On Pleasure

When I was in college, I dated a guy who explained why we were together using the concept of utility matrices from economics. This wasn’t a reference to any money either of us had, but rather he used the idea of maximizing the utility matrix and applied it to maximizing personal pleasure. Now, as a romantic 20-something, this sounded horribly dry and unappealing to me, and that relationship… didn’t last. But I suppose I owe him an apology because as I grow older, I somewhat understand what he meant.

Rather than seeing it as a dispassionate calculation, I realize that happiness and pleasure are in fact a balance of different options. And as I progress in my life, pleasure is one of the things that I strive to maximize. But what brings me pleasure and what brings others pleasure are going to be different. That balance and optimization are going to be different for everyone.

On its basest level, pleasure is the avoidance of discomfort. And on the base of my understanding of pleasure comes the experiences I’ve had that convince me that certain things, though I may enjoy them in the moment, will ultimately have displeasure that outweighs their pleasure. Coffee is one of those things. As I get older, my body increasingly shows its displeasure at being given coffee. So even though I actually adore the taste and experience of coffee, I’ve started largely limiting myself to enjoying the aroma when my spouse makes his morning cup.

On the flip side of that, sometimes something that seems unpleasant can yield more pleasure than the initial unpleasantness. Waking at 5:30 a.m. and exercising it not many people’s idea of a good time, but the endorphins from the exercise and the delicious experience of the still quiet of the early morning brings me more pleasure than lying in bed until noon ever did (with a few exceptions ;)). And I always choose exercise that I enjoy, so it’s not an ordeal to get through to get to the afterglow. By the time I have my workout clothes on and push the button to start my video, I’m excited, I’m anticipating the joy of this ritual.

But beyond the trade-off pleasures that I have, my routines are also maximized to deliver things that I solely enjoy. Like my morning croissant. The full sensory experience of my tea practice, calling on all of my senses to fully immerse myself in a practice of pleasure each day. The bright swipe of lipstick or the feel of my favorite skin care against my skin. Feeling the grass between my toes as I enjoy my yard or tend to the garden. The smell and flavor of fresh herbs.

The primary reason I do most of what I do is for pleasure. Yes, I still work, but I try to find the joy in it. And if you were to ask me why I do anything “unnecessary” in my life, the answer would be the same: for pleasure. There is no aspect of my personal hobbies that are done for anything other than the enjoyment they bring. While my historical studies of tea have taught me that medicinal qualities of teas have their place in tea culture, I drink tea because I enjoy it. It’s one of the reasons I can be so selective about the teas I accept as samples anymore, because it’s not worth it to me to drink a tea I don’t enjoy simply to build a brand relationship. I’d rather build a relationship with those whose teas I enjoy, even if they never decide to send me anything for free.

But that is my personal idea of pleasure. Everyone’s idea of pleasure and enjoyment will be different. In the same way that some people like bananas and I do not, some people enjoy being able to turn their passion for tea into a career by cultivating wide business networks. Or their passion for beauty, for skincare, for fashion. And that is their pleasure.

I think my favorite saying is “Don’t yuck someone’s yum.” It is a reminder to let people enjoy what they enjoy, whether it’s a 50-year-old, well-stored sheng puer from your favorite mountain, or a perfect red lip.

Brand Spotlight: Live Botanical (and some thoughts about “natural” skincare)

IMG_0515

I thought that today’s Mini Moon Challenge prompt required a bit of a longer post, and I wanted to talk about something I’ve noticed over the years in the beauty community: the science-vs.-nature false dichotomy. And this was an ideal place to discuss it because the prompt of “a full routine” not only brings up something I’ve talk about for years — the idea of a minimum acceptable routine — but also gives me a chance to highlight a brand that I think represents a balance between the ideas of “natural” products and “science-based” products.

I’ve written in the past about my previous insistence of “all-natural” products and how I no longer subscribe to that requirement, but anyone who reads this blog knows that I am still dedicated to the idea that botanicals can work with more recent compounds to make a truly holistic routine. And this isn’t just in my personal thoughts about herbalism and medicine, but also extends to beauty products. But so many of the brands that offer botanically-based products also perpetuate some of the most pernicious anti-science myths that plague the community, and so many of the brands that base their identity in scientific backing work to distance themselves from the botanical beauty concept to differentiate themselves from those myths. It becomes a kind of zero-sum game where you’re either nature or science, as though mankind doesn’t exist as a part of the global ecosystem.

The idea that science is at odds with nature, or vice versa, is artificial, since 1.) human beings are also a part of nature and the idea that nature is something you have to return to is based in the idea that man is “better” than nature, and 2.) all scientific progress at its core came from observations about nature, and was synthesized from or to replace specific natural products. So where are the brands that recognize this?

Enter Live Botanical. While this is not the only brand that manages to blend science and botanicals, it is the one that I’m most excited about right now. Not only are the products made with both botanical wisdom and scientific knowledge, but she also doesn’t engage in marketing based on myths. While her products happen to be paraben-free, she doesn’t market that loudly and doesn’t try to act like her products are somehow “safer” or “non-toxic” compared to others. What she does emphasize is how she sources ingredients, specifically how far they have to travel to get to her. Where she finds the most value in sourcing products from botanicals is in the fact that she can grow many of herself and distill extracts and hydrosols, or else source ingredients from close to her home, rather than focusing on “exotic” ingredients that not only travel great distances, but might also contribute to the othering of historically marginalized and oppressed cultures.

On each bottle, rather than stating the percentage of “natural” ingredients or claims about the safety of the products, she states the percentage of the product that is “regionally sourced,” as a way to think about the true meaning of sustainability when consuming beauty products. But these botanically-led products also contain ingredients with strong scientific backings like niacinamide, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, tremella mushroom extract, and more. She tests the pH of her cleanser and makes sure it is in an acid-mantle-friendly range. And she uses a clearly-stated preservative system that includes both ingredients as well as packaging. Plus, she acknowledges indigenous wisdom and donates to organizations that promote social justice.

But what about the products? Well, I’m a hair’s breadth from the classic three-step routine with her products. While my actual routine varies widely based on the weather, season, and my mood (or mental state), lately, they have been firmly based around these four products. In the morning, I cleanse with her cleansing gel, apply vitamin C if I feel like it, and then use the Radiance Elixir and Ambient Moisture Liquid. In the evening, I double cleanse with her cleansing oil and gel and then use an acid serum. From there, it’s the same Radiance Elixir and Ambient Moisture Liquid, plus a balm if I’m feeling extra dry, or an oil if I’m not. And on days or nights when I just can’t do anything more, I can always cleanse with her cleansing gel and apply a couple pumps of Ambient Moisture Liquid.

I love that I have been able to try minis of all her products. I’ve already rebought full-sized bottles of the cleansing oil, Radiance Elixir, and Ambient Moisture Liquid, but I’m trying to decide if I want to go back to my old cleanser to use up my current stock before repurchasing the cleansing gel. I probably won’t and will simply gift my unopened bottle of my previous favorite to a friend or family member because I seriously love the cleansing gel. My skin is extremely picky about water-based cleansers and this is literally only the second one that hasn’t eventually caused my skin or wonky eye to freak out. And this has the benefit of being made by a company of less dubious morality than my previous favorite.

So that’s my rant about natural beauty and how I base my routine largely around products from Live Botanical. I highly recommend you check them out. And if you have, please let me know what your favorite product is!

NB: I am not a medical professional or a licensed herbalist. None of this is intended to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your own treatment professionals for advice. No brand relationships or PR gifts to disclose. For more information about collaborating with me, see my contact and collaboration information.

On Historybounding (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Weird)

Historybounding1

In my post on my 37th birthday, I made an offhand reference to “historybounding” and how it has helped me discover and crystalize my personal style. But what actually is historybounding? Where did it come from? And what does it mean to me? Well, I’ve recently joined a Facebook group dedicated to historybounding and gone further into making friends in the historical dress community and thought maybe I ought to talk a bit about this.

When I very first started Tea Leaves and Tweed, I envisioned it as a vintage-inspired lifestyle blog. I went through phases of blogging mostly about natural beauty, my rudimentary internet historical research, and later Asian-inspired beauty. Through all of this, tea was a consistent presence in my life, both herbal and true, and eventually, my tea content started to inspire me more and more. But as with most things in my life, I cannot be content with one thing, one label, one… anything. So this blog is a jumble. And my vintage style was a jumble, too.

At the point that I started this blog, “vintage” in the blogging community typically meant mid-20th-century fashions, usually heavily focusing on women’s fashion, with lots of victory rolls, fit-and-flare silhouettes, and red lipstick. Obviously, I am fully on board with the red lipstick, most of the time. But I realized that 1.) my style was not firmly in even a narrow 2- or 3-decade window, and 2.) many of the styles that drew me didn’t have a lot of available vintage in my price range. But I figured that if I wanted to keep the red lipstick and not attempt to adopt a minimalist French chic look (trust me, I have flirted with minimalist, French, and chic, and I am none of them), I would need to keep my style firmly rooted in the 20th century, specifically the 20s-50s.

Enter Bernadette Banner, Rachel Maksy, and Morgan Donner. I found Bernadette’s YouTube channel when a friend of mine convinced me to try sewing one of her patterns and I was too stubborn to borrow my mother’s sewing machine, so I decided to hand-sew the whole thing. From there, I discovered historical costuming and then historybounding. I realized that I didn’t need to stick to an era or wear all vintage clothing. Putting together an ensemble that evokes an historical era is not only fun, it’s actually historically accurate, as people in the past often wore their take on what they thought historical fashions were in art. And I realized that there was a community of people out there with “vintage” looks that went much further back than the 1920s for inspiration.

The term “historybounding” grew out of the term “Disneybounding,” which was a practice that Disney fans used to wear character-inspired outfits to the parks, which prohibit dressing in costume. The challenge was to put together an outfit with recognizable color palettes or details to evoke a certain character, but without going too far over the “costume” line to be turned away at the gate. The results are truly fascinating and I highly recommend looking up Disneybounding if you’re interested in some very creative everyday cosplay. In the same vein, the idea of historybounding is to put together an outfit inspired by historical dress, but without necessarily looking like you got lost on your way to a theatrical performance (or like you’re dashing around the theater on the street in costume to make a house entrance — I have some stories!).

So now I might wear a Victorian-inspired walking skirt, high-neck blouse, blazer, and my American Duchess boots one day, and an 18th-century peasant-inspired outfit another day. I tend towards using historically-available fibers, like linen, cotton, and wool, but most of my wardrobe is either secondhand from a thrift shop, or else handmade by a modern person. Pretty much the only “historically accurate” items I own are my Penny River silk stockings and ribbon garters, plus the aforementioned boots. But just the other day, while I was wearing the outfit pictured above, a friend said I gave off a “Belle vibe.” Since my inspiration was a 19th-century painting romanticizing an 18th-century peasant, I’ll take it.

Plus, I think that historybounding gives me a way to stretch and explore my idea of time-traveling fashion. In the same way that I pick and choose items of clothing, I pick and choose ideas. I love the idea of red lipstick as a symbol of women’s suffrage and empowerment, but I acknowledge and reject some of the racist ideals held by 19th- and early-20th-century feminists (and, let’s be frank, it didn’t end there). I admire the practices of refashioning rather than buying new, mending, and using more sustainable fabrics of the past, but I recognize that the widespread use of cotton was made possible by the exploitation of enslaved and colonized people, and I look to the ethics of the companies from which I purchase. For me, historybounding is the epitome of “Vintage style, not vintage values.” By picking and choosing fashion, I am also symbolically saying that I am not limited by the mindset of an era whose clothing and style I might enjoy, while the willingness to explore historical accuracy prompts me to do more research than when I was simply looking at Etsy and Pinterest for “vintage looks.”

Finally, historybounding fashion has inspired me to historybound other aspects of my life. Most notably, I’ve started exploring the tea cultures of different eras around the world, which has also led to a fascination with historical cooking and baking. Historical cookery has not only given me an interesting look at the origins of our modern recipes, but has taught me new-to-me spice combinations and tidbits like the use of salted butter in baking (which is nice when you use up all your unsalted butter stress baking during lockdown and your spouse isn’t scheduled to go to the store for another week).

Have you ever heard of historybounding? What’s your favorite era for fashion inspiration?

For anyone who is interested, the dress I’m wearing above is from Galia Couture (not sponsored). The shirt is my spouse’s.

Beauty Review: Florishe Camellia Full Blossom Serum

IMG_0134

A while ago, I wrote about how, despite largely dropping sheet masks from my routine for environmental reasons, I was enjoying the Florishe sheet masks I was sent for review while we were in lockdown. Well, we’re still at home and I’m still loving my Florishe products, but since I’ve been testing it for a few weeks, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the Camellia Full Blossom Serum that is their flagship product. This is a creamy lotion-serum that contains hydrating ingredients, their signature green tea extract from sustainably-produced green tea, and oils to create a thin emulsion. It also smells lightly of flowers and bergamot in a way that always reminds me of Earl Grey. The scent is very light and natural and even though I am prone to migraines, it is generally okay for me unless I’m deeply in the throes of one that is making me react to literally everything (like the one where I was being triggered by my own body odor the other day).

As with all long-term use skincare products that I share on this blog, I made a commitment to test this for at least two weeks without adding anything else that was new to my routine. I enjoyed it enough that I actually ended up testing it longer and have been using for about the last month. I did take pictures of my face before I started testing it and after three weeks, but as I’ve discussed before, I have pretty generally good skin, so the differences are not dramatic. I simply feel like my skin looks a little more even and luminous.

23 May 2020
13 June 2020

It’s also a wonderful one-step product to use after washing and vitamin C in the morning before using sunscreen, rather than my typical custom potion of hydrating serums and oils as my fancy takes me. This was highly appreciated in the depths of lockdown, when I felt my mental health deteriorating, and was barely able to face washing up in the morning, let alone a complicated skin care routine. And one of my go-to steps for the most minimal presentable face is to add a few drops of Niod Photography Fluid 12% to some moisturizer or serum and this is perfect for that.

Now, I will say, I am likely not going to repurchase this. First of all, I have a lineup of products that I have used for years and know I love. Yes, it means a little bit of witchery at my vanity to get the perfect fit, but for me, it’s not worth spending the money on another product right now, particularly one that is scented, since as I mentioned before I would occasionally have to avoid it. But for those who are not as into puttering around with their skin care, this is a fantastic thing to consider as a one-step hydrating and nourishing moisturizer, particularly in the warmer months when you don’t need a heavier moisturizer. And I like the company’s ideals concerning sustainability and relationships with their tea farmers, particularly given the dark truths about tea farming that I touched on a few weeks ago.

Also, the set with the serum and five sheet masks comes with an adorable canvas bag that my spouse has already claimed for our collection of shopping bags. And since it’s cotton, we can toss it into the wash after taking it out, in case we’re worried about contamination! So check out Florishe and see if they have something you might enjoy, whether you’re a tea lover or a skin care lover (or both, like me!).

NB: The serum was sent to me free of charge in exchange for featuring. All thoughts are my own. Links are not affiliate links. If you’re interested in collaborating with me, please read my contact and collaboration information.

The Virus Diaries: Five Things Keeping Me Sane During Stay-At-Home

IMG_1723

Hello! How is everyone this week? This week, instead of a simple update, I thought I’d share five things that have been helping me stay comparatively sane while we’re staying at home. We’re just at the end of six weeks of self-isolating at home, with only the occasional shopping trip for food (once every ten days or so). Isolating is hard, even when you’re a dyed-in-the-wool introvert like I am. It’s been made even more difficult by the fact that I actually get less time to myself since my husband and child are home all the time.

So here is where I’m approaching this from: We are safe, we are healthy, and we are financially solvent. We are fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us to work from home, at least inasmuch as our employers have decided to continue paying us. My job is a bit more work-from-home friendly, so I typically have a standard 9-5-ish day, while my husband can use his flexibility to take care of the bulk of the childcare during my workday. But I still miss my coworkers, my castmates, my long daily walks through the city, my favorite shops downtown, and the delicious alone time I used to get every week when I worked from home while Dan and Elliot were off at work or daycare. But, all-in-all, we are extremely lucky.

But there are definitely some things that are making a non-ideal situation more bearable or even enjoyable.

  1. Local farms and producers: Like most of the US, it seems, I am also baking a lot during stay-at-home. As my Isolation Baking videos might suggest, I love to bake. In particular, I’m baking quite a bit of bread and baking bread means you go through a lot of flour. Especially since our grocery store has stopped production of their in-house artisan sourdough, for sanitation reasons, I’ve felt the need to pick up a bit of the slack by baking my own bread. But of course, it’s getting more and more difficult to find flour, especially specialty flours. So I was delighted to find a local farm, Migrash Farm, that is still fully stocked and willing to deliver for free to a nearby farmer’s market. Similarly, I’ve enjoyed contactless beer delivery from Denizen’s Brewing Co., and we’re getting our first vegetable delivery from Number 1 Sons this week, so I’m hoping that will be a way to have fresh vegetables every week, even if we only go out every other week.
  2. Tea: Of course, tea has been a constant companion since I was young, but since I’m now home all the time, my tea practice has become even more important. Whether I’m making a pot of Earl Grey, a saucepan of masala chai, or a full gong fu session, tea practice gives me space to slow down and focus on one thing, rather than getting lost in the chaos that is sometimes our home life right now.
  3. Outside time: Normally, I walk three miles, round-trip, on my daily commute, so suddenly spending the entire day in the house has largely depressed my mental state. I find that getting outside, even for a few minutes, helps perk it back up. Even better if I can enjoy a peaceful, early morning tea session in the yard before anyone else around me is awake. Despite not needing to leave the house by 7 a.m., I still wake up quite early, if only to get that time.
  4. Daily Yoga app: While I’ve had an on and off home yoga practice for over twenty years, I’ve recently found it difficult to stick to my home practice, especially since we moved to a house that has a bit more limited floor space for yoga. But the Daily Yoga app, plus my #ringofaccountability on Instagram, have inspired me to stick with my daily practice. I’m currently on a forty-day streak and counting.
  5. Small touches of beauty in my life: I have not been sticking to my regular beauty routine, and for the first time in years, I’ve started using dry shampoo, but I do try to do something to make myself feel connected to beauty each day. I’ve been wearing my historically-inspired clothing, and trying to do makeup and hair at least a few days a week. And my new Camellia sinensis necklace from Tea Thoughts has been immensely inspiring to my beauty routine. Some days I only get dressed to give myself an excuse to wear this little beauty.

I should likely mention a bonus other thing that helps keep me sane: my medication for depression and anxiety. I believe in being totally honest about medication and don’t think it should be stigmatized. It certainly is making the difference between being appropriately concerned for the future and helplessly anxious. I would be remiss if I didn’t give that an extra shout-out.

So that’s what’s keeping me together these days. Are you also existing held together with a thin veneer of red lipstick and homemade bread? What’s your stay-at-home routine look like? Until next week, stay safe everyone!

NB: Nothing to disclose. If you are interested in collaborating with me, please read my collaboration and contact information.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routines: Revisiting One of My First Post Series

IMG_1461

In the first week of writing this blog, I began a series of posts in which I describe my vintage-inspired beauty routines, discussing how I cared for my facial skin, body, nails, hair, etc. Since then, not only have my philosophy about what ingredients are good in personal care changed, but I’ve gone through some pretty extreme phases in terms of how much or how little I do to my skin. I’ve also gone through some pretty major life events that have affected both how my skin behaves, as well as how much time, energy, and money I have to devote to beauty.  So it seemed like a good time to revisit these posts and talk about my routines in detail again, starting with skin care and talking about all the different routines I mentioned back five years ago.

But before I start, I thought a little retrospective overview on my beauty philosophy over the last five years might be in order. When I started this blog, I was not only very inspired by Victorian and early-to-mid-20th-century beauty routines, I was also heavily influenced by “clean” beauty marketing. I have since then learned that science and natural products can coexist and have changed my ideas of what types of ingredients my skin likes. I no longer strive to make my routine one that is as much homemade products as possible as I don’t have the formulator chops of actual beauty brands. Of the things that I still blend myself, it’s pretty much just facial oils, though I still love my oils from actual beauty brands. From this phase of my life, I learned that paying attention to ingredients is good for my skin, though not because I ban anything as “dirty,” and more that I now know what I’m putting on my skin so I can notice patterns of either positive or negative reactions.

Since my early days of all-DIY, I went to the opposite extreme. I discovered Korean and Asian beauty brands and started designing my own ten-step routine. I had multiple steps of essence, ampoule, and serum, and spent much of my “me time” lovingly patting each step into my skin. I even wrote about how the new (at the time) Western trend of Asian-inspired skin care tracked with my historically-inspired beauty, as historical beauties have always looked for that new thing that will give them naturally beautiful skin. And at least my sheet masks weren’t made of raw meat, right? The top lessons I took away from my Asian skin care days was that sunscreen is the most important skin care product I use and that sunscreens formulated for the Korean and Japanese markets are often nicer to use, and also that my skin likes some light, hydrating layers over a rich cream.

Eventually, I started trimming my routine back down, mostly out of laziness, but also because sometimes my skin looked a little congested or overloaded. And then, the first time I got pregnant, my skin freaked out. Luckily, my interest in ingredients lists helped me find very simple products that didn’t irritate my skin, but it meant dropping a lot of steps. As my second pregnancy went on, I lacked the energy to do a complicated routine, and after the baby came, I didn’t really see that time or energy come back.

So where I am now is like an amalgamation of where I’ve been, as we all are. In the next several weeks, I hope to revisit each of my “Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine” posts and talk about where I am now. Come join me at my vanity!

NB: Nothing to declare.

Beauty Review: The TEA.L Ceremony Set

NB: I was sent the TEA.L Ceremony Set free of charge by TEA.L, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Also, TEA.L is currently offering an automatic 30% off from now until Christmas, with no code needed!

When I was a kid, my mother introduced me to afternoon tea, which we would have every afternoon when I came home from kindergarten. It was at that point that I developed a lifelong love of tea. Later on, I also developed a love of fantasy books, particularly those with dragons, so when my mother was looking for a gift for me at one point, she ended up buying me a tin of Dragonwell tea. This was my first experience with tea outside of British-style black tea with milk and sugar, and has remained a tea that is close to my heart (hence why I always have some on hand, as I mentioned in my Marie Antoinette video).

All of this is a convoluted way of explaining why, when I heard that a skincare brand was infusing their products with Dragonwell tea, I knew it might be meant to be. I first heard about the brand on Marco’s Instagram at Steap’d, and when I commented on his post, the brand reached out and offered to send me something to try. They ended up sending me their full set.

TEA.L is a skin care company whose star ingredient is Dragonwell green tea infused into the oils they use in their naturally-led products. A quick note about “green” or “clean” products: I no longer specifically seek out “natural” products, as I explain here, but I appreciate the brand’s transparency about why they choose the ingredients they do, particularly when they admit that the “paraben-free” hype is probably just marketing. And, as someone who has had a reaction to “natural” fragrance, I’m glad that they list their essential oils rather than using “fragrance” as a hide-all ingredient.

IMG_0925

The TEA.L Ceremony Set includes three products: the Green Tea + Guayusa Face Care, the Green Tea + Rooibos Body Care, and the Green Tea + Yerba Mate Eye Care. I started testing the Body Care and Eye Care on 11/2, and then added the Face Care a week later, just to make sure I didn’t have any reaction. At the time I’m writing this review, I’ve been using the Eye Care for four weeks and the Face Care for three weeks, morning and night. You can find my current skin care routine here; I apply the eye cream after hydrating serum but before oil, and I apply the cream after oil. I introduced each face product in complete isolation for one week at least, and I waited until after my period to make sure any breakouts were hormone-related.

Let’s start with the body cream. I only recently discovered I even like rooibos to drink after years of thinking I hated it, so I was worried I’d hate the scent of this, since Marco said it smells exactly like rooibos. And he’s not wrong, but it’s delicious. It’s a deep, earthy scent with that light bright woodiness that I get from good rooibos. My husband thinks it smells like shou puerh, but he also has the worst sense of smell. The one thing it doesn’t smell like is perfume, so I feel like I can use this even when I’m using other fragrance without it clashing. I mostly used it on my dry, dark elbows, and noticed that they got smoother, less itchy, and lighter colored.

Okay, now eyes. So first of all, I don’t use eye cream. It’s not some philosophical thing; I just don’t use it. But I tried really, really hard, and I did use my eye cream all but maybe one or two days of my testing for this. The eye cream has a rich texture, but it feels light on the skin, doesn’t irritate my eyes, and it absorbs very nicely. Also, despite being silicone-free, it spreads amazingly and I have to use an extremely small amount for both eyes — like the size of a grain of rice. It smells like cucumbers to me, which is odd given that it has no synthetic fragrance, but I like it. My absolute only complaint is that the formula does thicken in the pump head and will sometimes clog, but that’s going to happen with any cream with a high percentage of natural butters.

IMG_0926

Finally, the face cream. I loved the texture of the face cream. It was somehow buttery, yet light, and it almost had a sort of water-drop feeling on the skin. I used half a pump for daytime before sunscreen and a full pump at night before applying my face balm. I haven’t really used a cream regularly for a while, so I was fully prepared to feel kind of meh about it, but, honestly, I love it. Of the three products, this is the one I’m going to repurchase when I run out. I love the scent (I usually hate geranium and ylang-ylang, but the earthiness of the infused botanicals seem to ground it in a way I like). I love the texture. I love the effect on my skin. And I started using another product, the Deciem Photography Fluid, with it by adding a drop or two to my morning half-pump, and my skin looks truly stunning. Check out my Anji Bai Cha tasting video for it in action — it actually makes your skin look better under fluorescent lights.

And I actually remembered to take before and after photos! This is before starting testing on the left and after on the right (because I’m not a monster). I took the photos in the morning before putting anything on my face, or even washing it, so these are “I woke up like this” photos. So I obviously didn’t get the lighting exactly the same between them (in fact, I did try editing the “before” picture a bit to get the exposure a bit more similar), but two things immediately jumped out at me. One, my skin looks just generally evener, less red, and glowier in the after photo. And the second is that I actually notice that the crinkles at the corners of my eyes are noticeably less, well, noticeable in the after photo. Now, I’m not trying to stop the aging process, but perhaps these products are helping my skin be healthier and more elastic, which isn’t a bad thing. Of course, it’s possible that simply applying a separate eye cream is what’s doing it. But still. Color me impressed.

So those are my thoughts about the TEA.L products. I was actually really impressed, and at least one product is going to make it into my daily routine for good, which is high praise, given how much I’ve pared down my routine in recent years. Definitely check them out if you’re looking for a new cream.

On Vintage Clothing Shopping Triumphs and Fails

When I first started this blog, one of my very clear goals was to share my love of vintage style. I fashioned my beauty routines after historical practices I read about and had started buying more vintage clothing to create a vintage and vintage-inspired wardrobe. Over the years, my wardrobe has fluctuated, but I still love a little vintage style. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that many of my previously purchased vintage pieces fell victim to my occasional bouts of decluttering. Add to that a new personal effort to be more sustainable, which translates into attempting to reduce the amount of clothing I purchase new, plus changes in both my body shape and needs at work from pregnancy, and I was in need of a few vintage and secondhand basics. First, I made a plan for my color scheme, and since most of my clothing is neutral colored, with some jewel tones, I decided that neutrals (black, white, dark navy, grey, brown, and cream) paired with two accent colors would work. Since they are my favorite colors, my accents are green and purple.

I started, as I usually do, on Etsy, but soon grew somewhat disillusioned with both the prices and the need to ship from different countries. I realized that for some of my basics, if I wasn’t buying new fast fashion, I at least needed to find a place to buy secondhand that fit my schedule. So, after watching a video from Rachel Maksy, I decided to investigate ThredUp, an online thrift store of sorts. I started by putting together a custom “Goody Box” of ten different blouses that fit my pseudo-Victorian/Edwardian aesthetic, but with effectively free shipping (if I kept at least one item) and an easy-to-navigate return process when I didn’t want to keep everything. I ended up liking two of the ten blouses (I almost liked three, but ended up with an odd shoulder pads situation). While ThredUp isn’t perfect, it was a great way to buy secondhand for someone with enough going on in my life that I can’t really browse thrift shops for gems on a regular basis. And I particularly like that I can filter by material, so I can only look at items made with cotton, linen, silk, and wool.

After my initial Goody Box, I bought a few more things on ThredUp, including another couple blouses, some blazers, and a skirt. Only the skirt was a miss, but only because I misjudge the silhouette online, and it will still come in handy if I ever need to dress like a normal professional rather than a professional hobbit. But the jackets were some real finds. I found a jacket that is a modernized version of an historical-style riding jacket, as well as a velvet blazer that is probably from the 80s or earlier (because the company it’s from went out of business in the 80s). It’s interesting because nothing is labeled “vintage” on ThredUp, but they do definitely sell some things that might be considered vintage (I just keep reminding myself that when I was a teenager in the 90s, 70s was considered “vintage,” so, yes, 90s can be vintage now).

But now on to the main event: Etsy. Eventually, I realized that ThredUp wasn’t really going to fit my needs for skirts, so I returned to Etsy. Knowing that I would be spending more, I decided to get two wool skirts, to replace the two skirts (one cotton and one linen) that were my standard work rotation in the warmer weather. I wanted one to be black and one to be a neutral non-black color, or one of my accent colors of green and purple. Then, I needed to get an accurate waist measurement and determine how long I needed the skirt to be to fall below my knees, which is what I feel most comfortable wearing. Sadly, the amazing purple wool skirts I found were all too small for me, but I found a lovely black wool skirt and a brown tweed wool skirt. I was struck when they arrived how much nicer they were than the previous skirts I’d remembered buying on Etsy. The fabric is sturdy but not scratchy, and there is even little piping sewn into the black skirt to create a ridged embellishment. Plus, the waist measurements were scrupulously accurate. And the seller who sold me the black skirt even included a lovely scarf as a little extra, which is fun thing about buying from Etsy sellers.

Of course, this post is called “triumphs and fails,” not “vintage triumphs,” so now we come to the fail. While I was on Etsy, I started looking around at some of the vintage “[decade] does Victorian” blouses and fell in love with an adorable Victorian-inspired silk blouse. The main problem with Etsy is that there is no consistency in how vendors disclose the condition of their items, so when I didn’t see any particular issues called out in the listing, I splurged. But when it arrived, the cuffs were frayed and missing some stitching, not terribly so, but badly enough that I would have felt like it needed to be repaired before wearing it to work. After going back and forth with the seller, they decided they’d rather just accept a return than have me get a quote for repairing it, which is fine, but it meant that I had to pay to ship it back overseas. So there is a sense of buyer beware on Etsy. Don’t be like me; contact your vintage sellers and ask about condition before clicking “Buy.”

So there is my current status on fall/winter fashion. I’ve created a largely second-hand or self-thrifted (i.e., from my own closet because the most sustainable option is to wear what you already have) wardrobe with strong historical influences. I’m certainly not “fashionable,” but I feel like my clothes show the strongest sense of personal style that I’ve ever had, and I feel the most like myself. I’ll definitely be wearing these clothes in future tea videos, so you’ll get to see them even without modeling shots here. Happy dressing!

*                      *                     *

One last thing: For anyone who has watched my most recent tea video, today is the birthday of the lovely friend who made the handmade mug I use in that video (and that frequently makes an appearance on Instagram). If you wish her a happy birthday in the comments, I’ll certainly pass along the well wishes!

NB: This post is not sponsored or affiliated with any of the companies mentioned.

Skin Care Update, Fall/Winter 2019

I have another beauty review in the works, so I thought I should write a current skin care update with my baseline favorite products right now. Of course, my skin had gone through some serious changes over the last two years, with my pregnancy and postpartum, and I’ve also made some choices in my personal consumption habits that have affected my skin care. The last time I wrote about my regular skin care routine, it was in the context of how I’ve had to change my habits as I balance parenting responsibilities and self-care. Before that, I wrote about my pregnancy skin care over a year ago.

Of course, nothing is constant in parenting, and I eventually had to change up my routine again because Elliot’s sleeping patterns changed. I could no longer count on any longer chunks of sleep at night, so I decided that getting to bed as soon as I could was more important than facial massage. I still have roughly the same routine of cleanse, hydrate, and nourish, but I’ve discovered some new favorite products.

IMG_0732

Last time I wrote, I had discovered the Voltaire and Chatelet oils from The Library Apothecary. Well, since then, I’ve fully become a Library girl (it’s like a Glossier girl, but with less pink and more amber glass). I’ve started using Mara’s Rose Oil at night after cleansing and hydrating, and following it with her Elder Balm, which is a wonderfully fragrant experience that also happens to both nourish and calm my skin. I even add a little dab in the mornings under my mineral sunscreen to prevent it from becoming too matte. If she came out with a cleanser and a hydrating serum, pretty much all of my routine would come from her, minus actives and sunscreen. And I promise this isn’t sponsored — The Library Apothecary is a one-person operation and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t exactly have an advertising budget.

The other major development is that I am no longer using Glossier Milky Jelly. In my efforts to create a more sustainable skin care routine, I decided to try the Trilogy Cream Cleanser, as it is packaged in a glass pump bottle, rather than plastic. It has a skin-friendly pH and doesn’t foam, and I’ve found it a reasonable swap for my skin. It is scented with essential oils, but I find the aroma strangely appealing now that I’ve been using it for a while, and it doesn’t irritate my eyes, which is why I had previous had to stop using every other cleanser I tried besides the Glossier. Do I wish it were unscented? Yes. Am I willing to try the unscented version that uses an oil that my skin has disliked in the past and is more expensive and hasn’t been explicitly pH tested by a blogger I trust? No.

I’ve also switched to a very bare-bones hydrating serum from Timeless Skin Care, as well as using their pure squalane oil for my first cleanse (I’m using it up after buying a giant pump bottle for Elliot’s cradle cap, which went away after one treatment). I apply three pumps of squalane to dry skin and massage to break up sunscreen and lipstick. Then I remove it with a flannel soaked in warm water and follow with the Trilogy cleanser. Three times a week, I use my Bell-Evolve Lac-Luronic serum (I’ve also been using it as a deodorant — thanks, Tracy!), and then apply hyaluronic acid and Rose Oil, followed with a pea-sized amount of the Elder Balm. I use a tiny silver vintage spoon that my mother gave me as part of a set to use with my vintage Brambly Hedge teaset, but since Elliot is still a few years away from enjoying tea time with the good china, I don’t think he’ll mind if I borrow this little choking hazard to scoop my fancy skin balm. I’ve been told that it’s a “dupe” for the May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon, despite clearly being superior because it’s purple and also doesn’t contain the one ingredient that always causes me to break out.

In the morning, I cleanse with a half a pump of the Trilogy cleanser, and then apply some vitamin C serum. I’m currently using Mad Hippie‘s because I can buy it locally. After that, I hydrate and apply one pump of Chatelet oil, followed with a lentil-sized amount of Elder Balm if it’s a dry day. Then I apply my sunscreen, which is currently the Marie Veronique Everyday Coverage in Extra Light Tint, which isn’t my favorite, but it ticks the boxes I need for now, but it’s oddly gritty, so I’m still looking. Unfortunately, every time I try to return to an organic sun filter, my skin freaks out, so I’m sticking with inorganic right now. I have a new one on the way, though.

I’ve actually stopped wearing pretty much any other makeup other than tinted sunscreen and lipstick, unless I’m doing photos or a video, so my routine is quite minimal indeed. And my biggest sustainability habit has been to stop buying sheet masks. I still have a few left in my mask drawer, but for the most part, the only mask I do is a weekly clay mask that I mix myself from bulk purchased green clay mixed with matcha. And my regular daily routines seem to provide enough hydration so that I don’t need anything else.

So it is from this baseline that I will be testing some new products. Right now my skin is the calmest and clearest it’s been in my adult memory, so I’m hesitant to shake things up, but I do have a few review products that I’ve been sent, so stay tuned for that.

NB: All products were purchased with my own money and I was not given any incentive to feature them here. All thoughts are my own. None of the links are affiliate.

The Red Lipstick Diaries: My New Everyday Red Lip

Years ago, I challenged myself to wear all my red lipsticks and tried to cultivate a “signature red” for everyday wear. In the intervening years, much has changed. Not only has my personal style moved from the mid-20th-century to a more late-19th/early-20th-century aesthetic, but I fell out of the habit of wearing lipstick altogether when I was pregnant last year (as well as really any makeup at all). But lately, I’ve felt the pull of the bold lip once more.

IMG_0591

And, in my exploration of early-20th-century beauty, I’ve discovered that it’s not entirely surprising. Apparently, the women’s suffrage movement used red lipstick as a symbol of women’s power in the 1910’s. So perhaps red lipstick isn’t entirely out of line with my aesthetic.

One thing that has always been out of line with my aesthetic were liquid lipsticks. I just preferred the experience of applying and reapplying lipstick from the tube, as well as the look of the tube on my vanity. But as I haven’t bought lipstick in a long while, most of my old lipsticks are either gone, or gone bad, so I had to replenish my collection. At first, I looked at some favorite bullet formulas, but when I started looking to reduce my plastic waste, I started exploring other options. And managed to stumble upon the liquid lipsticks from Beauty Bakerie.

Of course, I do not, in fact, live under a rock (and even confirmed hobbit Rachel Maksy has reviewed them), so I had heard of Beauty Bakerie, mostly through their unbelievable social media ads that show how tough their lipsticks wear. But I was intrigued by the idea of a lipstick that I wouldn’t have to faff around with, and that wouldn’t leave marks on my tea cups. So I spent my $20 plus shipping and waited.

And I’m definitely impressed. I got the shade Mon Cheri, which is a gorgeous bright true red on me. It has become my everyday red lip. I’ve been slightly tempted to try some of the other shades, but really, Mon Cheri is such a perfect red on me (if you want to see it in action, check out this video), I don’t really need to branch out. And I’m glad I can get them at Ulta because my only complaint is that the single tube of lipstick came with an amount of packaging that would make Amazon blush. So I will be strictly be buying this locally from now on.

But the formula is gorgeous (and it doesn’t have any scent, despite the sweets-themed branding). Yes, you have to prep your lips. I always apply a thick lip balm over night (Aquaphor or Base for Lips from The Library Apothecary) and then in the morning, after I’ve had tea and brushed my teeth, I apply another layer of lip balm. I let that set while I put on sunscreen, and then wipe it off with a damp washcloth for a little exfoliation, and blot dry with a towel. Thus, are my lips prepped.

It is a little fiddly to apply, but only because it stays so well. I usually apply to the center of my lips and then work it outward, using the tip of the applicator to line my lips. If I catch any mistakes in the first few seconds, I can wipe them with a careful finger, but otherwise, your mistakes will stay until you remove the lipstick. I will say, I did not experience having to go back for more dips of product while applying. I use the amount of lipstick that coats the front and back of the applicator, and it’s the perfect amount to cover my lips in a thin, even layer, that doesn’t get flaky or gummy.

Yes, it dries down, and no, you can’t put on lip balm over it if you want to preserve the transfer-proof finish, but it’s not unbearable. I think having a decent lip care routine outside of your lipstick-wearing hours helps. And it wears all day without the need for one touchup. I wear this all day at work, through several meals and many, many cups of tea, and I’ve never had scary lips (or lipstick on my chin). And the glass tube is so pretty, I can forgive it for not being a vintage-y gold bullet. Plus, the tube is glass, which is more recyclable than plastics.

So there you have it: what might be the last lipstick review I ever post (doubtful). But for now, this is the only lipstick I feel the need to wear most days.

NB: I purchased this lipstick with my own money and was not provided any incentive to review.