Friday, 28 December 2012

My Favorites of Apartment Therapy 2012

When I first got interested in interior design, Apartment Therapy was my go-to source for decor porn. Now that I'm more well-versed in the subject, I find myself visiting the site less and less. However, recently they've been posting their 'best of' each month for 2012, and I found myself being surprisingly inspired. Here are a few of the house tours that I loved best:

I love how the deep moodiness of their den (top) and nursery...

....are nicely counterbalanced by this lovely, light, bright living area. I also am taking notes on this living room because I'd like my house to feel calming and mostly neutral but with shots of color and textural elements.

Love me some tiny homes! I like the idea of two small coffee tables rather than one large one. And the color palette is perfect for relaxation!

What a great use of Ikea's wire to organize a magazine stash!

I would move in here if I could. Love the dark but bright colors, the ethnic vibe, and all the great art!

Grey and white paint nicely tempers brighter yellow and neon green. Looks put-together, simplistic, but still stylish.

Way to work those colors!

This home is best viewed as a whole, rather than a single shot. The whole place is lovely, with a unified color palette that weaves through the entire home and a tidy but bohemian air to it.

Great graphic wall statement and minimalist kitchen.

You know I love a dark, moody dining area, and also that the shelves can feature constantly-rotating works.

I'm currently plotting where I could create a similar look in my home. The horizontal furniture piece pairs so well with the layered frames and simplistic shelving!

Sarah and Matt's Expertly Styled Home
Warning: This is quite possibly my favorite tour of the year. So much goodness!

Great woven basket to store blankets, scarves, etc in the entry, plus the Ikea console table looks surprisingly chic in this setting!

Another great example of a mostly-neutral but textural living room.

What a genius little built-in work station, and I want that lucite stool!

Easy way to add a breakfast bar--just a wood plank and some brackets!

So what are your favorite Apartment Therapy tours of the year??

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Favorite posts on my blog for 2012!

As 2012 winds to a close, I like to reflect on the past year, including posts I've made on this little blog. Here's a 'best of' guide to 2012 for I'm Glad I Exist!

Most Popular Blog Posts:

My Favorite Fashion Posts:

My Favorite Beauty Posts:

My Favorite Interior Design Posts:

Any of your own favorites from my blog that I missed?

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Merry me!

Maybe I'm just snoopy, but I always like hearing about what people put on their gift lists and what they end up getting as gifts for the holidays. So, with the thought that others may be just as snoopy as I am, here's what my family blessed me with over Christmas!

Merry Christmas to Me!

1. Gap Harbor dress: I have a similar dress from Old Navy that I wear to death, but it's shrunk too much to wear to work now! For reference, I'm usually a small or medium at Gap, and this dress was too big in the waist in medium. Still love it though--can't wait to get it in small! The waist detail is really flattering.

2. Minnesota Typography Map: Home state pride! The typography represents all of the counties in Minnesota. Perfect for my bedroom when I'm feeling homesick!

3. Amy Sia for Society 6 iPhone case: This was a surprise gift, not on my list, but I have the full-size print poster of this artwork and love it so my mom gave me the portable version! :)

4. Giro ski helmet: After living in Utah for 3 winters, I've finally forked over the dough for a season pass to one of the local ski resorts. Can't go skiing without a helmet, and this one looks great with the new ski jacket my boyfriend gifted me (see below)!

5. Black Diamond headlamp: Another surprise gift, this headlamp is going to be so handy for so many activities I love, like hiking, canyoneering, playing with my dog at night, camping, etc. Can't wait to bust this out!

6. Kris Nations State Pride necklace (in Minnesota, of course): love this simple, chic necklace to represent my roots! :)

7. No More Dirty Looks: After reading the NMDL blog for a while, I decided to put the book that started it all on my list. I started reading on the plane and can't wait to finish it!

8. Anthro Chemist vase: Love this tongue-in-cheek reference to my nerdy science background, and that it will bring a little class to my boy-dominated abode :)

Last but not least, my boyfriend got me this super-bright, super-warm Marmot jacket that serves well on its own or as a liner to a ski jacket. I wore it during my visit home to zero-degree Minnesota and kept toasty the whole time! Loooove it!

In looking at my Christmas haul, I am struck by how well my loved ones know me. The gifts I was given represent many sides of me, from the creative to the scientific to the outdoorsy parts of me. I'm so blessed with the family, friends, and significant other that I have, as well as the many blessings of my job, home, health, etc. Happy holidays to you all--hope your break was as filled with love as mine! :)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Just thoughts

Today I can't write about beauty products, or shoes, or rugs, or any of the other things that, while perhaps materialistic, make me happy to discuss on a normal day. Today I don't know how to write. I, like so many fortunate people, did not personally know anyone connected to the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday, but I'm still trying to process what happened. It is impossible to comprehend how a member of humanity could do such a thing, and my heart and prayers go out to those who were not as fortunate as I, those who have lost loved ones, lost their innocence, lost the trust that they can send their kids to elementary school and have them come home safely.

I have read many commentaries on the tragedy over the weekend, ranging from statistics about the culture of violence in the US to cries for better support of mental health resources or stricter gun control laws. I know that we have to do something to prevent further tragedies from happening, and that those discussions need to take place now, but part of me just feels the need to curl into a ball, hug my loved ones close, and grieve for those beautiful people who were lost on Friday. To take the time to mourn for these strangers that have been ripped from the world. To really experience the pain of this tragedy, to really acknowledge the loss, rather than jumping immediately to action and focusing on those efforts rather than on the tragic loss of so many lives.

I'm sad today.

EDIT: Sometimes in tragedy we need to remember that there is good in humanity too. Click here for examples that made me cry in a good way.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Skin Apotheke Ubtan Facial Scrub review!

As I've discussed here, as well as here, here, and here, I made out like a bandit over Black Friday, effectively shopping my way through my Christmas list and picking up goodies for myself as well (my bank thanks me and my credit card is doing yoga to get through the pain of intense exercise). And while I'm getting sick of writing about skincare for the moment (I tend to go in spurts where I focus heavily on interior design, or fashion, or beauty), I can't stop writing until I make known to the world one of my very favorite skincare purchases, not just of the Black Friday bonanza, but maybe of all time. Yeah. Shit's like whoah.

I am so pleased to introduce you to the Skin Apotheke Ubtan Facial Scrub.
The writer of Epic Beauty Guide raved over this product, and I'm running out of my Acure Brightening Scrub, so I thought I'd see what the fuss was about.

I typically don't get too excited about facial scrubs, because they all tend to work pretty similarly for me: my skin feels baby soft afterward for like a minute, then gets really dry and I have to slather on the moisturizer in order to get that soft feeling back. So I was skeptical about all the great reviews on this product. Me of little faith. I love this so much that it's taken up permanent residence in my bathroom and I may have a panic attack when it starts running out.

The ubtan scrub comes as a powder, which you can mix with a variety of substances to make your own specialized mask. I first mixed it with a little water until it made a paste, then rub-a-dub-dubbed all over my face. After washing it off, my skin felt baby-smooth and not dry at all!

Since the scrub looks like a pretty smooth powder in the container, I was surprised by the good amount of exfoliation it gives without being too harsh. I can best describe the 'after' feeling as Polished--any rough skin sloughed away, leaving behind smooth, silky-feeling skin. I can't wait to try this with other liquids, like coconut milk or Greek yogurt! Lately I've been mixing the powder and applying it while my shower warms up, then leaving it on while I shampoo my hair, like a mask. Then when it's time to wash my hair, I wash the mask/scrub off at the same time. Feels luxurious!

Final Verdict: Run don't walk! This facial scrub is something special in a sea of very similar scrubs. Check out Ria's blog post on the history and best use of the scrub as well!

EDIT: Since writing this post, I have used the scrub as a mask with heavy cream (recommended for really dry skin), which works wonderfully too! Have fun figuring out which liquid base works best for your skin!

Ria of Skin Apotheke was very kind to also include a sample of the Organic Exfoliate Radiance Face Mask with my order.

Ingredients: organic aloe juice, organic white grape juice, raw cane sugar juice, hydroxyethyl cellulose, vegetable glycerin, papaya extract, green papaya extract, pineapple extract, phenoxyethanol, tetrasodium edta, citric acid

The mask, which is a lovely clear gel, feels cool and a bit tingly on contact and never gets too sticky, hard, or crusty, which I like. I let it sit on my skin for about 10 minutes as recommended, and it washed off easily after. Given how much I adore the ubtan scrub, I thought I'd find the same miraculous results with this product too. Unfortunately, I can't say that I have really noticed any change in my skin before/after the mask. It could be a product that takes a number of uses before really seeing results, so I'm planning on using up my generous sample and will update this post if I find anything contrary to what I've written!

Oh! And I did as Ria recommended in her product description and used this mask as the liquid for making the scrub into a paste. The benefit of this is that it seemed to 'stick' the scrub to my face a little better than water alone, but it wasn't enough of an advantage that I'd buy the full size product.

Final verdict: If you're gonna go all crazy on Skin Apotheke products, this mixes nicely with the Ubtan scrub, but water works sufficiently well that I don't see this as a necessary purchase. And since I like the shop so much, I wouldn't advise against purchasing this, I just think that I've used other, more immediate-impact masks that I'd buy over this. 

All in all I was very happy with my experience with Skin Apotheke products. I'll be a forever customer for the Ubtan scrub, and I plan to explore some more of her products (I've got my eye on the serums as well as the eye cream). Get your Skin Apotheke Ubtan Facial Scrub here!

Photos and ingredients list courtesy of Skin Apotheke

Monday, 10 December 2012

Etsy store highlight: Amanda's Naturals

Over Black Friday I bought a soap and shower steamer/fizzy for my best friend Kelsey from the cute Etsy shop Amanda's Naturals. While I (obviously) didn't get to sample those products, Amanda the shop owner was so sweet as to message me asking if I'd like samples, too. Of course I said yes! Shortly thereafter I received a cute package containing samples of her Jasmine Body Butter, Coconut Lime Body Butter, Activated Charcoal soap, and Calm soap.

First up for review, the body butters:

My samples came in a smaller foil pack than the photos shown (those are the full-size product). I tried the jasmine body butter first and was pleased that there was enough of a sample for my whole body. The butter spread easily and absorbed quickly into my skin without leaving me feeling greasy. To be honest, it didn't really make my skin feel any different at all--it reminded me a lot of Acure Organics' body lotions, in that it seemed to help stave off dryness but not really add any moisture. This would probably be a great body butter for the summer, when you don't want to feel greasy and don't need tonnnns of moisture like I do in the winter. The jasmine scent was not overpowering and quickly faded. The other body butter, the coconut lime, had a much stronger scent initially, but that faded quickly too, in a good way.

Ingredients list: sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, olive oil, palm butter, essential oil blend or premium pure fragrance oil 

I was also given a generous sliver of the Calm soap. I love the scent of chamomile, so naturally I liked this soap. It left me feeling clean and, indeed, calm, and didn't strip my skin like so many soaps tend to. I liked this little soap well enough to use up, although I can't say it was something I feel the need to purchase as a full-size soap.

Ingredients: chamomile, oatmeal, lavender/chamomile essential oil blend, coconut oil, glycerin

However, the activated charcoal/Manuka honey soap was a different story. I'm not really a soap person by any means--I can't remember the last time I bought a bar of soap, as I tend to prefer liquid versions or body washes. However, this soap made me a believer. It is a funny dark grey color, which is a bit strange to wrap your head around when your goal is to get clean. However, upon use the color is not noticeable and washes away without a trace. The soap, although listed as unscented, has a pleasant sweet smell that doesn't linger, likely due to the honey. This soap made my skin literally squeaky clean, which I usually associate with a dry, tight feeling after I dry off from my shower. However, that's not the case for this soap--my skin felt great, not dry! Made my face so smooth and I found I had to use less moisturizer to accomplish the same job. I love this soap!

Ingredients: Activated charcoal, manuka honey, coconut oil, glycerin

All in all, I enjoyed my experience playing with Amanda's Naturals' products. Of the four products I sampled, I plan to buy the activated charcoal soap once I run out. My only real critique would be that I prefer for Etsy shops to have a separate section of their product description where the ingredients are clearly laid out (i.e., "Ingredients: activated charcoal, manuka honey..." rather than a description of the ingredients mixed in with the product description, which always makes me wonder if all ingredients are mentioned). On the plus side, Amanda states in her product description that all her soaps are SLS, detergent, and dye-free.

Regardless of this small critique, Amanda was a very sweet seller and I recommend dabbling with her products as I'm sure you'll find something to love just as I did!

All photos courtesy of Amanda's Naturals.

Oh Sudz Blemish Coverup review!

As described previously, I not only crossed nearly everyone off my Christmas list but also managed to do a little self-pampering during the Black Friday craziness. One of the first products to arrive, and one of my favorites, was a concealer by the Etsy shop Oh Sudz.

Review: Gail, creator of Oh Sudz, had so many great reviews for this product that I couldn't help but try it out! I first ordered the concealer in Light Cool. It arrived promptly and in a small plastic tube. I was surprised when I first looked at the product--it looked much lighter and more pink than I expected from the computer images I saw.

Upon using it, I found the product to be very creamy and blendable, without sliding off my face mid-day. I can see how it would be good for rosacea and acne as it feels moisturizing without being oily.
Now, I don't have dark under-eye circles, but I do have hyperpigmentation and red splotches on my chin. This product covers these problems well and stays put--at the end of an 8-hour workday I still have good coverage.

Unfortunately, the Light Cool was too light and pink for my coloring--bummer! Luckily, one of the joys of Etsy is getting to speak with the shop owners, so I contacted Gail and explained the problem. She was so sweet to work with and offered to send another color free of charge. She even let me keep the first one and suggested that I try mixing the two to make my perfect color! What a sweet shop owner.

My only complaint is that this, like many natural makeup products, really only works well on well-moisturized skin. This week my skin has been a little drier than usual, and the concealer is more obvious as it kind of 'snags' on my drier patches. To me this isn't a negative of the concealer itself but really a sign I need to be drinking more water and using heavier moisturizer in the winter.

Final Verdict: I'd buy this product again, not only to support a wonderful shop owner but alos because I love the product! Gail was very kind to send a free second concealer when the first didn't work for my coloring. The second one arrived so quickly too! This product is a new Holy Grail item in my green makeup kit. I highly recommend the Oh Sudz Blemish Cover Up concealer!

Photo courtesy of Oh Sudz.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Vapour Organics Aura Cheek Stain in Impulse review

As I've talked about here, I successfully hacked away at my Christmas list and personal shopping list during the online Black Friday weekend craziness. One item I finally pulled the trigger on for myself was the much-raved-about Vapour Organics Aura Cheek Stain. I bought it in Impulse since I was looking for a blue-red color that blended well.

First of all, I love this company's dedication to natural beauty and eco-conscious endeavors. Their products are 70% certified organic, 100% natural, recycled packaging, products created using wind and solar power, Leaping Bunny certified, etc etc. Vapour Organics is truly impressive in the many many ways they show dedicated to creating organic/natural/environmentally conscious products.

My initial impression was that I just don't think the Impulse stain was anything fantastic. I do like that it is a stain--when it fades it doesn't get blotchy, and for me it works well as both a cheek and lip stain. The product stays put fine and imbues color fine, but isn't any better than other products I've tried. The red looks more blueish swatched out on my arm than on my lips, but that may just be my coloring. From some reviews I read, I expected my skin to look magically kissed by angels or for the lip stain to solve the global energy crisis, or something. Not so. $25 seemed awfully expensive for the very average, although satisfactory, results that this stain provides.

However, in thinking a little more about the product, I realized something: if I'm going to be serious about this natural beauty thing, and trying to be more environmentally conscious, maybe this is the price I need to pay, in a literal sense and otherwise. Meaning, perhaps the product is a little spendier than other items I've used with very similar results. But you can bet your ass that very few of those other products boast such an impressive list of accomplishments, like Vapour's organic certification and Leaping Bunny certification. It takes a company a lot of money to dedicate oneself such measures (I should know, I grew up on an organic farm). These production costs trickle down to the product pricing. Maybe the money I paid wasn't such a large sum for all of the environmental initiatives Vapour has undertaken. Although I don't like the $25 price tag necessarily, I like even less companies who take my $5, or $15, or whatever, and put petroleum or formaldehyde in their skincare products, or leave a huge carbon footprint via their production practices while repping themselves as an eco-friendly company.

Final Verdict: 
Are there other products available that do the same job for cheaper? Most definitely. Start on Etsy.

Are there other products that do the same job for cheaper while supporting the sustainable, organic practices of Vapour Organic Beauty? I'd be willing to bet that there are not. 

Full disclosure: I returned this product (oh, and another great thing about the company--30 day return policy, no questions asked!). But only because I have a brand new baby niece that I'd rather spend my money on right now. In the future, when I have a little more expendable cashflow, I'd be happy to support Vapour Organics once again.