Saturday, August 31, 2013

Guess who’s going to London?

This Anglophile! Through my university here in America there is a program were I can study abroad in London. This is a special type of study abroad in which I will be taking course fully accepted by my university that will be taught my professors hired by my university on a special campus and will be living with people from my university (most likely Americans). While this is not the most immersive possibility, it is a guaranteed form or credit, and will give me more people to rely upon and be in all, much easier for a first time traveler. While I’ve been out of the country once before, to Germany, it was with not only my family, but also was a guided and controlled tour. This will also be my first time living “on my own” in an apartment. I hope to take this opportunity not just to learn and to explore, but also to explain to you, my readers, through this blog how London appears and works with myself.
So, I hope you stick around to see my travels. I will not be going for a few months yet, I leave mid-January and stay through April.

Thanks for reading! Is anyone else studying abroad?

How to make crown braids: and how to turn them into a flower crown!

This is a simple and quick hairstyle; I can do it in less than 5 minutes on any given morning. This is great hairstyle for not only bad hair and dirty hair days, but also a good hot day hairstyle. With your hair in braids it is less likely to frizz and since your hair is pulled off your neck it is cooler to wear than your hair down. For this hairstyle your hair needs to be of medium or long length.
First start with combed, untangled hair, then, separate it in a center part the whole way down to your nape. I have bangs that I will add to the hairstyle later; if you have no bangs or have bangs long enough to incorporate to the style and like the center part look, add them to the rest of your hair.

Next, braid one side of your hair and tie with a thin rubber elastic that is either clear or the color of your hair. You want to braid fairly tightly to your skull starting slightly behind your ear.

Repeat on the other side. At this point you can also pull gently at the sides of your braid to make them thicker, but this will also make them shorter, so check if your hair is long enough for the style.
At this point you have two options for two different styles. If your hair is very long you can pull one of the braids atop your hair and the other underneath your head to make a circlet of braids. Make sure if you’re doing this style to tuck the ends in neatly to make the braid look continuous.

The second style choice is to put both of the braids atop your head to make a thick headband of hair. I will be doing this style.

First take one braid and pull it taught and smoothly across your head towards your ear. If it doesn't reach halfway across your head your hair is too short. Secure the ends with two crossed bobby pins and pin every few inches across the braid with more pins until secure.

Repeat this with the other braid making sure to tuck in both ends under the other braids. Continue pinning trying best to hair the pins until it feels secure and there are no lumps or pieces coming up from off your head.
At this point I smoothed my bangs to the side as per my usual style and pinned them behind the braid.

This is what the back looks like.

At this point if you want you can add accessories like flower clips. Here I added a few grey flower pins to my braids. You can add as many as you like; you can even use this braid as a base to pin flowers to make a flower crown!

I hope you found this tutorial helpful! What are your favorite summer hairstyles? And if you have any requests for tutorials leave a comment below!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Importance of Eye Primer Ft. Elf essential Eyelid Primer

Like a mentioned before in my previous post about face primer, priming your face can seem unnecessary and the products expensive. Like face primer; eyelid primer is an essential part of my make-up routine.  Eyelid primer’s purpose is to get your eyelid ready for eye shadow my canceling out its original color, providing a base for the pigment to adhere to, and to prolong the staying power of your eye shadow and to prevent creasing. As a person with oily lids, eye primer is the only thing that prevents my eye shadow from slipping off and dissolving on my eye.  Eye primer also has the ability to limit fall out and boosts the pigmentation and boldness of the appearance of your eye shadow. Below I have some examples of eye shadow swatched on my hand. On the right there is a line of primer. All eye shadow was swatched using one swipe from the pad of a finger onto my hands.  On some eye shadow there is more of a difference than on others.
with flash

without flash

Eye lid primer can be a bit pricey with the famous Urban Decay Primer Potion retailing for $20 per 11ml tube.  The primer that I use is ELF’s essential eye lid primer that retails for just one dollar ($1!) per tube. Each tube is 0.17 which is about 5ml. While I haven’t ever tried Urban Decay or any other brand besides Elf’s primer, I can’t see much of a difference when it comes to my simple daily needs. I certainly cannot see it being 10 times better!  I would like to try the Primer Potion, and if I ever buy an Urban Decay eye shadow kit, I will make sure to buy one with the sample sized primer; this is how many people appear to stock up on primers.

I would advise anybody that wears eye shadow to check out an eyelid primer such as Elf’s, I buy mine is the color “sheer”. I buy my elf products at Target. I hope this was helpful, see you again soon!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Wet n’ Wild nail polish in Gray’s Anatomy

This fall seems to be the season of the duo chrome. Both OPI and Essie released a silver/blue/green/purple duo chrome in their fall collection.  OPI’s is called “peace love & OPI” and Essie’s is called “For the Twill of it”. They both looked very good and very similar to each other and though I was contemplating buying one of them the $8/$9 price tag was scaring me off. Though I own neither, they both seem to be dupes for each other. Here is a link to another site that has swatch comparisons: here . When I was in the drug store the other day though, I found a similar color. The nail polish is called ‘Gray’s Anatomy” and I is part of Wet n Wild’s fastdry range. It retails for $1.99.

The brush on the polish is of moderate size. I had no problem getting enough polish on the brush and I had no real messiness issues. The main problem is the thinness of the formula. I have bought three polishes form this range and is my least favorite of Wet n’ Wild polish ranges. All of the fastdry polishes are extremely thin and thus sheer (probably s they can be so “fastdry”). It took four coats to get as opaque as it was in the photos. Three coats could have been okay, but you could see my nail line easily do I went with the four. Since the formula was so fast to dry, I didn’t need to wait in between coats going from hand to hand, and the brush was reasonable it really was no struggle to do four coats.

The color itself is gorgeous with a base of silver with the blue/ green/ purple-y pink sheen. From what I have seen online, OPI and Essie’s polish is a bit darker and more purple than pink. Also, theirs is much more pigmented!
In artificial light

In sunlight, notice the nail line!

Overall, this is not a bad polish and I can see myself wearing it often in the fall (It goes with everything!). Also I find this a reasonable second choice polish as compared to Peace, Love, & OPI and For the twill of it. Even though this polish is sheer and needs four coats, they do dry quickly and it’s only $1.99! If I was used to spending $9 for a polish I would have bought Peace, Love, and OPI but Gray’s Anatomy is fine with me!
with flash

no flash

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review : Sephora by OPI nail color in Metro Chic

Recently Sephora has decided to discontinue their nail polish line with OPI. Because of this, the nail polishes that normally retails for $9.50 each are now 3/$10. A couple of weeks ago I stopped by my local Sephora to pick up a few bottles. I bought three: metro Chic, on Stage, and I’m with brad. Today I will be reviewing the first color: Metro Chic. Metro Chic is described as “opaque dark smoke with a hint of purple”.  It is a cool toned medium grey with a purple tint.  This was my first Sephora by OPI polish and my first OPI polish in general.

The first thing I noticed was how thin the brush is. It is very thin; thinner than any other brushes that I have and much thinner than my favorite brush on the Wet n Wild Megalast polishes. The formula was also quite watery and since I needed to load up the brush a lot to be able to get enough polish to cover my nail, it was a bit hard to control. The formula was also quite thin; I needed three coats for opacity. The color though was quite nice. I own one other grey polish that is quite light, warm, and blue tones that I don’t really like. This one is a lot more refined a color and would go well during most seasons and in most occasions including work.
With Flash

In Natural light

Overall, this is an okay nail polish. The color is nice, as is the final look, but getting there is a bit of a struggle. For the price I got it at ($3.33) it is good, but if I had paid the full $9.50 I would have been severely disappointed. I do not know how long it will last; I am hoping a week. I also like the packaging.

I hope this review was helpful, I hope to have more soon!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Recipe: Welsh cakes

This recipe was adapted from “The Book of Afternoon Tea” by Lesley Mackley
A Welsh cake is very similar to a scone; the ingredients are almost exactly the same. The major difference is that while a scone is baked in an oven, a Welsh cake is cooked on a griddle. At first I was scared that the cake wouldn’t cook through or wouldn’t rise, but it did. The griddle or pan must be quite warm when the cakes are put on; even so your first batch may take longer than the others. Be patient; they will cook.  This recipe call for currants and this recipe was my first ever use of the dried fruits. To me a dried currant is a cross between a raisin and a dried cranberry. I’d imagine that either raisins, cranberries or another small dried fruit (like dried blueberries) would also work. These were very popular with my family.
2 cups of flour + 3 tsp baking powder + ½ tsp salt mixed together (original recipe called for 2c. self-rising flour, use if you have it. I never do.)
Pinch of salt
½ c. cold unsalted butter
2/3 c. granulated sugar + extra for dusting
2/3 c. dried currants
1 beaten egg
1 T. milk (optional)
In a bowl mix together flour mixture and salt, then cut in butter until it is the texture of breadcrumbs.
Add sugar and currants.
Add the beaten egg and milk if necessary to make soft dough. It should not be sticky. Roll out on a floured board or counter to ¼ inch thickness.
Cut out with a 2 and ½ inch cookie cutter. The recipe says it makes 16, but I made more than 20.
Now, heat up a griddle or pan that is greased (I used PAM). Cook cakes. The original recipe says over low heat for 3 minutes each side until golden brown. I found on my stove top I had to turn the temperature up to a medium-high heat to cook them for the same amount to time.
Cook the cakes in batches and after each batch sprinkles with a little granulates sugar until all cakes are cooked. And again, I had no problems with un-risen cakes (though they won’t rise that much) or undone centers.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Face make-up Primer: necessary or not?

Every day I go through the motions putting on several layers of make-up to look how I deem to be presentable a.k.a. cover up my skin blemishes. Overall I find make up to be very enjoyable and fun to buy new products and try new things. The fun things though are colorful products that make a visible change i.e. blush, eye shadow, lipstick. Trying out new foundations and concealers isn’t that fun for me so the thought of using a primer was just annoying; how much difference could an invisible cream make? The answer: a lot.
A primer is a type of lotion or crème that is supposed to even out your skin’s texture to make foundation application easier and more blend able; it is also supposed to make your foundation (and thus the rest of your make up laying on top) last longer. There are many primers on the market now, though the influx of primers is fairly new, and although you will have to shell out more than five bucks for a jar there are many different price points. A very popular primer is Benefit’s “The Porefessional” that costs about $30 a tube and is in line with many prestige brands. I cannot afford to spend as much on a primer so instead I opted for the Revlon Photoready Perfecting Primer that costs about $12.

To apply a primer it is important to apply a very thin layer or it may clump with your foundation causing a cake-y appearance to your make-up. Primer is to be applied after moisturizer but before foundation. Primers can also be used on their own for their oil absorbing qualities.
I wanted to try a primer after I noticed my make-up slipping and degrading on my face in the summer heat and I have to say, it definitely fixed those problems. Since I started to use the primer I noticed less try spots when I apply my foundation and by the end of the day I see no degradation or disintegration of my make-up and my face is much less oily than without the primer.

Overall, I am very impressed with my primer and will continue to use it throughout the summer. When winter comes I may stop using it because I find my make-up doesn’t break up on my face like in the heat, but I may use it for the easier application of my make-up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to Brew Tea in a Tea Pot

Hello again! Today I’m going to continue my previous post about tea to talk about brewing tea in a teapot. While tea in a mug is a very basic morning time deal for me, when I break out the tea pot the brewing gets serious. Firstly, I never use tea bags, only loose leaf tea.
Currently, it is not hard at all to find loose leaf tea. Every grocery store has at least one brand of loose leaf (usually Twinings) and stores like Wegman’s and Target sell dozens of different types.  A favorite of mine is Twinings on London’s Prince of Wales. This is sometimes more difficult to find than their basic breakfast and earl grey but in my opinion it is worth it.  
To brew tea in a tea pot a few specialized tools are needed the most obvious being the tea pot. Tea pots are not extremely hard to find; they can be found at most major department and housewares stores such as Macy’s and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They can start at about ten dollars and go up well past $100 if you want some Royal Albert China. The tea can also be poured into a matching tea cup, with saucer of course, but if you are brewing in a pot for a more refined taste only and not appearance, you can pour the tea directly into a mug. Also some sort of instrument must be used to strain out the tea leaves from the brew since a bag is not being used. Both miniature strainers that are set on top of the mug are available but seem to be rare to find in person; I have never found one. This is good at letting the leaves breathe and spread throughout the hot water while brewing. A more common tool and the one I use is a tea ball. Tea balls are very common and can be found at most grocery, department, and food ware stores.  To use a tea ball, simply spoon in the desired amount of tea, close (some use a hooking mechanism, other springs) and add to the pot. There is a truly innumerable amount of additional wares for tea sets which can be explored on various tea websites, catalogs, and in stores.
The amount of tea to be used is not already measured out as in tea bags so you must do it yourself. A standard measurement is one teaspoon to tea for every cup plus one. Loose leaf tea is often not as strong and subtler and takes longer to brew so you want to make sure you use enough.
After the water is boiled (I discussed methods in my previous post) add a small amount to the pot, swirl it around, then dump it before adding the tea and the rest of boiling water. Having an electric kettle would make this easier. The point of this exercise is to warm up the pot so the water isn’t shocked to a lower temperature so the tea can brew properly. The tea should then be steeped for a longer amount of time than bagged; I brew mine for 5-8 minutes. To check doneness, pour out a small amount into a cup or into a spoon to check color.
Of course, extra additions or welcome such as sugar, milk, and lemon, to taste but I like to keep my additions to pot brewed tea minimal to truly enjoy the fragrant tea’s natural taste and smell. Since I do not usually add anything I am careful not to over brew my tea which would make it bitter.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to brew the perfect cup of tea. (By an American)

While it may seem strange for an American, I love tea. Mostly hot tea (sweet iced tea is for another time!) and I drink it a lot. I drink it at least every morning and sometimes multiple times through the day especially if it is cold out. This “recipe’ if you will was made through personal trial and error but also seems to coincide with most “tea theory” out there. I don’t know if this is an authentic British tea technique, but hopefully I can find out soon!
There are too types of tea brewing I’m going to talk about: cup and pot. When it comes to cup tea (a single cup of tea brewed directly in the mug) I always use tea bags. This is a utilitarian tea for me; something to be brewed quickly and easily when half awake. To brew tea this way a place a tea bag in a mug, add boiling water, steep for three minutes, and add milk and sugar.
The tea bag that I prefer is Tetley British Blend bag. This tea is delicious and an actual British brand, but is also cheap and easy to find. The British blend is a round tea bag sans string and tag that brews a dark, strong brew that is perfect with milk and sugar. It may be to strong and bitter without those additions. While PG Tips may be the brand totted as the best tea (a brand I actually dislike; I find the smell and taste to be stinky and off) it is often hard to find and expensive; often over five dollars for a small box of 40 bags and found only at specialty grocers like Wegman’s.  Tetley can be found everywhere from Walmart to your local grocer to drugstores; at my local Walmart I can purchase a box of 100 for under four dollars. But tea bags are often to personal taste so buy what you like best, but never Lipton; it is the worst.
Boiling water is very simple. If you have an electric kettle you should use it. Stovetop models often take a long time to boil and are impossible for a college student such as myself. I boil my water I the microwave; it takes less than three minutes (or more depending on model). Just make sure to start with cold, fresh water. Never re-boil old water; the oxygen content will be different.
I steep my tea for three minutes; it is the recommended amount of time on the tea box; but of course steep to taste. The original Tetley bags I’d steep for four to five minutes to get strong enough.
The last step after you fished out your tea bag from your mug is to add any additions you might like. While I like honey in my herbal teas, I like plain old granulated sugar in my black tea. I add a little less than a teaspoon per cup. I also like to add milk to my tea. I find 1% milk to be my favorite, but I have also used skim and 2% to satisfaction. I find whole milk and cream to be too strong for the tea. I add no set amount just a “splash” and I determine the desired amount by color. I like it to be a “wet sand” color; I can find no other way to describe it that would be more accurate. I guess you could call it a dark khaki or a medium tan.

That is how I brew myself a cup of tea! Next, I will talk about how I brew tea in a pot (which is actually quite different for me!)