Sunday, May 1, 2016

Product Review: Morphe 35O Shimmer Palette!

Hello, my little Vixens!

I'm so excited about the must-have product that I'm sharing with all of my beauty lovers today! It's absolutely amazing! I'm talking all about the Morphe 35O Shimmer Palette! And if you're reading this RIGHT NOW, you can still buy it before it goes out of stock! (It WILL go out of stock.)

Morphe's original 35O palette is one of the most talked about eyeshadow palettes in the beauty world. It includes 35 highly pigmented matte and shimmer shades in various nudes, browns, and oranges. For someone with an olive skin tone like myself, it's an absolute essential for creating both soft nude looks for daytime and intense fiery looks for a night out. You simply cannot go wrong with the 35O and at only $22.99, it's a steal! Now, all that being said, you can understand why the palette is almost always sold out. However, Morphe restocks the 35O regularly (about every two weeks from what I've seen), so make sure that you hop onboard as soon as they announce a restock!

Morphe recently surprised us all with a full shimmer version and full matte version of the coveted 35O palette. They also retail for $22.99, so I had to jump on it right away. I've been going through a bit of a sparkly phase (I don't even know myself anymore), so I gravitated toward the shimmer palette. They even offered a bundle with both the full matte and full shimmer palettes for $43.99, which is about $2 in savings when compared to purchasing the palettes separately. Not surprisingly, the bundle quickly sold out. But knowing Morphe, they'll offer it again soon. The matte palette is also currently sold out. However, as I mentioned earlier, the shimmer palette is still available! If you want this palette in your hands ASAP, you better click here right now!

Quick note--all of the following photos are barely edited. I wanted the photos to be as true to the actual color of the palette as possible, so you won't see my usual stark white tones.

Okay! Let's get into my first impressions.

First off, the palette is humongous! Let's compare it to my large head for some perspective. (Remember that you can always click on my photos to get a closer look.)

I like my palettes sturdy, so the size doesn't bother me personally. It's also very thin and would be super easy to tuck into a suitcase or weekender when traveling. 

As I mentioned before, the palette contains 35 1 inch pans in various warm tones.

Um, HELLO. Are these shades gorgeous or what?!

As I was swatching the shadows on my arm, I could immediately feel how creamy, soft, and velvety they were. They glided on like butter and were extremely pigmented! All of the swatches on my arm are after only 1 or 2 quick finger swipes across my skin.

The first 10 shades in the palette (left side)

The middle 10 shades in the palette

The last 5 shades in the palette (right side)

Seriously, guys... these shadows are so beyond dreamy. I wanted to break into song after swatching each color. The possibilities are endless!

And of course I had to create a look for y'all! I definitely went for a more dramatic look, but you can tone this palette down very easily. I just can't help myself when it comes to bold makeup.

I love, love, love this palette and can't recommend it enough. Truly. The broad range of colors, pigmentation, and blendability (I might have made that word up) of this palette make it far worth the price. It's a little slice of heaven.

Before I go today, I want to extend my deepest thanks to everyone who checks Urbana Vixen regularly and who supports me in this silly little endeavor. I've had so many of you message me and/or seek me out to let me know that you keep up with my blog or that you've tried and loved new products thanks to my reviews. These posts take, on average, about 2 or 3 hours to produce. They're a labor of love, so it's so awesome to know that I have great support out there and that these posts are introducing you guys to some fantastic new products. My heart melts every time that one of you guys tells me that you love Urbana Vixen. Well, UV loves you guys, too! Please keep telling me what kind of posts you'd like to see more of, and I'll do my best to keep 'em coming.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gemstone Engagement Rings

I ran into a recently-engaged girlfriend of mine the other day, and we ended up talking about the sudden surge of pregnancies and engagements amongst our friends. I don't personally have any experience with having babies, but I do know a thing or two about engagements and weddings, and you all know that I LOVE to share my wisdom on the topic.

The road to wedded bliss starts with one very important event... the proposal! You can read all about Miles' proposal to me right here. The majority of the time, a proposal includes a diamond ring. Here in the U.S., most women start eyeing the type of ring they'd like as soon as they have access to Pinterest. I was one of those women. What set me apart was my disinterest in diamonds and my love for colored gemstones.

I've found that few women know much about colored gemstones or what a wonderful alternative they are for the now very-traditional diamond. I thought it would be fun to share a little insight about the benefits of opting for a colored gemstone engagement ring.

Before we begin, for those of you who don't already know, Miles did NOT pick out my engagement ring. We worked closely with a jeweler to have my ring designed and custom-made. I tend to be very picky about jewelry, and Miles and I both felt that it would be safer if I helped him to design the ring. A lot of people ask me whether or not this ruined the surprise of being proposed to. The answer is absolutely not. I knew that the ring was being made and that Miles was making regular payments on it. However, I had no idea when he would be done making the payments or when the ring would actually be in his hand. Because of this, I essentially had to forget about the fact that the ring was being made and go about my regular business. When he did propose, I was completely shocked, and I cried and practically fell to my knees. Your fiancé can definitely maintain the element of surprise even if you know that he (or she) is buying a ring.

My beautiful wedding set

So what's so wonderful about colored gemstones? Well, everything!

1. Cost effective. Colored gemstones tend to be much less expensive than diamonds. It's difficult for me to give you a solid example, because gemstones range in price based off of a number of things, including color, carat, cut, and clarity. These measurements get particularly confusing very easily. First off, the specific gravity of gemstones and diamonds differ. Sapphires, for example, have a higher specific gravity than diamonds. Therefore, a 1 carat sapphire will appear smaller than a 1 carat diamond, and my 2.5 carat sapphire ring looks more like a 2 carat diamond ring might. Gemstones are also cut to showcase their beautiful and vivid colors, while diamonds are cut to highlight their transparency. Because it is extremely hard to make comparisons between stones, I'll just share this for reference: my engagement ring which includes a 2.54 carat faint pink, cushion cut sapphire (remember that this is more equivalent to a little under a 2 carat diamond in size) and 42 average G-H, SI1-2, 0.34ctw diamonds in 14k white gold is worth $3,0009.90. I dare you to find a diamond engagement ring of similar size for that price on the market. If you do, BUY IT!

2. Rarity. There's no denying the beauty of a diamond--that's why every girl wants one. We've been told that diamonds are a rarity, further increasing the desire to own them. But have you ever stopped and wondered why there are so many diamonds out there if they're as rare as they say? Well you're smart to wonder, because diamonds truly aren't that rare at all. De Beers has been restricting the supply of diamonds to the public since the 1930s in order to keep prices high and demand up. Clearly, these tactics have worked. Sapphires are actually thought to be up to 4 times more rare than diamonds. Rubies and emeralds are other gorgeous gemstones that are considered to be rare. So if it's rarity you seek, you may want to consider a colored gemstone.

3. All the pretty colors. We all know how much of a sucker I am for a black and white palette, but I have a love for color as well. I remember being on Pirates of the Caribbean as a little girl and wishing I could jump off the boat and bathe in the piles of treasure. My mom would always let me buy those cheap little plastic gems that you put in the black, drawstring bag. I loved all of the pretty colors and delighted in picking them out one by one. So it's no wonder that I wanted a colored gemstone in my engagement ring. I don't consider myself to be attention-seeking, but it's always nice when someone sees my ring for the first time and is surprised to discover that it's not a white diamond (it's a very faint pink/lavender color). It's definitely a conversation starter.

Now don't get me wrong--gemstones have their downsides, too. Diamonds are incredibly strong and scratch resistant. However, they are subject to chipping, especially in princess and heart cuts where the diamond is pointed. They also tend to stay cleaner longer and require less regular care to maintain their brilliance. Sapphires, on the other hand, are just next to diamonds in terms of hardness and strength but are much more likely to scratch. They also get dirty very quickly, often making the stone appear cloudy. Because of this, I'm careful to clean my stone with a toothbrush, dish soap, and water regularly. The way I see it is if a sapphire was good enough for Princess Diana, it's certainly good enough for me.

(I've clearly been scratching off my nail polish all day)

My gorgeous wedding set was designed and created by the wonderful artists at Laurie Sarah. They are a pleasure to work with and are super conscious of your every need and desire as a client. I highly encourage you to give them your business.

What do you think? Would you consider an alternative engagement stone? Let me know your thoughts below!

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Benefits of Concealer

Can you guys believe that it's April?! Spring is already here! Winter has absolutely flown by (at least for those of us here in sunny Los Angeles), and I've already worn shorts multiple times this week. It's the little things that count, right?

The arrival of spring has me all kinds of excited for new eyeshadow palettes and lip colors. I love playing with new looks, and I hope to bring lots of fun new products to the blog this season. Today, I'm focusing on a staple in my makeup bag: concealer!

I do not leave the house without concealer on. Period. Believe it or not, this is a relatively new practice for me. I was always content to just wear foundation, and I assumed foundation coverage was as good as it was gonna get for my eyes. I was so wrong.

Before I get started on today's product, I have to convince you non-believers to welcome concealer into your lives. I have extremely dark circles under my eyes. It's a family trait, much to my dismay, and I'm not super into looking like Uncle Fester. I also have dark eyelids, making it difficult for them to accept pigment even from the most pigmented shadows on the market. Whenever I don't have makeup on, I'm always prepared to be told "You look tired today" at least once. I also have a lot (and I mean a lot) of freckles. My husband loves them; I'm not a fan of mine, but I do like freckles on other people. Anyway, if any of the above mentioned issues plague you as well, consider concealing. It can completely change your look and eliminate unwanted shadows, darkness, redness, and blemishes.

Here I am, completely fresh-faced and unfiltered after my morning skincare routine. My skin is much redder than usual, because I was exfoliating for five minutes straight prior to taking these photos. (Also, shout-out to my hubby for the beautiful anniversary present around my neck. He did good.)

Oy vey. Click on the closeup for a good look at those freckles. This is the first and probably the last time that I will ever encourage anyone to take an up-close look at my makeup-free face. Notice the dark circles below my eyes and my dark eyelids. (And I got a fabulous pimple right on my widow's peak this week.)

If you're new to concealer and want to try it out for the first time without spending an arm and a leg, I have just the product for you! I recently had a huge drug store haul, and I've really been enjoying the Face Studio Master Conceal by Maybelline. It retails for about $9 and really gets the job done well. It's easy to apply and a little product goes a long way, so you'll definitely get your money's worth here. I'm in the shade Light/Medium 30. 

The best part about this product is that it doesn't crease. Longtime concealer users will know that finding an eye product that doesn't crease is difficult but imperative. Creasing just plain sucks, and no one wants to look like their face is caked with makeup. With a good setting powder, or even just a cheap face powder, this sucker does not crease at all. It also does a wonderful job at lightening and brightening the area around the eye. It completely covers the freckles on my cheeks and even works as a great primer for my eyelids.

So let's get started. When we last checked in with my face, it was completely naked and ready for product.

Here, my face is primed with one of my holy grail products, but we'll save that for another post. I have been applying my foundation in small dots all over my face lately to help with blending. (This photo and the coming photos have been edited, so the darkness of my eyes is not as intense as in the first photos.)

After blending my foundation out. I do not apply foundation to my eyes. The darkness of my eyes is much more obvious in this photo due to the lack of foundation.

When I don't have any eyeshadow primer, I like to prime my lids with a dab of concealer to help brighten my shadow. I'm not shy about the amount of product that I apply to my dark circles. I blend the concealer down about two to three inches below my eyes and out toward the highest part of my cheekbones.

Looks a little like this before I blend everything out with a damp beauty blender and a very light hand. I'm careful to avoid removing any product, and beauty blenders are perfect for the job.

Here's how things look after they've been blended out. For the purpose of this drug store product post, I used a cheap powder to set the concealer. Even if you don't use powder on your entire face, you must use a setting powder on any spots that you've concealed in order to avoid creasing.

My next step is my eyes and brows. The effects of the concealer become more obvious around this stage. Notice how bright and pigmented my shadow is thanks to priming my lids with the concealer.

These next few photos are not edited, because my normal editing process tends to make it difficult to see details. Here, I've lightly contoured, added blush, and highlighted my face.

And after adding lip color, this look is complete.

Here's the before and after. Freckles, dark circles, and redness be gone!

Finish it all off with a little setting spray, and you're ready to go! So what do you think? Are you convinced? I love concealing and can't believe I ever went without doing it! I don't know about you guys, but I love learning new makeup techniques and adding new products to my routine. If you don't already conceal, give it a shot. You might end up being a huge fan! If you already enjoy concealing, have you used the Face Studio Master Conceal? What are your favorite concealers? Let me know your thoughts below!


Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18th

Today is a special day. Today is March 18th.

On March 18th in 2011, I saw my husband for the first time. I smiled at him for the first time. I flirted with him for the first time. And I went to bed thinking about him for the first time. From that day on, I haven't gone a day without speaking to him. March 18th has been a special day for 5 years now.

This year, I have a secret to share with you all. Not only is March 18th the day that I met my husband... it's also the day that I became his wife. Today is our 1 year wedding anniversary.

Miles and I decided around November of 2014 that we wanted to be married privately among immediate family members and our very best friends before our big wedding in July. There were a number of reasons that informed our decision, the most pressing being that my health insurance was going to lapse if we waited to be married until July.

We asked our close family and friends to keep our early marriage private out of respect for us and to help keep others from feeling left out. Our intention was never to hurt anyone by excluding them from our wedding. However, we feared that sharing that we were already married prior to our wedding in July might take away from the magic of the day. Despite us already being married, our "big wedding" was still very special to us. That being said, we're choosing to share this little secret with you all now, because our wedding day was the absolute best day of our lives, and we want to celebrate with all of you! And what better way to celebrate than by sharing some photos and stories from our wedding day?!

We were married at 11 AM on a Thursday at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana (which is actually the same town we had our big wedding in). The courthouse is a historical landmark and is over 100 years old. It's absolutely stunning, and it photographs so beautifully! I highly encourage everyone to visit the courthouse and free museum inside. (Fun fact: You can see the courthouse and courtroom that we were married in featured in a number of films, including Legally Blonde!)

The Old Orange County Courthouse

Miles got ready that morning at my sister's house and drove to Santa Ana with my dad. I arrived at the courthouse with my brother-in-law, sister, and mom. It was a gorgeous, bright, and sunny spring day. My amazing friend, Tiffani, from Sun and Sparrow arrived early to catch a shot of our "first look." We signed our marriage documents and headed upstairs for a quick three minute ceremony. My dad walked me down the aisle to my very nervous and teary-eyed fiancĂ©. As quick as it all was, I still managed to cry like a baby.

Just before our first look

When we started planning, we knew that we wanted the day to be relaxing and fun. We quickly thought of the perfect place to celebrate. Disneyland! Disneyland has been a huge part of our relationship, and we knew we'd manage to have an awesome time there.

With close to 20 friends and family members in tow, we invaded Disneyland! Miles and I checked in to our hotel room at the Disneyland Hotel and then met up with Tiffani for some photos inside the park. Afterward, we met up with all of our guests at the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney, where everyone was already pretty toasty (if you catch my drift). It was barely 1 PM, and our entire group was already in full party mode. This made for an incredible day!

At the Uva Bar with our guests

We all entered California Adventure, going on rides and catching the attention of tons of people around the park. It was very obvious that Miles and I had just been married, and we delighted in the "Congratulations!" and cheers that we received all afternoon. The Disneyland cast members were incredibly accommodating, even going so far as to block off portions of rides so that our entire party could enjoy the attractions together. Drunk, happy, and very silly, we took the park by storm!

Beer and champagne in Paradise Pier

We all sat down for a fancy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Napa Rose, which is located inside of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. If you haven't been to Napa Rose, you absolutely MUST. Our dinner was phenomenal, and we left there ready to party the rest of the night away!

A little peek at all of the mischief

We finished off our wedding day by spending every last moment, right up until closing, with our guests inside Disneyland. A cast member even gave Miles and I free churros as we were walking out of the park. The day was as close to perfect as you can possibly get. After saying our goodbyes to our friends and family, Miles and I headed back to our beautiful hotel room to wind down from the day as husband and wife.

Waking up in our hotel room the next morning

I cannot encourage engaged couples enough to have a small courthouse wedding prior to having a large wedding. There is nothing quite like sharing your marriage with the people who are nearest and dearest to you. As much as I loved our July wedding, if I had to choose only one day, I would instantly choose our courthouse wedding for its charm and intimacy. I wouldn't take that day back for all the money in the world. It really was the best day ever, and I've never had more fun in my entire life!

Thank you to my mom, dad, Aleah, Alex, Brianna, Mikie, Ashling, Alannah, John, Tim, Matt, Cory, Jules, Mike, Val, Christine, Tom, Tiffani, and Mai for helping make the day so unforgettable!

Photos taken by Tiffani at Sun and Sparrow
(click photos to enlarge)

And some not-so-professional photos taken by friends and family

We've made it one year, and it's been our best year yet. Thank you to all of our family and friends for your support and love. Our marriage is all the better for it, and we don't take you for granted for one second. Here's to Year Two!