Sunday, July 20, 2014

Product Review: Murad Clarifying Cleanser

I'm constantly on the look-out for amazing beauty products. Whenever I have a few extra minutes, I'm scouring Pinterest or beauty blogs to see what people are using and talking about. Recently, a blogger who I read constantly posted about her positive experiences with Murad Skincare. She, too, has acne prone skin that variates between oily and dry. When she started using Murad, after 2 weeks, her skin improved enough to where she was able to go without foundation in her everyday beauty routine. Seeing as I would love to not have to wear foundation each day, I decided to fork over the $30 (not including shipping...) for this cleanser. 

My Skin "History":
Before I jump into the meat of the review, I'll give you some context about my skin. I began to struggle with acne at the age of 12. Throughout middle school and high school, caring for my skin was a guessing game. Which cleanser will work wonders? Does chocolate make me break out? Maybe if I put toothpaste on it, it will go away! You get the idea... 

So, I started keeping a food journal to track which foods seemed to make my skin worse. I soon learned what to avoid and how to care for my skin externally. When I reached my senior year, my skin problems started to improve. Now, I go through bouts of bad skin. I will have perfectly clear skin for several months, and then suddenly I will have a few weeks of bad skin. Additionally, I've noticed that when my skin is exceedingly dry for an extended period of time, I always break out. Based on my personal research, dry skin causes your body to over-produce oil to compensate. This, naturally, causes breakouts, and I have found this to be true for me. 

While I believe that all skin issues begin internally (stress, poor diet, etc), I also believe that skincare products can help alleviate acne, dryness/oil, and many other issues. This is what I expected Murad's Clarifying Cleanser would do for me. 

I gave Murad's Clarifying Cleanser two weeks before I judged the effects of the product on my skin. Typically, it is believed that if something isn't working for you after that amount of time, it's not going to change. I didn't use any skincare product that was not by Murad, so I wasn't mixing skincare lines or chemicals.

During use, the cleanser gives off a cooling sensation and does not rinse off easily. I had to keep rinsing to make sure that I was getting the "soap" off of my skin. 

After the two weeks, my breakouts had actually increased. The cleanser is so chemical intense that it started to burn sensitive areas of my skin, leaving dark pigmentation around my chin. The area that I struggle most with- my T zone- became red and flaky from dryness. 

I decided to stop using the cleanser because it was clearly doing nothing positive for my skin. I was very disappointed because a) the product cost more than I'd like to pay for a facial cleanser and b) the product actually has decent reviews so I had high expectations.

All in all, I would probably not recommend this product to anyone. It's certainly not worth the money, and it had negative effects on my skin. However, feel free to read the reviews on their product's page.

My Current Skincare Routine:
After my frustration with Murad, I went back to my tried-and-true routine. It consists of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap in Lavender (packaging is removed in photo below), Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Toner, and Mary Kay's Acne Treatment Gel.

Dr. Bronner's soaps cost under $5 and have minimal ingredients, most of which are essential oils and natural extracts. I like that it allows my skin to act as it naturally would. Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Toner has to be my favorite skincare product ever. Not only does it smell like a fresh salad, but it works so well on my skin. It also fades acne scars! Finally, Mary Kay's Acne Treatment Gel works wonders with spot treatment. It doesn't dry out my skin and works to keep new pimples away. 

So, what are some of your favorite products? I'd love recommendations! 

*This is not a sponsored post. I received no compensation from any of the companies mentioned above. All opinions and views herein are my own.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our Fourth of July Weekend

Last weekend, Luis and I took some time off and headed up north to one of our favorite vacation spots, Door County, Wisconsin. Neither of us could have expected the weather to be as perfect as it was!

We kicked things off with a 4 hour boat ride (what's better than sitting on the water!?). We met my parents in Door County and went out with them on their boat.

We spent most of our time visiting our favorite shops and sights. Also, I discovered Italian sodas... how have I never had one of these before? I immediately went out and bought some club soda and syrup when we returned home; they're the perfect summer beverage.

Friday night, we saw the fireworks together in Gills Rock (aka the best fireworks location in the world). Everyone gathers on the hill that leads down to the bay. A barge is used to shoot off the fireworks once it gets dark, and a band is usually there to play music while you wait for the sun to set. The fireworks were amazing this year! 

Door County, Wisconsin, is truly one of the most beautiful spots to vacation. If you live in the UP or in Wisconsin or Illinois, try to get up there! It's worth it. 

All in all, it was the perfect reset button. How was your 4th of July? Have a beautiful week!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Life Lately...

I had the whole week off last week, and it was wonderful. Working 2 jobs kicks my butt... Here's a peek into my life lately:

Luis and I live within walking distance from our city's museum. They had a beautiful watercolor gallery on display this past week. Additionally, the mammoth they have on display is the largest and most complete mammoth excavated in North America (according to the museum's website).

I'm a serious amateur "gardener," so I opted for container gardening this year. These are my tomatoes. Does anyone have an tips on growing Roma and Red Cherry tomatoes??

Hanging out with the family on Memorial Day. 

We played a heated game of Apples to Apples.

We headed to Devil's Lake State Park to enjoy the sun and the water. We rented a row boat and then went back for a canoe. Can you tell we love boating??

The Park is seriously gorgeous. The hiking paths are rigorous and beautiful. The rock formations along the bluffs are stunning. You can easily spend all day here, which is what we did!

Raindrops on the patio table. 

I found this little guy hanging out in a log. It freaked me out until I realized it was just a toad (I'm terrified of snakes...I thought that's what it might be).

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Weekend in Snapshots

Happy (early) Memorial Day! How are you spending the holiday? I was able to take some time off from work this upcoming week, so I'm looking forward to finally having some time to myself! (I'm an obvious introvert...). Here is my weekend in snapshots:

Luis and I hit up one of our favorite garden shops this week. I got two tomato plants (Roma and Cherry), a sizable rosemary bush, three Marigolds, and a basil plant.

Luis and I moved about a month and a half ago but I still have piles of stuff around (mostly books). This is only a fraction of the total amount of books I own. I'm a book hoarder...

My cats love looking out our windows. I love their silhouettes in the setting sun.

I love that my husband reads. 

This is random but I learned how to froth milk to add to tea/coffee without a frother. I'm now obsessed with adding it to my tea. I'm probably do a mini-post on it.

I made this poblano crema enchilada dish this week. Delicious! Although, I didn't make mine vegan. I used dairy crema.

Rosemary is one of the best scents in the world. 

 I walked into the kitchen and saw this.... I laughed harder than I probably should have!

By the way, I revived my book review blog, Required Reading, this week! If you want to read my reviews and blogging on all things library related, literacy, and YA lit, feel free to follow along!

Have a beautiful Memorial Day weekend! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Week in My Life

I hope that your Spring has actually been..well, springlike, because it hasn't really been that way around my neck of the woods. Today is one of the first days where we've had consistent sun! Now, I'm just waiting for the weather to heat up!

We moved out of our apartment earlier in April. I became aware of how insane cats get around boxes. They. must. jump. in. all. of. them.

Enjoying the rare sunshine. April and early May are very rainy around here.

This, my dear friends, is comfort food at its finest. Ok maybe not, but it's pretty darn close. Behold, the roasted broccoli and cheddar baked potato (the potato skin has been rolled in salt before baking, which makes the skin nice and tasty).

Kitties exploring the back porch. They're also obsessed with the fact that we now have a basement.

 My hubby and I moved into a house in Wisconsin and I love that I see Lake Michigan when I walk to the end of the street we live on.

Some more scenes of where we live. Life is beautiful! Now all we need is a boat... Just kidding! 

Have a beautiful week!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spicy Garlic Chickpea Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

My work week is always jam packed; I work long days and when I'm at work, I'm lucky if I can take my breaks (and people think librarians only read books...). The food I take to work needs to be quick to make, easy to eat, and delicious, which is not always easy to do.

This chickpea "salad" is perfect and meets all of the above requirements! It also makes perfect leftovers as the flavors meld together and get better over time.

I love that you just throw everything into the bowl and dive in. That's my kind of eating!

Spicy Garlic Chickpea Salad with Fennel and Roasted Tomatoes

Extra-virgin olive oil
Two 15 oz. can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
4 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pints cherry tomatoes
Rosemary and thyme to taste
1 cup brown rice
Jarred pepperoncini
Small bulb of fennel
Shredded Parmesan
Fresh parsley

Cook 1 cup of rice as directed on package and set aside. In a medium saute pan, add chickpeas, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Saute for 6-8 minutes or until chickpeas start to blister. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss cherry tomatoes with dried rosemary and thyme and olive oil. Roast until they're blistered and beginning to burst open; about 20 minutes.

Put some rice in a bowl and ladle about 1/3 cup of the chickpea mixture into bowl. Add tomatoes and pepperoncini (to taste). Shave about 4-5 pieces of fennel from the bulb (the white part) and add to the bowl. Add Parmesan, parsley, and lemony vinaigrette. Mix to combine and chow down!

Lemon vinaigrette recipe can be found here.
Recipe adapted from bon appetit magazine.

This recipe is super healthy, gluten-free, and can be made vegan and dairy-free (just omit the Parmesan cheese)!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Goals: Update!

I have no idea what happened to me this winter- the weather has completely taken every extra ounce of energy out of me! This past week has been a little warmer, bringing weather that's more expected this time of year. Honestly, I'll take the rain and the cloudy days over another snow storm. It means we're one step closer to sunny skies and days at the beach.

All the ice gets pushed up against the rocks.
But enough small talk. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post that listed some of the goals that I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. Some of them were goals that I wanted to become habits (like getting used to exercising a certain number of minutes each week), and others were fun things that I want to do in my lifetime. My blog brings a certain level of accountability to my life and I wanted to tap into that today and give an update on how those goals are doing!

1. Get at least 60 minutes of physical exercise a week.
I will admit that I let this one go at the beginning of March. I was doing well until a few weeks ago when I got sick and gave up my workout for a few days. I'm telling you, that's all it takes! So, I'm making a point to get back into the swing of things. In fact, after this post is published, I'm going to do some yoga.

2. Learn a new language.
French is the language I had in mind when I started this round of goal-setting. I have been using an eresource through my local library called Mango Languages that allows you to learn a new language with online courses. These include activities, conversational practice, and cultural insight. It's such fun! My next step is to try and find a "pen pal" who would be willing to email me and help me speak that way. Check with your local library to see if this resource is available to you!

3. Pay off one of our bigger student loans.
It's still early in the year so this hasn't happened yet. However, as of a few weeks ago, my husband (who is a budget wizard) and I came up with a financial plan for us that would allow us to pay off all of our combined school debt in 3.5 years based on our current income. I cannot tell you how excited I am that this can happen in less than 5 years.

4. Successfully bake a batch of French macarons. 
Still haven't gotten around to doing this year, but I promise, you'll hear about it when I do!

5. Get better at not comparing my life to the lives of those around me.
This is another one of those goals that I want to become a habit in my life. I've seen some improvement lately and I'm glad about that, but this is something that I will be striving for every single day.

6. Read 100 books.
Currently, I've read 34 out of 100 books. According to Goodreads, I'm 10 books ahead of schedule. Hehe.

7. Complete at least 5 things off of my 25 Before 25 list.
So far, I've completed 3 items off of said list:
Spend the night in Chicago: Luis and I spent the night in Chicago in November and it was such an amazing experience. It felt so good to get away for a few days and see the city just because. It's amazing how refreshing those little experiences can be to your life.

Go to a concert/play: In late February, we went to go see The Phantom of the Opera in the city with some friends. I have been dreaming of doing this since I first heard the music at age 15!

Take a class just for fun: Incidentally, my goal of learning a new language fits perfectly with this goal. 

How have your 2014 goals progressed? Have they? Haven't they? I'd love to hear about it!
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