Testing out the Billion Dollar Brushes

The brush set, new and just out of the package

Recently, Billion Dollar Beauty sent a package over and contained in that package was the Pro-Brush Essentials Kit. I have been using the kit ever since to determine how I feel about them and how they work.  I absolutely love testing out new makeup brushes, especially when they are in a pre arranged kit like this.  Not only is it fun to try out new brushes, but I always end up learning something about how I actually apply makeup when I do. 

I think it is because I’m testing I am not just reaching for whichever brush I want automatically from my stash of brushes but using a specific set so I have to focus. The set in general is a lovely one to focus on.  It is black and gold with gray bristles.  The bristles are soft and well attached.  I had absolutely no issues with bristles falling out.  The quality is very nice. 

I really like that they are infused with charcoal.  It doesn’t add any dust to your face (if that is a concern), but it is infused into the bristles.  Charcoal has anti-microbial properties in it which quite honestly I think is genius in a makeup brush.  I am pretty good about washing my brushes, but in all honesty I generally wash the ones I’m using once a week.  Otherwise I use  a color switch. Having a little help in keeping the microbes in check between washes is definitely something I can get behind.

Plus, I’m pretty sure it is also what gives the bristles their cool gray color, which personally I am partial to. I also like that the bristles are synthetic and cruelty free. 

As I go through the six brushes in the kit, I am going to use the name that is inscribed on the brush itself as they don’t have numbers.

Powder Brush

Powder Brush: It is nice and fluffy and applies powder products well.  I started off using it for my powder, but I found I generally I wanted to use another brush for powder instead.  I absolutely loved this brush for applying blush. So I ended up using it as my blush brush and I really enjoyed it as a blush brush.  It applied product well and then was dense enough that I could use it to help blend in the blush.

Foundation Brush

Foundation Brush: I’ll be honest, I didn’t like using this for foundation.  For my foundation, I really wanted a densely packed brush like the one I usually use and I did end up rotating in my 999 Master Blender from Bdellium tools.  However I loved this brush for dealing with loose setting powder.  I found I could use less powder and really control where I put it when I used this brush.  For me, that is what this flat brush was made for. It swept away any eyeshadow fall out and was then used for the powder.

Contour Brush

Contour Brush: This worked well with any powder bronzer or contour I paired with it.  I was very pleased with its performance.  The angled edge was perfect for applying across my cheeks and it really helped blend the product well.  It wasn’t as good for my cream based products.  When I tried it with the creams I generally found I blended better with my fingertips.  Admittedly I usually find I blend cream products better with my fingertips.   But for powder products it worked really well.

Eyebrow Brush

Eyebrow Brush:  This worked perfectly as you would expect. This size brush is always fantastic for the eyebrows.  It worked well with both powder and cream products.  It paired with the Billion Dollar Brows Pomade is a fantastic duo for me. I found that once cleaned off, this brush worked really well for lipstick application.  I have a couple of cream lipstick pans that it worked well with.  I also have a couple of lipsticks that I’ve worn down to that they no longer give the best angle during application, so it is easier to use a brush to get the clear lines.  A brush like this is especially useful if you have a deep red or berry shade that sometimes gets a little messy when you apply it.  Using a small angled brush can give you so much more control.  This little brush worked well for both lipsticks and its designated eyebrow status.  It is a style of brush I always find a use for so I’m not surprised that I liked having another one in my collection.

Highlighter Brush

Highlighter Brush:  I’ll be honest, until I looked at the handle to write this up, I didn’t realize this was a highlighter brush.  I tend to apply my highlighter with my fingertips.  I don’t like a bright blazing highlighter strip but more of a blended in glow and fingers work the best for me. This brush I have been using as an eyeshadow brush and it is a really good blending brush and just all round eyeshadow brush.  In fact partnered with the actual Eyeshadow Brush in the kit, the two brushes were all I really needed to do my eyes.  Now I do have a rather tame eyeshadow look as I lean more towards everyday looks than the super creative ones.  I actually envy the super creative looks. Occasionally I try to emulate them at home when I am just playing around.  Usually that ends up with me looking like I got into some sort of bizarre fight and ended up the loser. Or they will look fantastic when my eyes are closed but then everything is hidden when I open my eyes because they are somewhat hooded.

The point is that for an everyday look, the Highlighter brush was the perfect general all round eyeshadow brush.

Eyeshadow Brush

Eyeshadow Brush: the last brush in the Essentials kit and the one I used for shimmers.  It worked well with shimmer application and when called upon it helped blend fairly well.  It isn’t as thick as the Highlighter brush so I often called upon the highlighter brush for blending, but the eyeshadow brush did a really good job.  With some shadows and glitters it needed to be damp to work well but the brush worked well either damp or dry with no bristle fall out.  I had some eyeshadows that I played around with that required a lid primer and this eyeshadow brush worked well applying the lid primer to the lisd as well as blending it into place.  Then it had to be washed, but after washing it was as good as before and fantastic with the shimmers.

Overall I thought this was a really good mix of brushes.  It is a nice kit that gave most of what I wanted when putting together my makeup.  I added a different foundation brush because I prefer a kabuki style brush for foundation, however the foundation brush in this kit will definitely become part of my everyday makeup kit in a different capacity. I really enjoyed the use of the flat foundation brush, just not with my foundation. Other than that, the only thing missing from this kit is spoolie to finish off your eyebrows.  And as I have quite a few of those around, many attached to eyebrow products, it was no real problem at all.



The Daily: July 28th, 2021

When you start on a healthy lifestyle plan, especially if the plan involves losing weight, there are a few basic habits that you get into. One of them is frood planning. In general I am pretty good at this. I plan my food for the week and have one healthy snack option lined up for the day to combat cravings.

The problem is that for the past year, my meetings have predominantly been taken over the phone or on the computer. I didn’t have to drive across town to a meeting and worried about getting delayed and hungry along the way. And so when I had a meeting scheduled for today I completely spaced about throwing a protein bar in my bag so that if I was hungry by the time my meeting ended I could nosh on it instead of getting pulled in by the long like of drive-thru restaurants on the way from the meeting to the house.

Plus I forgot breakfast. And my meeting ran long. I did get in my workout before the meeting, which while good, sadly added to the issue.

It was the perfect storm.

I ended up with a container of medium fries from McDonald’s.

And let me tell you…It was delicious!

I can’t even remember the last time I had french fries. They weren’t what I planned, but they were very much appreciated.

This meeting was a bit strange actually. I think people have gotten out of the habit of meeting in person and haven’t quite made the mental switch to remembering that everyone else isn’t on the other side of the screen.

Although trust me, it would have been nice to have a mute button.

So the workout was done, and extra calories were consumed. Tomorrow I’ll tack on a little extra to my workout to make up for it. For now I am just happy to cool off for a bit.

Today’s Look:

Primer: Benefit Cosmetics Porefessional Primer

Foundation: Tom Ford Traceless Soft Matte Foundation

Blush/Bronzer/highlight: The Ultimate Glow Getter Cheek Trio from Real Her

Powder: ABH Setting powder

Mascara: Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara

Lips: Bodyography lip pencil in Rosewood with YSL Lip Gloss over it

Setting Spray: Farsali Rose Gold Facial Mist

I know, some of you are looking at the list and thinking I forgot to put eyeshadow down. I didn’t. Today I just dusted a bit of blush over my lids and trusted my mascara to distract from the lack of eyeshadow. I think the Marc Jacobs had quite enough pop on it’s own.

And in case you are wondering, this is the post meeting and drive across town while eating french fries look. I started with my hair down, it was too hot so on the way home I twisted it up in the back with a clip. I added more lip gloss before the picture was taken.

Quite frankly I am impressed everything wasn’t sweated off my face. The back of my shirt was damp when I got home but the make up was in tact. Partial credit I will give to both Benefit and Tom Ford but I have to say, I think the ABH setting powder deserves a bit of credit. It locked everything down and even though it looked a little powder when I left for my meeting, the powdery look disappeared once the sun hit my skin. I may not be able to count on that in the winter, but it was a big help today.

If you are looking to stock up for fall the sale is still going on at Marc Jacobs Beauty. The Velvet Noir is on sale for $17.50 (that’s what I’m wearing today and it is consistently one of my favorite mascaras.)

In addition Benefit Cosmetics also has a sale going on. It started yesterday and runs through August 13th. If you are looking to stock up on Benefit products now is certainly the time. The link below will take you to the sale. Happy shopping!

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Trying out the Ritual of Jing

I am a big believer in trying new products. I know anyone who reads this regularly sees me swap out makeup, skincare and even hair care products. I make a list of what I like so I can repurchase them and use them again and I make a list of products to never purchase again. Often the category I forget about is the bath.

while I generally don’t take a lot of baths once the weather warms and tend to shelve a lot of my soaks and bath fizzies until the weather turns, I still try out different bathing products on a regular basis. One of the products I have been trying recently has been the Rituals Ritual of Jing Mild Body Scrub.

Now, I love a good body scrub. In fact since I have been exercising more , I like the body scrubs more as well. Oddly enough, I use them more in the summer time than I do in the winter. In the winter I will tend to use a dry brush before I get into the shower or bath. (Actually I tend to use the dry brush, and then shower. If I am having a bath I still take a really short shower first to rinse off before sitting in the bathtub. That way I rinse the dirt of the day off before I sink into the fragrant water- in case you were wondering)

My dry brush comes from SpaRitual in case you were wondering. I picked it up last fall as an experiment to see if I liked dry brushing and used it all winter. I really enjoyed it. The pristles are stiff enough to get the circulation going but not stout enough to be scratchy feeling. (Which was a problem with a brush I tired initially). I was actually tickled to find the brush on their site as previously I only went to the site for their nail polish. They have a really good Vegan nail polish line actually. Although now that I found the brush I really need to expand my poking around on their website instead of getting sidetracked by the nails.

initial product dispense

Although speaking of getting sidetracked…

Back to the bath.

Anyway the point is, I don’t use the dry brush in the summer because in the summer time I tend to be amp mand sweaty when i go in for my evening shower. So I just don’t use the dry brush in the summer. (I know, it was a long way to go to get there)

In the summer I use body scrubs in the shower. Again not all scrubs are created equal. Some are too harsh, others leave too much residue behind. With Rituals I have only tried their body wash before so their scrub was a new thing for me. Used to the foam of their body wash the cream that came out of the tube was thick and at first, looked like a cream body wash. The grain of the exfoliating particles is quite fine. I tried to spread it out in my hand so that you can hopefully see some of the texture.

It is like very fine sand. It isn’t as harsh as sand though and does a pretty good job of scrubbing without being too harsh. It also rinses off cleanly with out leaving a residue or a sandy feel to the skin.

spread out to show the bamboo texture

According to the website, this was the goal of the formula.

Treat yourself to the most relaxing exfoliation experience ever with this body scrub from The Ritual of Jing. Composed of ultra-fine bamboo particles and a rich cream base, the scrub gently yet thoroughly removes dead skin cells and hydrates without leaving the skin feeling greasy. The cream base promotes the absorption of valuable active ingredients and makes the scrub suitable to use on more sensitive areas such as your neck and cleavage.

Rituals Website

Incidentally , this product is on sale on the Rituals site for $13.50 for the full sized jar. I’m not an affiliate and clicking the link does nothing for me, in case you are wondering. it is just where I went to get information about the product. I saw it is on sale and I think it might be a site wide sale but I am not certain. Just something to be aware of if you are shopping.

While I will say that the scrub does exactly what it claims to do, something you might want to be aware of is that the scent is strong. I think it is more noticeable to me now because I have been using the Zents Shampoo and Conditioner, both of which are designed to have very delicate scents. But even so, the scent of this product is noticeable. I find the scent pleasant. It is a slightly floral, slightly spicy product with maybe a hint of coconut at the back. I can’t actually pin down exactly what it smells like. I looked at the ingredients list and while I can tell it has shea butter in it, more from feel than scent, I am not certain what lotus flower of jujuba fruit smell like. I would just describe it as creamy, with slightly floral, slightly spicy notes.

I like the scent and it does fade once you wash off the scrub, but it is a very present scent when you are bathing. If you are sensitive to scents, you just might want to bear that in mind. In fact that is something I would say about Rituals products across the board. I like them and they work really well for me, but I always think of them scent first and use second. If scent doesn’t bother you, their products always work well. In fact they work almost exactly as they are listed on their website. What they say they do, they do. And as scented as their products are, they are rarely sweet and floral. So many of the bath products I have tried out have been scented like candy or flowers that it is nice to have something that leans more into the spicy realm. Even if my babydoll does occasionally borrow the rituals products when I leave them in the shower. It is a nice change from the typical bath products. In the end I think that this is a product I would definitely repurchase.

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Sparitual

The Daily: July 27th, 2021

Good afternoon my darlings. I hope your tuesday is going well. Mine got a little bit out of hand earlier. I started a task I though would take maybe ten minutes and ended up spending three hours on it. It is a fascinating project, just not what i had planned for the day.

So the rest of the afternoon will be spent playing catch up.

This is what happens when I don’t make a to do list and just wing it. Normally I make a list and just sort of check things off as I go along. It keeps me on track and is oddly satisfying. Even on a day when i feel like I haven’t really accomplished much, I can look back at the list and see ots of little things with strike through marks on them and it makes me feel better.

Admittedly even if I remembered to make the list today it might not have helped since the item I would have tried to check off took longer.

But i still wish I made the list.

Other than that things are going well. I managed to get my work out in and I think I have the traffic situation nailed. I spent some time on google maps last night and found a small back road. At the moment it has no construction on it so even though it adds a few minutes to my normal drive it is only about 2 or 3 and it is a consistent 2 or 3 instead of 3 one day and 20 another day.

It is actually ridiculous how proud of myself I feel for working that out. But proud I am.

Today I didn’t get around to putting together any sort of makeup look. Instead since I am feeling good in my skin, I have a pic post morning face wash for you. My hair is just tied up out of the way and has had nothing done to it, including just brushing my bangs. But I thought that as my main thought as I was putting my makeup on yesterday was that I really liked how my skin looked, I would go ahead and just post a picture of nothing but skin. Think of it as a little piece of reality in a photoshop mad world.

I know, the hair is a mess, but I can live with that. I am just happy with my skin. Plus even though my nose and cheeks are a bit on the red side still I have for the most part recovered from the sun damage from earlier this month. I got way too much sun in way to short a time. But my skin is recovering nicely, I think. I’m pretty sure my nose will be reddish until October though. It usually turns out that way. Even with the double layer of sunscreen I put on it. I think my nose ends up with more sunscreen than anything else. But I suppose it sticks out more than the rest of my face so it takes a heavier beating of sun rays.

I hope that you have a fabulous day, whatever your day entails. As for me it is back to work with an eye to actually catching up on the things I missed doing this morning. Wish me luck.


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Unboxing the July 2021 Glossy Box

Guess what?  My Glossy Box for the month of July finally arrived.  This is actually the second month in a row that they were late getting things shipped.  I actually don’t mind that much, especially as they sent me a message letting me know that it was going to be shipped later. I think they had some kind of product shipping delays because one of the items in the box isn’t what is listed in the booklet.  I also know August is usually a really big month for them as it is their Birthday month so I’m guessing planning for that might have taken some time away.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, the Glossy Box Link in this post is my referral code link so if you happen to join Glossy Box, I think I get glossy points.)

Regardless the box is here.  For those that don’t know Glossy Box is a monthly Beauty Box subscription.  It is usually a $21 per month subscription but if you sign up for a year then you can get it for $18 per month.  With the yearly subscription you can still pay for it each month instead of one lump sum.  If you are not a subscriber you can use the code TREASURE16 to get your first box for $16. 

Let’s talk about the substitute item first.  In this month’s treasure themed box, the first item listed was an eyeshadow duo from Cleo Noir.   Have tried several things from them in the past and really like the quality of their products.  I haven’t tried their eyeshadow and it would have been nice to give it a try. 

blush swatch

Instead I received a small illuminating blush from Ciate London.  I can’t actually be mad about that as I have a deeper blush from Ciate London and it is one of my favorite blushes.  I don’t mind having a new one in a different shade at all.  I know I will end up using it. 

The second item is one of the full sized items and it is a brush duo from Elaina Badro. (I couldn’t find this exact set to link to so the link is just to their general website). One is a blender and one is an eyebrow brush.  Both brushes I will use.  They are a lovely aqua color and appear to be quite good quality.  They are listed as having a retail value of $34 which I think is a bit pricey for two eye brushes. Its more what I would expect for a larger face brush. But they are pretty and of good quality so I will use them. 

The next item is a sheet mask from Purlisse.  It is from their Blue Lotus line, the Blue Lotus and Seaweed Treatment Mask to be exact..  I have always had good luck with products from the line and I’m sure I will like this mask as well.  I don’t get all that excited about sheet masks, but I do like them. And I like Purlisse.  So all in all not a bad edition to the box.

Likewise the Verso eye cream is nice to have as well.  I like Verso.  They are a great clean brand.  The eye cream is a deluxe size and as it takes so little eye cream when you use it, I know I will take a really long time to work through this.  I actually have two additional Verso Eye cream samples in my collection so I may just end up passing this one on. 

It is a good eye cream though.  Also if you are into clean skincare, they are a brand you might want to check out as they are usually reliably good. Their foaming cleanser is actually fantastic if you are looking for a clean cleanser to try.

Finally there is a travel sized spray bottle of Batiste Volumizing dry shampoo.  I know lots of people rave about it and it is a decent dry shampoo.  It does leave a white cast and it has a very strong floral and slightly chemical scent, but it is a nice drug store option.  In the days before my local drug store started carrying Cake Dry Shampoo, if I ran out of Klorane and needed something quick, he Batiste is the option I would go for. 

Now that Cake products are available near me I would grab it instead.  But this makes a good affordable option available in many local stores.  My issue isn’t really the white cast (which can be brushed out) but the scent and the fact that always leaves my hair looking a little too dry. It no longer looks greasy but it does have a lot of fly aways.  If I don’t use a dash of something like Moroccan Oil on my hands over my hair then I look like I am standing too close to an electrical charge.  Which always struck me as a strange combination of elements.  My hair is greasy so I dry shampoo it, then have to apply oil to make it less dry.  It works in a pinch and lord knows I love Moroccan oil (although I always get the light weight Moroccan oil despite having thick hair.  I find it works better on my fine hairs.)

But that is really beside the point.  The Batiste is a good emergency back up product.

I don’t know about this month.  Usually Glossy Box is one of my favorite subscriptions and even when Boxycharm and Ipsy have gone off track I can count on being excited by Glossy box.  This month was just sort of blah. Maybe it is because I pretty much know every product in the box this month.  Usually there is at least one item I have never heard of or never had a chance to try.  The products are still good, it just lacks a bit of the excitement of discovery that I have come to associate with Glossy box.

However not every month is going to be a subscription box’s best month and as Glossy Box so rarely disappoints , I’m willing to give this too them and hope they are back on track next month. And as next month is their 10th birthday month I am sure they will do something special for it.  The August spoiler they have in this month’s brochure lists an Elemis product in next month’s box.  It looks like the Pro Collagen moisturizer.  So already next month is looking exciting.  After all when am I not excited to see an Elemis product?


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The Daily: July 26th, 2021

Success! Well partially, at least as far as creative driving goes. Today i managed to get myself in gear early enough to beat the construction traffic and so it took only the normal amount of drive time to get to the gym. I am going to have to play around with the drive back though as it was a full forty-five minutes.

I know some of you are thinking that forty-five minutes is fantastic and that your drive anywhere takes longer, but when the drive usually takes eighteen minutes, the forty-five feels like a lot. But at least I managed one end of the drie successfully. And I got in my monday workout as planned.

As just the thought of walking outside sends sweat rolling down my spine, the walking trail isn’t really an option today.

I’m doing fairly good on my calories today. Lunch ended up being a tomato basil salad. It was going to have Mozzarella in it but after even a brief period outside I just couldn’t face dairy. I know those of you who know me well are gasping in shock. I am oh so fond of cheese of all varieties. But this is one of those days where lighter is better and anything heavier is going to come after the sun goes down. and even then, it is debatable. So it was tomato and basil salad with a few dashes of balsamic and a sprinkle of truffle salt. The slight eartiness in the salt makes if feel oddly more satisfying than without, even though it is really a very light touch. I don’t use a lot, because I am not using a lot of salt, but as odd as it sounds, that tiny little earthy note helps trick my brain into thinking that I just ate something much heartier than I did.

and I will take all the tricks i can get.

Before I get into today’s look, I just want to say, I am very happy with the way my skin looks today. I know that is an odd segway as I usually discuss skincare on Friday’s with the line up, but My Friday Face Mask was a Pore refining one from Go-To SkinCare (The Removalist). It is supposed to clear out pores. I felt very happy with it after using it Friday, but pore clearing masks are often best seen a few days after. I used the mask friday and then used a hyaluronic acid serum right after. The next day I used a light physical exfoliator (I tend to use them only once a month or so). And today I feel like my skin looks really nice. Which is the best look of all.

Today’s Look:

Primer: Marc Jacobs Undercover Blur Perfector

  • currently on sale for $19.50 (down from $39)

Foundation: Elf Acne Fighting Foundation

Powder/Bronzer/Blush/Highlight: PUR 4-in-1 perfecting Powders face palette

Brows: Billion Dollar Beauty brow cream in taupe

Eyeshadow: Golden Hour Palette from Beauty for Real

Mascara: Pretty Vulgar The Feathers

Lipstick: MAC Bated Breath

Setting Spray: ABH Dewy Set

Jewelry: Mariz Jewelry

Today I went quick and easy with most of the products, choosing ones I know and love like PUR palette, Marc Jacobs Primer and Elf Foundation. The Billion Dollar Beauty Brow Cream is also very much growing on me. And you know I love The Feathers Mascara. The two things I wa testing today were the Beauty for Real eyeshadow palette and the ABH Setting spray.

With the palette, the mattes blended well but dropped a lot of excess powder everywhere and the shimmers needed a damp brush to really shine. I’ll be playing with it throughout the week but thus far i like the way it blends but I’m not so thrilled with the fall out. we’ll see how it works.

With regards to the setting spray. I have been using the ABH Dewy Set with the ABH setting powder. The powder is a little powdery so I wasn’t sure if the dewy spray was just offsetting the powderyness of the powder or if it was a kind of dewy I could live with when I didn’t need to tame down the powder. If that makes sense. Today I just used the powder in the PUR palette. It is a good powder that doesn’t need something to settle it down. While the ABH Dewy Spray does have a bit of a shine to it, it is more of a fresh faced look rather than an overly dewy wet kind of look.

While I like the spray and I don’t mind the dewiness, I think this spray is one that I will like even more when my skin enters it’s winter dry phase. Then matte products tend to make me look dry and a spray like this could come in handy. I like it now, but I think I will like it even more later. Which is a very good thing to know.

Over all I am very pleased with how my look turned out today. My hair is clipped up to keep me cool, but the earrings are a little bit of shine to make my Monday sparkle. Over all, not to shabby. Admittedly, I am mostly really happy with my skin at the moment, so I would probably be happy with most products today. Good skin days make most makeup an easy sell. Luckily most of the items I’ve sued enough before to know I like them even when my skin is acting up. I just like them better now.

Challans de Paris

Snacktime: Chomps Salt & Pepper Venison Stick

Each day I try to have a little afternoon snack. It really helps me to feel like I am full between meals and it keeps me on track with my calories. In general I find that if I don’t have an afternoon snack then I tend to overeat at dinner time, or even feel cheated in my portion size.

snacking helps me feel better about the smaller portions.

Recently Chomps sent a package full of goodies for me to try and I have been rotating them into my snack time routine. Currently I am working my way through the variety pack. I am a huge fan of variety packs, especially with a brand that has tastes that are unfamiliar to me. Prior to this I tried the original Beef Sticks from Chomps but none of their variety of flavors. With a variety pack I can try all of the types and decide which ones I really enjoy eating and then repurchase larger packages of those. There are eight sticks in the variety pack, each a different type. And if you look at the standard variety pack and know that some of the flavors aren’t for you, you can always build your own variety pack.

Thus far, I’ve actually really enjoyed all of the ones I’ve tried. I will admit, I was a little nervous when I pulled this stick from the box. I really enjoy venison actually. While we moved around a lot when I was a child at one point we lived in an area where deer had to be hunted just to keep the population in check. My family didn’t hunt but we did have a neighbor who often brought home more than he could eat so we worked out a deal with him so nothing went to waste.

So I have fond memories of the taste of venison. I also have some pretty pore memories. It can very easily go from a lovely game meat to something you want to hide in your napkin and slip to the dog when no one is paying attention.

However the venison part of the Chomps stick wasn’t what concerned me. It was the pepper. I will use black pepper as a seasoning, but I really don’t like the taste of it. When I go for spice, I want the vegital heat of a jalapeno or a serrano rather than black pepper. It has caused some issues at our house as my babydoll’s favorite meal involves steak au poivre (pepper crusted steak) and I always think, why would you do that to a poor defenseless steak when you can baste it with garlic butter instead? It is an ongoing in house issue.

Luckily we don’t have steak all that often so it is mostly a verbal debate. But that is beside the point.

So today was the Salt and Pepper Venison stick from Chomps. I was pleasantly surprised. The pepper is a little too black pepper forward for me, but it doesn’t completely overwhelm the taste of the venison. The venison is well seasoned and the stick has the snap outer edge you would expect with a soft interior. The meat is slightly gamey a you would expect (and I personally like) but it isn’t mealy or stringy.

As with all Chomps products the meat is grass fed and finished. The stick contains zero sugar, 9 grams of protein and is only 90 calories. The stick is filling enough to count as the perfect size for a mid day snack without blowing out my calorie count.

While it was nice, I have to say it is still a little pepper forward for me to really enjoy. So for me I would not personally order a large box of these. Hower, my babydoll had a bite of this Chomps Salt and Pepper Venison Stick and has declared it his favorite thus far. (he has been trying them along with me so I can order snacks for him as well). As I mentioned before he likes pepper a lot more than I do, so this is one we will be ordering for him rather than me. I don’t actually mind that actually. Finding snacks for him that aren’t chips or cookies has been a challenge. He loves his sweet and he loves his salt. Luckily this counts as a ‘salty’ snack and he is thrilled that he will be getting a box all to himself. He grew up with two older brothers both of whom have similar tastes to him so anytime he gets a treat he doesn’t have to share he is thrilled.

So the pepper isn’t for me, but the texture of the meat and the quality of the venison I found quite impressive. If you are interested in trying them out, they have a sale going on for back to school it is 20% and a great way to stock up on good snacks.

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Zents Mandarin Balancing Shampoo: Final thoughts

A while ago Zents very kindly scent to me this shampoo (along with conditioner) and I have been using it pretty much since it’s arrival. But now the bottle is alas empty. As I always go through more shampoo than I do conditioner (although I have never quite figured out how) I still have a week or so left on the conditioner. I plan to use it with a shampoo sample that didn’t arrive with a conditioner buddy.

And so we discuss the shampoo alone. This is the Mandarin balancing Shampoo. According to the Zents’ website…

Warming & Exotic
ginger, mandarin, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, vanilla bean

Renewing color-safe, sulfate-free MANDARIN Shampoo uplifts and balances all hair types. Packed with moisturizing shea butter and lotus, nourishing MANDARIN Shampoo leaves hair soft, full, and beautifully luminous. Passionflower soothes and calms to support a healthy, flawless scalp. The gentle formula luxuriously cleanses without stripping hair or weighing it down, for maximum vibrancy, volume, and shine.

Before we look at those claims, I have to say a word about the scent of the shampoo. As the name implies, it has an orange scent. what I find interesting is that Zents has range of products in each of their scents. For example in addition to Mandarin Shampoo, there is also a Mandarin Bath truffle and a Mandarin Eau de Toilette. So you can get the same scent in multiple products. What I find interesting is that they aren’t the same in each product.

Compatible, yes. Identical, no.

With the Eau de Toilette much more of the warm spices come through in either of the bath products. The Bath truffle has more spicy elements than the shampoo (as well as fabulous epsom salts and shea butter – it is seriously wonderful to soak sore muscles in). The shampoo, I have to admit, smelled predominantly of oranges. It was clear that there was something mixed in to deepen it and tame the sweetness of orange, but the spices weren’t identifiable to my nose.

I think part of that is the subtlety of the scent. It is designed for people who are sensitive to scent. while it gives the lightly pleasant scent of orange it isn’t overpowering. It is a delicate whiff of scent that is gone even as the suds rinse out of your hair. I think that is part of the reason my nose mostly just picked up the orange. The scent was there and gone before I had time to react. If you are sensitive to scent, but still want a product that smells like something (rather than the neutral scented products) this might be something to look into.

But scent isn’t everything.

I have a lot of hair and it is rather thick. At the moment it is actually far longer than I usually have it. Mostly because just before the first quarantine, my salon closed shop and my stylist moved across country and before I could find a new one everything was shut down. By the time I felt comfortable looking for a salon again. the summer heat arrived. In the summertime, my hair spends about 90% of the time tied up on top of my head or (for variety) clipped up on the back of my head. I know, wild right?

Which is why I don’t get my hair cut in the summer, I generally go for fall and spring and let it grow out over the summer so it can all be bundled up without bits sliding out. Summer heat can knock the style right out of you.

The ends

However this is longer than I’ve been without a haircut and the longest my hair has been in a while. So the emphasis is on keeping it as healthy as possible until I can get to a stylist in the autumn. In this, the Zents’ Mandarin Shampoo has done a fantastic job.

It takes two pumps of product to wash my hair and the two pumps lather well. I had a head full of luxurious bubbles. What I really love about this shampoo is that it does not say, lather rinse repeat if you want a better clean. Id states in it’s usage, lather and let it sit for a minute do get deep down clean, then rinse it off. which sounds strangely logical when you think about it. The product works better if you give it time to work. Who knew?

It also really works.

Without using extra product.

Two things you really ought to know about me. First of all, I am rather frugal by nature. It isn’t that I mind spending the money, but I want to know i am getting good value for the money when I spend it. The second thing is that if something works well with my hair, I am willing to spend a little bit more. The Zents Mandarin Shampoo is pricey. There is no getting around that. However I started using this one bottle around April 14th. (That is the day I posted my first thoughts, so I probably used it the night before if you want to get technical). I used the last of the bottle last night, July 25th.

Because it takes just those two pumps and because you don’t just add more product when you want better results, it lasts. Which means that for me it was a great value for the money. It seriously felt like I was never going to get to the bottom of the bottle. (I should also point out I wash my hair with product twice a week, sometimes three. I have to rinse it every day, but I don’t use shampoo every day.)

I really like the way my hair looks and feels at the moment. It is clean and shiny, not weighed down and it feels great. I know I need to get the end cut as they look a little on the rough side, but you can see in the photo, there are no real split ends. They look as healthy as they possibly could. I am very impressed by it.

In the end I would have to say that the Zents is a splurge purchase, but definitely worth it. It is a product that I would definitely pick up again and use on my hair, especially if i wanted to treat myself. I am very sad that this bottle now has to go to the empties bin. At some point though, it will return.

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Happy Hour: Shrimp Ceviche and Cherry Ginger

Tonight is an interesting take on happy hour.  In our house we long ago realized that if I made ceviche as an appetizer for our happy hour, that we would reach the end of the appetizer portion and not really want a regular meal, but instead want more ceviche. 

So as a consequence when I make Shrimp ceviche, I tend to make a dinner time sized portion and we have ceviche with crackers or chips for the main meal.  It is a light summertime meal.  On occasion I will also make some corn tortillas and we will just use it as a taco filling.  Tonight however we went with tortilla chips.

There is a local Mexican restaurant that sells them by the bag full, but only Thursdays. I think during lock down they sold them twice a week.  Either way, we were lucky to get a bag of the chips yesterday so we can use them tonight.  Actually if they just sold their tortillas I would never bother making my own again, but alas, they only sell the chips. 

To go on these chips, we make the Shrimp ceviche:

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into a suitable size for your method of serving (if we make tacos I don’t cut them)

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed

1 serrano chili, diced

1 red onion, diced small

1 cup fresh cilantro chopped

The juice of six limes (apx ¾ cup)

The juice of three lemons (apx. ¾ cup)

1 avocado

Salt to taste (I use about 1 tbsp for this)

Pinch of sugar

The hardest part of this recipe is breaking down all of your veg.  There will be a lot of chopping.  The bonus is that once you chop, it is all basic assembly and resting time.

Juice your limes and lemons putting the juice in a bowl.  Add your prepared shrimp.  While the juice of each fruit varies, you want enough juice to submerge the shrimp and post of the veg in juice. You also want about equal parts lemon and lime.

Leave the shrimp in the acid until they start to turn white on the outside.  (you want to give them a little bit of a head start before adding the veg – maybe ten minutes).  Then add the salt, cucumber, serrano, and onion. Mix it up a bit with your hands and then transfer it to the fridge.  Leave it sit for about an hour or until the acid has cooked the shrimp enough for your taste.  If you leave it too long, it will get slightly rubbery so check them after an hour and then if you still need more time check every ten minutes until you are happy.

When everything looks ready, slice your avocado into cubes and add the cilantro and the avocado to the ceviche. After mixing it up, taste the mix.  If it is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to mellow it out.  If it needs salt, add it now and then stir it up.  this is very much a by the taste recipe. Serve cold with chips, crackers, or tortillas. 

I really like this mix.  It is pretty basic so it can be used in a variety of different ways.  It is easy to adjust to taste as well as being fresh and light on a hot summer’s evening.  If you don’t have shrimp you can use fish.  If you don’t eat seafood, try tofu. Go with the firm kind if you are doing that.  Often what I will do if I do substitute tofu is that I will cube it, add a little fish sauce to it and then do a quick pan fry to add some texture to the cubes.  Then I let them cool and then add them to the mix.  If you don’t use fish sauce then maybe go with a vegan soy sauce before pan frying them.  I just like the little difference in texture that the pan gives, but it isn’t a necessity. You can just cube and add them to the veg mix.

This in general is a fun recipe to play around with. When we are finished, there is always some of the juice left over and we end up slicing a couple of extra cucumbers into it, and maybe adding a bit more onion to it.  Then the next day we have that as a side salad for dinner. So nothing gets wasted.  It is one of my favorite summer time treats.

As a drink tonight I am just going simple.  I have my Sour Cherry Syrup that I am still working my way through.  I really like it, but it is a large bottle that takes up a lot of space in the fridge so once opened I tend to lean on it often until it is used up. 

Today I didn’t really feel like alcohol so I made a non-alcoholic drink with one ounce of the sour cherry syrup topped with ginger ale.  Served in a pretty glass it is a perfectly lovely happy hour drink.  My babydoll added an ounce of lemon vodka to his before topping it off with the ginger ale.

It is a relatively simple happy hour tonight, but as it has been a bit of a crazy week, simple is just fine.  While sometimes I like to use Happy hour as a time to try new recipes and be just a little more adventurous, sometimes simple works better. On a day when the thought of turning on the oven or stove and adding more heat to the house is just not pleasant to contemplate, a no cook happy hour that spills into dinner is just the thing. I hope whatever you do to relax and unwind from the week is exactly what you need to let it all go.  I’ll see you back here on Monday, ready to take on another week.  Have a great weekend.

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The Removalist for Face Mask Friday

This mask was in my IPSY Glam Bag plus this month, but I have to admit it is one that I have been toying with picking up for a while now.  In general I like Go-To Skincare products.  The only item I;ve tried that I wasn’t incredibly fond of was the Exfoliating Swipies and even that wasn’t a complete dislike.  I liked the formula and the pads but I thought they were a little too exfoliating for daily use and worried that the pre-moistened rounds would dry out before I could actually work my way through them.  Otherwise they were great for a once a week use.  I’m actually slowly working my way through the open container I have.  As of yet they haven’t dried out so perhaps my fears were unfounded.

Regardless, this  mask has been one I have wanted to try for a while.  Clay masks in general are my favorite.  Ones that can get deep down into the pores, especially in the summertime are essential. While I have several that I enjoy using, I am always looking to try new masks from brands I like.  And this one’s description just sounded interesting.  According to the Go-To Skincare Website The Removalist Mask is …

A luscious clarifying clay mask that replenishes while it detoxifies so you get clear, radiant, bouncy skin, without any gross, dry, tight afterfeel. No more clogged pores! No tight, dryness! No worries!

Packed with soothing minerals to calm and clear skin, and plenty of skin-loving antioxidants to brighten, hydrate, and protect, this clay mask takes away impurities, absorbs excess oil and eliminates the blahs.

Suitable for all skin types (even sensitive!) and particularly useful for the oily, congested, or acne-prone, in just 10 minutes The Removalist will reset your complexion, giving pores a big-time clear out and levelling up your at-home facial by at least 200%.

This isn’t your average clay mask. This is your weekly all-out cleanout for healthy, nourished, clear skin.

I kind of like the thought of having a weekly clear out of my pores.  It’s like laundry day for your skin.  Well, if it works that is. 

So on to the skin it goes.  To apply the mask I am using a silicone masking spatula. Mine is from Cosmedix if you are interested.  I really like the rounded corners, but really any silicone masking brush will do.  I like using the brush because it keeps things a little tidier and wastes less product. 

The mask is an interesting purple color as it applies and oddly enough smells a bit like candy.  I always sort of expect clay based masks to smell a little earthy (although my favorite from Herbal Dynamics Beauty smells like chocolate so I shouldn’t be terribly surprised)

Once in place there is nothing to do but sit back and relax for a bit while the mask settles in. The mask was hard to relax with at first as it tingled slightly.  The tingles soon faded and I was left listening to my History of Rome Podcast while the mask did it’s job.  In the background my La Playa Candle from Paddywax (I have the salted blue agave at the moment) burned, still smelling summery fresh and oddly mixing well with the still slightly candy scent of the mask.

At the end of fifteen minutes I blew out my candle, finding that the mask had firmed up but not gone the solid hard of most clay masks.  I could still move my face without leaving a fine powder of cracked clay behind.  As recommended I used a warm, damp wash cloth to remove the mask.  It always makes a mess of the wash cloth, but I have a set of wash cloths I specifically use during masking and I also do my mask just before throwing on a load of towels for Friday afternoon laundry. So the mask filled wash cloth will soon not be an issue. 

I know it sounds silly, but as it is sometimes difficult to wash a mask completely out of a wash cloth just by rinsing it out in the sink, I have occasionally stretched the wash cloth out to dry, forgotten there were mask remnants on it and then put mask remnants where I didn’t particular want them, so I now time my Friday afternoon Towel wash accordingly and just pitch the still damp wash cloth in.  Easy peasy.

But how does the mask feel? 

skin before the mask on the left, skin after mask removal on the right.

Actually it made my skin feel quite good.  One of the things that makes your pores look bigger is having them filled with gunk.  So even though I know thee is no actual pore shrinking, they look a little smaller in the areas that usually concern me because they are now freshly cleared.  I suspect that in a few hours I may have a few clogged pores brought to the surface.

One of the reasons I wanted a pore clearing mask was that my moisturizer this week was too heavy for my skin and in addition to noticing a lot more of an oil sheen to my skin, I was getting more clogged pores.  I wanted something to clear them out.  I figured that if the Go-to Skincare The Removalist Mask didn’t work I could always take out my Herbal Dynamics Beauty Clearing mask.

However I think it might not be necessary this week.  I believe The Removalist has done its job.  I will have to check in a few hours to see if there is any change to the clogged pores beneath, but at the moment I am quite happy with my skin and will happily use this mask in the future.

Go-To Skincare