December 2017

Beauty Review: My December Ipsy Bag

Beauty Review: My December Ipsy Bag | Writing Between Pauses

This is my 4th ipsy bag and if I'm being absolutely, positively honest... I still really love it.

Ah, gotcha! Right? 

(If you'd like to read my past reviews, click here.) 

This month was really exciting. I was hoping to get some amazing products that I'd never tried before. I feel like each month, ipsy gets a little bit better as I review things, ask them to stop sending certain things, and share these reviews. 

Without further ado, let's talk about what I got in my bag! 

1. Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Daily Facial Scrub, $9.99

This product has sugar crystals, walnut shell powder, honey, coconut milk, aloe, and more in it, promising to be "pH balanced and gentle." It smells really good (like coconut--sort of that fake coconut smell I associate with sunscreen). Despite claiming to be a gentle daily scrub, it is definitely a rough feeling scrub. I like that it has ingredients that are natural and biodegradable (no more microbeads!), but it is definitely something I would say to not use daily. It did leave my skin feeling quite soft though. I've only used it once since receiving it because I only exfoliate once a week. This brand is available at CVS, as well as from online retailers. 

2. Smashbox Cosmetics Legendary Lipstick in Legendary, $21

Smashbox Legendary | Writing Between Pauses

I love getting lipsticks in my Ipsy bags and this was no exception. At first, I was a little nervous about this color. It's more a bright red than I usually go for (I definitely prefer my reds to be more blue or purple, as opposed to pink or orange). This is what I would call a race car red. However, it goes on absolutely smooth and feels so good on that it's hard to argue--plus, for the Christmas season, it's such a nice color! This is a sample size, so while a full size is valued at $21, I am valuing the size in my bag at around $11. 

3. Pixi by Petra Mesmerizing Mineral Duo in Orchid Ornament, approx. $4 value

This eyeshadow due had a lot of promise, but unfortunately fell absolutely flat. One of the shadows is a beautiful, shimmery champagne color that I absolutely love. The other color is supposed to be a shimmery, deep plum shade. 

A little bit of information about purple eyeshadows: they are notoriously difficult to formulate. For whatever reason, purple is just a color that is difficult to make work. If you've ever had a drugstore eyeshadow in a purple shade, you've experienced this before: it looks great in the pan, but it goes on gray or absolutely sheer. That's the issue with this eyeshadow. The plum shade goes on a dark gray color that blends into nothing. To get any color pay off, I have to put on so much eyeshadow, it starts to feel cakey... and it fades fast. Needless to say, I was very disappointed by this item. It's just not good, which is unfortunate because I love most of Pixi's makeup and skincare. This was just a bit of a dud. 

As well, these eyeshadow duos don't appear to be available off of the Ipsy website. Pixi does make whole palettes out of these shadows: the Mesmerizing Mineral Palettes for $12. Based on that price, I estimated this eyeshadow duo at about $4 ($2 per shadow). 

4. Luxie Beauty Precision Shader Onyx Brush 239, $14

I love getting brushes! I've loved nearly every brush I've received from Ipsy and this one is probably my favorite. I love using shader brushes to place shadow before I start to blend; I find it helps me get a better color payoff, as well as more even color on both eyes. This brush is really wonderful to use and works perfectly. 

5. Feel Brilliant Bamboo Charcoal Facial Sheet Masks, $17.50


You know how I feel about masks. (You can read about my favorite masks here; as well, you can read a review of some expensive masks here.) These masks are absolutely lovely; they have activated charcoal, which works to purify your skin. (I am never 100% on that claim; I don't love the idea of it. However, that's what the mask claims, so I'm repeating it here just to make sure I include what the brand promises!) It also has hyaluronic acid, which, despite the name, is actually a moisturizer and helps lock in moisture, so perfect for winter.

I found these masks really soothing to put on and they definitely helped with some difficult patches I've been dealing with lately, including some dry patches on my cheeks and chin. I really like using charcoal products, but I'm still not sold on their claims of "detoxifying"! These masks are $35 for a pack of 4; since I received 2, I priced them at a $17.50 value. 


Final Thoughts

The final value of this ipsy bag is roughly $56.49. This is less than last month's value of $69.64. I feel like I got more sample size products than last month, specifically the lipstick and eyeshadow duo. As well, there was one major dud this month; in a $4 eyeshadow duo, I really don't expect a lot... but coming from ipsy, I expect at least somewhat of a decent product. However, I love 4 out of 5 of these products, so I definitely can't complain! A $56 value is still pretty good, considering I only pay $10. 

Did you receive an Ipsy bag this month? What did you receive? Did you like it? 

If you don't have ipsy yet, why not give it a shot? Sign up for $10 a month and get 5 items picked just for you every single month. You can sign up using my referral link here

December 2017 Wrap Up

December 2017 Wrap Up | Writing Between Pauses

In November, I promised to start doing monthly wrap-up posts. (You can read my November wrap up here.) I always love reading these from my favorite bloggers and it's something that I just enjoy doing. As December winds down and the new year rapidly approaches, I'm a bit busy at the moment... but I'm excitedly looking forward to 2018. (I have some very exciting posts lined up for January!) 

Let's jump right into December, shall we? I'm going to try a new format this month, just to see what I like. 

Things I Learned

  • This was the month where I learned to curl my hair. I know, I know, I've lived 29 years of having straight hair that barely holds a curl and finally I have found a method that works without me having to spend hours using heat tools in the morning. I use this method if anyone is wondering
  • My toddler will always surprise me. I feel like I could probably say I've learned this every month since September 2015, but it still feels very true. This month alone, Forrest has broken out in a full body rash, split his lip open so badly 3 separate times I repeatedly checked his teeth to make sure they weren't cracked, and started saying 4+ syllable words. How is he so smart and yet so willing to run into traffic the moment I turn my back? 

Things I Loved

My Favorite Content

Final Thoughts

December felt like a very good month. I didn't read as much as I wanted to; I didn't do things I fully planned to do; and a lot of things happened that felt like downers. But overall, I've had a lovely month and I'm so excited for 2018. It can only go up from here, right? 

The Best of Blogmas

The Best of Blogmas 2017 | Writing Between Pauses

Blogmas has been a real learning experience. As I wrote in both my Blogtober roundup post and my Blogtober reflection, it's easy to lose steam during a challenge like this--but ultimately I found it very rewarding. My traffic was astounding in October and I was hoping to replicate that in December. 

The results in December were... less than stellar. My traffic definitely flagged and didn't rise to the heights of October or even November, which I found equal parts frustrating and disappointing. So, Blogmas wasn't exactly the smash hit I expected it to be in terms of traffic. However, I did find Blogmas to be extremely fun and rewarding in terms of writing output and the content I put out there. Not every blog post I wrote felt like a hit (and absolutely, there are a few I want to redo in the future when I have time), but I wrote posts I wanted to write and I think I wrote some evergreen content that I can refer to throughout the year. 

Without further ado, here are my top 3 blog posts of Blogmas, followed by 3 blog posts I've loved from my fellow bloggers. 

My Top 3 Posts of Blogmas

  1. 5 Free iPhone Wallpapers for Christmas: This is the first blog post idea I had and the very first post of the year. Of course, it's gotten the most traffic from Pinterest because it has the phrase free iPhone wallpapers in it. (Insert laughing-crying emoji here.) I do love this post though because it is so simple. 
  2. A Busy Mom's Gift Guide for Toddlers: Gift guides, I love them and I hate them. I didn't expect this one to be quite the runaway success that it was, but alas, people never know what to buy for young toddlers. This post not only has gotten a lot of traction on both Twitter and Pinterest, but has gotten quite a few clicks over to Amazon. Interesting! 
  3. Why We Don't Believe in Santa: I knew this post would raise eyebrows. Hilariously, I did get asked in a DM on Twitter if I was raising my son to believe in God, if nothing else. (If you're wondering: it's none of your business.) It's something I'm really proud of having written because I know it's an alternative viewpoint on how to raise a child around Christmas, but I know I'm not alone. To my fellow parents who aren't doing Santa, or god forbid those awful elves-on-the-shelves, I have your back! 

My 3 Favorite Posts from Other Bloggers

  1. 20 Ways to Stay Calm At Christmas from Hello Bexa: Do you get anxious around the holidays? Being cooped up inside, with nowhere to go, often makes me feel very anxious. These tips from Bexa have been really helping in keeping me soothed and from getting too high strung. 
  2. Tips to Fight Off the Winter Blugs from Its Bethan's Blog: A similar post, but this one is all about warding off the winter blues. As someone who hates summer, but also has SAD, these tips are absolutely wonderful.
  3. Instant Download Christmas Cards from A Life of Charlotte: If you, like me, are permanently getting to around December 20 and realizing, "Oh, I haven't done Christmas cards...", well then, this post is for you! These instand downloadable cards are super gorgeous and perfect for those last minute moments when you're about to head to someone's house for a party. 

Do you have a favorite Blogmas post? Share with me in the comments!

Things I Love: December 23


It's another Things I Love... but this time it's an "it's almost Christmas!" edition. 

Danny and I are currently in Idaho to celebrate Christmas with his family. We had an exciting trip getting here (3 inches of packed snow on the pass we have to drive to get here? Sure!), but we are glad to be here and we have plenty to celebrate and love this week. Considering we almost called it off, we are really excited and lucky to be here. (Getting home will be a different story!) 

I'm glad I planned to do another Things I Love today; I think it's the perfect time of year for it. So without further ado, here's everything I'm loving from this past week. 

1. Finishing my Advent Calendar

Have I put this on both of my TiL's this month? Yes. Do I regret it? No. As I mentioned in the review post I wrote about it, I'd never done an advent calendar that wasn't just waxy pieces of chocolate and the Night Before Christmas poem behind each door! So it's quite exciting and different for me. I posted each day's item on my Instagram as well, which was a fun series (even if a lot of people were totally bored by it)! 

2. Making new Christmas Traditions with Forrest

I'm very used to celebrating Christmas at my house with my family. Visiting Danny's family for Christmas is an entirely new experience and I realized it's made me actually have more fun than I thought I would. As well, Forrest is having a blast here in Idaho. It snowed yesterday evening; we decorated cookies our first night in town; and we spent Friday visiting friends, going shopping, and watching Christmas movies. (You can read my post about all my favorite Christmas traditions here.) 

3. My daily gratitude thread

I recently started challenging myself to post a short list of things I'm grateful for every single day on Twitter. I really enjoy doing it every day and while most people seem to ignore it (it's mainly for myself), it's something I want to try to keep up through the new year. 

Things I Love: December 16

Things I Love: December 16 | Writing Between Pauses

Welcome to another Things I Love (aka TiL)! I did these throughout October/Blogtober and really enjoyed them. They're not great for evergreen content, but they are really, really fun to write. 

Originally, I had another gift guide on my editorial calendar. Every single December, I plan these gift guides and, I'm going to be absolutely honest here, I know I'm not great that them. And, again, absolute honesty, I really hate writing them. I like thinking about them; I like once they're posted; but they are such a bugbear for me to write. I really, really dislike it. 

As the week leading up to this post wore on and I just hadn't written anything, I thought, you know, Michelle, you don't have to write gift guides if you hate it. So I scratched it off my calendar and added in another Things I Love. Because, why not? It's Christmas after all and I can do what I want. 

Now, let's talk about the fun stuff: things I'm loving this week. 

Ulta Beauty 12 Days Advent Calendar | Writing Between Pauses

1. My Ulta Beauty 12 Days of Beauty Advent Calendar

When Danny asked me what I wanted in my stocking, I really didn't know what to tell him. I thought about it for a while and when I spotted this 12 day Advent calendar in the Ulta Beauty catalogue I get in the mail... I kind of knew that's what I wanted. Advent Calendars aren't really a thing in the U.S. (although they're getting more popular), so it is a new concept for me. It was only $13.50 so Danny bought it for me (er, I bought it for myself and he was there). I have been loving opening each day. I've been sharing on my Instagram here

2. My new homepage

So you may have noticed something odd (if you visit my website via the main link): I created a home page to make the blog page secondary. I'd been wanting to mix up the look of my blog for a while, except that right now, it just kind of "works" for lack of a better word! However, I got the idea to create a new page and add a carousel to display my most recent blog posts. Easy peasy and I have the look I want for my homepage now! 

3. Salma Hayek's Op-Ed about Harvey Weinstein

I love reading powerful pieces of writing by women, but I wish this wasn't one of them. It's an important one though. Salma Hayek deserved a better career and the things that were done to her were catastrophic to her achievement. But most importantly, Hayek touches on something I have been thinking about a lot: is it possible to separate the art from the artist? And at the end of the day, when an artist is accused of doing something awful, you have to consider the reality that behind that person, there are other people who were capable of creating beautiful, meaningful pieces of art. What about the art all the women Weinstein hurt would have created? What have we missed out on from not seeing their work? And not just Weinstein, but everyone accused of hurting and silencing women for their own gain? So, next time someone suggests we can separate art from the artist, remember that: there is better art out there from people who were silenced. How about we look at that instead? 

4. Cat Person

Another piece of brilliant writing from a woman? Is it Christmas? (Yes.) This short story went viral on Twitter and for good reason. While the takeaway for many is that this is an individually bad person depicted, I think it goes deeper. To me, this short story is about emotional labor: the dance that women undertake to prevent men from experiencing uncomfortable feelings (either out of fear or just not wanting to "hurt" another person). We are socially conditioned into these roles and I certainly find myself doing it with everyone, not just my husband. It is magnificently written and filled with a kind of slow, undertone of dread that feels very, very familiar. Highly recommend. I've been obsessed with it the last week!