2018 Recap + 2019 Goals

Posted on December 30, 2018 under Life

Arriving in Glasgow after Christmas; seeing Trixie Mattel’s one woman show; first snow of 2018 in the Glasgow Botanics

Well, another year has come and gone and now it’s time to reflect on the past 365 days. In 2018, I finished my Master’s degree (and, if I may brag, I graduated with distinction after receiving As in all my classes and on my dissertation), refined my academic interests and created several projects reflecting them, moved back to Canada, left the job I’d had on-and-off since I was 19, started a new job that made me much happier, made new friends, lost a pet, travelled quite a bit, helped my dad become a Canadian citizen, got two new piercings, and read a fair amount. I have (mostly) ironed my sleep schedule out after years of intermittent to chronic insomnia. Obviously, the end of the year was really stressful since my dad had a heart attack at the beginning of this month, but he is recovering well and I have high hopes for good health and lots of family time in 2019.

The Beast from the East hitting Glasgow; adorable Ashton Lane; seeing Arcade Fire in London

Here’s how I did with my 2018 goals, which as usual I set and promptly forgot about:

  • Finish my MA with an A average: I most certainly did achieve this goal. I was really nervous after I turned in my dissertation even though I’d only received good feedback on it, but I ended up getting straight As. I thought I would get a B+ in one or two of my classes, so I was very relieved when I got my grades back.
  • At a bar in Soho to celebrate Aisling‘s birthday; spring in London; a sheep at golden hour on the Isle of Skye
  • Complete all my readings and screenings before messing around on the internet: Honestly, I cannot remember if I did this or not. I didn’t make a conscious effort to do it for most of the year, so probably not. However, I did keep on top of my readings and screenings for the most part. When I was writing my dissertation over the summer I pretty much exclusively worked on it first thing in the morning. So… half pass?
  • Get fitter: I was on and off but mostly off with this, but I would say I’m overall slightly more fit than I was in 2017. Still would not call this one a resounding success. I have been getting a lot of steps in lately, though.
  • Scottish highlands; sand dunes in Doagh, Ireland; holding a lamb in Dingle
  • Read 30 books: This time last year I said in all seriousness that 30 might be pushing it a bit, but I hit 30 in July and ended the year with an even 60 books read. This is obviously my biggest success of 2018, aside from the whole graduating from my MA programme with distinction.
  • Keep to my beauty budget, consume mindfully, and enjoy using what I have: I will do a separate post on this because it’s a Big Thing, but, yes, I think I was generally successful here.

Standing in two seas at once in Skagen, Denmark; Vestmanna, Faroe Islands; coconut raspberry ice cream in Burlington, Ontario

As usual, I was moderately successful with my goals without managing to make any huge changes in 2018. I expect 2019 will be more of the same!

Honestly, 2019 is pretty up in the air for me. I don’t really want to get into it all right now, but I’m not sure where I’ll be (literally, I don’t know where I will be geographically located) this time next year, so it’s a bit hard for me to set goals knowing that my circumstances could change quite substantially by summer. So, here’s what I’ve come up with.

  • Read 50 books. I think I can probably surpass this, but I may not have the same amount of free time by the end of the year. (By the way, I work 40 hours a week with an hour commute each way, so it’s not like I’m actually swimming in free time at the moment.)
  • Reduce my “to read” list by 2/3. I love the “want to read” feature on Goodreads, because whenever I find myself inside of a bookstore I miraculously forget every book I’ve ever wanted to read and have to whip out my phone to consult this list. However, the list is fairly long, which makes me a bit anxious. I don’t want the list to ever get so long that it becomes unviable: I genuinely want to read every book on it! So this year I’m going to prioritize books I’ve added to this list. I’m going to throw myself another little challenge and say that anything added to the list prior to 2015 that I haven’t read by the close of 2019 will be deleted from the list, because if I haven’t read a book I marked as “to read” SEVEN YEARS AGO I am never going to. Anyway, the list is currently 57 books long, so I will have to read 38 from the list to complete this goal.
  • A bush just moments before a thunderstorm; sunset in the south of Toronto; testing out portrait mode on the iPhone X on Jet
  • Work out at least once a week. Last year’s goal of “get fitter” was very vague. This year I need a better benchmark. Last year when I was actually actively trying to get fitter I worked out 4-5 times a week, but I have been very all-or-nothing about the whole thing, hence the low goal. Basically I’m saying that when I’m in a good place I will definitely exceed this goal, but I have set it low so that I can reasonably force myself to meet it when I’m not really in a working out phase.
  • A great Starbucks moment; a catvoyant; my new haircut
  • Learn to cook dishes from 10 different countries. I love food, but I do not enjoy cooking. This is something I’ve been trying to get over for years, and I don’t really know at what point you have to admit “fake it ’til you make it” isn’t working, but I’m still faking it. I have decent cooking skills and I can follow a recipe, so this isn’t so much about becoming more skilled as it is about trying new things and continuing to force myself to like cooking. I kind of doubt that I will find great joy in the activity by December 31, 2019, but we can all hope.
  • Stop popping my zits. This was an unofficial goal four years ago, and I lasted about two weeks into 2015 before going ham on my face. However, the rare occasions when I manage to resist temptation, I am always amazed at how quickly zits heal – and without any of the gross scabby phase! I’m going to try to be a lot better about popping some salicylic acid onto my zits and letting them die naturally. Maybe this time I’ll actually manage to break the habit.

I’m not aiming terribly high this year, but I’m hoping to work on forming better habits and becoming a better adult. See you in 2019!

Receiving my Master’s degree; a cow spotted in Edinburgh; at the summit of Arthur’s Peak in Edinburgh with my brother

Top 18 of 2018

Posted on December 25, 2018 under Favourites

This will almost certainly be my last year structuring my favourites posts this way; I just don’t anticipate having nineteen favourites next year. But here are the eighteen items that brightened up my 2018. These products are presented in chronological order and encompass things I tried for the first time this year. (I cheated a little bit but it’s my blog and the rules are made entirely by me, so whatever.)

NYX Epic Ink Eyeliner

After four years of religiously buying the Stila liquid liner, I made the switch to NYX this year. I see virtually no differences between the two liners other than the price tag. Liners have the tendency to transfer on my lids, but this one stays put all day, which is 90% of what I care about. It’s also easy to apply, and one pen lasts a long time. (I can’t give a terribly accurate gauge of how long since I go through phases with liquid liner and haven’t used it too frequently this year.) NYX products nearly always disappoint me, but their liquid liners consistently impress.

Bite Beauty Custom Lipsticks

I really like the custom matte formula that Bite offers at their Lip Labs, and of course I’m in love with the burnt orange and vibrant magenta shades I got on a bitter day in January. I genuinely really like these lipsticks, but they’re also a favourite because of how fun the custom creation experience was. Definitely one of my most memorable Christmas presents from last year!

Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Strawberry Girl

This is a bit of a cheat: I incldued So Sofia in last year’s roundup, so Strawberry Girl wasn’t exactly a risky purchase. (Especially since my mom bought it for me on the last day of our month-long European adventure…) Of course I love this creamy, comfortable, longwearing formula and the sleek, substantial packaging. (It has a magnetic closure, guys!) But this muted-ish coral is new to my collection, and since I have nothing else like it I feel justified in calling special attention to it. After years of avoiding anything in the peach/coral/orange family, these are now some of my favourite colours to wear, and Strawberry Girl is complex and flattering. Here it is on my face:

Zoeva Luxe Petit Crease brush

This picture sucks because my DSLR wouldn’t focus on it so I had to use my phone.

Just so everyone is aware, Danish Sephoras carry Zoeva, and it’s a wonder I bought only this brush. But it’s fantastic – soft and comfortable to use, the perfect size and shape for delicate crease work. Brushes aren’t exactly the most exciting of beauty products, but judging by how much I reach for this it would be a glaring omission to exclude it from this list!

Stila Shimmer & Glow Liquid Eyeshadows – Jezebel and Kitten

There is nothing I don’t love about these shadows. They’re ridiculously shiny, they’re easy to apply and blend out, and they seriously do not budge. These shadows make it so easy to create a stunning, high-impact look with minimal effort or skill. I have a gif swatch of them in my summer favourites post in case you want to see how excellent they are. By the way, I love the original Glitter & Glow shadows, but those are definitely prone to a bit of fallout. Not so with these, which are truly gorgeous without any of the mess.

Clinique Cheek Pop – Peach Pop and Ginger Pop

Once again, I am supremely late to the party here, but that’s only because I have believed in the supremacy of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes for so long. And they are still my favourite blush formula, and I still wear Mood Exposure basically every day, but there are limited shades in that formula and this year I wanted something new. The Clinique Cheek Pops are sheer and buildable and come in a nice array of tones – though clearly I’m leaning into warm tones. Peach Pop was practically all I wore this summer, and Ginger Pop is a nice burnt orange that I’ve been loving in the cooler weather. While I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetics of clear plastic packaging, I love how compact and easy to store these babies are.

The Chemistry Brand HA3 Hand Hydrator

I am very picky about hand creams because I absolutely cannot deal with the feeling of anything sticky on my hands. If it leaves a residue, I will not use it, which is why I have spent most of my life not using hand cream. This one sinks in so quickly and does a great job of hydrating. Bonus: I love the lemongrass scent!

NIOD Photography Fluid Opacity 12%

I basically don’t believe in primer. I’ve tried a lot that do not make my makeup last any longer than it would without, and I find a lot of illuminating primers lose their impact as soon as I put foundation on. But this one genuinely makes a difference even under a layer of foundation – it’s not intense by any means, but it leaves a gorgeous natural radiance. It can also be used as a liquid highlighter, though I prefer it as a primer.

NARS Velvet Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl

Another cheat, since I already love NARS Cruella. But I lusted after Dragon Girl for years until I received it as a very generous gift from a family friend. This vibrant strawberry red is pure fun and I wish I had a chance to wear it more often. (My current workplace is neutrals-only, sadly.)

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Malibu Peach

AHHH I cheated again! I almost exclusively buy the Miracle Gel formula because it works really well for me and there are a lot of great colours in the line. Malibu Peach is a fun, bright, modern peach that is outside of my usual comfort zone but no less great. For some reason I always get compliments when I wear this colour.

Here is a close-up to prove how bad I am at painting my nails.

Marcelle Translucent Loose Setting Powder

I am all about that loose powder life nowadays, and this one is both inexpensive, massive, and effective. Even in the dead of winter it doesn’t leave my skin looking parched – it has a gorgeous smoothing effect and sets makeup perfectly. I don’t always feel the need to powder, but when I’m using a more dewy foundation that doesn’t totally dry down I always use this. Marcelle is one of my favourite drugstore brands; they just do things right.

CoverGirl Super Sizer Mascara

The worst thing in the world happened this year, which is that Clarins discontinued their Truly Waterproof mascara, which in addition to holding a curl like no other also made my lashes long, defined, and perfectly fluttery. The reason is probably that I was the only person in the world who bought it, so it makes sense from a business perspective while still remaining personally devastating. I’m not going to say this CoverGirl mascara is as good: it’s a lot more volumizing than the Clarins, so it forfeits some of the effortless flutteriness. But it makes my lashes look good, and, crucially, it holds a curl better than basically any of the high end mascaras I’ve tried recently. I’m happy to keep using this mascara because the results are great and the price tag is right. (I got it on sale for $6.99, you guys. The Clarins was $28.)

Bite Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Verbena

I obviously took this photo with a potato.

As I mentioned, I tragically have to wear neutral makeup to work, so it’s always nice to find a neutral lipstick that’s still interesting. Verbena is just that: it’s described on Sephora as a “rose terracotta”, which is the perfect description of this layered, hard-to-pinpoint shade. I’ve never been one for nude lips, and I definitely prefer my neutrals more on the rosy brown side, so this is right up my alley. The hint of orange makes it interesting, but it’s still perfectly appropriate for work.

There is no light in Toronto at this time of year, but this picture is basically colour accurate.

Drybar 100 Proof Hair Oil

I have upped my haircare game and I now use one product daily, which is this hair oil. It makes my hair smooth and shiny and adds some hydration, since I now blow it dry a few times a week. A little goes a long way, so although this is not a cheap item, it’ll last me forever. (I also bought it during the Sephora sale, because I’m smart like that.)

First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Bendy Avocado Concealer

The hype about this concealer is so real: somehow it looks completely natural but still covers and brightens undereye circles amazingly. It’s comfortable on the skin, it’s pretty crease-resistant, and it wears well throughout the day. I’m kind of mad that I like it this much because it’s $28, but shit. This stuff is great.

NIOD Survival 30

$30 for 30ml of sunscreen is clearly expensive. But dammit if this isn’t the best facial sunscreen I’ve tried so far. I’ve used Vichy, I’ve used La Roche-Posay, I’ve used Avène, and this is the least-greasy, most-layerable of all. It doesn’t feel, smell, or look like sunscreen. I also love that it’s packed full of antioxidants for broad protection from free radical damage. The pump delivery system is great, too.

Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment With Avocado

What a luxurious, rich, truly hydrating eye cream. I can’t find fault with this product, other than its $39 price tag. The 15ml tub will last a long time since very little product makes a big impact, which is the only way I can justify this purchase. That said, while I truly love it, I will certainly be on the lookout for cheaper dupes.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment

Bougie and overpriced? Of course. But these tinted lip balms are absolutely stunning: they soothe and hydrate while giving the lips the illusion of fullness and a gorgeous hint of colour. I balk at spending a lot on something with minimal visual impact, but my lips thank me every time I apply one of these so I guess I can’t really be too upset.

2018 was not actually a huge year of makeup discovery for me, mostly because I reined in my spending quite a bit. The majority of my beauty spending was on old staples, but I did discover some new products that I’ve happily incorporated into my daily routine.

The disappointments of 2018

Posted on December 21, 2018 under Reviews

Time to complain about things I didn’t like! Actually, almost everything on this list is merely mediocre – there were very few outright fails this year. But I am not that tolerant of mediocre when the cosmetics market is so saturated, even less so when the products in question are pricey. So, in no particular order, here are the things I didn’t enjoy in 2018.

Function of Beauty Shampoo and Conditioner

It’s hard for me to say, definitively, that this product is not worth it, because by nature everyone’s formula will differ. I was initially swayed to drop some hefty cash on this custom shampoo and conditioner duo precisely because I had read reviews that claimed it was worth it. I’m sure it is, for some. But for me, these are two products that do the job and nothing more. I can get serviceable shampoo and conditioner at the drugstore.

Pat McGrath LuxeTrance Lipstick in 35mm

This is probably the biggest disappointment of all, because you know I wanted so badly to like a $52, gaudily-packaged luxury lipstick whose name references my academic discipline. (Well, kind of, I’m more on the TV side of things but TV used to be shot in 35mm too.) I firmly maintain that this isn’t a bad lipstick, it’s just an okay lipstick. The colour is pretty but nothing special, nothing that I can’t find for $30 or even $10, it’s a bit prone to patchiness on dry lips, and the wear time is far from remarkable. (I wore this lipstick to my work party the other week primarily out of guilt that I’ve barely touched it since receiving it in January, and I had to perform quite a few touch-ups.) I seem to remain the only person on this planet who has had a less-than-glowing experience with this formula, so take that as you will.

Avène High Protection SPF 50+ Emulsion

My main issue with this sunscreen is that it leaves such a white cast, and that is coming from me. I can’t even begin to imagine how unworkable this sunscreen would be on darker skin tones! I mean, the sunscreen itself is fine: it’s a nice lotion texture, it sits well under makeup without pilling, and it does seem to adequately protect from the sun. But, come on. There are too many sunscreens out there for anyone to be spending $25 on one with a severe white cast.

Avène Cold Cream Lip Balm and Abnomaly Petrowhat? in Milk

Two mediocre lip balms! The Avène has a texture that is simultaneously thin and slippery, and it doesn’t seem to ever actually sink into my lips and do any type of moisturizing. It offers temporary relief from really uncomfortably dry lips, but it wears off quickly and doesn’t leave my lips in an improved condition. Luckily I got this as gratis at my old job.

I was excited about Petrowhat?, a new-ish Deciem launch. This lip balm is supposed to mimic the feeling of petroleum jelly-based lip balms, but it’s made with squalane and amino acids. However, I find that this is too thick and greasy and that it just sits on top of my lips. It also has quite a strong salty taste thanks to the amino acids. This is a multipurpose balm so I’m trying to use it up on my cuticles and elbows. Despite the cute packaging and coconut scent, this is a no-go for me and I’d advise you to spend your seven bucks elsewhere.

OGX Flexible+ Beeswax Texture Spray Wax

I picked this up at Walmart on an impulse, because I thought Yes, why not get a texturizing spray? Though I like to make minimal effort with my hair, I thought that a texturizing spray was something I could take fifteen seconds to incorporate. But this just makes my hair a gross, sticky mess. I want to wash my hair as soon as I spray this in. Do not impulse buy hair products at Walmart, everyone.

Luckily, those are the only products that wronged me enough that I had to share. Most of what I bought this year was either satisfactory or too boring to work up any real emotion about. My next post will, of course, be all about the best products I discovered this year, so we can end the year on a positive note instead of dwelling on things that made me sad.