Makeup Monday: Julep's Tinted Lip Oil

I admittedly have not been binging on lip products as I used to. My makeup routine has become more and more minimal lately due to incredibly, surprisingly healthy skin. I realized just now that I think I often overcompensated with lipstick or big cateye liner because I felt it might distract from breakouts on my face, but now that my skin has been holding steady in the clear zone for about a month, I'm moving more into fresh, natural looks. I've been using a few lip products over and over again, and one product was graciously gifted to me by my pal Bee! 

I used to have a subscription to Julep's monthly boxes, but I decided that being able to choose my polishes from varying brands might be more exciting to readers who like my mani posts. Bee told me that she'd received a lip product that she wasn't super crazy about due to the color, so she handed it over to me. This lip oil is a fun product, and I've been wearing it a lot over the last week. Because it's sheer, it's great to layer over lip balm for just a pop of color and shine. I learned within the first day or two that this lip oil is more of a humectant and not a moisturizer, however. Humectants are not designed to soften your lips, so if your lips tend to be dry like mine and require lip balm action nearly 24/7, you'd need balm under the Julep Your Lip Addiction oil as well. I'm always willing to work with products I like to best suit me, and applying my beloved Smith’s Brambleberry Rose Lip Balm under the lip oil solves my dry lip problems. 

Have you tried any other lip oils? How do they work for you?

Tune Tuesday: Låpsley

Young musicians continually blow my mind when their sound is full, mature, and mesmerizing. One such artist is Låpsley, who at only 19, has already had Adele attend one of her performances. There's no room to wonder why - her voice is stunning. I immediately fell in love with her video for the haunting "Falling Short." The song is incredible, and the video references religion, art, and performance. It's a tune that you may not find familiar emotions in the lyrics, but it feels like something you've experienced before. Like a smell you recognize but can't place. 

Fans of HAIM, Sohn, Banks, and CHVRCHES will likely love her song "Hurt Me" as much as I do. 

Foodie Friday: Avocado Toast w/ Andrea

I recently stopped by my bestie Andrea's home for brunch, and she made some of the most delicious goodies ever for us to eat! We drank almost an entire bottle of champagne, caught up about what's been going on in our lives (a whole lot!), and ate till we were stuffed. After I left, I knew I needed to share at least one recipe from brunch with you! 

Avocado toast has been making the rounds as the "it" item to make these days. It's filling, and perfect for bread lovers like me. Since you use avocado instead of butter, cheese, or jam, it's a bit more healthy for you as well, and you can doctor it up to fit your favored flavors! 

Avocado Toast

Ingredients
~ 2 slices of your favorite bread (Andrea likes Companion
~ 1 avocado
~ Olive oil
~ Fresh lemon
~ Red pepper flakes
~ Salt and pepper

Andrea's recipe is adapted from the popular weblog Smitten Kitchen, which you can find here. Essentially all ya gotta do is toast your chosen bread slices so they're just a bit crispy. While they're toasting, mash your ripe avocado in a bowl, and then spread across your toast. Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze fresh lemon over the avocado, and then sprinkle your salt/pepper/red pepper flakes on top. It's simple, it's delicious, and ridiculously hard to mess up. Unless you burn your toast almost every time like I do (and I don't like it burnt!). 

Andrea also cooked up an incredible veggie hash and topped it with a pan-fried egg as the main course, but lemme tell you - I could eat avocado toast all day long and not complain.

Have you jumped on this toast train yet? What other toppings might you choose?

Mani Monday: Kylie Jenner x Sinful Colors

Oh, Kylie Jenner! You make waves in the world even if you just take a sip of tea. But because your name is so huge now, any venture you go into gains a massive amount of exposure as well. The popularity of your lip kits crashed your website within minutes of their release. I was surprised to find your name on Sinful Colors bottles in the first place at Walgreens, and doubly surprised when they seemed fully stocked. Perhaps I was shopping the day after a shipment? 

In true Kylie fashion, many of the colors' names in your lines with SC are awkwardly spelled with a "K" where a "C" should be - such as the color I'm reporting on here: "Kurtsey." I was curious about the claim that this polish is a demi-matte, but I was pleased to find the descriptor was accurate upon application. I struggled a little bit with applying this polish because it is slightly on the thick side, and I ended up using three thin coats to achieve full opacity. 

Although I'm mildly annoyed by the name, "Kurtsey" is a great spring color. It's pastel, but not pure cream, and has the teensiest bit of shimmer. The polish lasted a good 5 or so days before I sustained a significant chip, so staying power is in the stronger range. I'm wearing another color by Kylie on my toes that I hope to review for you next week too, and it's going on about 10 days of wear time with no chipping. As usual, I'm impressed with the quality that Sinful Colors puts out!

Have you tried any of the Kylie nail polishes? I might have to pick up one of the shimmers from the "Denim & Bling" line too! "After Dark" is calling my name. 

Polishes Used:
Pastel Purple: "Kurtsey" by Kylie Jenner x Sinful Colors
Base & Top Coats: Seche Vite

Kicking Butt With Trainer Jeremy Genin

In the past two years, I've learned more about my body than I can explain. I've learned what works for it and what does not. I've experimented with varying levels of fitness, different types of exercise, and changes to my diet. In 2014, I was probably in the best shape since I stopped playing sports 24/7 in high school. I weighed the same weight I did in high school, and I was confident, sleek, and proud of every inch of my body. Two summers later, and I'm 20lbs heavier, but still in love with my form. However, I know I can do better. All efforts fell through when I lost a job in August of 2015, and I packed on weight due to a coinciding loss of motivation. Classes, gym friends, and easy access (the gym was next door to that job) help keep me on track, and I lost those with the job.

When the opportunity came up to work with local personal trainer Jeremy Genin, I jumped on it. He operates Functional Fitness in downtown Saint Louis, which has been super convenient for me because I work downtown most of the time. Jeremy offers both personal training sessions and group bootcamps, so I'm ready to get moving hardcore. 

My photographer friend Allan Crain graciously tagged along on my first day to help me document my starting state and provide a peek into what I'll be doing over the next several weeks!

Something super fun and also new to me is kickboxing! Who doesn't like punching things, especially when it's for fitness purposes? I've always wanted to try something like this, so Jeremy's classes and sessions are perfect for me. We have worked on kickboxing in both group and personal settings, so it's varied and stays exciting. Jeremy is also in-tune to what's going on with his pupils, and I can tell that he's able to see what each person's boundaries are, push you right to them, and just past what you think you are capable of. That's why - for me - training in a gym or group setting is more effective when aiming to build muscle. If you are alone, you're more likely to quit before you really hit that breaking point. 

I certainly felt like a total badass getting to punch stuff during this session, and since then, I've had a few chances in group sessions to work on my form. Being a former dancer, I automatically go into a soft, fluid form when it comes to action. A lot of control and snappy movements go into kickboxing, so my first day ended in seriously bruising the tops of my feet. Lesson learned - you land roundhouse kicks with your shin, and not near your ankle! But as I always tell myself, no pain no gain. After last night's bootcamp, I'm stiff as a board, but nowhere near light as a feather. That will come in time, and with loads of patience and hard work. 

And one of the best things about having a trainer is that they're your support system when it comes to keeping you moving forward with your patience and hard work. I've noticed that Jeremy tailors your exercises to your individual goals, even when you're in a bootcamp with 5-7 other people. I died last night trying to do pull-ups, but I know he had me do those on my own because I mentioned missing my defined upper body and back muscles. Along with weight lifting, sessions always include cardio, and I've already noticed a difference in my stamina with jumping rope in just a few weeks. Outside of working with Jeremy, I play soccer twice a week, and I am really looking forward to seeing how training helps my skills on the field. 

I'll be sharing more about my journey as time goes along, so check back in a few weeks to see how things have been going! I'll be doing some "before and after" photos again like I did with my yoga bender, and I'm betting these will be a lot more obvious when it comes to changes. 

Please pop over to http://www.functionalfitnessstl.com/ to learn more about Jeremy and to sign up for his newsletter - which will give you access to free work out videos, special offers, and more! And maybe I'll be racing you in sprints and punching with you soon as well! 

All photos courtesy of Allan Crain.

Keeping Eyes Youthful With PCA Skin Eye Gel

I recently had a discussion with my friend Maddy about her mother telling her that taking care of the skin around your eyes is so very important, but it's often neglected. I told Maddy that made sense, and I would look into saving up for a high-end eye care product. I've mostly been using eye creams from the drugstore, but I've never found one that really stood out. When I was offered the opportunity to review the PCA Skin Ideal Complex Revitalizing Eye Gel (what a mouthful!), I jumped at the chance. 

I was definitely intrigued by the gel texture of this product, as I've always used eye creams that are opaque. I thought it would be worth seeing if a gel works any differently with my skin type. Turns out, I really like it! The product is a light, airy gel tel texture that comes out a little faster than I usually expect it to, so I have to be careful squeezing the bottle. Otherwise, I've been using it on my lower and upper eyelids in the morning and in the evening. The bottle is about the same size as an average eye product, and matches my drugstore items in volume (.5oz).

I've only had the product for just over a week, so it's hard to tell quite yet if it's targeting any of the fine lines around my eyes. To be perfectly honest, I smile, laugh, and make crazy expressions so often, I'm bound to end up with some wrinkles, so I'm not worried about that. However - I have noticed a difference in the persistence of my dark undereye circles. Between allergies, late nights, and not enough drinking of water (I'm working on it, I swear!), I tend to get some pretty gnarly dark circles. I was just thinking yesterday how nice my skin is looking across the board at the moment, and I haven't been looking as tired as I should be on 4-hour nights. Last week and weekend were pretty eventful. Props for that, PCA Skin!

Although this post has been sponsored by way of product provided to me for review, I do now totally understand the importance of a "good" eye care item, especially since my dark circles have become less noticeable. I'd like to see how long it lasts, and I might consider dropping the cash on another bottle because I've enjoyed the results so far! 

You may find the Revitalizing Eye Gell for purchase HERE. Readers receive free shipping with the code BrandBacker, too!

Catching Up With Craft Alliance Downtown

I'm a huge champion for Saint Louis and all that it has to offer both residents and tourists alike. There are so many opportunities for creative types like myself, and the art scene is really booming. I had the opportunity to explore the insides of a current art fixture in Saint Louis recently - Craft Alliance's downtown location! I met with current Artist-in-Residence, Megan Singleton, and Michael Powell, the marketing manager of Craft Alliance, to talk further about the non-profit organization and its influence on our community. 

Yasmin of local blog Bangles & Bungalows also attended the meet-up, and we had a blast learning more about Megan's work. She is a fiber artist of sorts, and not the kind of fiber you find in clothes! Through a paper-making process, she creates her work from plant fibers that she collects. The image below shows a piece (that I apparently found amusing for a reason I can't recall) that is inspired by the yucca plant, which is native to Missouri. It grows in the most unlikely of places - from graveyards to deep urban areas. Megan explains that her work often focuses on "reinterpreting the plant's form" rather than creating sculptural recreations of the original plant. We asked how she best chooses plants to create from, and she explained her "twist test," which involved taking a part of the plant and twisting it over on itself. The farther it can go, the sturdier the fibers are, which make for better paper! We chatted further about where she finds her plants, what rules apply to the plants she works with (some invasive species cannot even be removed from their state, even if they're in the way and need to be killed off!), and how she'll never run into a shortage of materials in her process. 

BHP_1718.jpg

Some of the work I liked best in Megan's studio were pieces based on how the paper she makes dried around shapes. She sells wearable art and creates pieces that have a skeleton of varying thicknesses of wire. She applies the wet paper product to the wires, shapes it, and as the paper dries, it contracts and pulls the wire into different shapes. Fascinating! She also works with dying fabrics, silk, and more. 

She explained that she was invited by Craft Alliance to become a part of their artist-in-residence program, which I think is super cool! As a former art student, I remember how competitive residency programs can be! Craft Alliance is specifically aiming to help make STL a more art-pedestrian friendly zone, especially with their downtown location and its artists in residence there. Megan says that being with Craft Alliance has allowed her to "branch out (a cute plant pun!)" in her work, and Michael quipped that it's helped her to explore an "ambassadorship for the plants" with her art. Megan and Michael also spoke about the mentoring program called Crafting A Future, which brings high school students into a learning environment regarding various kinds of crafting. I was intrigued by this, because I think it is so very important for aspiring art kiddos to have practice with presenting their work, accepting critiques, and exploring the business side of the art world before they are tossed into the fray of college!

Each year, Craft Alliance throws a huge party called the Makers Ball to help support their organization, invite the public to meet local makers, celebrate the artistry of makers and craft, and bring the art community closer together. The fundraiser supports the exhibitions and community education programs at Craft Alliance Center of Art and Design It's coming up this Saturday, and if you don't have plans, I highly encourage you to check out joining the fun! It's your chance to shine in a locally-made outfit, accessory, or wearable art. For my meeting with Megan and Michael, I wore jewelry crafted by two of my favorite local makers: 

My lil' brass ball locket is one of my favorite necklaces! Check out Fable & Lore on Etsy to shop her incredible handmade pieces!

Elle of Sahgol Jewelry created a pair of custom earrings for me, and I lost one by accident. Now I love an asymmetrical look!

I dressed casually for our day at Craft Alliance because I will not be attending the ball due to a previously-scheduled DJ gig. I really, really hope I can attend next year because I have never, ever, not once, been to a big gala, and I feel like I'm missing out!

So you should go in my stead!
Find tickets here: http://registeratca.org/civicrm/event/register?reset=1&id=2268

If you can't attend, there are other ways to be keep the arts community in Saint Louis thriving and growing! Support is always needed, so if you're interested in becoming further involved, you can enjoy great benefits by becoming a member of Craft Alliance! From classes and camps to exhibition and community programs, your support will play in a vital role in the organization. For more information, please visit this page.

You can also help by donating here: http://www.craftalliance.org/support/donate.htm

Thanks to Craft Alliance for inviting me to hang out with them on a Saturday, and to Michael and Megan for being such fun, enlightening hosts on our tour of the studios!

Major props go to photographer Brandon Halley for these amazing images!

Outfit Details:
Sweater: Madewell   |   Jeans: Urban Outfitters   |   Necklace: Fable & Lore
Large Earring: Sahgol Jewelry   |   Glasses: SEE Eyewear   |   Boots: Thrifted

MDMC16: A Chat With Raashi of Pinterest

2016 marks the fourth year that the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference, or MDMC, has been held in our fair city of Saint Louis. The conference features speakers, workshops, and information regarding the marketing world and its innovations. This month, the conference returns on April 21st at Union Station, and I'm super stoked to be able to have the chance to attend! With three keynote presentations and 35 total sessions for marketers to attend, the learning experience will in-depth and full of resource. Find the day's schedule HERE.

One of the speakers during the day is Raashi Bhalla of Pinterest, where her primary duties include; partners organization, creative strategy, helping brands understand how to use Pinterest, and working hands-on with clients. Pinterest is one of those social media sites that so many of us are on, but isn't quite talked about as much as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I know that for a long time, I have used it on a mostly personal level, even though the entire platform is designed to be a social, public sharing process.  I was excited to have the chance to ask Raashi some questions about one of the unsung heroes of keeping us all connected digitally. Follow along with highlights from our interview below! 

SOSM: Does Pinterest have any secrets or tools that go unused by most?
Raashi: "Enrich the everyday moment! Creating a board with a friend or partner for a future trip together." 
. . . Because I haven't used Pinterest as much as is possible, I had never thought of that! I love this idea for future trips, especially NYFW in the fall! Raashi also suggested even using a group board as a way to share brunch spot ideas, and you can remove them from the board as your friends finish visiting each suggested spot!

SOSM: I see that your speaking segment is called "The Art and Science of Using Pinterest." What do you consider the science side of Pinterest to be? 
Raashi: There are certain details that make a pin perform really well. We view engagement as metrics - different than across other social networks. Pinners are not broadcasting their own work, so engagement = repins, close-ups, and click-throughs. Especially with follow-throughs that lead to sales.
. . . That makes so much sense! Especially when pins are advertising sites, brands could really track their ROIs through metrics! 

SOSM: What is something you think sets Pinterest apart from other social media?
Raashi: Using Pinterest feels more personal, but it’s not really meant to be as everyone can find your Pins.

SOSM: Is there anything new in store for Pinterest soon?
Raashi: We've actually recently updated the mobile app so that recent pins are at the top. This allows users to discover new things, save them, and follow through!


I can't wait to learn more from Raashi at the conference next week! 
Please follow her on Pinterest HERE and on Twitter @RaashiBhalla. 

Learn a little more about the conference day by peeping this video: 

Intrigued? The conference is so popular that it has sold out, but a wait list is available! Throw your name in the running to join me and Raashi HERE.

Follow along throughout the week and the day of through these avenues:
- Twitter: @UMSLDigital
- Instagram: @UMSLDigital
- Hashtags:  #MDMC16

Tune Tuesday: Chloe x Halle, "Drop"

Sometimes YouTube autoplays a song that makes you literally drop what you're doing and stop to figure out what it is. In this case, the tune is actually called "Drop," and it's by two fabulously talented young women. Jumping from sweet songstresses to dangerous, blade-tongued mistresses of mischief, their harmonies will keep you wanting more and more. 

Chloe and Halle Bailey caught the public's attention with their cover of Yo Gotti's "Down in the DM" recently (see below), and I remember scrolling past it being shared on my feeds. I thought immediately that their vocals reminded me a bit of Beyoncé, so when I did some research, I felt justified in thinking that - they're actually signed to Bey's management company, Parkwood Entertainment. I'm excited to hear that, as that means Chloe x Halle will receive the support they deserve in launching their careers. 

Will you be keeping an eye on them too? Let me know what you think!

Mani Monday: Ciaté London's "Pillow Fight"

Happy Monday, folks! We started off with sad, rainy weather this morning following an epic thunderstorm last night that helped lull me to sleep. I just spied a bit of sun peeking out downtown, and I hope that bodes well for the rest of this week's weather! Y'all know that I'm not the biggest fan of typical spring shades, so when I wanted to try out my new Ciaté polish, I opted to add a pop of brighter color. 

As with my first Ciaté polish, this color named "Pillow Fight (what a cute title!)" applied easily and evenly, but because it's a creme polish, it is a bit thicker than my blue "Knee Highs." Creme polishes are more prone to chippage, and even though I took these photos the day after I applied the polish, you can already see a bit of roughage around the very tips of my nails. All in all, this mani lasted a good number of days until it finally started jumping ship in big pieces as most usually do. 

If you're curious about how I apply the dots, check out this post for more information: HERE.

I'm beginning to think the dots are turning into my "signature look." I may have even mentioned that before on the blog! It's the easier nail art, by far, and keeps me from being bored with a plain nail color on my fingertips! Is that boring to you at all? 

Polishes Used:
Dusty Purple Cream: Ciaté's "Pillow Fight"
Baby Blue Dots: Sally Hansen's "Barracuda" 
Seche Vite Base & Top Coats: Ridge Filling Base, Dry Fast Top Coat