Monday, June 30, 2014

SpringFling VoxBox Reviews

One of my favorite things is when I get an email from Influenster telling me that I've been selected for a special VoxBox - aka a box sent via Influenster filled with samples of various amazing products, all themed. This current Influenster that I was lucky enough to qualify for was the Spring Fling VoxBox.

You get the email letting you know that you qualify, and then it's a little bit of surprise as to when the box will come, and what will be in it.

This mint green box filled with goodies from Playtex, Nivea, Paramount's Labor Day movie, Kiss, and Rimmel arrived on a day when work was awful, so it was an extra exciting treat (plus, mint green is my favorite, and the perfect color for spring). 

Item by item, here's my breakdown of the goods in the box - my opinion is totally unbiased, despite the fact that I received this complimentary from Influenster. 

1. Nivea Skin Firming Lotion
I love lotion - I used to NEVER get dry skin, but once I hit 25, I swear that my body and skin changed so rapidly. This lotion smells fantastic, and wasn't heavy, which to me is super important when it comes to a lotion. I want it to work, but I don't want it to leave a film or residue, which this didn't. 
Nivea is actually offering a free sample of this lotion too, so click this link to grab yours! 

2. Playtex Sport tampons - encouraging women to #PlayOn.
Periods are never a fun topic. With it alone comes thoughts of bloating, being starving all the time, mood swings, pains and cramps, sensitivity - it's awful. As someone who constantly strives to work out as much as possible, periods are a serious cramp on that (no pun intended). 
I know it's not a fun or lovely topic, but feeling comfortable and protected during workouts is definitely more of a motivation to continue working out (once you pop Advil for cramp pains). I found that these were fine, but didn't provide me with anything extra that my normal tampons don't (I think may I was expecting them to make me run a faster mile or something - didn't happen). ; ) 

3. Kiss #everlastingFrench press on manicures.
I love a good French manicure. What I don't like is when press on French manicures rip my nail because of the glue. I have super, super weak nails (mainly because my school buys the cheapest chalk imaginable that literally chips the manicure off my nails), and I really can't do tips or fake nails because afterwards, my nails are left so brittle. The application was extremely easy, and the length was absolutely perfect since I could still do the things that I normally do - like button my jeans and text, things that some people I know cannot do  because of too long nails - but taking them off was not fun.

4. Labor Day movie from Paramount Pictures
This was a very cute movie - I hadn't read the book, and now want to based on the film. The movie takes place in 1987, about a single mother, her thirteen year old son, and the convict who makes his way into their lives. I love Kate Winslet , so I'm a little bit biased, but I thought she was excellent and compelling as a character. I can't say too much in risk of giving anything away though, so check out the movie if you're in the mood for something a little girly, it's a nice one.

5. Rimmel #RetroGlam Mascara
Mascara is one of my absolute favorite beauty tools. I'm usually a MAC girl, however, when I got this, I figured since I had to review it, I should be using it. Let me tell you, this creates some big, flirty lashes. I'm a HUGE fan. It did clump a little, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with an eyelash brush.

Thanks, Rimmel for much full eyelashes!

What is the best sample you've ever received in a VoxBox?
What's your go-to mascara?


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Half of Day Four - Paris 2014.

Day four of Paris was one of our most photo-worthy, mainly because it was the day that we crammed (in a good way) a TON of sightseeing, since so many key places in Paris are located in similar areas. 

As in days one, two, and three (which you can catch up on respectively), we walked almost everywhere, not realizing that things on maps are apparently are lot farther than they may appear to be. 

Obviously we began our day with French breakfast, which as I've said previously, was one of my favorite things that we did, seeing as how I eat coffee for breakfast (I don't need a lecture, I know, I know) when I'm home. We had planned the day prior, when we were at Les Frangines, to take advantage of their amazingly priced petit déjeuner, which consisted of une tartine et confitures, un croissant ou un pain au chocolat, une boisson chaude aux choix, et un jus d'orange (toast with butter and jam/homemade Nutella, a croissant or chocolate bread, a hot drink of your choice, and orange juice). 

Les Frangines had le déjeuner on lock, and we went there every morning that we were in this area, because it was perfect - especially the homemade hazelnut spread. One of the cool things was that on this morning, the hostess/waitress hadn't gotten bread yet, so she left us in the restaurant alone while she ran to the boulangerie to grab some baguettes. Vive la France!

The green confiture was a mix of four different tropical fruits and was PHENOMENAL. I'm pretty Edwin ate some just with a spoon. 

After a very delicious and filling breakfast, we headed on our way to Notre Dame, and cut through Jardin du Luxembourg on our way. The jardin is massive and we tried to see as much of it as we possibly could. It also houses the French Senate, which is the huge building near the pond that you'll see way too many pictures of. 

I think one of the funniest things about this trip in entirety (which I can't remember if I posted about or not, because grant writing and submitting final grades are destroying my short term memory) was that before we left for France, my dad, who has been to Paris more times than he can count, gave us this advice: "The thing about Paris is that it's very grey - the buildings are grey, the weather is grey, the people are grey. But grey is a pretty solid color, just don't expect more than that." 

So I'm expecting rain and unpredictably cloudy weather - it rained ONE day we were there, that's it. Other than that, it was blue skies and gorgeous weather. So take that, mon pere. 

It was honestly breathtaking - I love Central Park, but really, it can't compare to this. 

The first view of the French Senate - though at the time, I had 0% of an idea of what this building was - probably because unlike Edwin, I did not examine the map. 

One of the few areas in the entire jardin where you could be on the grass. 

The French Senate building is absolutely gorgeous, and has a boat pond that everyone was hanging out in front of. 

This was one of my favorite pictures of the jardin.

More exploring around the Jardin. 

After exiting the jardin, we headed towards the Panthéon. I actually didn't know what the significance of the Panthéon was, but it was originally built as a church, and now houses the remains of famous French citizens (like Voltaire, Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and tons of others). It was under construction when we got there, but we still were able to walk around outside. 

The architecture was absolutely unreal, especially when you think about how long ago they built this. 

And the view that oversaw the Eiffel Tower from a distance wasn't too terrible either. 

We took off, Edwin having a direction in mind, and moi being totally in the dark. 

We ended up at Shakespeare and Company, a huge, and incredible bookstore that's on the top lists of "bookstores you must see before you die." It was incredible (though no photography was allowed, and it was PACKED with tourists, but it was definitely still worth seeing and exploring). 

From there, we meandered through the streets of Paris until we arrived at Notre Dame - which is why this post is only half of day four (I took over 100 pictures of Notre Dame - I promise, not even a quarter of them will be on the next post!). 

Currently: Binge watching Orange is the New Black because how did I not know about how good this show was? Also - no joke, the inmates on this show are HIGHLY similar to how my students (many who are ex-inmates themselves) act. So please picture those dynamics in my classroom. 

Also, thank you all for your supportive comments about my last post - it was something that was really weighing so heavily on me, but it took me about six times before I actually posted "Publish," because I was so afraid of backlash like I received on Facebook. Reason #1000382243 why bloggers are the best ever! 
I love you all. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Facebook, feminism, and a very long rant.

A few weeks ago, I posted on Facebook (which is a rarity in and of itself - I almost never post anything onto Facebook) a link and comment about how upset I was over the situation with Elliott Rodgers and the shooting in California. I mentioned how women and men have the right to turn down someone they are not attracted to and that rejection crosses gender lines and sexuality. Everyone, at some point, has probably been rejected or turned down - I have been attracted to people who haven't felt that towards me, and I have declined dates with people I'm not interested in.

After I posted it, which I thought was just me exercising Facebook to bring awareness to something that really impacted me, I was not prepared for the amount of private messages sent to me by males on my friends list. (None of the people I received messages from are truly friends, just people I knew from college or along the way - my true male friends were very supportive). 

The messages were not positive - in them, I was called a "feminist bitch," or "one of the women who would turn someone down and make them feel like shit," or "probably an angry lesbian." I couldn't believe it - I could not believe that the point of what I posted was being so disoriented, or that people were lashing out at me for voicing my opinion on something that was really hurting me. Not once did I bash men, or say that all men hold these opinions - I said that it was very dangerous that there actually was support or understanding for the actions of Rodgers.

Even my own cousin lashed out at me, and spoke of how "little I know about rejection and how harmful that can be and what it can drive someone to do when women constantly try to get the upper hand by belittling men."

Here's the thing - that's not the point.

I don't care if Rodgers felt rejected - his views were that women are subservient, less then men, and OWED it to men to sleep with them, etc. because as inferior beings, it should be an honor that a man would actually pay us any mind. If a woman held those views about men and then went out with the intention of killing men who had rejected her, my feelings would be the same.

Why are some people so afraid of equality? Where does this fear come from that if a woman is confident, or wants to further her career, or looks a certain way, that she's a bitch, slut, tease, etc?

I've been equally aware of how there are people out there who feel like women should feel good about any attention they get, and then respond to or "show appreciation" for that attention.

Tonya and I went out together on Saturday night to a local bar that we frequent often. She and I sat at the bar, perfectly content in enjoying the company of one another. As we were finishing up and getting ready to leave, two guys waved us over and asked if we wanted to sit with them and talk about the World Cup. As an avid fan of the World Cup, I nodded, and we joined them - not for a drink, not for anything, simply to discuss the game.

As the conversation went on, and they asked if we wanted drinks, which we declined, they became increasingly obnoxious. One of them actually said to us, "So did it make your night better that we asked you to come over here? How did it make you feel to know that we wanted you here?" Uhm, it made me feel nothing. I legitimately wanted to just talk about the World Cup. That was when Tonya and I both started to feel uncomfortable and got up to leave, which was met with comments of, "Oh yeah right, two girls like you wouldn't come to a bar if you're not looking for attention from guys. Don't be such teases, you should be happy we called you over here."

Are you kidding me? I could not believe that was even happening, and that these drunk, MARRIED, assholes were there criticizing us when they didn't even know us. Newsflash, two girls can go out together because they are best friends and enjoy one another's company. Two men calling us over to join them is not a highlight of the evening - it didn't make me feel any better about myself and didn't boost my self esteem in any such way. I went to the bar to hang out with my girlfriend, not be harassed.

I felt sad that night. I felt sad for the wives of these men, I felt sad for Tonya and I, and I felt sad for any female who has been put in the same position, who has been made to feel as if she owes someone something, for absolutely no reason.

I've been so aware lately of the categorization of people (male and female, though for the sake of this post, I'm going to be speaking mostly about how females are classified). Even my male friends, who I absolutely adore, are notorious for labeling women who they don't know, or making (hopefully) unintentional misogynistic comments about women. Just because a woman is beautiful and knows it, doesn't make her a "stuck up bitch," or mean that she "must have a stick up her ass." It means that she's beautiful and confident in herself shouldn't we celebrate that instead of crucify her for that? 

As women, we're guilty of it as well. Envy and insecurity can cause us to trash each other - bitch, slut, trash, etc. have become such a part of our vocabularies when we're talking about other women, and that is also part of the problem, and something I am guilty of myself.

The other night, I was out with a mixed group - I was one of two girls, and there were three guys. From the second we sat at dinner, I was listening to stories of "the bitch who wouldn't give me her number at the gym - she was probably hooking up with half the people there, slut" or "that fat girl by the bar." Really? 

The worst part, was that the girl who I was with, who I had just met that night (friend of a kind of friend), was clearly into one of the guys out with us. At one point, he went inside to use the bathroom and when he came back out, he mentioned that a few girls inside had stopped him to talk about his Portugal t-shirt (we had just been to the Portugal/Ireland friendly match).

When the female that was part of our group heard this, she said, "Ew, really? Those ugly ass fat girls? Why would you talk to them?" Right there, we're knocking each other down. Why does it matter if they're fat? The only thing comments like that show is your own insecurities - and this girl was very pretty, so it was even more surprising. 

Lately, I've been trying to cut myself some slack - I may not be the prettiest or the skinniest, or the richest, or fittest - but I'm pretty great in my own way. I have a big heart, I love deeply and care about people in my life unconditionally, and I work on improving myself. We need to stop competing with one another and just focus on bettering ourselves so that we feel good inside.

Find a way to feel good about you - and stop labeling other women that you don't know. We all do it - I look enviously at women in hot yoga and think, "God, I wish my body could look like that," but you know what? My body is okay. It looks the way it does because of the effort that I put into it - so instead of hating on the person on the mat next to me, I'm going to work harder on myself so that I can feel more confident. Because confidence radiates.

We all need to work on being more accepting and less critical of one another - and that's something that crosses gender lines. We need to stop building ourselves up by tearing other people down. We need to stop feeling entitled - you are NEVER entitled to someone's body or attention if they don't want to give it to you. We need to stop labeling people - the fat girl, skinny guy, lesbian, whatever. Just stop.

Let's all try to love ourselves and each other a little bit more.

(I promise next post will be about Paris!).
Have you ever felt harassed or disrespected because of your gender? Do you see this as a growing problem where you live? (or are you thinking, "Shut the hell up, Allison) ;)


Friday, June 6, 2014

First Annual Craft Beer Tasting Party/Game Night.

I'm taking a tiny break from Paris posts (though you can catch up on days one, two, and three if you're interested!) to share a really fun idea for a party with friends, and update on something that happened well before my trip to Paris (time seriously just keeps getting away from me, more and more!).

Ever since I bought my condo over a year ago, I haven't fully taken advantage of having people over in the space. I didn't throw a housewarming party (because there's a decent amount of room, but I didn't know HOW many people could fit, I didn't know if I should have a friend party/family party, etc), and usually just have Edwin or Tonya over, on their own. 

I wanted to change that, and decided that the best way to go about this would be to get a group of my good friends together and throw a Craft Beer Tasting/Game Night Party. The premise was simple - everyone was just going to bring a new craft beer that they hadn't tried yet, but had wanted to, and we would eat, try a lot of different beers, and play Cards Against Humanity - which was exactly what happened.

This group of friends is especially awesome - there is never a worry with them about someone not bringing something, not wanting to play games or participate in what's going on, and everyone just interacts really well together, even when they haven't met before, which is definitely a necessity for any party that you go to or throw.

I cooked like a beast - since people were already bringing drinks to share, I didn't want to burden anyone with bringing food as well, so I took care of the cooking/snacks, which was actually a lot of fun, and allowed me to use some Pinterest recipes I've been wanting to try.

Asian veggie pizzas (with Hoison sauce, and sauteed carrots/red peppers/green onions/mushrooms) - they were a big hit!

Caprese salad bites, with a balsamic reduction on the side.

Setting up, as things were getting ready.

Homemade little pretzels (taken with my iPhone, so sorry for a lack of photo quality!).

Cowboy caviar, which tasted JUST like Cool Ranch Doritos when it was on blue chips. So good!

Laying out more things.

Mini margherita pizzas.  

It was off to a great start from the beginning - also, this River Horse beer is made in NJ, and it is PHENOMENAL if you like hoppy beers! 

The labeling of cups was very important, and everyone took it very seriously. 

It was a massive success, and no one really got too drunk, since everyone was just sharing - each bottle was split between at least 4-5 people.

Grizzly Adams checking everything into Untappd (I forgot he had a beard at this point - I miss it 0%).

What I love about this group of friends was that after we had eaten and started tasting beers, everyone said, "Okay, let's start playing games!" Games are my favorite, and having people who want to play them is extra fun and important.

And I didn't even win, which isn't very fair. This is seriously one of the most fun games you can bring to a party - though you learn that your friends are absolutely terrible human beings.

I would go as far as to saying that the food was a pretty big hit.

Maturity at its finest - apparently I invited 14 year old boys over for a party. 

And, trash day was maybe why my neighbors now think I'm an alcoholic.

All in all, if you're a beer fan, I would say this is an awesome way to get a group of your favorite people together, try new things, and play games all night. Extra thanks to my next door neighbor for helping me carry out boxes and tell me he wants an invite next time! :)

What are your favorite beers? Or favorite types of parties to have with your friends?

Currently: Taking the day off, and getting ready to lounge by the pool listening to the Caravan Palace Pandora station.