Sephora Staples & Splurges

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I’m a beauty product junkie, and Sephora is my go-to. 

A few times a year, Sephora has a Beauty Insider sale with up to 20% your entire purchase. The Beauty Insider is Sephora’s free-to-sign-up rewards program. They’ve just revamped their program (which I already thought was pretty good), but there are still three tiers dependent on the amount you spend at the store in a year. Beauty Insider, VIB, and VIB Rouge are the levels and you can sign up here if you’re not already a member.  

Here’s how this current sale is going to shake out:

Insider Members get 10% off their purchase August 30 - September 3.

VIB Members get 15% off their purchase August 30 - September 3.

VIB Rouge Members get 20% off their purchase August 24 - September 3.

I wait for these sales to make some of my pricier splurges or to stock up on my favorite staples. Here are a few of the things I swear by that definitely will feel better on your wallet with a discount:

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Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer.

I got this for Christmas almost two years ago and it is still one of the best things in my bathroom. I LOVE this hair dryer. It’s ridiculously expensive given that your basic hairdryer is under $50, however, it’s something that I use multiple times a week, am always happy with the results, and will last for a long time. 

I have medium-length, fine hair so I don’t spend hours drying my hair no matter what. However, the Dyson Supersonic dryer is so quick and with such smooth results (as opposed to the frizzy flyaways I get with almost all other dryers) that I barely need to run a straightener over just the ends for a completely polished look. It cuts my dealing-with-hair time in half. If I had longer or more unruly hair, I would be even happier with this dryer, I suspect. 

Clarisonic Mia.

Maybe there have been total breakthroughs in the skincare appliance game, I have no idea because I’m so happy with the Mia I’ve owned for years and years. I alternate between face washes (I like this one and this one), and I use my Clarisonic a few times a week in the shower. Make sure you keep it clean and bacteria-free by changing out the brush heads every few months, but this is the most gentle, easiest way to wash and exfoliate your face. All ages, all skin types. 

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For someone who actually hates to do her hair, I sure do buy a lot of stuff hoping for some magic. I’ve experimented with all kinds of things for my limp locks, but here are my tried and trues:

Bumble & Bumble Thickening shampoo & conditioner.

A couple of years ago, I tried a bunch of different drugstore brand shampoos because it felt like surely “nice” shampoo was a myth. NOT A MYTH. I noticed right away with the cheaper brands that even though they looked good on the first day, my hair looked way greasier and in need of a wash after 24 hours. Whereas with Bumble & Bumble Thickening shampoo, I can do days between washes. The small bottle of the conditioner will last me awhile, but I buy the giant version of the shampoo (only available online) and it lasts for months (plus check out the bang for your buck with the big one compared to the small one.)

Bumble & Bumble surf spray.

Same brand, completely different product. I use this surf spray on damp, almost-dry hair for the messy-but-not-gross look I wear most days. (This one is not pictured above.)

Living Proof dry shampoo.

Speaking of messy-but-not-gross (this is basically my hair’s tagline), Living Proof Dry Shampoo is everything everyone says it is. I’m fairly new to this product (I’ve been using it for maybe 6 months) because I never really liked the results of dry shampoo. It always looked or felt weird to me, or flat didn’t work. Not true with this one! Finally I understand what all the dry shampoo hubbub is about. 

Dry Bar Triple Sec.

This can work as a dry shampoo, but I use it as more of a texturizer. In some ways it’s a cross between the surf spray and the perfect hair day, but when I need a lot more oomph. I can use Triple Sec on clean hair, dirty hair, blowout hair, beach-y hair and be happy. It’s a go-to.

Moroccan Oil.

My stylist told me not to use this on my color-treated hair because it might affect the cool tones (turning them yellow or brassy), so I’ve held off after years of using this great oil on my dry ends. I love it and still break it out sometimes anyway because nothing makes my hair smoother or shinier. Only use a little bit if you have fine hair like I do, otherwise it can weigh it down or make it look greasy. 

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Amore Pacific everything.

For the last several years the Amore Pacific line has been my absolute favorite, gold-star winner skincare line. I use the facial cleanser, various moisturizers, and the eye cream. On the occasion that I’ve tried something different, it just doesn’t measure up. Amore Pacific is the best for my skin. It is not, however, the best for my wallet. While not the craziest of the fancy face creams, it’s still really pricey. If I was going to buy just one thing from this line, it would be the gel moisturizer. I actually started with and used the creme moisturizer for a few years (it’s great) and then accidentally picked up the wrong package one time and came home with the gel. I tried it and like it better for most of the year now. (It's actually not a gel at all, it's just a nice, light moisturizer.) The creme is great for winter or if you’re having some skin issues (it’s thicker, but not like La Mer heavy), and I’m glad to have it on hand. But most of the time I prefer the lighter, effective gel hydrant. It’s cheaper, too.

Clinique 72-Hour Moisture Surge.

When I’m traveling and don’t want to risk taking my pricier skin care with me, I’ve been using the Clinique Moisture Surge and I really do like it. It has a great feel, not at all too oily or thick. 

Drunk Elephant Sukari baby facial.

I finally tried this brand after everyone was raving about it last year. This baby facial really works. It’s probably a little harsh if you have sensitive skin, but I need tons of exfoliation and this wipes everything out in 20 minutes, revealing fresh skin without redness or next-day sensitivity. Some people reported that it burned a little, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I followed it with the Virgin luxury facial oil that was a free sample, and I really liked that, too. I may splurge on it this time. (Although my favorite facial oil is Living Libations Best Skin Ever and I use it religiously.)

Benefit Porefessional.

Another example of where using the sample size converted me. Benefit Porefessional really does make your pores disappear and makeup goes on smoother. 

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Armani Luminous Silk Foundation.

I have several foundations that I use and love, but the one that always garners compliments is the Armani luminous silk foundation. I was turned on to it by a makeup artist who used it when I had my makeup done for an event and I haven’t looked back. It has the prettiest finish while also making it look like it’s just my natural skin that is so great and not the liquid magic on top. 

Bare Minerals BareSkin.

I’m lazy about beauty stuff most of the time, so I don’t use the Armani daily. For daily use I love Bare Minerals BareSkin, because it is good for my skin and applying it with the special brush means I can have my whole face presentable in 30 seconds. It’s forgiving and easy, and yes, I do think you need the special brush for application. 

Dior HydraLife BB Cream.

If you’re a tinted moisturizer/BB cream type of person, the Dior Hydra life is worth the steep price tag. This is what I put on if I’m going to be outside all day not only because of the extra SPF but because it doesn’t melt off in the heat. It also has a really dewy finish that looks especially nice outside. 

NARS everything.

NARS is probably my all-time all-over favorite brand. I love almost everything I try from NARS, but their lipsticks are my favorite. I think the Audacious line is one of the best formulas on the market. My signature colors are Anna and Janet.

I also love, love, love their velvet matte lipsticks. I wore Sex Machine at my wedding (ha!) and still keep one in my makeup bag and in my car if I need a quick swipe. 

If you’ve ever read a magazine in your entire life, you know that the NARS orgasm blush stick is one of the most universally flattering out there and I use it almost every day. 

Urban Decay Naked Palette.

Another staple that is in millions of bathroom drawers world-wide is the Urban Decay Naked Palette. I am not that great at eye-makeup (see again: lazy) but this palette makes it look easy. I barely buy eye shadow anymore because this one has everything I need. There's also a Naked 2 Palette and a Naked 3 Palette. 

Better Than Sex mascara.

I bought Better Than Sex mascara after I admired (over and over) a friend’s eyelashes in her instagram photos. I’ve been loyal to L’Oreal Voluminous for years upon years, and this isn’t all that different (which is to say they’re both awesome), but the Better Than Sex tube comes with a much better brush. 

Tom Ford lipstick.

I’m sort of new to the Tom Ford lipsticks (it just pained me to pay for lipstick at that price point), so I started with the smaller ones called Boys & Girls and really like them. I think I'm going to graduate up to the larger size with more pigment. (I did buy and return this one, though, because it definitely didn’t seem worth the money.)

 

I'll be making a trip to Sephora this week and I'll besides replacing some of these staples, I'll also probably try a few new things I've had my eye on. Follow along on Instagram or I'll update here soon. Stay tuned...

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10 favorite episodes of the Sorta Awesome podcast

10 favorite episodes of the Sorta Awesome podcast

For 2.5 years I was a regular cohost on the popular girlfriend chat podcast Sorta Awesome. The show is created and hosted by my longtime dear friend (we’ve been close since I was a sophomore in high school) Meg Tietz and when she asked me to be one of the rotating cohosts, I couldn’t say YES fast enough, even though I had zero experience in audio or in cohosting anything. 

When Sorta Awesome launched in the spring of 2015, podcasts were just beginning to boom in a post-Serial world, but they weren’t quite to the point of explosion that they are right now. We got in at the right time, is what I’m saying. Pretty quickly Meg built up a loyal and enthusiastic community around the show, and it was trial by fire as we figured out how to make an hours worth of compelling listening each week. 

A year in, Meg and I started Smartest Person in the Room as a side project for all the topics and guests I wanted to cover that didn’t fit in the Sorta Awesome format. By the end of 2017, I realized I wanted to be writing more and juggling two podcasts was just too much. I stepped away from a regular role on Sorta Awesome, but still like to pop in from time to time when Meg will let me.

Sorta Awesome is a good mix of funny and thoughtful, and behind the mic I’ve said some supremely stupid stuff and started some conversations I remain really proud of. For posterity’s sake, I wanted to make a list of MY favorite episodes of the Sorta Awesome

Here they are, in order:

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We don't talk enough about anxiety after happiness.

We don't talk enough about anxiety after happiness.

The worst panic attack I’ve had in years came after one of the best nights of my life. It had been an evening of pure happiness, but not overly emotional. There were friends and laughter and drinks and good food. We had my favorite dessert, and a surprise musical experience. I looked around at my loving, creative family, and thoughtful, funny friends, and I was deeply grateful for being exactly right here, right now. Just a few hours later, after I’d fallen into bed pleasantly exhausted, I awoke in total panic. My heart was racing, I was sweating, and I felt absolutely terrified, like the house was a sinking ship and we were all slumbering through its destruction. 

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10 (thousand) words about choosing a personal planner

10 (thousand) words about choosing a personal planner

Every single year around this time I have a mild panic about how disorganized my life is and how all my systems are crap and how I JUST NEED TO PULL IT TOGETHER ALREADY. This coincidentally coincides with planner season. Oh, you thought as adults we structure our years based on the monthly calendar? Well some people (students, teachers, and moms) still revolve their schedules around the academic year. I am a mom, but I think my July stress really has more to do with omg-we’re-halfway-through-the-year-where-does-the-time-go-I-haven’t-met-a-single-goal-HELP type of thing. 

I asked on Instagram stories what paper planners people used and liked, and I got more responses and DMs than anything I’ve ever posted ever. People have BIG FEELINGS about planners. But although many people replied with their recommendations, just as many replied with their own planner angst. People have planner decision fatigue, people feel like they keep choosing the wrong planner, and on and on. Apparently I’m not the only who gets overwhelmed at this decision. 

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10 Favorite restaurants in Los Angeles

10 Favorite restaurants in Los Angeles

One thing about living in a city like Los Angeles, folks are always stopping through. Since I moved here nearly 17 years ago, friends, acquaintances, heck even strangers have reached out looking for recommendations on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in L.A. Hotel recommendations are always the hardest because, um, I live here. So while I can give a thumbs up to general areas in the city, I rarely know much about the inside of local hotel rooms. 

Food, however, food is a different story. In the last few years, LA has become quite the foodie scene (after a history of coming in behind cities like New York and Chicago on this front) and I have a running list of places old and new that I’m dying to try. In my 20s I couldn’t afford the great restaurants (and there were far fewer) and then I lost a good five years of the baby stage when Jeff and I were simply too tired to make much restaurant effort. 

Also, my tastes have changed dramatically in the last five years. Without going off on total tangent, suffice it to say that I’ve had lifelong food anxieties (texture issues and such) that have waned quite a bit through my husband’s gentle prodding. I’m still not an adventurous eater, but I (sometimes) venture off the kids menu. 

I often share new places we're trying on Instagram, using the #10TTTY or #10TTTYfood hashtags.

This is the type of list that fluctuates, of course, but right now here are my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles:

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Thoughts on a 6+ week social media break

Thoughts on a 6+ week social media break

An extended social media fast had been brewing with me for a long time. Facebook has been a thorn in my emotional side since the 2016 election, honestly, but it has been hard to cut the cord because the platform is the only way I communicate in certain personal and professional relationships. Twitter hasn’t ever been a problem for me, it isn’t even a time suck. I check twitter every single day, it’s my favorite source for news and opinions, but I rarely use it on my phone, nor does it make me emotional in any way. 

Instagram has long been my social media app of choice, but more and more I found myself losing (literally) hours to it over the course of a day. I use it to avoid feelings and chores and delude myself into thinking it’s “work” or that I’m actually connecting with people. When my husband left in January to make a movie for five long months, I knew after just a few weeks of solo parenting and general life chaos that I should make some dramatic changes to my personal routines and that included removing the distraction and emotion-swirling effects of social media. 

But I am addicted to this stuff, there is no doubt. I enjoy the creativity of it and the gratification of instant feedback. I genuinely like seeing other people’s creativity and work and their lives as depicted on a little screen. However, by the time I officially started my social media break - using Lent as a loose time frame - I was so ready to make the change that I didn’t suffer the withdrawal I thought I would given social media’s prominence in my brain. 

A few things I did notice, based on notes I took along the way…

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10 Podcasts to binge

10 Podcasts to binge

It's hard to imagine that just a few short years ago I didn't listen to podcasts at all. Now they are such a huge percentage of the entertainment and information that I consume, barely a day goes by that I don't listen to something.

I subscribe to dozens of shows, but it's rare that I listen to episodes on the day they drop. I'm a binger. I will wait until a series is done before I listen to it for 8 hours at a time. If you're a fellow binger, I have a few suggestions for you:

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10 Best Fiction books of 2017

10 Best Fiction books of 2017

End of the year lists are the best, I love keeping a record of the best things about a season, and my year-end book lists are my favorite to compile. On average, my goal is to read about 1 book a week, or roughly 50 - 55 books a year. I hit that goal in 2017, but it was a little uneven.

Mid-way through the year I became a little disappointed with what I’d been reading. It’s true that I had a small slump in the spring where I didn’t read much or read things that I didn’t love, but I kicked it up a notch and now that I look back on the whole of 2017, I can see that I read some truly phenomenal things. The types of books that when you’re finished with them, you think to yourself, “I want to read more stuff like THAT.” Not in content, but in caliber. 

Here are 10 of the best:

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WHY 10 Things To Tell You?

Picture us as best friends, life’s busy-ness means we haven’t caught up in several weeks and we are in dire need of a night out, or a lunch, or a long walk together. Imagine we meet at a favorite restaurant, you beat me there and order drinks first, and welcome the bowl of salty chips plopped in the center of the table. 

I arrive, slide into the booth breathless with excitement, and say “I have 10 things to tell you!”

“Oh, good!” You say. “I have a ton to talk about, too.” 

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This exact scenario plays out in my life regularly. In that booth, or on voxer, or over text. I have friends who live all over the country, and even though modern technology makes it easier for us to keep up with one another, it’s not the same as a marathon session catching up. Even my local friends here in Los Angeles are just as busy as I am toting children around and hustling work, and this culture of busy, achieving, overscheduled families means we go days or weeks without a proper conversation. 

10 Things To Tell You was born out of these marathon talks with friends and the desire to share what we're reading, watching, and listening to that is helping us grow. 

Sharing yourself is the only way to forge and deepen human connection. Giving and letting yourself receive from others makes us better friends, family, parents, and partners. I’ve been sharing my life and recommendations online for nearly a decade, and it has changed my world. The internet makes it so easy to share, but the real magic is face to face.

I have 10 Things To Tell You, but I REALLY want you to go tell your own 10 Things to the people who matter to you. Tell your friends about the books, shows, movies, podcasts, and whatever else that is making you think, making you laugh, expanding your heart. Share the things you can’t stop thinking about. If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Don’t be shy, and definitely don’t listen to that little voice that says your opinion doesn’t matter. TELL PEOPLE your ten things! Or twelve things. Or the TWO things you really want them to know.

Share your stuff. It makes all of us better.