Saturday, November 23, 2013

My love waits there in San Francisco

This past week was spent in the stunning city of San Francisco (thanks to Marc Benioff). Getting to explore San Francisco with some of your best friends is one of the greatest privileges I could ever ask for. I'd bore you with the details, but the pictures are going to be better than any writing could ever express. Enjoy!

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care

My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden sun will shine for me

- Tony Bennett

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beauty Products and My 3 Favorite Ways to Save on Them

Almost a year ago, I had the blunt realization that I hadn't changed my make-up regiment in years. I just assumed that what worked at one point for my skin was always going to work. Now, I don't know that what I was doing was bad. But there were still things about my skin and make-up that I didn't love, and that I didn't realize I could very easily improve upon. 

So thus began the journey of hours in Sephora, month after month of Birchbox (oh, the torture), and reading about great products for different types of skin. I don't know that what I've found is perfect, but I promise you this, I feel 100 times better about my skin and what it wears every day. Here are some of my faves that I've found over the last few months:

1. Smashbox Photo Finish Primer: This goes over your moisturizer, but under your make-up. It's a primer that is oil free, and keeps a barrier between your make-up and your skin. It also creates a really smooth surface for your make-up. The great thing about this is that it comes in a sample size, so you can try it for a few weeks (yes, it's a generous sample size) and see how you like it. 

2. Smashbox Color Correcting Primer: My skin has a ton of red in it, and gets splotchy in the worst places (not that beautiful cheek flush that I have always hoped I'd have). This color correcting primer removes all the redness from your skin. It made me look a little bit ghostly at first, but once you add your make-up on top of it, you'd never know. This is not oil free, so I have to be careful with the season that I wear it in, but winter tends to be pretty safe for non oil free products, and its also the time of year that my face wears its redness like a badge. This also comes in a sample size.

3. Put a Lid on it Eyelid Primer: My eyelids are one of the most oily parts of my skin, and this primer is THE BOMB. With this, my eyeshadow never creases, and it stays put for hours. I've been using this Birchbox sample for weeks because you only need such a small amount on each eyelid. 

4. they're REAL mascara by Benefit: This came in a sample bag I got from Sephora, and I went out the next day and bought the full size. It was that good. It looked like I had an eyelash primer on, and had used several coats of mascara after only one swipe of the wand. If you're not a big make-up wearer, but still want to look bright and alert, this should be at the top of your list. Go to Ulta or Sephora and try it out. You will never be the same.

5. Maybelline Radiant concealer: I use this under my eyes. Its really cheap, I get it from Target, and it brightens my eyes with just a touch of shimmer. Easy peasy.

6. MAC's Plumful lip stick: I went into MAC the other day to recycle a couple of my used make-up containers. When you trade in 6 old containers (blush, powder, eyeshadow, etc.) you get a free lipstick. I told the worker that I wanted red, but I have a lot of red in my skin, so I didn't want something that clashes. But I did want something bold. So I came away with this. It is red, but with more of a raspberry tint, and I love it. I put it on and knew that it was the right one for me. 

7. Stila BB Cream: This is a great color correcting beauty balm. I had gotten a sample of a Stila CC Cream that I liked, but wanted a little more coverage, and wanted it to look a little less obvious on my skin. So I spent some time in Ulta, trying on tons of different BB and CC creams, and came away with this one as my favorite. Its really light, but provides great coverage. Its also oil free and really helps reduce the redness in my skin. 

8. ELF lip stain in Rich Red: This is definitely a red lipstick (see below). And it stays on for hours, and doesn't even come off on drinking glasses. It was a bold choice, but for $3, I had to try it. And I get so many compliments on it. Target really comes thru with their ELF collection. 

So, if you're like me, you want to know 'How do I try different products without breaking the bank?' And that, I actually have an answer to. Here are three ways to get a lot for your money in terms of beauty products:

1. MAC's recycle program: for every 6 used containers you bring in, you get a free lipstick or gloss. For someone like me who has used MAC for years, I have tons of blushes, eye shadows, powders, etc. that I used most of but never finished. Either I bought it for a summer that I was really tan, or I used enough of it to just buy a new and fresh one. And at the end of the day, you only need a few great lipsticks. So this is easy, especially if you're already buying the products. 

2. Points: When you buy products from Sephora, Ulta or Birchbox, you get points for every purchase. I've found that at Birchbox, this pays off really well. With every Birchbox purchase, you get a certain amount of points added to your account. So when you get a sample in the mail that you love, you can usually buy the full-sized product for nothing by cashing in your points. I got this detangler for free, and refill my sample bottle to travel with. *This really pays off when you buy gifts for others as well (consider the holidays to give the women in your life some new make-up products, and earn extra points around Christmas to buy some things for you too!)

3. Gift packs: Places like Sephora offer a variety of free samples when you buy something full-sized. I had tried the Smashbox primer a few months ago, and had been meaning to swing into the store to pick up the full-sized bottle. Online one day I saw that if you spent $25, you could pick one of four gift bags with a bunch of samples. So I got to pick the gift bag that I wanted, which included a perfume, mascara, eyelash topcoat, a CC cream, and a few other items. The samples also came with a make-up bag as well:

So as you can see, you definitely don't have to break the bank. But it does take a little bit of time to earn points for buying/doing different things, but I've gotten to try at least 50 products that I didn't buy, just by using one of the 3 tips listed above. 

So enjoy your holiday season, and don't be afraid to break out of your old routine! It might pay off more than you expect. 

Happy shopping!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Baby West: Our Greatest Expectation

Babies. Who would have thought that the journey to parenthood would be fraught with so many emotions? Well, I didn't. And I wish I was one of those women that handled the whole process gracefully and with full faith, but I didn't. I threw tantrums. A lot of them.

To be honest, it has been a long and arduous process. We live in such an immediate gratification culture, it was hard to have to really fight for something. To pray for it, believe for it, ask for encouragement and support, and then ask again when almost two years later it still hasn't happened. And I can't articulate how grateful I am for those that have really stuck with us through the journey. I feel like this is just as much their baby as it is ours, because they prayed when we were tired of praying. And they brought us encouragement when the road seemed to only get darker. And its because of their love that we have made it to this place. It is true what they say: The darker the night, the brighter the day.

So all that to say, here are some glimpses of our last few weeks of incredible joy and elation:

*     *     *     *     *

We found out we were pregnant the day I got back from Kenya (September 14), which meant that we got pregnant in August. The day we told our small group at church, my sweet friend Abbey showed me this entry in her journal from early August. Our birthdays are May 26 and June 1, and the baby is due May 16.

When HaRim left America, he gave us this letter to give to our future baby. We waited until we were pregnant to open it, and we laughed and cried when we read it. HaRim is just such a blessing to our family, and knowing that he believed for and loved our baby for so long makes our connection to him so much stronger.

Our jellybean-sized baby at our first ultrasound.

We told our offices after our 12-week appointment, which happened to be Halloween. My office has a costume contest and parade each year so I stood in line to announce my 'costume.' When it was my turn, I held up my makeshift pregnancy test and said "I am a positive pregnancy test!" And there were crickets. Awkward, silent crickets. So Susan said 'Explain more!', so I held the sign up higher and said "Which means...I'm PREGNANT!" And the office just erupted in cheers and clapping. I had prayed that it would be received well at work, and everyone's response GREATLY exceeded my expectations.

The cards and text messages and voicemails and phone calls we have received has been unbelievable. Never have I felt so deeply loved and celebrated in my whole life.

And now for some of the pregnancy reveal shots we had taken by our amazingly talented friend Daniel:

So a BIG thank you goes out to every single person that has loved us, encouraged us, prayed for us, given us advice, or just made themselves available to listen over the last two years. We are grateful for YOU and couldn't have gotten to this place without you. We love you so flippin' much, you have no idea.