Music | La La La feat. Sam Smith by Naughty Boy

If you’re a fan of Disclosure’s critically acclaimed album, Settle, then you’re already familiar with Sam Smith’s voice. He was featured on the single, Latch, which is how his voice initially caught my attention. The 21-year-old Brit is poised to break out as a star in his own right with a solo album coming out later this year. He won the 2014 Brits Critic’s Choice Award and the BBC’s “Sound of 2014” music critics poll. If that’s any indication, his solo album, In The Lonely Hour, should be a success. In the meantime, he’s part of another great collaboration, this time with Naughty Boy. La La La feat. Sam Smith has been out for months in the UK, where it went to number 1 on the British Billboard Chart. The song has only been out for a little over a month here in the US, and it’s well worth a listen.

And if you want more proof of his vocal chops, check out his Radio 1 Live Lounge performance.

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Music | Step Out by Jose Gonzalez

If I decided to quit responsible life and travel the world for a year (unfortunately student loans prevent me from entertaining such ideas) this song would be on my playlist. It has that type of feel good, motivational sound that makes you want to go for it, whatever “it” might be for you. An appropriate New Year’s song, I think. Step Out by Jose Gonzalez is from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack.

Time to step outside…

Review | Vichy Normaderm Anti-Age

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Now that I’ve entered my mid-twenties(!), I’ve started thinking more about anti-aging and that it’s probably time for me to jump on the bandwagon. Prevention not reversal, etc. I have oily skin with blocked pores and blemishes, so I’d stayed away from anti-aging products for fear that the extra moisture so many provide would be too much for me. Plus my main problem is blemishes and congested skin. Enter Vichy Normaderm Anti-Age. Vichy is a French pharmacy brand and the Normaderm range is designed for acne-prone skin. I bought mine at Walgreens for $25.

Vichy Normaderm Anti-Age is a very light weight moisturizer with glycolic acid, LHA, and Vitamin C. In case you’re not sure what those are or why they matter, I’ll give you a brief explanation. Glycolic acid is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) that works on the surface of the skin as a chemical exfoliant. It resurfaces the skin making the skin smoother and stimulating cell renewal. LHA works deeper in the skin to unclog pores (It is related to salicylic acid). Vitamin C has anti-aging and firming properties.

I’ve been using it twice a day, morning and night, for a few months now and I’ve noticed a big difference in my skin. My face no longer feels like it needs a good scrubbing and my blemishes have reduced significantly. My skin feels smooth, clean, and moisturized. When using a manual exfoliant or a harsher acne treatment, my skin would often get dehydrated (yes, you can have oily but dehydrated skin) and then freak out and produce even more oil and blemishes. This strikes the right balance for me. I wouldn’t say I’ve noticed much of a change in my pores, but in some places my pores look a little better. I’ll take what I can get!

If you have dryer skin, you might need to moisturize over this cream, but for me and my very oily skin, this is all the moisture I need. Of course we’re in the middle of summer right now, so once the weather starts to change I might need a bit more moisture, but for now this is working just fine. I still have problematic skin, this isn’t a miracle treatment, but it is the most effective treatment I’ve found so far, especially for the price. If your skin is anything like mine and you’re in the market for a glycolic based treatment, I highly recommend you give the Vichy Normaderm Anti-Age a try.

Travel | Historic Philadelphia, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my Philadelphia trip! Read Part 1 here.

On our second day we went to Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the US Constitution drafted. Built between 1732 and 1756, it is a well-restored historical building with period pieces including George Washington’s actual chair. We had a great guide who seemed to genuinely enjoy the history behind the building. In order to get into Independence Hall, you must get tickets (they’re free) from the visitor’s center. Tickets go incredibly fast and were gone by 10 am. Luckily we were able to go over and ask one of the rangers if there was room left (there was) so we still got inside.

We took a tour with the Big Bus Company, a tour bus that offers “hop on, hop off” service at many of the main attractions. We stopped at Betsy Ross’ house, Benjamin Franklin’s grave, and Penn’s Landing. I wouldn’t really recommend stopping at Penn’s Landing because there isn’t much to do there, unless you have extra time to spend (be prepared to wait 20-40 minutes for the next bus). Betsy Ross’ House and Benjamin Franklin’s grave were both okay, but not necessarily must-sees, in my opinion. For the rest of the tour, we stayed on the top deck of the bus and saw many other points of interest including Love Park and the steps from Rocky, aka the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

For dinner that evening, we went to a restaurant called City Tavern. It is a 20th-century reconstruction of an 18th-century restaurant that was frequented by the likes of Benjamin Franklin. (Part of the original structure burned down in 1834 and the rest was demolished in 1854.) I was tired and hungry at this point and failed to take any pictures inside. The waitstaff dress in traditional 18th-century attire and the menu is inspired by meals of the time. Fun-fact: Benjamin Franklin was once a vegetarian and introduced tofu to America, so vegetarian friendly fried tofu is on the menu. The restaurant’s award-winning chef Walter Staib hosted the Emmy award-winning PBS program A Taste of History and has his own collection of cook books. The City Tavern isn’t gimmicky or cheesy (they don’t use fake British accents or pretend Benjamin Franklin is in the other room), but is actually really well done.  Sometimes historical recreations can be a bit too theatrical for me, but the City Tavern is a really nice experience.

All in all, our quick trip to Philly was a great experience and much needed break from work and mundane life. If you want to see more of the museums and cultural side of things, you would need another day in order to fit everything in, but if you’re going for a primarily historical trip, you can easily cover the basics in two days.

Where are you going/did you go on vacation this summer? Leave a comment and let me know!

Travel | Historic Philadelphia, Part 1

For the last few days of May, my mom and I took a quick trip to Philadelphia. (Quick in that we didn’t stay long, not that it was quick to get there!) She is a serious planner, so I stayed out of the plan making and just enjoyed what she arranged. Philadelphia is a historic city and that was the focus of our trip.

The historic area is easily walkable; everything is basically within a few blocks. We stayed at the Wyndham hotel in the historic district. It was very conveniently located with friendly and helpful desk staff. The room was comfortable enough, but lacked a bit in cleanliness. Specifically, I found a few hairs in the sheets on my bed. The sheets looked clean and maybe the hairs just went through the wash and were stuck to the sheets, but regardless I don’t want to find hair in my bed!

On our first day, we saw the Liberty Bell. It is housed in the Liberty Bell Center and you go through a museum-like section before you get to the bell. Admission is free, no tickets required, and although there was a line it actually moved pretty fast. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with the displays leading up to the bell. I never found basic information on the bell, like when and where it was cast (though it is explained on the website). Maybe that information was there, but we never saw it. Still, if you go to Philly, you need to see the bell. It’s just the American thing to do!

We also went to the US Mint where coins are made. Admission is free and you can look in at the factory as you walk through the self-guided tour. We went through quickly as it was the end of the day, but unless you’re really interested in the details of how coins are made, a quick trip through is sufficient.

You can’t go to Philly and not eat a Philly cheesesteak, so that was our main meal of the day. We went to Campos, a  deli a few blocks from our hotel. I’m a semi-vegetarian, but I do eat chicken sometimes, so I opted for the chicken option and my mom had the regular one. They also have a vegetarian option. The cheesesteaks were really large so we each saved half to snack on later in our hotel room.

After a 6 am flight, we were pretty tired and eager to relax. We went back to our room, washed off all the travel/airport grime, and watched Netflix until bed time.

Stay tuned for day two in the next post!

Have you ever been to Philly, or are you from there? What is your favorite thing to do or see in the city? Leave a comment and let me know!

Review | L’Oreal Telescopic Shocking Extensions Mascara

20130527-190649.jpgI first used the original L’Oreal Telescopic mascara a few years ago and while I thought it was okay, I didn’t like it enough at the time to repurchase. I read a review from FleurDeForce on the newest addition to the Telescopic range and decided to give this version a try.

The Telescopic mascaras are lengthening mascaras. The Shocking Extensions mascara is supposed to provide “liquid extensions in a bottle” and be clump-free, flake-free, and smudge-free.

 

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It provides good length and also some volume, but I do have to really work with it for a while to build up the length. The lengthening effect is pretty good, but not quite “liquid extensions in a bottle.” To get the best lengthening results, I do a sweeping motion rather than a wiggle motion (you know what I mean). My lashes are on the shorter side, so if you already have longer lashes this mascara may work better for you.

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The brush is easy to use and a good size and shape for reaching all of your lashes. I haven’t had any problems with flaking or clumping so far (except a bit of flaking at the end of the day) and I’ve been using the mascara for three weeks now.

Initially, I wasn’t really over the moon about Shocking Extensions, but after seeing my lashes in the (poor quality iPhone) photos, I’m actually pretty pleased! If you’re looking for an inexpensive lengthening mascara, I recommend you give this one a try.

Have you tried L’Oreal Telescopic Shocking Extensions mascara? What did you think? What is your favorite mascara? Leave a comment and let me know!

Review | Cover Girl Clump Crusher Mascara

 

Cover Girl Clump Crusher

I’ve been meaning to write a review of the Cover Girl Clump Crusher mascara for ages, but I just never got around to it. By this point, I’ve just about run out, so I feel like at least now my review will be made after lots of use. I’m going to break this down into pros and cons.

Pros:

It really doesn’t clump, either on the brush or on the lashes. Once I got towards the end of the tube I did notice a few…not really clumps, but I guess I’ll call them that for lack of a better word. They were no trouble though. No complaints there.

The brush is shaped really well, slightly curved and it fits my eye shape nicely. I found that I was able to get to my lashes easily without making a mess (I do tend to get mascara on my eyelids a bit too often).

Cons:

It flaked. That was really the only negative thing about it for me, but it’s a big one. After just a few hours I would look in the mirror and see little black dots under my eyes and on my cheeks. And that’s really the only reason I decided not to repurchase it. (That and I always like to try new mascaras!)

I had every intention of posting a photo with the mascara on, but unfortunately I just never took one. But it looked nice!

If you’ve tried the Cover Girl Clump Crusher mascara, leave me a comment and tell me what you thought!

 

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