Friday, July 7, 2017


New post, who dis? J/K, hope you've all been well!

Unfortunately I am bearing bittersweet tidings, so I'll just come out with it: We have come, as Boyz II Men sang, to the end of the road here on Stuff.

This was both a difficult and an easy decision to make, for various reasons. First, both of my camera phones' batteries died early last autumn, and I wasn't sure what to do (continue replacing outdated technology? start using an actual CAMERA?), but replacing those batteries wasn't an immediate priority. I've said that not having to photograph every polish I've ever worn is such a novelty during every blog hiatus I've taken; that remains true, but now I am woefully out of the habit. I also didn't realize how much time I was spending doing something for the blog! As someone with lifelong time management issues, this hobby of mine was a little more demanding some days than others, particularly since I like things done a certain way. Occasionally I would run later than I should have to events, or I would be slower to complete or perform other more important tasks as a result. (I am working to curb this behavior, but who knows, I probably am trading one vice for another.)

China Glaze All Glammed Up, from this summer's Summer Reign collection. I am sure it has dupes, but I couldn't tell you what those would be. Stayed on longer than I thought it would, given my bottle's inconsistent formula.

Second: (2A) a lot of your and my favorite old brands are no more, and the brands that have soldiered on spend more time putting out lackluster collections or investing in gel ("gel"?) lines. All well and good, until you realize that very few companies consistently do anything compelling in the ways of colors and finishes, and you need a little something more ... more. I'm still not really into indies apart from the usual suspects (Pretty Serious, Pahlish, Cirque Colors) since I tend to favor products I can walk into a store and purchase. I will say that I regret not documenting more of my expansive and ridiculous stash, but I highly doubt that would be as interesting now as it would have been maybe five years ago. (P.S. I tried the CND Vinylux system for the first time almost exactly a month ago, and I actually quite liked it. I did, however, use my double base coat combo of Instant Artificials + Gelous, although Vinylux instructions say you don't need base coat at all. It dries SO FAST, you guys!)

(2B) Virtually no one blogs any more, which is vexing when you want AN ACTUAL REVIEW of a product and not an Instagram post that says "This color is AMAAAAZING!" So many of my friends and some of my favorite bloggers have stepped back or completely retired! I know interest dies down from time to time and that hobbies and free time are cyclical and can be picked up again later, so never say never (even B was surprised that I've chosen to stop blogging) -- but for now, rather than subject you to hiatus after hiatus after hiatus, it's time for me to call it a day. I knew it for sure when I went back in my phone photo albums to look for a facsimile of my signature nail pics for this post, and came up pretty damn empty. When I started Stuff, I thought it would be something fun I could do until my life got back on track, which brings me to my final point:

Third: Real Life, man. When I last posted, I was still coming to terms with my grandmother's death, and I had to let the blog sit for a while. Once I started feeling a little better, the presidential election took place, and frankly, I was -- and still am -- extremely unhappy with its outcome. The personal has become inherently political, and I didn't want it to bleed over into this blog because this is supposed to be a place of respite both for readers and for myself. But to prattle on about cosmetics the way I do seemed absurd and silly, and so again I let the blog sit. Then the Saturday morning after the election, one of my favorite aunts suddenly passed away; a few family members and I basically traveled straight from her memorial service in Montreal to Thanksgiving in New Jersey. Unlike my grandmother, I was in fairly regular communication with my aunt, and I really miss talking to her, especially since she and I were at a point where we were able to talk on a level that was woman-to-woman. I don't know how else to describe it. I miss her. Anyway, two weeks after THAT, I succumbed to a next-door-to-pneumonia case of bronchitis (according to my doctor parents). This wiped me out for the entirety of the holiday season, during which I was so horrified at the prospects of our electoral leadership that I stopped dithering and started applying to grad school as soon as I returned from Thanksgiving. There's no need to argue about politics -- I only mention the election because I truly believe it was the kick in the pants I needed to jump start the grad school application process, whatever that says about me.

Flipped through the post-inauguration Style Weekly while letting my sister do a final read-through of my essay, and IT DID NOT LIE. (Also, AFAIK, the Stoliles bromance is still on.)

My health improved in time for me to participate in the Women's March in D.C., submit my application, and to start an online grad school prerequisite class probably all in the span of 4 days. That class, which I LOVED, whipped my butt to the point where I was just going to repeat it, until I got an acceptance letter from grad school saying my acceptance was pending successful completion of that course. My immediate reaction was of wanting to vomit, but I was not sure if that was more of my subpar performance in class and severe academic anxiety, or the weird Wendy's sandwich I had just eaten. What I'm saying is, my spring SUCKED. In addition to the nagging feelings of "Oh my god, did President Covfefe drive me to take on potential student debt?" and what I think is the more common grad student question, "What if I am setting myself up to fail again?" , I continue to have conflicting feelings about school. I know I was accepted into a fantastic program, but I also feel like I should be pursuing writing more seriously, and hopefully I can figure out how to do that anyway. My self-doubt and academic anxiety is so bad that I still haven't told my extended family and a lot of my friends that I'm going back to school, or that I applied at all. I've also been dealing with a bunch of other ongoing personal shit I'm not even going to get into, but it will suffice to say that this maelstrom of events has left me thoroughly overwhelmed and confused.

And if I'm being honest, I'm still overwhelmed and confused, which is why, on Stuff's sixth birthday (!), I'm shutting down my baby blog. I've loved writing, brainstorming, and connecting and sharing parts of my last six years with you, but after this month, I simply won't have the time to devote toward Stuff. Even more surprising was my realization that I don't seem to need the blog now the way I did when I started it (I think Instagram definitely helps scratch that itch). This time next month, I will have moved much closer to school. I will have multiple roommates again for the first time in years. I will have to adjust to being a student after a 10-year absence from academia. I. AM. TERRIFIED. I will need to focus on funneling my nervous energy into doing everything I possibly can to get my shit together. I'm not getting younger, and even if this new career path is not where I ultimately end up, I have so much to learn and experience and I should just go for it because I feel like I've wasted so much time. Until that point, though, I fully intend to #yolo the fuck out of what's left of my summer, and it seemed like my sixth blogaversary was the right time to say goodbye.

My sister and I went on a mini-vacation to the National Spelling Bee because we are bee nerds. We had a blast.

A few days after the bee, I went to see Feist and I am still coming down from it. Really enjoying her new album, and posting this pic because I think it looks rad.

I know no one asked, but my only real advice to future bloggers is this: Do it for yourself. Post, with reason, whatever content speaks to you. Make friends! Try to write the blog you would want to read. Don't worry if it's not perfect -- you'll figure it out as you go. And when it comes time to stop, you'll know it. While I certainly would have changed some things and not even made attempts at others, I also learned a bit about myself that I might not have thought about until later (how I process things in my mind and/or in writing, and what I've come to regard as self-care, behavioral patterns, impulses, aesthetics, etc.) and honestly, that knowledge been instrumental in considering the kind of person I want to be and how I want to conduct myself, online and off.

I'll always have a penchant for nails, and I probably always will have some sort of online presence -- so feel free to email me at rachswatched@gmail if you want to talk, if you want to send me blog recommendations or have started your own, if you want to know if I'll ever have a destash or blog sale, if you want to find out how SMA is doing, or what I'm wearing/watching/reading/listening to/eating/generally just being extra about. (If you're a reader and you follow me on Instagram, PLEASE TELL ME because sometimes I don't know.) And if I ever pop up again as a nail blogger in any fashion, trust me ... you'll be able to find me. :)

You know, that #mynailsandmydrink steez. Sinful Colors Thera-pewter. I LOVED it. 10/10, absolutely would wear again.

To all of you who have found this blog, read it for a time, or have continued to read during the last six years: THANK YOU. Thank you for your clicks, comments, emails, swaps, RAOKs, pins, follows, subscriptions, likes, tweets, and general enabling. Thank you for entering my giveaways! To my readers who I've gotten to know better through your emails (Jess, Marija, Leissa), keep them coming!

If you blogged or still blog, THANK YOU for saving a space for Stuff on your blog roll! Many of the ladies who I turned to for advice when I was getting started and who guest posted for me in 2012-3 no longer blog, but thank you for sharing your time & talent with me! (Mad respect to those of you who've blogged while pursuing a degree AND working. I couldn't do that!)

To those ladies who I never would have befriended without this hobby: THANK YOU for becoming my friends and for putting up with my multiple-part texts alone! I want to shout out so many of you but I will limit it to Janice, for the laughs, educating me and hunting down lemmings; Steff & Anna, for being the best & loveliest of friends & feature collaborators; Madeline, for the book/movie/music recs & choosing a shit ton of my NOTDs; Courtney, for sending me hilarious memes & for our honey mustard lunches; Ashley, for keeping me somewhat tuned in to the world of nail art & for our meet-up in L.A.!; and Tara, for being my roommate for a year and a wonderful friend.

To my friends & framily who have made appearances on or who I name dropped here: THANK YOU for still beng my friends even after I dragged you to the ends of the earth or you lost me in the beauty section while I was looking for a polish, for letting me use your computers to post, and for not yelling at me when I was late for something because I was working on this instead. I am so sorry. I love you for humoring me and for just being you. Please never stop! Just know that you will never NOT lose me in a Target beauty section. ;)

Thank you for all your love and support over the past six years. Stuff and the friendships that have stemmed from it were a wonderful distraction, and helped make a pretty lonely part of my life significantly less lonely. For that, I'll always love it the way we love the China Glaze Rodeo Diva collection (which is SO MUCH, FOREVER).

I'll just let Blossom Dearie say it:

Wishing all of you love, good health, happiness, a cool glass of lemonade (it is July), and of course, good nails -- nothing but the good stuff.

<3 Rach


Friday, September 30, 2016

Grief and loss.

My lola's family was among the many who went into hiding during the Japanese occupation of the motherland. Since they were fleeing mostly on foot, there was only so much they would be able to carry with them. So of course it makes total sense that my lola and her sister decided to pack their makeup, too. I'm not certain of the exact items they carried, but the mental picture of my lola and her sister as young women toting Revlon and Max Factor in handkerchief bundles as they passed through jungles and small towns makes me smile. This is my favorite story about my mother's mother, because it so perfectly illustrates what our family and friends remember and love about her: her ladylike resilience in the face of hardship. Well, that resilience ... and a mean game of mahjong.

Serving that 16-year-old beauty queen realness in 1936.

On September 2, my lola passed away near her home island in the Philippines. Her only ailments were those that came with her age; after all, at 96, we couldn't expect her to live forever. Hers was a peaceful death, and her three living children were able to be with her as she received her last rites and sacraments. She'd made her arrangements many years ago and was very specific about her wishes, so all in all, the pragmatist in me says it was the best possible situation. Although I knew my sister, our cousin, and I would mourn her, I don't think any of us anticipated feeling her loss as deeply as we did during that first week.

It has been especially hard for my sister and me to say our goodbyes. For one thing, unlike our cousin, we could not make it to the funeral, between her work schedule and the unknown whereabouts of my passport, which I didn't think I would need anytime soon. Of course we were sad that we could not be there physically for the funeral, but I know we will make a trip back one day to visit her grave. Geography is something that cannot be helped, even in the best of circumstances. That is the easy part.

For me, the hard part is knowing that I have said goodbye to my lola twice before, and now I have to do it for real. I know she is at peace, but I feel guilty that I didn't spend enough time with her when she lived with my family. I knew her, and yet I never really did -- something that never seemed to bother her, because she loved her grandchildren unconditionally and took pride in us, warts and all. (I think it is easier to love grandchildren after having been around the block with your own children.)

Disney World, July 1997: My lola, my mom, and their American girls.

My sister aptly said that mourning is difficult and confusing, particularly when you only got to know one side of a person who is closed off to you for a myriad of reasons. There's a line in the movie "Big Fish" where Billy Crudup's character, Will, says that he and his father were "like strangers who knew each other very well." I can tell you so many things about my lola: I could tell you that she once hiked a local Virginia mountain in high heels. That she was a teenage beauty queen in her home province. That she always knew how to make Ramen noodles the way my sister and I liked it (with egg drop, frozen vegetables, and just enough seasoning). That she always made sure we had our afternoon "merienda" after school. That she watched the news every night and my first real exposure to current events was while I played quietly at her feet. That she once sprained her wrist trying to carry me as a baby because I was so fat and she had misjudged my weight. That her father was Spanish and she was so tickled when we started to learn that language in school (and especially when my sister became fluent). That at practically every Filipino party, you would find her at the mahjong table with her winning tiles, snatching everyone's money like it was no big deal. That she quit smoking cold turkey. That she was a champion bargain shopper, whether she was at Belk, an outlet mall, or her favorite shopping destination, Singapore. That my father called her a "girl scout" because she always had whatever anyone possibly could need in her purse (she must be where I get that from). However, a few years ago, when I noticed her starting to slip away, I realized these details were superficial ones and I desperately wanted to learn more about her. But it was too late. And my failure to mine our extended family history as well as her personal history is something I will always regret. Somehow, everything I know about her will have to be enough.

All of this guilt stems from the fact my lola helped raise my sister and me. She moved in with my family when I was 7 years old to help my mother, who was helping my dad start a new business. When my lola made the decision to permanently return to the Philippines, I was 23. She was a few weeks away from her 90th birthday. This means I had sixteen years to get to really know her. And I didn't. I spent those sixteen years trying to be everywhere BUT home with her. I try to tell myself that the gap between us was a mixture of the youthful frivolity and teenage angst coupled with generational and cultural clashes, that children were meant to be seen and not heard back in her day, that each other's concepts of a grandparent-grandchild relationship were completely different but it was fine as long as I was a good girl ... but this never should have been an excuse. Those gaps weren't necessarily unbridgeable. The bottom line is that I should have tried harder. Now that she is gone, every answer to every question I have for her also has gone with her, and there aren't enough words to express how profoundly sorry I am that I missed my chance. My sister and I will never have another grandparent.

The last time I saw my lola and got to kiss her and hold her hand was in May of 2012, during my family's most recent trip as a full unit of four. (If you want to go into the archives, I shared some photos from that trip.) We visited her just about every day and she seemed to be doing well, but my mother didn't tell her we were leaving for the States until the day we actually left. My lola greeted me by a nickname I'd given myself as an infant when I started talking, and for a second it was like she was her old self again. I remember furiously blinking back tears as we drove away to the airport because because I knew, deep down, that this would be the last time we saw each other. I remember being so angry and anxious before that trip without knowing how to articulate it, but now I think I was scared of how I would react to seeing a different, more fragile aspect of her.

Richmond, Dec. 2007, before my college graduation. I almost cried again when I saw this photo because my eyebrows were SO BAD and my glasses frames did nothing for my face. 

Amidst all this sorrow and guilt, believe it or not, is relief and joy. Relief, because my lola was ready, and had been for some years. I first sensed it when she returned from her sister's funeral a few years ago. My lola was around 88 or 89 then; the woman we hugged and kissed goodbye in front of airport security a few weeks earlier was not the woman who came back to us. She was frail, pensive, and somber. Quite tellingly, she put away her mahjong set. (Not too long after this, she stopped speaking English and spoke primarily in her native dialect.) The change in her was incredibly jarring. Shortly afterward, she decided to return to the Philippines for good. I couldn't wrap my head around it and I asked my mother why she was going back when both of her daughters were in the States, where she had access to healthcare and overall a better quality of life. At first, my mother's blunt reply was that my lola was going back because she was going home to die. I kept asking why. My mother said that I wouldn't understand yet, but someday I would feel compelled to spend my last days where I was born. I facetiously asked her if that meant my sister and I would flop onto the Jersey shore like sea turtles. My mother knew that wasn't what I was really saying and told me to drop it. But over the last few years, watching my mother and my aunt look on as my lola gradually deteriorated and weakened has been so wrenching. Apart from the emotional toll it has taken on them, the practicalities of finding someone to care for my lola as well as someone to cook and keep house for her have been a logistical nightmare. I know here in America it is hard enough to find a trustworthy, competent caretaker -- now imagine what that's like when your loved one is halfway across the world. In fact, we were having trouble finding a new caretaker in the last few weeks of her life. In her way, I think my lola understood the complexity of the circumstances. Despite the inevitable turnover every few months, we are indebted to all of my aunt's friends who helped either by finding replacement "staff" or by dropping in to spend time with her, ultimately keeping her company until her children could be there to say their last goodbyes. [I know this aspect of eldercare is not something that is discussed on a nail blog (or in most places), but this was my family's reality and has colored the swirl of emotions and memories I am trying to unpack. Additionally, this might well be my future reality should my parents choose to settle abroad.] Once or twice a year, she would have health scares that sent my mom and aunt scurrying to book plane tickets, refill her prescriptions, and pack carry-on bags of supplies and black clothing, just in case. But she always rallied as soon as they arrived. This went on for the last six years, so when my aunt's friend told us that my lola was not eating or talking and only sleeping, I didn't think this truly would be the end. She'd always pulled through before. Her 96th birthday celebration was in June. We thought she would make it to 100, like one of her relatives.

There is joy, because at last my lola is reunited in spirit with all her dearly beloved ones whose deaths preceded hers. In my heart, I knew the physical and emotional transformation she experienced after her sister's death was the culmination of all her compounded losses. If my math and memory are correct, my lola was a widow for nearly half of her life. Her husband, my lolo, died long before his American grandchildren were born, but he was never far from my lola's, my mother's, and my aunt's minds, even after all these years. At least once or twice a week, one of them would remark, "If your lolo was alive ..." so in spite of us never knowing him, his mark on that side of the family was deeply felt. (At least two of my cousins' names are derived from his, and his name definitely was in the mix during both of my mother's pregnancies.) I believe it was also because of my lolo that my cousin, my sister, and I never addressed our lola as "Lola," which is quite unusual in Filipino custom. We merely copycatted our mothers, who addressed her with the same endearment that their father had used. To me, the use of that name seemed like a way to keep my lolo's memory at the forefront, much in the way that his earthly presence had been so dominant.

My lola and lolo in what must be the late 1960s, going by those shades.

There is joy, because now my lola can be with her sons again. My lola and my lolo had six children, four boys and two girls (my mother, the daddy's girl, is the fifth of six). In a span of four years, three of my uncles overseas died, mainly from complications of cancer. I remember being unsure of how to process my grief at the time, because I had met those uncles only three times and while my memories of them are nothing but warm and fond, they remained benevolent, affectionate strangers; it was seeing how much their deaths affected my lola that distressed me the most. The last time I remember all of my lola's children being in the same room was when we celebrated her 80th birthday in 2000. It was the first of my lola's lavish birthday celebrations, for which we rented out a hotel ballroom on the island, had catered food, hired a DJ and DIs (dance instructors- common at Filipino parties). I could see that her heart was full to bursting with happiness, but she would have been just as content to be with her children at a gathering on a smaller scale. I know she looked forward to her parties, but every June until she died, she started to look a little less present and a little more tired.

Here in the States, a birthday gathering or holiday in my family was never complete without an often times comically awkward phone or Skype call with her, even though she barely could hear us toward the end. We had to yell, "Hello!" which I had to do as recently as two weeks before she died. These calls were non-negotiable to my mom and aunt. After dinner, we could expect to pass the phone around; later we crowded around the computer to Skype. It will be strange not to do this any more. The last few years have been tumultuous for our family for reasons separate from her condition, and our lola's death is another event that makes my sister, our cousin, and I feel as though the rug has been pulled from underneath us, so to speak. Not until now had I ever really considered how much more our family dynamics will change without our matriarch, our constant. The realization that the upcoming holiday season will be the first one without her is a tough one. It's been impossible not to think of her this month, as my sister, our cousin, and I all have September birthdays that we experienced without her being a phone call away for the first time. And my lola's wedding anniversary was on September 20th. On my father's birthday, she was buried next to my lolo, bringing them together for the first time in roughly four decades. I think that's beautiful.

If you read this post, thank you. I am very aware that much like "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 8 contestant Thorgy Thor, I could stand to learn to edit. But for whatever reason, I find myself working things out when I write, and I really needed that catharsis. Grief in its many forms is complex, and I needed to be able to examine mine. I've written about my sister on this blog. I've written about my aunt. So when I sat down to write a few words about my lola the day after she died and somehow this post came out, I felt a little better. I just wanted to wait to be in a better headspace to go through it again and post it, so that everything might be relatively fresh -- but not raw, if that makes sense. Additionally, this Sunday makes one month since she died, and it seemed like the right time. I've since spoken with my cousin and my parents, who showed me photos from the funeral, and in some odd way, that has helped bring about some closure. Not a lot. But some. And that will have to be enough until I can get over there.

However, to keep it legal: Here is a crappy picture of Essie Hiking Heels, after 5 days. I used Essie Good to Go top coat and this manicure looked damn good. My mom used to ask me to give her a polish to bring back to my lola, who preferred the typical grandma colors, but also enjoyed bright coral reds. I think she would have approved of this one.

I put on this one the night after she died, before I raced from my parents' house to see my sister so we wouldn't have to be alone. My sister remarked that perhaps "high femme" mourning would be appropriate for a woman who always took pride in her appearance to the point where she accompanied my parents on my college tours in high heels. (A few days later, another cousin in the Philippines posted that even toward her last days, our lola would not accept visitors if she had not applied red lipstick first.) In that first week, I couldn't get it together to do more for myself than shower, force feed myself, and wonder why my face was so blotchy -- but nails, I could do.

I will end by saying that my lola could be very stern and frustratingly old-school hardline at times. Every time a male friend would drop us off after school or pick us up, she could be seen peeping suspiciously at the driveway behind her blinds; once I was so embarrassed that a male classmate who witnessed this one night asked our teacher if she could give me "extra EXTRA credit." And if my lola caught my sister or me playing music or turning on the TV on Good Friday, she shut it down real quick. She was horrified when I learned how to whistle as a child and hated it whenever I whistled, because according to her, ladies did no such thing. The night she died, I found myself whistling a song she often hummed or sang around the house, and that made me laugh. It also made me cry when I spent the next day and a half listening to it on loop, using those three minutes and fifteen seconds of music and lyrics as a sort of emotional salve.

If you are on good terms with your grandma and you still get to see her, tell her you love her. Spend time with her and ask her to tell you about herself. As we get older, so too do our grandparents, but when they go, your grief will be easier to manage if you have these stories and memories to hold on to. I know I am lucky to have every precious scrap I do have of mine: old photos, a song, a Revlon, her mahjong set. I just can't help wishing I had more.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Solo Skinny Dipping: RBL Oh Slap!

Although Anna and I used to post nude/neutral, work-safe polishes once a month, many of those polishes never made it on my nails as full NOTDs. However, I recently found myself in a situation where I felt that I actually needed to wear such a polish outside of the house. Overwhelmed with choices, I sent reader Marija a picture of four polishes I was entertaining, and she opted for this RBL that Janice sent me back in June. So today I'm sharing Oh Slap!, from RBL's Anatomy of a #KDrama collection, the last RBL collection to really surprise me and blow me away.

While this polish is 100% pink, I hope you'll be able to see why I'm tagging it under a nude label. It's a slightly faded pale pink that applies like a milky, buildable sheer -- people tend to do 2-3 coats, so I did 3. Well, at 12:30 a.m., I wasn't thrilled. At first I was like, "WTF was Scrangie talking about when she said this color makes your nails look 'cute and perfect'?" 

But my opinion swiftly changed a few hours later when I saw it in morning light. Pictured below is Oh Slap! at four coats + SV, because I have the attention span of ... IDK, but I forgot I'd done a third coat already. Oops. Believe me when I say three coats don't look much different than four coats with this polish.

Lesson learned, y'all: Always. Trust. Scrangie. I think this sort of faded pink blends into my skin tone a little bit, but hand to God, I would be lying if I said I didn't even feel a smidge more pulled together. It's money. Well done, RBL.

Now here's where I got a little confused with this polish: virtually every RBL blogger said they used 3 coats of this polish for opacity, it was streak-free, and it was beyond easy to work with. This was not entirely my experience. In fact, I thought Oh Slap! was a bit streaky at three coats, but I let Seche level that out and it looked okay. I feel like the OPI NYC Ballet polishes and WnW Mega Last 2% Milk are my benchmarks for milky, buildable jellies/sheers, and while Oh Slap! wasn't a total horrorshow, it didn't even approach the greatness of those polishes as far as formulation & application are concerned. I really had to figure out how to apply it evenly -- which would have been fine if that had been my original expectation, and it wasn't. Just my $0.02. At any rate, dry time was average with SV and wear was awesome after three days, which is when I got a chip after trying to open a plastic wrapper because these days my fingers are tools, not jewels.

Anyone looking for a bottle of Oh Slap! (or really, any RBL) is pretty much SOL these days now that RBL's closed up shop. The only places to find them are on Ebay, on FB destash groups, blog sales, or IG/Storenvy/Poshmark-type destashes. The 2 bottles of Oh Slap! I just looked up on eBay are going for upwards of $20, so be prepared to drop some coin. :( Had Janice not gifted this beauty to me, I would not have known what I was missing out on, so thank you very much, J!

I really hope it doesn't take me forever to share a nude polish again, since I've gotten some interesting ones I'd like to post eventually. Any thoughts on Oh Slap! or the RBL #KDrama polishes? (I love them and now have all but Instant Amnesia because that'll look like ass on me.) By the way, if you guys have any favorite KDramas, please share them in the comments because I need some new shows to add to my backlog of stuff I barely have time to watch right now. I remember an ex-roommate was obsessed with "Boys Over Flowers" the last year we lived together, hahaha. Maybe I should start there?

Thanks for reading! Hopefully everyone's doing well and enjoying the last few days of summer. I'm not ready for summer to be over, but that's only because it's been so unsatisfying compared to all the shenanigans I got up to last year. As much as I welcome fall and adore September, I guess I'm still holding out for something stupid epic. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pretty Serious Cosmetics Dupe

For whatever reason, it's been a couple of years since my last Pretty Serious haul. Your guess why is as good as mine, because (1) Kaz always has a killer range of colors & finishes in stock, (2) customer service is on point, (3) the AUD to USD exchange rate makes this brand incredibly affordable, and (4) PS has a U.S.-based distributor, so those of us stateside don't have to worry about dealing with international mail quirks, customs, etc.

PS had a flash sale last month, so I let myself spring for three polishes I'd been wanting, plus one from the very latest PS collection, Serious Business. I love the concept behind this collection (don't you love it when polish brands unabashedly are "for us by us"?), and couldn't resist adding Dupe to my cart.

Three coats with SV.

Normally I'm not big on glitter, but as a purple lover, I fell hard for Dupe's glitter combo. There's purple, fuchsia, pale yellow gold, blue, teal, and green glitters plus some holo pieces that I surprisingly didn't mind, as well as some green shards (not pictured). I do find, however, that because there's so much going on, a little bit is compromised in the way of formula and the visibility of the dark blue base (some say it's teal, it's closer to a midnight blue for me). I also didn't really see the glass fleck everyone else is talking about. I guess you also could layer Dupe over a dark polish, but that's not really my style.

So, about the formula: While Dupe is so fun to look at, it's a little bit annoying to work with, and again, I'm convinced glitter mixture is why. It's thick and I suspect it will be a little goopy on any use afterwards -- which generally is my experience with Pretty Serious as well as RBL (must be a resin thing?) -- so I might have to thin it a little in the future. It covers fine in two coats, but upon closer inspection under both a window and my OttLite, I didn't think the jelly base was opaque enough, so I added a third. Dupe is a thirsty glitter, so you may want to consider a Gelous glitter sandwich or using a special glitter top coat. I went straight for my Seche and had average dry time with this one.

Wear was unusually awesome -- I can't remember when I put it on, which means I wore this for either 6 or 7 days. I had minimal tip wear and didn't get any chips until Day 4? 5?, when some of the glitters around my free edges started snagging on everything. But I was immensely pleased and impressed, because up until now, I ALWAYS have had chips within one day of putting on a Pretty Serious polish, grrrr. It's nice to know that I have at least one PS that is capable of making it through a good chunk of the week! I'm looking forward to experimenting with more of my untried PS polishes. :D Dupe still should be available on the Pretty Serious site for whatever $9.95 AUD retails for in your country, and once again I'll remind you PS has a US/CAN. distributor and frequent sales/promos, so if you're looking to try something new and awesome, I enthusiastically recommend that you shop your little heart out there.

Talk to me about Serious Business! Anyone else love the concept of this collection? Did you buy any of these polishes, or do you have any favorites? I wouldn't mind a couple more, but I'd rather scoop up some of their blogger collab (supposedly Dupe's makeup is similar to Scrangie's PS collab polish) and Museum of Naileontology releases first (Khepri's Amulet, y'all!). Maybe before I disappear from blogging, I'll try to throw up a couple other PS posts. With the indie market's continued oversaturation, I'm glad PS still is around doing their thing and kicking butt.

I hope everything is going well for you guys, and that you're enjoying what for some of you are the last days of summer since it's almost back-to-school time (!). I'm drowning in family stuff and the grad school application process -- I want to submit my materials early in December instead of mid-January (lbr, I'm gonna want to enjoy the holidays instead of stressin'). It's nice to be working toward a tangible, measurable goal again but oh my god, it's extra stressful after being out of school for nearly a decade. It probably doesn't help that I'm so neurotic and overly risk-averse that I tend to agonize over big decisions more than I normally would. So I hope everything works out in the end.

Thanks for reading! I hope to post again soon.

Friday, July 29, 2016

OPI ... Eurso Euro

NEGL, part of the reason blues like this don't make appearances on this blog too often is because they are not fun to photograph. And when I do make an attempt, they all kind of look the same. But after considering I might not be posting after next summer, I'm just like

--Well, that, and you've seen OPI ... Eurso Euro a few billion times since its release three years ago. (You probably even own it.) THREE. YEARS. AGO., a.k.a. "long enough for it to be included in core displays and phased out of core displays." I actually didn't buy it until last summer during a major Sally's clearance raid!

But I was in the mood for something cobalt-ish recently, and I didn't have to go digging around for this one, so on my nails it went.

Three coats with SV.

#sorrynotsorry for all the pics. I was just super into it after wearing summery brights. I also need to add that my fingers are not this red IRL, so Eurso Euro is way more flattering than it looks. But the color is freakin' hot! It's closer to a navy or midnight blue than other cobalt polishes are, I think, but not so dark that it'll come off as black or remotely vampy on the nail. It's not as bright or as indigo as something like Revlon Top Speed Royal or RBL All About Yves -- but I think part of the reason a lot of us skipped EE or weren't in a rush to buy it was because it wasn't something especially new ... which more or less sums up my thoughts vis-à-vis the OPI Euro Centrale collection.

That's why I was really pleased with the formula. SO buttery, creme perfection, etc. It's too much of an opaque creme for me to try calling it a jelly-creme. ;) It's really easy to work with, just as long as you don't load up your brush because you will get flooding and then your clean-up will be awful. (Also awful = the blue smell -- it's no SH XW Pacific Blue, but it's there, all right.) Eurso Euro is opaque in two coats, but I used three out of habit. Dry time was good with SV, and the wear was pretty good -- minimal tip wear and three tiny chips after 6 days! -- but oh my god, the SV scuffs were terrible, even with a brand-new bottle. Aggravatingly enough, SV scuffs are far more noticeable over dark cremes. Such is life.

Eurso Euro might not be in the core OPI displays at Sally's or Ulta these days, but it's not hard to find, especially online (check a destash and you might save more!). Like many other polish lovers, I think OPI Euro Centrale was a good collection if you were looking to build up or fill gaps, but easily passable for steady, longtime collectors. With the exception of You're Such a Budapest, I scored 4 other Euro Centrale polishes on MAJOR clearance and received another one from a nail polish fairy ... so ... yeah. IDK. Over the years, I've noticed that OPI Spring doesn't do as much for me as Fall and Holiday, so there's that as well.

Anyway. Eurso Euro turned out to be a good polish to wear to see le meilleur travesti executif, because I went to see Eddie Izzard's "Force Majeure" show at the beginning of last week! He's currently wrapping up a primarily East Coast + Mid-Atlantic summer mini-tour, and I made a last-minute decision to go after discovering some available seats (I'd been checking twice a week after general sales juuuuuuust in the off chance). Granted, I was up in the first row of the nosebleeds, so it was a little hard to hear him at points -- but overall completely worth it to me.

OK so the interior is lovely, why have I only been here once before???

IDK why I was trying to be so stealthy about this when some people were low-key catching Pokémon right and left, including the guy next to me, hahaha

He also did a quick Q&A after the set. Why oh why did I not ask him about his favorite cosmetic products? >__<

My verdict re: "Force Majeure" is that it's no "Dress to Kill," but a good time nonetheless. During the intermission, I heard a guy behind me tell his friends that he didn't like hearing Eddie making fun of religion, which was a little "lol wut" since that's only a teeny tiny, significant part of his repertoire ...

Anyway, I will leave you now with a Youtube clip of the most randomly entertaining "Force Majeure" bit. 

Thanks for coming by this month! I know things have been quiet around here but I'm doing what I can. Incidentally, I gotta get back to my GRE review book. I hope to post something in between study breaks. :)

P.S. Looks like IG hashtags are (mostly) working again! New dilemma, though: I'm toying with the idea of locking down my IG account to private because I am irrationally terrified of more successful and/or annoying people I know IRL finding it and going "what the shit, Rachel." I'm going to sound defensive no matter how I slice it, but ... like, sorry I don't have a sexy Instagram adult hobby like endurance running, hot yoga, cooking, etc. I've always been this way about the mundane things that bring me joy (this has been going on since childhood), but that's a conversation best saved for close friends and possibly a future therapist. ANYWAY. What nail enthusiast hasn't had these thoughts once or twice, amirite?

Oh well. Gonna get my Frank Reynolds on. Go for it!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Christmas in July: China Glaze Meet Me Under the Stars

Another ChG today -- hopefully you won't mind! I think I wrote before that I was super into China Glaze Twinkle (Holiday 2014) this past holiday season, so much so that I ended up trying out 4 from that collection. Meet Me Under the Stars wound up being my actual Christmas NOTD. A little ho-hum compared to other holiday polishes, perhaps, but I loved the look.

Three coats with SV.

So, not exactly my best set of photos ... but eh. It's something, I guess.

Silver microglitter in a black jelly base miiiight not be the most original idea, and maybe not something you'd expect to see in a holiday collection (well ... a holiday that isn't Halloween). I would say that compared to a polish like Orly Goth, the glitters in Meet Me Under the Stars are more dense and packed together. It's also pretty interesting in that its black jelly base leans ever so slightly blue, since most black jellies have a touch of brown IMO. Finally, I believe the microglitters technically are holo glitters, but they're much too small and faint most of the time that it's not going to be an issue for the 1% of you who, like me, aren't wild about holos.

Upon second use, the formula on my bottle is a little bit thick, which I don't mind since it's easier to thin a polish than try to thicken it up. You'll need three coats to get this opaque (you might have VNL or a bald patch at two), but each coat dries fairly quickly. I'm also happy to report that while Meet Me Under the Stars doesn't dry completely smooth, it isn't a thirsty glitter, so a Gelous glitter sandwich won't be necessary, either. I can't remember how long I wore this one, but I want to say it was somewhere between one week and two weeks because I was busy and too lazy to change my polish. I'm pretty sure it chipped sometime before the end of Week 1 but it must not have been bad enough for me to warrant removal for a while. I just remember being stoked that this polish made it for one week and survived Christmas Eve dinner prep -- I've been taking a more active role in helping prep my family's holiday dinners, so a polish that doesn't look worse for the wear is a huge deal for me.

K, this is all I have for a ~Christmas in July post. Do any of you guys have this polish, or any favorites from ChG Twinkle? Are there certain holiday polishes you find yourself reaching for year-round? Anyone else making their holiday gift lists early this year? I swear I'm gonna start gift shopping soon, because time always sneaks up on me in the end ... and getting an early start doesn't hurt when you're trying to stretch your gift budget. Some of my friends are a little more challenging to shop for than others but maybe 2016 is the year everyone gets a Funko, haha.

Hope you guys have been enjoying this month -- I can't believe it's almost over! This week was pretty lame ... I got sick and binged all of "Jane the Virgin" (love, love, LOVE the Latin Lover Narrator, my new favorite TV narrator since Jim Dale on "Pushing Daisies") and "Wet Hot American Summer" (finally), and I'm really excited about a new library book that just came in (Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt). So yeah, I guess I have that going for me.

OH! One more thing ... I noticed that some hashtags on Instagram, including a couple of my personal ones, quit working halfway through last week. WTF? I know there's always this + the bevy of censored/banned tags, but lol please. I only noticed when SMA's hashtag stopped showing everything except Top Posts, and then a day later with my nails tag. Again ... huh??? I don't know that this warrants sending a bug report and so I suppose I could always wait for things to go back to normal ... but if any of you who are IG-/tech-savvy could enlighten me (specifically as to whether the error is on my end or IG's), I'd be very much obliged. Many thanks in advance!

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gift of Fab: China Glaze Meet Me in the Mirage

I'm still weak for gold, no question. But it occurred to me that I hadn't worn a rose gold polish in a while, so I was stoked to try this one that Janice sent me last month.

I tend to not go for rose gold polishes as much as I go for other varieties of gold, because I think rose gold doesn't really pop on me like gold or copper do. I feel like you have to be either super melanin-deficient or super melanin-abundant (is this even a term? w/e) to make rose gold look good. My parents' friend actually is very fond of wearing rose gold polish (I think she was wearing one the last time they got together), and it looks incredible on her darker skin. On me, it's kind of ... just there? However, I am not one to kick a metallic foil out of my stash without the benefit of a test run.

I'm sure I've said this before, but I love metallic foils because they're like instant finger bling you don't have to worry about losing or being allergic to. I will never not feel this way.

Three coats with SV.

My skin is more yellow than it appears to be in these pictures, but that's okay because this foil is such a beauty. I know I don't have the fanciest and nicest of (phone) cameras, but you can see the blend of pale rose and silver particles here. Not sure how this compares to other rose gold foils, although I've heard it's a fairly neutral one. I also think this polish would come in handy for nail art. And if you enjoy polishes that are very evocative of their names, then you'll enjoy this polish for sure. The foil finish and the word "mirage" are so perfect!

Also perfect: the formula. As with most foils, you can get good coverage in one coat, but I think it looks a pinch more rich at two, you know? Its dry time with Seche was indeed fast, and a weekend of wear was surprisingly good -- no chips, just a hint of tip wear.

Meet Me in the Mirage was the only foil in China Glaze's six-piece Desert Escape collection from last summer. Now this collection wasn't exactly easy to find last summer since it was exclusively available on the Lock and Mane site, not at Ulta, and only available as a mini set or in nail art sets at Sally's (though strangely, I did come upon two full-size Desert Escape shades at TJ Maxx). If you DO want it now, though, you should be able to find it on Amazon and eBay. I will say that the colors and finishes in Desert Escape aren't especially unique compared to the Great Outdoors and Cheers collection palettes, but they undoubtedly are THE nicest polishes that you could want in those particular colors and finishes. I'm so excited about inheriting this set -- thanks, Janice! :D

Edited to add that this polish is in the core ChG display at Ulta, along with The Heat is On (the red creme) and What's She Dune (the nude creme).

Any thoughts on Meet Me in the Mirage, rose golds vs. other golds, or your favorite metallic shades for summer? What about Desert Escape? Let me know if you're interested in seeing another DE shade -- save for one color, I think I might be able to get some decent photos.

Hope everyone's July is going well. Sans some family stuff, mine's been pretty boring so far, but things are about to get kicked up a notch because I impulse bought a ticket to see Eddie Izzard on his "Force Majeure" tour next week. Also, there's this.

To borrow from small business owner Dave Rose (RIP, "Happy Endings"), I've officially gone #gradschooldark. First, I need a math tutor because how does math work? You gotta understand, I bombed the math portion of my SATs back in the day -- my math scores kept getting lower despite attending SAT math prep twice a week. Even my instructor was like, "WTF?" I'm freaking out. Second, I feel like I'm putting the cart before the horse a little bit here because while my intended degree program at my prospective school doesn't require GRE scores, certain certificate programs that are offered in conjunction with other departments do require GRE scores. And as luck would have it, I'm heavily interested in those certificate programs. >___< I'm going to have to go down to the university and speak with someone about all this. I'm scared, y'all. So if you feel like sending good math vibes or some courage my way, I sure would appreciate it. Thanks in advance, and thanks for reading! I'll keep you posted.