Ohhhhh my GOD I am SO GLAD TO BE DONE WITH THIS POST. I felt super weird writing this one this year! And that apparently meant that even though I started writing it in like, NOVEMBER, I managed to stretch the process out until MARCH?! For no reason at all?! Books and movies and TV and music feel natural to share in times of duress because we need escape and we need joy, but consumer goods always feel a little different. I love shopping and trying new things, but I feel like, when things are as crappy in the world as they are right now, shopping as relief becomes strangely sinister? Capitalism is bad.
Not all the things on this list are things to buy, but the whole thing gave me a case of the wobblies and that’s partly why it took me so long to put this one together. So, like, buy things when you want to? But find sanity elsewhere? Or don’t! What the hell do I know.
5. Pokemon Go – I flip-flopped SO HARD about putting this one on the list because it has been such a wild ride between SUPER FUN THING I LOVE and poorly-designed frustration. I had no experience with Pokemon prior to this game except that a girl I was friends with in high school called me Jigglypuff regularly and I just stumbled into it since everyone on the entire internet was talking about it. Crystal and I have had a super good time, mostly, but because we live in a rural area the lack of Pokemon to catch (even now with the 2nd gen, there are about six new ones here and that’s it) and the lack of Pokestops kills the intensity and enthusiasm pretty quickly. We play in the car mostly — North Dakota is NOT a walking place — so we wondered if that might be negatively impacting our experience, but even when we have walked, the game doesn’t improve. (Niantic doesn’t care about rural players!! Never 4get!!!) That said, when it’s fun, it’s super fun! And because I don’t have any experience with Pokemon, each addition to my Pokedex is a fun new discovery.
4. Digit is a tool that saves money for you which is the least sexy and exciting thing I could probably put on my list, BUT it does it automatically for you by analyzing your bank activity and then pulls money and just hangs on to it for you until you’re ready to move it. Digit doesn’t earn you any interest, so I treat it as a waystation for savings deposits elsewhere and since October I’ve saved $1,500 which is well worth it considering I don’t think I saved $50 in all of 2015. If you sign up using my link, I get a kickback, so that’s pretty cool because free money is nice. Even if you don’t use my link, I recommend it 100%.
3. I bought a LOT of makeup and perfume this year. Like, way more than I should have (a lot of it is Crystal’s fault) and more than I will probably be able to finish in my entire life. But a lot of it is very good and I love it a lot and I’m going to recommend it to you because, well, that’s what I’m here for, obviously.
THREE LIPSTICK FORMULAS
Marc Jacobs Lip Crème – The formula on these is lovely, really pigmented and silky. It’s a satin finish, which I don’t normally like, but it isn’t glossy at all, just comfortable. I love Slow Burn and Infamous and Goddess. I highly recommend the apply-blot-apply-blot method to extend the wear of these. So lovely.
NARS Audacious Lipstick – These are sooooo pretty and comfortable! And the packaging is really lovely and minimal and feels super luxe. I LOVE Anna and Rita and Audrey. These are pretty long-wearing and extremely touch-up-able and moisturizing without being glossy or sticky.
Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick – If you ever take my advice about lipstick, take it now. These are THE BEST liquid lips I have ever used and I wish there were about 100 more colors. The applicator is perfect for getting a sharp line and an easy swipe of color, the formula is super pigmented, isn’t crazy drying, is thin but not watery, can be layered and touched up, lasts foreeeeeeever, and doesn’t transfer basically at all. These last through meals and even when they wear away at the center, you can just slap some more on without it getting all weird and gross. They are MAGIC. Pricey but super worth it. I love Stepping Out and Bawse and Miss Conduct.
I started using high end mascara in 2015 and bought… way too many in 2016 after being a 100% drugstore devotee for many years because for me it’s turned out that if I pay more for mascara, it doesn’t clump and it doesn’t flake into my eyeballs! Both qualities well-worth the extra money for me.
Too Faced Better Than Sex is, I think, the first ~high-end mascara I ever bought and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. I don’t love the brush on this one — though that seems to just be me, EVERYONE seems to love this brush shape and I feel like I see it more and more all the time — but the formula is great and makes my lashes look full and long without a lot of fuss.
Benefit Roller Lash is my other go-to high-end mascara. I like that this one is dark and it makes my lashes look long and full. I don’t know that it necessarily curls my eyelashes noticeably, but I do think it helps hold the curl if I bother to curl my eyelashes first. I also love the brush because if I use it backwards, it gets into that annoying little outside corner that I have so much trouble with.
Guerlian Maxilash So Volume is stupidly expensive, but it makes my eyelashes long and dark with a single swipe, doesn’t clump, flake, or smear, and has lasted way longer than the expiration date recommends I ought to be using it without drying out. I love the brush, though it’s not super special, but the formula is great. It even lengthens the outer third of my eyelashes where they grow extremely curled and fight me on a daily basis. My only complaint about this mascara is that Guerlain says it’s floral scented, but it smells like a cheap, dirty Las Vegas hotel room in the 1990s when you could still smoke in them. Since I spent a lot of the 90s in Vegas, it’s oddly comforting to me, but is still BIZARRE as scents go. Since I can’t smell my eyelashes I don’t care, but YMMV.
I added Thierry Mugler Alien to the favorites list in 2016 after a lot of hemming and hawing about whether or not I actually wanted to buy it. It smells AMAZING, but is for some reason extremely divisive and also really dependent on body chemistry. The notes are sambac jasmine, cashmeran wood, and amber gris which is all meaningless, but on me it’s warm and a little spicy and a little sweet (in a vanilla bean way, rather than a sugary way) and it lasts F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme Intense was a bottle that Crystal grabbed after I had explicitly told her that we needed to STOP BUYING PERFUME because we have so much and she’s obstinate like that. But since it’s become one of my faves, I guess I’m not that mad. The notes for this one are neroli, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, and sandalwood which is mostly meaningless, but it smells warm and a tiny bit sweet but mostly just GOOD.
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium is so good I’ve used like, half a bottle in less than six months. Another warm, sweet, almost spicy scent, this one with notes of coffee accord, orange blossom, cedarwood, patchouli and I guess there’s sort of a pattern there, huh? It’s rich but not overwhelming and it makes
These are all what I consider fall/winter scents, which I hate myself for even having mentally categorized, but the older I get, the more I am drawn to those kind of warm, spicy fragrances instead of the clean, fresh stuff I wear in the spring. They all kind of make me feel like a cool, aloof adult though and that’ll be hard to give up as the seasons change.
2. In addition to make-up, I also spent a lot of money on skincare in 2016. I am getting older! And my skin is confusing and fickle and also spending money on skincare feels like an ~investment, so it’s disturbingly easy to justify the expense to myself.
Origins Ginzing Eye Cream – This weirdly makes me feel like an adult woman who has her shit together, but is also still generally pretty cool and stays current with like, pop music and tv shows. I apply this in the mornings all over my orbital bone and under my eye and out toward my temple and it makes my skin look bright and hydrated and also kind of masks my thankfully minimal undereye darkness. It feels cooling and tightening and really does make me look and feel more awake. My eyes are stupidly sensitive, so I have to be careful not to get it to close to my lash lines because otherwise I think I’m in the midst of going blind all day long, but it is otherwise 100% my fave new skincare product I bought in 2016.
Caudalie Lip Conditioner – I am always buying new lip balms because my lips are eternally chapped and miserable and I had been pretty faithful to the Sugar Fresh for a while until I realized that it wasn’t lasting long at all and I was going through it like crazy and when it’s $22 a tube, that sucks. A lot. The Caudalie is similar except it lasts a lot longer and it’s only $12 a tube! It can occasionally give me a weird taste when I’m drinking, but otherwise I love it. It keeps my lips soft and moisturized, but isn’t sticky at all.
CoverFX Clear Cover Invisible Sunscreen – I HATE SUNSCREEN. I hate it so, so much. I hate it hate it hate it. I hate it even though I have spent the last 32 years slathering myself or being slathered in it because I am the kind of fair-skinned that is sometimes transparent and I start to burn in under a minute in direct sunlight. I have tried one million sunscreens and the most positive reaction I have ever had is, “I don’t wish I was dead” because they all feel like they’re trying to suffocate me. UNTIL NOW. This stuff is amazing. It’s bananas expensive, but I will gladly continue to pay it because it is so much more pleasant than any sunscreen I have ever used. It feels a lot like a silicone primer — very slippy and then powdery once it sets — but it applies quickly and I’m actually able to almost immediately forget that I’ve put it on. I used it on my face, arms, neck, and upper body for two solid days at Disneyland and I didn’t even get a little pink!!!!!!!!! And I didn’t even mind reapplying!!!!
1. The only TOTALLY MONEY-FREE thing on this list: NOT REMOVING ANY OF MY EYEBROWS. I have never been good at dealing with my eyebrows. Mine go straight across my face and have no arch and barely any tail whatsoever and I have hated them since I knew enough to know that eyebrows could look nice. I have waxed, plucked, threaded, and trimmed. They’ve been embarrassingly thin and I’ve accidentally taken off the entire puny excuse for a tail that I have and they’ve just always been a mess. But after the wedding, I just started leaving them alone. I mean, I occasionally fill them in some or use some eyebrow gel to shape them, but in the hair removal department I just GAVE UP. And it is GLORIOUS. They still look pretty terrible and have no discernible eyebrow-like shape, but at some point in 2016 I just stopped caring at all. I don’t care that my eyebrows are ugly and that I don’t like them!! If they were on another person I’d probably think they were totally fine!! My eyebrow obsession was completely in my head and just POOF I managed to let it go. I feel so free.
Honorable Mentions: Polk Boom Swimmer Jr | K&H Heated Pet Bed | Alexander Del Rossa Fleece Robes | Polaroid Zip | Noosa Vanilla | Matrix Color Obsessed So Silver | Nest Cam
2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | WATCHING | LISTENING | READING
YOU GUYS, I spent so much money on crap this year! I don’t even want to think about it, tbh, but I do want to share the best of the good stuff I bought with you so that you can buy things less indiscriminately than I did and, you know, end up with really good stuff that you like and is mostly worth the money.
5. CLOTHES: Ava & Viv @ Target & Modcloth
Shopping is hell and shopping while fat is hell with the bonus of added expense, limited availability, and ugly garbage. Target’s plus lines have never been a particular exception to this with an even more irritating gift of being sized completely illogically. Ava & Viv is not free of these issues — they make some ugly and boring garbage and their sizing is wildly off (I wear a 2/2X/XXL in all other plus size retailers, but a 4 in Ava & Viv. Perfect!) and they, like Old Navy, seem to think everyone shopping their plus sizes is 5’11” or so, BUT I bought jeans and a jacket in an honest-to-god brick and mortar store for the first time in at least a dozen years, so I’m giving them at least a few points. I mean, the jeans are like six inches too long for me, but I’ll survive. I even just re-bought the same jeans (And the same pair for Crystal…) because I needed to change sizes. That’s pretty good as far as recommendations go.
ModCloth has been around for so long that it’s honestly super weird that I hadn’t ordered from them before this year, but considering Crystal and I both got our wedding dresses through them, I’m glad I finally did! I’ve bought a couple of dresses that I’ve been extremely happy with (Aside from the wedding one, which I obvs love!) and we tried a bunch of shoes for the wedding without having to worry about whether they fit or not because the best part of ModCloth aside from their selection is their awesome return policy.
4. NEO SMARTPEN N2: Okay, this is only as low on this list as it is because Crystal gave me this for Christmas and that’s just not long enough to declare something your new number one favorite thing over the course of an entire year. I am always always alwaaaaays searching for something to take my handwriting and turn it into text and had yet to find a conversion system that actually works and isn’t a huge hassle, but Crystal found it! It’s not perfect — the translation of the text above: 12128/15 ruuules! Yo! this shit tello, friends! You’re the best!! — but it is totally adequate for letting me take notes, scribbling story ideas, working through blog posts, etc etc. I thought getting used to the pen would be hard because I am hugely fussy and it needs to be in a semi-specific position to work, but it actually fits really naturally into my grip and it hasn’t failed to read yet. I mean, if I needed more proof that I married the right woman, this is it.
3. AQUACISE: We’ve had a membership to the fancy new gym pretty much since it opened, but had never bothered to take a class in anything since we’re both uncoordinated and thought it would be embarrassing and terrible, but then we showed up to the new lap swim evening hours and a lady talked up her aquacise class to us so hard that we finally decided to shake off our idiot fears and give it a shot. Now it’s pretty much all we do for exercise and one of my favorite things to do, period. I love being in the water at all times and water aerobics is basically an organized form of the dumbass stuff I did in the pool as a kid growing up. It can be surprisingly intense and I always leave feeling awesome and limber and fit.
2. SKINCARE: Because I got married this year and also because I turned thirty, I got super into taking care of my skin and smeared a whole bunch of fancy garbage all over myself in attempt to stem the tide of mortality! I tried (And returned! For the first time ever! Bless Sephora’s return policy!) way more stuff than I even want to remember, honestly.
Cleansers: I don’t like to cleanse heavily in the morning because I’ve pretty much only had time to accumulate pillow dirt and sweat, so I’ve been using First Aid Beauty’s Face Cleanser which is gentle, non-stripping, and doesn’t have any texture or weird smells. I also love Murad’s Essential C Cleanser and Time Release Acne Cleanser which are both powerful without being harsh and also don’t smell or feel weird. I also had a huge fight with like, four different kinds of make-up remover this year because I wear waterproof mascara most of the time and it’s just such a pain in the ass to get off and I hated all of them because they’re either oil-based and they make my eyes foggy and blurry which is exceptionally unsettling to me, since I’m constantly convinced my vision is getting worse by the second or they’re painful and sting a lot. ANYWAY, I recently grabbed Simple’s Micellar Water while we were at Walmart looking for the Garnier version. It’s great! It takes off all my make-up with a single cotton pad and it doesn’t burn or sting or blur my vision or my make my skin feel sticky or slimy! It’s like magic, honestly. When I do cleanse more heavily, I almost always use my Clarisonic Mia 2 with a mix of the First Aid Beauty and one of the Murad cleansers. I hate that I spent $150 for a glorified washcloth, but I love what this stupid, unnecessary thing has done for my skin. When I’m using it consistently — once a day works best for me — my skin feels softer and smoother and my skin tone seems more even and less weird and patchy. I also feel like I’m slightly less prone to breakouts, which is awesome.
Masks: I really just went for it this year and finally tried some GlamGlow products even though they’re really a level of expensive I’m not super comfortable with and I liked some of them! Flashmud is great and really brightens my skin, but is probably not for the faint of heart (Very tingly!) and Youthmud is also pretty potent, though I can’t say that my repeated applications have brought me back any youthful attributes. My favorite Glamglow, by far, is Powermud which I actually use sometimes in the morning if my skin is feeling particularly gross or dull. It is definitely the one I would recommend to Glamglow noobs because it is unbeatable in the noticeable difference department. It takes about ten minutes to dry and then with the addition of wet fingers, it turns into a deep cleansing oil that somehow manages to deep clean and exfoliate my face without making it red or abraded. My skin always feels insanely soft and supple (God, I hate that word.) after I’ve done it. I also grabbed the Peter Thomas Roth Mask-a-Holic Kit when the 20% off VIB sale was going on because you get so much expensive product to try out! And I’ve used the Cucumber Gel Mask before and really liked it, but really because I wanted to try this 24K Gold nonsense and, tragedy or stupid tragedies, it’s actually great. It really does make my skin look and feel firmer, which is infuriating, and it also makes it feel super soft which is 100% the most important aspect of any mask I buy. I don’t know that I’ll ever be willing to pay 80 bucks for the full-size, but I am def going to enjoy what I have.
Moisturizers: I figured out this year that even though the skin on my body is dry enough to catch fire if exposed to flame, it turns out that my face is actually pretty greasy? And that I usually hate the way my skin looks because I’m over-moisturizing? Crazy! I grabbed Fresh’s Rose Hydrating Gel Cream right before the wedding and I love it. The smell is a little intense for me, but I love the way it makes my skin feel – smooth and even and a little like I’m wearing a primer – without making me feel greasy or sticky. Even more recently, I tested Boscia’s Sake Balm on the back of my hand when I walked into Sephora and had to go grab it before I left because my hand looked like a teenager again. J/K, but my skin looked amazing and it’s doing the same thing to my face. It has glycolic acid in it which is supposed to help with aging and dark spots and all that, but I just love how incredibly smooth and glowy it makes me look. I also found Clinique’s Custom Repair Eye Treatment which is the first eye cream that doesn’t turn my eyelids into an oil slick. I also can’t forget Sugar’s Advanced Therapy Lip Treatment which is amaaaaaaazing for the super dry winters here on the tundra. It’s really moisturizing without being either sticky or greasy and it smells good without having a discernible taste. It’s expensive (So expensive!) for what is basically high quality chapstick, but it’s lasting me forever and I’ll probably repurchase it with a suitable amount of shame.
I have loved make-up for basically my whole life, but I have never been interested in anything other than eyes and blush because 1. Base/foundation kind of makes me feel like I’m suffocating and 2. I’m super lazy. So when I decided that I wanted to do my own make-up for the wedding and that I’d want to do a full face that hopefully still looked like me, I knew I was going to have to spend some actual, serious time figuring out what would work on my face and not make me miserable. Cut to six months of buying crap and smearing it on my flesh while screaming until I figured out what I liked. What I like, mostly, is to not wear base make-up, but also somehow have flawless, clear skin that holds all my other make-up in place. This is not possible, sadly, but I did find some stuff I could tolerate/learn to love.
Tools: The key to me loving full face make-up is one word: beautyblender. Nothing has ever made face make-up sit on my skin in a way that didn’t feel gross or weird or thick or suffocating before I bought a beautyblender. It makes the entire process of putting on make-up feel faster, less frustrating, and more fool-proof. I am also obsessed with Sephora’s Classic Multitasker Powder Brush #45 which I have bought more than once and use for pretty much everything. It’s an awesome blush brush, great for a dense swipe of highlighter, perfect for buffing and blending, and precisely applies setting powder. It’s dense and soft and is the first time I have ever understood why people pay a lot of money for brushes. In addition to marrying Crystal, I am also now married to Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray because my wedding make-up stayed from about 4pm to about 2am without cracking, settling, smearing, fading, or STICKING TO MY GLASSES through my entire wedding and reception, sweat and camera flash and laughter and smiling and screaming included. And it didn’t make my skin feel weird at all!
Primer: I L-O-V-E primer. I really do. I am so grateful that I got some Nanoblur in an Influenster box earlier in the year so that I could become properly obsessed with them. I wear this one pretty frequently alone, when I don’t want a bunch of make-up on my face. It really does even my skin out and it helps keep my blush and highlighter in place. (I do not wear Nanoblur with foundation, so it’s really a ~base product, but I DO WHAT I WANT.) I also like the Hard Candy Sheer Envy Illuminating Primer which is super cheap and gives a nice glow-y finish under foundation or alone. For the wedding and any day I’m really going FULL FACE, I use Make Up Forever’s Skin Equalizer in Smoothing and Mattifying and they are amazing at making my make-up really stick and last.
Foundation: Cover FX’s Total Cover Cream Foundation is what I ended up using for the wedding and what I reach for most often when I’m doing a full face. The coverage is great and the finish is the most human-flesh-like I’ve ever managed with foundation, as long as I use one of my trusty beautyblenders. It also helps to have a great setting powder and after trying the Make Up Forever HD Pressed Powder, I returned the other one I had bought to try unopened because I knew it wasn’t going to be better than this stuff. So, so good. I also have a love-hate with BB creams because I’m neutral-yellow pale and they always want me to turn BRIGHT ORANGE, but I recently snagged the Rimmel Wake Me Up Radiance and it’s got nice coverage and finish and is really affordable! I also like Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Tinted Moisturizer when I just want my skin to not look like I just crawled my way from the grave. I also just ~splurged on the Marc Jacobs Re(marc)able Full Coverage Foundation Concentrate because I tried it recently at Sephora and LOST MY SHIT at the coverage, but they were out of my color (This happens 100% of the time in North Dakota/Montana because I am the same color as every Norse-ass Scandinavian in this part of the country…) so I used the very generous Christmas gift card I got to grab it. I am way too excited to wear it, so I’m making it a preemptive (and bananas expensive!) fave.
Highlighter: So on my quest to figure out the Wedding Full Face, I also learned that what I really want make-up-wise is to SPARKLE LIKE THE SUN, despite the stupid, misguided, nonsense common belief that women over 30 shouldn’t. I love shimmer. I love sparkle. I love straight-up GLITTER.
So, thanks to the wisdom of some youtube beauty ~gurus, I went hard for highlighter this year. I cannot even begin to count the number of minutes I have spent wandering around Sephora swatching highlighters and trying to decide if it’s too bronze or copper or pink for my corpse-colored skin. I love Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Moonstone and Poured in Moonstone, which, YES, are the same color, but the powder is for FULL FACE days and the cream is for when I am feeling low-key/lazy and just want to rub color and shimmer on to my bare skin so that I look a little more alive and “radiant” as I was told on one of those low-key days. I also love Benefit’s Girl Meets Pearl on days where I don’t wear base and it just adds the most pretty, glowy touch to my face and it’s super fast and foolproof to apply. I also recently grabbed the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette because I’m a sucker and had a $20 off code and I do love it. I have not yet mastered using Dim Light as an all over setting powder (I end up VERY SHINY regardless of how lightly I apply it, which is really just a testament to it’s INCREDIBLE POWER) but the Incandescent Light is suuuuuuch a pretty and ~refined highlight and Radiant Light is the first almost-bronzer that is neither too dark nor too orange for my colorless flesh.
I cannot recommend buying something super sparkly and smearing it all over your face enough, really. My wonderful friends took Crystal and I to Zumanity (Also a fave from this year, tbh! Sometimes problematic, but incredibly fun and actually pretty sexy! Lots of hot people doing circus is basically my Life Favorite, so.) the night after our wedding as a post-wedding bachelorette type situation and I literally just smeared cream glitter on my cheek and brow bones and eyelids and called it a damn LOOK. (I used a NYX Glitter Cream Palette for this which are sort of terrible, but did the job since I was going for ~flirty, not precise. SPARKLE ON.
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Honorable Mentions: Lush’s Big | Maybelline’s Master Glaze | Bumble & Bumble’s Don’t Blow It & Thickening Hairspray | Anastasia’s Brow Wiz | Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Blush | Bare Minerals’ Pop of Passion Lip Oil Balm | Urban Decay’s Perversion Mascara
Totally Top Five 2K15: Listening | Reading | Watching