Sunday, 11 February 2018

Things I Thought I would Never Use: Too Faced Lip Insurance

I don't do lip liners. I've had two and never bothered with them, so out they went. I thought I might be slightly more amenable to a clear lip liner/primer. I tried Bite's version - it was minty and did nothing, so I never used it. I tried Colourpop's Lippie Primer (I hate cutesy nicknames for things, like lippie or hubby. I also hate ampersands. Not related, but you should know) and it was too thick and sticky and also ineffective. Clearly, these were not things that were working for me. And yet, after these experiences, I still bought Too Faced Lip Insurance in November with the Sephora VIB Rouge $25 off $50 coupon (I also picked up a mini Becca highlighter in Vanilla Quartz and the two together came to exactly $50. It was glorious). Lena of Faceonomics had posted an absolute rave of Lip Insurance on Instagram, and because I trust her very thorough IG reviews on stuff, I decided to try it out. 

I find myself wanting longer wearing lip products these days, but I don't like to wear matte liquid lip products more than once a week, even the more comfortable ones that I have sought out and purchased. I don't like to touch up my lipstick more than once in a work day, usually after lunch. It must be longish wearing and stand up to snacking and drinking tea and water all morning. If it can't, it must wear evenly and not catch on dry bits on my lips. It must be relatively easy to remove midday in my office and put back on. It must not require any finicky tools - if I need to carry a lip brush to reapply, I'm out. Basically, I have a lot of requirements and since I've really only solidified what I want out of my every day, professional makeup in the last year and a half, I still have products that I'd like to wear to work, but don't quite hit all of the marks. And so, I would like to use them up...but since I'm not totally satisfied with them, I don't want to use them.

Enter Too Faced Lip Insurance. The parts that I took out of Lena's comments on it was the fact that extended wear and it slightly mattified the finish of glossier, more slippery lip products. Excellent. 

And...she was right. Lip Insurance is amazing. I've been wearing it 2-3 times a week, usually under lighter, glossier lipsticks that I want to extend the longevity of because I won't have much opportunity to touch them up, or lipsticks that have a more slippery texture than I want. I've come to realize that my Bite Amuse Bouche lipsticks, for example, are lovely and comfortable, and I still like the ones I have...but the texture is too slippery for the bolder colours and my day to day. Lip Insurance fixes that. It does give glossier products more of a satin finish (which is really my preferred finish for lipstick). It helps them wear more evenly and reduces the wear that does happen. I've been wearing it a lot with the more neutral shades in my vast lipstick collection - I try to stick to less bold colours when I'm teaching all day, just because I won't have time to check in the mirror and my biggest fear is smearing something all over my face and not catching it. In my office, I can check whenever I want if for some reason I think I've smudged something. Not so much in the classroom.

Lip Insurance comes in a doefoot container, and goes on clear. It's got a smooth, slightly silicone-y texture in application, but feels more powdery as it sets on your lips. It honestly feels a little drying in a layer by itself. This goes away once I apply the lipstick over top. It's still not hydrating, but it can be comfortably worn. It forms a kind of barrier between lip colour and my lips, keeping my midday lip flakes at bay. 

The downside is that it doesn't make anything feel lightweight. It makes some lipsticks feel thicker and tackier, so if texture if a problem for you when it comes to lip products, I would pass. It is not for those days when you're looking for a lightweight product, nor is it made for already matte products. I wouldn't (and haven't) tried it with a liquid matte product, because I strongly suspect my lips would just fall off if I tried that.

I've swatched it and have compared it with three lipsticks that I often wear with it: Tom Ford lipstick in Indian Rose (halfway through my little deluxe sample bullet, FYI), MAC lipstick (Cremesheen) in Mystical (from the Alluring Aquatics collection), and Bite Amuse Bouche in Flag Red (which is bright, bold, and does not look like the red in the Canadian flag at all). 

The left is Indian Rose, Mystical, and Flag Red over bare skin. The right is over Lip Insurance. But you know, since I'm swatching on my arm, you don't really get a good idea of the difference. You can see how clear the Lip Insurance is, though - I applied a block of it on the right and it's completely invisible.

The top is on bare lips, the bottom is over Too Faced Lip Insurance. You can see here the slight mattifying effect that is has on a lip colour.

Again, top is on bare lips, bottom is over Lip Insurance. This is Mystical, which is the lipstick I find gets the most benefit from Lip Insurance in my collection. It looks richer and more saturated over Lip Insurance, and it doesn't wear off quite as fast as it's prone to do.

I love Flag Red with a matter finish, and it also gives me some comfort for when I'm wearing it, since it's so bright. Top is on bare lips, bottom is over Lip Insurance.

Lip Insurance has weaselled its way into my routine and staple products. I don't use it with everything, nor do I want to, but it's the kind of product that I didn't know I needed. It's simple and easy to use, it does what it's supposed to, and it enhances the lip products I already. Ideally, of course, I would have lip products with only the finish and longevity I prefer, but my tastes change often enough that it's easier to modify with a lip primer. I've never been really interested in Too Faced's offerings, but this is excellent.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

I Tried Veganuary

A couple of months ago I was lamenting about an unhealthy food rut I was stuck in: work was at a very stressful point, I was trying to juggle those demands with working on some research, and I usually drop my meal planning when I feel overwhelmed and start eating whatever's easiest and takeout at least once a week. It doesn't help with the situation and doesn't make me feel great. I managed to pull myself out of it, but I realized I wanted to do a little more than that: I wanted to reboot my eating habits. I decided to try Veganuary as a stepping stone for that: one, I eat a lot of vegan meals anyway since I don't like much meat and am lactose intolerant; two, I wasn't going to have much, if any, food in my apartment once I returned from the holidays; and three, I wanted to see if I could do it. 

Oh She Glows Vegan Peppermint Patty. This is amazing.

A few caveats: 
  • I was late starting. I knew I would be, since I wouldn't be home till January 3rd. I decided I would start then, with a big grocery shop when I got home. Joke's on me, I started on the 6th due to being violently ill when I got home and then a huge storm arrived and getting to and from work was hard enough. So I decided I would still try to do the 31 days, just not totally all in January.
  • I had a couple of blips: One when I went home for a night mid-January - my partner's parents were having a party. And to be perfectly honest, I'm still having a hell of a time trying to get our families to understand lactose intolerance ("Can you eat eggs?" Head, meet desk. Our parents are good and lovely people who are really trying, I know). Explaining Veganuary was not a battle I was up to. I did my best to adhere, but there are a lot of animal products in the average Maritimer's home and they are consumed with every meal. The other was at work: a slice of cake for a coworker's birthday.
  • It is really hard to eat a restricted diet of any kind in rural northern New Brunswick. It's not impossible, and our local grocery stores have made huge leaps in the 2+ years I've been here in terms of variety of foods, alternatives to animal products, and lactose-free dairy products. But it is very frustrating that a lot of vegan recipes require very specific ingredients/spices/sauces/produce that are completely inaccessible here. Shout out to Oh She Glows for having delicious recipes with (mostly) easy to acquire ingredients.
Thug Kitchen 5-Spice Fried Rice. This wasn't my favourite - I feel like it's missing something. Though I had less soy sauce than it called for, so that may have been a factor.

The nice thing about Veganuary is that there was no real change to my grocery bill. This could also be viewed as negative - but again, I live in Canada. Food is far more expensive here than in the United States, and I already eat a diet of mostly vegan and veggie foods at this point, so there was very little change to my weekly shop. Meat and dairy are comparatively quite expensive to the US prices, due to our different regulations, and produce is mainly imported, especially this time of year. Eating more ethically has been something I've taken a growing interest in the last couple of years, but the reality of my current location and living situation means that it's very difficult to do so. Our farmer's market was closed till this weekend, you know? It's winter. Almost everything has fuel costs to get it here. 

Anyway, I found myself mostly enjoying it. Again, I have more vegan cookbooks than non, so I do a lot of vegan cooking as part of my regular diet. I was pretty terrible at taking photos of things I made, but an incomplete list:
  • Apple Pie Overnight Oats (Oh She Glows Everyday)
  • Rosemary Bread (produced by random Googling)
  • Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli (Oh She Glows Everyday)
  • Yves vegan meatballs with grape jelly sauce 
  • Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (Oh She Glows app)
  • Crispy Chocolatey Candy (The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions)
  • Immunity Boosting Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms (Oh She Glows)
  • Cheeseless pizza (made the crust in my breadmaker, topped with homemade tomato sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, chives, spinach, and red peppers)
  • Cornmeal Waffles with Strawberry Syrup (Thug Kitchen)
  • 5 Spice Fried Rice (Thug Kitchen)
  • Vegan Peppermint Patty Slice (Oh She Glows App)
Thug Kitchen Cornmeal Waffles with Strawberry Syrup

When I was making up my first grocery list for the month, I sat down with my cookbooks and picked a couple of recipes I wanted to try out for the week - things that I thought would generally work well with being consumed over a week as leftovers. This was a process that I'd kind of done for a while, but this month is where I really sat down and started doing better meal planning. That's something I'll be taking away from this month: continuing to plan my menus more stringently.

What I found really difficult was life without dairy. I've found lactose-free substitutes for most of the dairy I use - cheese, yogurt, butter, milk, even cream cheese. And while I don't eat very much meat anymore, I still eat a good amount of cheese, like to bake, and enjoy a yogurt. I also did an experiment in trying to figure out where and what I could eat out in my city, and came to the horrifying conclusion that with the exception of a couple of places with one or two dishes, that I really couldn't. Like I said, northern New Brunswick is a difficult place to eat any kind of restricted diet that involves abstaining from any animal products. But I also found myself feeling strangely deprived, like I was shutting myself out from a social experience that I really enjoy. I like food. I like eating new food, I like cooking new dishes, and I like going out to eat at new places or trying the new menu at places I love. Eating plant-based in my current home doesn't satisfy all of that. Additionally, I found myself thinking about what I couldn't eat an awful lot, and as someone who has had a pattern of disordered eating in the past, that's a warning sign for me that what I'm about to do isn't good for my relationship with food.

Oh She Glows Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli and Yves vegan meatballs with grape jelly sauce. Wasn't a huge fan of the vegan meatballs, but the potatoes and aioli were incredible.

I also had to skip some of my favourite specials at the hospital cafeteria this month. In the scheme of things, this is not a huge deal, but I like eating at our cafeteria. We have really good food and it's insanely cheap. 

I'm mostly happy with how this went. Obviously, I won't be returning full plant-based eating while I continue to live where I do and while I'm in a headspace that could easily go down an unhealthy path. I also didn't save any money, so there's no real financial incentive - I often see people posting on Reddit or other vegan communities about all the money they're saving now that they don't buy animal products, but that wasn't really a thing for me, and considering we're approaching the time of year where cauliflower can be up to $8 a head, it's only about to get more expensive. All food is expensive here, but produce and in general, non-processed food (which is often animal-based), is especially pricey. I had a professor in undergrad who'd moved up from New York and was horrified at the price of food in rural Nova Scotia, so...

I'd rather do something than nothing. Would it be nice if I could go vegan, since the environmental benefits and health benefits are both of interest to me? Absolutely. But encouraging myself to eat plant-based meals limits the amount of animal products I consume while also not drawing a hard line that allows me the flexibility I need.

And while I'm going to continue eating a lot of plant-based meals, I'll confess I came home and assembled a big pan of macaroni and cheese because I have been dying for one since the beginning of January.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Two Months In: Sephora Fall Sale Recap

The Sephora fall sale is the beauty event of the fall. Or I assume it is, based on the beautysphere devotion to discussing it most of the autumn. I also live in rural New Brunswick so a) my metrics for exciting events are pretty damn low (we're still going nuts over a rare bird) and b) I have no way of actually proving myself wrong. The Sephora fall sale is the biggest coupon discount given in a calendar year there and lots of people will hold onto their wishlists for the moment that they can use that code. A lot of people will point out that brand sites have bigger sales and Sephora's point systems is lame and blah blah blah something about Ulta I don't really care because I'm not American. Sephora is a one-stop shop for lots of mid-range and high-end brands. It makes it easy to snap up a bunch of products from different brands and that is why I will always enjoy the Sephora sales. Most brand websites are a) garbage design; b) are based in the US so will take forever to get here if they even bother to ship to Canada; and c) probably have absurd shipping costs. 

Anyway, I started planning for this at the beginning of October. My birthday always falls near the sale, so I usually set aside some birthday money for the sale, and I also always get to pick up the birthday gift. 

When your holiday/birthday beauty mail comes all at once. I made a @glossier order a couple of weeks ago, and it arrived the same day as my @sephoracanada sale order (my last year as Rouge, thankfully). Lotsa pretty stuff to play with and swatches! From Glossier: Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, Generation G lipstick in Cake, a sample of Glossier You perfume, and a sample of the Milky Jelly Cleanser From Sephora: @hourglasscosmetics Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat, @kevynaucoin The Celestial Powder Highlighter in Candlelight, @narsissist Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita, @besamecosmetics mini lipstick set, Sephora + Hakuhodo Fan Cheek Brush (Ougi), the @tartecosmetics Birthday Present (Tarteist lip paint in Birthday Suit and Blush in Paaarrty), and samples of @drunkelephantskincare Lala Retro Whipped Cream, Sephora Cleansing Cream in Rose, and This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray) Lip swatches L-R: Cake, Birthday Suit, Besame Red Velvet, Chocolate Kiss, Noir Red, Dusty Rose, Cherry Red Face swatches L-R: Dolce Vita, Diffused Heat, Candlelight, Paaarrty
A post shared by Alison (@collectiondevelopment) on

The haul:
  • the Tarte birthday gift: minis of the Amazonian Clay Blush in Paaarty and Tarteist Lip Paint in Birthday Suit
  • NARS Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita
  • Hourglass Cosmetics Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat
  • Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Powder Highlighter in Candlelight
  • Besame mini lipstick set (1930 Noir Red, 1935 Cherry Red, 1946 Red Velvet, 1969 Dusty Rose, 1970 Chocolate Kiss)
  • Sephora + Hakuhodo Fan Cheek Brush (Ougi)

L-R: Tarte Birthday Suit, Tarte Paaarty, Hourglas Diffused Heat, NARS Dolce Vita, Kevyn Aucoin Candlelight, Besame 1930 Noir Red, Besame 1935 Cherry Red, Besame 1946 Red Velvet, Besame 1970 Chocolate Kiss, Besame 1969 Dusty Rose

First things first: the Tarte birthday gift. Having a birthday in November means that by the time I get around to obtaining the birthday gift, it's already been reviewed to death. I'll keep it short and sweet: this is probably my favourite Sephora birthday gift in all of the years that I've been receiving them (since 2011). I've tried the Amazonian Clay blush formula before, so that wasn't new, but Paaarty is a truly flattering neutral blush on me. I feel it lights my face up in a subtle, natural way, even though the name sucks. 

Paaarty on my cheeks.

The Tarteist Lip Paint is a new formula to me. In continuing the 2017 trend where I kept getting liquid lipsticks and liking them, Birthday Suit was a hit. The formula is oddly minty, but lightweight and dries down to an almost powdery feel. It's not too drying, and while Birthday Suit is slightly lighter and warmer than my natural lip colour, it doesn't wash me out or look unflattering. I dig it. 

Birthday Suit. I like it.

Next: NARS Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita. I was really into liquid and cream formula for most of the fall and early winter. If it came in a liquid or cream form, I wanted it. I've really enjoyed my Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam, and was considering ordering another Cloud Paint until I saw Lena of Faceonomics talk about how much she loved the NARS Liquid Blush formula and how it was what she wanted the Cloud Paints to be. I was intrigued, and after much deliberating, I picked Dolce Vita. The vaguely annoying thing about NARS is that they have a bunch of products in a shade called Dolce Vita...and they aren't all the same colour. I have the lipstick in Dolce Vita, which is noticeably not the same colour as the Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita. The blush is described as a matte dusty rose.

The liquid blush is smooth and blendable and lasts all day and even matches my Besame lipstick in 1969 Dusty Rose almost perfectly - but holy hell is it pigmented. This would be a beautiful colour for deeper skintones. For me, I need the tiniest pinprick of product - any more and I end up overdoing it. This has so far led to a lot of product wastage, since I find the pump makes it harder to control how much product comes out of the bottle. It's not ideal. On the other hand, this bottle is 15ml of liquid blush, so I'll probably have plenty long after it goes off, so wasting the product doesn't seem like a huge deal to me right now. The frosted glass bottle is nice anyway, though the stupid cap is that awful black standard NARS plastic that attracts every smudge known to humankind. I tried to clean it off before taking pictures. I was not successful.

Dolce Vita, paired with Besame 1969 Dusty Rose on my lips and Kevyn Aucoin Candelight on my cheekbones.

The other blush I picked up was the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Diffused Heat, which is described as "a vibrant poppy blush combined with Diffused Light for a subtle halo effect." I'm still completely in love with Mood Exposure, which I picked up in the 2016 Sephora fall sale, so I decided I wanted to try out another of the range. I don't love Diffused Heat quite as much as Mood Exposure (probably because Mood Exposure goes with everything ever), but Diffused Heat is still a really incredible blush: finely milled, long lasting, looks absolutely radiant on my skin, and wonderfully flattering. The only thing I wasn't prepared for was the noticeable glitter in the pan. It doesn't seem to be noticeable on my skin, but I was taken aback when I saw it.

Diffused Heat

I haven't been restrained at all when it comes to highlighter acquisition this year, so it was not unexpected that I picked up a highlighter in this sale. What is vaguely unexpected is the subtlety of this one. The Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Highlighter in Candlelight has been touted as one of the best highlighters for a glowy, natural, look, sans glitter or obvious shimmer. It's just a lovely, natural light on the face. It's a cool enough gold that it blends well into my skin, it's soft and finely milled, and it blends beautifully. 

I am so bad taking pictures of highlighter. I swear it's there. Check the other blush photos for more.

The final thing in my order, and possibly the thing that I was most excited for, is the Besame mini lipstick set. I was blown away by Besame's formula when I got Tango Red a couple years ago, and have wanted to try others, especially since Renee confirmed that the formula was incredibly consistent across the range. But I couldn't decide exactly what I want, and they're also pretty terrible at keeping them in stock on Sephora, so every time I had almost decided, the ones I was looking at were out of stock. This quietly went live on Sephora just before the sale, and I snapped it up. Five mini lipsticks in that great formula? Yes please. Overall, I'm still really happy with it. I have a few contenders for full sizes once I finish the mini tubes. I probably didn't need to have all those reds...but I didn't really need to make this order, either, so...

The one disappointment from this set has been 1930 Noir Red. I've been agonizing over it on Instagram and have come to the conclusion that it doesn't work well on me - it pulls entirely too brown on me, and while the formula is as smooth, pigmented and tenacious as the others, it's not a flattering colour on me. 

1930 Noir Red

When it comes to the pure reds in this set, 1946 Red Velvet and 1935 Cherry Red, I think I like Cherry Red ever so slightly more. Both are wonderful, beautiful, vibrant reds, but the slightly cooler tone of Cherry Red looks more striking on me and dare I say it? Might be my red, the red that looks better than all other reds. Red Velvet is still lovely, however.

1935 Cherry Red

1946 Red Velvet

1970 Chocolate Kiss was the sleeper hit for me. I don't think the reddish brown is as flattering on me as other colours, but I really dig it anyway. It's a really interesting, complex colour, much more so than I expected. This will be a full size purchase when I finish the mini tube (and I'm pretty sure I will!).

1970 Chocolate Kiss

And lastly 1969 Dusty Rose. This one has been getting the most wear time of the set, partially because I love how it pulls to more of a berry on me and also because I find it pairs really well with NARS liquid blush in Dolce Vita. Also a full size purchase in the future - it's flattering, long wearing, fades evenly, and is thus perfect for work, when I pretend that I'm more straight-laced than I am (cat-print and red lipstick forever). 

1969 Dusty Rose

(I keep using the years, FYI, because that's what are on the bottom of the tubes for labels, so I'm trying to imprint the years into my brain alongside the colour. Is it working? Kind of.)

I'm not going to say a ton about the Sephora + Hakuhodo brush, because that collection is two years old and has been on clearance for at least a year. I picked up the wedge powder brush (full price) and the highlighter brush (on clearance) and decided to grab the cheek brush since I could always use another blush brush...or I am lazy and don't want to wash my brushes too much. I liked the other two brushes I got - they're very soft and high quality, so I grabbed this cheek brush and am equally as happy with it. 

Shh, it needs to be washed.

I am overall very pleased with how this purchase went. It's a good reminder that a well-researched splurge is preferable to a bunch of impulse purchases over time, and that this is what I'd rather do. Soooo...April sale planning, here I come!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

2017 Reads: October to December

The final installment of my 2017 quarterly reading updates. It was good to get back into talking about the new books I've read this year, though I'm once again left feeling a little unsatisfied about how I've been doing it. This is mostly a beauty blog, so where do books fit in? Should I post more about reading? Because to be totally honest, I am still struggling with making time for reading. I did some quick number crunching at work the other day, and let's just say the volume of literature searches I did in 2017 was a lot. And that means roughly 2 hours of reading article abstracts for each one...let's just say it's not such a surprise that when I get home I don't always feel like reading some more. I have subscribed to The New Yorker and Elle Canada for some shorter readings, and I have a pile of audiobooks to get through (I've cancelled my Audible subscription till I listen to everything on my phone!). I still have a handful of books in my to-be-read pile and many more in my work to-be-read pile (it is a known problem that librarians never have time to read the books they identify as being important to professional development. I borrowed a couple of books from another site and we all know full well that I will get a shameful overdue notice because I haven't read them in the lengthy loan period that I gave myself when I checked them out). 

All that said, I'll probably continue with these updates. I'd like to read 52 new books in 2018 - a goal I did not reach in 2017, though I did read at least 52 books, including the rereads that I didn't write about this year. I'd also like to broaden talking about reading, information, and info literacy and maybe dip a little more into what it's like to be a hospital librarian, since I tend to get a ton of questions about it whenever I mention what I do for a living. Stay tuned!

The Sun and Her Flowers - Rupi Kaur

I preordered this after I was late to the Milk and Honey train. It arrived a day before it was officially released, so thanks, Amazon (FYI there is nowhere to buy new books in my town except Walmart, and let me tell you, their selection is pretty dismal). While Milk and Honey is darker, The Sun and Her Flowers is more about healing, empowerment, and hope. I enjoyed this more than Milk and Honey, to be honest. 

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Someone recommended this on Reddit as their favourite Ishiguro novel. It's unbearably sad to me, but in a really good way. It follows the musings of Stevens, a lifelong butler, as he takes a journey to see an old friend, the former housekeeper of the estate he has worked at for decades, to ask her to return to the estate. It highlights the ways in which he is tied to his position and order - he's not a traditionally sympathetic narrator, since he's pretty much a pompous ass, but I did feel a lot of sadness for him, as his life was so narrow and stunted, and he had sacrificed everything to serve the estate, as the traditional order was starting to crumble. 

Your Beauty Mark - Dita Von Teese with Rose Apodaca

I like Dita Von Teese, so this was a fun read of her beauty routine and advice that she has on beauty, accompanied by some stunning photo shoots. It didn't really teach me a whole lot, as a beauty junkie - that aspect would probably be best for more casual beauty lovers - but it was interesting to read about Dita's beauty philosophy. 

Swimming Home - Mary-Rose MacColl

I picked this up on a whim at the Chapters in Fredericton when I visited my brother there in July, and it took me this long to go ahead and read it. Ugh. But this was a really good pick out of the stack of the books I started with! The blend of family ties, secrets, and the challenge to swim the English Channel combine in a great story about a girl, her aunt, swimming, and sorting out family secrets. Catherine is sent from Australia to London to live with her aunt Louisa when her father dies. Louisa, a barrier-breaking surgeon, wants Catherine to get an education, while Catherine wants to swim and just go home. It's set in the mid-1920s, and it's a bright, hopeful novel. The contrast between Australia and London is so vivid - the scene-setting in this novel is some of the best I've read.

I am a Truck - Michelle Winters

I'm very slowly making my way through the Giller Prize shortlist - so slowly, in fact, that this is the only one I read and the prize has long since been given out and this didn't win. But I chose to read it first because Winters is from New Brunswick, and the story is set (I assume, it feels that way to me) in northern NB, where anglo and francophone cultures collide. Agathe and Rejean are happily married, until he disappears before their 20th anniversary. It explores Agathe's grief, their Chevy dealer's grief, and Rejean's homecoming. I really enjoyed it - it was engaging, fearless, and it also felt like home to me. They felt familiar and comforting to me. I know these people and this place, you know? That's why I like to read Maritime books. 

The Beaverton Presents Glorious And/Or Free: The True History of Canada - Luke Gordon Field and Alex Huntley

The Beaverton is Canada'a answer to The Onion, if you're unfamiliar, and it has evolved from a satirical news site into a TV show and a book. The site has been knocking it out of the park for the last year or so, and I decided to get the book for one of my brothers for Christmas. And so I could read it too. It's a funny, light-hearted, satirical romp through Canadian history. It helps if you're familiar with Canadian history, because otherwise the jokes will be lost on you. I enjoyed it, it wasn't too serious, and it wasn't difficult to read.

Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Technically a reread, but I haven't read it in over ten years, so I'm counting it. Alias Grace was my very first Atwood when I was 13 or 14, and I wanted to refresh my memory before I watch the miniseries. For those unfamiliar, this is a fictional telling of the story of Grace Marks, one of Canada's most infamous murderers. Grace was an Irish immigrant, working as a maid, when she was accused of murdering her employer and the housekeeper in 1843. The details around whether she did it or not were murky, and her conviction was controversial. She spent almost 30 years in prison, before being acquitted and vanishing from the public record. Atwood frames the story through a series of conversations between Grace and a fictional psychiatrist, Simon Jordan, who is brought into her case to determine if she is insane or a criminal. It's a fascinating portrayal, if you haven't read it - the line of whether Grace is guilty or not is walked very finely, and the mixture of what is real and what isn't through Grace's eyes blurs the reliability of the story. 

Fundamentals of Library Supervision - Joan Giesecke and Beth McNeil

I did read a book for work! Go me! This is one I read partially because I wanted to test the  offline reading function of one of our ebook platforms (it was...okay) and partially because I need some advice when it comes to being a manager - it's been over a year since I had to supervise anyone, and I was never all that confident in it to begin with. They tell you in library school that you'll probably be managing something right out of the gate, but a throwaway line in a lecture is far different from the reality. My problem with the current state of management literature is that it's all about how to manage millennials and this is no different. I am a millennial who manages boomers. This is not something that is written about or even taught in leadership courses yet. That's not to say this wasn't a valuable read, though I definitely need to find something more tailored to my situation - managing remotely is a whole other ball game. It was a good stepping stone and I'd recommend it to any new librarians in a slightly more conventional situation.

Black Apple - Joan Crate

The other book I picked up when visiting my brother in July. A nice cheery novel about residential schools to finish off the year - I actually read this over Christmas, to really punch up the festive note. It was one of the best books I've read this year, though. It's a complicated look at the residential school system, following a Blackfoot girl named Rose (called Sinopaki by her parents, though they named her Rose hoping that the residential school wouldn't change her name when she was taken there). She ends up being favoured by the mother superior of the school, who believes Rose will be one of the "successful" graduates of the school. It explores Rose's growing up in the school, her broken relationship with her parents, he complicated relationship with the sisters at the school, and her attempts to figure out who she is with competing cultures, abuse, loss, and faith. It was heartbreaking and hopeful. 

Total read this quarter: 9
Total read previous quarter: 11
Total read in 2017: 41

Onto 2018 reading!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Winter Destash

I ventured out of my house this morning because the only thing in my fridge since I got home on Wednesday has been a jug of water. I got my groceries and then managed to squeeze my car back in my driveway. If the guy who plows my driveway is reading this, please come back and remove the ice boulders at the end. Thanks. 

It has become bitterly cold out post-bomb cyclone and I have a cold, so I've abandoned any pretense that I was going to try and move more of the snow off my porch so I can open my door fully and have sat down to write a nice blog post. I have several drafts waiting in the wings for other year-end round-ups, but 2018 is still young and they'll keep for later in January. This morning I decided to do a little decluttering of my collection, things that I've had for a while and have come to the conclusion that they don't work for me, despite them all being mostly pretty good products (with some exception). Because I've been lukewarm on most of them, I've never written about them either. So I've decided to kill two birds with one stone: write mini reviews on each of the items I'm getting rid of, and document the products that I should just stop buying. I try not to destash items when I'm feeling any particularly strong emotions or under the weather, because that usually leads me to decisions that I regret. But I do always find myself looking to declutter my life a little bit in general when I get home from travelling, since I end up with a clearer idea of what I need and want in my home. Despite how crappy I feel right now, I gave in and decided to get rid of the following items.


L-R: Bobbi Brown Lipstick in Brownie, Colourpop Ultra Satin Lipstick in London Fog, Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Pink Truffle

Three lipsticks jumped out at me as being ones that I don't have use for anymore. Two of them were gifts with purchase, which confirms my suspicion that GWPs and freebies in general that I don't get to pick myself are useless. Remember that, self. 

I never liked the Colourpop Ultra Satin formula to begin with, so I wasn't all that excited about receiving a mini in London Fog with an order. London Fog is a gorgeous pink red, don't get me wrong, but it's entirely dupeable, and the Ultra Satin formula is still a smeary mess. I can't bring myself to use it because I always end up worrying about it getting all over my face. No thanks. 

Bobbi Brown Lipstick in Brownie came in one of those Sephora deluxe sample sets that you can get with a promo code. Or maybe it was a 500 point perk when I had a billion points. Either way, it doesn't really matter. I like the feel of the formula - non-drying, nice satin. But it looks like trash on me otherwise. Brownie is not a flattering colour on me, it's far too grey on me to work, it highlights every dry patch on my lips while also sinking into lip lines the second I apply it, and it has old lady lipstick smell. I don't have any positive associations with that smell, so I'm out.

I like the Revlon Super Lustrous Sheer formula a lot, and Pink Truffle is a good, no-fuss, easy to apply, lightly moisturizing lipstick. It's cheap and easily accessible. However, I find it a touch too warm for me, and now that I have NARS lipstick in Dolce Vita, I never reach for Pink Truffle. Out it goes.

Lip Liners

Top: Bite Beauty Lip Pencil in 034 Bottom: Colourpop Lippie Pencil in Lyin' King

I don't even know why I thought I would use coloured lip liners ever. Really, what was I thinking? Aside from swatching these and wearing them around the house to see how they look layered, I have never once thought about putting one on to go about my daily activities. I'm sure they are perfectly good liners but I can't tell you for sure since I never tested them for real. Colourpop Lippie Pencil in Lyin' King is a beautiful raspberry but when I tried to sharpen it after swatching it and putting it on for a bit at home, the tip kept breaking off and I hate sharpening plastic. Nope. 

The Bite Beauty Lip Pencil in 034, which is described as a plum rose, was a 100 point perk right around the time that Bite released the product, and I decided to try it out and subsequently ignored it. It's a nice pink, very neutral, could go with just about anything, but I have no interest in it. 


Top to bottom: Colourpop Creme Gel Liner in Show Me, Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Crayon in Blacquer, NYX Vivid Brights in Vivid Blossom, Fyrinnae Liquid Gel Liner in Sharp Enough

I probably could have gotten rid of a few more eyeliners, since I mostly wear my Physician's Formula liquid liner since I discovered it, but these ones jumped out at me as things I won't use, because they have some pretty serious faults.

Colourpop Creme Gel Liner in Show Me is a beautiful copper, with a very fine tip. It's also dry and draggy as hell and has only gotten worse as time has passed. A friend told me that the pencil gel liners are better for lining the waterline, but I don't line my waterline, so that's of no benefit for me.

The Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Crayon in Blacquer was part of the Sephora birthday gift in 2016. It's an unexciting, crumbly black liner. I'm a beauty addict, I own half a dozen black liners already and have tried a million of them, and all of them are better than this one. 

I'm also getting rid of my two coloured brush liquid liners: NYX Vivid Brights in Vivid Blossom and Fyrinnae Liquid Gel Eyeliner in Sharp Enough. I can't deal with the brush + bottle style of eyeliner and I don't know why I thought I could. Both are gorgeous colours, but the packaging is a big no. Plus the brush of the Fyrinnae one has always been terrible and I had to use an angled liner brush to put it on if I really wanted to use it and have it look decent.

I opened the NYX one this morning and it looks like the pigment is separating, roughly eight months after I bought it. Yet another reason why I should never buy NYX: their products are generally crap and I'm never happy with them. I can now add "probably will go off too soon." 


Top: Pumpkin & Poppy Oak Bark Contouring Powder Bottom: Colourpop Super Shock Cheek in Blow Me Out

I really do love the Pumpkin & Poppy Oak Bark Contouring Powder, but I haven't reached for it since I got my Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder, and I don't contour enough to justify owning two products. And finally, I'm moving away from loose powders since they're frankly a disaster waiting to happen with me. 

Colourpop Super Shock Cheek in Blow Me Out was part of this year's birthday set. I think it's supposed to be a highlighter, but it's far too dark for me to use as a highlighter, and it's way too warm and copper for me to use as a blush. Pretty colour, just doesn't work for my skintone.

There's a clear lesson from looking at all of this: stop buying random stuff from Colourpop. Which I have stopped doing since they keep getting nailed by customs! But in all seriousness, I am being more discriminating about what comes into my possession, and not just when it comes to purchasing: also when it comes to adding samples to my cart. Stuff is still stuff.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Goodbye, and thanks for all fish, 2017

Once again, I took an unintended Instagram and blog hiatus at the end of 2016. I've found it's too hard to keep to a posting schedule at this time of year, what with parties and family obligations and travelling and general festivities. And particularly this year, because I decided to do all of this and be the librarian on-duty this holiday season (a real thing when you work in a hospital). Suffice it to say that I am exhausted right now. And yet, I still wanted to write a little note about this year and the one that is due to arrive in less than two hours. I've been looking back on my resolutions for this year, and I think I did okay. I went with the spirit, if not always the letter. I did get my license and bought a car this year! That's totally nuts (said car is sitting in the driveway, with its brand-new winter tires and I'm still hella bitter about that). I blogged relatively regularly most of this year. I kept my bullet journal which transformed into a planner journal for this year, and intend to continue it into the next. I didn't stick with my strict beauty low-buy, but I made a better, more realistic plan for the future, and will be posting on the progress of that soon (spoiler: there's room for improvement but hey that's life). I sort of ate healthier but didn't really get in shape. I kind of got better at balancing reading but that could use some improvement too.

I don't consider my resolutions to be a hard and fast plan, though. More of a guideline for the year. Things change and that's okay too. Could I have predicted many of the things that happened this year? Not particularly, and that's half the fun. I try to embrace life as something to have fun with, and I know I've done pretty well with that this year.

While I already made my biggest beauty resolution, I have a few more in mind + a few non-beauty to share, but relevant to the blog.

1. Wean myself off of foundation.

My skin is not nearly as bad as I think it is and I would really like to stop wearing foundation as regularly as I do. I've made huge strides with my skincare routine and maybe I should write about that?) this year, so I need to buck up and get over myself. Plus it's been very very cold here lately, and my skin has dried out a ton, and no foundation looks good right now. It's very much an insecurity of mine, and it's a very ridiculous one I would like to combat.

2. Brush up my web design skills.

I've been vaguely unhappy with the layout of this blog, mostly because I was lazy and didn't want to put too much work into it when I started it, so picked Blogger. I now have some basic skills in coding (thanks, library school), and really need to practice. I would like to make this blog something I want to look at it. 

3. Stick with the pixie cut.

This has been the most flattering length of hair I've ever had. People are still telling me how much they love it, almost 11 months later. I can feel myself getting annoyed by the constant need for a haircut and wanting to grow it out in a few months. No, Alison. This hair is much easier and better than any of the crazy long manes you've ever sported. Stick out 2018 and then we'll see.

4. Participate in Veganuary.

This is a plan I've cooked up with a few friends, a few months ago, so we could plan some menus and hopefully be as successful as possible. I'm going to be starting a little late, since I won't get back home till January 3rd, but I am committed to 31 days of eating plant-based. I'm looking at this as a way to reboot my eating and get to a better, more healthier lifestyle. I made sure I had little to no food left when I left for the holidays, so I won't be tempted by non-vegan foods (mostly) when I get home. I have shifted to eating largely vegetarian this last year, but I need better habits in general and don't like most meat, so this is the push to get me going somewhere better, foodwise. Will I ever be vegan? Probably not, based on my life and culture right now, but I'd like to reduce my consumption of animal goods.

5. Keep working on writing more interesting blog posts.

I've done better with that this year, but my posts are still largely reviews. And meh - like it's good, because I want people to have information to make informed decisions and if I can help with that, I will. But I can also feel the pull of consumption when it comes to that, because it's for the blog! I don't make money off this, who am I kidding? So I'm going to continue trying to expand the beauty things that I can write about.

Happy new year, friends. May 2018 be kind to you.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

On Consumption

One of the things that people are most surprised to discover about me is that I have minimalist parents. I grew up in a house where minimalism was in before the internet started spreading the gospel and before everyone knew KonMari. I don't have an excessive number of possessions, generally speaking - since I've moved seven times in the last eight years, I'm good at cutting down - but I like shopping and I like knickknacks. My parents do not love shopping and have almost no knickknacks. I think part of this minimalism was out of necessity: I grew up in a small house with two brothers and whatever other family members and friends were drifting in and out at any given time, and my family was single income for most of my childhood. There was little money and no space for things. But as I grew up, my mother returned to the workforce, and there were fewer people kicking around the house, it became apparent that my parents just don't like stuff. My youngest brother's girlfriend remarked that she had never been in a house that somehow had so few items and managed to avoid feeling empty at the same time. She remains baffled at how regularly my parents cull their possessions, how they embrace buying for life when they can manage it, and how tidy the house is at all times. I told her it has always been this way: my parents acknowledge you need a certain number of things to live in Canadian society, and they have a few extraneous things that they enjoy, but otherwise they are not interested in things and they certainly don't want any evidence that there are things in their house. I'm positive that they breathed a sigh of relief when I moved out and took my stuff with me. 

I am not minimalist, though I know I'm below average in stuff collection, mostly because I have had a stable job for exactly one year, and therefore am only now starting to accumulate the stuff you think you're supposed to have as an adult. Growing up in the house I did, I still am fairly ruthless when it comes to keeping clutter out of my life. I go through all of the things in my apartment at least twice a year and donate what I can. We did this fairly often growing up, and I find it's really helpful, particularly when I'm still living in a state of transition, from graduate student to professional librarian. I've been moving the things that no longer fit in my life out. 

However, I know I'm not minimalist at all when it comes to beauty. This blog is pretty much the only evidence needed of that. I have lots of beauty products and while I've been trying to cut back, I still purchase more beauty products than the average person. I've mostly made my peace with that as an idea, but recognize that I have more than I can reasonably use before they expire. In the spirit of this recognition, I've embraced a loose lower buy for beauty (though I will freely admit here that I'm over my average budget for this quarter - thanks, Sephora sale! It should even out over the year) and I have some other vague guidelines that I haven't written down to account for my natural flakiness. All of this should allow me to focus on what I want to do this year, which is shrink my beauty collection by natural use. No one in, one out unless it's a vital product. Just one out and make due with what's left because I definitely have more.

I've documented my struggle with trying to back away from the capitalist god that is consumption. And based on the number of times I've tried and then abandoned a low-buy/no-buy/pan/declutter project, I'm not terribly good at it. And why should I be? Ads are everywhere. I don't have cable, which cuts down on the number of ads passing by my eyes every day, and I use an ad blocker on my home computer, but I also read magazines, use social media, and exist in a wealthy, developed western country. It's easy to chase that high from getting a shiny new thing, and it's pretty low effort. But it's not a great way to go about my life, and I've been trying to shift my focus. So of course, I set out the declarative post about a low-buy and sat down to declutter. And then...I stopped. Because I felt like I wasn't setting myself up for success. Because I wasn't really dealing with the problem of focus in a way that was going to set me up for success: I was replacing consumption with focusing on non-consumption. And yes, that's what needs to happen, but ultimately I do best when I fill my time with something new, something entirely different.

Talking about not buying things is another form of consumption, something I think that Makeup Rehab on Reddit doesn't acknowledge enough. I've never really jumped into the community there because it feels like a lot of users have replaced one obsession for another, rather than work on breaking the mindset of need. I get how hard it is. I struggle all the time. But I won't flagellate myself over it: that's not how I'm going to change my mindset. I like beauty, I'm still going to purchase beauty, but I don't need new things all the time and I have plenty to talk about that isn't pure reviews PLUS I have a backlog of things to review anyway. 

I don't have any great revelations about consumption and market forces and the creeping infiltration of advertisements into every. single. aspect. of our lives. I'm not going to give you a guide on how to mindfully purchase or how to declutter thoughtfully. I'm not going to give you organization tips, because while I'm formally educated in that art, it's really, really not my area of expertise (note: any organizational skills that I do make use of are learned, not natural. I am a natural slob). But I can say that like many things, no one can make you consume less. No one can make you do anything you don't want to do. 

And that is something I am very familiar with. But I am finally ready to be more mindful, think about the future, and be more creative with the things I already own.