Bath & Body Works Candle Review – Tiki Beach

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As much as I love Bath & Body Works candles and nearly die from excitement anytime new collections are released (Let’s Go To France has landed!!), I wasn’t all that intrigued or impressed with their Hawaii Collection. It just didn’t tickle me. I don’t typically go for tropical and beachy scents though. They’re usually not my cuppa. However, I was captured by one single scent, Tiki Beach. I’m not even sure what led me to pick it up and give it the sniff test, but cold, it smelled amazing. So, did it live up to the fabulousness that I was expecting from it? Read on, y’all!

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Tiki Beach: B&B Works describes this as “a scent as warm as sunrays – a luxurious blend of toasted coconut, vanilla musk, and resort glamour.” Interesting description on their part, if I do say so. If by ‘sunrays’ and ‘resort glamour’ they mean ‘pineapple’, then I agree. Ha! :) Anyway, there is no one fragrance component that dominates here. It’s a very balanced and even blend of coconut, vanilla, and resort glamour, or rather… pineapple. That’s what I catch from it anyway! I am not drawn to beachy scents, and while I like the aroma of coconut in small doses, I don’t live for it and tire of it pretty easily. That said, this candle is super delightful though. Because there isn’t a solitary scent that dominates or overwhelms, it all melds together really beautifully and softly. It’s just a perfect mix of coconut, musky vanilla, and  pineapple. Basically, pina colada. A big ol’ yummy and refreshing pina colada. Be warned: it all comes together smelling pretty sweet. I love that because I love all things sweet and sugary, including fragrances, but if you don’t generally like saccharine scents, then you may not care for this one. The fragrance bouquet is soft on the nose, but that doesn’t mean the throw isn’t strong, if that makes sense. Indeed, it’s a strong candle and the scent fills the room. I know I’ve said it too many times before, but I luuuurv a strong candle. This one delivers. The aroma is perfect and delicious for summer. When you burn this candle, you will feel like you’ve been transported to a sunny beach drinking pina coladas in the sand! Who doesn’t want that?? Um, especially after this hellacious winter, am I right?

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Burning: The candle burns evenly, creates a nice pool, and doesn’t leave behind unused wax. I find that B&B Works candles consistently burn well. Occasionally, I’ve run across a scent that gets a nasty burned smell about halfway through, or a sour-like smell, but luckily this one didn’t have that problem. The three wicks create a pretty glow and nice ambiance. I’ve noticed that B&B Works candles do burn very fast though, unfortunately. I wish they lasted longer.

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Packaging: The wax is a very light cream, almost white, shade. When the candle is lit, it turns into a lovely light yellowish-cream color and glows beautifully. The label is a picture of a serene beach with crystal blue waters and a starfish. It’s pretty, but nothing special. Kind of non-descript. Labels are no big deal though, ya know? It has the same silver metal lid as most other B&B Works candles, which I’ve talked about before. I absolutely hate these lids. They get fingerprints everywhere and I cannot stand it. Again, not a big deal. Although, how hard would it be to standardize the lids to be brushed silver?? Oh well! It’s perfectly functional packaging, it just creates a more pampered, spa-like atmosphere if the packaging is also pretty too.

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Bottom line: It’s a great candle! It burns well, has a fabulous scent, and a strong throw. I recommend it, for sure. It’s not a top favorite, but it’s definitely one I would repurchase. I grabbed a few back-ups because I like it so well. B&B Works almost always has sales and I purchased this one during a 2 for $22 + $10 off $30 sale so it was well worth about $8.

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Pineapple Upside Down Coffee Cake Recipe

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The first time I ever tried Pineapple Upside Down Cake, I was well into my 20s. I don’t even know how that’s possible as a dessert fiend and massive sweet-tooth, but it’s true. My cousin’s wife, who is also an excellent baker, brought it to a family get-together, and I had no idea how delicious it would be. I honestly didn’t even know what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared for the amazingly delicious onslaught of caramelized brown sugar, buttery-goodness, and roasted fruit flavor. Once introduced though? It blossomed into a love affair. Which reminds me, there is a candle for this spectacular dessert from one of my very favorite brands in candle-making, Our Own Candle Company. Excellent candles. But I’m getting a bit off-topic here.

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This particular recipe is actually for a Pineapple Upside Down Coffee Cake. There isn’t a huge difference flavor-wise, except that the coffee cake is a touch more dense in texture. It’s totally necessary if you’re a coffee-dunker like S.O. though. He will dunk just about anything in his cup o’ joe. Me? I like to dunk, but I’m more selective about it. What about you, friends? Are you a coffee-dunker? Anyhoo, in addition to being a bit denser than regular cake, it’s also slightly less sweet. Not by much, but since it’s technically meant to be a breakfast food and not 100% dessert, it needs to be a touch less sugary. Make no mistake though, it’s still pretty darn candied-up. Also, I think it tastes best warm. That’s my preferred form of serving. The butter and brown sugar topping is so melty and gooey and sticky when it’s warmed up. But when served cold, it’s prime for coffee-dunking. Either way, it’s flippin’ good. I hope you enjoy!

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Pineapple Upside Down Coffee Cake Recipe: 

1/2 c. butter

1 c. packed brown sugar

1 – 20oz. can pineapple rings in juice

10 maraschino cherries

2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Stir in 1 c. brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue boiling for 1 minute. Pour into prepared pan. Drain pineapple rings, reserving 1/2 c. juice. Fit 10 rings into the bottom of pan in a rows of 3-4-3. Tuck a maraschino cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter, granulated sugar, and 1/2 c. brown sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs; beat until combined. On low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture. Add 1/2 c. reserved pineapple juice and milk, beat until combined. Beat in remaining flour mixture and vanilla.

Spread batter carefully over pineapple slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. If you invert too soon, the pineapple rings may stick to pan. Place a serving tray or baking sheet over coffee cake and carefully invert. Enjoy!

Yield: 12 servings. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week.

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Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion Review

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Way back in December when I was visiting my family for the holidays, my mother gave me a small tube of Clinique’s famous Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion to try. I want to say that’s sort of how everyone discovers this long-standing, tried-and-true, moisturizer. It gets introduced by their mother. Okay, maybe not always. But that’s how I personally think of Clinique as a brand – traditional, generational, reliable. Either way, I’ve been using the Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion regularly for a few months now. Read on for my thoughts…

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Product info: Clinique says, “The world has changed since Clinique first debuted Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, and it’s had an impact on our skin. That’s why Clinique created a dramatically different version. This formula features all the same benefits as the original—plus more. This moisture “drink” developed by Clinique’s dermatologists maintains optimal moisture balance for very dry skin or comfortable to oily skin in the T-zone. With a new complex yet same silky texture and quick penetration, this lightweight formula strengthens skin’s own moisture barrier by 54 percent and locks in essential moisture. It delivers twice the hydration all day, leaving skin silky-soft, springy, and absolutely radiant.”

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This girl’s thoughts: Sometimes I know I really, really like a product a whole lot, but can’t really pinpoint precisely why. That’s how I feel about this moisturizer. I almost kind of love it, but I don’t know exactly what it is about it. Part of its beauty is in its simplicity. It generally doesn’t claim or try to do 8,000 things. Its basic function is to moisturize my skin and give it the hydration it needs, while keeping it balanced. Mostly, just provide straight-up moisture. And that’s about it. It does that job PERFECTLY, and doesn’t produce any unwanted, adverse effects like breakouts, irritation, stinging, burning, or oiliness. Indeed, I find that it’s super-fast absorbing, hydrates my difficult, dry skin, wears seamlessly under makeup, and is very lightweight. It doesn’t sting or burn, and it doesn’t produce breakouts. The consistency is on the thinner side, but it’s still very creamy and silky. It’s also fragrance –free. No perfume or scents are added to it, so it’s very suitable for sensitive skin. That said, it does have a very, very light scent. No perfume was added on top of the ingredients it’s made from, but it has an extremely light, organic scent. My skin is insanely sensitive. It’s prone to irritation, and particularly prone to stinging sensations. I didn’t have any issues whatsoever with this lotion. It does what it says it will do, and it does it without any adverse effects. A win in my book.

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If there are drawbacks to this moisturizer, they are three-fold. First, I wish that Clinique would provide more specifics about it. The only clear thing I really know about this is that it’s meant to moisturize. Simple enough. But then they say, “same benefits as the original – plus more.” What exactly are the claimed benefits of the original? And what’s “more”? It’s been reformulated and has a “new complex.” Of what? Highlight the key ingredients! It’s all a bit ambiguous. Clinique doesn’t give us much to go on here. I start to get the impression that they want this moisturizer to be a multi-tasker, but they don’t tell us HOW. Therefore, I still interpret their aim/goal of this to be just hydration alone. The thing is, ultimately, this reminds me so much of the very classic and timeless Oil of Olay. What reason do I have not to purchase that instead? The price differential is not insignificant. Just a thought. Second, if you do need a moisturizer or face lotion to be a multi-tasker, this probably is not your best bet. It’s not a high-intensity face cream stuffed with special, magical ingredients (or if it is, they don’t explain that very well). If you need something more elaborate, look elsewhere. Third, no SPF. Sun protection is critical, so this may not be the only product you can rely on for your face.

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Bottom line: This moisturizer is gentle, effective, and non-irritating. Is it a miracle product? No. It’s pretty basic and fundamental. But it’s quite perfect in accomplishing what it aims to do. It hydrates my skin, while being gentle and lightweight. I’m not convinced that it’s any better than a staple drugstore moisturizer like Oil of Olay, but I still really, really like it. It’s not cheap, but it’s very reasonably-priced. I purchased mine at Sephora. $26 for 4.2oz. So far, I think it’s worth it.

Have you tried Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion? What did you think?

March Favorites – Beauty

Okay, the year is 1/4 of the way over. What the heck happened? Where has the time gone? I’m pretty sure I referenced 2014 as the “new year” just this week. Note to self: I need to revisit any resolutions and goals I planned to accomplish for this year because I’m almost certain that they aren’t really getting done the way I hoped. Eek. I didn’t have tons and tons of new beauty product loves this month, though I think April will be chock-full. Summer collections are starting to pop up from beauty brands and I couldn’t be more excited. I plan on doing some major hauling. I love all the corals, teals, and bronzes that I’m seeing so far! Anyway, let’s get to it.

So, I am still head over heels for my It Cosmetics CC cream, which I’ve talked about, like, nonstop. I use it during the day, without fail, because I love the included SPF. However, I mostly work from home, and some days I don’t get around to putting on makeup until later in the day. If that’s the case, I’ve been reaching for my Revlon ColorStay Whipped foundation. It’s my favorite drugstore foundation, by far.  The whipped formula makes it so much easier to apply than liquid foundations, it has solid medium-coverage, but is super buildable, and the stuff reeeeallly stays put. It sets to such a long-wearing finish. I haven’t found anything better at the drugstore so far, and I’ve tried a heck of a lot.

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For concealer, I recently talked about the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye. I adore the flawless full-coverage aspect of it and the ultra-creamy consistency, but I can’t figure out how to set it with a powder without it looking cakey! If I don’t set it, it creases. It’s just a quandary that I haven’t worked out yet. Because of that, I’ve been turning to another concealer more this month, Sonia Kashuk’s Take Cover Concealing stick. I love that it’s a stick formula because it’s so easy and non-messy to apply. Also, it’s very creamy, and not at all cakey. The only downside is that the coverage is not really full, more like medium. I quite prefer a concealer to be full-coverage. Still, it does the job. For now, it’s my go-to.

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For the most part, I’ve sort of been glued to the same eye routine as the last month or two. Mostly, I’ve worn a gold shimmery lid with any choice of bright and colorful Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner on my top lash-line… which color depends on my mood and outfit of the day. This month I’ve been especially partial to Abyss, Junkie, Deep End, and Woodstock. These UD liners are holy grail. I cannot live without them. The color range is unbeatable, they are crazy long-lasting, and they are such an easy way to add a pop of color to my look. Much though I love playing with makeup, I also love when things are easy and low-effort! Like that’s not obvious, right? Anyway, I probably have about 20 of these, and still I have my eye on a few more. #addicted.

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If I don’t wear the neutral eye + colorful eyeliner look, then I’ve been exclusively using my Inglot eyeshadow palettes this month. I never stopped loving these, I just set them aside for a bit to give other palettes some attention. One of my *favorite* eyeshadow formulas ever. They are ALL soft and buttery, blendable, durable, and highly-pigmented. Also, fabulous range of colors. Since using them more again, it makes me want to use them every single day of my life, forever and always. I won’t, of course. But I just can’t say enough good things. I own a lot of shades, but last week when I was traveling for work in Miami, I had access to an Inglot boutique and I snatched up a few more. Slowly building out my collection to ridiculous proportions. Don’t care. Love them. I wore a lot of different green shades on my lids this month, in general. You know, St. Patty’s day and all.

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If I’m not using one of my obnoxiously colorful and bright UD eyeliners, I usually reach for a deep matte brown eyeliner. Black eyeliner is just too stark on me, so I almost always opt for brown. Believe it or not, a really good one is hard to find. UD has like 8 shades of brown eyeliner, but for such a basic item, I don’t really want to spend $20. I heard somewhere that Jordana’s 12-Hour Made to Last eyeliners were surprisingly good, so I picked up the shade Espresso Last at Walgreen’s for maybe like $2?? Wow, it is a phenomenal product. And you could buy it with pocket change. It’s a dark, rich color and it seriously stays put. Will repurchase again and again, and I *really* hope Jordana expands the color selection of these.

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Since I’ve been playing with color on my eyes again this month, I like to keep my blush look pretty natural so I don’t look like a drag-queen. For the absolute most perfect flush of rosiness and naturalness, I reach for Tarte’s Exposed. If I had to pick one blush to use for the rest of my life, it would probably be this one. It doesn’t look like much in the pan, but it’s seriously the most perfect rosy-nude shade EVER. It’s the greatest shade for everyday, and I have it in my makeup bag, always. I can’t get over how much I love it.

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Speaking of another rather perfect blush, I am crushing pretty hard on Milani’s Luminoso. It’s a cult classic among beauty gurus, and for good reason. It’s another one that doesn’t look like anything special in the pan, but applies sooooo much better. It’s a gorgeous apricot-peach shade that finishes with a glowy sheen. It’s got fantastic pigmentation and blends like a dream. Even though I’d heard millions of rave reviews, I was still caught off-guard by how much I like it. I’ve been picking this blush over Exposed when I really want to emphasize a more summery look. Like, if I’m using a teal eyeliner, Luminoso accentuates perfectly.

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I will probably mix it up soon, but I’m still really hooked on the Almay Liquid Lip balms that I reviewed not too long ago. I’ve mostly been switching back and forth between Rosy Lipped and Cantaloupe Cream. Funnily enough, these colors are not unlike the blush shades I’ve been swapping all month long. One is rosy, one is peachy.   Which one I grab for depends on the same criteria as my blush selection – so I won’t go into it again here. Some of these lip balms are a bit too sheer, but the more pigmented ones are fabulous. They’re great for a natural, hint-of-color, easy look. Plus, they are so comfy on the lips and taste like cotton candy. I really kinda love them.

almay liquid lip balms

Admittedly, I’m not 100% sold on the Dior Addict Lip Glow, but I’ve still been using it quite a lot lately. I was testing it for a while to put together a review, and it’s just sort of stayed in my handbag. I do like it a whole lot, but I’m not totally convinced it’s worth the steep price tag. I will update as I continue to decide about it. It applies more fuscia/hot pink on my lips, which isn’t exactly the YLBB, rosy flush I was expecting. However, I like a bright pink lip some days, and I love that I don’t need a mirror to apply it.

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Skincare this month hasn’t changed much from previous months, but I did finally purchase a big-ass bottle of Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. I previously only had a small tube of it, and now I’ve upgraded. Full review is forthcoming, but I reeeeeeally like it. It’s nothing fancy – just a simple daily moisturizer, but it does its intended job very well and doesn’t product unwanted effects like breakouts, etc. It reminds me of the classic, basic Oil of Olay, but a higher-end version.

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I change my haircare products on a daily basis, basically. I love to switch things up, but I do have some staples that I always have on hand and always come back to. Among them is Dove’s Daily Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner. It just smells so ridiculously fresh and wonderful, and it never fails to leave my hair feeling nourished, soft, and clean. I’ve used this duo since Dove came out with them about a decade ago, and I never tire of them.

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I love hair masks. Confessed hair mask addict here. When I would use one this month, it was the Kiehl’s Olive Fruit hair mask. I do think it leaves my hair in a better state, and the scent of it is heavenly. Slightly flowery and musky, but mostly a light and clean fragrance. It pairs beautifully with the Dove haircare. The tub is getting a bit low, and I’ll probably repurchase it.

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Like most people, I like to change up scents as the seasons shift. Here in Florida this time of year, some days are still rather chilly, while others are hot like summer. Cooler, overcast days I like the sweet, but musky Caress Passionate Spell body wash. It’s a perpetual favorite. On warmer, sunny days, I like the crisp and refreshing Caress Juicy Escape. It smells like grapefruit and spring flowers. I love Caress body washes. They’re really rich and lather up so nicely.

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I can’t remember where I spotted this new ecoTools Eye Enhancing Duo brush set, but I am so glad I snapped it up. It was only about $5 and I’ve been using these brushes exclusively for weeks. They are all I need to do my eye makeup from start to finish. They’re dual-ended and include brush heads for shading, blending, defining, and smudging. Perfection. A very thorough set, and quite travel-friendly. I adore ecoTools brushes anyway because they’re amazing quality and so affordable.

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Well, I think that’s all for this month, friends! What have you been loving all month long, dear readers? Do share! You know I love to further my beauty product obsession whenever I can!!

Easy Peanut Butter Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe

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As I mentioned recently in this recipe, peanut butter is my desert island food. If forced to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life, I would pick peanut butter without hesitation. I never, ever tire of it. My beloved Grandma, often mentioned on the blog, has a peanut butter cookie recipe that we’ve used for years. It’s a great recipe – reliable and peanut buttery. However, much though we love that rendition of a PB cookie, I have a back-up recipe that is super simple, fast, and easy. It only has a handful of ingredients so it’s altogether simpler. It’s been very handy in situations where I don’t want to show up to a party empty-handed, but I don’t have time for anything more complicated. For example, we were attending a party this past weekend and I knew there would be cake and ice cream, and I knew what kind of cake. I didn’t want to bring anything duplicative and it surprisingly limited my options. I was also short on time. I couldn’t wait for things to cool from the oven or to set in the refrigerator. These PB cookies came to the rescue. Quick, easy, and provided variety.

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It’s a funny thing how this recipe landed in my hands. Back in high school, I dated a guy who adored all things peanut butter. I mean, who doesn’t? Most people are as bonkers for peanut butter as me and my former flame. However, he really loved peanut butter exceptionally. I’d watch him down package after package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups without batting an eye. For him, it was a totally normal, everyday snack after school. Given my fondness of baking, naturally, I would make him my Grandma’s peanut butter cookies, Peanut Butter Pie, and other PB-based desserts. I remember a day in high school when he told me that a classmate of ours brought peanut butter cookies to school for a home ec project, and he said they were the most peanut buttery peanut butter cookies (say that 10x fast) he’d ever had, and that I had to get the recipe from her. I was intrigued, so I did. I was astonished at the ingredients. She hand-wrote it from memory on a piece of notebook paper and I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be right. No flour? No baking powder? Whaaaat? Preposterous. Well, he was right. The recipe was great! These are delicious. I still keep in touch with both my high school sweetheart and former classmate. I really ought to thank them again for this little gem of a recipe!

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These truly are the most peanut buttery cookies ever. I’ve made these a number of ways… with creamy peanut butter, chunky, added in chocolate chips, you name it. It’s quite versatile. It all just depends on your mood! One of my favorite variations though is to toss in some Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. It probably seems redundant, but it’s totally not. There’s something about the burst of creamy peanut butteriness from the chips that really adds to these. A pop of texture and added peanut butter flavor? Can’t go wrong.

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Easy Peanut Butter Chip Peanut Butter Cookies: 

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

1/2 c. Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips

Mix altogether. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Using a fork, make a criss-cross pattern with the tines to flatten the dough ball slightly. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

I *always* double the recipe. Trust me, you will want more. Enjoy!

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Mid-Week Musings

1. I bought these earrings on sale this week from Macy’s. Not necessary to explain my infatuation with them, right? Aren’t they so pretty? Love them. Um, I was not aware until searching for the link online that there was a matching necklace though!! Oomph. Must have it. So gold and sparkly and shiny.

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2. Another lust-worthy piece of jewelry that I saw this past week on Hello, Gorgeous! blog is this ridiculously adorable gold tassel bracelet. I want one of every color tassel. They’re so cute and would look great with several stacked together. Bonus, they’re totally affordable. Btw, Yasi is AMAZING. She has the absolute most impeccable fashion sense and I desperately want to be her. If you are remotely interested in fashion, you *must* follow her. Fabulous and inspirational outfits abound.

2. I like some Beyonce from time to time, especially on my workout playlist, but I’m sorry to say I haven’t cared much for her latest album. It feels like she went a little… Idk… gangsta? Anybody else feeling that? A tad too much influence by her hubby, perhaps? I’m all for artistic growth, but not sure about the direction she took. However, I do find the song, Partition to be pretty darn catchy. I knew the lyrics were kind of naughty, but holy crap, I started really listening, and WHOA, is it dirty! I’m not a prude, but it’s pretty risque. Maybe I need to call a spade a spade and just accept that I’m getting old!!

3. I mentioned last week that I got to an Inglot boutique recently when I was traveling in Miami. Apparently I can’t say it enough times, probably much to your dismay, but I am enamored with Inglot eyeshadows. They’re just incredible. If you have the opportunity to visit a store sometime, I can’t recommend it enough. I have absolutely NOTHING bad to say about the eyeshadows. I’ve only used these new additions a few times so far, but I already heart them so much.

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4. I am a crazy cat lady. There, I said it. I’m ready to accept it now. For years, I claimed I was really more of a dog person, and that I just happened to own a cat. But, I think I’ve turned a corner and now truly prefer felines. I adore my cat beyond measure. I spoil her, dote on her, and generally fawn over her. But see, she’s 15 now, so I feel she deserves extra attention in her old age. In any event, I can totally relate to many of these 30 hilarious struggles only cat owners will understand…. especially #s 6, 12, 17, and 20. And this video capturing day in the life of a cat owner? So true. As someone who works from home a lot, and therefore spends much of the day around my feline companion, I can attest that this is very accurate!

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Resting her paws on my arm during a pleasant nap!

5. Right out of law school, I moved to San Francisco for my first ‘real’ job. It’s there that I got addicted to Trader Joe’s. They are everywhere out west. Unfortunately, they are few and far between down here in Florida. My friends even send me TJ’s care packages. If I was passing by one in my work travels, I’d pop in to stock up, but I didn’t have regular access to one. Until now!!! Tampa’s first Trader Joe’s finally opened! I am so. so. excited. I haven’t gone yet because even two weeks later they still have police navigating traffic, but I can hardly stand the wait. It’s probably better for now since most of my favorite snacks and stuff from TJ’s are actually desserts and junk food.

6. Speaking of snacks, I’ve been stashing a lot of Quest bars with me on my travels and in my gym bag. They are my new favorite protein bar. First of all, they actually contain a substantial amount of protein. Many bars claim to be protein bars, but contain way too many carbs and/or sugar than I prefer. Second, these are, in fact, low sugar. Third, their protein isn’t soy-based. I avoid soy for a number of reasons and you’d be surprised how often soy is the main protein source in a product that claims high protein content. Finally, they genuinely taste great. Faves so far: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Apple Pie, PB&J, Coconut Cashew, and Strawberry Cheesecake.

7. This past weekend, Apollo 13 was playing on one of the movie channels, as it often does. I wouldn’t call Apollo 13 a favorite movie of mine necessarily. I mean, I really really like it, but I don’t consider it a favorite. Yet, I can’t not watch it when it’s on. I get entranced by it. I have even watched it back-to-back on more than one occasion. Like, watched it. Then watched it again. I know, I’m a weirdo. But there aren’t very many movies I can say that about. Also, despite viewing it dozens of times, I still tense up during critical moments.

8. Okay, we *have* to discuss tv stuff because Sunday was The Walking Dead finale. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read on. I personally found it satisfying, in part because it was UN-satisfying. They didn’t tie everything up, and they shouldn’t. The show can’t be all neat little bows or it’s unrealistic. We still don’t know anything about Carol, Tyreese, Judith, and Beth. They’re unaccounted for. I like that cliff-hanger because I really don’t think we should know everything about everyone right now. I mean, it’s a zombie apocalypse show… it can only be so happy. Also, Terminus is basically just as everyone predicted. Yet, it was still mind-blowing and shocking to actually witness just exactly how creepy and F-ed up it is. Catch the pile of human bones in the background? *Shudders.* So gross. They keep taking us to darker and darker places. More humans having to take out humans, not just zombies. Our own beloved characters continue to transform into monsters to preserve their own lives. Interesting and deep stuff. How will they get out of this train car of captivity? Will they ever have peace and security? It’s unsettling to watch them constantly struggle for any semblance of safety. However, if they had stability and security, we wouldn’t have a show… so there you go. I felt like this was a great season overall.  I can’t wait for Season 5!

9. Bloomingdale’s is having a Friends & Family sale this week with 20% off almost everything (coupon code Ebates20 or ShopItToMe20). I have been eyeing up Tory Burch handbags, particularly this one (ummmm, it’s metallic gold!!) and this one (it’s just plain pretty). Sure, I need another handbag like I need a hole in the head. Let alone one that costs an arm and a leg! I am thisclose to splurging. Must resist.

Well, I think that’s all the ramblings I’ve got for you this week! It’s already more than you care to know, I’m sure. :) Share what’s on your mind, friends! And have a wonderful rest of the week, dear readers!

Too Faced A La Mode Palette Review

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I mostly work from home, but if I don’t, then I’m traveling. Sometimes I fly, sometimes I drive. Over the last week or so, I had a *ton* of driving. I am so drained I can hardly function. Not getting nearly enough done today, and definitely feeling brain-dead! It’s like I have a “driving hangover,” or so that’s what it feels like! Hopefully I can still put together a half-coherent review for you of this new Too Faced A La Mode palette! At least I did some fun shopping and haulin’ during my travels. That’s the gold lining to work travel… sometimes in between appointments I have the chance to pop in and out of stores. I managed to swing into an Ulta to purchase this stunning little eyeshadow palette. I’ve been putting it to the test for a few days. Read on for my thoughts…

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Packaging: The eyeshadows are housed in a small tin, approximately 3.5×5 inches in size. It feels mostly sturdy and well-constructed, and I love that it’s compact and portable, but the magnetic closure doesn’t feel entirely strong enough. The lid unhinges a bit too easily. For purposes of traveling with this palette, the magnetic closure concerns me. However, it otherwise feels durable and well-made. It features bright, fun, summery colors like pink, white, teal and orange – reminiscent of the eyeshadows in the palette itself. It also contains a substantial-sized mirror on the inside of the top lid. As with most Too Faced palettes, this one includes a booklet with how to create three different looks with this palette. I love that they include a guide with several ideas for looks to try, but certainly don’t feel married to using the palette that way, of course. Overall, I think the packaging is adorable and functional.

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Product info: The palette contains nine different eyeshadows, broken into Day, Classic, and Fashion looks.  Three are larger highlight shades that are each .07oz., and six are smaller colors that are each .03oz. Too Faced states that this palette is intended to “Capture a summer sunset in St. Tropez with this set of shimmering, matte, and pearl shades for bright, fresh eyes a la mode.”

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St. Tropez: is a light, warm-toned beige with gold micro-glitter, but a matte finish.

Cannes: is a medium orange-copper with gold undertones, copper micro-glitter, and a shimmery finish.

Soleil: is a medium reddish-brown with a shimmery finish.

Riviera: is a light, warm-toned, peachy-beige with a shimmery finish.

Jardin: is a golden peachy-coral hue, with a slight iridescence, and a shimmery finish.

Cote d’ Azur: is a warm-toned, true medium-brown with shimmery finish.

La Croisette: is a very, very light, almost white, warm-toned beige with a shimmery finish.

Monaco: is a hot pink-fuscia with cool, blue undertones and a satin, almost matte, finish.

De La Mer: is a dark navy blue, almost black, with a touch of blue shimmer, and a satin finish.

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In general, I adore the colors. There’s a lot of neutral here, but without being run-of-the-mill and boring. The ones that are not neutral-based are very wearable. It’s bright and summery, but a little edgy too. With the exception of De La Mer, I found these to be very soft and buttery, highly-pigmented, blendable, and long-lasting. The quality is really great. De La Mer was my least favorite shade and was problematic because it ran a touch dry and chalky. It also applied patchy and just ended up looking dark, in my opinion. I would’ve preferred it to be a brighter and richer blue, or to swap this shade out entirely for teal or something similar. It didn’t work for me, but I still like the palette on the whole because most everything else did.

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Now, for the drawbacks. Pretty minor stuff here. First, this palette features a crapton of shimmer. To me, that’s actually a positive quality, but it might be a flaw for some. It says on the back of the packaging that it includes matte, but it’s just the one highlight shade, St. Tropez. And technically, it’s matte, but it has gold glitter in it. As I said, I don’t personally have a problem with this because I am a walking shimmer and glitter bomb pretty much all the time, everyday. However, if you prefer more matte finishes, this palette might not suit you. Second, it’s great to have larger highlight shades than actual colorful shades – you definitely need more product in the form of highlight shades, but they’re almost too big. There’s three highlight shades as it is, and they’re all quite large. That’s just overkill, in my opinion. One or two slightly larger highlight shades is plenty, and then I’d prefer the actual colors to be a little bit bigger, and/or more of them. Most of their palettes are laid out this way, but I’d love to see them scrap this concept and redesign the format. Lastly, De La Mer was kind of a dud for me. It was a little dry and chalky, and it applied a bit patchy. I would’ve preferred a whole other color anyway. Something more summery like teal, rather than dark navy blue. Sounds like a lot of negatives, but most of it is not major!

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Bottom line: It’s not perfect, but it’s still quite a gem! I’m super pleased with it. The packaging is pretty solid overall. Most of the colors are completely stunning and gorgeous – perfect hues for summer. With the exception of De La Mer (slightly dry and stiff), they’re very soft, silky, and buttery, and they apply and blend very evenly, with minimal fallout. I also found them to be quite long-lasting. My experience with Too Faced eyeshadow palettes is that the quality can be inconsistent, but this one is pretty fantastic. I’m impressed, and it gets my stamp of approval. I purchased this palette at Ulta for $36.

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Limited Edition Dior Addict Lip Glow in Coral Review

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After only recently getting my hands on the original Dior Addict Lip Glow, I just learned that Dior released a Limited Edition Lip Glow in Coral in their spring collection. I’m going to keep this review short and sweet for several reasons. First of all, since I just reviewed the permanent Dior Addict Lip Glow a few days ago, the ins and outs of what this product is, the packaging, etc., is probably fresh on your mind. I don’t want to rehash or belabor it. Second, the Limited Edition Lip Glow in Coral may be sold out. Evidently, it was exclusive to Sephora, not even available at Dior counters. I received mixed information from several different stores, so if it’s sold out, it’s not worth a long and wordy review, as I’m prone to doing. If it’s still available or will restock, and it’s an item that piques your interest, I want you to know about it. I couldn’t find it online, but I did find a few Sephora locations that had these in-store. If you’re interested in finding this item, call ahead to see if they have any in-stock, and they’re usually happy to place a hold for customers.

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Product info: The formula of this limited edition version feels identical to the permanent version. It’s a really lovely lip balm formula. It’s thicker and sturdier than a lot of melty and buttery lip balms, but it’s really nice in its own right. It feels very emollient and hydrating, and it’s altogether comfortable to wear. It has a light herbal vanilla flavor that isn’t too strong or offensive, and that I like well enough. The problem lies in the actual shade of this balm. It does provide a nice flush of color to my lips, but it doesn’t show up very Coral on me at all. The name implies that it should, no? It honestly looks almost indistinguishable from the original Lip Glow, which is very, very pink. As with the original, it leaves behind a light stain after the balm itself wears away. If I reapply several times throughout the day, the stain gets brighter after each use, and after 2-3 applications, begins to look a bit unnatural. While the lip stain component is a slight issue, the bigger problem for me is that this applies nearly identically to the original Lip Glow. I see a nominal color difference, at best. The flush it provides hovers largely on the side of pink, and there is virtually no Coral hint to it at all. Therefore, I probably do not need to own this rendition of the Lip Glow.

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Packaging: It’s exactly the same as the original so I won’t repeat my analysis of this, but you can read about it here. Suffice to say, it’s both beautiful and functional, and I feel super chic whipping this out of my bag.

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Bottom line: The formula of the balm is great. It wears comfortably and feels nice and hydrating. However, this product has a fatal flaw. While I like the flush of color it provides, I find it to be nearly identical to the color supplied by the original Lip Glow. The two are practically interchangeable. They look different in swatches, but when worn, they are basically indistinguishable. Also, as with the original, the stain left behind starts to look a little bright and unnatural after several applications. The original Lip Glow is barely worth the steep price tag, and the Coral variation is even less worthwhile. It’s certainly not different enough to warrant owning both. At $32 (over $34 with tax), it is my opinion that this iteration of the Lip Glow is not worth it.

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Dior Addict Lip Glow Review

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I’ve heard mention of the Dior Addict Lip Glow for a long time on various beauty blogs, but I never got around to trying it out for myself. I didn’t even know very much about this lip product, only that almost everyone raved about it. I like budget and mid-range cosmetic brands but I somewhat avoid going for really high-end brands… I feel like once I cross over to that, it’s dangerous territory. I can’t afford having high-end, department store, super-luxe taste in beauty products!! That kind of habit and taste would be hard to keep up with… not to mention, once I start going luxury, it would be hard to go back, right? So in general, I stay away. In light of that, I have NO IDEA why I got it in my head one day at the mall recently that I *needed* the Dior Addict Lip Glow. For some reason, it was in my head, and I was a woman possessed. I wasn’t leaving the mall without it. I made my way to the Dior counter and asked about the Addict Lip Glow.

The Lip Glow is one of those mysterious lip products that looks like a translucent balm, but applies with color, activated by your skin’s chemistry. I had no prior knowledge of this though. I wasn’t even sure what Lip Glow was, I just knew I’d heard amazing reviews for it and had to have it. Coincidentally, I was just talking about and reviewing similar product offerings in the market. In my review, I mentioned that I wished there was a good “in-between” option because my experience with these so far was that they either provide too much of a color flush, or hardly any at all. Is the Dior Addict Lip Glow that perfect in-between? Read on.

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Product infoDior describes this as, “a made-to-measure lip balm that beautifies and durably enhances the lips’ natural color. A customized color result : thanks to its Color Reviver technology, Dior Addict Lip Glow reacts directly with the unique chemistry of each woman’s lips before releasing its color ingredient. Lips seem revived from within, amazingly fresh, full and radiant. In addition, its formula enriched with wild mango and luffa cylindrica continuously protects and moisturizes. A universal balm for all lips.”

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First things first, this is a great balm formula. It’s not too soft and melty like some more buttery lip balms. Rather, it’s a bit thicker and sturdier. I quite like the consistency because it’s not overly slippery, which means that it has better longevity, in my experience. The salesperson told me that this was long-wearing like a lipstick. I don’t find that to be the case, but the thicker consistency does lend itself to staying put for a bit longer than a typical lip balm. It feels very emollient and hydrating, and it’s just altogether very comfortable. It has a light flavor essence to it that I would describe as a slightly herbal vanilla. I typically can’t stand an herbal essence, but I don’t mind this and don’t find it overwhelming or offensive. As for vanilla flavoring, I can always get on board with that. It does provide a lovely flush of color to my lips that is the closest I have found to being the amount of pigment that I want. I’ve tested Jane Iredale’s Forever Pink and it was way too fuscia and looked very unnatural, and I found the It Cosmetics Je Na Sais Quoi to be lacking in color almost entirely, such that it felt like simply a clear lip balm. I wanted to find something that balanced the two, and the Dior Addict Lip Glow is the closest match. That said, I would still prefer slightly more pigmentation. Just a touch more color would be ideal because this still isn’t quite enough. It provides a universally flattering pink and berry-hued flush. It’s very natural, but it could be a stronger wash of color overall. The Lip Glow leaves behind a light stain after the balm itself wears away. If I reapply several times throughout the course of the day, the stain gets brighter after each use, and after 2-3 uses, it starts to look a bit too bright and unnatural. I wanted this to be a perfect, ‘does-it-all’ lip product, but the staining is a detraction for me. It means I still need to carry around a plain lip balm too because if I rely exclusively on the Lip Glow, I’ll end up with a bit too much stain after even two applications. I expected perfection. It’s not perfect, but it’s still pretty great.

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Packaging: I won’t deny it – the packaging is stunning. It’s simply gorgeous! I don’t get hung up on packaging or snookered into buying something based on it. However, I do require it to be functional, at the least. This is both beautiful and functional. It looks luxurious with it’s translucent pink case, shiny silver details, and large “Dior” stamp on the side. It even feels well-made. The materials feel sturdy and high-quality. It’s just pretty and lovely and I can’t help but feel a little bit like a princess when I pull it out of my handbag. While packaging doesn’t carry all that much weight with me, there’s something to be said for a product being so nicely ensconced that you feel truly pampered and special when you use it! Sad to say, but this lip balm does that for me.

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Bottom line: Putting aside that the packaging is ridiculously lovely, and the fact that this is a Dior product, and c’mon.. it’s Dior, I can honestly say that I’m still deciding whether this Lip Glow is worth it. I’ve used it daily for about two weeks, and I’ve established that the formula of the balm is great. It wears comfortably and feels quite moisturizing. I also like the flush of color it provides. I’m not sure it’s perfect though. I still wish for a touch more color, and the stain left behind starts to look a little bright and unnatural after several applications. I think it’s a fantastic product, but with tax, this purchase was over $34. I would adore it beyond measure at a slightly lower price point, but at $34, I’m still making up my mind. So, there you go!

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Have you tried the Dior Addict Lip Glow? What were your thoughts? Do share!

Birthday Cake Cookie Bars with Ice Cream Sundae Toppings Recipe

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I have a new favorite dessert. Suuuuurprise! Yeah, no surprise at all, huh? Not only did I talk about birthday cake themed desserts recently here, but I also talked about it in my very first ever blog post. I wish I could tell you that my obsession with Birthday Cake Oreos (the Golden ones) has subsided by now, but I’d be lying. I cannot even tell you how many packages of these I’ve eaten my way through, and I buy them now in threes. Scary. For a little while, I thought they were limited edition and I really stocked up out of panic that I might never have another one again. I don’t know if they are or not, but they don’t seem to be disappearing from grocery store shelves yet. If I hear the dreaded word “discontinued” though, I’ll be bulk purchasing like a madwoman.

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Since my addiction doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon, and these special Oreos are readily available at the supermarket, I decided it was due time to incorporate them into a new, fun recipe. Past due, in fact. I should’ve done this a loooong time ago. I have only had a handful of brilliant ideas in the course of my lifetime, and this counts among them, for sure. So, I give to you: Birthday Cake (Oreo) Cookie Bars. Complete with strawberry jam, white chocolate chips, and salted cashews – to form a super-amazing-ridiculously-awesome bar cookie that will knock your socks off. To me, these are the ultimate in combining a birthday cake and my favorite ice cream sundae. Allow me to explain. If I ever go to Dairy Queen, which is rare, unfortunately, I always order a vanilla ice cream sundae with strawberry sauce and cashews. Sounds boring, right? Not enough frills? On the contrary, it’s FABULOUS. Sweet and salty is such a wonderful, but oft-forgotten combo. Strawberries + cashews are a highly underrated dynamic duo… trust me.

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So, I decided to mash all these things together. Thus, these bars are the ultimate in birthday-themed desserts. The cake and ice cream in one. I decided to make a crust out of my favorite vanilla birthday cake cookies and layer my favorite ice cream toppings over it. I served these to my S.O. on his milestone birthday a few days ago and he was a happy camper.

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Birthday Cake Cookie Bars with Ice Cream Sundae Toppings:

1 – 15oz. package Golden Birthday Cake Oreos, coarsely crushed (about 3 cups), divided

1 – 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

2/3 c. strawberry jam

2/3 c. salted cashew halves & pieces

1 c. miniature marshmallows

2/3 c. white chocolate chips

Sprinkle 2 1/2 cups of the cookie crumbs onto the bottom of a well-greased 9-inch square pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and spread strawberry jam gently and evenly over the crust while still hot. Then, sprinkle with cashews, marshmallows, white chocolate chips, and remaining crumbs. Continue baking 4-6 minutes or until marshmallows just begin to brown. Cool completely before serving. Cut into bars. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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