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

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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.