Pass It On

I have to say, I've been pretty disappointed with a lot of the online content magazines have been putting out lately. In their rush to share new content every day, so many times a day, originality, not to mention things like decent grammar and punctuation, have fallen by the wayside. Maybe it's just me being an English person, but when a major name magazine has run-on sentences and comma splices in their online content, that bugs me, and that takes away from the ethos and reliability of that content. Not to say that I'm perfect, or that there will never be/has never been a typo on this blog, but I've noticed consisted issues in this department. Anyway. This piece has renewed my faith. It's one of my favorite things I've read lately, and has got to be my favorite thing anyone from Cosmopolitan has put out all year.

Just recently I wrote about body image and self love, and this piece is the icing on the cake. I love everything she says and how she says it. And I totally agree! You can wear whatever you want, even it it's not the most "flattering" or "body-conscious" thing, and you can style your hair however makes you feel good, and you can do your makeup however you like or not at all. It's up to you. And it's supposed to be fun, not a chore, and it's supposed to make you feel good, not mitigate someone else's judgment of you. I just wanted to share that with you in case you needed a reminder as you get ready to go out (or stay in) for New Year's Eve.

Yours Truly, Jen

Ulta Haul with Coupons

I didn't have this post planned, but yesterday I went out and did some last minute Christmas shopping with my mom and popped into Ulta to buy some things for myself and use some coupons I'd set aside. Y'all, Ulta is really pushing for people to buy before Christmas, and they have a lot of great deals going on right now! I thought I'd share what I bought as well as some other great deals worth taking advantage of.

I got a good little mix of makeup, hair, and body products, and didn't pay full price for a single one. Ulta always has specials running, so you should really never pay full price for anything there.

I have been hearing good things about these Batiste dry shampoos, and right now they're buy one, get one 50% off, plus I had a $5 off a $10 purchase. They were $8.99 each, and then after the discount and my coupon, the total with tax came up to $9.18, which is about how much one would usually cost. I also decided to try this cleansing conditioner from L'Oreal which I haven't really heard anything about, but I have heard lots about no or low poo style cleaning lately and I thought if this works, it would be a time, money, and space saver.

I had a reward certificate and got this bath gel, which retails for $9.50, for free! If you ever ever ever shop at Ulta, sign up for Ulta rewards. It takes a while to rack up points, and they only send rewards certificates every so often, by why not get a little extra value for the money you spend there and get a free reward every now and then? Rewards certificates come on the back cover of the Ulta catalogs they send in the mail; the list of rewards is available in the catalog and they also have copies you can take in the store.

L'Oreal had a great little promotion running while I was there. They had buy one, get one 50% off all their cosmetic products, and if you spent $12 you got a free primer. I got one of the Infallible eyeshadows in Eternal Sunshine, which is a neutral, totally wearable gold shade and one of the False Fiber Lashes mascaras, which was a favorite of mine over the summer, and picked up the Magic Lumi Light Infusing primer for free. I'm just about out of my NYX cream concealer, so I decided to try the Maybelline Age Rewind Dark Circle eraser, which I've heard great things about. I tried it this morning and think I used a little too much, but I liked the flawless look and amount of coverage it gives.

I needed a new bottle of nail polish remover, and this one had great review on the Ulta website, so I decided to give it a try. I used it to take off some super old polish last night and thought it worked pretty well. One thing I was really impressed with was the product design. Not only is there the big sponge where you stick your finger in and wiggle it around to get the polish off (which is especially great if you only need to re-do one nail), but there also a little dealimibob on a stick that you can pull out and use to clean up the edges of nail or take the polish off of toenails, which I thought was a thoughtful inclusion.

I did this all in two transactions, since you can only use one coupon per transaction. I did the two bottles of dry shampoo first, with the 5 off coupon, and then everything else in a second transaction with a 20% off coupon and my rewards certificate. And yes, you do get 20% off the already 50% off second items! So everything I bought was at least 20% off, several items were a higher percentage off with everything added up, and I got the bath gel, primer, and second bottle of dry shampoo free! When I checked out, they also gave me another $5 off $10 purchase, so I might go back and see if there's a ten dollar item I'd like to get 50% off before I leave town.

Although I didn't end up taking advantage of it, I wanted to mention this great deal for those of you still shopping for last minute gifts. Right now Ulta is offering a free Luxury robe with $40 fragrance purchases, plus those 20% off coupons apply to most fragrances! A fragrance and robe would make a lovely luxury gift, or you could separate them and give them to two different people (or keep the robe for yourself!). Just a thought!

If you're already a Ulta Rewards member, you should have plenty of 20% off coupons in your email inbox, not to mention your most recent catalog. The sales associates are very sweet, so if you forget yours, they usually have one handy to scan if you ask them nicely. It never hurts to ask!

Yours Truly, Jen

Travel Tip: Serious Snack Pack

Hey! I am in Texas visiting the fam, but I've got a couple more travel posts for those of you still preparing to travel to see family (or for preparing for the ride home). The drive from Virginia to Texas usually takes me about 21 hours, including gas, food, and bathroom stops as well as napping stops when necessary. That much time in the car means you need some serious snacks to keep you going.

I like to have a variety of snacks. Is this overkill? A little. Will I eat all of this on my way there? No! But, anything I don't eat comes with me on the return trip, and none of this stuff is going to go bad in the two weeks I'm in Texas. Here I've got a bag of chips, healthy popcorn, and Cheez-It's for crunchy snacky type things, almonds for some healthy fat and energy, a chewy and a crunchy box of granola bars for different moods and something a little more substantial, and a bag of sour candy and a box of chocolate-covered raisins for a healthier chocolate fix. 

 For the cooler, I have Chobani tubes. They say they're for kids, but they're easy to eat in the car, low fat, healthy, and gives you a bit of dairy, so it's a great more filling snack. I also have a bag of carrots which are a no mess snack and a pack of apple and caramel dipper for a dessert-type option.

Especially if you're driving alone, anything you can reasonably do to make things easier on yourself while you're driving, you should do. I went ahead and put the Cheez-It's in two quart-sized bags, which causes me not to have to fuss with the box and the bag in the box. Plus, this will keep them fresher longer. The almonds and candies did not come in resealable bags, so those are the kinds of things where you open it, do your best to fold it shut while driving, put in the snack bag, and then end of with a bunch of stuff at the bottom of the bag that you throw up. No thanks. I put the granola bars in bag as well just so they wouldn't fall out of the box and be hard to find quickly.

 I threw all of these dry snacks in a reusable shopping bag. I went ahead and opened the chips and shut them with a clip so I wouldn't have to open them in the car. I wasn't sure if I was going to end up opening the popcorn or not, so I left that as is. One of the things I like about this bag is that it zips shut, so when I get to where I'm going, I can zip the whole thing shut and throw it in my trunk and not worry about it until I get ready for the return trip.

All of the beverages and refrigerated snacks go in a little cooler. I bought a little 6-pack of water bottles (I don't usually use plastic water bottles but I will use them on a trip) and put three of them in the cooler, two flavored sparkling waters, a 4-pack of the Starbucks Frappuccinos, and a Gatorade. I also put the carrots in a plastic bag and the yogurt pouches in a plastic bag since the box would get all mucked up by the ice. Pro tips: bagged ice works better than these big blocks of ice from the trays. I didn't have room in my freezer for a bag of ice and didn't want to stop and get one on my way out of town, but these definitely melted much faster than bagged ice does.

In the front little pocket of the cooler I put a couple of plastic grocery bags for trash, some straws (I use these with the Starbucks coffee since the have wide mouths), and some napkins.

Cooler co-pilot. My cooler sits on the passenger seat and the snack bag sits on the floor space in front of it. Everything is within easy reach this way. When I've traveled with other people, I've put the cooler in the middle of the back seat which still makes it pretty easy to reach. I do have a small car though.

Between all of these things I have more substantial food in case I have to go a while without stopping for real food, snacky stuff, sweet stuff, healthy stuff, hydrating stuff, caffeinated stuff...all the stuff! I will stop for lunch and dinner, but I never have to get snacks from the gas station or anything, which saves me time and money. What snacks do you like to travel with?

Yours Truly, Jen

Travel Tip: Packing Beauty Essentials

Living far away from family and friends can be really hard. Facebook keeps me in the loop so I don't feel too out of touch when I go back, but it's difficult only getting to go back to Texas once or twice a year. When I'm back, I try to see and spend time with as many people as I can, and I usually go back and forth between staying with my Mom in my hometown and seeing friends in Austin. What this means is that I need to be ultra portable, so I can pack up quickly and drag my stuff in without much muss and fuss while I'm staying on a friend's couch or in my mom's spare room. Every year I try to get better about bringing less and less, and yet I seem to add more and more things to my skincare and makeup routine. Enter the weekend bag.

I have seen this type of bag plenty of times before, but I don't think I really thought about getting one until I watched this video. Then I was like duh, that would be so nice to have one bag with all of my makeup and skincare stuff in it without having to juggle a bunch of cosmetic bags, and the hook makes it easy to hand on a door frame or door knob or shower rod or towel rod or whatever. Genius! I went shopping around and found a few different options at Target, but the ones I really liked were 30 bucks. I thought I could do a little better than that, so I headed over to TJ Maxx. I found this one there for 20 bucks, so I saved 10 dollars and got a totally cute, totally functional bag. Win win! There were two different styles I was choosing from there, this one and one that had three or four smaller pouches and a big pouch at the bottom. I really liked the other one, and I probably would have been able to fit my hair stuff in that one as well, but it snapped rather than zipped which I didn't think was as secure, the other one didn't have the brushes slots, and this one was a bit cuter, so that's what I went with.

This is a nice, compact bag with a surprising amount of room inside. When you zip it open you've got two large pockets, one with mesh and one with plastic, and a smaller pocket/brush holder with the hook attached to it (the hook is totally legit, by the way, and has no trouble holding up the full bag). I have the plastic pocket dedicated to makeup, the mesh pocket dedicated to skincare, brushes in the brush slots, and cotton balls and q-tips in the small pocket. If you wanted to keep your brushes in a separate bag you could totally use that space for your eyeliners and mascara and things, but I like having everything I need to get my face done here in one place.

You can't see everything I have in the pockets super well, but I thought I'd give you a run down. I've got my Hard Candy Primer which is nothing fancy but gives you a nice, smooth base to work with, my Revlon ColorStay foundation, a couple of concealers, my sample of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecter which I love mixing with my foundation for a more luminous finish, my MaskCara illuminator, my Flower blush/bronzer duo, a fun eyeshadow palette, a neutral eyeshadow palette, my NYX brow powder, a pink lipstick, red lipstick, berry lipstick, and coral lipstick, one of my favorite eyeshadows ever, Clinique bottom lash mascara, Revlon Lash Potion Mascara (loving this lately), Kat Von D felt tip black eyeliner (easy to use, easy for traveling), a couple of fun colored eyeliners, coral blush, Nars Orgasm blush (which is another pink blush, but has a little sparkle in it), Rimmel Stay Matte powder, eyelash curler, MaskCara foundation. Typically I travel with a full coverage foundation and a BB cream, but this year I decided to eschew the BB cream and bring the MaskCara foundation which is more of a light to medium coverage. I'm still playing with that makeup, but I'll be posting a full review of the MaskCara HAC pack soon. I'm able to get a lot of different looks with this set of makeup and I have some items that make for a super quick face on busy days and also items for a full face for nights out.

The picture quality on this pouch looks bad because of the mesh, so sorry about that. In here I've got my viatamin C serum (which I'm almost out of and need to repurchase), a small size of my Neutrogena face wash (I got a travel size at Target a year or so a go and just refill it from my big bottle when I travel now), the face wash, exfoliator, and mask from my Origins kit, DIY tea tree oil toner, Evian mineral water spray, Sea Buckthorn Facial Cream , which can be used as a morning as evening moisturizer since it doesn't have SPF in it and is easy to use with its pump, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunblock , face wipes for makeup mishaps, facial tissue, Origins eye cream, Sephora cleansing oil, and Alpha Hydrox lotion. I will probably move that last lotion into a travel size bottle before I go, especially since I only use a tiny bit of it and only in the evening. It's not a step I want to skip though. I got my travel bottles at Target, but you can find them at most places with a beauty section. The only full size skincare products that I'm traveling with are my eye cream, sunscreen, serum, and moisturizer, and that's just because they happen to be small items. My mineral water travel size bottle came free with my full size bottle, the Origins products came in a kit and are a little small that the full sizes, and the other items like my makeup remover oil and toner have been moved into small bottles. This saves on weight and space and when I get back from traveling, I just stash them away and have them ready to go next time I travel, so it saves me time too.

The bag comes with a plastic cover held shut with an elastic, so your brushes don't get damaged or dirty when the bag is opened or closed. I like having all of my brushes at hand, but honestly I don't need a ton. Here I've packed a slanted eye brush and spoolie for filling in my eyebrows, three different shaped eyeshadow brushes, a blush brush which can also be used with bronzer, a flat foundation brush which can be used with both foundations I'm bringing and the coral cream blush, a concealer brush, a detail brush for contouring my nose or brightening up the inner eye corner, a powder brush which can be used for face powder and bronzer, and my Real Techniques expert face brush for using with both foundations.

I've stuffed the pouch on the other side of the brush holder spot with cotton balls and q-tips so they are easy to access.

I packed the bag a few days early so I could make sure the bag was a good size for me before I took the tag off. I think it's perfect. Even with all of my stuff in there, it still closes easily. If you close the bag carefully, the items inside won't move too much. One thing I've done since taking these pictures is rubber band together the eyeliners and the lipsticks, just because those are the small things that you usually have to dig to the bottom to get after everything has gotten jumbled together.

The great thing about packing early is that I'm able to do my routine out of it for a couple of days before I leave and adjust what's in there based on what I find myself reaching for and what I forgot and what I feel like isn't actually necessary. I may end up swapping out my spray toner for my liquid toner; I haven't decided yet. I am definitely going to add in my NYX dewy finish spray, and I may take out the fun eyeshadow palette just because I have a couple of fun eyeliners that can serve the same purpose for the most part. I will probably end up throwing another lipstick or two in there, just because I can't help myself. And of course it's likely that I'll acquire a few things while I'm in Texas since I don't have a Sephora or Ulta close to where I live in Virginia, so I'll definitely be popping into both of those store while I'm in Austin, not to mention if I get gifted any beauty items. I've tried to limit myself primarily to items I use every day, but I've allowed myself a few extras simply because I'll be gone two weeks and that's a lot of time to be away from your stuff; plus, you never know what situations may arise!

I will also say that if you have absolutely no counter space or no good place to store your beauty products, this is not a bad solution for that as well since you can zip it up and tuck it away under the sink or wherever. What are your beauty product packing tips?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. My Morning Skincare Routine, My Evening Skincare Routine, The Essential Drugstore Makeup Kit, and Gift Guide: Beauty Junkie.

200 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for 15 Dollars or Less

When I was growing up, we always did stockings first. We would all dump out our stockings and see what types of candy we got and what little trinkets were in there. My parents weren't huge on stocking stuffers. There would always be a thing or two in there besides the candy, but I know some people put like $25, $50, or even $70 gifts in stockings, and that is not how they rolled. Also, we always got a piece of fruit in the toe of our stockings. I don't know where that tradition came from, but we'd get an apple or orange usually. It was just something they did.

In my opinion, a good stocking stuffer is small in size and really inexpensive. Like less than ten dollars expensive. Fifteen, maybe. If you're making good money and have responsibly created a big gift budget, more power to you, do whatever you want. For the rest of us, anything more than that is approaching a full gift I think, especially for kids. But if you're spending money on something, you also want to make sure it's something that the person will actually use and enjoy, not just toss aside. I'm really big on not just buying junk for the sake of having bought someone something or having something extra to fill the stocking. I think gifts should be thoughtful, even the little ones, and people should be appreciative of whatever a person gives them. Here I've listed a ton of ideas for things that are small, affordable, and great little gifts. I know that there are some other lists like this out there, but these gifts are all things you can buy for less than 15 dollars, and don't forget that it's okay to gift gently used items as well! For some of them I've linked to stuff I'm loving around the web, but you can get whatever you know your stocking recipient will enjoy, especially if you can find it in store. I didn't separate these by categories or gender or age or anything; I thought I'd just overload you with ideas to have in your head as you finish your holiday shopping.

  1. Mascara
  2. Eyeliner
  3. Eyeshadow
  4. Lipstick
  5. Lip Balm
  6. Lip Gloss
  7. Cosmetic Brush/Brush Set
  8. Hand Lotion
  9. Hand Sanitizer
  10. Body Scrub
  11. Body Wash
  12. Bath Oil
  13. Bubble Bath
  14. Pumice Stone
  15. Perfume Samples or Rollerball
  16. Body Spray
  17. Face Mask Packets
  18. Face Mask
  19. Makeup Removal Wipes
  20. Sample/Travel Size Products
  21. Pony Tails
  22. Headband
  23. Hair Band
  24. Hair Brush
  25. Boar's Hair Brush
  26. Bobby Pins
  27. Hair Clips
  28. Comb
  29. Nail Polish
  30. Nail Polish Remover
  31. Cuticle Oil
  32. Eye Cover
  33. Tweezers
  34. Nail Clippers
  35. Nail Files
  36. Dry Shampoo
  37. Cosmetics Bag
  38. Shoe Laces
  39. Socks
  40. Thrifted Tie
  41. Scarf
  42. Earrings
  43. Bracelet
  44. Necklace
  45. Ring
  46. Keychain
  47. Sunglasses
  48. Reading Glasses
  49. Cleaning Cloth
  50. Glasses Case
  51. Eyeglasses Repair Kit
  52. Wallet
  53. Coin Purse 
  54. Jewelry Dish
  55. Beanie
  56. Luggage Tags
  57. Travel Tissues
  58. Travel Cotton Swabs
  59. Sippy Cup
  60. Pacifiers
  61. Teether
  62. Old Phone
  63. Cars
  64. Army men
  65. Small Stuffed Animal
  66. Small Figurine (Wrapped)
  67. Stamps
  68. Bouncy Ball
  69. Slinky
  70. Jacks
  71. Yo Yo
  72. Bike Light
  73. Mini Flashlight
  74. Glow In The Dark Stars
  75. Playdough
  76. Small Puzzle Game
  77. Bath Toy
  78. Trading Cards
  79. Mini Coloring Book
  80. Silly Putty
  81. Harmonica
  82. Deck of Cards
  83. Uno Card Game
  84. SKIP BO Card Game
  85. Phase 10 Card Game
  86. Car Games
  87. Crossword Puzzle Book
  88. Book of Sudoku
  89. Word Find Puzzle Book
  90. Mixed CD
  91. Music Album
  92. Jump Drive
  93. Phone Case
  94. Blanks CD's
  95. Earbuds
  96. Notepads
  97. Wall Calendar 
  98. Desktop Calendar
  99. Pens
  100. Pencils
  101. Erasers
  102. Pencil Top Erasers
  103. Pencil Case
  104. Ribbon
  105. Paper Clips
  106. Permanent Markers
  107. Mini Highlighters
  108. Flash Cards (age appropriate)
  109. Watercolors
  110. Colored Pencils
  111. Markers
  112. Paint Brushes
  113. Finger Paint
  114. Crayons
  115. Stamps
  116. Stationary
  117. Card Set
  118. Paper weight
  119. Push Pins
  120. Stickers
  121. Magnets
  122. Washi tape
  123. Craft Glue
  124. Glitter
  125. Craft Paint
  126. Yarn
  127. Knitting Needles
  128. Sewing Pattern
  129. Sewing Kit
  130. Labelmaker Labels
  131. Command Hooks
  132. Hot Glue Gun
  133. Scrapbooking Stuff
  134. Hand Punch
  136. Book Light
  137. Small Book
  138. World Almanac
  139. Pocket Dictionary
  140. Pocket Thesaurus
  141. Magnifying Lens
  142. Candle
  143. Candle Holder
  144. Potpourri 
  145. Knife Sharpener
  146. Kitchen Utensil
  147. Vegetable Peeler 
  148. Banana Hook
  149. Mug
  150. Travel Mug
  151. Water Bottle
  152. Pretty Straws
  153. Tea Ball
  154. Corkscrew
  155. Can Opener
  156. Bottle Opener
  157. Cookie Cutters
  158. Cloth Napkins
  159. Napkin Rings
  160. Pantry Labels
  161. Shot Glass
  162. Wine Stopper
  163. Kitchen Timer
  164. Magnetized Notepad
  165. WIne Glass Markers
  166. Small Tool
  167. Printed Photos
  168. Small Frame
  169. Plant Seeds
  170. Lighter
  171. Car Air Freshener 
  172. Tea Bags
  173. Airplane Bottles of Liquor
  174. Coffee Sample
  175. K-Paks
  176. Hot Cocoa Packets
  177. Energy Bar
  178. Gum
  179. Mints
  180. Tic-Tacs
  181. Pez Dispenser with Candy
  182. Fun Spices
  183. Fun Hot Suaces or other Condiments
  184. Piece of Fruit
  185. Truffles (Candy)
  186. Favorite Candy Bar
  187. Microwaveable Popcorn Bags
  188. Trail Mix
  189. Fudge
  190. Peanut Brittle
  191. Licorice
  192. Ribbon Candy
  193. Lifesavers
  194. Homemade Baked Goods
  195. Cash
  196. Gift Card
  197. Red Box Certificate
  198. Lottery Tickets
  199. Car Wash Certificate
  200. Roll of Quarters
If you're on a really tight budget, a lot of these items would make a great gift in their own right if you want more wrapped items under the tree. A couple of related items, like a mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow, or wine screw, bottle opener, and wine glass markers, could be bundled together to make a cohesive gift, or you can break up gift sets and distribute the items throughout various stockings. There are lots of neat, unique, awesome stuff available in this price range if you shop around, but the dollar store/Target dollar spot definitely works too. Also note that many of these gifts could totally be DIY'd.

I know I always seem to forget to buy stocking stuffers until the last minute, so hopefully this list will help you (and me) get some great gifts before time runs out. What are your favorite stocking stuffers?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. If you missed them, check out my gift guides.