Saturday, May 28, 2016

My 2016 Spring Bloom VoxBox

As we near the end of May and into June, I can definitely say spring is going by fast and summer will be upon us all too soon. The weather is warming up, my nose gets itchy and my eyes water if I don't use Flonase in the morning, and I'm starting to feel comfortable wearing T-shirts and/or a skirt without thick woolly leggings! I got some products from Influenster that are all too perfect for the season and have put them too the test and want to share my thoughts with you all now.
Secret Outlast Deodorant
This is a bit of a weird one but honestly don't we all use deodorant and who wants those nasty pit stains or that weird sour stinky who knows what smell coming off of them? Certainly not me. In general, deodorant lasts me forever so it's hard to get to try a new one but I got a travel size of the Secret Outlast Deodorant in the completely clean scent and it's been working really well. Spring is like the time when it can get warm and dresses and T-shirts are out..basically all the more reasons to wear deodorant. I like how this doesn't mix with my sweat scent like my previous Secret deodorant sometimes did and it really does a good job at keeping me from getting those sweaty pits.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil
I'll start off by saying I've never used a "dry oil" and have only ever really used jojoba oil (once for my hair) and coconut oil (multiple times, also only for my hair). I've never used an oil to moisturize my body or face but have heard of such uses so was interested in trying this product for such purposes in addition to using it on my hair. I wish there were better instructions or directions for this product though because for someone who is new to dry oil or any oil for this matter, they might just apply the oil throughout their hair thinking it would have some shiny/silky effect on their hair and then be left with a greasy head all day.
The full size version of this comes with a spray pump but the sample I received was so small that it was just an open bottle with a screw on cap. This forces you to tilt the bottle and pour the product out which, like any oil or liquid, can cause it to dribble down the bottle and create a bit of a mess - which with oil, is more difficult to clean up then say, water. So already, my first time using this, I had some issues with pouring out the oil and having some of it go on my desk and not my hand. This wouldn't be a problem for the full size of the product which comes with a spray but it is something to keep in mind if you're looking to get a smaller size of this product.
-For the hair: The first time I used this, I poured it into my palms, rubbed it in to distribute it evenly, and combed it through the ends of my hair only. I did not go anywhere near my scalp for fear of a greasy head which was a good thing because my ends definitely looked a bit wet and piece-y for the whole day (signs of oily hair). I didn't use very much product, which means a little bit goes a long way, and the instructions on the website say you can spritz this in your hair
-For the skin: This doesn't leave your hands feeling super oily IF you rub it in completely. So start with only a little amount and rub it in thoroughly; that means MAKE THAT SMALL AMOUNT GO THE DISTANCE. The price is $36 for a full size which okay, isn't off the charts but it is more than the $3 Cerave lotion I usually use right? I think it does a good job at moisturizing my skin and doesn't make me feel all sticky or wet like other lotions do. Your hands will definitely feel different but with lotion your hands feel different too. I think it just takes some time getting used to.
-For the face, I have yet to try mixing this in with my foundation (not sure how oil and makeup go together...) but apparently it's supposed to give you a healthy natural glow. Someone else can try this out I suppose ;)

Sunbelt Bakery Chocolate Chip Bar
I brought this with me on my hike in South Lake Tahoe and ended up eating it back at my hotel when I was doing nothing exciting. Nevertheless, this was delicious. A bit on the sweet side and very similar to a Quaker Chocolate Chip granola bar but thicker. I wouldn't mind buying this again in a 6 pack (vs individually) to have as a healthier snack or dessert option for those days when I'm craving the sweeties.

Not Your Mother's Plump for Joy™
This is a hair thickener which is so great for people like me who have thin limp boring hair. I know how bad teasing your hair is for you so I rarely do it (that and I'm pretty bad at it) so having this was the perfect way to get the volume from teasing, without having to actually go through the teasing process. It's better than hairspray because it doesn't make your hair super crunchy and nasty and well the sample size of this is so perfect for traveling when space is limited and you can only take so much with you!

Cutex Nail Polish Remover
This is kind of amazing for travel because who wants to be lugging around a giant bottle of nail polish remover when they go on vacation right? I'm not even sure TSA would let you bring on a full size nail polish remover bottle and I don't know if there are travel size bottles of nail polish remover. So here we have the solutions - Cutex nail polish remover pads. These are thick pads (they wont just rip on you as you scrub away hard at your nails - trust me I tried with glitter polish) that are completely soaked in nail polish remover so they'll get your nail polish off in no time. The pads are so big that I swear they could do your fingers and toes all with one pad. Definitely one of my favorites. I wonder how long they last unopened though since I'm planning on going to Croatia in about 1.5 months and I don't want these drying out on me! (Which reminds me, even those these have acetone, they're not THAT drying because they have flax seed and other oils combined so it doesn't leave your nails gasping for moisture.

Sinful Colors Nail Polish in Bling it On! Teal Midnight

Because I had my Cutex pads, I was also able to easily try out my new Sinful Colors polish Bling it On! in Teal Midnight. Apparently it's limited edition so if this appeals to you, you better find it quick!
In the above picture, I tried on various combinations and coats of the Teal Midnight nail polish as well as my other Sinful Colors polish, Ingr, which is part of their extra shine collection.
-Index finger: 2 coats Ingr
-Middle finger: 1 coat Ingr + 1 coat Bling It On Teal Midnight
-Ring finger: 2 coats Teal Midnight
-Thumb and pinky: 1 coat Ingr
Both polishes are pretty sheer which isn't a bad thing. You don't need to make super thick coats since they'll go on sheer even if you glob it on so it's better to work with less product, let it sit and then do at least one more coat (probably 3 total would be best). Ingr with 2.5 coats was really great - opaque sea sky blue with fine shimmer (it really makes it look like the ocean). It has a nice glossy and shiny finish too. Teal Midnight is definitely a glitter top coat but it's not PACKED with glitter so if you're really looking for the glitter aspect, I'd suggest putting it on a sponge and then dabbing it onto your nail. I just brushed on the nail polish and would have liked more glitter but it was hard to get the glitter without getting the polish and making a huge glob/mess on my nail. You'll for sure need a clear top coat over Teal Midnight though because you can feel the glitters (that roughness doe). I wouldn't suggest using Teal Midnight on its own because it's way too sheer even with 2-3 coats which is pushing it because you get so much empty sheer nail polish and not enough glitter. This would definitely be perfect though if you just need a hint of glitter to boost your nail game.

Anyways, this is one of my more thorough reviews and I feel like I covered the key aspects and points of each product. I hope it helps you make your decision if you're looking to get any of these products. Please know that even though I got these products for free, all opinions are my 100% true to me. What works for me might not work for you so take everything with a grain of salt! Skin tone, skin type, hair type, etc all factor in to how a product works with you! Well, that's my spiel for the day. Have a wonderful day all you wonderful people reading this :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

3 tasty, easy, and photogenic sandwiches

There's nothing better than making tasty food except for tasty BEAUTIFUL food that you can show off on Instagram, am I right or am I right? Just kidding but I'm sure it's one of the top 5 best things in the world (trying to make a reference to the season premiere of Game of Thrones season 5 which just came out last Sunday and oh man I could go on and on about it). Anyways, here are some of my favorite sandwiches of the moment to make that are all so simple and easy to whip up that you'll spend more time taking photos of these than you will spend making and eating them combined. These are perfect for a morning brunch, afternoon tea party, or special lunch party!

1. Cream Cheese with Dill and Smoked Salmon and/or Cucumber
This has got to be one of the best sandwiches out there. You can make these open faced or not (well I suppose any sandwich you can choose to cover or leave uncovered) but they definitely are easy to dress up with a sprig of dill resting on top. I say and/or regarding the smoked salmon and cucumber because both of them go SO well with cream cheese mixed with dill and together they're pretty bomb as well. I know cucumber butter sandwiches are like a thing but those just don't taste good in my opinion. Dill has a nice slightly spicy (but not actually) sharp flavor that really enhances the fresh cream cheese and the saltiness of the smoked salmon or the crisp watery taste of cucumber (make sure to have thin cucumber slices though or else it'll be too overpowering) - all of this comes together to make one of the best sandwiches ever. Honestly everyone gobbles these up when my sister and I make them.
To make this sandwich: I don't actually follow any specific recipe (though there are plenty out there online so feel free to Google if if you're a very exact precise measurement type of person) and just eyeball it. However, if I were to measure it, I'd say it's 1 tablespoon chopped dill to 4 oz (half a pack) of cream cheese. Of course this can be adjusted to your liking but I personally like more dill than less. You can mix these with a fork or a blender (I generally use a fork because less clean-up and since I don't usually work in large batches, a fork does the job just as quickly). Stir it all up, spread it on your bread (this can be a little difficult if the cream cheese is thick/cold/firm but it doesn't have to be an even layer - a nice sort of chunk looks just as nice like in the photo above), and top with smoked salmon or thinly sliced cucumber or both! I generally don't toast my bread for this sandwich but you totally can if you like; I just think a nice soft textured bread works well with the flavors of the sandwich fillings. I like to cut my bread for these type of sandwiches into small squares (usually about 4 squares per one slice of bread) so you get a small tear of smoked salmon and/or a half or quarter slice of cucumber (if your bread squares are large enough or you're making a full sandwich, you can obviously keep your cucumber slices whole and layer them). For open faced sandwiches, it looks nice if you take a small leaf/sprinkle of dill and place it on top as I did in the photo above. The photo right below (from my previous post actually), I didn't have dill so used thyme but I wanted to include this photo so you could get some idea on how to arrange cucumber and smoked salmon on your sandwich. The second photo down shows salmon with dill and cream cheese. I used two different types of smoked salmon in the sandwiches below (if you're wondering why the color difference).

2. Hummus, Pesto, and Tomato 
This is one of my newer sandwich tries and oh my, I'm so sad I didn't try this out earlier. This combination is AMAZING. I initially was thinking just hummus and tomato topped with a basil leaf (saw it on Pinterest) but then I had pesto spread in our refrigerator so thought I'd try it out and golly me, it was heavenly. I would highly recommend toasting your bread for this sandwich because the crunch of the bread helps balance out the soft texture of the hummus and pesto, as well as the moistness of the tomato. Plus, this sandwich looks good with the crust left on so less work for you right?

To make this sandwich: Toast bread (I think wheat or some other non-white bread would go best with the fillings but I used white and it tastes just as good). Allow to cool somewhat before spreading on an even layer of hummus (so it doesn't melt or get weird and soft) and then spread on a less even layer of pesto. Thickness is up to you but I'd say don't be too shy! Top with slice(s) of tomato(es) depending on the size of your tomato and bread. If you're feeling fancy, add a basil leaf on top for some extra photo points (I forgot to but it still looks bomb right?)

3. Melted Smoked Gouda with Turkey Breast, Fruit Jam, and Toppings
The title for this sandwich is kind of all over the place but really there's no specific name for it since I add whatever I have at hand. The basics are cheese (I love smoked gouda but it's not one of the most "melty" cheeses so provolone any other cheese that melts well would work fine), deli meat (I go for turkey breast since it's generally the healthiest and doesn't have too strong of a flavor), and fruit jam (the two photos below, I used strawberry jam but any jam would work fine, you just want that sweet concentrated flavor to contrast the savory cheese and meat). From there, I like to play around with what I have. Usually having something that gives the sandwich a "crunch" is nice like an apple slice, candied nut, dried fruit (try even the freeze dried kinds), or crunchy veggies like romaine lettuce. Having another sweet bite such as a fruit like a blueberry, strawberry, apple, pear, etc also adds to the sandwich.
To make this sandwich: Layer cheese over bread and toast until cheese has melted. Let cool for 1 minute before cutting into desired size/pieces and adding layer of deli meat. Add thin layer of toppings of choice including sliced fruit, fresh vegetables, and crunchy nuts. Drizzle fruit jam over (if thin enough) or spread over cheese and deli meat before placing all toppings if too thick. Make sure it's visible because it adds a nice touch to the overall sandwich.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Breakfast, brunch, and lunch for two - cute sandwich and other food ideas!

I recently made a little mini tea time brunch for my mother and me (my sister was at work) and wanted to share what I made in case some of you are looking for food inspiration for your next tea party, fancy breakfast time (need to impress a man?), or lunch gathering!
Menu items including:
  • Lemon ricotta pancakes with slice bananas and drizzled honey (Original recipe here)
  • Mixed greens salad with strawberries, walnuts, blueberries, and raspberry vinaigrette
  • Romaine lettuce mixed with cucumbers, pecans, tomatoes, and homemade pesto lemon vinaigrette
  • Avocado toast with sliced cherry tomatoes 
  • Toasted smoked gouda cheese sandwich with sliced turkey, spinach, and candied walnuts (my mom actually tossed and toasted the walnuts herself!). Strawberry jam toe tie it all together
  • French brioche bread with cream cheese spread, cucumbers, and smoked salmon. Garnished with thyme (but really dill would have been better but I didn't have any at the time!)
  • Fruit bowl of bananas, cantaloupe, and blueberries
  • Lastly TEA! - "Yummy" by Lupicia. This is strawberry and vanilla flavored smooth rooibos tea; no milk added. It's not overly sweet smelling like some fruit teas and really has an amazing taste to it.
Cream cheese and dill is the perfect spread for a cucumber or smoked salmon sandwich so combining it with both of them was a no brainer. Unfortunately I didn't have dill at the time so sprinkled some dried thyme on top instead and it was pretty good! The freshing flavor of the cucumber really balances the salty smokey salmon and the smooth texture of the cream cheese all on a nice slice of fresh brioche (but any bread will do really). I find for this type of sandwich you don't need to toast the bread.
The lemon ricotta pancakes were SO, I repeat, sooo good. I linked the original recipe earlier but there are definitely lots of recipes online to use. My pancakes weren't bursting with flavor but if you have ricotta lying around, these are a good way to put your ricotta to use (if you're not a lasagna type person). I love how the pancakes are super fluffy and not overly sweet. I added in the lemon flavor by squeezing in some lemon juice and adding fresh lemon gratings over the pancakes. Added a side of sliced bananas but any fruit will do, some maple syrup or honey, and boom - sweet wholesome goodness.
Strawberry jam and honey to top off the pancakes and with sippings of the tea? Can't get much better than that! Having these cute little jars of jam and honey really add to the overall presentation which is why I'm so glad I nicked them from a hotel I stayed at a little while back haha! (Okay I didn't really, someone I was staying with had ordered sandwiches and they came with these jars of jam and honey but they didn't use them so gave them to me!)
Here's a close up of my (basically) cheese turkey sandwich. What makes this better than your typical sandwich is the fact that it's toasted so the cheese is all nice and soft, you have the extra sweetness from the strawberry jam and candied pecans (which also gives a nice crunch!), and you get your daily dose of veggie with that one leaf of spinach ;) Perfect right? This was actually my mom's favorite sandwich. Also can I add how CUTE the little wooden board is? I got it from Ikea for only $2.99!
Cheers to a successful tea time bonding with my momma <3 I hope this gave you some ideas for your next home-baking food excursion! The dining and silverware you use really make a difference in the overall presentation of your food so take your time and pick up random bits and bobs that will really tie together your whole table and the food you make. They don't even have to be expensive (cough my wooden cutting board!) and most of our tea cups and tea plates are thrifted or bought from garage sales. A few are from Daiso, our local Japanese $1.50 shop (most things there are only 1.50 including their glassware!) and some others from Hong Kong or TaoBao (the China ebay). Good luck and leave a comment below if you know any tea party bloggers that could give ME inspiration!