Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Do and a Don't: E.L.F. Mini Haul and Review

A few weeks ago, E.L.F. had a 40% off sale online. There were a couple of items that I'd been eyeing, but hadn't quite built up the courage to try out, so this seemed high time to bite the bullet and order. I picked up, among other things, the Prism Eyeshadow Palette in Sunset and the new 22-Piece Mini On the Go Palette. Normally, the 22-piece palette goes for $15, but right now, you can get both palettes for $10 each.  

Top: Prism Eyeshadow Palette. Bottom: 22-Piece Mini On the Go Palette.

Now, because I like to end things on a good note, let's start out with the 22-piece palette and get that out of the way.

You see, for me, this was a fail. Through and through. It's really a shame, too, because the idea is fantastic. It's just the execution that falters.

Before I go any farther, let's start with the good: I very much enjoy the concept of carrying a purse-friendly, compact palette with shadows, blushes, glosses, applicators, and a mascara. Normally, you get some combination of a few of those elements, but rarely all of them. Also, kudos for putting the cream products in a section to themselves, thus preventing the powder shadows and blushes from contaminating the glosses. It really sucks when you apply a pretty pink gloss, only to find that particles of black eyeshadow have smeared across you lips, as well. There's also a really nice mirror, so you actually can apply your makeup "on the go".

And that's about it. And I hate that.

So, what's so terrible about this palette? Unfortunately, pretty much everything (oh, I HATE this review!! It's so negative, and I really adore E.L.F.!). To start with, the packaging is boring, shoddy, and just plain bulky. Sadly, I didn't get a picture of it from the side, but while it's only about the length and width of a credit card, the height is ridiculous. It's a brick. Think of two Altoids tins stacked one atop the other, and you've got a pretty accurate representation. It's supposed to be travel-friendly, but there's not a pocket in my purse large enough to hold it (and I travel heavy). Of course, even if I could fit it into my bag, I wouldn't because the clasp is flimsy, and I'm afraid it would open up and spill everywhere. It's just not workable as a travel palette.

Secondly, the products aren't very good. The eyeshadows are chalky and lacking in the pigment department. Below, I have a random sampling of some of the shadows, and I had to really work to build them up to this intensity. The fourth shadow from the left--see if you can spot it. It's supposed to be the cornflower blue in the top row of the palette. Now, if you look at the shadows in the pan, they appear to have a variety of finishes, ranging from matte to glitter. However, when you apply them, they all come off as matte, and unfortunately, muddy together. I tried wearing a few to work, and while I didn't have any fading or creasing, the overall look was so embarrassingly...the only word I have is muddy, y'all. I'm sorry...that I had to pull out my usual purse palette and re-do it before I left the office.

Of course, E.L.F. shadows tend to be hit or miss, but the lip products have, generally, been pretty good. I had higher hopes for the second tier.

See! The colors are lovely, and there's a nice range of shades. Another thing that bugged me about the shadows was the apparent randomness of color choices. When I think of a purse palette, I think of touch-up shades: a deep shade for adding drama, a shimmer to perk up a look or cover creasing...that sort of thing. The shadows didn't deliver on that, but the lip colors--more sticks than glosses, really--fared better. Sadly, they feel kind of gritty on the lips, look thick and chalky, and wear off quickly. The lip brush is splayed and unusable, and shed the first time I tried to dip it into the product. Below is another random sampling of colors. They are very pretty in the pan and in swatches. It's just a shame they wear so poorly.
Left to Right: the light pink, the last shade, the deep purple.

On to the blushes! I'll be perfectly honest with you; I did not try these. I couldn't. I don't have a brush small enough. The included brush wasn't usable, and each color is roughly the size of a postage stamp. Again, this is a shame because E.L.F. tends to do well with blushes, and these colors are just gorgeous. From what I can tell, they appear to be a subtle golden highlight, a raspberry blush, and a light, shimmery bronzer.

I did swatch these, and that made me even more unhappy. They swatch well and look just lovely. I just can't use them.

I didn't even bother with the mascara. It's their standard studio mascara, so if you like it, you'll like this. It's not enough to make or break this palette. So, in summation, it's a wonderful idea. It just didn't work.

Part of me wonders if, perhaps, this was rushed into production. Recently, Urban Decay released the Anarchy and Shattered Face Cases (shadows, blushes, and a lip pencil in a compact case), and I wonder if this was launched as a response to that. Granted, the case more resembles a Too Faced Glamour To Go, but I really do wonder. This is pure speculation, but I get the feeling this started out as a dupe of the Glamour To Go, and then went into production early because of the Urban Decay. Maybe not. It's just a theory, and the only way I can understand how something that was so clearly not thought through could be released. Hopefully, they'll keep with the idea, but tweak it so that it works better. Personall, I'd reduce the number of shadows to eight and up the quality of each, make the glosses "glosses" (creamier and easier to apply without a brush), and include only one blush and one bronzer/highlight (to increase the size of each). I'm not sure what to do about the bulk of the packaging, but even rounding the corners would help. Right now, it's a mess.

Okay, now that that unpleasantness is out of the way, let me show you my new friend:

Isn't it pretty?! These are well-done shadows, y'all. This is the Prism Palette in Sunset, and here's how E.L.F. describes it:
These ultra-silky and lustrous eyeshadows look like a powder but feel like a cream, allowing for a smooth and flawless application. Use to contour, line, and highlight for a radiant finish. The luminous, shimmery formula creates a gorgeous range of looks for both day and night.

They ain't lyin'. I have had very little luck with E.L.F. shadows in the past. The best I've ever had was half of the Maleficent palette from last year. When I opened this baby up, I let out an audible gasp. I could tell just by looking at the shadows that they were going to be special.

These swatches are crap. In person, they look much richer and sparkle like nobody's business. The formula is fantastic, too. They're creamy and silky, and not even slightly powdery. These swatches are in palette order, and those second, third, and fourth shades are standouts.

Is this a perfect palette? No. You will need to augment it with some matte or satin shadows, and probably with some deeper shades to put together a complete look. If you have Urban Decay's Naked Basics, you're set. I can completely forgive that, though, because of the formula. I would put it on par with Stila, honestly. It's that kind of soft, slightly flaky (not flaking off, but it's almost like it applies in a solid flake form...or maybe I'm insane...either way), shimmering texture. I didn't experience any creasing or fading in the hours that I wore these, and felt confident enough to use the palette for a holiday party look. These are just d@*n good shadows, and you get six of them for ten dollars. There are two other versions, Naked and Smoke (I tell you, they are seriously trying to get in on the Urban Decay audience), with neutral and jewel tones, respectively. I haven't tried them, yet, but after falling in love with Sunset, I may need to place another order.

Final Verdict

22-Piece On the Go Palette: 2 out of 10. Great idea, but executed poorly.
Prism Palette: 9 out of 10. Gorgeous, and tremendously good quality. On par with high end. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm Not Dead Yet!!!

I swear, I'm still here!! Things have been a little crazy with work, holidays, teaching, and...well, just life in general. I've been working on some fun reviews, though, and will keep you posted on anything nifty I find floating around the web. Thanks for bearing with me!

Much love,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gimme an R-A-N-T! Whaddaya Got? RANT!!!!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, brace yourselves, for I am filled with righteous indignation! That's right! This is a RANT!!

This is an article that I came across today on Facebook, and it is absolutely infuriating. The tl;dr version is this:

A high school marching band took the field for their halftime program. At the beginning of the first song, the coaches brought the teams back onto the field. Over seven minutes remained on the clock. When four minutes (and some change) still remained on the clock, the coaches began yelling at the band to get off the field. The parents in the stands started screaming, "Get the [expletive] band off the field". Then one of the coaches went so far as to begin shaking the junior Assistant Drum Major's podium, in an attempt to drive the band off.

It was still halftime.

On Senior Night.

The administration claimed that the team would have received a 15-yard penalty if the band had not vacated right then, but that's not entirely true. Halftime lasts for twenty minutes, and then an additional three minutes are allotted for warm-up. At the time this occurred, the original twenty minutes were not up. In addition, the
principal had already discussed the possibility of an overage (due to it being Senior Night) with the referees and opposing team, and it had been approved. The team would have received a penalty if they'd missed their additional three minutes, but not until that time. I feel it's also worth mentioning that this team had only won one game over the entire season. The band recently received a national award.

In a lovely little bit of irony, the penalty would have, officially, been for "unsportsmanlike conduct". 'Cause, you know, trying to knock a teenager off of a podium because they didn't finish their halftime show five minutes before halftime ended is sportsmanlike.

For what it's worth, the football players had nothing to do with this, and many expressed that they felt badly about the incident. This rant is in no way concerning the football team. This is about the administration, coaches, parents, their lack of respect, and the fact that this is not an isolated event.

As a former band member and the sister of a current high school band member (non-marching at the moment, but that's probably going to change soon), I know what these kids go through for their art--and it is an art. Have you see Ohio State?

When I was in my school's color guard (I can't play an instrument to save my life), we started off with a week at sleep-away flag camp. There, we twirled for, roughly, eight hours a day. The food was so horrible that we ended up living off the camp's peanut butter and jelly bar (yes, that's a thing), and were so weak and starved that our chaperones kidnapped us and took us to a buffet, where no one could eat without getting sick. Did I mention this took place during a hurricane, and we had refugees staying at the camp, too? We twirled in the hurricane. No kidding.

Next came band camp. Again, we twirled from about seven or eight in the morning until five or six at night. We did get lunch, but that was the only break. A time or two, we were able to go home for dinner, but had to come right back and stay until eight or ten at night. This lasted for several weeks, and was grueling. This was over the Summer, which stays in the mid-90s to low-100s with 100% humidity. Kids passed out. It also rains like crazy throughout the season (read: year), but we kept practicing in the mud. We were told to stop twirling if your pole turned blue and the hair on your arms raised, and then to throw the pole away from you, because you were getting struck by lightning. Until then, keep twirling. (note: I don't know the science behind that, but that's what we were told.)

Then, there's marching season. For us, that meant bus trips on buses that broke down or caught fire (seriously), then waiting for the school to convince the nice "Spirit Bus" that the football players, cheerleaders, and alumni rode on to turn around and come get us. This meant stale fast food when the players got steak dinners before each game. This meant riding all the way to Podunk, AL, just to have the opposing team tell us we couldn't play because it irritated their team. This meant having parents and coaches yell at us because they were losing, we existed, and they needed a scapegoat.

During all of this, and for months after, there are classes, private lessons, after-school rehearsals, during-school performances, competency tests, and, Lord Almighty, competitions. Those are a-whole-nother rant, in and of themselves.

The thing is, no matter how badly we were treated, or how uncomfortable we were, or how jangled our nerves, we kept playing. We kept doing our best because it made us proud. We were also very proud of our team, and wanted to support them. They were darn good, and a win for them was a win for us.

Now, I wasn't at this game. I didn't see this happen, but not only do I not doubt it, I'm not surprised by it. What makes it truly sickening is that the offense was perpetrated not only by the band's own school, but by adult authority figures and parents, all of whom should know better. These are the people who are supposed to be teaching these children--yes, children--how to behave in public, and how to treat other people. These are the same disciplinary figures who issue detentions at school and groundings at home. How in the [expletive] are these kids supposed to take them seriously now? More importantly, if we can't count on either school or parents to set good examples for today's kids, who can we count on?

I just...I have no idea.

***Editor's note: It has come to my attention that 15 yards can make or break a game, and that an unapproved half-time overage can result in fines. This is very true, and I felt it necessary to add. I still feel that the entire situation was handled very poorly by the school's administration, coaching staff, and parents. *** 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Autumn Tag!!

Yay! The weather has finally cooled off down here (it's a brisk 66 degrees, y'all. Break out the scarves and hot cocoa), so I feel like I can, officially, take part in this lovely tag that the hilarious and super sweet Leigh over at Whimsical Adventures of a Magical Mom tagged me to do. I hate that I've put it off this long, but it seemed just downright laughable to post an Autumn Tag while wearing a tank top and flip flops. Call me crazy. Anyway, thank you, Leigh! This has really been a lot of fun, and I loved reading yours. All kidding aside, I'm honored.

Favorite Thing About Autumn
Socks. Seriously. It's a billion and one degrees down here for about 98% of the year. For the, approximately, two weeks of Fall/Winter that we get each year, I can finally wear socks. The rest of the time, I'm stuck in flip flops and flats, because it's too darn hot even for tennis shoes. I can wear cashmere socks and cotton socks and silky socks and wooly socks and short socks and long socks and maybe even leg warmers (if I'm feeling flashdancy). It's an honest-to-God treat, y'all.

Favorite Drink
Oh wow. This is tough. I'm going to have to say a King Cake latte from Starbucks. No, they're not on the menu, and no, Mardi Gras isn't in the Fall. It's still the perfect cold weather drink. For the curious, it's a white chocolate mocha with cinnamon dolce syrup, and it's addictive. Be ye warned!

Favorite Scent or Candle
This is another tough one. I'm currently rotating through several candles from Bath and Body Works: Cider Donut, Sweater Weather, Caramel Pumpkin Latte, and Caramel Pecan Waffles. I guess the Caramel Pecan Waffles wins. It's the one that Thomas and my brother both went nuts over, and it makes me crave pancakes. That's probably not a good thing.

The rest of the bunch go, in order of favorite to least: Cider Donut, Caramel Pumpkin Latte, Sweater Weather. Cider Donut is light and crisp. Caramel Pumpkin Latte smells heavenly, but does have a slight chemical after...taste? I guess? Sweater Weather is freaking awesome, and smells like Christmas trees. It also messes with my sinuses after a few minutes, which is why it's on the bottom. I recommend it for those who don't have bad allergies, though.

Best Lipstick
I love a bold lip, but rarely wear them. I'm pale with an angular face and a widow's peak; if I go too vampy, I end up looking like a vampire, and not the sexy, sparkly kind. My favorite, of the moment, is Urban Decay's Revolution Lipstick in Lovelight. It's a semi-sheer, warm, golden peach that really does look lit from within. I swear, it glows. Gorgeous. I'm actually wearing it today, with a little UD Space Cowboy on the eyelids, and Flower Beauty blush/bronzer duo in Beachy Keen.

Runners up are: MAC Shygirl, Buxom Lip Tarnish in Scandal, Urban Decay Revolution in Catfight.

Go-To Moisturizer
Hands down, Josie Maran Infinity Cream. Flat-out. That stuff is amazeballs. It's her signature argan oil, but in a cream form. You can use it as a face moisturizer, eye cream, lip balm, cuticle oil, hand cream, foot cream, and to smooth flyaway hair. I'm sure there are other uses, but those are just off the top of my head. My skin loves it. It drinks the stuff in, and hasn't broken out at all. When I've traveled, recently, this one product replaced five others, and freed up a ton of real estate in my toiletry bag.

Favorite Go-To Color For the Eyes
This time of year, it's less color and more finish. Generally speaking, I like a satiny neutral eye. When Fall rolls around, though, I go for either extreme and choose an all matte look, or one that's a total glitter-bomb. Today, I pulled out the glitter. Earlier this week, I used Naked Basics exclusively. If I have to pick a color, though, I'll go with charcoal gray. It always makes me think of cozy sweaters, for some reason.

Favorite Music To Listen To
Same as it always is: musical theatre. I'm a theatre geek from way back, and my iPod is filled with Sherrie Renee Scott, Kristen Chenowith, and Michael Crawford. I'd like to say that this is the time of year that I pull out Halloween-appropriate shows, like Sweeney Todd, Evil Dead, or Young Frankenstein, but who am I kidding? I listen to them year-round. I also have zombie faces in a shadow box on my wall, and a literal skeleton in my closet. I'm not well

I also like Adele. And Scissor Sisters. And the other stuff Thomas put on my iPod that I don't know the names of. Good job, baby!

Favorite Outfit To Wear
I don't think I have one. I mean, I like the one I have on now--yellow, white, and navy plaid button down over a white and navy henley, with jeans and skechers--but I don't know if it's my favorite. Another I enjoy is a black fuzzy sweater over a red and silver pinstriped tank, with skinny jeans and boots, accessorized with a handmade red and purple headband with a cute felt zombie face attached. But again, not sure it's my all-time favorite. I'm also looking forward to wearing this stunning sheer white long-sleeved shirt with lace accents that I picked up at JC Penney's a month or so know what? My favorite outfit is whatever I'm wearing at the time, as long as I feel comfortable and pretty. There.

Autumn Treat
Churros. It seems odd, and a little silly, but Thomas and I tend to take our vacations in October, and we normally end up at the Orlando theme parks...where there are churros. If I'm eating a churro, I'm probably on vacation...or at Taco Bell...which is somewhat less magical...Then again, I only eat the Taco Bell churros when Thomas is with me, so if I'm not on vacation, at least I'm with my sweetie. Yeah...definitely churros.

Favorite Place To Be
On my couch, in my jammies, snuggled up with the hubby and the puppy. No contest.

I hope you guys enjoyed this! I'm supposed to tag four bloggers, but I'm only going to tag one: Magnolia. I'm also tagging each and every one of you! I'd love to see what you guys come up with. Leave a link in the comments below.  
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