14 February 2015

Happy (Snowy) Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day from snowy, snowy New England. I've totally lost count of how many snow storms we've had. Another one just started, and there's a rumor there could be yet another one a few days after this one is over. We were already at around 60 inches of snow for this winter. There is snow EVERYWHERE.

Anyways, Happy Valentine's Day from my red lips to you! Stay warm, dry, and safe!

Apologies for the messy hair and blurry photo. My camera phone has not been cooperative lately.
On my lips:
Beautique Lipliner in Real Red 7142002 (Sally Beauty for only $2.19)
N.Y.C. Ultra Moist Lip Wear in 308 Retro Red (Total steal at only 99 cents from CVS)

26 January 2015

Product Review: Garnier Fructis De-Constructed Move It Manipulating Gel

Look no further for touchable texture!
This is one of the many reviews that is long overdue. I bought this gel several months ago to try out and have been thoroughly enjoying it. It is pretty much exactly what I was looking for. The Garnier Fructis De-Constructed Move It Manipulating Gel is the perfect product to add texture without making my hair tacky or stiff. It is also super quick and easy to use, which I love. Who has time to individually groom each section of hair?

I've found that this gel works best on wet or damp hair. Garnier's website says you can use it on dry hair, but for me, I don't find it works as well on dry hair. I usually use it right after I wash my hair. I tend to sit with a towel on my head for roughly fifteen minutes after my shower so it isn't sopping wet. Then I comb through my hair and get my bangs in order. Next I massage a little 100% pure Aloe Vera Gel into my scalp and scrunch a little more into my hair. I use the aloe on my scalp to help prevent dandruff and work a little volume into my roots. I scrunch it through the rest of my hair to give it a bit of moisture and shape. Then I take a small amount (roughly a dime sized dollop) of the Move It Manipulating Gel, rub it between my palms, and scrunch that into my hair. The Manipulating Gel really does a good job of helping my hair hold the shape that I made with the aloe vera gel.

This is what it looks like after applying the Manipulating Gel when my hair is still wet:
Got some nice reflected light off of the snow.
And here is what it looks like a few hours later once my hair has dried:
"Lovely" yellow artificial light
As you can see, it helps my hair keep a nice wave in it, rather than drying to an unattractive not-quite-straight. After I sleep on it, a lot of the specific waviness is gone, but a little water and some scrunching re-activates it. I've been super happy with this gel and, as a bonus, one tube lasts forever! I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking to inject a bit of tousled texture into their style.

Product Review: Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bar

Every day essentials
When there's a storm coming, most people rush out to buy milk and bread. Me, I go and buy my beauty essentials. Okay, so I also ended up going to the store and buying milk, but that wasn't because of the storm. In any case, these are two products that I absolutely love and use on a regular basis. This post is specifically about the Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bar for acne-prone skin (a review of the dry shampoo is forthcoming, I promise!). I was in luck today too, because it was on sale for $5.29.

I first purchased this facial bar when I was in Maui. I'd brought along a travel sized container of my usual morning face wash, but I found it was a little too harsh to be using both in the morning and at night. After a bit of browsing, I pulled the travel sized version of the facial bar off the shelves and decided to try it. I've been using it almost nightly ever since!

This is the first and only facial cleanser I've used that comes in a traditional bar soap form. It actually makes for easy use, since I can just wet my face with a wash cloth, get some soap on the washcloth, scrub my face, and then rinse. It's a very gentle formula that doesn't dry out my skin, a problem I have sometimes with cleansers despite the fact that I have oil/combination skin. And it really does help my acne prone skin. I've been out of it for over a week now and I've noticed more breakouts in that time. I also find that because it is so easy to use, I'm better about properly washing my face at night than when I use a different kind of cleanser, much as I might like them.

My nightly routine now always includes this cleanser. Depending on how much makeup I'm wearing, I'll use my CVS Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover (a knock off of the Neutrogena remover of the same name) and a CVS Exfoliating Apricot Towelette  to get the bulk of my eye makeup and foundation off. Then I use this Neutrogena Facial Bar to really give my face a good wash. I've found that if I'm not wearing heavy makeup, this works just fine on its own to remove makeup and cleanse all in one. After I've finished washing my face with this, I use witch hazel as a toner and top it all off with my favorite night cream- Neutrogina Naturals Nourishing Night Cream (review of the night cream here).

I cannot say enough about this facial bar! It's simple to use, the scent is very minimal, and it works great. Given that it took me over four months to go through the travel size, it's also a great bang for your buck. And anything that encourages me to wash my face more and cleanses so well is worth every penny, anyways, in my opinion!

17 January 2015

Hair Dye Adventures: Beyond the Zone Color Jamz

In my continued quest for vibrant color, I tried out a new kind of dye this month. I wound up with this dye because the particular color I got was on clearance for $5. The dye is Beyone the Zone's Color Jamz in the color Candy Apple Red. Sally Beauty Supply doesn't have this color listed on the site any more, so I suspect it was on clearance is because it's a color they're not carrying anymore. According to the Amazon page, it's supposed to come out a fairly bright red on bleached hair. The dye itself is actually more of a deep fushia. You can sort of see it in this photo:

Partially used bottle
One nice thing about this dye was that, like the Manic Panic, I only needed to use about half the dye in the container, meaning I get two dye jobs out of one purchase. Off all the dyes I've tried from Sally's (this, Manic Panic, and Ion Color Brilliance), this may have been one of the messiest. It wasn't too bad as far as the actual dying process and rinsing it out was about on par with the Ion Color Brilliance Brights in Red. However, what it did to my scalp was unprecedented. All of the dyes I've been using lately tell you not to get it on your scalp when you apply it. I have yet to actually find a way to reliably get all my hair dyed and not get dye all over my scalp. I applied this dye with my dye brush in the way I usually do and let it set for the maximum recommended time of 20 minutes. I rinsed it out and applied an after dye conditioner. I was then unpleasantly surprised at how much of it decided to adhere to my scalp. I expect my scalp to be a bit colorful after I first dye my hair, because it pretty much happens with all dyes, but this one took the cake.

Hello pink dye!
I was joking with Mike that my hair looked like an Easter egg. It was such a bright color and it was sort of speckled too, which made me think of eggs. And it was everywhere that I'd let the dye sit, so basically all along my hair line was super bright pink. Unfortunately, the dye didn't show up that well on my hair. It's certainly redder than it was before, but as you can see in the photo, it's actually a pretty natural looking color. Now that my scalp is no longer pink, it pretty much just looks like I have auburn hair. And that's fine, but not quite what I was hoping for.
Terribly back-lit photo.
As you can see in this photo, it does pop a bit more red when the light hits it. I don't know that I'd buy this dye again so long as I continue to dye over my naturally brown hair, but I think it was worth what I spent on it and I'll certainly use the other half of the bottle at some point.

04 January 2015

DIY Hand Warmers

In addition to knitting quite a bit so far this winter, I've also busted out my sewing machine to do a few simple projects, the first of which was actually a Pinterest DIY. It was for little reusable hand warmers that you make with some rice and fabric scraps. I'd repinned it a while ago and then realized they would make a great, quick Christmas present. I ended up making a pair for my Secret Santa and a pair for my friend Lauria (she is a tour guide at a historical site and is outside in period colonial garb very frequently). The tutorial I used is this one. I changed very little from what she did. This is her picture of the hand warmers (I forgot to take pictures of the ones I made before I wrapped them).

© 2015 rae ann kelly of raeannkelly.com
I thought they were just adorable, and I happend to have two pairs of square fabric scraps from when I made my knitting project bag. So one set ended up the green pattern and one set ended up the grey pattern, which was perfect since my Secret Santa likes green and the grey seemed great for Lauria. Because I was using scraps that were basically already cut for me, I just made sure they were proper squares and called it a day. As a result, instead of the 2 3/4 inches square she suggests, I used  3 1/2 inch squares. I thought they still seemed like a nice size for hands and coat pockets. In any case, they are the easiest things in the world to make and because you can use fabric scraps and there isn't much rice in them, they are very inexpensive as well.

Instructions:


1) Cut out two 3 1/2 inch squares of the fabric of your choice for each hand warmer. (You can make your hand warmers larger or smaller, so long as they're squares.)

2) Put the two squares wrong sides together and sew around with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, leaving an opening about 1 1/2 inches wide. Backstitch both at the beginning and the end.

3) Fill about 3/4 of the way with rice. For squares that were 3 1/2 inches, I used 30g of rice. (I measured so that I could make sure they were all evenly filled.)

4) Pin the opening and sew shut.

5) Use pinking sheers to trim the edges.

If you don't have pinking sheers (I had to borrow a friend's), instead of sewing wrong sides together, you can sew them right sides together in step 2. Then, before step 3 when you fill it with rice, turn the bag right side out. After you fill it, you'd simply pin the opening and whip stitch it closed.

To use the hand warmers, all you have to do is pop them in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

And that's it! Super simple and simply adorable. I think it took me longer to get my machine out than it did to actually make them.

03 January 2015

Christmas Knitting

After promising myself that I wouldn't try and knit a bunch of things for Christmas, I sort of went and did exactly that. The saving grace was that most of the things I knit, while they were Christmas presents, didn't actually have to be completed until a few days after Christmas.

The first thing I knit, that wasn't initially a Christmas present, was this red, uneven checked cowl.

Uneven Checked Cowl
I had started making a blanket using this stitch pattern that was supposed to be mailed off to be part of a giant Christmas stocking. I knit it solely backstage during Meet Me in St. Louis because it was a way to keep my hands busy during the few moments of downtime and it was an easy pattern to keep track of. However, I was over half way through my first skein of yarn and it didn't look like the stocking was actually going to happen, so I just knit until I liked the width, cast off, and joined it to make a cowl. Meet Me in St. Louis was the last show that my Production Assistant, Anna, was doing at that theater with me, so I asked her if she wanted it. I already have too many cowls and I wanted to give her something I'd knit. It worked out for us both because she liked it and happily took it as a Christmas/show present.

I also knit a cowl for my Secret Santa at work. It was a pattern I'd favorited on Ravelry a while ago and it was a good pick for Secret Santa because it used bulky yarn and size US13 needles, so it knit up really quickly.

Moebius Basketweave Cowl
I actually had a very hard time finding yarn for it. My person's favorite color is green, but being Christmas time, any green yarn was few and far between. Luckily I found this nice grass green. It was unintentional, but I thought it was amusing how similar the stitch patterns were on the two cowls that I made.

I ended up knitting two things for my Secret Santa. In addition to the cowl, I knit this adorable Tardis mouse.

TARDIS Mouse
My Secret Santa really likes Doctor Who, so I knew I wanted to make something Doctor Who related. I also didn't want to shoot myself in the foot by picking something too ambitious. The mouse was something I could reasonably finish in the time I had and I already owned the yarn for it, which also helped.

The embroidered letters weren't quite as perfect as I would have liked.
It did knit up pretty fast overall. Piecing it together and doing all the detail work was the most time consuming part. I had initially wanted to do the small crocheted ears, but I'm so rubbish at crochet that I abandoned that idea pretty quick and settled for the knit ears. Overall, I was pretty please with how he came out.

The final two things I knit this year for Christmas were actually the very first and the very last things I completed. I wanted to knit something for my mum and Joanne (Mike's step-mom), but I didn't really know what to make them. Mum's hard to knit for because she lives in Hawaii and I don't really know Joanne well enough to knit wearables for her. In the end, I knit them these little stuffed guys.

Mum's Stuffed Gnomeman
Joanne's Christmas Gnomeman
 Technically they're gnomes, but because of the colors I used, I really think they look more like snowmen. I've been calling them gnomemen. The one on the left was the one I made for Mum. I picked his hat and scarf colors based on the fact she likes orange. The one on the right is the one I made for Joanne. I went for more Christmas-y colors on him. I also gave him eyes based on Mike's suggestion. I think somehow the red hat ended up smaller, despite the fact that I thought I followed the pattern the same both times. I intentionally made a longer scarf for Mum's. I think I picked up the stitches around the base better the first time. I didn't go far enough back on the red guy, so the stitches want to curl out more. But they're both pretty cute despite all that.

And now I'm back to slogging along on my first pair of socks. I actually did make some progress on them recently, despite all my Christmas knitting. I just have a few inches and the toe to go, then on to the second sock!

12 December 2014

Gingerbread Biscotti

I have such a backlog of posts, it's not even funny. I have things I need to post from Halloween! I actually think that's part of the reason I haven't posted much lately, I'm so paralyzed by how behind I am. The other reason is that I have a photo album on Facebook I've been using to document the holiday season. But, I made some really awesome biscotti yesterday, and figured that would be any easy way to dive back in to my blog. I found the recipe here on Smitten Kitchen. I made pretty much no alterations to the recipe.

Biscotti done and cooling.
Gingerbread Biscotti
2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 Tbsp butter, melted and cool
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup nuts, white chocolate, or dark chocolate (opt.)
1 large egg white

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line one large or two small baking sheets (I used two) with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, spices, pepper, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugars, butter, two eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients and any nuts and chocolate to the dry mixture. Stir until thoroughly combined. (I used about 3/4 cup of toasted almond slices and no chocolate in this batch.)

3. Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, put each half onto the baking sheet and form it into a slightly flattened log about 11 inches by 2 1/2 inches. Whisk the egg white until a little foamy and loose. Brush the egg white over the top and sides of each log.

Logs shaped, brushed with egg white, and ready to go in the oven.
4. Bake logs until golden brown all over, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool about 25 minutes, until lukewarm.

They were definitely most pretty right when they came out of the oven.
5. Use a sharp serrated knife and cut logs on the diagonal into 1/2 inch wide slices. Arrange the slices, a cut side down, on baking sheet. Bake for another 10-12 minutes, until golden underneath. Turn each biscotti over and bake for another 6-8 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

6. Enjoy with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate!

Note from experience: In step 5, when you're baking the individual slices, be warned that it is the bottom that is browning, not the top. I totally left them in for over 15 minutes because I couldn't see a noticeable color change on top. Little did I know the bottom was cooking away. I almost burnt them! When checking for done-ness in that step, pick it up and take a glance at the bottom.

Biscotti are a great thing to make around the holidays because they can keep at room temperature in an airtight container for weeks.

And just for fun, here is a picture of me being the SS Christmas Elf at work. (SS technically stands for Secret Santa, but one of the actors got confused and thought of Nazi's, hence the helmet plus the holiday hat.)