For Making Me a Mother

I made you with my body
Before you, it had only recently occurred to me that my body was capable of things that were good and useful
I was still getting used to that idea when you appeared;
Just a little pink line, barely there at all. I needed visual confirmation from a colleague to even believe it
She said, “oh yeah. that person is pregnant as heck”.
And I was.

I felt my hands sweat and my heart race as I held that little plastic cartridge, just one of many strewn about the lab at work, thinking
Ohhhh man your dad is gonna be so scared and so overwhelmed and so happy
And he was.

I tucked it in my pocket, and presented it as a very early Christmas gift.
Your dad said, “2 lines is good, right?”
And it was.

You grew your own prehensile limbs and organs with very little input from me
Which was nice, because I was so tired.

The first time I saw your little heart blip, it was so tiny, barely there at all
And 4 weeks later when I saw you moving and dancing and flailing your tiny limbs I wondered
What made you so busy.
I never wanted anything more than for your heart to keep beating and those limbs to keep growing
And they did.

You grew so fast, and so did I.
Sometimes you pressed on my ribs so hard I thought they would break.
I tried to move your foot away, but you would just put it back.
People said I should be so proud of my body’s hard work.
And I was.

You came all at once in a rush of blood, sweat and tears. Suddenly my beating, bleeding heart was outside my body.
I was not ready for the gaping wound it left in my ribcage that I could not seem to close, for weeks.
Everything felt so big, too big, I was drowning. Too much love, too much fear, too much change.
And it was!

Now, 4.5 months in, your chubby, drool-soaked little hands press the wound closed every time you smile at me or laugh or touch my face.
When you pull open my sweater collar and yell down into the abyss.
Every time I see you looking up at your dad with obvious delight at 7am.

And I can’t help but gaze at you in wonder.  Because you are wonderful.

I made you with my body.
For Eamon G A Sun, born December 26, 2016
Mother’s Day 2017

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Newborns for Noobs Part I: New Parent Stuff

So I had a baby! Nearly 10 weeks ago now. What a whirlwind. No one can truly prepare you for what it’s like, though many will try, bless their hearts. They’re right though – it’s both the hardest and best time of your life so far.

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Please note: this blog post will be written from the perspective of someone who chose to breastfeed exclusively, because that is what I have chosen to do, that is what suits me and my lifestyle and my baby. I respect any and all choices that others make to feed their babies adequately, I truly believe that fed is best. Breastfeeding is what I chose.

Let me get this out of the way: breastfeeding is not easy. It is kind of a bastard of a thing in the beginning. You’ve just done this intensely difficult thing (whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, the act and the recovery are bloody hard in different measures) and now you and your broken body and tired, hormonally charged brain have to try to learn this intensely difficult skill that is SO, SO important literally to the survival of your baby. Ha! What a monster of a thing to inflict on a suffering mother. As much as childbirth and finally meeting your baby is so magical and wonderful, it’s also so hard.

Eamon had a period of ill health not long after his birth, which was extremely scary, but it also meant we missed some key breastfeeding time. As such, and just because of the inherently difficult nature of breastfeeding, we had a tricky time latching him and getting things working in that way. I’ll never forget when Ray had gone out to get me some lunch on day 3 in hospital (we stayed an extra day because of the health issues and latching issues, he lost a good amount of weight) and one of the wonderful RNs was trying to help me get him to latch in side-lying position so I could get some rest (carefully monitored) and I just lost it. He was crying, I was crying, poor Ray comes back in the room laden with sandwiches to me sobbing “I just need to not hear him crying right now, I can’t take it, he needs to leave for awhile or I do” and the kindly nurse saying “got it”, bundling him up and taking him for a little while to the nursery. I cried in Ray’s arms for quite a long time. It was so bloody hard and I felt like a failure and a monster.

Luckily he was fine and was back at his birth weight not long after we left the hospital. A week or so maybe. But those first few days at home were so hard too. We were trying to get him to sleep in a bassinet and he may as well have been on the moon, according to him. Poor little mite. NONE of us were getting any proper rest. We absolutely DREADED the nights. The sun would go down and our spirits would too, and as soon as we spotted light leaking through the windows in the morning (because of course we were, or at least I was awake for that. Of course.) things would feel a bit less scary and impossible. So we started co-sleeping (safely and with purpose, as a friend recommended, rather than in frustration and desperation which is what leads to SIDS issues) and things improved DRAMATICALLY. Side-lying is now my go-to bedtime position, and I enjoy it immensely, it’s so snuggly and I can read a book or whatever while he nurses and smooshes his little feet into my belly, just like he did when he was inside. It’s great.

Anyway, on to the point of the post. I wanted to write up some info on things that I found incredibly useful in the first few weeks. I’m sure there are tonnes of posts out here on similar things but these are what worked best for me and Eamon.

Breastfeeding Pillow

ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL as far as I’m concerned! I got the Boppy from lovely Corinne (you may remember her from such posts as the first preggo roundup!), it was on my registry, and it’s what we used in hospital. I still use it in bed, it is our bedroom pillow, and it’s great for multiple reasons – it’s quite snuggly, it’s the right height, it comes in awesome prints, cover is removable for washing and it can be used for tummy time when baby is a little bigger (not to mention to help them learn to sit up etc as well!). But the one that gets a bit more use when sitting on the couch is this one – the My Brest Friend pillow. I think because it’s flatter, it makes bub easier to position and means he doesn’t sink into the space between the pillow and my tummy (especially when he was really little). It’s nice and firm, and it actually secures around you with a buckle so you don’t have to hold it to you. I’ve even stood up while feeding him on it and gone to the bathroom or got myself a drink.  I do not recommend this. It’s hard. But you do what you gotta do in the moment.

Huge-ass Drink Bottle

It is absolutely unbelievable how thirsty you get while breastfeeding. And I mean “while”, literally. The letdown reflex (ie the time when your milk starts coming out) triggers a feeling of thirst like no other. I bought this awesome adult sized sippy cup with a straw as recommended on another blog. It is the best. I love how the silicone straw is really wide, enabling me to suck down a bunch of water really fast, which is a weirdly essential feature for this to have. The thirst cannot be underestimated. Nowadays, I have this one beside the bed and my daytime water containers are six quart-sized Gatorade bottles (btw, Gatorade is great in the beginning when you’re building milk supply!) because they’re really sturdy. I drink all six in a day. Sometimes more. It’s madness.

Silicone Bulb Pump

I couldn’t think of a better way to describe this weird silicone thing. It’s called the Haakaa (there are many knockoffs also) and what it does is collect the letdown on the other breast than what you’re feeding on. So it’s not a pump as such, it applies some suction just to draw out what is already being released by your natural letdown reflex. Please note – don’t make the mistake that I did and assume this won’t work for you if you don’t leak much if any breast milk. I never really leaked much and I still get around an ounce, sometimes two, each time I use this. So even if you’re not pumping, doing that a couple of times a day will allow you to build a little tiny bit of a stash in your freezer for in case you want to, oh, leave the house or go on a date or if you are on a medication that doesn’t allow for breastfeeding (these are few and far between, mind you, always check with a pediatrician you trust before you take advice to pump and dump from anyone else including pharmacists and other doctors. Sometimes they say that just to cover their butts. Same with drinking. If you can safely pick up bub to nurse, if you can drive, you’re probably fine to nurse. Not much booze gets in breast milk). Anyway, you just squeeze the bulb, suction it to your boob and you’re golden. You can’t dance a jig or go for a run with it on, but it has enough suction to stay on if you’re still. It’s an NZ product so Aussies might have an easier time getting it from a local source rather than Amazon.

Grass Draining Rack

If you are pumping or bottle feeding, you’re going to have a million tiny parts and drying them is a bastard. You need this product. Trust me. We had this on our registry because it was a recommended registry item and I totally get why. There are a few other interesting little pumping things like microwave steam sterilizing bags that I find handy but I don’t want this post to just be about pumping because I know not everyone does that. Plus, things like milk storage bags, bottles etc are really personal choice (your baby’s choice, tbh) so giving my opinion is kinda moot anyway.

Disposable Changing Pad Covers

We bought some of these based on a recommendation from my friend Leah. They have really come in handy. We use them when we go out, but their handiest use so far has been for when Eamon pees or poops on the existing changing pad cover which then has to be removed from the changing pad lest he roll around in it, but I don’t have enough hands to hold a baby AND put a new cover on it. I just grab one of these from the convenient packet, toss it over the pad and I’m good to go.

Diaper Disposal Unit

This is a bloody godsend, you guys. It not only keeps the odor (not that there is much odor at the moment, breastfeeding newborn poop doesn’t really smell IMO) enclosed, it gives you a way to secure dirty diaps from enterprising dogs for whom the smell might be just way too tempting. Gross I know but hey. Plus when you change the bag, you get this awesome diaper log that’s very satisfying to tie off and toss in the garbage. We are weird people, I realise this. We went with the Diaper Genie and we could not be happier. The refills are easy to install and it’s easy to set up and use.

Nursing Tanks

I love these! So handy for a bottom layer, especially the ones with a decent shelf like these from H&M. H&M nursing gear is honestly great and so is their babywear. They’re also great for wearing to bed if you (like me) find that most sleeping bras are not quite enough to contain The Ladies, especially when they’re full of milk. Which is pretty often. The Old Navy ones I bought are rubbish – the straps are too long (who the fuck has shoulders that tall!). These ones are great. Lots of people also swear by the “two shirt method” for going out and about and nursing without showing too much skin (and I’m not talking about “OOOH I WOULDNT WANT ANYONE TO SEE AN INCH OF MY BREAST” fuck that shit, I mean having to basically remove all your clothes to get to the boob). The two shirt method is pretty basic. Tank underneath, shirt on top. Pull shirt up, pull tank down or unclip, boom. Boobs. Baby. Put ’em together and everyone’s happy (especially the baby).

Bathrobe

I don’t have a preference here. I had one from H&M, and a fuzzy one from Target, they both do the job. Get whatever as long as it’s soft and comfy. It’s just great to wander around the house in a robe when your baby is cluster feeding and you don’t want to have to keep getting your boobs out. Just open up the robe, stick the baby on and you’re golden.

I am probably leaving out some stuff. Partly because I’m still pretty sleep deprived and partly because I didn’t need some things that others might find essential. For example I never really suffered from any nipple damage or leakage, so things like nipple balms and breast pads aren’t things I have strong opinions about. I got a sweet diaper bag but I’ve gone back to using my precious JW Hulme bag anyway. I didn’t have a lot of “downstairs damage” so apart from the first couple of weeks I wasn’t really in pain and during that time a squirty bottle of warm water to rinse with when I peed, and some numbing wound care spray were all I used and I got both of those from the hospital.

The next post will be more about things baby needs (needs is always subjective, you understand!). To tide you over, here’s some pics of my beautiful little bundle!

 

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

 

The Second Pregnancy Roundup – Indulgences & Non-Essentials

(NB: I wrote the majority of this in the week before I had my baby! next post will be about the first 2 months)

My last post was about things that I found pretty darn necessary for basic comfort levels during my pregnancy. I thought I’d write one up about some little luxuries and things that have helped but aren’t necessary for everyone. Hey, whatever takes my mind off the fact that I’m at full term but no sign of baby yet, huh? kill me

Maternity Clothing Subscription

Ok so this one is a particularly indulgent luxury, I thought I’d get it out of the way first. I LOVE LeTote. Basically, I pay $69 a month and I get boxes of maternity clothes and accessories sent to me as often as I want. A little less basic: I fill up my  “closet” with lots of cool dresses, pants, shirts, tops, blouses, scarves, bracelets, rings – you get the point – and they send a box containing 3 items of clothing and 2 accessories, curated from my “closet” by the LeTote team. They send you an email when your box is made up (typically, they send this within an hour of you lodging your free return bag at the PO), and you have a chance to replace items with other things if you have a particular event or anything like that. This is where it hugely differs from other subscriptions like Gwynnie Bee etc. I love this feature. Then they send the box pretty promptly. I don’t think there’s been a week that’s gone by since I joined up that I haven’t received a box in the mail unless I’ve taken longer to wear all the items. You can also opt to keep items if you want, always at a reduced price. I kept some amazing, thick leggings/pants with cool raised pleats over the knees that made me feel like a cool biker chick YEAH! I have kept a couple of really nice scarves and some jewellery as well. There were several dresses and tops I wanted to keep but it was hard to justify because they were relatively expensive and it’s maternity wear so I didn’t feel super keen on spending a tonne. You just keep whatever you want and when they get the bag back with your returned clothing they charge you for what you kept. Note: this is a really good way to spend a lot of money so be careful!

It also has a normal (non-maternity) range and you can get fewer items for a cost reduction. I just found this combo to be a good balance. If LeTote sounds like something you’d like to try, use my referral link and you can get your first tote free!

Jacket Extender

This is one of those things that you might not need unless, like me, you live in the frickin Arctic tundra and need to wear a huge puffy coat just to survive the lurch from car to front door. As your belly expands, unfortunately, most coats do not. Did I want to spend another $300 on a coat? No! I like the one I have! So I searched “jacket extenders” and found Make My Belly Fit! It sounded like exactly what I wanted. It requires a little bit of research – basically you need to check your jacket’s zip configuration and might need to order a zip adapter but I didn’t (thanks, North Face). I also bought a fleecy panel to go inside the extender and that was a decidedly excellent decision – it’s been getting down to -30C/-23F here and it’s only December! It’s a Canadian website but the shipping was really fast. The extender panel was $51 which is a bargain compared to buying another coat. You can use it after pregnancy too – right now the snaps are popped open at the bottom for my positively-planetary belly but soon they’ll be popped open at the top for wearing that sweet little bundle in a wrap under my coat to keep him warm. You know where else he’s warm? Inside my body right now, APPARENTLY, SINCE HE WON’T GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, UGH, CHILD, DO NOT MAKE ME COME IN THERE BECAUSE GOD HELP ME I WILL well I won’t, but a doctor might. Ok I’m fine. I’m taking deep breaths.

Good provider/OBGYN etc

One of those most baffling things I encountered about America when we started talking about having a baby was that hospitals just have doctors and nurses. Midwives are still this kind of semi-controversial concept. The reasoning seems to be that you can be a “lay-midwife” ie have no formal training at all and just witness a certain amount of births and call yourself a midwife, but most midwives who work in hospitals or health facilities are “CNMs” or Certified Nurse Midwives. Anyway it was all a bit confusing to me as I was so used to labor wards with both midwives and doctors working together (not always in harmony but still).

The local hospital here doesn’t allow midwives on staff, nor do they allow doulas or extra support people in the birthing suites. I had some other issues too but this isn’t the place. LUCKILY, we had a lot of people recommending the amazing Porter Women’s Health to us, just a short 50 minute drive north in beautiful Middlebury. They have a combined staff of OBGYNs and midwives, and an amazing nursing staff too. They’re great. It’s exactly what I wanted. I barely need a birth plan because all my ideas run in line with theirs. They’re very women focused while still being research based and medically safe. The crunch level is low, which is my favorite level of crunch, but I have never felt condescended to and I love that they have you see all the different providers so that when you go into labor you aren’t seeing a strange face no matter who’s on call. Th

Anyway, this is just on this post because not everyone has a) the insurance or b) the proximity to places like this and I feel so privileged to have both of those things.

Pregnancy Massage

About halfway through my pregnancy, well no I guess it was about 26 weeks, I started getting back pain. Par for the course with pregnancy but I had been relatively comfortable so far, so the fact that I not only had aches in my back but also sciatica (nerve pain shooting down my right buttock into my right thigh at will) was quite a shock. It was pretty horrible. I’d been thinking about getting some pregnancy massage so I called a local lady that I know who I knew would do a great job – Christina at Vermont Vitality Studio. I turned up for my appointment and it was great, right from the start. We talked about what particular aches and pains I was having and she very carefully propped me up on the table with pillows to make sure I was comfy and my bump was supported. I was extremely relaxed by the end of the appointment – I did not realise how much my gait had altered until I could walk normally again. It was so nice.

I continued to get massages each month of my pregnancy, my last one was just a week ago. At about $80 for 50 mins it’s not cheap, but your insurance might cover it (it blows my mind that some insurances cover chiropractics but not therapeutic massage).

Amazon Registry

Registries seem to be kind of a contentious topic sometimes. In America most people have a registry. I hadn’t been to a lot of baby showers in Australia but the latest one I went to also had a registry. I think it’s genius because then you don’t end up with 5000 of the same thing. The only double ups I got were because people REALLY wanted to make sure I had this particular item that they found INCREDIBLY useful, and it turned out someone had already bought it from the registry so it had disappeared.

With Amazon you also get $150 worth of free diaper stuff (wipes included) when people spend $1000 on your registry which didn’t take long with my lovely mum involved! You also get a free ebook, and a discount of about 15% for Prime members on the remainder of your registry when your gift-getting time is over (ie after the baby shower for us).

You can add whatever you want to your registry – they have a button you can add to your browser to add anything from any site to your Amazon baby registry. Sadly there’s no way for Amazon to know if those things were purchased from the registry but still, pretty cool idea!

Right. I’m going to post this now because if I don’t, I never will, and I need to get on with the post-pregnancy ..posts. There will be those. Oh, there will be…

 

 

The First Pregnancy Roundup

Wow so yeah. Sorry. I really let things go by the wayside the last like 9 months or so. I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant now and this pregnancy has really been characterised by one thing: exhaustion. It came in waves, but it was never not there. I’ve been super tired the whole time. It’s a symptom I’ll take over some less-pleasant others (nausea for example, from which I only suffered for about 4 weeks), but it has still been varying levels of debilitating and blogging just wasn’t a priority. I didn’t even post much on instagram. Turns out growing a human is hard, and with working up to 37 weeks I had stuff to do.

Anyway, I’m nearly at the end now (please god let it be over soon, kid is wrecking my shit) and I thought I’d run through a few things that I’ve found to be quite useful throughout the last three-quarters-of-a-year, in no particular order.

Pregnancy Pillow

I bought the LeachCo Snoogle Pillow. It’s great. I think I got it when I was about 12 weeks along, because my back and hips were already a little janky (though nothing like the absolute mess and tangle of bone and sinew that they are now, ugh) and the first time I laid myself down in its loving embrace, I was sold. It’s really great. It has a couple of drawbacks. One is that if you run hot throughout your pregnancy, as I did, you might find yourself being very comfortable but a little overheated, and you’ll kick it out of the bed anyway. Another is that it takes up quite a bit of room and if you have a queen sized bed or less, your partner may have a severely restricted amount of room. The last is something that I’ve just come across recently and that is that I can really only lie on one side for so long, so I want to turn over a lot (like, a lot, and seeing as how it requires a business case and strategic planning meetings to do that, it’s really annoying) and that is next to impossible with the Snoogle. So next time around I might go for something simpler like one of the bean-shaped pillows that just support your back and belly. But in saying that, the fact that you can really tuck yourself in to this pillow is lovely, and it does have the section that goes between your legs to help with hip discomfort. So I have no regrets. It’s even great for propping up a baby etc after it arrives, or so I’m told!

Maternity Bras

My boobs have cycled through various levels of intense discomfort. Sometimes they feel normal (they look huge but feel normal). I was recommended the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra and well let’s just say I now own four of them. Yes they’re expensive,  but worth the investment, I truly feel. Super soft, easy to put on, easy to un-snap for nursing (I’ve been practicing), nice and stretchy, all that good stuff. Are they the best support you’ll ever have? No obv, they have no underwire, but what are you gonna do in it, go for a run or something? Get over yourself.

Belly Band

These are a lifesaver for when you really want to wear something that still mostly fits, apart from the gaping hole at your abdomen because you are starting to show and that’s how physics works. My amazing friend Corinne actually gave me mine, but I’ve heard great things about this one. I really liked it and wore it all the time, particularly over shorts during summer. Gosh those days seem so far away now that it’s December in Vermont and below freezing. But anyway, grab yourself one of these. They even feel good with their support and their holding you in and whatnot.

A No-Bullshit Book

I absolutely loved Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong, and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster, who is an economist at the University of Chicago. The beauty of Emily is that she’s not a midwife or a doctor (and she makes this very clear throughout the book) but she is someone who deals with numbers and statistics as part of her job and so what she does is takes what research and studies there are on things related to pregnancy (caffeine intake, alcohol intake, labor outcomes etc) and sees what they’re really saying. Of course, as she points out, it’s very hard to get definitively accurate information on pregnancy because performing studies on pregnant women is, at best, unethical (can you imagine? “Ok so you guys are gonna have 10 alcoholic drinks every single day and you guys are gonna have none. Cool?”). But she does her best with what there is, and the book really calmed my anxious brain. Well, a little.

Preggie Pop Drops

Ok it sounds silly because technically it’s just candy but for some reason these really worked for reducing nausea for me. They were another gift from Corinne and let’s be real she’s just the ultimate pregnancy fairy godmother and I can’t thank her enough for the box of goodies she sent me early in my pregnancy. Speaking of which!

Stretch Mark Cream

Everybody has different preferences, scent/packaging etc, but I really loved the bottle that Corinne sent me which was Palmers Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Massage Lotion. Let me be clear: I fully understand that you can’t really prevent stretch marks in the vast majority of cases. If they’re coming, they’re coming, and it’s mostly genetic. BUT! I have a tonne of stretch marks from my previous life as a teenager whose boobs and curves exploded out all at once and since I used this stuff from very early in pregnancy I don’t have a single one. In saying that, a lot of people say that they appear right at the end. I feel like I’m right at the end now and I still haven’t seen a sign of one. If I get them I don’t care a single bit – the ones I have already on other parts of my body are super faded and silvery so it’s no biggie. Midwives and my doula have all commented on the fact that I don’t have any. Is it because of the cream? I honestly have no idea. What I’ve been doing is squirting out one pump of this and one pump of a little bottle of Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil with Vitamin E that my friend Jaime sent me along with about a thousand onesies from my favorite brands in Australia. Then I mix those together between my palms and give my belly and sides a good rub. If nothing else, it feels good when the skin gets a bit itchy and dry, and it’s nice bonding time too. I often take that time to have a little chat to LB (our nickname for the baby) about whatever I want, this week’s subject has been “what if you didn’t mash your skull into my cervix or bladder at every opportunity though? Just work with me here.”

There are a few other things that are less tangible. An incredibly supportive partner who never judges you when you tell him you ate 4 packets of ramen, or who holds you when you cry hysterically about the fact that your landlord mowed the lawn so the woodchucks who lived under the patio now have to re-make their protective tunnels. Bonus if he agrees to read something like The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and it totally changes his perspective on labor and suddenly you have your own built in at home prenatal doula.

Oh and that reminds me – a doula (if it is in your budget or covered by your insurance). A lot of people in my life will laugh at this because I was always a bit disparaging about doulas but you know what? I was wrong. Everyone needs a little extra help. Especially since my mum can’t be with me for the birth. It helps so much to know that she’ll be on my side, advocating for me, cajoling me when I need it and bossing me (and Ray) around when I need that too, because that’s bound to happen.

The last thing is, a sense of humour and a backbone. People are gonna ask stupid fucking questions, constantly. Your body is gonna do some weird shit. Some of it will be embarrassing. Some of it will be scary, and it’s ok to be scared. People who had perfect pregnancies or people who forget what it was like to be pregnant AND ESPECIALLY people who have never been pregnant love to tell you that whatever’s meant to be will be, that all you have to do is relax and enjoy the pregnancy, and that pregnancy is beautiful and wonderful and magical and natural. Those people appear whenever you have the AUDACITY to complain about some of the extreme discomfort, illness, fear, anxiety, body image issues that come with pregnancy. Where do they even come from!? Nobody  knows. Feel free to tell them to shut up. Other people who can shut up: people who tell you their horrible birth stories totally unprompted. People who act entitled to information about your baby, pregnancy, birth etc. People who tell you to get plenty of sleep now because you’ll LITERALLY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN EVER after the baby comes. People who tell you that if you don’t give birth exactly how they did you’re totally DOING IT WRONG. But there are people you should keep around, too. There are wonderful people who will help you every step of the way, who will never judge you, who will answer your stupidest questions, who will bring you your weird food cravings right when you need them the most, who will be there for you when you’re scared and sad and sick. There are people who have no idea what you’re going through but who will be there for you anyway. You keep those people close! Hold them tight and never let them go. Those people are golden. And so are you. You got this.

I think I’ll write another blog post about some cool but not totally necessary luxuries I’ve found useful as well so stand by for that. But this one is long enough, I think!

 

Winter Essentials – A Noob’s Guide to Survival in the North

Well, honestly, I feel like a bit of a fraud writing this. What the hell do I know about winter? Even my first winter in Vermont had the training wheels firmly in place. Only one or two days below 0F, hardly any snow accumulation ever, wind mostly behaving. But still – it’s more winter than I’ve ever experienced so far, and as such, my skincare and wardrobe needed some adjusting. So I thought I’d share with you guys a few things that saved my bacon over the last few months.

First, let’s talk wardrobe.

Right up until late November, my light North Face mid-layer jacket mostly did the job. But by the time December came along, it was time for the big guns.

The North Face Women’s Arctic Down Parka – $299

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I got this in navy. I tossed up between navy and teal, and the strangest thing happened while this was in the cupboard unseen between August and December – I forgot completely that I bought navy, and pictured it in teal in my head. Imagine my surprise when I pulled it out. I shhould have bought teal, but navy is one of My Colors and so I guess I just went with what I always buy. Big mistake! Anyway, it’s an absolutely excellent parka. It’s exactly what I wanted – waterproof, windproof, a big (faux)furry hood, deep pockets and long enough to hit me at about knee level. Worth every penny.

Uniqlo HEATTECH thermal underlayers – approx $20 a piece

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I LOVE this range. Honestly, next year I’ll buy even more of it, because there were weeks when I needed a pair for every day of the week. These are so soft and warm and not bulky at all, really thin and just perfect under any items of clothing including skinny jeans. Most importantly, they were absolutely perfect under scrubs, which is what I wear 5 days out of 7. Absolute winners in my book!

Uniqlo Women’s Extra-Fine Merino Sweaters – $30

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I actually got these in Australia, on the day of my ill-fated visa interview. It was a defiance purchase. “TELL ME I CAN’T GO TO AMERICA, WILL YOU?! JUST WATCH ME BUY THE MOST INAPPROPRIATE-FOR-AUSTRALIA THING I CAN FIND!” I bought three of them – one in black, one in red and one in teal. I have worn these ALL WINTER. They’re perfect as under-layers on especially cold days, and as mid-layers as well. On more spring/fall temp days they’re fine as outer layers. They’re soft, not cashmere soft (I wouldn’t wear this straight over a bra, for example) but soft enough for comfortable wear over a tank top, and thin enough fabric to wear, you guessed it: under scrubs.

Hunter Side Adjustable “Norris Field” Tall Rain Boots – $160

I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift for Christmas from my mother, who lives in the UK and knows a Hunter rep! As such, I’m not 100% sure that the ones in the link are the ones I have. But anyway – I. Love. Them. They’re so easy to wear – which sounds silly, but my other tall winter boots are fiddly and hard work to put on. These ones are just step-in, adjust the strap then go. I got some boot socks too which are really helpful when it’s very cold. I love that these boots are wide enough to not be tight on my large calves, and classy enough to be worn with nice jeans to a decent restaurant, for example. Huge fan!

As for skincare, well, I didn’t change too much. Maybe I should’ve – I’d love to hear if you guys have any must-haves for winter skin.

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The biggest problem for me in cold, dry weather is my lips. They are kinda wrinkly and weird anyway and they seem to chap and flake so fast. The only thing I’ve ever found to both effectively treat and prevent this is the Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask. It’s pricey but it’s worth it, 100%. It’s honestly amazing. I sometimes switch to other things and the change is immediately noticeable. The only complaint I have about this product is that the product is extremely thick, so if it gets cold, it’s basically impossible to squeeze it out of the tube. But you only need a tiny bit, so the tube goes a long way.

I don’t like to put moisturizer or serum onto a completely dry face so I’ve been using the La Roche Posay Serozinc facial mist / toner to moisten my skin after the shower. It contains zinc sulfate so it’s great for combating spots as well as being a hydrating agent that’s perfect for prepping skin for treatments. The mist is super fine so it doesn’t feel like a jet of water in your face – bonus! The bottle is pretty big and I’m nowhere near finishing the one I got in early December – pretty longlasting for a mist!

I had a terrible cold for the last few weeks, it’s finally kicking the bucket now (thanks at least in part to a z-pack I was prescribed after finally going to the doctor) but while I was blowing my nose every 8 seconds, the skin around my nostrils and upper lip area was cracked and red. It was horrible. It was so tender and painful, my life was hell! At least until I grabbed a little travel size tube of Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy “Aloe” cream. It really seemed to heal and treat the skin so fast! I applied it a couple of times a day and used a balm at night to lock it in (I just used the Bite Beauty balm), and my tender, cracked skin cleared up really quickly. So this is a very specific thing to talk about but it was such a relief that it immediately jumped to mind when I decided to do this post! It’s readily available at all drugstores in both travel size and full size.

You all know I adore my oil cleansers and my latest favorite is no exception. The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel Illuminating Vitamin Facial Cleanser (phew!) has a pretty big following in the UK and since some of my favorite bloggers are British, it had been on my wishlist for awhile. Americans (and Australians) can pick it up from BeautyBay. It’s kinda pricey, but the container is large and the pump is fantastic. Its name is misleading – it’s really more of a balm/oil hybrid than a gel. It’s absolutely fabulous for getting rid of all traces of makeup and sunscreen at the end of the day, and it smells nice too.

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid is one I think I’ve talked about before. It’s basically a liquid hydration booster that I like to add to my skincare at night. Specifically, I like to mix it in with my CeraVe PM Moisturizing Lotion. The latter is one of my absolute favorite skincare items of late. It’s super affordable and packed full of hard-working ingredients – namely niacinamide and ceramides – to keep your skin looking and feeling hydrated. I actually use this in the morning too (minus the Ceramidin Liquid).

Finally, lemme admit something: my trend of being SO BAD at putting body lotion on has not gotten better but when I have remembered to use it, I’ve been reaching for the Nivea Cocoa Butter Body Lotion. I love the convenient pump pack, and I love the cheap-as-chips price. Lately my husband has had really dry skin too so I’ve been smearing this all over his arms and legs and it’s been working a treat to make him feel more comfortable. It’s a winner. It smells delicious too!

Thanks for reading, and like I said, feel free to share your winter products or purchases! Looking outside today you’d be hard pressed to believe that winter is over – it’s below freezing, windy as hell and this morning it snowed. What the heck, Vermont?!

Now that I’m working full time I don’t expect to be posting more than once a week. The days are longggg. But I’m gonna do my best to post regularly! I promise!

Love+++
F&V

Style: J.W. Hulme Bag & Passport Wallet

I decided early this year that I wanted a forever purse/handbag. I wanted a bag that maybe sometime in the future my kid would use it. The hard part about researching it is that I’m new to the country, so I wasn’t sure where to look. I had a vision for what I wanted, but it was hard to put into words! I didn’t want a ‘designer’ type one, like a LV or Michael Kors or anything, partly because I am trying to source my “big” pieces a little more ethically (this is only a personal choice and absolutely not something I would judge anyone else for choosing not to do, not everyone is able to make that choice) and also because I wanted something with a more unique, “rough” feel. I honestly can’t describe what I wanted. But when I found it (thanks to my wonderful friend Danielle), I knew it was love. I decided on the Elliott Satchel from J.W. Hulme in Saddle Leather.

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You can see it’s taken a bit of battering already – just how I like my leather!

It took me a long time of trawling through the J. W. Hulme website to decide which one I wanted. My friend had bought the Washburn tote. I decided on the Elliot satchel (after a lot of opinion-asking, even of the JWH team themselves, poor things). One of my reviews of the website elicited a popup of the “join up to receive a discount” reminder so I did that too. 15% off $595 aint nothing to sniff at! Because that took like $90+ off the total price, I also grabbed myself a gorgeous green leather passport holder. I’ve wanted a passport wallet for a long time but couldn’t find anything perfect.

Anyway, here’s some pics of the Elliot satchel:

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Zip for security

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Plenty of room and no annoying dividers! Is that just me?

And here’s the passport wallet:

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ALSO MONOGRAMMED!

Anyway, a lot of my favorite people came together to help me fund this investment (my mum, dad, husband and parents-in-law) and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Shipping was fast, communication was great. I can’t say enough good things about this company!

Sidenote: just yesterday I got a little thank you card, hand-addressed, in the mail from JWH for making a purchase! How great is that! This whole experience makes me so happy.

And don’t get me started on the smell of leather…

Stay tuned for winter favorites.

Love+++
F&V

Style: New Vanity Pieces (Getting Back in the Game)

Recently I was feeling really overwhelmed and just not in the groove with makeup. Overwhelmed because my life was busy I guess, and being out of the groove because I didn’t have room in my life for makeup. Unfortunately that is a good signal that I was ignoring some important self care, so after a decent wake up call I decided to try to do a little revamp of my makeup area to get myself back on track.

First up, I bought a new lamp. One of my main reasons for not doing my makeup in the last few months has been that the light in my corner of the room is bad. I was lighting the area with some string-lights around the mirror, but it just wasn’t enough. In the summer, the outside light coming in through a nearby window really helped but since I feel like I live in perpetual darkness at the moment (especially in December, peak not-doing-makeup time) that hasn’t been helping at all.

I decided to pull the trigger on a lamp that had been in my Amazon wishlist for awhile. It’s the LAMPAT Dimmable LED Desk Lamp.

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This was decidedly hard to get a good picture of, sorry!

It has four different modes, which consist of different color “temperatures” – cool white, warm white, cool yellow and warm yellow (though the description refers to activities such as studying, reading, relaxing etc). I thought it would be perfect for makeup. It also has a USB charging point which is cool. When it arrived, I was impressed by its appearance, BUT! I realized that the upper “arm” of the lamp that contains the lights wasn’t able to be moved any lower. I thought it would, for some reason, and that’s kind of a pain because the light now comes from a little too high. It was disappointing but when I turned the light on and used it, I realized that it actually didn’t matter because the quality of the light is awesome and really projects well. Being able to sit the base of it a little lower would be ideal, but you can’t always have what you want. So apart from having to sit at an angle to get the light on my face, it’s great! I’m hoping at the next place we move, I’ll be able to have my vanity in front of a window or something super luxurious like that! Baller.

The following weekend I went on a rather delightful trip to the next town north of us with a friend. I had an eyebrow wax and a hair blowout and we also decided to explore the INSANELY overpriced but nevertheless adorable antique store next door to the hair salon. I grabbed a couple of zinc trays that caught my eye last time I was there.

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Featuring my Sephora birthday gift – Marc Jacobs mini eyeliner & lipstick

I didn’t buy them then and regretted it so I didn’t let them pass me by this time. I like the way they look and they’re perfect for blog pictures, don’t you think?

That same day my friend and I indulged our TJ Maxx habit. I was looking for a shallow tray, box or something similar to act as a catch-all for my vanity. One reason I think it gets untidy is that I’m kinda bad at putting things back where they are meant to go. The theory behind the catch-all is that when I’m done with a product or brush I toss it in there. That hasn’t really come into fruition; since I tidied up I’ve been putting things away better. But the catch-all I bought is the perfect size for my Sharpies (my Passion Planner is very colorful this year, ok?) and my insane box of samples that I’m trying to get through.

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I know, I know. I have a problem. Someone stop me NO DON’T..

So that’s what I used it for, and it’s actually great, it’s keeping the samples in my line of vision.

An older but still new piece (bought from TJ Maxx before Christmas) is this lipstick holder.

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So satisfying to look at. Sooooo satisfying…

I like this for similar reasons to above – it keeps my lipstick collection (well, about half of it I guess) in my line of sight so I don’t just go for the same colors all the time. That’s the theory, anyway! It’s working well so far.

The final piece is probably my favorite. I wasn’t looking for new brush holders, but when I saw this I fell in love.

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Lids included in pic but sadly stored in a drawer most of the time!

Unfortunately, the only brush types that would fit in the little spaces in the lids were eye brushes, but that’s ok, I just removed the lids from the other jars. I love this aesthetic. It also forced me to reduce my displayed brush collection (the secondary / less used brushes went into a drawer), a sorely needed exercise.

Here’s the whole thing put together:

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Featuring my annoyingly-underused Passion Planner!

I think it’s looking ok. Hopefully when we move I’ll have a better arrangement, light-wise. But the good news is that it really has revitalized my makeup applying game. I’m back! And I have a few products to talk about and review for you guys, so stay tuned.

Love++
F&V

Review: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Liner

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you might remember this post in which I compared MAC’s Fluidline gel liner in Blacktrack with a drugstore gel liner from Maybelline. It didn’t really work out so well. I haven’t bothered with drugstore liners since then. But to be honest, I don’t really think Blacktrack is that great either, even though people seem to swear by it.

Recently I started looking into what gel liners my favorite bloggers were loving, and the main one that kept popping up again and again was the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Jet Black. I decided to pick it up from Sephora, just in case I hated it so I could return it.

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I took it for a trial run on Tuesday just passed. Tuesdays are pretty long days for me in terms of makeup-wear. I get ready for work around 9am, work 11am – 7pm then I have trivia which usually ends around 10-1030pm. So that is more than 12 hours of makeup wear.

But first – application. I’m not gonna lie; I was impressed with this product from first swipe. I picked up a tiny amount on my Real Techniques Bold Metals 202 Angled Liner Brush and carefully made my first line, following the lower outer lashline in an angled flick. I gasped. It was black, it was dark, it was sharp, it was opaque… ok ok let’s not get too excited. I did the other side, same thing. I made a line nice and close to my lashes along my upper lashline.. still dark black. Not too messy.

Here’s a two-swipe swatch:

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The edges look messy, but I wasn’t as careful as I would be if I was doing it on my eyelid.

This is a comparison of MAC’s Blacktrack (top) and the BB liner:

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The BB is blacker and more opaque. I also noticed while doing these swatches that it was more liquidy, and therefore harder to keep neat and clean.

Ok so, I know what you want to know. How did it look, and how long did it last?

Here’s a pic of my wingy liner look from that day, about 1 hour post application (I was about to leave for work, hence the scrubs):

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When I got home from trivia, I looked at my liner in the mirror. My eyelids were very oily which usually means that my liner is a mess. They were so oily that I could see a dome shaped hole in my lid makeup (which was just some concealer), literally eyelid shaped. But what happened to my liner? Absolutely nothing. Even Ray noticed. Even my friend who was, self-admittedly, 2 wines-on-an-empty-stomach down noticed.

Bottom line, I’m SO impressed with this eyeliner. The MAC liner is getting backburnered, or binned (KonMari style, thanks for your service, Blacktrack). I get the hype. 5 out of 5 stars. You can pick it up for $26 from Sephora, and I recommend you do. You won’t regret it!

Thanks for reading!

F&V

Recipe: Pho Bo! (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

So my first experience with pho was in Burlington, Vermont at Pho Hong, a spectacular authentic Vietnamese no-frills restaurant that had great Yelp reviews. I was in town for some work training. Ray and I met some of his friends there. When I ordered (I got the chicken, rookie error, pho is traditionally a beef broth with beef slices and it’s infinitely better that way), I just got the “normal” portion and not the large. They plonked it down on the table and it was, in classic American style, an utterly enormous vessel of food. It looked so excellent. Slightly opaque, slippery noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and sweet onions, thai basil, bursts of lime juice and pieces of chicken and oh.. what’s this? …. ONLY THE MOST DELICIOUS, FLAVORFUL BROTH-BASED SOUP I’VE EVER TASTED IN MY ACTUAL ENTIRE LIFE. At this point I massively regretted not getting the large.

The bad news is that there’s nowhere to get pho, or any decent Asian food for that matter, in my town. I can’t just be going to Burlington all the darn time to get pho. You know what that means: time to make my own.

A lovely online friend of mine with whom I share a love of dogs and cooking shared this recipe with me because she thinks it’s very authentic and had tested it herself a bunch of times. I’m not going to retype the recipe, more like I’m just going to tell you the basics of how I make it in my kitchen – I don’t have a gas stove or a BBQ (grill) so that changes things a little bit for me.

Here’s the thing about pho: you gotta be committed. Put a whole damn day aside. And I’m not talking starting at 10 or 11 after a leisurely morning of bagels and the Sunday paper. I’m talking about starting at 8am and having dinner on the table around 7pm. Of course, a lot of this is just letting the broth simmer so you can get some stuff done during that time (I did some laundry and shopping, for example) but I also recommend being in the house so you can obsessively breathe in the delicious cooking smells you’ll experience during this time.

If you are the kind of person who looks at this recipe, or looks at the phrase “simmer gently for 8-10 hours” and runs howling into the hills, you won’t like this recipe. I actually love an all-day cooking project. There’s something so deeply satisfying about it to me. The prep, the steps, the measuring, the skimming, the smells… ahhhhh. Still interested? Read on.

Yesterday Ray and I went to an Asian Supermarket in Albany, NY (on Chinese New Year, ugh, we’re morons) and got about 8lb of what was labelled as “beef feet” but is not hoof – it’s shin and fetlock I guess? Anyway, you could also use normal marrow bones or chuck bones, whatever’s good for soup is good for this. The first step for this recipe is to chuck them all in a large pot (really large, at least 16L), cover them with water and bring to the boil.

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Next, the recipe says that you need to use a gas flame, like a bbq (“grill” for Americans) to char the onions and ginger. I don’t have that, nor do I have a rangehood, so I need to use the broiler (“grill”, to Aussies, life is weird sometimes) in my oven. I set it to high, cut the onions in half and set them cut-side-up on a baking sheet with the ginger and set them in the oven with the door a little bit ajar. It takes around half an hour depending on the strength of your grill/broiler. Turn everything at least once. What you’re looking for here is to soften the onion and ginger and to see it blackening a little and smelling sweet. Aw yeah! Let them cool down then get rid of any blackened parts and peel the ginger as directed.

Back to the bones. You want a really hard boil for at least 2-3 minutes. You’ll see a bunch of gross looking foamy scuzz on the top of the water. Tip the bones into a very clean sink, rinse them with warm water. Quickly scrub out the pot and put the bones back in.

From here the recipe is pretty straightforward. Give the bones another quick boil, get rid of the scuzz then bring the boil to a simmer. Add the rest of the broth ingredients.

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From here, apart from getting the piece of steak out after an hour or so and setting it aside, it’s just a waiting game. The broth needs to simmer for at least 8 hours – 10 is better.

It’s all a matter of what timing works for you. After the broth has had time to simmer, it needs to be reduced. For this, you need to strain the broth through a fine sieve into a large bowl to get all the bits out. Careful of the bones – don’t let them splash back into the broth. Once you’ve strained it, return the broth to the pot and bring it back to a simmer.

Now starts the, IMO, trickiest part. Or at least the most tedious. It’s time for The Skimmening.

The fat will rise to the top obviously, and you just need to skim it off. I use a 1/3 cup measurer (though there are special implements for this!) and just press the edge of the cup under the surface of the fat, letting it flow into the cup. The key is to just try not to get too much of the actual broth in the cup, so as not to waste it. Tip the fat into another receptacle and dispose of it appropriately. If you’re not sure that you’re doing it right, check out the color of the stuff you’re skimming. If it’s yellow, it’s fat. If it’s brownish, it might be broth. Fat will also “feel” oily like fat if you smoosh it in your fingertips! It takes a bit of practice but it’s really worth it for a clear, clean broth! Trust me!

From here it’s just about letting the broth reduce a little. It’s a good time to taste the broth and see if it needs more salt (or fish sauce) or a little extra rock sugar. It’s better if it’s a tiny bit too salty because noodles, bean shoots etc are all unsalted and they’ll mellow it out a tad. Yesterday, I left the lid on while it simmered which did leave me with more liquid than normal, however, I had to boil the heck out of it to get it to reduce. But I think I’d do it that way again because lemme tell you, I really nailed it this time, the flavor was perfect.

You can add a little more fish sauce, salt or rock sugar if you don’t think the flavors are balanced enough, but don’t add anything that won’t completely dissolve.

I usually prep the bowl assembly ingredients while this is happening. If you have dry noodles it’s time to start soaking them in warm water. If you have fresh noodles, just untangle them and run them under cool water. Slice your sweet/yellow onion as thinly as you humanly and safely can and put them in cold water to soak. Slice up the green parts of scallions on the bias (it looks nicer, you will note I forgot to do this).  Put your steak in the freezer to get a little more firm so it’s easier to slice thinly. Rinse your bean shoots. Slice your limes. Tear up some nice looking coriander and thai basil leaves. Thinly slice a red chilli if you have some. You will think it’s silly, but I really do take such joy in getting all the garnishes ready!

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Look at all that beautifulness! Yesssssssssssss ahhh ok ok ok I’m fine. *deep breaths*

So are you ready to go? Let’s do this, in point form.

  • Using fresh noodles? Untangle them in a colander while rinsing with cold water, then blanch them, a batch at a time, for like 30 seconds tops in a pot of boiling water.
  • If you’re using dry noodles, take them out of the water they’ve been soaking in and blanch them in boiling water (again in batches) until tender (each brand will have different instructions).
  • Put the noodles in the bowls. They should take up about 1/3 of each bowl. Place strips of beef over the hot noodles, then add your garnishes (sliced onion, bean sprouts, scallions, coriander, thai basil and chilli if you’re having it).

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  • Bring the broth to a rolling, hard boil then ladle the boiling broth over the noodles and garnishes, ensuring that the thinly sliced beef is cooked as you do so.
  • Squeeze lime into the broth to taste. Ray only likes a wedge or two, I use about four. He adds some sriracha sometimes too.
  • EAT IT Hhhhnnnnggggghh

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 So there you have it. Beef pho (pho bo). Is it as good as you have at a Vietnamese restaurant? Hell no. But it’s pretty damned close. And, I am told, a lot of Vietnamese people feel the same way (it’s a restaurant dish, not an everyday dish to make at home).

If you enjoy settling into a warm, steamy kitchen with a few episodes of House on Netflix and happily puddling around doing not-very-much for the most part, then you’ll love this. It’s a great winter dish without the stodgy richness of most traditionally winter dishes. It’s a great combo of warm, tasty broth with fresh flavors, slurpy, thin, delicate noodles, chewy tender beef and crunch bean shoots! So it’s fine for summer too. If you’re up for a day of cooking, with only short bursts of actually doing anything, I really urge you to give this lady’s recipe a try  (link in first paragraph).

Enjoy!

F&V

PS. You’ll note that I didn’t talk about calories in this dish. It’s because I don’t really care. You can do the math if that’s something that’s important to you. I wouldn’t think it’d be super high, plus you have nutritious veges and all that jazz.

The Red Lipstick Manifesto

The other night my friend mentioned to me that she wanted a really good, bright, true red lipstick. I immediately started listing off my favorites and it occurred to me that red lipstick is kinda my thing. Now, I don’t wear it super often anymore because my husband doesn’t love it. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to wear it. I’m allowed, nay, encouraged to wear it whenever and whenever I want no matter what. But I REALLY enjoy the look on his face when I wear one of his favourite darker, plum/wine tone shades. Hehehehehehehe *eyebrow wiggle*

But you know what? It’s my goshdarn birthday and I’m gonna goshdarn talk about red lipstick today and wear some tonight. HB 2 ME

So yeah I have a lot. Soz not soz.

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I decided to put them into three loose groups, and the emphasis IS on loose here. ALSO doing swatches on your un-tattooed right arm with your left hand is REALLY HARD so just back off.

I’m only going to link each product or group of products once, or I’d be finding links all day! If you want something and it’s not clickable, check up above to see where previous links might be. I’m doing US only links here apart from the Australis and Bourjois which are only/much easier to find in Australia. If anyone needs help sourcing things in either country, let me know.

First, let’s start with the orange-reds. This is really only something I’ve been into pretty recently and admittedly I don’t think they look THE MOST bangin’ on me but I like them so much I wear them anyway.

Here’s the swatches:

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  1. ColourPop Ultra Matte – “Succulent” – liquid lipstick
  2. Sephora cream lip stain – “Mandarin Muse” – liquid lipstick
  3. Australis VelourLips – “San-Fran-Disco” – liquid lipstick
  4. Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet – “Hot Pepper” – liquid lipstick
  5. NARS Audacious – “Lana” – bullet lipstick
  6. MAC – “Lady Danger” – bullet lipstick
  7. Urban Decay 24/7 Lip Pencil – “Bang” – liner pencil

Next up is the brights. This is a fairly broad descriptor, I know. but it’s the largest group and I’m bad at differentiating color bases (blue-based etc). DEAL WITH IT!

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  1. Australis VelourLips – “NY-Cee” – liquid lipstick
  2. Sephora cream lip stain – “Always Red” – liquid lipstick
  3. Kat von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Outlaw – liquid lipstick
  4. Kat von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – Santa Sangre – liquid lipstick
  5. ColourPop Lippie Stix – “Frenchie” – thin bullet lipstick (+ matching pencil)
  6. Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Mattes – “Siren in Scarlet” – bullet lipstick
  7. MAC – “Ruby Woo” – bullet lipstick
  8. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil – “Dragon Girl” – thick pencil
  9. MAC lip pencil – “Cherry” – lip liner

 

And finally some darker shades. This is probably the most questionable grouping. Further notes on that below.

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  1. Australis VelourLips – “Buda-Pash” – liquid lipstick
  2. Kat von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – “Nosferatu” – liquid lipstick
  3. NARS Audacious – “Rita” – bullet lipstick
  4. Make Up For Ever Artist Intense Lipstick – “43” – bullet lipstick
  5. ColourPop Lippie Stix – “Fighter” – thin bullet lipstick
  6. YvesSaintLaurent Rouge Pur Couture– “71” – bullet lipstick
  7. Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme – “So Rouge” – 240
  8. Urban Decay Matte Revolution – “Bad Blood” – round bullet lipstick

 

Obviously, numbers 3 and 4 should be bumped back into the previous category in hindsight but tbh I regret nothing because they wouldn’t have fit on the “brights” arm anyway.

I want to talk a bit about different finishes. The liquid lipsticks are going to last longer, and be completely matte (no shine at all). I have eaten chicken wings and burgers (not at the same time, UNFORTUNATELY) with the Kat von D ELLs on and they stay just fine with minimal, if any touchups. Seriously they are like glue. It might be sorcery. But their drawback (and the drawback of any of them listed liquid lipsticks) is that they are drying. I don’t mind this so much because I know it makes them last longer. But if you really hate the feeling of dry lips, give up the search for bulletproof long-lasting lipstick because you’re shit out of luck my friend. Sorry! By its very nature, a creamy, moisturising lipstick just won’t last very long. You have to accept this, and learn to love retouching (this is fine).

Personally, I find shiny/moisturizing lipsticks scary because I’m worried that any tiny brush of my lip against my hand or whatever is going to smoosh it everywhere. So most of the above things are very matte, possibly with the exception of the YSL and Marc Jacobs and the MUFE Artist Intense. The NARS Audacious are still a little bit drying (because they’re matte) but they are not as drying or as long lasting as the others. So they’re kind of a good compromise. As you can tell, I’m not a huge lip liner wearer. Some people swear by it but because I wear so much liquid lipstick I just don’t need it as much.