Travel With Me: Sunriver, Oregon

Travel With Me: Sunriver, Oregon | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve been going to Sunriver, Oregon for a long time. I think the first time was when I was 7 or 8, or at least in that age range. Sunriver is technically a resort town, or a planned community, and my family has been renting houses there for a long time. In recent years, my family decided to purchase a home in Sunriver as an investment property, which has been great for helping us take more vacations!

(You can read my previous post about traveling to Sunriver with a toddler here.)

Sunriver is located in central Oregon, about 20-30 minutes from Bend. This means visitors have access to basically all of Bend easily—that means more restaurants and shopping, as well as attractions like the High Desert Museum and the Lava Caves. I’ve been going to Sunriver for so long that I feel like I have a very set routine—but it also means I feel like I know just about everything there is to know.

Rarely ever do I do travel posts, but it’s been something I wanted to start sharing a bit more.

Sunriver Oregon
Wine in Sunriver Oregon

We headed over to Sunriver on Friday evening. Forrest had been having a pretty rough day; he’s been having more separation anxiety from me lately (something he has literally never had before!), and got sent home from school he was so upset. We had a good talk about learning to calm himself down. It probably didn’t help that we’d had a big day Thursday and his nap and sleep schedule were totally off. However, we made it to Sunriver on time to eat dinner.

We ate the Village Bar & Grill. Like most of the restaurants in Sunriver, they have a smaller menu than most people are used to, but they have really good, if slightly expensive, food. I got the Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad, which was spicier than I expected (but still good). Forrest got typical kid food: a hot dog and fries.

After dinner, we made our way to our house. Sunriver had some permanent residents, but is mostly rental houses; my family owned a small house previously, but recently sold it to purchase a different home. It was my first time seeing it and it was as lovely as I’d been told it was!

Forrest played for a little while and then we went for a short walk on the bike path, before I put him to bed. I drank a glass of wine and relaxed with my family for a while before going to bed myself.

Sunriver Bike Paths
Sunriver Walking

The next day, I went for a walk myself in the morning. The best part about Sunriver really is all the bike and walking paths. It is still pretty chilly in the mornings in Central Oregon, so I had to bundle up. However, I was excited because I was going to pick up Danny around noon.

Danny had been at a teaching conference in Eagle Crest, which is also not far from Bend. I planned to pick him up so he could join us in Sunriver.

When I got back from my walk, I helped clean up after breakfast and played with Forrest a bit. He was feeling antsy and excited, but really, really didn’t want to nap at all, despite waking up at 3am. (Yes, he woke up at 3am. Kids and vacation are often harder than I expect.) While I tried to get him to nap, the rest of my family played Yahtzee, which is a Sunriver family tradition.

Once he woke up, I got him ready for the rest of the day and we blew bubbles outside for a while. Then, when my mom got back from a walk, I borrowed her car to go get Danny. He was as excited to see the new house as I was, so we didn’t stop much on the drive back.

The afternoon was spent showing Danny the house, going on a walk, then going out to dinner for my brother’s birthday.

The Village at Sunriver
Sunriver Bookstore

On Sunday, we planned to have a barbecue, so I baked my brother a birthday cake. Then, I went on another walk alone—then a walk with Forrest, because he insisted. When I got back, my mom and brother were planning to go on a walk as well, so of course Forrest wanted to go on that one as well! I think Forrest walked a total of 6 miles!

Once they got back, we headed to the Village to pick up a few things at the grocery store. Forrest had also been promised a book by my mom, so we went to Sunriver Books to pick one out. He picked an ABCs of Oregon book, which I was really proud of; he’s been very interested in letters and knowing what things say lately. We headed back to the house and started working on lunch.

Sunriver Oregon Vacation

We headed home not long after lunch. It’s such a short drive between Sunriver and Eugene, only about 2-3 hours (depending on traffic and the weather), it makes it easy to take small weekend trips. I’m already so excited for another trip. There are so many things I love doing in Sunriver—the bike paths along the river, as well as the horse stables, shopping at the Village, bike riding, and visiting the High Desert Museum, as well as exploring Bend—it’s hard to pack it into one trip!

Have you ever been to Sunriver? What’s your favorite thing to do?

I Tried Birchbox (So You Don't Have To) | April 2019

I Tried Birchbox (So You Don't Have To) | April 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

I love a beauty subscription. As you probably know, I’ve been an Ipsy subscriber for months (although we’ve been on a break recently) and have been looking for other beauty boxes to review and use each month. There is something to a beauty box, isn’t there? It’s like a special little treat.

I told Danny that the reason I love them is because it gives me the option of trying new things every single month… without spending a ton of money. To try a new moisturizer might cost $15+, depending on the brand—but I can get a deluxe sample of a moisturizer in a subscription box that I can use throughout the month, as well as other things to try, all for around $10-15 depending on the subscription.

That’s incredibly valuable to me! I love trying new things, but I hate spending money.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Birchbox to review their beauty box subscription and to share with my readers. Of course, I said yes immediately!

Birchbox is the first beauty subscription box I ever remember hearing about: they really changed the game when they came on the scene! They are a tried-and-true brand with a ton of fans, so I was honored to be able to work with them.

I received my first beauty box this month and wanted to share everything I received, what I loved about Birchbox, and what I didn’t.

What Do You Get in a Birchbox

What I Got

Here’s everything I received:

  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray

  • Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver Clarifying Shampoo

  • Marcell City Tinted Cream

  • Sunday Riley Luna Night Sleeping Oil

  • 100% Pure Green Tea Concentrate Cream

  • Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver Reconstructing Masque

  • Love of Color Liquid Shimmer Eyeshadow (not pictured)

That’s $10 for 7 samples. Unlike Ipsy, there is no set number of samples every month. However, some of the samples in Birchbox are quite small; the clarifying shampoo and hair masque are both from the brand Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver, but the shampoo is 1 fluid ounce in a travel size tube, while the mask is simply a packet (and much less than 1 fluid ounce). For that reason, it’s a lot more difficult to put a value on these products because you do receive a significantly smaller amount!

A prime example is that a full-size tube of the Oribe Texturizing Spray has 8.5 ounces and costs $46; the sample tube I received has 1 ounce. So, it would be valued at about 1/8 of $46: $5.75. However, not everything splits up quite that easily.

That’s ok though! I think even without strict numbers, we can talk about how valuable something feels: even though the tube of Sunday Riley’s Luna oil is quite small, a full-size bottle is only a little over an ounce and costs $105.

You read that correctly: full size is 1 ounce for $105. So receiving a sample tube, no matter the size, is going to be pretty valuable in terms of testing it out!

Birchbox costs between $10-15 a month to receive, depending on the status if your subscription. (You can learn more about Birchbox’s updated payment system here.) You can buy subscriptions in 6- and 12-month packages as well, which can help reduce your cost (and you can often get full-size gifts when you sign up. Score!)

Is Birthbox Worth It?

What I Liked

One of the great things about Birchbox, compared to Ipsy, is that you don’t just receive 5 samples: you get a variety and often 5+ things. In my first box alone, I got 7 samples, some of them bigger than others. I’d say everything except the hair mask, I can use for at least 3 weeks, potentially more. That gives me a ton of product to experience with.

I also like that Birchbox gave me options when it came to selecting my samples. As with Ipsy, the more you review the things you receive, the better the products will be suited to you. However, with Birchbox, you can receive a sneak peek of samples starting the month before; at the end of March, I was able to choose either one sample I definitely wanted in my box, or I could have chosen two curated boxes to receive. That meant that no matter what, I got to choose something to try—which is really, really fun!

I liked all of the products I received, except perhaps the clarifying shampoo (it made my scalp itch, which is 100% a “my scalp” problem!) and the CC cream (it didn’t match my skintone, but I did like the texture).

My favorite product is probably the 100% Pure Green Tea Concentrate Cream; I thought for sure I would love the Sunday Riley Luna oil, which I do, but it doesn’t wow me as much as I thought. What did wow me was the Green Tea Concentrate Cream! It smells amazing and feels beautiful on my skin; I love wearing it under my makeup. It’s one of those things that I would have never looked for, but thanks to Birchbox, I’ll probably be buying a fullsize tube!

Reliable Birchbox Reviews

Things You Need to Know

What are a few things I would want to know about signing up for Birchbox?

Firstly, I think you need to remember that these are samples: not necessarily even deluxe size samples, in some cases. I don’t think that’s necessarily a draw back, but I do think it is important to have realistic expectations of what you’re going to receive.

Secondly, you can earn points on Birchbox by reviewing items; these points can then be used to purchase full size items. That’s pretty amazing!

Lastly, Birchbox is not like ipsy. They are both beauty-focused subscriptions and while I’ve compared and contrasted them here, ultimately they serve two different purposes. Birchbox focuses a little more on tried-and-true skincare products; Ipsy is much more trendy and makeup focused. What you choose depends entirely on what you want to receive! Looking to find a skincare routine that changes your life? Birchbox would be the best choice. Want to experiment with makeup? Ipsy is your best bet.

If you’d like to sign up for Birchbox, you can do so by clicking here**.

Have you received Birchbox? What did you think?

Does Eating a Plant-Based Diet Really Improve Your Skin?

Does Eating a Plant-Based Diet Really Improve Your Skin? | Writing Between Pauses

When it comes to advice about getting clear skin, I take everything with a grain of salt.

There has always been lots of advice to help clear your skin. When I was in middle school, everyone swore that if you stopped eating potato chips, you’re skin would clear up. Then, throughout high school and college, there was always some solution someone offered me: try this, stop eating that, find out if you have any allergies.

The truth is for some people there is no miracle cure for acne. No matter how much I avoided potato chips in middle school, I still had acne. No matter how much I tried the things people suggested for my skin, very few of them caused any real difference.

I have noticed a huge improvement in my skin since cutting dairy, which was a huge challenge (and one I still struggle with because, I love cheese), but that took actual months to see any sort of change—and the change was incredibly gradual. (You can read my posts about quitting dairy here and here.)

Lately, I’ve seen a ton of posts claiming that switching to a plant-based, or essentially vegan, diet can improve your skin. This sounds like a lot of claims I’ve had repeated to me over and over again (about cutting carbs, or not eating greasy foods, or eating less sugar) about improving your skin through diet… and I was of course immediately suspicious.

Today, I wanted to talk about the claims for a plant-based diet and improving acne.

You Don’t Owe Anyone Clear Skin

First and foremost, here’s something to remember: none of us owe anyone clear skin. It’s ok to have acne. Acne is just a thing that happens. I spent a long time trying to improve my acne—trying just about everything and damaging my skin in the process. (You can read about my acne journey here.) It was only really recently that it clicked for me that, just as I don’t owe anyone a body that looks a certain way, I don’t owe the world clear skin—and at the end of the day, people who know and love me aren’t judging me for having “bad” skin.

This is all to say: if you’re here, reading this post feeling desperate about your skin, just remember you don’t owe it to anybody. It’s ok to want clear skin for yourself—that’s your right—but if nothing is working, it’s ok to throw in the towel. It’s ok to love your skin, and everything it does for you, even if you have acne.

The Evidence is Wrapped in Diet Culture

I’m going to avoid linking to most of the articles I read—and the reason is because a lot of the information I found, including those from registered dietitians, is wrapped up and packaged in diet culture.

A prime example is one of the top results when you google “does eating plant-based improve skin?” isn’t an article about skin, necessarily; it’s an article about the “health benefits” of eating plant-based, or vegan, and it starts off talking about losing weight and different diets in comparison to eating plant-based or vegan.

This is not great.

I am automatically suspicious of any expert who starts an article listing various diets she recommends to clients for “health” and “weight loss”. Most leading experts now understand that you can be healthy at every size. (Christy Harrison’s podcast Food Psych is a great one for more information on this!)

It is concerning that many people frame eating plant-based as a “diet”. Yes, eating more fruits & vegetables is better for our bodies—but that doesn’t necessarily always lead to losing weight for some people. Even worse, many of the articles asserted that eating plant-based improved your skin because “you lose weight”. Listen, vegans are a lovely bunch, but even they know that eating vegan won’t necessarily lead to weight loss (and it doesn’t have to to be a good and valid way of eating).

This was a red flag for me. Is diet culture seeping into skincare? Honestly, yes: both are wrapped up in societal ideas of what our bodies and skin should look like. Already, people will talk about eating clean and using “nontoxic” (or “chemical free”) products in the same breath. Using “clean” skincare isn’t inherently better than anything else, just as eating “clean” isn’t a better way to eat. When you try to apply diets to skincare, you get into a slippery slope of diet talk—and, whew, I don’t really want any of us to go there.

There’s No Statistical Evidence

There is no research data, currently, regarding whether a plant-based diet improves acne. At this point in time, all the information I found was purely anecdotal from RD’s who had commented to magazines and websites. Without statistical evidence, there really is no way to say something for sure… so it is concerning to see so many people recommending eating entirely plant-based to improve acne.

Without some kind of science to back up a statement, I’m not going to take someone’s word for it—especially when their word is often wrapped up in framing one way of eating as inherently better, or more moral, than another (or frames their evidence in diet culture). Veganism, and eating plant-based, is great; I’m going to keep repeating that because it’s true. It’s better for the environment; it is more nutritious than eating more processed foods (although one isn’t better than the other inherently); and it can help you feel good.

But can it improve your skin? I haven’t been able to find a single study, besides the word of a few dermatologists and nutritionists that are not cited.

Genetics vs. Environment

What determines what our skin is like?

Here’s a pretty good guess: look at your parents. Have they taken care of their skin? Do they smoke? If the answer is, they take care of their skin and they don’t smoke, then that’s pretty much genetically what you’re going to look like. If one of your parents had bad acne as a teenager, you have a 50/50 chance of also having bad acne at the onset of puberty. And if your parents are oily-skinned or look young into their late 30s and 40s, then, guess what, that’s probably what your skin is going to be like.

Our skin is like any other organ. There are things we can do to help it work better and there are some things we can’t. Some of us, genetically, have weaker hearts (or congenital defects), and some of us have heartier organs. Some of us are just going to have skin that is more difficult than others—and there is little we can do about it.

Sometimes, that’s the bad thing about skincare. Our skin isn’t quite as absorbent as we think it is (and despite what those MLM scaremongering graphics say, very little of what our skin absorbs gets to our bloodstream) and even with the best skincare regimen out there, there are some things we just cannot change. That’s an unfortunate fact.

This is all to say: you can’t necessarily eat anything to make your skin different from how it’s going to look genetically.

If you have hormonal acne, it’s entirely possible that dropping certain food groups might help—although it’s no guarantee. I’ve had good luck with quitting dairy, but I still get the occasional hormonal cyst; that’s because, genetically, I’m just prone to them. It sucks, but it’s facts.

It will probably benefit you, health wise, to eat more plant-based and vegan foods. Will it change your skin overnight or even within 6 months? It’s possible, but again, no guarantee.

Beauty Review: L'Oreal Paris Rapid Reviver Conditioner*

Beauty Review: L'Oreal Paris Rapid Reviver Conditioner | Writing Between Pauses

My relationship with my hair is complicated.

For the last 12 years of my life, I’ve gone through a series of cut-into-pixie-and-grow-as-long-as-possible periods. I got my hair cut into a pixie just weeks before I had Forrest, then didn’t get a haircut for 3 years. (My hairdresser, as you can imagine, was as shocked as me. It really didn’t feel like 3 years, in my defense.)

In the last year and a half as well, I’ve developed an intensely dry scalp, that can be flaky, but mostly just deeply annoying. Sometimes, it’s tied to my cycle. Sometimes, it’s made worse or better by what I use in my hair. But the baseline for my scalp seems to be dry as hell, with a side of flakiness, and that’s just… my normal as an adult. It goes without saying: of all the terrible genetic traits to inherit, why this one (and my slow as heck metabolism)?

Whenever I look for products for my hair and scalp now, I have to be really clear about what I’m looking for: my hair itself isn’t necessarily dry, but my scalp is; my hair handles sulfate-free shampoos well, but not sulfate-free conditioners; harsh dandruff ingredients irritate my scalp worse; I need moisturizing, but not too much or it weighs down my hair… the list goes on.

When I received this conditioner for review, I was convinced I was going to hate it. The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Rapid Reviver Deep Conditioner has the longest product name in the world (I struggled to shorten it for this blog post) and promises to “provide 2X more nourishment than any leading conditioner” and to be “lightweight, hydrating and moisturizing.” Two of those words mean the same thing, so… we’ll see.

Extraordinary Oil sounds way, way too heavy, doesn’t it? However, despite being called “Extraordinary Oil” and “a hair treatment” in various places both on the L’Oreal website and the tube, it also says it’s for daily use. Now, I subscribe to the idea that you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) wash your hair every single day. So using a heavy conditioner every day seems like a lot.

How good is L'Oreal Paris conditioner

I use a lot of hair masks, so I was fully prepared for this conditioner to have the texture of a hair mask. However, it doesn’t. It’s a fairly standard conditioner when you get down to it; it doesn’t feel heavy and it gives your hair that slippy feeling when you apply it. I’ll admit to being fairly addicted to conditioner; I never don’t use it, because my hair can be unmanageable without it. I love the slippy, smooth feeling and even though I know that’s sulfates, and the internet tells me that sulfates are bad for my hair, I also don’t like not using it… because then my hair turns into a single tangle that I can’t get out! Give me sulfates in my conditioner or give me death!

Did I like this conditioner? Yes! I did. It was hydrating for my scalp and didn’t weigh down my hair as much as I thought it would. However, do I think it is anything special? Not necessarily. Despite all the fancy names, it doesn’t really promise to be anything besides a hydrating conditioner—which is what all conditioners do. Whenever I’m testing a hair product, I have to ask myself, over and over again, if I’m noticing a difference in my scalp (better or worse); preferably, it’s actually best that a product has no effect on my scalp. This product is one of those where it didn’t make my scalp better or worse, which is often a solid win for me.

Is this a particularly special conditioner? Not really. It didn’t necessarily wow me in terms of making my hair look any different from any other conditioner. It should be said, again: I don’t really have dry hair, just a dry scalp, and my hair isn’t damaged from heat treatment or hair dye. The bonus is this is only around $4-6 depending on which drug store you go to. (The downside is that L’Oreal Paris tests on animals.) If you’re looking for a good, affordable conditioner, and you struggle with hair that is dry or damaged, this is a great option.

Would I repurchase? It depends. I think if I started heat treating my hair more, I would probably look for something similar (but cruelty free) to use, as it is really hydrating. But this specific product? Probably not.

Disclaimer: As denoted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post, I received this product in exchange for review. If you’d like to learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream

Beauty Review: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream  | Writing Between Pauses

I love a gimmick. You guys know that. Holika Holika Piggy Nose? I’m there. I’m on it. I’m 100% for it.

I’ve been admiring the Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Cream from afar for years; I’d heard rumors that people either absolutely loved the smell of it… or it made them want to puke. I’m not a believer in creams that “reduce cellulite” (cellulite is just how bodies are structured and made, especially bodies with estrogen, so you can’t really effect your body at that level with a cream), however, so I wasn’t really interested in buying it.

I did, however, receive a tube of Bum Bum Cream in my most recent Ipsy. (Yes, I’ve signed back up. No, I won’t be reviewing them for a while.) Which gave me the opportunity to use it and decide if it really is worth how gosh dang expensive it is.

Here’s what the Bum Bum Cream promises:

Our award-winning, cult favorite Brazilian Bum Bum Cream is a luxurious all-over body cream that absorbs quickly to help visibly tighten the appearance of skin. Infused with all-powerful caffeine-rich Guaraná extract and a cocktail of Cupuaçu Butter, Açaí Oil, and Coconut Oil, this fast-absorbing cream with our addictive Pistachio and Salted Caramel fragrance will bring out your most radiant skin ever. Try it and see what the “Bum Bum” effect is all about.

Let’s break that down.

“All-over body cream that absorbs quickly to help visibly tighten the appearance of skin”: (emphasis mine, obviously). “Visibly tighten” your skin? I’m not sure about that one, although I did spend a stupid amount of time asking Danny, “does any part of my skin look tighter?” (Danny: “What does that even mean? No? Are you ok?”)

“This fast-absorbing cream with our addictive Pistachio and Salted Caramel fragrance will bring out your most radiant skin ever”: I skipped the part with the ingredients, because that often means nothing to me. (Although I do have a note about it!) Is this fast-absorbing? Yes, actually it is. That’s one of the things I really liked about it. It’s kind of the perfect hand lotion to keep by my computer so I can still type without feeling like I’m making a mess. However, I want to talk about the fragrance.

Every time I put this lotion on in the past week or so, I’ve said, “I love this old school coconut smell!” And Danny agreed with me; it smells like old school sunscreen without the chemical sunscreen component. It is pure coconut.

So… Salted Caramel and Pistachio?! I don’t see that, although i guess it smells sweet and nutty. But I swear, I was more surprised reading this scent description than anything else. I’m usually pretty good with smells, but maybe not. I will die on this hill though; I’m 90% sure this is coconut-scented and they just don’t want to admit it!

Does Bum Bum Cream Work?

I liked a lot of things about Bum Bum Cream: the scent, the fast-drying aspect. I’m unconvinced that it does anything to your skin other than moisturize it (which is does quite well).

However, there are a few things I don’t like. The name, of course, sounds really stupid to say out loud, but as I said, I love a gimmick. Is it any worse than “Piggy Nose Peeling Gel”? Nah.

I also don’t like that if you use it on certain areas of your body, it doesn’t just tingle: it burns.

The first time I put it on, I just put it on my hands and I noticed it had a slight warming effect; I’ve noticed that with lots of lotions that use caffeine in them, so I wasn’t concerned. However, the first time I put it on my legs—and specifically, my thighs—it wasn’t just warming. It was like a burning tingle. Not entirely unpleasant—it didn’t hurt at all and didn’t turn me red or give me a rash—but kind of shocking if you aren’t expecting it. I have relatively sensitive skin and the tingling went away within 15-20 minutes… but if you’re skin is highly sensitive, this might be a huge issue.

That’s really the only big downside to me: that tingle can sometimes be light, but sometimes, it’s like a freight train. It just totally depends on where you apply it. And the thing is, I think it’s totally worthless; I don’t think it changes how my skin looks whatsoever, so it’s just needless pain!

Will I buy a whole tub of this? Maybe. I don’t think I’ll ever use it as a full-body lotion, but I do like it for my hands while I’m working or just around the house. I might buy a small travel size tube similar to the size I have for my purse.

Have you ever used Bum Bum Cream? What did you think?

What Have We Learned From Pipdig?

What Have We Learned from Pipdig? | Writing Between Pauses

I feel like the blogging community has been in an uproar for the last 10 days. But for those who don’t know what’s going on, on March 29, a dev and blogger named Jem posted this blog post, detailing malicious code she discovered in Pipdig’s plug-in and themes. I won’t detail everything Jem wrote about here, but needless to say, the blogger community was quick to discover her post.

Pipdig has been a popular theme provider for bloggers, specifically in lifestyle niches, for the last few years. I know many who self-host on Wordpress immediately went for Pipdig themes as they were easy-to-use, highly customizable, and came with outstanding customer service.

Throughout the Pipdig ordeal, many bloggers originally called to Pipdig’s outstanding customer service as a sign that perhaps Jem was mistaken about the code. (Long story short, code doesn’t lie and many, many developers backed Jem up. In fact, Wordfence, one of the premier Wordpress security blogs, happened to post about the same Pipdig issue at nearly the same time. They also shared some valuable information afterward that showed that even Blogger themes were effected by the code.)

As with any issue in the blog community, it felt like there was lots of back-and-forth for the first few days. A lot of the bigger, top tier bloggers went silent pretty quickly—they defended Pipdig, then dipped out of the conversation. Tempers were lost and a lot of people doubled down without really knowing what they were talking about.

The complication with all of this is that very, very few bloggers (especially in the niche that Pipdig primarily served) know how to read code. They relied on Pipdig to provide them with good customer service, to help them install their themes, and to do so in a way that was trustworthy. And unfortunately, Pipdig betrayed that trust because they behaved in a way that unethical very secretly, knowing that very few of their blogger customers would be able to catch them at it.

For many bloggers, this left them feeling naive—and as if they had been called stupid by the devs trying to explain it to them. There is absolutely no shame in not understanding code or technical language when it comes to code. However, bloggers can be quick to forming opinions without having a full picture and it is natural to want to trust an “industry giant” like Pipdig.

However, my thought is this: there were just too many experts telling me the exact same thing and I knew that absolutely none of them have a horse in this race, so to speak, in that they aren’t Pipdig competitors. Many of them had never really been involved in the lifestyle blogging community beforehand; they really didn’t even know it existed and if they did, they didn’t realize how robust it was, and they definitely were not prepared for the sheer amount of push back that they got. They were just professionals trying to do their due diligence and help people.

At the end of this post, I’ll have some valuable resources for Pipdig users if they still need to switch themes or uninstall the plug-in. As well, there are so many devs on Twitter offering their assistance to help bloggers remove Pipdig products. Again, if you need help understanding what’s going on, I highly recommend reading the Wordfence and Jem blog posts thoroughly.

For now, let’s talk about what this Pipdig fiasco has taught us.

1. The “Blogging Experts” Have Agendas

This doesn’t discount their expertise necessarily, but clearly some of the top bloggers in the lifestyle niche, and those who peddle classes and ebooks for sale that they know everything about blogging, have agendas that aren’t necessarily always going to fit with what is most helpful for other bloggers. I don’t want to name names here, but a lot of the biggest bloggers in the industry were quick to defend Pipdig, then went absolutely radio silent as more and more evidence came out and more and more developers started saying the same things. Many of them still haven’t said anything—which is fine! If that’s their bag, that’s their bag. But it makes you wonder why, exactly, they aren’t saying anything?

These same bloggers will be the first to throw other companies under the bus and tell their followers, or those who buy their advice, not to use them. They will sell their ebooks and online classes and give very strict advice on what to do for blogging, but when it comes to using a service that is maliciously using bloggers to do their dirty work, they go absolutely silent. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it?

The truth is, affiliate networking among hosting and theme providers has become increasingly common. I was actually just reading a blog post about how it is one of the best methods of affiliate marketing to build income from your blog, so it wouldn’t surprise me if many of the first to defend Pipdig (and then go silent) were affiliates who received income from referring people.

So what do we learn? If someone styles themselves as a blogging expert, and they make income from that styling, they may have an agenda. They may have partners that they don’t disclose. They may not be as authentic as they say. After all, it is still the internet. As much as we think we know all these bloggers, the truth is that we absolutely do not know these people. Just as none of us knew what Pipdig was really doing, none of us know what these experts are up to. Remember to do your own due diligence when it comes to their advice and who they back, because sometimes they don’t have the blogging communities best interests at heart.

2. The Blogging Community Has An Echo Chamber Problem

One big bloggers posts a Tweet about Pipdig and every medium tier blogger RTs it, then every small blogger RTs it, then every new blogger RTs it, and none of them think to actually read the blog post or look at the evidence. Partially because they don’t understand it (again, not their fault), but mostly because they trust those who have been blogging longer, or more successfully, or whatever.

It becomes an echo chamber. The biggies say this, so we believe it, so we all repeat it. And everyone who posted an opinion otherwise—those like me who work with developers, or those who understood code, or simply those who were willing to take an independent third parties word for it because they had nothing to gain or lose from it—was treated really, really terribly.

It goes without saying: Pipdig was a vendor to bloggers. They were not a friend, or an associate, or a best buddy. They were a vendor. They made money off small bloggers, and medium bloggers, and big bloggers. (And some of those bloggers potentially made money from everyone as well!) Pipdig might have had good customer service, but good customer service doesn’t mean anything when it comes to malicious code or unethical business practices. Some of the biggest companies in the have good PR; it doesn’t mean they aren’t shady.

The echo chamber of the blogging world is stunning and shocking even at the best of times. One person posts something and it becomes the opinion everyone must hold, or is afraid to not repeat. We all hate the follow-unfollow game on Instagram; we all blame the algorithm; we all do this, we all do that. It really is exhausting to keep up with the opinion we’re supposed to have. Because we’re bloggers, right? We’re all the same.

That’s right, I didn’t think so. It’s time to stop letting one single, popular blogger speak for all of us and damage the community as a whole, especially when they might have an agenda.

3. Pipdig Became “the Way To Have A Blog”

This is a big controversial, but all the Pipdig themes looked the same. Yes, they were highly customizable for users, but rarely did they ever get customized in a way that separated them from each other. Pipdig sold relatively affordable themes that fit the way bloggers thought their blogs should look.

Just like the blogging community has become an echo chamber when it comes to opinions, many people deferring to other people instead of critically thinking, the blogging community has also fallen victim to thinking they have to do X, Y, and Z before they become “real” bloggers. You need a self-hosted Wordpress website. (You don’t.) You need a Pipdig theme that looks like everyone else’s. (You don’t.) You need to take your photos a specific way. (You don’t.) You need to do this, that, and the other thing just like so-and-so tells you. (You don’t.)

There is no one way to blog. There is no one way your blog should look. It goes without saying, but blogging is highly personal… but we’ve all fallen victim to the pressure to look a certain way, or do certain things, to make ourselves successful.

I would consider myself a slightly successful blogger; I’ve been plugging away at this a very, very long time, so I feel a bit like an elderly person in the game, but I’ve gotten to this point (a small income, some sponsorships) without ever doing anything anyone told me to the letter. I am not self-hosted on Wordpress. I don’t have the same theme as everyone else. I don’t spend hours focusing on Pinterest or any other social media platform. I just let it happen, write posts i believe in, and let Google do the rest.

Getting a Pipdig theme was often treated like a goal post for blogging—and this made them into a giant that people didn’t want to see as an actual business, but rather just a goal. Pipdig was, to repeat myself, a vendor. That’s it. Nothing more. And they used bloggers to behave badly. There is no one way to have a blog so please, let’s not replace Pipdig with some other giant now.

Resources

If you have any additional resources for those who have a Pipdig theme, or the Pipdig plugin, or are available to assist bloggers when switching, send me a note!

Free E-Course: Start Your Blog in 2019

Free E-Course: Start Your Blog in 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

When I started blogging in 2009 (!!!), it was an entirely different world. Twitter had just launched; there was no Pinterest or Instagram yet. It has been quite the ride watching the blogging world change from a hobby to an industry, to watch entire platforms pop up—and to watch people take advantage of those platforms in a way that is super beneficial to them and their businesses.

Often when I speak about my blog to other people, they want to know how, exactly, I did it. How do you start? What do you start with? Starting any big project can feel like a huge effort, especially when the steps seem hazy. And with blogging, there are so many: what kind of content should I write? What does “choose a platform” even mean?! How can I promote my blog without annoying everyone I know?

One of my biggest frustrations with blogging has always been how secretive people can be about information. Blogging started as purely a hobby world and has quickly turned into a professional for many people; and for that reason, lots of people have started making their own businesses out of selling the secrets of blogging.

I don’t want to tell anyone how to make their money. And there are definitely people out there who know more about blogging than me and they totally deserve to have people pay for their time.

However, the secret is there is no secret to blogging. Getting started is just about getting started.

I recently relaunched my newsletter, the Pause, as a way to talk about blogging every month with people who wanted to learn more about blogging or just improve their own blogs. I didn’t want their to be any secrets when it came to blogging, at least when it comes to the knowledge I have.

I started thinking of other ways I could help people learn more about blogging and start their own blogs (or jumpstart their pre-existing blog) in 2019. And it came to me: a basic e-course that walks you through the process of starting a blogging, writing your first pieces of content, and promoting it to the world.

My free e-course will start May 6 and cover everything I just listed, as well as SEO basics and developing a voice. Blogging is something I love and am incredibly passionate about—I want others to love it too, as a hobby, as a form of income, and as an industry. But I don’t believe in hiding that behind a paywall, which is why this e-course is 100% free. That means I won’t give half the information and advertise another e-course at the end. I won’t bait-and-switch. Just 5 free emails over the course of a week with all the information I have.

This e-course isn’t just for those who have dreamed of starting blogs, but those who already have a blog and want to kick it up a notch.

Sign up today to make sure you get that first email on Monday, May 6!

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection*

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection | Writing Between Pauses

I love trying new skincare products. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts about having my blog; getting the opportunity to try new things and see what works for my skin is just one of the many perks of blogging.

As an example: a few weeks ago, I received the Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection to review. (I received this product from Influenster, not Peter Thomas Roth directly.*) Peter Thomas Roth is a brand I would never actually buy myself—even though I’ve heard great things about them—because it’s just a little out of my price range.

So, we’ve come to the downside of being sent products to review: sometimes you find stuff you really, really love that is way more money than you would ever spend on a product.

Here is what’s special about the Peptide 21 Collection:

Peptide 21™ proves there is strength in numbers—and diversity! An unprecedented amount and array of 21 Peptides and Neuropeptides allows the multi-action serum and moisturizer to effectively treat every area of the face and neck. Enhanced by cutting-edge Gamma Proteins, these formulas help improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, elasticity, radiance, uneven skin tone and texture. Peptide-building Amino Acid peel pads complete the collection, providing powerful exfoliation while optimizing results.

I received all three products from the collection to review: the Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum; the Peptide 21 Lift & Firm Moisturizer; and the Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads. All three products focus on the main task of anti-aging using peptides. Funny enough, I think they are using “peptides” as a clever stand-in for “collagen.” As most of us know, topically applying collagen isn’t super effective when it comes to skincare; our skin can’t absorb it in a way it can be used for anti-aging. They claim these peptides “support” collagen proteins that already exist in our skin, but I’m not too sure on all that. (Science is not my strong suit!)

However, I will say this to start this review: I like every single one of these products. However, there is something a little gimmicky about the peptides stuff—I don’t know enough about it to know for sure, but I know enough about marketing to know when a gimmick is a gimmick.

That being said, again, I really like all these products. Do I think the peptides do anything? Not really.

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection

What I Like

My favorite part of the collection are the Exfoliating Peel Pads; they are a quick, easy swipe part of a routine and I’ve noticed the biggest difference in my skin just from them. (When trying new products, I usually add just one at a time.) They really are the stand out product from the collection, as they contain more than “peptides”. Here’s what they promise: “Packed with peptide-building Amino Acids, these exfoliating peel pads help reduce the look of pores, uneven skin tone, texture, fine lines and wrinkles while prepping skin for peptide treatment products.” It goes without saying, they don’t only contain peptides, but also Phytic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Sodium Lactate, as well as vitamins A and E.

I noticed a huge difference in my skin’s texture just from these pads alone. Usually, I try not to use anything that makes garbage pile up, however, and using a peel pad every single day (or twice a day) creates a lot of garbage at the end of the day. If this was a toner in a bottle, I’d absolutely be head-over-heels in love with it.

I did like the serum and the moisturizer as well. The moisturizer was probably my second favorite item, as I use moisturizer more than anything else (if I’m too tired to do my entire routine, a makeup wipe and moisturizer is as good as it gets). I am not big on serums generally; sometimes, I feel like they just add steps to a routine when that same thing could be added to a moisturizer. (I know there are many great serums out there. I’m just lazy, let’s be honest.)

Skincare for anti-aging

What I Don’t Like

It took so much self control not to say this in the above section, but: the serum feels gross. It makes my skin feel so sticky and slimy, no matter how long I let it sink it. I’m still using it, but I cannot wait to get to the moisturizer step of my routine purely to rid myself of the feeling. However, even after moisturizer, my skin still always feels a little gross, so I find myself skipping the serum more-and-more. And to be honest, I don’t notice a huge difference without the serum.

Here’s another thing about the serum: it’s $110!!!!!! I would say it’s the worst product of the collection, and the most useless, and it costs nearly DOUBLE the price of the peel pads! That’s outrageous and I absolutely do not love that. The peel pads cost $52, which isn’t a great price, but also isn’t bad as I really do like them. The moisturizer is $78, which is another yikes; I like it, but it’s not any better than a Pacifica moisturizer, which you can get for less than $15 at Target.

As always, for most skincare products, what it comes down to is price for me. You can find lots of things that give you the same or similar results to these products. Is this a nice collection? Sure. Is it way out of my price range? Yes. Will I be repurchasing anything from it? I may repurchase the peel pads if I can’t find a good dupe, but it’s definitely a long shot.

Good serum for anti-aging and acne

Final Thoughts

I’m glad I got to try this new collection; the peel pads, honestly, are the best part of it. But as I said, the price point is just a little high for products that I don’t feel deliver (at least on my skin). A lot of that price is clearly the name, which is all well and good—but who wants to spend $200+ for products that don’t make a $200 difference to your skin?

Disclaimer: As noted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, I received these products free in exchange for review. However, all opinions remain my own! Click here to read more about my disclosure policy.