7/21/17

Empty Products + Mini Reviews (Part 1: Skincare)

It's been a really, really, reaaalllly long time since I've done an empties post!! In fact, I've sort of been dreading it...

I have a ton of products to talk about, and the longer I wait to share them with you, the bigger the pile gets. It has become a bit overwhelming and there's just too much garbage, trash, junk to discuss in just one post. Therefore I have broken it into three parts; Part 1: Skincare, Part 2: Body and Haircare, and Part 3: Makeup.


Get comfy, today's post is a biggie...

L'Oreal Energizing & Brightening Pure Clay Mask
I love, love, love this drugstore face mask!! What can I say...I'm a sucker for a good pamper session. The L'Oreal Pure Clay Mask smells amazing, makes my skin feel nice and is an affordable price. The thick, dark grey cream glides onto skin easily and dries without feeling uncomfortable, revealing a soft and more evenly toned complexion. I did notice that it dried out when the jar had about five uses left, so I am disappointed that I didn't get through the entire thing. It's a minor con, however, because the price is super reasonable - especially compared to some similar products sold at Sephora - and I can't complain about that!

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
I think this was a point perk from Sephora and I have to say I'm glad I didn't buy it myself. This may be a controversial comment, as it gets great ratings online, but I was just not a fan! While it was nice and gentle, it didn't remove all of my makeup like it said it would. It's OK to use as a second cleanser to rid my skin of leftover dirt and impurities, but it doesn't quite match up to some other face washes I love (ahem: Philosophy Purity Made Simple). I'm also not fond of the scent (it tries to be cucumber-esque but fails miserably).


St. Ives Even & Bright Pink Lemon and Mandarin Orange Scrub
Speaking of scented products...this is one I do enjoy! It's zesty and energizing, especially when used in the morning and just makes me feel happy whenever I use it. It's got a good amount of grit to it without being painful and seems to brighten my complexion immediately. I have to admit that the scrubby little white bits can be a bit stubborn to wash away - often leaving me looking like I've just come out of the ocean, all salty and such - but a little extra time splashing water on my face or using a wet washcloth can remove the excess. I'm currently working on my second tube.

Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator
This product surprised me! It was an item I received when Birchbox still delivered to Canada, but I recently discovered that it is available online from the Shoppers Drug Mart beautyBOUTIQUEIn comparison to the St. Ives scrub I just mentioned, I actually prefer this one! Featuring Papaya Enzyme - a natural exfoliant and anti-aging ingredient - it makes my skin feel incredibly smooth, and I believe it also helps reduce the appearance of dark spots from scarred blemishes. It lacks the yummy scent I described above, but it definitely doesn't smell bad! It's also a little more harsh than what I am used to, so I only used it once or twice a week, but I appreciate the effectiveness. I could tell that it was actually doing something and making a difference.

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water 
This stuff has basically become a fixture in my bathroom and I have lost track of the number of bottles I have used since it first hit shelves in drugstores across Canada a couple of years ago. As you can see, I finished both a full size and travel size version (actually two travel size versions...one didn't make it to picture day) and I'm pretty sure I'll be buying another bottle very soon. I like to refer to it as magical water, because it removes makeup without leaving any residue, despite not needing to be rinsed away. It's perfect for travel, camping, gym days, sleepovers or late/lazy evenings.


Awwww - family portrait!

I cringe at this product's $40 price tag (I'm cheap, OK) but the cleansing oil is 100% worth it!! I haven't yet, but I know I'll be "investing" in a new bottle soon because I love it THAT MUCH! It breaks down all traces of makeup, while injecting moisture at the same time, and it truly saved my skin during the cold and dry winter months. It smells lovely (subtle and light...not overpowering) and is just a joy to use. As you can see, I also finished a full size and travel size version.  


Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
I did enjoy using up this night cream, but I'm on the fence about whether or not to purchase it again. It is a very lightweight, gel consistency that feels cool and refreshing on the skin - perfect for sunburns - and the addition of "sleepscent" (orange flower, rose and sandalwood) is a nice, calming touch. But I feel like it's not quite as satisfying as some other night creams I have tried, which tend to be thick and super hydrating. I'm just not sure if this product really did anything...at least nothing that knocked my socks off. I did like it, however, I'm eager to try something new and different. Hit me up with some suggestions!

Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil Mini
I fully credit this facial oil for saving my under eyes from looking like crocodile skin last year! I like that it is natural, organic and full of antioxidants that not only help to nourish the skin, but also prevent fine lines and wrinkles. It absorbs quickly and a few drops is really all it takes, so this tiny bottle lasted me quite a while!


The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
I'm a huge fan of Deciem and have been using all of the products I hauled (here) religiously. This moisturizer, however, seemed to disappear far too quickly. It was extremely inexpensive at less than $6, and I used it every day during our trip to Europe, so I suppose I can't complain too much...but it just didn't wow me. I'll probably end up going back to an old favourite (or maybe something new). Ps. Let me know if you'd be interested in an Ordinary Skincare update (spoiler: I'm loving the serums)!


Yes To Tomatoes Daily Balancing Moisturizer
Back when my skin was giving me serious troubles, this moisturizer was a life savour. The scent was a little funky and took some time to get used to, but the cream really reduced my breakouts. It's rich but not too thick and hydrated my skin without clogging my pores. My skin is finally cooperating so I don't see the need to buy another bottle, but I also haven't seen any in stores lately. I did buy it on super sale originally so perhaps it has been discontinued?

L'Oreal Hydra-Total 5 Ultra-Even Moisturizer
Truth: I have another one of these that is also nearly empty. Actually, it's my mom's (she likes it too) but I started sneakily using hers when I ran out of my last moisturizer and she busted me the other day when she realized how quickly the product was disappearing. Now we are both blowing through the jar like it's going out of style! It's a great moisturizer...especially for dry skin! It is super rich and can take a little extra effort to rub in (unless you're going for the white, sunscreen face look) but it really boosts hydration. It also targets dark spots and hyper pigmentation, including post acne marks and age spots to provide a brighter, more even skin tone. Plus the heavy glass jar makes it feel a little more luxurious and special (despite being from the drugstore).


Are you still with me? If you've made it this far, you get a giant gold star!!

I appreciate you reading today's post and I hope these mini reviews were helpful. Next up: empty body and hair care goods. Be on the look out for that post coming soon! 

xxx

7/18/17

Products I Wish I Hadn't Purchased


I generally prefer to keep things upbeat and positive on Beauty by Birdy, but I think it's important to share all opinions...and sometimes, unfortunately, those opinions are negative. I like to think I do my due diligence and research products before buying, and more often than not I am happy with my purchase, but every once in a while there are the odd items that disappoint.

I did a post similar to this one a couple of years ago (see here) and it seemed to be well-received. As my makeup collection has grown and I have experimented with new products, there have been a few more items that I really wish I hadn't purchased, and today I'm playing the bad guy.

Please note: I do not have anything against any of these brands. The products mentioned below just aren't my favourite. They may be loved by others with different skin types or makeup preferences, but unfortunately they did not work for me. 


Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
I did an entire post dedicated to this mattifying primer not too long ago (see here), basically stating whether or not I thought it was worth the money. It should come as no surprise that I feel pretty foolish for paying $28 for a travel size bottle of primer that is just not suitable for my skin. It's a highly rated product on the beauty market, but I just think it works better for anyone with oily skin and larger pores. Instead it ends up making my skin look powdery and dry. I could never justify repurchasing it again...at least not at its hefty price tag!!


Sephora Collection Colourful Eyeshadow in Mirror-Mirror
True story: I popped into Sephora a few days before my birthday a couple of years ago with full intentions of buying the Urban Decay Eyeshadow Moondust Eyeshadow in Solstice, which is described as a "metallic pink-red with green 3D sparkle and shift". Not only did I get cold feet to spend $25 on a single eyeshadow, but the one I really wanted ended up being out of stock. I was drawn towards the colourful display of Sephora Collection eyeshadows, which seemed to sparkle and glimmer in the store's lighting. Of course being attracted to shiny things, I thought the colour Mirror-Mirror would make a nice substitute for "the one my heart desired" (despite being extremely different). It swatched well on my hand at the time, but when applied to my lids the glitters just seem to fall out of place and all over my cheeks. I am disappointed that I caved to a cheaper option, because I've used this one only a couple of times and it's probably going to expire before I have a chance to make a dent.


Also...I don't think they sell this colour anymore, and if they do it's probably been renamed because I couldn't find it on the Sephora website. I haven't tried any of the other colours but I can't deny being let down by this one, and therefore turned off of the formulation all together. But who knows...maybe this one was a one-off (I know darker colours can be hard to do) and perhaps there are some other shades that a truly good. Have you tried any of the Sephora Collection Colourful Eyeshadows before? Do you love or hate them? Leave me a comment below! 

Essence Cosmetics Superfine Eyeliner Pen Waterproof
As I stated briefly before, I have nothing against Essence as a brand - their lipliners and lipsticks are awesome, and the Gel Eye Pencil Waterproof in Cocoa Bean is a favourite! But this liquid eyeliner was a total dud. It has an extremely long felt-tip applicator that I can only describe as cardboard. For some reason it is super stiff and sharp, making it feel like a knife scraping away at my lash line. At times it tickles, but generally it just hurts. It's also supposed to be waterproof, but I find that it smudges and fades throughout the day.


Sephora Mini Citrus Brush Cleaner
I don't hate this brush cleaner, but I do find that I wash my brushes a little less since I began using it. I'm not really sure why, but I'm choosing to blame the spray bottle. I typically spritz a decent amount onto a paper towel before gently swirling my brushes into the wet spot, but my brushes never seem to get fully saturated with the cleanser. It takes a couple tries before they're fully clean. I do love the citrus scent, but I think it's more important to have clean brushes to avoid spreading bacteria onto my face.


So now I feel like a jerk, but I hope this post was somewhat insightful. Let me know if you have used any of these products I've mentioned...I'd be curious to know how they worked for you!  

xxx

7/12/17

Hot Stuff! The Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette


I decided to treat myself to an early birthday present and purchased the Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette (aka. the palette of summer) and let me tell you...it's muy caliente! It has received a ton of hype - I myself was heavily influenced by the many, many social media raves - and I totally agree that it is worth the praise. I'm so happy to have added it to my makeup collection. 

On an everyday basis I tend to gravitate to purple, mauve and green shadows the most, so it's ironic that I felt so compelled to have this palette. Truth be told, I think the Naked Heat has converted me to a warm tone lover. I am so in awe at how the spicy orange, amber and sienna hues compliment hazel eyes. I feel like any look I create using this stunner makes my peepers pop! It would look absolutely amazing on anyone with baby blue or green eyes. 

It's also pretty versatile - great for daytime looks that can easily be transformed to night time looks -  with a mixture of neutral, soft shades and a couple of dark tones to create smouldering, sexy looks. 


I also own the Naked3 Palette, and while I absolutely love the rose-hued shades, the shadows were not what I hoped they would be. I find myself digging at each pan in an attempt to get any sort of pigmentation, whereas the newest Naked launch is packed full of colour. They do have quite a bit of fall-out, especially when tapping into each shadow with a brush, but (most of them) are super pigmented and blend easily.  

I was a little disappointed with the shade En Fuego...which I was also most excited for at first glance. It looks like a beautiful, dark rust or reddish-merlot colour in the pan, but it did not swatch as opaque as I had hoped. It's quite patchy and applies a little more brown than I expected. 

All the other colours are absolutely beautiful though! I especially love Ember, which caught my attention even more after swatching it. It is a deep brown with golden reflects and has a super creamy texture, rich in pigment. A little goes a long way with this hottie. 

I seem to have a weak spot for all of the shimmers in this palette (just look at them glimmer in the sunlight!) but some of my other favourite shades include Low Blow - a matte camel colour unlike anything I own - and He Devil - a medium reddish-brown. 


Eyeshadow colours and swatches left to right: Ounce, Chaser, Sauced, Low Blow, 
Lumbre, He Devil, Dirty, Scorch, Cayenne, En Fuego, Ashes and Ember. 

It may be the palette of summer, but the "auburn-inspired" shadows are going to be absolutely perfect for fall too! Can't you just see the colours of changing leaves?

xxx

7/4/17

Playing Sous-Chef + Drinking Wine


Three things I learned after spending a night with Indulgent Chef and Teresa's Wine Academy:

1. Bacon is like a chef's duct tape
2. Lemon kills everything (germs and bacteria)
3. The wine you serve at a dinner party or social gathering can make the food you prepare taste bad

WARNING! This post will make you hungry. 

I had so much fun playing sous-chef a couple of weeks ago when Dev's sister (Ashlee) and brother-in-law (Tom) asked us to join them for in-home cooking lessons, featuring a four course meal with wine carefully selected by a sommelier. Let's just say it didn't take much to convince us...

Food + wine = YESSSSSSS!


We were sent a few different menu options ahead of time and selected each course based not only on what our taste buds would enjoy, but also what we wanted to learn how to make. Each of us played different roles and were actively involved in the production of our meal. Not only was it a blast, but we all found it very interesting and educational as well. We were able to appreciate how much time and effort went into each course, and therefore savoured every bite.

Our menu looked a little something like this:

Hors d'Oeuvres
The first dish we prepared was a pinwheel style puff pastry with smoked eel, smoked pork butt, emmantel cheese and apple. It was paired with a "champagne" (Veuve Ambal Cremant De Bourgogne Grande Cuvee Brut), which compliments rich, fatty flavours like butter and cheese.


Did you know that champagne can only be produced using grapes from the Champagne region of France, using the champagne method? All other "champagnes" like Prosecco and Cava are simply considered sparkling wines. We also learned that "Brut" means dry and ironically contains less sugar than "Dry" sparkling wines. It may sound silly, but I totally thought Brut was a brand name...


Kudos to Ash for picking up the eel and doing so with a smile on her face. I was too grossed out to get anywhere near the slimy looking fish. I have had BBQ eel at sushi restaurants many, many times but it has always been prepared and smothered in terriyaki sauce. While it was slightly disturbing to see the head still attached, it was also pretty cool at the same time!


Surprisingly, it tasted alright! Especially with the apple and Emmental cheese (which I am told is similar to Swiss). The eel was quite smoky and less fishy than I expected.  


Appetizer
Our second course was a bay scallop and watermelon ceviche, which we "cooked" in a trio of orange, lemon and lime juice with a hint of jalapeño. Ceviche is essentially raw seafood that is marinated in citrus juices. Not only have I never tried it before, but I've also been too intimidated to ever try making it myself. We've all heard horror stories of food poisoning caused by salmonella...


But as I learned that night, lemon kills pretty much everything (we used it to sanitize cutting boards and countertops) and therefore my fear disappeared and I couldn't wait to dig in. It was incredible!! Fresh and light, yet super flavourful and the perfect starter ahead of our (mammoth) main. I'm pretty sure Dev and Tom both went in for seconds.  



I was absolutely blown away at how the wine (Castello di Tassarolo Titouan Gavi) paired with this course seemed to change flavours after each bite of the ceviche (and vice versa). I've never experienced anything like it. I'm normally more of a red wine-o, but I can appreciate how sweet, fruity and smooth the organic white wine tasted with this course. It truly proved how important picking and choosing a wine with each meal can be. 


One of the (many) questions we had - which you may find interesting -  is what beverage to order at a restaurant when you're not sure what you'll be eating. The first question any server will ask after introducing themselves is if they can get the table started with a round of drinks, even before you've had a chance to look at the menu. We were told the safe bet (aside from water) is to order champagne or sparkling wine. It's the most versatile choice and will compliment nearly any dish. 

Main
Our main course featured Cornish hen stuffed with a lobster and asparagus béchamel sauce, wrapped in prosciutto and accompanied by a spring pea and mint risotto. Sounds fancy, huh?


It tasted just as good as it sounds (if not better) and went nicely with a vintage red (Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013). There was no shortage of salty, rich goodness and despite being a large portion, I devoured the entire plate!   


The boys were in charge of butchering the birds, which was quite the production. They did a great job and I am happy to report that there was no bones or remnants in any of our dishes. 


Dessert
A dinner of this magnitude would not be complete without something sweet and we happily tucked into a trio of desserts consisting of chocolate truffle Crème brulee, pear tart tatin and raspberry sorbet.


A tart tatin is defined as a an upside-down pastry with fruit caramelized and baked on top. Ours featured a layer of almond paste, which was sweet but not too sweet and went really nice with the thin slices of pear. It even pleased my picky "I don't like dessert" boyfriend who typically passes on sugary treats at the end of a meal. I know this is a recipe I will replicate at home over and over and over again. 


We finished the final course with a lovely sparkling red wine (Viticoltori Acquesi Brachetto D'Acqui) which was quite possibly my favourite! It wasn't too bubbly and had the most magical berry flavour with hints of floral notes. I've also never tried a sparking red before, so it was a nice treat and yummy surprise. 



A special thank you to Maggie (right) from Indulgent Chef and Teresa (left) from Teresa's Wine Academy for being wonderful (patient) teachers and helping to create a night we will never forget. 


I highly recommend this type of activity for any self-proclaimed foodies who are looking to eat amazing dishes, in a social environment, while learning various culinary skills at the same time. I certainly can't wait to do it again! 

xxx

6/30/17

L'Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara Review

It's been a while since I've been THIS EXCITED about a mascara. This review comes at an ironic time too, as my mom asked me just last night what the difference was between all of the mascaras on the market and how to tell if one is better than another. 


Aside from the terms 'volumizing', 'lengthening' or 'thickening', the truth is that mascara works differently for everyone and we all have varied opinions or likes. Me? I enjoy a combination of formulas that will help my lashes look full, yet long and lush at the same time. I can't stand a wet mascara that easily transfers to my lids or lower lash line when I'm applying it, and I also wear contacts so I need a formula that is safe. 


Then there's the wand and brush head...

Some companies have been getting creative with different shapes and spike-y, weapon-like applicators. I don't hate them as they often make reaching the smallest hairs much easier; but I am a true sucker for nice, thick brushes with lots of bristles that really latch on and coat each lash.


I reiterate...mascaras really come down to personal preference. But if this sounds like something you also look for in a mascara, I promise the new L'Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara is going to be right up your alley. It is SO, SOOO good!

Before and after Lash Paradise comparison

The first coat is nothing to celebrate. The second second coat, however, is where the magic happens. It builds like a dream! It adds a great amount of length and makes my lashes look fluttery and full.

Out of curiosity, I wore this mascara to work for an entire day and applied a third coat when I got home. Generally this is a big no-no! We've all seen those memes where too many coats of mascara ends up looking like spider legs. Surprisingly, the L'Oreal Lash Paradise did not clump!


Best of all, it keeps my lashes curled all day long! I don't ever use a lash curler (because what lazy girl has time for that?) and I'm so impressed at how lifted this mascara makes my lashes look, which makes my eyes seem much more open. It also doesn't flake or transfer to my bottom lash line (super key).


Plus the packaging is sleek...and PINK! Although it feels a little cheap to me (it gets dented very easily and is quite lightweight) there's now denying how super pretty it is!

The L'Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara also comes in a a few different colours (Brown, Black and Blackest Black) along with a waterproof version to suit a variety of wants and needs. It is available at Shoppers Drug Mart for $14.99. 

xxx

6/27/17

European Adventures: Lisbon

The final leg of our trip also happened to be my favourite destination: Lisbon! Or as the Portuguese call it, Lisboa (Lish-boa). After a few days of rainy, sweater weather in Barcelona, the hot hot heat and sun was quite welcome when we arrived.


We were greeted by our Airbnb host with a bottle of wine and pastéis de data (Portuguese egg tarts). It was such a nice gesture and set the scene for what we were about to experience during our stay in Lisbon - very friendly people and wonderful hospitality. 


I absolutely loved the colourful and tiled buildings that line the hills of Lisbon (which our tushes and calves did not enjoy). It was also quite affordable and we enjoyed indulging in traditional Portuguese dishes (although we did end up eating Indian twice, after finding an awesome 'hole in the wall' spot with incredible, authentic food). I know, I know...we go all the way to Portugal to eat curry. But the heart wants what it wants...or should I say the stomach craves what it craves... 


The highlight of this portion of our European adventure for me, however, was travelling to Sintra, which was about a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon. To avoid being packed into a shuttle bus like sardines, we decided to wander the quaint town and take our time deciding whether or not the hike up to the Moors Castle and Pena Palace was worth it (spoiler: it was). The word hike became quite literal as we were directed to a pedestrian hiking trail up to the top of Sintra, which certainly lacked the tourist crowds we were desperate to avoid. It was a pleasant surprise as we enjoy being active and love being outdoors, but man was it a workout!  

Dev actually made a comment that the experience should be a 'bucket list' item because the views were absolutely incredible and the trail was surrounded by green trees, tropical plants and waterfalls. At times it felt like we were walking through a jungle. It took us about 45 minutes but our prize at the top was the Castelo dos Mouros, a medieval castle with even better views of the town and Atlantic Ocean. An additional 30 minute hike from there was the Palacio da Pena, a brightly coloured, (OTT) Romantacist castle and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It's basically in the clouds!

Despite getting sunburnt and feeling exhausted, our day in Sintra was one I'll remember forever. 

Check out the rest of these photos from our time in Lisbon: 

Day 1: Wandering Lisbon & Castelo de Sao Jorge

Castelo de Sao Jorge from a distance

















Day 2: Sintra - Castelo dos Mouros (Moors Castle) and Pena Palace

We hiked all the way up to the top!





Apparently I have a thing with doors...
















Day 3: Ponto Final

A quick search on the trusty Internet pointed us to Ponto Final, a traditional Portuguese restaurant located across the river in Almada. We took a quick ferry ride there to eat lunch while sitting on the restaurant's patio, which provided beautiful views of Lisbon.


Man sharpening knives powered by bicycle





 Monkfish stew

We (our stew) made a friend!

It's hard to believe we've been back for more than two weeks already. The travel bug has bitten me hard and I can't wait to plan our next trip. The question is...where should we go?!

xxx