Review // Japanfusion Skincare from Beauty Pie

Do you know what I love more than trying new skincare?  Trying it for a really great price.  Which is why I signed up for a Beauty Pie membership almost as soon as I heard about it.  Beauty Pie advertises itself as a company that will sell you makeup and skincare without any of the markup imposed by traditional luxury brands.  They've got great deals on foundations (all less than $10), eyeliner (less than $5), and they have my favorite brushes ever for $2-5 dollars.  The catch is a monthly $10 fee for the privilege of shopping, shipping and handling charges, and a monthly spending limit.  Overall, I've been happy with the quality of the makeup I've bought form them and so this month I decided to dip my toes into their skincare.

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Luckily, I had enough in my spending limit to buy the entire Japanfusion set which includes a cleanser, moisturizing toner, serum, and moisturizing cream - all for $29.  The whole set boasts a "moisture-locking" complex made with a yeast derivative, jabara extract for Vitamin C and polyphenols, and an antioxidant grape seed extract.  Impressive sounding, no?  I also loved the packaging.  The pretty pink and white looked like a dream in by bathroom and so my wallet was pretty happy with the purchase.  But the real question is: what did my skin think?

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I think my favorite part of the set was the cleanser.  It's an oil-to-gel texture that really works best if you start it on a dry face, massage, and then add water.  I found it got my makeup off with no trouble and left my face feeling nourished.  I also like that it was the only unscented product in the range.  It didn't work so well when I tried to use it in the shower because my hands and/or face would already have water on them.  In that scenario, the cleanser would rinse away into nothingness before really getting a chance to work.  So if you buy this, plan on using it at the sink.  And I will say that I still prefer my usual cleansing method of starting with an oil cleanser (currently this one but plan on re-purchasing this one next) and then using my holy-grail Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser.

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The next step in the system is the Hydra-Prep Lotion.  Even though it's called a lotion, it's really a liquid texture.  It's meant to be applied with a cotton pad or patted on with your hands and it claims to draw in moisture.  The concept reminded me a lot of the Missha Time Revolution Essence and the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence: they are all meant to be used after cleansing and before other steps and they prominently feature yeast-derived moisture boosters.  I can't really offer a comparison because I've never used the SK-II (because I'm not made of money!!) but I will say that this seemed to be the least necessary part of the regimen.  

Which gets me to one of my complaints about this skincare set...most of the products contain the exact same active ingredients, just in formulas of different viscosities.  I love me a good multi-step regimen but is it really necessary if they all provide similar benefits in the same ways?  Also, the fragrance was strongest in the toner.  WHYYYYY do companies have to put scent in everything????  

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Ok, moving on from my rant...the Deep Treatment Serum was nice.  Again, it had many of the same active ingredients as the Hydra-Prep Lotion but I liked the texture and felt like it absorbed well into my skin.  The scent was lighter and it was probably my second favorite product in the Japanfusion line.  The fact that it wasn't crazy-expensive meant that I didn't feel bad about using several pumps at a time, which means I was probably getting more benefit with each application than I would have if I felt like I needed to skimp.

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The final step in the Japanfusion regimen is the Supreme Cream.  It has a lovely, rich texture and in addition to the active ingredients in every other product, it contains glycerin, squalene, and Shea butter which are all excellent moisturizing factors.  I would definitely consider this to be more of night cream and a little goes a long way.

So what's the final verdict?  I wasn't impressed enough to let the Japanfusion line take over my daily routine.  Honestly, I think Beauty Pie is just as good as skincare from overpriced luxury brands like the ones you find at department stores (e.g. Estee Lauder, La Mer, Clarins...).  In the end though, I couldn't get past my dislike of the scent and my confusion about the repetition of active ingredients and I ended up giving the set to a skincare-curious friend.

Have you tried any skincare from Beauty Pie?  What did you think?

 

Teriyaki Kelp and Zucchini Noodles

Summer is officially here!!  And if you live in Portland, OR without air conditioning that means that you will have no desire to turn on your oven or stove for the next several months.  My house can be terrifyingly hot during the day, sapping much of my desire to get creative in the kitchen.  With that in mind, I thought I'd share a recipe today that requires no cooking whatsoever. 

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I haven't really done much with kelp noodles in the past.  I've tried other healthy noodle substitutes that didn't impress me and, honestly, I feel like nothing can replace a delicious bowl of spaghetti.  But when I saw these kelp-based noodles on sale at the health food store I decided to give them a shot.  I think a weekend spent eating fried food and drinking beer in Seattle had something to do with my decision to live a bit more virtuously this week.

Honestly, I'm pretty happy with how these turned out!  I rinsed them in hot water and found that they have a slight crispness to them that I kind of liked.  Given that I used them in a raw bowl with veggies, I think the texture was actually perfect.  Kelp noodles are a good source of iodine and the Sea Tangle brand I bought also has a decent amount of calcium.  Nutrition-wise, though, they don't contain much else at only 6 calories per serving.  That's why, I added plenty of chickpeas, seeds, and dressing to my bowl!

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Teriyaki Kelp and Zucchini Noodles
serves 1

Ingredients
- 1/2 package Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles
- 1 small zucchini
- 1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp store-bought Teriyaki sauce (more to taste if desired)
- 2 Tbsp pepitas
- 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

Place kelp noodles in a colander and rinse with hot water.  Separate them with your fingers, cut shorter if needed, and place in a large bowl.

Make zucchini noodles using a spiralizer.  You can also use a mandolin to make matchsticks or a vegetable peeler to make long, ribbon shaped noodles.  Add zucchini to the bowl with the kelp noodles.  Toss all noodles with teriyaki sauce.  

Add remaining ingredients and enjoy!!

 

Product Review // OSEA Atmosphere Protection Cream

There are not many products that I would say are suitable for almost any kind of skin.  Some of us are prone to oily T-zones, others struggle more with dryness and fine lines.  And of course acne can crop up at any age.  OSEA's Atmosphere Protection Cream is a lovely moisturizer that can fit into just about anyone's skincare regimen, no matter what their concern.  

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The first thing I noticed about the cream is the gorgeous packaging.  I know that it's really what's in the bottle that matters but, honestly, it just feels nice to use something that is so beautifully made.  It's no wonder people are drawn to this brand.  Their products can easily double as chic bathroom decor.  

The second thing to know about Osea's Atmosphere Protection Cream is that it is very lightweight.  I was not expecting this, given that it's called a "cream".  The texture is definitely more of a fluid lotion, which is why I think I'll be reaching for it more frequently as the weather heats up this summer.  It feels lovely and cooling when applied and it sinks in quickly, leaving a gently moisturized feel that doesn't set off my oily T-zone.  Because I am a skincare product fanatic, I've layered it with many serums, sunscreens, and makeup products and it seems to work quite nicely with every combination I've tried. 

I'm also impressed with the ingredients list.  Algae extract, which according to Osea hydrates and provides vitamins and minerals, is listed near the top.  It's nice to see a product that uses a high quantity of the good stuff in its formulation, unlike some others that add only a few drops.  It has calendula too, which is one of my favorite plants for topical use - it's extremely calming and healing.  I also love the inclusion of jojoba oil and Shea butter, two ingredients I've fallen in love with in my own lotion-making experiments.

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The scent is light, fresh, and herbal.  Not necessarily my favorite product smell-wise but not objectionable and it dissipates quickly.  Speaking of smell, I'll go ahead and mention that this product contains grapefruit oil which, like other citrus essential oils, contains a risk of phototoxicity (it can sensitize your skin to the sun).  I'm not too concerned about this because grapefruit oil is listed as the second-to-last ingredient and so is probably present in only a very small amount.  According to The Herbal Academy, grapefruit oil can be used safely at 4% or less in a formulation without causing phototoxicity.  I'd be very surprised if the Atmosphere Protection Cream exceeds that and so I will continue to use it during the day without worrying.  Maybe I'll skip it if I know I'm going to be out in the sun a lot.  

Overall, I'm really happy with this purchase and would recommend it as a go-to moisturizer for just about anyone.  It's $48 for 2 oz, which has lasted me several months.  But then again I'm  not using it daily.  If that seems a bit steep, I don't disagree.  It feels weird to say you could probably get away with a cheaper lotion after giving such a positive review.  But...you could probably get away with something cheaper and still be pretty happy.  The Dr. Jart Ceramidin liquid is the first thing that comes to mind as a possible alternative.  But it's not as pretty is it?  Also, Osea's Atmosphere Protection Cream is cheaper than the Pai Chamomile & Rosehip Calming Day Cream (probably the most similar product I've used) and I liked it better.  So yes, for me I'd still say that it's worth the money for the packaging and great ingredients.

Have you tried any of Osea's products?  What did you think?

My Secrets for the Ever Best Adaptogenic Coffee Latte

It seems like adaptogen potions are everywhere I look these days.  I'm not sure where it started but I do know that when Gwyneth Paltrow gets on board with something, it's going to take off in the wellness space.

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I've been playing around with making my own magical drinks for a few years now and have learned a lot along the way (e.g. do not, I repeat, DO NOT put rice protein in your coffee).  I love turning my morning pick-me-up into a superfood-filled, body-nourishing tonic but it wasn't until earlier this week that I finally made a breakthrough that has finally brought my lattes to the next level.

The biggest issue I've had has been with the texture.  As you can imagine, when you add spoonfuls of non-dissolvable powder to coffee you get a thick, gritty mess at the bottom of the cup.  Not ideal.  Honestly, I've been willing to live with that particular problem if it means I get to consume my superfood herbs, mushrooms, and caffeine all in one place.

But it turns out, I can actually have the best of both worlds: a creamy, delicious morning latte with no grit AND the incredible health benefits of adaptogens.  How?  Two simple rules.

1) Include 1 tsp cashew butter: The small amount of cashew butter adds body to your coffee and emulsifies your powders.  That means, it helps keep all those little particles of goodness suspended throughout the cup instead of falling straight to the bottom.  I have used other fats in these lattes before - almond butter, coconut oil, coconut butter, regular butter - but none seems to work as well as cashew butter.  And just about 1 tsp is all it takes.

2) Use fewer add-ins: Sorry, this is the not-so-fun truth.  I used to put several tablespoons' worth of extra ingredients to my coffee concoctions.  Cocoa powder, Moon Juice protein, ashwaghanda, maca, mushroom powder, the list goes on.  It was simply too much for my poor little cuppa joe to handle!  So, I've cut out most of large-volume ingredients, namely the cocoa and the protein.  Cocoa powder apparently has an issue with cadmium contamination anyway so, while I'm not actively avoiding it, I'm not sure I should be consuming large quantities every day.  And as for protein, I'm sticking to collagen powder (which is the best at dissolving) or none at all.  The rest of the adaptogens, herbs, and mushrooms are very powerful and don't need to be used in large amounts, especially if you consume them regularly.  1/4-1/2 tsp will do!

Ok, so are you ready for the best adaptogenic latte you've ever tried?  So far, I've only tried this with a coffee base but you can bet I'll be experimenting with other, non-caffeinated options in the coming months!

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Creamy Adaptogenic Coffee Latte
serves 1

Ingredients
- 12 oz freshly brewed coffee
- 1 medjool date, pitted
- 1 tsp raw cashew butter
- 1 Tbsp collagen protein (optional, omit for vegan or vegetarian)
- 1/2 tsp ashwagandha powder
- 1/2 tsp cordyceps mushroom
- 1/4 tsp he shou wou

Put everything in the blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Enchiladas, Dairy-Filled and Dairy-Free

One of the saddest facts of my life is that I am engaged to a man who allergic to dairy.  Dairy!  Only the best of all the food groups!

I've learned to make do when cooking for the two of us.  And to be honest, I'm probably a bit healthier for it.  I probably don't need cheese or milk or butter or cream to be a main part of every meal.  But sometimes making do is not an option.  Which is why I have not one, but two, enchiladas on the stove waiting to be eaten for dinner tonight.

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One for me and my friend to chow down on while we watch The Bachelor season finale (part 1 only because ABC doesn't think I should have a life and has decided to spread the final episode over 2 nights with 2 hours runtime each).  And one for Aaron to eat without feeling ill afterward.  Win win!!

If you are making a dairy-free AND and dairy-filled version like I did, I recommend that you get all the ingredients prepped and then assemble the dairy-free version first.  The reason I do it that way is that I can use the enchilada sauce needed for Aaron's dish first and then mix in the sour cream.  One less dish to mess with.  You can adjust the sizes of your dishes according to how many servings you think you will need of each kind.  Together, you'll end up with enough for 8 servings.  

Now, I realize that the amounts of ingredients in this recipe look a little wishy-washy.  That's because certain things will change each time depending on how many dairy vs nondairy servings you need.  It also reflects my usual way of cooking.  Apologies to those of you who prefer more exact measurements!

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Chicken and Kale Enchiladas: Dairy-Filled and Dairy-Free
makes about 8 servings

Ingredients
1 Tbsp avocado oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
8 cups lacinato kale, stems removed and chopped
2 Tbsp water
3 cups shredded chicken (leftover or from a rotisserie chicken)
1.5 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
ground pepper, to taste
10 oz can enchilada sauce
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped, seeds removed for less heat
1-4 Tbsp sour cream
12 corn tortillas
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
shredded cheese, cheddar and nondairy (I used Trader Joe's vegan shredded cheese)

Heat oven to 450F.

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add kale and water, sautee a couple minutes until kale is softened and bright green.  Add chicken, cumin, salt and pepper and heat through.

Mix your enchilada sauce.  If you are making a dairy and dairy-free version, start by just combining the enchilada sauce and chipotle peppers.  You will add the sour cream later.

Assemble the dairy-free enchilada.  Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Place a layer of tortillas, then chicken mixture, then onions, then non-dairy cheese.  Drizzle another several tablespoons enchilada sauce over everything and then cover with tortillas, chicken mixture, onions, and nondairy cheese again.  Drizzle more enchilada sauce (make sure you have enough left for your second dish, though!) and then put on a final layer of tortillas, cover with enchilada sauce and sprinkle everything with cheese.

Now add the sour cream to the remaining enchilada sauce.  Use the same layering technique as above but with the cheddar cheese this time.

Bake for 12 minutes. 
 

High Vibe Hot Chocolate

I love having smoothies in the morning but sometimes I need something with a little more warmth.  Enter my High Vibe Hot Chocolate.

I do variations on this hot chocolate a few times a week.  I might go use less coconut butter if I want to keep it light.  Sometimes I'll add collagen protein if I'm hungry or if I know I'm not going to eat again for a while.  The creamy, sweet, chocolatey goodness is a perfect vehicle for all those superfoods you have hanging out in your kitchen (or maybe the ones you've been stalking online).  Feel free to tweak according to taste and need.  

The version I'm posting here is chock full of goodness that your body will be grateful for.  I recommend drinking it in the morning instead of night because of the caffeine content from the cacao powder and the mild stimulating effects of maca.  This recipe also includes one of my new favorite potion ingredients: tocos.

Tocos (short for tocotrienols) are a superfood derived from rice bran.  It comes as an off-white, fluffy powder that tastes sweet and mildly rice-like.  I love eating it straight off the spoon but it really shines as an addition to warm elixirs.  It provides a healthy dose of Vitamin E and it's wonderful for skin health.  I'm still learning new, fun ways to use it so if you have any suggestions I'd love for you to leave a comment below!

Enjoy your hot chocolate!

High Vibe Hot Chocolate
serves 1

Ingredients
- 1 cup warm (not hot) water
- 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp coconut butter
- 1 Tbsp Tocos
- 1 tsp maca powder (I love this brand)
- 1 tsp Vitamineral Green
- 1 date

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Blend on high until creamy and drink immediately.  

Reading Roundup // May 2016

Well, I just barely met my 4 book per month goal for May.  I've been on a magazine-reading kick  lately after discovering that I can read most of my favorite mags for free(!) on my iPad through the library.  Luckily, I finished 2 quick reads at the end of the month and now I have an exciting new shipment from Better World Books to motivate my reading for this month.  From my most- to least- favorite, here is what I read in May:

Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
It's been awhile since I read anything by James Baldwin.  In high school, I read Notes of a Native Son (essays) and thought it was amazing.  While the writing here seemed a bit heavy-handed at times, I was awe-struck and deeply moved by this book.  The themes are also heavy, touching on religion, race, sexuality, and difficult family relations.  I will definitely be going back for more from this incredible American writer.
- Rating: 4/5 stars

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo
I don't read a whole lot of YA and lately I've been even more reluctant to pick up a YA book because many of them just seem so similar.  So when I started reading this fantasy world book about an outcast girl who discovers she has great powers, I admit I almost put it down.  Luckily for me, I started reading this book on an airplane and so I didn't have a lot of other options immediately available.  Once I got over the "ugh, not another one of these!" feeling, I got really sucked in.  No, this book isn't groundbreaking.  But it is one of the most fun-to-read examples of fantasy YA that I have ever read.  I like it much better than Sabriel, which I found so hard to read that it almost put me off this type of book altogether.
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Japanese Skincare Revolution: How to Have the Most Beautiful Skin of Your Life -- At Any Age by Chizu Saeki
Lately, I've been obsessed with natural anti-aging and so I picked this book up for purely superficial reasons.  I had tried Chizu Saeki's "lotion mask" technique and thought it would be worth picking up a few more tips from her book.  I liked a lot of what she had to say about how we really don't need the most expensive products if we use our regular products to their full advantage.  I was also pretty interested in her instructions for self lymph massage and even-ing out the musculature of your face.  That being said, this book was mostly pictures and a lot was pretty repetitive.  It was a quick read but I could have gotten most of the information I wanted from a blog post or two.
ating: 3/5 stars

The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas
When I started listening to this on audiobook several months ago, I had no idea of what I was in for.  The Penguin Classics paperback version clocks in at 1276 pages(!).  I found the characters to be shallow and boring, the dialogue horrendous, and the plot enjoyably but then annoyingly unbelievable.  It was a relief when it finally ended.  Wow, this may be one of the most negative and short book blurbs I've written yet.  :)
Rating: 1/5 stars

That's it for my month in reading.  Tell me, what have you been enjoying lately.  Any summer must-reads to share?

 

June 2016 Beauty Heroes Box: Modern Minerals Makeup

It's the start of a new month and I've received another wonderful box from one of my favorite companies - Beauty Heroes!

I think I look forward to these beautiful little packages more than just about anything else I get in the mail.  If you've never heard Beauty Heroes, it's a subscription service that specializes in clean, green beauty and skincare.  Usually, the monthly box contains one full-sized product and one sample-sized "sidekick" but this month they've switched it up a bit with 4 full-sized makeup products from Modern Minerals.  (The subscription is $40/month.)

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed at first when I opened June's box.  I am a skincare gal all they way and I don't usually feel like I need a lot of makeup to make me happy.  I will usually lust after a serum, lotion, or oil much more than a tube of lipstick or blush.  I pulled out the 2 lip glosses, the eyeshadow and the highlighter from my much-anticipated box and wondered just how often I was going to actually use these.  

But that was only how I felt before I tried everything on.  

Let's start with the lip gloss.  My absolute favorite thing in this box is the Emotive Lotus Wei Infused Lip Gloss in Padparadscha.  It is a lovely coral pink color that is perfect for spring with a pigment that is strong enough to be noticeable but with an overall sheer effect.  There is a bit of shimmer but it doesn't look sparkly and the texture is nice and smooth but not sticky.  I love the way it feels on my lips and the subtle rose scent is to die for.  I have a feeling that I am going to be repurchasing this one.

I wasn't as much of a fan of the Invigorating Lip Gloss in Amethyst.  The color is ok - very neutral but still sheer so it doesn't either enhance my lip color or make me look washed out.  It's got a sweet flavor that I didn't love and it causes a tingling sensation when applied.  I actually think that a lot of people would really like this sweet and "tingly" quality but, personally, it's not for me.  Even so, it's filled with lovely oils and flower extracts and so I will probably end up using it, if not repurchasing.

The Modern Moonstone Cream Highlighter is lovely.  It's silky and smooth with a subtle sheen that does a great job of accentuating my cheekbones.  It's made with coconut and jojoba oil, so it feels like I'm protecting my skin while enhancing the way it looks.  I think I can finally toss out that MAC Strobe Cream that's been hanging out in my makeup cabinet!  I do wish that the packaging on this were more ergonomic for swiping my fingers through.  I'm thinking that a shape resembling Kjaer Weis's packages would be nicer to use.

Finally, the Flower Infused Eye Shadow in Rose Quartz will make a nice addition to my makeup collection.  I don't wear much eye shadow, but when I do I like ones that are in a light shade like this one.  This comes in a loose powder and so I would recommend using a small brush to apply.  I am not the most makeup-adept person and so it took me a bit of practice to put it on my upper lids without having it end up below my eyes, too.  One thing I really like about this is it's staying power.  I put it on this morning and it was still looking great hours later!

That's it for another month of Beauty Heroes!  If you're on the fence about subscribing, I really recommend them as an affordable way to scratch your fancy green beauty itch!