditioner. It’s very thick and nourishing and left my hair feeling very soft. I think it would be a great addition to any winter hair care regimen. I’d probably avoid using it during the summer unless your hair truly is over processed or very dry.

5. XOXO Notecard and Envelope: So cute! Who doesn’t love receiving a hand written card?

I’m thinking of signing up for Glossybox since they’ve recently launched in the U.S. Have you tried Glossybox yet? 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Amanda's May Birchbox

It's that time of the month again! No no, not that time ... our Birchboxes have arrived! I'm so excited to share what I got this month. Miss last month? You can check that out here.

I had heard that this month featured products inspired by CW's Gossip Girl (I confess I used to LOVE that show but have missed this past season) and I was excited to see what I would get.

1. Bvlgari Perfume 

2. Kiehl's Abyssine Cream +

3. Sugar Rose' Lip Gloss

4. Body 20 - Miracle Skin Transformer 

5. XOXO Notecard 

1. The scent of this perfume is amazing. Light and refreshing and not too much at all. I have been wearing this every day since I got it and I'm not sick of it. Jay recently told me he loved the way I smelled when I was wearing this so I'd say that's a good reason enough to love it!

2. I've only been using this for about a month but I've already seen some minor imporvements in the fine lines on my forehead. I'm not sure how quickly this stuff is supposed to work but I'm impatient. So far it's been good but I haven't been WOWed by results. I will report back and let you know if it gets better.

3. I LOVE THIS STUFF! The smell is amazing and it's light enough to add a little pop of color to my lips but not as much as a traditional lipstick would. It made my lips so smooth and I kept grabbing for it when reapplying instead of my other lipgloss. This is my favorite sample I have received so far.

4. I wasn't sure what the heck this stuff was when I first got it but when I opened the tube I realized this is like foundation for your body. It covers your little imperfections on your legs and arms and gives an overall smooth appearance. I've only tried this on a small part of my leg to see how it works but it did seem to cover little imperfections and smooth it all out. I'm scared to put this all over my legs - what if it rained? I will have to try it out soon though with a cute little mini ;)

5. This notecard is so cute! I always say xoxo (how did they know?) and will have to choose carefully who I decide to send this to. I love getting real mail (does that exist anymore?) and will be happy to send this off soon.

That's it for May! Check back soon for Adrianne's Birchbox.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Motivation: It's Never Too Late

Last year, an Oregon man who dropped out of college in 1932 finally received his degree. This man, aged 99, decided that he wasn’t too old to finish something he’d set out to do many years prior. He’s the perfect example that it’s never too late.

There are few things worse than getting older and feeling like you’re not accomplishing the things you want or were meant to do. It’s crappy to feel like you have so much you want to do, but aren’t getting anywhere. Or, maybe you feel like your window of opportunity has passed.

I have a long mental list of things I’d like to do, learn and accomplish. Recently I’ve begun to tackle that list. I purchased a nice camera and have started to read about and practice photography. I’ve made it a priority to become fluent in Spanish. I’m trying to get better with several different types of software. Even this blog and the personal blog I recently started are examples of things that have been rolling around in my mind for a while.

There are so many other things on my list—many of which you’ll hear about on this blog. But the thing I want to convey right now is that there is no time line in life. I spent quite a bit of time building my mental list of to-dos and now I’m finally starting to do them.

It’s not hard to come up with excuses to prevent yourself from doing the things you want. Maybe you’re too busy or you think you don’t have the resources to accomplish your goals. The truth is that if something is important to you, you will find a way to do it.

There are also a few other things to remember. Maybe you’ll think I’m a pessimist for writing about these things during what’s meant to be an encouraging blog post, but I prefer to think of myself as realistic. And I think perhaps sometimes I'm pegged as pessimistic, when all I really try to do is keep a level head about things. I don’t think that most people who accomplish their goals find it to be an easy ride. People encounter all sorts of problems and set backs on their way to achieving things. In the interest of not painting unrealistic expectations:
  • Most things take some amount of work, maybe a lot of work. You need to get off your butt and actually DO something. 
  • You need to accept the fact that you may fail. Just because you want something and work for it doesn’t mean that you will be wildly successful at it. 
  • It won’t happen overnight. Just don’t become impatient. It might take years for you to be able to say you finally did what you set out to do.
With all that being said, wouldn’t you rather try and know how things turn out rather than be afraid or put things off? In my opinion, it’s better to try and fail than spend every day wondering what your life could have been like if you only tried. And what better time than now?

Share your goals with us – we’d love to hear them and be able to offer our encouragement! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wedding: What's Done and Still Needs to Be

Hi everyone! We're about a year out to the wedding still and I feel like I've got so much stuff done already. I know we still have so much left to do but I think we're way ahead of the game.

Here's what we've already finished:
Bridesmaids Dresses
Engagement Photos
DJ (family friend)
Live Music (friend)
Officiant (family)
Wedding Decor - some of this has been done/is in the works

Still need to do:
Hotel Block/Shuttles
Save the Dates and Invitations
Groom/Groomsmen attire
Menu Selection/Tasting
Bridal Accessories
Wedding Decor - crafts, crafts and more crafts

So I'd say we're in pretty good shape for still having about a year left. I know the time will fly by (these past 8 months have FLOWN!) but I'm glad we're doing things early so we won't be as stressed closer to the wedding.

We've got an amazing support system and I know everything will come together great!

Have any advice for me while planning my wedding? What was the biggest stressor when planning yours?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Giving Your Hair a Boost

Oh, the woes of having thin hair. If your hair is anything like mine, only an arsenal of mousse, hairspray, thickening cream and my trusty backcombing brush will help create volume. The only problem with using so many products is how gritty and tangled my hair feels just a little while after I’ve styled it. Plus, all the product eventually weighs my hair and does the exact opposite of what I intended it to do.

I’m constantly in search of products to help give my hair volume. Enter Big Sexy Hair Powder Play Volumizing and Texturizing Powder. My stylist introduced me to this product and I think she referred to it as magic fairy dust. She was totally right. 

Image via

Just lift a section of your hair and apply a bit of the powder at the roots. Use your hand to massage the powder into the roots of your hair and that’s it! Sprinkle the powder on any areas of your hair that need a lift. If you find your hair is falling a little throughout the day, all you need to do is rough up the roots of your hair where you applied the powder. Super easy!

Do you have thin hair like mine? What products do you use to create volume?  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fitness: Training for a Race

I used to run track in middle school and high school but was never too serious about it. I could have trained a lot harder and would have been a much better runner ... but it came naturally to me and I didn't feel like putting in more effort.

Fast forward to now. I'm signing up for multiple races a year - for fun. Yes, it sounds like I went from one extreme to another and I guess you can say I did. What changed? Well after high school fitness was still a huge part of my life. I worked out about 4-5 days a week and did various forms of exercise and still ran about once or twice a week. Then, I met my fiancé and everything changed. Jay ran competitively in high school, college and still does. He signs up for several races in varying distances and even has completed a marathon and some triathlons. When we first started dating I was really impressed with the fact that he was so active and liked to do this kind of stuff. He encouraged me to sign up for a 5k and it went from there. I found my love for running again and have since competed in several 5ks, a 10k and almost a 10 mile (you can read the story about that race that wasn't on my personal blog - here)

I would ultimately like to run a half and full marathon someday and know that now Jay is in my life and is so supportive and encouraging I can definitely accomplish this.

I've suffered a foot injury while training for my 10k and 10 mile because I was wearing bad shoes, was increasing my mileage too quickly and was also doing jumps and high intensity/ high impact cardio. Not a good combination when training for a race. Luckily the future hubs happens to be a Physical Therapist and he got me back to running shape before I knew it. He also surprised me with some brand new Mizuno running shoes and that really helped me to recover.

When training START SLOW. Haven't run that distance before or it's been a really long time? You need to work your way up. Easy runs and short distances until your body adjusts and you're feeling good. I was running about 4 days a week while training and was doing 3 short days (about 3-4 miles each with some hills and intervals thrown in there) and one long day (increasing by about a mile a week until I reached my race distance). It was the best combination for me to build up slowly and it helped me get faster much quicker.

Stretching before and after your runs is almost just as important as what I stated above. YOU HAVE TO STRETCH. Chances are no matter what you'll be sore if you haven't run this much before, but stretching really helps decrease it. Foam rolling also helps (especially IT bands) and if you have access to one I suggest spending some quality time with it - especially after your longer runs.

Race day tips:

  1. Eat something for breakfast a few hours before your race. You want to make sure it's fully digested before you start so you don't want to throw it up. I usually make oatmeal with a full banana and drink plenty of water about three hours before race time. 
  2. Start out slow. You don't want to use all of your energy in the beginning and die at the end. Finishing strong (and even sprinting) to the finish line is how you want to end your race. If you're at about the halfway mark and feel like you've got a lot of gas in the tank - pick it up a bit. 
  3. Relax your shoulders, look straight ahead and breathe! 
  4. Try to find someone to run with. There are people that can set your pace for you and make it easier to get to the finish line.
  5. Please, don't listen to music while racing. It's not safe (you can't hear other runners or race directors if emergency information is given out) and it could even hurt your performance. Trust me - you don't need it. 
  6. Hydrate before the race (not just race day) it will make your run easier.
  7. Have fun! Training for the race is the hardest part - relax and enjoy it! 
That's what I do to prepare for a race. It may not work for you but it's what I have found to work best for me. Also, having Jay there to cheer me on and help me power through my finish really has helped :) 

Do you have a race day routine that works for you? Have you signed up for any races this season?