December 28, 2018 – Group Tours (OOTD #430)

Traveling in a large group is hard.img_1340

Over my last several experiences traveling, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more people you’re with, the more complicated it gets. Trying to coordinate schedules, preferences, budgets: it’s all so much, and in the end, passive aggressive arguments and frustrations always break out.

img_1359

 

Being alone is also not ideal either, though — who are you going to get to take your photos? The best travel situation has to be just one other partner.And so for today’s Doha adventures, I gave up on trying to hang out with the group if it didn’t suit me. The previous few days, I had been trying so hard to hang out with as many people as possible, to give everyone my attention who wanted it. But that was exhausting, and in the end, I wasn’t having as much fun as I think I could have been. So I decided to go off and do what I wanted, and if people decided to join me, then I wasn’t going to stop them.

View this post on Instagram

small person, large city

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Our first stop was the Corniche, which I had seen lit up at night the previous day. I was expecting to be uninterested, as I had already seen it before, but seeing it in the day time really made a difference. Nighttime, with the bright colorful lights, was a little cooler, but I have to say that daytime was a spectacular sight as well — it looked like something out of a futuristic sci-fi film. Plus, I got some cool photos, which is usually my measure for if I  had a good time at a tourist site.

img_1347

State Grand Mosque was next. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to go in. We, the American students, were supposed to have been allowed in — but, without hair coverings, the woman at security wouldn’t allow us in as non-Muslims. Instead, we sat outside with a few other Muslim women who decided to keep us company, either in solidarity or disinterest in going in to pray.

View this post on Instagram

let’s talk mosques

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

After that slight disappointment, we moved on to a collection of museums. I don’t really have any photos from here, since in my opinion, there wasn’t much to photograph. One of the museums we saw, the slavery museum, was actually quite fascinating and very well done, but it wasn’t a place for fashion pics, you know?

Then, we went back to the Souq Waqif marketplace for shopping and dinner, making it my third time in three days that I had been there. By now, the Souq’s uniqueness had worn off, and its twisting alleyways and street vendors were no longer novel to me. I devoted myself to a single task — finding a scarf to buy — and avoided distractions as much as possible. With only an hour before we had to meet for dinner, I had to stay focused, or else risk leaving Qatar having withdrawn $40 in Qatari Riyals and having spent none.

The last stop for the night was the Corniche once again, so that those who hadn’t seen it lit up at night before could see it for the first time. For me, having seen the Corniche three times now (once in the day and now twice at night), I was basically a seasoned Dohan (Dohian? Doher?) local. The skyscrapers, with their bright pink and orange and  purple lights, still left me in awe.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Sweater: Forever21

Dress: American Eagle

December 27, 2018 – I Want To Go on a Night Boat to Doha? (OOTD #429)

Once again, I’m going to skip ahead to the part of the trip after classes ended, because that’s really what’s fun and interesting for me to write about here. If you’d like a summary of my thoughts on the conference itself and what I felt my role was, I’d suggest you have a read over this blog here.

Unlike my sand dunes adventure, which was spent completely with the Madrasa Discourses students, this trip was spent completely with the other Notre Dame kids. There were pros and cons of both groups: for example, the madrasa students liked the slip into Urdu a lot, which was a little awkward for me. On the other hand, the Notre Dame kids liked to talk about American culture and politics — which, you know, I could do whenever I’m at home in the US.

They also approached things with a very American perspective. I’m not critical of that because that’s exactly what I did as well — however, when I’m in foreign countries and cultures, it’s nice to get to speak with people who don’t think the same way I necessarily do. Ideally, of course, I’d have a native Qatari to hang out with and show me around — but in the absence of one of those, there were plenty of Indian and Pakistanis in our group who could have also made for some interesting cross-cultural conversations.

That’s all to say I kind-of regret spending so much time with the other Americans on this trip. It wasn’t that I disliked them, but I think I probably should not have devoted so much time to them when, in theory, I could see them around campus whenever I want. I can’t so much do that with my Indian and Pakistani friends.

That’s not to say, however, that I regretted what I did when I spent time with the other Notre Dame students. We went on some pretty exciting adventures together — for example, this day, when we went to the Souq Waqif market and then took a boat across the Doha Bay to the Corniche.

Like many days during my time in Qatar, this ended up being a very long, exhausting day. After a full day of lectures and classroom discussions, we took an Uber together to the old market with the intent of seeing the Pearl, an artificial island attached to the city that’s supposed to be very pretty at night.  Unfortunately, the girl who called the Uber put in the wrong address, and we instead wound up at a different “pearl” — which was just a statue of a pearl.

I’d already been to the Souq the previous night after my desert safari, so the effect of the historical, busy, market with a mix of people in Western-styles and more traditional Islamic fashions,  had kind of worn off on me. It’s funny how that happens sometimes — I’ve never seen a century-old Qatari market that sells traditional goods and is one of the last remaining testaments to native Qatari culture before cosmopolitanism took over. And yet, once I saw it once, it wasn’t quite as exciting the second time around.

From there, we decided to walk along the Doha Bay for a good view of the skyline. If you haven’t seen the Doha skyline in person, I highly recommend that you try to see it one day. Skylines are very important to me; if a city doesn’t have a beautiful skyline, my ability to appreciate the city diminishes. London, for example, didn’t have an impressive skyline, even though it was a very impressive city. I of course still loved London, but I was disappointed by the lack of a jaw-dropping skyline view.

Doha was kind of the opposite. It’s got one of the most beautiful skylines I’ve ever seen, especially lit up at night. New York is gorgeous too, but it’s not colorful — not like Doha is. Doha is a rainbow of bright colors and sparkling lights; it’s unlike anything I’d ever seen. We took a boat across the harbor, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I was able to sit back and retreat into myself a little (something I really needed after a long day of social interaction), and watch the skyline glow on the horizon as it grew closer.

However, Doha’s modern sector was less impressive. We hopped off our boat, and there was nearly no one out. Granted, we were there on a Thursday night, so perhaps not the most bumping of nights, but for a bright, impressive city like Doha, with all those flashing lights in the skyline and the colorful skyscrapers, there seemed to be very few people who lived there.

I like a city to feel alive, and while Doha looked alive, it didn’t feel like it. We did go into a mall for a few hours, and that had more people it seemed than downtown.  By the time we hit the mall, though, I was too exhausted to do much. By then, I was tired of being around for people for so long, and I had basically completely stopped attempting to participate in conversation.

By the time we called the Uber to go back to our hotel, my feet hurt, I had lost one of my false eyelashes, and I was pretty sick of being around that particular crowd. Like I said though, I’m really appreciative of all I got to see and do. My goal was to go out and explore every night that I could; I wasn’t about to go on a trip halfway around the world to the Middle East and rest every night in the hotel. I think my body (and maybe my brain too) might have preferred the more leisurely path, but I think my soul preferred the adventure.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Stolen from the lost-and-found bin of my dorm’s laundry room

Pants: The LOFT

December 26, 2018 – Sand Dunes in the Dark (OOTD #428)

I’m gonna skip ahead to the part of the day where I wound up on a camel.

View this post on Instagram

made a friend

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Okay, I’ll give a little context: after day two of the conference, I was getting ready to go on a tour of Education City with the other ND kids. It wasn’t something I necessarily really wanted to do, but I had no other plans. Our hotel was in the middle of nowhere in the desert, so getting around was a little difficult unless you were in a group. There was a group going to do something, and since I like doing things, I thought I’d tag along.

But as we were leaving the university to go on our tour, I caught wind of another plan, one that seemed a lot more exciting. A group of Indian and Pakistani students were planning on going to seeing Qatar’s sand dunes, but they needed one more person in order to secure a certain price point for the tour group. They asked me, and, despite hardly knowing the plans and hardly knowing some of people (I’d met them before in Nepal, but I only knew one or two of them well), I figured it would be more fun than seeing some school buildings with Americans who I’ll get to see back at ND whenever I want.

So without knowing where I was going or what I was doing other than the very vague plan of “see the sand dunes,” I hopped in a Jeep with a random Saudi Arabian driver and five other people who decided they’d rather speak in Urdu than English.

The car ride took about an hour, and for the whole hour, there were very few English words spoken. That’s not because these people couldn’t speak English — I know for a fact that their English is very good because I’ve had good conversations with many of them before — but they just preferred Urdu. I mean…they had no obligation to speak English just because I was there. But it was kind of awkward sitting there for an hour, hardly able to participate in the conversation — though that’s normally what happens when I go to parties, so I guess it wasn’t that unique of a situation.

View this post on Instagram

just deserts

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

After an hour in the car, the Saudi Arabian driver took us to a little camp site in the middle of the desert and kicked us out. I was still a little confused about what was going on, owing to the whole not speaking Urdu thing, and the fact that the camp site had camels was not helping me to understand things better. All I knew was that I was going to see the sand dunes; camels were not a part of my expectations.

View this post on Instagram

desert sunsets 🐪

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

But I have nothing against camels — I’ve only ever seen them at zoos, but they seem like cool animals. Given the chance to ride one, I would do it. And that’s what I did.

It’s a shame it was so dark by the time we went because in all of my photos, I kind of look like an amorphous ghostly blob of flash. Sometimes photos taken with flash look cool because they make you look adventurous and fun, but that’s not so much the case when your photographer is sitting on a bumpy camel and so all of your photos turn out blurry. I don’t know, maybe it gives it a grungy dark teenager aesthetic?

I wish I could tell you my camel ride was magical and exotic, but really, it was a little boring. We basically went in a circle in a small lit area and took pictures.

View this post on Instagram

a bad photo but a good time

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

What was magical and exotic, though, was our drive through the sand dunes afterwards. I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t know what people were saying. I didn’t know if our driver was licensed, or if he was following a particular path through the dunes, or if he was going to drive us into the desert and put bullets through all of our heads. I had no data by the time we made it out into the middle of nowhere, and no means of communicating with the world if I got lost or kidnapped. In hindsight, maybe I should have been a little more more cautious, but the risk was what made it exciting and adventurous.

After driving around for a while, our driver stopped and kicked us out again. Some of my friends pulled out…some substance to smoke (that’s not a euphemism, I really don’t know what it was — they offered to let me join, but they would only tell me it was “an Indian speciality,” and in a brief moment of prudence, I figured maybe I shouldn’t get stoned in the Middle Eastern desert), and a few of us decided to go for a walk down to the water.

In my limited knowledge of deserts, I don’t think water is something they’re used to have. I’m pretty sure the lack of water is kind of how deserts are defined. But somehow, I wound up walking down a giant hill of sand with my stoned friends behind me towards a lake (?) in the Qatari desert. Like I said, it was a weird experience.

Perhaps the stupidest thing I did this whole night was walking around the desert with no flashlight, no sense of direction, and no idea what I was doing. Somewhere in the back of my mind, it occurred to me that I could get lost and die of dehydration out there in the Qatari desert. But apparently, that voice wasn’t very loud because by the time I realized that what I was doing was stupid, I was already too far away from the car to see it. Of course, the Saudi Arabian driver couldn’t be bothered to turn on his lights so we could find where he parked, so our group was literally just wandering around the desert in the dark. Not to mention of course, that half of our group had just smoked “an Indian speciality.”

As you can tell, though, I’m here writing this blog now, so I didn’t die. We made it back to the car safely (the white of the Saudi Arabian driver’s Jeep was just barely visible in the darkness), and he drove us back to civilization without murdering us.

View this post on Instagram

see ya 2018, t’was fun

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

This blog is going on way too long and I’m tired of writing so I won’t keep going, but the night didn’t end there. No, of course not — after our desert exploits, we had to hit the town and get dinner in the busiest part of the city. And of course, we had to wander around for an hour before we could pick a place to eat. And then we had to sit there and chat for an hour in Urdu — regardless of the fact there was a confused, jet-lagged American girl with wet sand in her shoes sitting there, just wanting to go home and sleep.

We made it back to the hotel, but not until 11PM. I guess that’s not super late, but after being jet-lagged, waking up at 6:00AM so I could sit in class all day to listen to discussions about Islamic theology, and then hiking around the desert for hours, I was pretty exhausted.

Anyway, that’s my Qatari desert adventure story. Hope you had fun reading it — I sure had fun living it.

December 25, 2018 – School Is Cool (OOTD #427)

Merry Christmas!

Okay, don’t worry — even though this blog post features the outfit from Christmas Day 2018, I won’t be talking about Christmas too much, notably because I barely did anything Christmas related on my first full day in Doha, Qatar.

It barely even felt like Christmas, but I was okay with that. My family and I celebrated Christmas the day before I departed on my two-week journey, and I got to see the Christmas Market in Munich on Christmas Eve, so I felt like I got a pretty comprehensive Christmas experience, even though I wasn’t home for the actual holiday. I was surprised — I thought I was going to be upset being away from my family, and I suppose I was a little bit, but there were so many things on my mind for that day that I forgot all about Christmas.

What was on my mind? Well, the perhaps most pressing was fact that I was in the Middle East for a conference on the conciliation of traditional Islamic scholarship and modernity. It was my first day, so I was nervous, but I had an advantage — I had participated in the same conference before in the summer with the same students.

My time in Qatar was essentially a continuation of my time in Nepal, which meant it came with some of the same struggles and same joys of Nepal’s conference. The biggest struggle with this project is that I didn’t actually know much about Islamic theology and modernity. The conference wasn’t really meant for me — it was meant for a cohort of about 40 Masters and PhD-level scholars from India and Pakistan. I was there along with the Notre Dame professor who organized the project in order to participate in the peacebuilding and interfaith dialogue aspect of the project — in essence, to offer an American Christian’s perspective on some of the topics discussed.

It’s hard though to offer your perspective when you don’t have a clear perspective. Some of the presentations could get kind of complex — like, historical analyses of concepts of human dignity or women’s rights in Islamic law. I don’t know much about Islamic law — and while I have some general stances on human dignity and women’s rights, I’m still no expert. It makes trying to participate in the discussions difficult because I’m not the intended audience.

And so, as was the case in Nepal, I believed my role in this project took place outside of the classroom, especially interacting with my old friends and trying to make new ones. I don’t like formal discussions — I much prefer informal ones where I don’t feel the pressure of a professor watching me and expecting me to contribute in one way or another. I don’t know how the conference organizers felt about my preference for extracurricular conversations, but they decided to bring me along again regardless. I guess they didn’t hate me in Nepal too much.

It was really cool to see some of my old friends from Nepal again, especially considering when I left them last summer, I thought I would probably never get to see them again. I hadn’t known I would have a chance to meet them again for another conference, and I doubted I would ever visit their home countries of India or Pakistan for a visit.

But then again, I doubted I’d ever get to see Doha, Qatar, and yet there I was, attending a conference at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Education City. That’s where these photos were taken.

Life is full of surprises — like how beautiful the HBK campus was. Seriously, Notre Dame is lovely, and the collegiate gothic style is neat and all, but HBK was really something else. It was modern, clean, and high-tech — the opposite of Notre Dame’s traditional Catholic aesthetic. Some parts of Notre Dame, like the crappy dorms, make it hard to tell how much money the school really has. HBK was the opposite — everything, from the modern architecture to the water feature incorporated throughout the building to the rooftop terrace with verses of the Quran onto the windowpanes — oozed money.

To close off the day, the other American students and I traveled out to a local church for a Christmas mass. I’ve never been to Christmas mass before, given how I’m not Catholic and all, and I’ve definitely never been to Christmas mass in an Islamic country. Interestingly, it wasn’t all that different from a regular mass service in the US. Just like in mass at Notre Dame, there was a lot of singing, and kneeling, and repeating verses, and I fell asleep during the homily. I guess some things don’t get more exciting, even when they’re in a foreign culture.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: The LOFT

Pants: J. Crew

December 24, 2018 – Christmas Eve in Germany (OOTD #426)

Spending Christmas Eve in Germany was not in my life plans about a month ago.

A month ago, I had assumed I’d be spending my winter break split between Qatar and France — Qatar for a conference on Islamic theology and peacebuilding funded by my university, and then France to immerse myself in French language and culture for a week, also funded by my university. If I was going to wind up in any other countries along the way, I figured they’d just be short layovers not really worthy mentioning — kind of like the time I was technically in Abu Dhabi for two hours for a layover during my flight to Nepal.

View this post on Instagram

frohe weihnachten aus münchen

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

But, as it turned out, once my flights were organized by the conference coordinator, I got an extra long layover in Munich, Germany, on my flight to Doha, Qatar on December 23 — a whole seven hours! Initially, I figured I’d just hang out and explore the airport. I’ve heard good things about the Munich airport.

Remembering the fun I was able to have in Bucktown, Chicago during my long layover in O’Hare on my flight home from Nepal, I began to wonder though if maybe I’d be able to do the same for Munich. I’m not the most comfortable traveling by myself to foreign countries, though I don’t know if anyone ever really is, but I’ve been getting more confidence over the last few years, especially having traveled to London and Nepal semi-independently.

View this post on Instagram

merry christmas from munich with much love

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

After doing some research (namely consulting the TripAdvisor forums), I decided to go for it and try to see the city during the seven-hour layover. There was another Notre Dame girl going to the same conference who wound up on the same flight from Philly to Munich, and after telling her my plan, she agreed to go too. Neither of us had ever seen Germany and neither of us spoke German, but we figured we could function for a few hours.

I departed Kentucky midday, and then I had a medium-length layover in Philadelphia. From there, it was a nine-ish hour flight — at which point, we arrived in Munich at about 9:00 AM local time.

Immigration was a piece of cake — the officer only asked how long I’d be there, and then he sent us on our way. From there, we purchased the less than 20 USD train tickets to Marienplatz, as the TripAdvisor forums suggested.

If there was anything I loved about Germany, it was the S-Bahn train. The New York Subway, the London Underground, the Chicago L — none of those public transport systems have anything on this German train. It was clean, quiet, modern, and perhaps most surprisingly for me — perfectly on time. There was even a screen where you could see estimated arrival times for each stop, and how those ETAs changed based on how long loading and unloading took each stop. The future is now, I guess.

When we stepped out into Marienplatz, the town square, I admittedly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve hardly ever studied German language or culture, and I was too lazy to do much studying up before I went. I had almost no preconceived notions of what a German city should look like — but rest assured, I was not disappointed.

View this post on Instagram

pretty! buildings!

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

I saw a lot of different things over winter break — the colorful Doha skyline, sand dunes in the Middle East, gothic churches in France, a spring of supposedly magical healing water — but I don’t think anything had quite the same effect on me as seeing Marienplatz all decorated for the Christmas Eve Market. For context, the second you walk out from the Marienplatz S-Bahn stop onto the street, the first thing you see is the massive Rockefeller Center-sized Christmas tree in front of the spectacular gothic-style New Town Hall.

Coming from the US, and a relatively small US city at that, I don’t get to see much that even vaguely resembles Marienplatz very often. Notre Dame’s campus has some cool collegiate gothic architecture, and I do love God Quad with the basilica and the Golden Dome, but Notre Dame can’t compete with the feel a real European city. Everything there is so old — even stuff that technically isn’t that old, like the New Town Hall (which actually was only built in the 19th century), feels old.

One of my favorite things about travel is the ability to get a feel for a city — the facial expressions of locals as they walk through crowded train platforms, the ambient sounds as you maneuver through the town square, the kind of birds that nest in the crevices of buildings. If I had to describe Munich from my short visit, it was quaint. London, or what I saw of it in 2017, felt old, but somehow, Munich felt older. Munich felt a little quieter, a little friendlier — distinctively different from the sense of frustrated energy that exists in a massive city like New York or London. And I love the frustrated energy of New York and London — in fact, I’d love to be a frustrated, energetic New Yorker one day — but I also appreciated the slower pace of Munich.

In the end, my friend and I didn’t do much more than walk around. We did end up getting hungry and wander into a random restaurant, where I had the most German encounter of my trip: I tried to order water to drink, and instead I was given beer. I mean, I have nothing against drinking beer in Germany — in fact, that seems to be probably a pretty good place to do it — but I was still kind of surprised when I thought I was just getting water. It was good though. And what was even better was that it ended up being free, for some reason? Don’t know what happened there, but no complaints from me.

I was a little worried about getting back in time for our flight, but I shouldn’t have been. The train ran just as beautifully as it did on the way there, and immigration was once again a simple interaction. From there, it was another six hour flight in order to make it to Qatar. I got in at around 11 at night local time, and I didn’t stumble into my hotel until around 1:30. But more on that later.

To check out my full Munich adventures, I highly recommend checking out my Instagram story highlights from that day!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: The LOFT

Pants: Thrifted (Salvation Army)

Scarf: My mother’s closet

 

REVIEW: Influenster Showstopper Voxbox (Clarins, Lime Crime, VDL, and Copper + Crane)

Disclaimer: I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions are my own.

Influenster sent me a box full of assorted skincare goods, and I’m not really sure what to make of them.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m always super appreciative when Influenster sends me things for review. It’s just a little weird this time, because the products seem to be mostly unrelated. I got an eyebrow pen, eyebrow gel, soap, serum, and two primers. I suppose they’re all beauty products, but they’re all different brands and don’t really seem to have a common theme. They’re just supposed to make me into a “showstopper,” whatever that means.

Welp, I don’t really know if I’m a showstopper now, but I do know know that I’m a reviewer, so that’s what I’ll do.

First up, I’ve got the Copper + Crane spa bar. For context, I’m usually more of a body wash and loofa kind of a person. I’ll use bar soap for my hands, but it’s rare that I”ll ever use a bar soap for my body.

This soap has me considering changing my mind, though. It smells heavenly — like sweet roses — and feels luxurious and creamy to the touch. It doesn’t lather quite like a good body wash, but the scent is so beautiful that I can look past that. I’m a fan. You can bet that I’ll be looking into more bar soaps.

Up next, I’ve got the Lime Crime Bushy Brown pen and gel. I’ve never used a brow pen either, though I think I’ve used just about every other brow product out there. Pencils, creams, powders, stencils — I own them all.

I am a huge fan of this brow pen. I’ve admittedly never tried another, so I can’t compare, but for a first try, I love it. My problem with filling in my brows is always that the hairs are dark but sparse. I need to fill them in, but I always run the risk of making them look too heavy and too dark. This pen avoids that problem. Because the strokes are thin, I can make them look like tiny hairs, making my brows look fuller without looking drawn-on. I’ll definitely be looking into more products from this brand.

For two small tubes of the VDL Lumilayer primers, I was a little less impressed. I received both the “fresh” and “original” versions. To be honest, I’m not really a primer person, so maybe I’m not one to write a review on this. For me, a primer should make my makeup apply more easily and maybe last a little longer. I don’t really know if I got that effect from these products — there’s just better out there. I’ve had good luck with the Revlon Photoready primer. Again, though, I’m just not normally one who wears primer — it deserves a mention because it came in my Voxbox along with the other products, but I can’t honestly say that I recommend it.

The last product I got — a sample of the Clarins Doble Serum and  — is a the most difficult to judge. I don’t struggle with aging yet, and that’s what this serum is meant to combat. Anti-aging products usually work slowly, and I only had a month and a few small sample  foil packets to test this product out with. I don’t really feel comfortable giving you guys a review on this one. I appreciate the sample from Influenster, but I’m just not able to offer an honest opinion here, as I’m not the kind of person the product was made for and I haven’t had enough time to test its effects. Also, full price, this 1.6 oz product will set you back $122. I don’t know, that seems rather overpriced to me.

Have you tried the any of these products? Or do you have any suggestions for your favorite soaps, brow products, primers, or serums? Let me know your thoughts below!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Review: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen

Disclaimer: I received these products complimentary from Neutrogena for testing purposes. All opinions are my own.

Don’t get too excited, but I’ve got a new beauty review for you guys today!

I’m not sure why this is, but my beauty product reviews are always some of my blogs with the highest view counts. You’d think that with a fashion blog, it would be something to do with fashion, but no — my most popular blogs have to do with makeup and beauty reviews. Maybe I should switch to being a full time beauty blogger.

Actually, I find writing these beauty reviews  to be quite enjoyable. They’re a great respite from all of the OOTD posts. Don’t be mistaken, I won’t be switching to a new format any time soon, but maybe if I continue getting sponsorships with brands I’l continue posting these reviews.

Today’s review post comes from Brandbacker, a new influencer-brand connection service that, so far, I like about as much as I like Influenster. Maybe I’ll write more on Brandbacker in a different post, if you’d like to hear a comparison?

Anyway, Neutrogena sent me two sunscreens, one SPF 30 and another SPF 50, from their Water Gel Lotion line to try.  According to Neutrogena’s website, this sunscreen line “delivers powerful broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection with a water-light feel. This water-resistant sunscreen lotion with SPF leaves skin looking healthy and moisturized for up to eight hours without any greasy residue or white marks. The non-greasy sunscreen has a light, clean feel and layers invisibly under makeup.”

So how do these claims hold up?

Actually, I think pretty well. Sunscreens aren’t my speciality, and I guess I can’t speak to their chemical ability to actually protect my skin from the sun, but I can say that their claims of being light and non-greasy are valid.

I am a big sunscreen person — I’ve been incorporating it into my beauty routine almost every day since middle school. Still, I’ve never really found an absolute HG sunscreen that I’ve wanted to stick with in all of these years that I’ve been a regular sunscreen user. My biggest problem with sunscreen has always been how heavy and greasy it feels on the skin, and how it affects my makeup application.

That’s got to be my favorite part of the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Lotion Sunscreen — I don’t feel it after I’ve applied it. And that’s really how sunscreen should be, right? Totally unnoticeable. The point is to protect your skin from the sun and maybe add a little bit of moisture in the process; there’s no reason for it to be or do anything else, in my opinion. That’s what other skincare products for.

The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Lotion Sunscreen is simple, but its simplicity is its strength. It doesn’t do much beyond its claims for being light and providing SPF  coverage, and I can appreciate it for that.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Light, non-greasy feel
  • Doesn’t feel heavy under makeup

Cons:

  • Tubes are kind-of small at only 3.0 FL OZ

Have you tried the new Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion sunscreens? Or do you have any suggestions for your favorite sunscreens? Let me know your thoughts below!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at home at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Monday Musings + Coffee – Long, Short Weekend

Huh, somehow, I wound up doing another Musings + Coffee post on a Monday.

This weekend has been crazy, so you’ll have to excuse my lack of blogging. In the last 72 hours, I have experienced — in no particular order — a concert, a dead car battery, 24,000 steps worth of Chicago, and a missed mandatory class. Once I get to the OOTD posts from these last few days, I’ll go into more detail, but suffice to say, I’ve been busy.

Somehow, though, it seems I managed to fit in some flatlay photography for one of these posts. Keyword — some. This isn’t the most cohesive set of photos I’ve ever posted on this blog (save the first two, which are clearly from the same set of my bullet journal), but I like them all for their individual merits. And I did indeed get some really good photos this weekend; it’s just that they’re unrelated. I hope you can forgive me.

Apart from the bullet journal photos, I’ve also got this from picture from my plant class that I thought turned out really well. Our homework is to go out and collect and identify plant samples — how cool is that? It’s probably one of my favorite classes at the moment because it’s low-stress, it’s a subject that interests me, and it’s fun. Compare that to my Russian Lit class, which is high-stress, not interesting, and not much fun, and it’s easy to see how an outdoors botany class would speak to me for this semester.

Plus, I like plants. I’ll have to give you guys an update on my dorm plants soon — since I’m in a new dorm room this year, I guess you’ll have to see the updated configuration. We had some tragic losses (RIP my rose moss seedlings), but we’ve also had some new additions to the family.

The weekend concluded with this really lovely sunset over the Golden Dome, which I had the pleasure of watching out a library window. Sort-of. I wasn’t actually able to secure a coveted window seat myself to watch the whole thing, but I walked by the window multiple times so I could catch it — probably thoroughly annoying the person who was actually sitting by the window in the process.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

REVIEW: BareMinerals Blemish Rescue Foundation Collection

Here’s fun fact: the original BareMinerals foundation was one of my first high-end makeup purchases way back when I was in middle school.

I mean, okay — BareMinerals isn’t super high-end and it’s not budget-breakingly expensive, but it was to me when I was 13. I was getting $7 a week in allowance from my parents, so a $30 purchase like the BareMinerals foundation was a big deal — if you think about it, that was over a month of allowance for me.

The sad bit was that I didn’t really like it that much — the lady in Ulta who shade-matched me didn’t do a great job because I found that after I got home and actually started using it, it was much too dark and orange-y. I also remember oxidation issues, with the foundation durning even darker and more orange as the day went on.

It made it practically useless, so even though I didn’t have any problems with the product itself, I wasn’t able to ever really wear it. And since I was 13 and only getting $7 a week, it didn’t make any sense to take the risk of another month’s money on another shade of the foundation that still might not match me properly.

So I guess you could call my attitude towards BareMinerals when I received my Influenster VoxBox was fairly mixed. On one hand, I do remember liking the coverage and texture of the product itself, and I still do rather enjoy the stick concealer I was sent for review earlier this year, but on the other, I was never able to get my money’s worth out of the original foundation, and I’m still a little sad about that. I think it’s still sitting in the back of my makeup drawer, practically unused.

But I tried to go into the review with an unbiased mind — impossible, I guess, but still worth making an effort to do. It wouldn’t be fair for me to judge this new product using my bad experience from six years ago.

In my VoxBox, I received the new BareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Loose Powder Foundation in Neutral Ivory,  the Skin-Clearing Anti-Redness Mattifying Primer, and Seamless Buffing Brush with Antibacterial Charcoal. Altogether, it’s about $83 worth of product, so I’ve got to give it to BareMinerals for being super generous.

Firstly, as these products are marketed for their skincare benefits as well as their general cosmetic use, allow me to give some background on my skin. It’s best described as combination. My biggest issues are mild acne and sensitivity. I’m 19, nearly 20, so my pimples aren’t quite as bad as they were when I was 13, but they haven’t really gone away entirely either. It’s mild enough that with good makeup, I can pretty much cover up everything I need to, but without, it’s pretty obvious that I have a smattering of pimples on my temples and between my eyebrows. The worst for me is when, due to the benzoyl peroxide spot treatment I use, I wind up with a patch of dry skin surrounding a pimple that hasn’t yet gone away. An ideal foundation for me would be light enough that I could use it on the parts of my face that don’t really have any issues to smooth away the mild imperfections, but buildable enough that I could apply it to my acne-prone areas and conceal them without highlighting the dryness there.

Now onto the review — I’ll go in order of application, so let’s begin with the primer. Out of the tube, it’s a green paste-to-gel -like substance meant to correct ruddy tones in the skin. I assume it would appeal to people with acne all-over as it would, in theory, correct the redness of pimples.

I’m no stranger to green color correcting products. There was a time in middle school where I used a green concealer religiously to conceal redness on my cheeks. I never really got into green primers though, as I generally found that the color-correcting properties of a green product were best when used sparingly, but in concentrated amounts, rather than all-over. I believe the same rings true for this product. I just don’t think the green is strong enough to do anything. As for the other qualities of a primer — texture, staying power, mattifying-effect — I’d say it’s just average. It’s not bad, but there’s better out there.

The foundation turned out to be the pleasant surprise of this review. I had wondered if I would have the same oxidation issues I’d had with the original Bare Minerals foundation, but I have not had that problem at all. The color is slightly darker than I would have chosen for myself, but it’s not so far off that I can’t use it.

The best part was easily the buildability and texture. It did just what I wanted it to — went on light on my less-problematic areas, and built up to heavier coverage with some stippling in my acne-prone areas. For that, I have to give it credit.

The worst part is an issue not exclusive to this product, but that applies to all powder foundations — it’s messy to put on. If you’re looking for something to just slap on and go, this is not it. While application itself isn’t too hard — I just buff it on, with a bit of stippling for more coverage — it’s getting the powder out of the container and onto the brush that’s difficult to do with being messy.

As for the brush, it, like the primer, is perfectly serviceable. Not great — there are better buffing brushes out there for less money (I personally like the Real Techniques buffing brush). But this one’s soft, picks up product well, and is stiff-enough for buffing, so it functions as it is supposed to. My main complaint is the shape — it’s short and fat, so it doesn’t fit in my brush-holder with the rest of my brushes. I can’t really speak to the “antibacterial charcoal” claims. It sounds like a label they just slapped on there to make it seem more hygienic, but I don’t know — maybe the charcoal really is more sanitary.

Finally, what about the skincare benefits? Did I find that my acne improved thanks to using this product?

Well…I don’t know. To be honest, I didn’t use it for long enough to be able to assess its long-term skincare effects. Additionally, one’s skin condition is affected by such a wide variety of factors that I don’t know if I’d see the effects unless they were drastic and fast. Which, for this product, they weren’t — that’s not to say there wouldn’t potentially be benefits from long term use, but I just can’t say with the few days I’ve taken over the last month to test this out. Alternatively, maybe my acne would get worse. I just don’t know.

All I can assess this product fairly on is on its ability to function as a foundation. And you know what? It’s actually pretty nice. It’s way better than the original Bare Minerals powder I tried out six years ago, and I would say that if you, like me, didn’t really like that one, you may still find that this new one is a pretty decent product. You could probably pass on the brush and the primer though. They’re serviceable, but there are better options out there for less money.

Summary:

Primer

Pros:

  • Perfectly serviceable

Cons:

  • Why settle for serviceable when you could find something for less money that works better? (I’m personally a fan of the Revlon Photoready Primer)

Foundation

Pros:

  • Light-to-medium buildable coverage
  • Doesn’t oxidize!
  • Wide range of color selections
  • Smooths over my dry patches without emphasizing them

Cons:

  • Messy, time-consuming application

Brush

Pros:

  • Perfectly serviceable

Cons:

  • Why settle for serviceable when you could find something for less money that works better? (In my opinion, the Real Techniques buffing brush is a good substitute)

Have you tried the new BareMinerals Blemish Rescue collection? Or do you have any suggestions for your favorite foundations? Let me know your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one! Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries and collars, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Monday Musings + Coffee – Rebranding

This is it — Saturday Musings + Coffee is no more!

I’ve come to the conclusion that I just can’t be trusted to keep up with consistent slice-of-life flatlay posts. Believe it or not, I find flatlay photography much more difficult than fashion photography. For me, at least, it takes a lot more effort to hunt down enough cutesy “little things,” and then a good clean background (there are surprisingly few white tables at Notre Dame) for a flatlay post than the effort to put on a cute outfit and get someone to take a picture of it. I’m going to put on clothes anyway, so it doesn’t take much more to take some photos of the outfit, but I have to go out of my way to do flatlay pictures. Believe me, my life is never as well-organized or simplistic as these photos portray.

But don’t worry — I’m not getting rid of the Musings + Coffee lifestyle posts. I don’t think I can keep up with weekly Saturday posts, but I do want to continue the spirit of them. That’s why today’s post is called “Monday Musings” — because it’s Monday, and I’ve decided I don’t want to be restricted to an arbitrary weekly blog post system that revolves around one day. From now on, I’ll do Musings + Coffee posts when I feel like it, regardless of the day of the week.

What a novel concept.

Speaking of novel concepts, happy September! I can’t believe August is already over — this time last month, I was still living in Kentucky with my parents and going to work in Frankfort. Now I’m back in school, and life moves at a completely different pace and rhythm.

As for September’s bullet journal spread, I decided to focus it around Notre Dame fall football (with some Charlie Brown characters thrown in for added flavor), since we’ve got three home games this month. Honestly, the constant football is kind-of exhausting. Love thee Notre Dame and stuff, but I’ll be pretty relieved when I can finally have a Saturday to rest and just do homework.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!