Being an extremely fair skinned lass, sunscreen is high priority for me, especially during the summer. I admit during the winter and cooler weather I don't tend to use it on my body (though I know I should), but on my face, whether it's in my moisturizer, primer or foundation, SPF is always represented. These kits from Sephora are enough to get even the most ambivalent person excited about sun safety! There are so many very generously sized products to try; even if you hate half of them the $30.00 price tag is a steal.

I have never gotten my greedy little mitts on one of these, which vary from year to year, because they sell like bloody hotcakes. They sold out online this year about two days or maybe even less after they were released. I thought I had missed out again but I went to my Sephora inside JCP, where they had a kit for $26 that contained five fewer products. I really, really wanted the regular kit though so I took a risk and passed on purchasing that kit. The next day I made it to a regular Sephora and they had two left in stock. I was a very happy camper. So if it sells out again online after they're restocked, try your local store if you have one!

Here it is:

And then....

Here is the product line-up:

- 0.03 oz bareMinerals® Original Mineral Veil Broad Spectrum SPF 25
- bareMinerals® Mini Flawless Application Brush
- 0.5 oz Boscia® Self-Defense Antioxidant Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30
- 0.3 oz Clarins UV Plus HP Sunscreen Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 40
- 0.25 oz Dr. Brandt® Signature Flexitone® BB Cream SPF 30
- 1 Towelette Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare™ Alpha Beta® Glow Pad™
- 0.5 oz Josie Maran Cosmetics Argan Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40
- 0.5 oz LancĂ´me Bienfait Multi-Vital SPF 30 Cream
- 0.5 oz L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening Hand Care SPF 20
- 0.16 oz Miracle Skin Transformer Miracle Skin Transformer Face SPF 20
- 0.5 oz Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth SPF 50+
- 0.5 oz Origins A Perfect World™ SPF 25 Age-Defense Moisturizer with White Tea
- 0.5 oz Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skincare Max Sheer Day Moisture Defense® Lotion SPF 30
- 0.169 oz Sephora Collection Age Defy Moisture Cream SPF 15 Sunscreen
- 0.64 oz Ultimate Protection Cream+ Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
- 0.25 oz Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer SPF 20 with Dermaxyl™ Complex
- 1.69 oz St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion
- 0.5 oz Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Self Tanner
- 0.14 oz Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzing Powder with Real Cocoa
- Cosmetic bag

Whew! That is some serious sun safety!

I've only tried a few of the products but already I've found a few winners and one dud.

First, I decided that the Dr. Brandt Flexitone BB cream is not for me. It comes out of the tube as a typical one-size-fits-most BB cream shade, but as soon as I started rubbing it in it darkened considerably. It also felt too thick and oily to me. The final swatch convinced me that this product was wayyy too orangey and dark for me.

You can see the progression here. My camera is not very good at picking up shade differences on my skin but even so you can tell how dark it ended up on me.

Here are all the products in the kit out of the packaging. It's almost overwhelming...almost!

I was disappointed at first to see that the Miracle Skin Transformer shade included was Medium, which I assumed would also be way too dark and unusable for me. But surprisingly, this product works great as a primer for me, as the color doesn't seem to build or look very noticeable. It's just enough to give me a tiny bit of warmth as a base. There isn't enough coverage for me personally to use it as a BB cream or foundation replacement, but I'm loving it as a primer.

I was terrified to try the self tanners, as those combined with my fair skin is usually a recipe for disaster, but I have used and liked Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peels so I decided to give the Alpha Beta Glow Pad a try. I wasn't sure how my skin would react to it or how dark the results would be. I used the towlette on my face, down my neck and on my chest, and when I woke up in the morning...I was darker. Not oompa loompa dark, but definitely darker. I also didn't do such a great job on my chest as I had some tell-tale lines and patchiness. I was worried my face was too dark but once I got my makeup on for the day I started feeling more comfortable with it. By the next day it had faded enough that I just looked like I had a really nice, warm glow. Simply using my regular daily toner was enough to remove some of the color, as well. I wasn't sure about these at first, but I may actually repurchase, now that I know what to expect.

Here are the Too Faced Bronzer (smells a bit like cocoa!), the St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion, the Miracle Skin Transformer, and the Tarte Brazilliance Self Tanner. I haven't tried any of them except for the Miracle Skin Transformer. I have read good reviews about the Tarte, so I am looking forward to trying it.

Have you tried any of these products or are you going to get a Sun Safety Kit? Let me know what you think!

I am normally not a blue eyeshadow person. Not because I don't like it, but because I don't really think it looks good on me. It makes my face seem dirty and garish, somehow. Maybe this is just in my head. But this summer I think I will be using this look very frequently! It features two new products from Maybelline, a limited edition Color Whisper in I Crave Coral and a limited Color Tattoo in Seashore Frosts.

The Color Whisper is totally perfect for those who, like me, get nervous wearing anything with too much of an orange tone. This lip product is sheer but buildable, and it has a lovely coral shade that is summery and fresh but not too orange. I have been using this so much it is almost gone already, and I may have to repurchase, which I almost never do!Seashore Frosts is the only shade in the new summer line that really appealed to me, because it has a gorgeous pinky-gold duochrome and it is subtle enough that I can wear blue without feeling over the top. The combo of the baby blue/gold and the coral feels really festive to me, but still classy.

So pretty!

I used Seashore Frosts on the lid, and Inglot # 154 in the crease (Inglot reviews to come soon!). I used The Balm Mary Lou Manizer as a highlight. MUFE Aqua Liner # 14 is my eyeliner. My mascara is They're Real! from Benefit.

The Color Tattoo is interesting enough that you could easily use it alone as an all-over color wash. It is fairly sheer at first but is also buildable if you let each layer dry first. It can work as a base as well, but I still apply it over Too Faced Shadow Insurance to get more color payoff.

Maybelline Color Whisper in I Crave Coral

That's all for today, thanks for reading!

Recently Solstice Scents released a small spring collection that was comprised of not-exactly-typical spring scents. This was a dark spring collection, for those who can't abide the sweet,light,  floral stuff! Two other exciting things about this release:  Angela reformulated a classic Solstice Scents fragrance, Conjure, and last spring's Vanilla Pipe Tobacco, and she also released samples of uberprecious, rare, and chock-full of home-grown gardenia blossoms gardenia enfleurage. Check out this blog post that explains how this scent was produced.

Here is what I got for this release:

Reformulated Conjure and Conjure Ganache
samples of Vanilla Pipe Tobacco
Midnight Oil
Private Eye
Gardenia Enfleurage
sample of Nag Champa

Reforumulated Conjure
A Magical Blend of Vanilla, Amber, Cedar, Spices & Cauldron Smoke

I once had a full size of the original Conjure and somehow, I don't know how, it's gone missing. I've looked under the couch, in old purses, nothing. It will show up one day, I hope. But if memory serves, this new version smells pretty close to the original. Even, I think, a little smoother and softer, as the scent description suggests. Basically a creamy, woodsy vanilla with a touch of smokey incense. Beautiful and classic.

Vanilla Pipe Tobacco
Vanilla Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Tonka Bean Absolute & Sweet Clover Absolute - 5ml

The original Vanilla Pipe Tobacco from last spring was just too much for me. The tobacco was quite strong and cloying, almost sticky-fruity in a way, and the alcohol base just made it worse. This one, though, is awesome. It is quite different from the original, so if you were scared off by the strong tobacco in the original, it may be worth your while to give the new version a try. It's sweeter and more palatable leaning towards the vanilla and delicious tonka, and while the tobacco is definitely present and robust, it's not overpowering. I was surprised to love this so much the second time around, but I think I need a full size of this.

Midnight Oil
Cocoa Absolute, Blood Orange EO, Yellow Mandarin EO, Aged Patchouli EO, Labdanum Absolute, Coffee EO & Mushroom Absolute - 5ml

Like the name, this scent has a shimmering, iridescent quality indeed reminiscent of shifting colors in an oil slick. Even the perfume itself is dark and slightly more viscous from the cocoa absolute. The first thing I get from this is a burst of fresh, bright, juicy orange, followed by a dark and rich chocolate. The base is definitely heavy on patchouli, but there's so much going on in the scent that even those not fond of it may find this acceptable. It's an interesting juxtaposition of dark, dank, and earthy along with the sweeter foodie notes. I admit I never tried this when it was first available as a scrub because the mushroom absolute scared me off. I loathe mushrooms, and even though I knew technically there was no way the scent would actually smell like mushrooms, I was still apprehensive. No, this doesn't smell like mushrooms at all. I suspect that it simply lends the scent its dank, earthy element. This may be a full size for me, but I'm undecided as to whether I want it for the summer or would rather get it for cooler weather down the road.

Private Eye

Cocoa Absolute, Myrrh EO, Pink Pepper EO, Black Pepper EO, Tonka absolute, Buddha Wood, Tobacco absolute, Coffee EO, Guiacwood, Rosewood EO, etc.

This is a complex one! Dark, masculine, mysteriously intense and debonair. This would certainly be someone I'd like to get to know better! The first thing I smell with this is a strong spicy/peppery note. The cocoa absolute isn't as apparent to me as it is in Midnight Oil. And not to oversimplify it, because it's not at all simple, but the dry down makes me think of what would happen if Library from the Manor Collection and Sirocco from Summer 2012 got together and had a baby. If you haven't smelled those, it's got the refined leathery elegance and dark woodsiness of Library, and the dry, exotic spiciness and resinous quality of Sirocco. There's other stuff going on as well that are not common to either of those scents, but that's what it made me think of.

Nag Champa
An Exotic Incensey Blend of Champa Flowers, Vanilla, Jasmine & Spices

I usually love incensey scents and I really love burning it, but this one was a little too strong, powdery, dusty even, on me. I'm not sure if it's the jasmine or the champa flowers, but it gave me the first twinges of a headache, which very rarely happens to me. It has the sort of clean quality that I got when I sampled  Pharaoh a while back, and that one also unfortunately wasn't for me. Maybe I would like burning this better than wearing it?

Gardenia Enfleurage
100% Pure Gardenia Absolute In Perfumer's Alcohol

I'm sure I've smelled real gardenias at some point in my life, I just can't pinpoint any specific instances. If I could, I suspect it would smell exactly like this scent. I can't imagine a perfume smelling more authentic or true to life than this. I wouldn't even say I'm a huge gardenia fan; I don't actively seek the note out in perfumes or anything like that, but I really wanted to try this just to appreciate the artistry behind it. And it is quite a masterpiece. Angela warns that it doesn't have quite the sillage or staying power of traditional perfumes but it lasted several hours on me, and smelled just like someone had brought a fresh bouquet inside, creamy with a light, fresh green quality. I will take this out whenever I need a refreshing whiff of spring.

Now we arrive to the last couple days of our trip. Our last day in NYC we got checked out of our hotel and got our car back, then found another place to park and then got on the subway again...getting around in NYC is quite the experience!

We were so happy to have J around because he actually understands the subway system for the most part and we only got slightly lost a few times. If it had been only G and I, we would have given up and just started living down there.

This thing still looks like gibberish to me:

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On the second day in NYC, it was a little rainy and dreary, so I got to break out my rain jacket. We got up pretty early,  headed for the subway and first stopped by Times Square.

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Before we left for NYC I decided to cash in some of my Birchbox points for some items I'd been wanting. I don't really post my monthly boxes anymore, but I'm still getting them! Some months are hit or miss, exciting or lackluster, but the one thing that really keeps me loyal is their points system. You earn points for posting reviews of the products you receive, or for product purchases from the shop, or referrals. I had had 400 points accrued, which equals 40 dollars in free product. It doesn't take that long to get them either since on average you can earn around 50-60 a month depending on how many items you get in your box. I had also received a coupon code for 25% off since I've gotten 25 boxes from them. So I combined those and ordered all of this:

The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer: $24.00
Blow Pro Blow Up Daily Volumizing Shampoo: $17.00
Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash: 19.50
Chuao Chocolate Bar in Maple Bacon (nom nom nom): $6.00

The subtotal for all these goodies was $66.50. But my 25% off code took off $16.63, and my 400 points took off $40.00, so I was left paying a mere $9.87.
That makes Birchbox totally worth it in my book!

Do you do Birchbox or any other beauty boxes? Have you tried any of these products?

Sorry for the lack of postage this week, dear readers. Life post vacay caught up with me, as it tends to do... sociopathic neighbor back to his old noisy tricks again, trying to get our apartment management to do something about it, and my mom's back in the hospital. Good times. But enough of that, I am going to write about our trip before I start to forget it all, leeched from my memory from stress and lack of sleep.

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Hola everyone! I am back from our whirlwind NYC (and Hartford, and Boston) adventures and am starting to feel human again. As eventful as the trip was, relaxing is not a word I'd use to describe it! I am working on sorting through the gazillions of pictures I took and will probably break the trip down into a few more manageable separate posts. Not necessarily because anyone is interested in what I ate or bought or saw, but honestly so I'll be able to remember myself. Unfortunately it's back to work for me tomorrow, so hopefully once I catch up there I can get to posting before I forget too much! Talk to you all later!
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