Working from home is the dream, right? (Or at least runner up to the not-having-to-work-because-you’re-rich dream.) No commute, no boss looking over your shoulder, no loud-chewing coworkers in earshot and everyone’s favorite part–you can roll out of bed and work in your pajamas! Or stay in bed and work from there if you want! And depending on your situation, working from home may give you flexible hours too. What’s not to love?
Well, like with anything else, there are negatives to working from home. Or let’s “re-frame” that, as my mother would say. There are things that you might find difficult or not like, or things that can sabotage your working-from-home productivity. I’ve been working from home since I opened my business in 2008. For a little while, it was part-time working from home, since I had full time jobs outside of AB Beauty. There was also the summer when I decided I didn’t need Internet at my house, since I had it at my studio a few blocks away, and that would force me to not be constantly working when I was at home. (I got around that one by going to my studio in the morning, stopping for a couple hours mid-afternoon to take care of personal stuff, then going back into my studio until 1:00am.)
Other than those instances, I’ve worked from home. I’ve learned a lot about what seems to work and what doesn’t, both from my own experience and from what other homers (coined it) have told me. How rude would it be for me to keep that to myself? You know I’m incapable of holding onto information that I think could be even the tiniest bit helpful to someone, so here we go.
Social Status. Even if you’re an introvert, you probably find that having a coworker who you’re friends with helps make your job better. Having someone you like who also understands the ins and outs of your job really does make things better. But unless your partner or roommate is a coworker and also works from home, you’re not going to get that socialization if your house is your office. And if you’re a solopreneur, there’s no chance of it at all. If you’re an extroverted person, working from home has the potential to drive you crazy. If that sounds like you, you might want to consider trying a co-working space or working from a coffee shop, even if just for a few days a week. If you’ve always been surrounded with coworkers and like that vibe, working from home with only your thoughts for company can be a big adjustment.
Wardrobe Change. Working from home in your pajamas/workout clothes/yoga pants and a Biggie tee (which you should have if you don’t already) can be awesome. Add in no need to do hair and/or makeup, and you’ve made things real easy. But, there’s something to be said for the sense of motivation that putting on work clothes can give you. It feels normal to plop down on the couch at 10:00am and watch HGTV when you’re in your pajamas, but if you put on work clothes and do that, things might feel off. If you know yourself to be someone who struggles with motivation or discipline, you might want to force yourself to put on work clothes every morning to get yourself into business mode. If you’re just starting out your work from home adventure, maybe try it both ways. If you are equally productive in sweats as you are in business casual, go for comfort. But if you can tell you slip into weekend mode if you’re in your pajamas, it might be time to change (literally). Both options are there for you, but make sure to choose wisely.
Office Space. It’s super important to dedicate some space in your home to work. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have an actual home office, but if you’re not, even the corner of a room can work. I used to work at a desk in my bedroom, then at my kitchen table, and now, lying down on my couch (which I wouldn’t recommend but I have a vestibular disorder than makes looking down at screens really difficult, so I have to lie down with a pillow on me and my laptop on that so I’m looking up). The one thing I’ve always tried to do though is make sure that whichever area my “office” is in is my only office. When I was able to work at a desk, I rarely did any work outside of that little corner. When I worked at my kitchen table, no work was done in my room or living room. And now with my couch office, not only have I never worked from any other part of my home, but I’ve never even moved to the other side of the couch! This dedicated work space area helps not only with focus, but it prevents your entire house or apartment from becoming your office, which is not good for work/life balance.
To Do List Battles. Even if you have a dedicated home office, it can be easy to get distracted by the household To Do list. You go the kitchen and refill your coffee cup and notice that sink seems to be draining slowly, so you should see if you can fix it or call the plumber. You take a bathroom break and remember how you’ve been meaning to clean out your medicine cabinet. You go to your room to grab a sweater and start thinking about donating all of those clothes you never wear. Those are all things that need to be addressed–but not while you’re working. Passive chores that allow you to take a 5 – 10 minute screen or phone call break–like running or emptying the dishwasher, doing laundry or throwing something in a Crockpot–are great. But organizing your closet, scouring your bathroom or baking a cake for the bake sale at your child’s school? I wouldn’t make stuff like that a habit if you want to be productive with your job.
Neighborly Love. If you live in a single family with no neighbors in sight, you luck out here. But you live in a busy neighborhood or a building with other units next to, above or below you, you will, inevitably, encounter some noise. Talking, yelling, laughing, footsteps, music, vacuuming, pictures being hung up and the dreaded construction and renovations noise pollution. If you’re the type who is bothered by that (I certainly am), you have to learn to ignore those sounds or block them out with music, white noise or noise canceling headphones. For a lot of people, noise distracts them from their work, but you really have to fight or figure out ways around distractions when you work from home. If you’ve come from an office where you’ve gotten used to the sound of phones ringing, copy machines copying and coworkers chattering, the different working-from-home sounds might throw you at first.
Keep ‘Em Separated. When you work from home, it’s easy to have no real end to your work day. I’m certainly guilty of this, as clients who have received 11:00pm emails from me can attest. But you have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to work/life separation. My advice is to try to end your workday at a certain predetermined time then put away work stuff, close business-related tabs on your laptop and stop answering calls or texts. If your home office or work area is not in the same space in your home that you would hang out in after work, that helps. But if it’s all in the same space, you might really have use your willpower to end your workday. I believe in you.
If you want to be productive when you work from home, it really all comes down to discipline. You have to learn to block out or work around the distractions, while also not letting your whole home become your 24/7 office. It’s a balancing act, but if you can figure out the right balance for you, you’ll probably never want to step foot in a traditional work space again.
Some things (or people) seem so great at first, then they disappoint you and you think “Why did I even go on Bumble again?,” or whatever. I’ve tried many a beauty product that gave a fantastic first impression, then after a while, became kind of “eh” for me. When I do find a product I truly love–like MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm or Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops–it becomes part of my beauty family. In order to receive that honor, it must do what it claims and do it well.
The NuFACE Mini has earned its spot in la famiglia, that’s for damn sure. I’ve been using it for a little over two months, and I continue to be as impressed as I was when I wrote my original review. I’m still using the second setting, but I’ve recently bumped my usage up to six days a week. After three months, I may go down to five or even four days a week, but I plan on graduating to the highest intensity level then.
As a reminder, here’s what I looked like on Day 2 and Day 30 of using the NuFACE Mini.
I didn’t take as many photos my during my second month of NuFACE Mini usage, but I’ll share what I have, just for you.
Then I remembered!
Ignore the outfit change and check out that glow! The texture of my skin has improved since November.
I might be aging backwards a little.
And one more Before & After. The changes are more subtle as the weeks go on, but I can see the tightening happening on my cheeks and jawline.
And the final comparison. Day 2 and Day 65. My skin looks tighter, the lines around my mouth aren’t as deep, my brows look lifted and my skin looks less dull. Are you convinced yet?
Again, I don’t work for NuFACE and this isn’t a sponsored post. But I’ve gotten a lot of questions about this device, and I know several people who gifted or received a NuFACE Mini over the holidays, so hopefully this helps. Why not start this decade off with tighter, glowy-er, prettier skin?
The Roaring 20s are here! I don’t know if you can take the name from a previous decade, but I’d like to. I’ve always been very drawn to the 1920s. When I watched The Great Gatsby, Boardwalk Empire and even the flashback ballroom scenes from The Shining, it felt familiar to me. I love Art Deco decor, and a past AB Beauty logo was inspired by an Art Deco ring.
I did a 2018 Game Plan and now it’s time for a 2020 one. (I skipped 2019 because I apparently don’t like odd number years.) I have areas of my life I’d like to improve upon, but I don’t like to call them New Year’s Resolutions because…well, I like being different.
Let’s get to it.
Balancing Act. I’m not quite all work and no play, but I’m definitely more work than play. Usually by a lot. I don’t think true balance is realistic for an entrepreneur, but I’d like to tip the scale more towards the play side. I’m off to a good start in Charleston for the winter, where I don’t take clients and have shorter works days, but the challenge is keeping that up all year long. I will do my best!
A Different Kind of Makeover. I moved into my Newport apartment in April, and girl, do I love that place. I went crazy decorating and getting new furniture the first few months, then wedding season buried me and I left my HGTV mindset. I have a list of things I want to get/do to make the rooms in my little palace look more finished, so I’ll attack that when I return to RI this spring.
Biz Goals. I have a new offshoot business idea I want to work on, but it’s been stalled due to some health issues. Once I feel well enough to go after that, I will. Hopefully I’ll have something big to announce in 2020!
Well Read. I used to be what you might call an avid reader. I love books so much that I haven’t had a TV since 2003. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point, I ran out of new books, didn’t have anything in my bookcase I felt like re-reading (for the 15th time) and apparently forgot about the library. I’ve been getting back into reading the last few weeks, and I plan to keep that up, like a good little bookworm.
Run, Forrest! I got sick before Thanksgiving and that stuck around for a few weeks, then things go too wintery for running (for me, anyway) in Newport. But now that I’m in Charleston, no virus in my system and no snow or ice in sight, I’m going to get back to my running. I’ll keep it going once I get back to RI, since there BETTER NOT BE SNOW ON THE GROUND WHEN I RETURN.
Patience Is A Virtue. Just not one I have. I’m painfully aware of how impatient I can be, and I’m not proud of it. I’ve been trying to do better with that lately, basically by telling myself to calm the hell down as soon as I feel impatience bubbling up. I’m not saying I’ll be all Zen by 2021, but my goal is to be less of a Joe Pesci character when something doesn’t happen at the speed I want it to.
Third Eye (Not) Blind. Even though I haven’t always listened to it (oh hey, every guy I dated in my 20s), I have good intuition. I also sometimes have premonitions about things that happen soon after. I think this little psychic-y part of me could be sharpened up, so I want tune into that more. I don’t know exactly how, as sometimes it seems to be stronger than other times for no apparent reason, but something tells me having more of a balanced life will help.
Help More. Years ago, I had an actual New Year’s Resolution to make one donation a month. I’ve kept that up since (not bragging). This might sound cheesy, but I think part of the reason we exist is to help other people by making their lives better in some way. I looked into volunteering at local hospitals and nursing homes a while back, but they understandably wanted a regular commitment, which is hard for me to give with my inconsistent schedule. I want to do something more than the donations, but I’m not sure what is realistic for me. I’m going to work on this in 2020. Suggestions welcome.
No More Guilt Trippin’. This ties into my life balance issues. I feel a lot of guilt when I’m not working. My guess is a lot of business owners feel the same way. I’ve been working on this, but it’s a tough one for me because there’s always work to be done. I think the only thing I can do is tell that little voice that says Why aren’t you updating your job tracking system?/Revising your templates?/Researching stuff for the new business idea? to shut up. I’ve worked my ass off for almost a dozen years now, so I know I deserve breaks and time off, sans guilt trip. I don’t know which part of my brain is attempting to sabotage that, but I’m trying so hard to quiet it.
So, that’s my 2020 game plan. Some of these areas are going to be easier to work on than others, but I’m ready to step up to the challenges.
I hope your year is everything you want it to be. Have a beautiful day 🙂
I’m a goal chaser. I like setting them, I like achieving them and I like looking back and assessing my progress. One of my goals in 2018 was to publish one blog post a week. I checked that off the list, then decided to do it in 2019 as well. Since we’re now in the last full week of 2019 (what? how?), this seems like a good time to do a roundup of each month’s most popular blog posts. In case you missed any of those gems, here they are:
Per Request: My Skincare Routine. This could use an update, as I’ve made some changes to my skincare routine recently, but I still stand by my advice and suggestions.
It would make me so happy to know that you liked any of my 2019 posts! I try to make them informative, entertaining and easy to read. I hope I’ve achieved–or even partially achieved–that goal. If there’s anything you want me to post about, holla at me.
I know, I know. If you’re looking for a wedding hair and makeup team, you probably mainly want to see pictures of looks you like and rates that are in your budget–not a long blog post about why you should choose an experienced company. Photos and rates are of course important factors, but because I want you to have not only beautiful bridal hair and makeup but a smooth, easy process with your hair and makeup vendor(s), I have to write this post. What I want to tell you about is just as important as getting that low, messy-but-not-too-messy updo and that glowy makeup that also brings out your eyes.
While you absolutely should choose a talented hair and makeup team, if you want the whole package from your beauty vendor, it’s not just about the perfect hair and makeup looks. There is so much that goes into the wedding hair and makeup process–starting at your initial inquiry and ending after (yes, after) your wedding day–that hiring people who are great at hair and makeup does not mean you’ll have a good experience and get your money’s worth.
There are a ton of wedding hair stylists and makeup artists out there, but if you choose a new company that doesn’t have experience with the business side of the wedding beauty process, you could be in for a headache at best (if you consider that “best”) or a disaster at worst. I can’t tell you how many brides have contacted us over the years because their wedding hair stylist and/or makeup artist fell through, sometimes the week before their wedding. I’ve also heard countless stories of clients who couldn’t get a hold of their hair stylist or makeup artist for weeks, were over-charged or given the wrong rates, had surprise charges sprung on them the day of, worked with a company who refused to make or stick to a day-of schedule causing the wedding to start hours late, etc. And these stories had nothing to do with a hair stylist or makeup artist not being talented or skilled at their craft. It had to do with lack of professionalism and, in many cases, lack of business experience.
At AB Beauty, not only do you get talented makeup artists and hair stylists, but a company with 11+ years of experience in the wedding beauty industry. They say that when you open a business, you should choose to either do something new that fills a need in the market, or improve upon something that already exists. I didn’t exactly re-invent the wheel when I opened an onsite wedding beauty company, but I did set out to improve upon the wedding beauty business model which was, from what I was told by clients, planners, photographers, and married friends, lacking in professionalism, organization and responsiveness.
I’ve learned so much from the business courses I’ve taken, other established business owners I pow wow with, my attorney and my accountant. I’ve also learned a lot from experience, and there’s no way that can be expedited without a time machine. I’ll be real with you: I did some things wrong my first couple years, as I would say every new business owner does. But my “first couple years” were nine years ago, so I’m way over that hump. I luckily had 10 years of business experience before I opened AB Beauty, so my early mis-steps weren’t disastrous.
Have I convinced you yet that experience is important? Good! (I imagined you nodding your head.) But I’m not going to leave you hanging, armed with this knowledge but without the tools to identify the good things, the red flags and what doesn’t matter even though it seems like it should.
Insta Fake. Should a wedding beauty company have an Instagram account? Of course! But does it matter how many followers they have? Not really. Instagram has been cracking down on this lately, but people can buy followers. So you could be looking at a page with 10,000 followers, but any number of those could be fake. When you’re checking out a business’s Instagram, first take a look at how many posts they have. If it’s under 50, you’re likely dealing with a new company. Even if they have a lot posts though, scroll through and see if what they are showing actually applies to what you want to book them for. If their page is 90% haircut photos and 10% bridal hair styling, they might not do that many weddings. Same for a makeup page that shows 90% special effects or editorial makeup photos with 10% bridal makeup photos. Between buying followers, buying likes (yes, people do that too) and retouching photos, Instagram can fake a lot. I do recommend checking out a company’s Instagram, but I wouldn’t base your booking decision off of that alone.
http://www.itshouldexist.com If a wedding beauty company you’re looking at only has Instagram, that’s a little suspect. Where’s the background about their company? Their rates? Information about the services they offer? Yes, visuals are essential for beauty company, but that’s not all there is to it. Websites may seem old school to some people and I agree that can be accurate for certain types of businesses if they only have a website. In the wedding beauty industry though, I think it adds legitimacy to a business if you see that they have a website in addition to other social media (Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest being the most popular in the wedding beauty industry). Creating a website (or hiring someone to) requires more work and/or money than starting an Instagram account or Facebook business page. That shows that–at least at some point–the owner was investing more effort into their business, aka taking things more seriously. That can translate into them taking their clients more seriously, and isn’t that the kind of vendor you want to hire?
Main Hustle. When choosing a wedding beauty company, it’s a good idea to see what else they’ve got going on. Are they a salon or spa that also does weddings? Are they a weddings and events only onsite company? Is this a side hustle for the owner? If you choose a company that has a team of 10 or more people and does I would say 75+ weddings a year, in my perspective, running that company correctly, efficiently and in accordance with the law and tax code is a full time job. If doing weddings is a side job for an owner or is a small part of what they do overall, I would be very clear on how devoted they are to weddings before booking with them.
Some companies primarily do salon and/or spa services but they have a bridal coordinator who handles weddings, which works to your advantage. But for other businesses, weddings are not their focus, which could mean you are not their focus. Some salons–and I want to be clear when I say some, not all–do a lot of in-salon weddings but few onsite weddings, so they might not be as familiar with the factors that need to be thought of when going to a hotel or rental home (parking, set up, scheduling, bringing fully stocked kits and supplies with them, handling payments, etc.)
If you’re considering booking with an onsite only company, it’s a good idea to find out what else (if anything) the owner does. Are they on set 60 hours a week? Do they rent a chair to take salon clients when they’re not at weddings? Do they have another job completely outside of the industry? Those things are all completely fine (and I’ve done two out of three myself), but if there is one person handling all bridal communication, you might want to make sure they are someone who will be able to frequently check and respond to emails, calls and texts so you’re not left waiting for answers for days at a time. I worked as a school secretary then office manager for my first two years in business, but I didn’t have many clients then, nor did I have a team to manage until I went full-time with my business. But I still made sure to check emails and texts throughout the day and responded to calls during my lunch breaks and after work. And there was always downtime on set when I could respond to my bridal clients, but I still kept my film work to a minimum and stopped doing it entirely four years ago so that I could be more available for my wedding clients. Hey, I have to justify my actions here 😉
The People Have Spoken. When you’re looking for a wedding beauty company, I beg of you, please check the reviews! WeddingWire, The Knot, Google, Facebook and Yelp reviews can help you learn about a company from other brides’ perspectives. (WeddingWire and The Knot tend to be the most helpful, as they are wedding-focused and where most people think to leave reviews of wedding vendors.) A company’s photos will tell you if they can create the kind of looks you want for you and your bridal party, but their reviews will tell you about some equally important factors–responsiveness, professionalism, personalities, punctuality, etc.
Like anything else, reviews can be faked, but I know that WeddingWire, The Knot and Google at least have filters in place to verify reviews and/or help prevent bulk, bot or otherwise fake reviews from being posted. If you see a company with 100+ reviews, that’s a good sign that they are legit. But if their overall rating is low, well, that tells you something too. A company (if they’re smart) will only show the good things, but reviews can uncover some of the bad. If you want to see an example of good reviews, check out the AB Beauty WeddingWire reviews. With a 5 star average and more reviews in the beauty category than any other company in Rhode Island, you know we must be doing something right!
Sign On The Dotted Line. Before you book with a company, it’s a good idea to ask them about their contract. First off, if they don’t do contracts, run. A text saying someone will do your wedding hair and makeup is not legally binding, so you’re leaving yourself open to a last minute cancellation by the company (and no recourse for you) if you don’t sign a contract. When you do connect with a company with good reviews whose esthetic you like and whose rates fit in your budget, it’s a good idea to ask them about their contract. Is it an online contract? If not, you’re either going to have to meet up in person to sign it, or do something with printing, mailing and/or scanning. Is that do-able for you? I mean, only 23% of Millennials have printers. (I made that up.)
Maybe a hard copy contract isn’t an issue for you, but if it is, you may want to find a company you like who does online contracts. A lot of new companies won’t have an online contract because they can’t afford the expense, or because they don’t know it’s an option (and one that most clients prefer). And when a new company creates a contract, if they haven’t consulted with an attorney–another expense that some new companies can’t afford–it may not be a solid contract. We’re talking about your wedding day here, and I don’t want to see you go through the headache of a hard copy contract if that’s a hassle for you, or end up booking with a company whose contract may cause problems down the road.
Credit Check. Another important factor in choosing your wedding beauty company might be their payment options. 61% of couples who pay for their own wedding do so using credit cards (and that’s a real statistic). If you’re planning on using a credit card to pay for your wedding beauty services, check with the vendor(s) you’re considering before booking to make sure they accept credit cards. A lot of new companies don’t accept credit cards because they can’t afford the credit card processing fees. (There are ten states where companies are legally required to cover the fees themselves, but many businesses outside of those states eat that fee, as it can be a turn off to potential clients to be charged a credit card processing fee.) So you may come across companies who don’t accept credit cards and that’s not going to work for you, it’s important to know that before booking.
On Your Terms. A company you book with should be able to tell you about their payment terms without hesitation. If they can’t give you any information about that, they are likely either inexperienced or unorganized, neither of which you want in a wedding vendor. A company who knows what they’re doing will be able to give you clear information regarding accepted forms of payment, payment deadlines and any other pertinent information that affects your money. They will have a legitimate invoice and will be able to provide you with receipts. Any confusion around payments has a good chance of stressing you out, and that’s probably not what you want when taking on the already stressful wedding planning process.
The Technicalities. Without a doubt, you want someone who is experienced with the technical side of doing wedding hair and/or makeup. But just because someone has years of experience doing hair and/or makeup, it doesn’t mean they have experience running a wedding beauty business. If someone has been doing wedding hair for 15 years but they’ve never worked in a small business or had any desire to handle the business side of beauty bookings, that may very well affect your experience. The majority of the people I’ve interviewed have told me they don’t want to have their own business because they don’t like the client communication and business side. They solely want to focus on creating beautiful hair and/or makeup looks. That’s perfect for AB Beauty, as I take care of what they don’t like to do. But that “I only want to do hair/makeup” thought is common in the beauty industry. It’s a fantastic quality in someone who freelances or works for a beauty services company, but not in an owner.
You want the person doing your hair/makeup to love what they do. But if they have no interest or experience with contracts, invoices, payments, creating schedules, coordinating appointments, etc., do you want them to be the vendor you interact with? Some people (like me!) enjoy and are experienced with both sides of the wedding beauty services transaction. And others may focus on the beauty side but have a business partner or employee who handles the business side, which is great. I’m just saying, if you’re considering a wedding beauty company, don’t be fooled by years of beauty experience alone. You deserve to work with a company who not only creates a gorgeous hair and makeup look for you, but who can make the business side of the process easy, clear and efficient.
A lot of beauty companies are opened by people who love doing wedding hair and/or makeup, and following your passion can lead to great things. But if the owner of a wedding beauty company is not experienced with running a wedding beauty business, unless they have someone who is working with or for them who is, the owner’s lack of experience will likely negatively affect your interaction with them.
I hope that this has been helpful to you if you’re in the wedding planning process. Planning a wedding can be crazy stressful, but if you hire experienced, professional, responsive vendors, you can minimize that stress. The first vendors you will likely interact with on your wedding day are your hair stylist(s) and/or makeup artist(s), so do you want those first faces you see to be people you’re happy with because they’ve made the process easy and clear for you, or people who’ve dropped the business ball at every turn? I think we both know the answer to that.
As a makeup artist, I go through a lot of lipstick. At each wedding alone, I apply once during the initial service, again at touchups time and I give each client a little container of some lipstick I’ve scraped out of my palette for touchups throughout the wedding. At bridal trials, my clients sometimes want to try a few different lipsticks to see what their options are, and when I’m on a commercial or full day corporate shoot, there can be multiple people who need lipstick as well as frequent touchups. Because of all of this, I can easily go through an entire tube of lipstick in three or four weeks.
I don’t do much with pure black, blue, green, white and orange lipsticks due to the type of jobs I usually do, but there is not a shade in the nude, pink, red or berry color families that I haven’t used or created by combining shades. But it’s not just about that base (color). Undertones, textures and finishes are just as important when choosing the right shade for someone. It has to work with their coloring, their natural lip color and their preferences as well. What, you thought lipstick was easy???
I’m not brand loyal in the sense that my pro kit has products from probably 20 different brands, but I do use a lot of MAC. The majority of my lipsticks are MAC (with Lipstick Queen coming in second), and it’s because they’re damn good. There are tons of shade options and finishes, and they’re pigmented as all get out. I’m going to walk you through my 27 most used shades, giving you MAC’s color descriptions and my take on who they work best on/what I use them for. So if you’re in the market for a new lipstick and you’re considering MAC, read on.
Angel. This light, soft pink has a frost finish so it can be a little intense on its own. I use it more as a mixer lipstick. So if I’ve got a matte darker pink that I want to lighten, or a brown nude that I want to soften, I’ll add in some Angel. It can go Barbie pink easily, so just keep that in mind if you’re considering it.
Brave. This pinky-beige with white pearl has a satin finish, which means it’s shinier than a flat matte but not frosty. Satins tend to be comfortable to wear. This shade looks beautiful on light and medium skintones. AB Beauty makeup artist, Jen, recommended Brave to me a while back, and I’m glad she did because I use it at almost every wedding.
Cherish. This soft, muted pinky beige with a satin finish is a nice nude for fair, light and light medium skintones.
Creme Cup. Creme Cup is one of MAC’s Cremesheen lipsticks, which means it’s semi-glossy and feels more like a thick balm than a lipstick. I use this light blue pink on fair and light skintones. It tends to get chalky and a little jarring on medium and deeper skintones.
Creme D’Nude. This pale muted peach beige is another Cremesheen, and it’s a good nude for fair and light skintones. Like Creme Cup, it can appear chalky on medium and deeper skintones.
Faux. A lot of clients tell me they prefer a mauve-ish lip color, so it’s no surprise I go through a lot of this muted mauve-pink satin shade. It looks pretty on light and medium skintones. My friend Jennie Kay of Jennie Kay Beauty originally recommended it to me, and I trust her opinion so I bought it and haven’t looked back.
Film Noir. I bought my first tube of this at the MAC store on Newbury Street in Boston. I put it on while my friend, Carina, was driving my car (because we knew parallel parking was coming up, and that’s not something I do). I remember saying “Ooooh!” as I was applying it, because it looked very 1940s femme fatale (makes sense with the shade name) and I love that. MAC says it’s an intense brown, but there’s some deep reddish purple there in my eyes. It’s easiest for deeper skintones to wear, but you can pull it off it you have a lighter skintone if you aren’t afraid of an intense lip.
Fresh Moroccan. This frost finish, brick red with golden pearl lipstick is gorgeous on medium deep and deeper skintones. I’ve used this many times at Indian weddings, and it looks beautiful against some of the sari colors I’ve seen.
Honeylove. This matte lipstick is one of my most used shades on fair, light and medium skintones. It’s a light beige toned with rose, which means it’s a nude with a little pink to warm it up. That makes it flattering and easier to wear, as a nude with no pink can come off a little too stark.
Kinda Sexy. MAC calls this a matte neutral pinky rose, but it looks more peachy to me. It’s beautiful on medium skintones. This is one of those shades that clients often really love and ask me the name of.
Lady Danger. You might have heard of this pro makeup artist and celebrity favorite vivid bright coral red. It’s a matte showstopper and it can work on a variety of skintones. I don’t use it often at weddings, but I usually have a tube of it in my purse.
Mehr. Oh, this matte dirty blue pink? I go through loads of it. It’s a gorgeous shade that works well on light and medium skintones. It looks especially pretty on people with blue eyes, which may sound strange until you remember (or learn) that blue and pink are complimentary colors, and the lip color you have on can enhance your eye color. Something about the undertones in Mehr make it really bring out those baby blues, so this might be a good one for you if you have light to medium skin and blue eyes.
New York Apple. I’ve always wanted to wear this muted red with pink shimmer, but I find it looks best on medium deep and medium deep skintones. It has a frost finish, but it’s not overpowering. It looks more pink than red on deeper skintones, so if your skin falls into that category and you want more a full red, I’d try a different shade.
“O.” This purplish red with golden pearl is probably MAC’s most interesting lip color. It looks bronze in the tube, but comes out purple-brown on some people and reddish-brown on others. The golden pearl of this frost lipstick is strong, but it still somehow gives more a sheen than a frost finish. It works best on deeper skintones.
Patisserie. This is one of MAC’s Lustre finishes, which means it’s lightweight and has a shine to it without being frosty or glossy. It’s a sheer creamy neutral pink. It’s the most flattering on fair and light skintones, but can sometimes work on medium skin. It’s a very pretty color for wedding looks.
Photo. This beautiful golden brown satin shade is great on deeper skintones. I also sometimes use it as a mixer when customizing a nude shade.
Please Me. This matte shade is a muted, rose tinted pink and it has a pop to it. It’s not that it’s bright or intense, but it definitely stands out. I love the way it looks against a yellow dress or top. It’s pretty on fair, light and light medium skintones.
Rebel. This midtonal cream plum is gorgeous on deeper skintones. I once used it on an actress who you’d definitely know if you watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and she loved it so much she asked me to give her the name so she could buy it.
Ruby Woo. This MAC classic is from their Retro Matte line. It’s mega matte, so make sure your lips are hydrated before you apply it. It’s a vivid blue red, and it screams vintage. This is another of my personal favorite reds and it can work on a variety of skintones.
Russian Red. I want to say this intense bluish-red matte was a favorite of Madonna’s. Like any red, it’s bold, but it can work on skintones from fair to deep. I think this was the first red lipstick I owned, and I used to try to get my friends to buy it because I loved it so much.
Sin. In the mood for a deep, dark blue red? Look no further than Sin. This matte shade is stunning on medium and deeper skintones. I think it got popular in the non-pro makeup artist YouTube world for a while, but trust me, it’s good.
Syrup. This cloudy pink Lustre shade has a purple undertone, and I find myself using it a lot on light and medium brunette clients. Just like Mehr works extra well with blue eyes, Syrup somehow looks especially good on brunettes.
Twig. I once won an actress’s trust by using Twig on her, because that’s the shade she wore in her everyday life (and it just happened to work perfectly for her character). It’s a soft muted brownish pink in a satin finish, and I’ve used it on light, medium and medium deep skintones.
Vegas Volt. This full power coral is from the Amplified line, which means it’s bold, pigmented, full coverage and has a semi-lustrous finish. It’s not so strong that it’s all you see, but it definitely packs a punch. I’ve used it on light, medium and medium deep skintones.
Velvet Teddy. This matte deep toned beige might have been my most used lip color at weddings in 2019. Many of the people I used this on liked it so much that they asked me the name of the shade so they could buy it. It works on light skintones, but it’s really flattering on medium skintones.
Viva Glam III. This matte muted brownish-plum is one of my favorite MAC lipsticks. It’s as close to a universally flattering shade as you get. And every cent of a Viva Glam purchase goes to the MAC AIDS Fund, so you can buy something pretty and support a charity at the same time.
Whirl. Whirl is a matte dirty rose that looks beautiful on medium, medium deep and deeper skintones. It became a cult favorite a few years back (I want to say due to Kylie Jenner wearing it). I’m usually wary of cult favorites, but this one is good.
That’s all, folks. Feeling ready to buy a MAC lipstick? I’m not saying you need to, but if you want to (or if you want to buy one for someone on your holiday shopping list), hopefully this gave you a good start.
Even though I often think it’s only been five years since I graduated from college, I am, in fact, in my late 30s. I have a consistent and solid skincare routine, I’ve been using prescription retinoids for a few years, I stay out of the sun and I’m lucky enough to have great genes when it comes to signs of aging. Lately though, I’ve felt like my face has been starting to show its age. Even though sagging skin before 40 is uncommon for non-smokers and non-sun worshippers, I swear it was starting to happen to me.
And so like I do whenever I encounter a problem, I thought, I need to fix this, now. After I shared my concerns with her, my cousin Saint Maria mentioned that she had used the NuFACE Mini–a handheld microcurrent skincare device–and I remembered watching this review Lisa Eldridge did about it. After reading through a million reviews and hearing yet another endorsement from a friend who said it worked well, I coughed up the $199 and placed my order.
You’re probably thinking “So what the hell is it, really?” Great question. First off, you need to know our bodies have a natural current buzzing around 24/7. The NuFACE devices (I am reviewing the Mini, but they have others) mimic that current. Because the facial muscles are closer to the skin than anywhere else in the body, the NuFACE low level microcurrents are able to penetrate the skin and get down to those muscles. They tighten, tone and contour the skin by giving those muscles a workout and increasing collagen and elastin via ATP production (I’ll let you look that one up). Tightening, toning and contouring is, you know, what a face lift does, so I think it’s safe to say microcurrent waves are anti-aging.
Microcurrent therapy was first used in the 1980s to help with nerve damage from Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy causes sagging, atrophied muscles. My father had it and half of his face was droopy temporarily, but some people with Bell’s Palsy don’t recover from that drooping. Microcurrent therapy was found to improve the nerve paralysis in some people and became FDA approved as a treatment for that. The skincare industry perked up its pretty little ears and said “Sagging skin? We know lots of people who would want to fix that!” Cue the microcurrent facials that started popping in spas nationwide. I learned how to give microcurrent facials in Esthetics school in 2008, and, well, let’s just say they hadn’t perfected it yet (aka I got shocked a few times).
NuFACE took the microcurrent technology, got rid of the risk of shocking yourself and made it something people could do on themselves, no spa day needed. It’s easy to use, painless and holy shit, is it effective. I’ve been using it since November 2, and there has been an undeniable improvement in my skin. It’s an easy process. First, you cleanse your face with a non-oil based cleanser. Then you dry your face (pat it dry, please–rubbing can cause pulling and sagging of the skin) and apply a thick layer of either the NuFACE serum, a serum you like, or aloe. I use an all-natural aloe, but you do you. Then you switch on your NuFACE, choose your intensity level, and go to town. Video tutorials are below, but let’s get to my Before & After pictures so you have your proof.
I’ve taken more selfies in the last month than I normally do in a year, so this has felt like a very egotistical four weeks for me. But I did it for you! I could tell you how great the NuFACE Mini is, but a picture is worth a thousand words (and I’m currently only at 827).
Here’s what my Before & Afters looked like on Day 2 (I forgot to take Day 1 pics) and Day 30:
The pictures on the left were taken right before I used the NuFACE Mini, and the pictures on the right were taken immediately after. I have no makeup on in any of the pics, and no filters were used. I tried to stand in the same spot and smile the same way (although I obviously forgot to have my hair the same way). Do you see how tight my face looks in the Afters??? And look at how much deeper the lines around mouth were on Day 2 compared to Day 30.
Maybe I don’t look as young as 2009 Allison yet…
But I think I at least look like 2015 Allison now. I’ll take it!
Look at the change between the Day 2 Before and Day 30 After. My skin looks firmer, my eyes look lifted, my lines are less noticeable and my jawline is more defined. My skin also looks brighter–I can’t tell you how many people have told me I look like I’m glowing lately–and it even feels softer. I had one semi-deep line on my forehead that you couldn’t usually see in pictures but could in person, and I just noticed yesterday that it’s almost completely gone.
The next pictures were taken three weeks apart, and I’m wearing a full face of makeup in both. The picture on the left is of me before I started using the NuFACE Mini. The picture on the right is 12 days into it. I think I look way more awake and maybe even younger in the picture on the right.
Day 14, right before and right after using the NuFACE Mini. Look at that brow lift!
In case you can’t tell, I love the NuFACE Mini. I was skeptical–as I am of most things–but the proof is in the pudding (and the pudding is the pictures). If you feel like your skin isn’t as tight as it used to be, I would strongly consider getting this device. You can use it on your neck as well, which I know is an area of concern for a lot of people. But–and this is an important disclaimer–if you know yourself to be someone who cannot stick to a consistent skincare routine, I wouldn’t waste your money. Yes, you get instant results from the NuFACE Mini, but if you want those cumulative results, you have to use it consistently. NuFACE recommends five days a week for two months then two to three times a week for maintenance after that. I messed up the first week and did six days in a row, and my skin felt a little sensitive after. Don’t go balls to the wall with it at first, thinking that will speed up your results. If you jump right into the highest intensity and do it seven days a week, you’re being mean to your skin, and it will probably tell you that via redness and sensitivity.
A few tips if you do get this miracle device:
Use the right cleanser. I love cleansing balms and oil cleansers because they really get makeup off, but there’s a chance they can leave a little bit of oily residue on the skin. You don’t want to have any bit of oil on the skin when you use the NuFACE (I’m guessing it makes it harder for the microcurrent waves to penetrate the skin through oil), so why risk it with the wrong cleanser? Use a lightweight cleanser like Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser for best results. I use my NuFACE in the morning, and I don’t find it necessary to do a deep cleanse of the skin both morning and night anyway, so I’m fine with a gentle cleanser pre-NuFACE.
Don’t be stingy with the serum. Or aloe. You need a thick layer of whatever you use as your conductor. If you run the NuFACE over an area that doesn’t have serum/aloe on it or if it’s not thick enough, it will feel a little prickly. If your thought process is “But if there’s less serum there, it’ll be closer to the facial muscles and I’ll get better results,” you’re wrong. Sorry, but shortcuts in skincare don’t usually work.
Follow the videos exactly. This isn’t the time to go freestyle. There’s a reason for the placement and movement of the device. Using it incorrectly will…well, I don’t know exactly because I follow the rules (with this), but I imagine it wouldn’t be good. They want you to have good results so you become a loyal customer. Your idea of what you think could work better would already be their idea if it did. You follow me? Watch this basic, five minute video first, then check out this advanced one if you know you can commit to 15 minutes.
Adjust the intensity as needed. There are three levels of intensity for the NuFACE Mini. I used the lowest setting for the first 30 days, then moved onto the second setting. I’ll move onto the highest setting in another week or two, as I know my skin has been tolerating the higher intensity well. I would recommend starting on the lowest setting, at least for the first week, until you feel like your skin is used to it. Then move up and scale back as needed.
I think this has been a thorough review. I’m more enamored with the NuFACE Mini than I’ve been with some (or all?) of the guys I’ve dated. It can often take a couple of months to see results from any skincare routine changes, so I was shocked (luckily not literally, this time) to see results so quickly. I don’t work for NuFACE nor is this a sponsored post, so my endorsement of this device is genuine. I’ve been telling everyone about the NuFACE Mini because it’s probably the most impressive of all of the skincare things I’ve ever tried. And I can’t keep that kind of thing a secret.
It’s absurd that I’ve yet to post a review of my all-time favorite foundation–MAC Studio Face and Body Foundation— so I’m here to remedy that. Sure, I did this compare and contrast review of MAC Face and Body and the Make Up For Ever Face & Body Foundation (which has now become their Water Blend Face & Body Foundation), but the darling of my foundation world deserves her own post.
In honor of the recent 20 year anniversary of 10 Things I Hate About You, I’m going to do a 10 Things I Love About You for MAC F&B.
The Coverage Options. When applied and gently blended in, F&B gives the wearer sheer coverage. But due to its film formers (which deserve their own shoutout), the more you use your fingers or a brush to work in F&B, the more coverage you get. If you use your fingers, you can actually feel the foundation thicken as you work it in. If that’s not enough coverage, you can build it up by adding more foundation without having to worry about caking, like you would with many other foundations. I’ve yet to meet another foundation that offers so many coverage options.
The Film Formers. Film formers are not a group of tiny movie producers in the foundation. They are the ingredients in F&B that make it stay in place. They form an invisible, water resistant film (don’t worry–you won’t feel it) that sets in place and keeps the foundation from wearing off. This makes it ideal for longwear occasions like weddings, which is why I go through bottles of it each wedding season. I’ve worn F&B on my legs (we’ll get to the body foundation part later) in the summer, and thanks to the film formers, is has stayed on through hours of day drinking shenanigans. Impressive.
The Undertones. MAC F&B Foundations come in N (Neutral) and C (Cool) undertones. They are then numbered by pigment. So C1 and N1 are the same as far as how dark they are, but N1 looks more pink on some skintones and C1 looks more yellow. If you have more yellow or olive in your skin, the C foundations will work well on you. The N foundations are ideal for those with neutral or pink undertones. And like with all foundations, you can customize them to create your perfect shade. I’ve added in a drop of an N to a C or vice versa when an undertone seemed just slightly off, so there’s no reason you couldn’t too.
The Scent. Or I should say, the lack of a scent. Some foundations are heavily perfumed, and I don’t like that. Fragrance is also a common allergen, so as a makeup artist, I go for unscented or very lightly scented products because I like my clients. I don’t want to put anything heavily scented on my own skin or on a client’s skin, so this is an important factor for me.
The Size Options. F&B foundations can be used on–you guessed it–the body as well as the face. I tend to think the two size options MAC offers for F&B are partly because of this. I have “tanned” my legs many times with C5 and used F&B on models’ bodies at photoshoots, so I’m no stranger to body makeup. I think it makes sense to have a bigger bottle for body makeup, as you’ll use lot more foundation for the body than for the face (unless you’re a social media beauty guru, in which case you’ll use more foundation on your face than on your body). For my personal makeup bag and for my pro kit, I like small products because they make for more room in my makeup bag, and anything that makes my pro kit lighter makes my body happier. (I sprained both wrists lugging that bad boy around one wedding season.) With the 50ml size, MAC keeps my makeup bag and my pro kit lighter and with their 120ml, they make it so I don’t go through half a bottle just trying to tan my ghostly legs for the day. Most foundations have in a one-size-fits-all vibe, but MAC F&B is more inclusive.
The Glow Factor. F&B gives a flattering, healthy glow to the skin without using shimmer or other bullshit. Dry and normal to dry skin can look lackluster, but pop some F&B on, and get a little dewy. For my combination and oily skin types, you may want to use some mattifyer or oil-free primer first, as your abundant natural oils + the glowy magic of F&B can = a little too much shine. I’ve used this foundation on all skin types, and as long as I prep combo and oily skinned clients properly, it looks fantastic on them.
The Consistency. If you pick up a bottle of F&B and shake it like a salt shaker, you’ll hear how liquidy it is. If you’re a foundation-phobe because the idea of heavy makeup scares you, that sound should be music to your ears. A foundation that is that thin and liquidy is going to be real hard to cake up. Not only that, but F&B feels like nothing on the skin. I like my clients to not only love the way their makeup looks but be comfortable with how it feels. I check in with my clients to make sure everything feels okay as I work, and none of them have ever told me that F&B felt even a little heavy, sticky or weird on their skin.
The Packaging. Sure, a glass bottle can look luxe, but I like MAC’s plastic packaging for two reasons. 1) It weighs less than a glass bottle, which might not matter if you only have one foundation, but I’ve got dozens in my pro kit. 2) You can drop a plastic bottle and it won’t shatter. MAC also has a great packaging recycling program, so you don’t have to be wasteful when a bottle of F&B comes to its natural end. A+ on the packaging, MAC.
The Natural Look. One of the most important things to me is that a foundation looks like skin. Part of that is choosing the correct shade, but you can be right on with a shade and if the formulation is shitty, your foundation will be obvious. I’m old school in the way that I don’t like myself or my clients to look like they are wearing foundation, and MAC Face and Body lets that happen. You can still get coverage from it, but it allows the wearer’s skin to show through, which is what I’ve found most people actually want, whether they know it or not.
How It Feels. None of the nine other factors would matter if F&B was uncomfortable to wear. But obviously, it is not. It’s lightweight, absorbs quickly and is hydrating. I’ve had several clients tell me that it feels great, and as someone who wears it on full-face makeup days (which are much less common than you would think for most makeup artists), I agree. Thanks to the Taurus part of my zodiacal classification, I am hyper-sensitive to how things feel. If a sweater I’m wearing is even the tiniest bit itchy or I can feel the tag on a dress, it becomes a bad day for me. So if you think I’m going to wear a foundation that feels heavy or sticky, you’re out of your mind. (Nor would I ever put anything like that on a client.) So besides its other attributes, F&B feels just like a foundation should–which is like nothing.
Whether you’re new to foundation, like the idea of several coverage options or want a foundation that will help you get glowy, MAC Face and Body is there for you. There’s a reason (or 10) that it’s been a kit essential for makeup artists since it came out. In a world of heavy foundations with strong scents and weird undertones, F&B is the natural-looking, comfortable to wear champion.
I know, I know–this is a beauty blog with some shots of entrepreneurship posts. Maybe I have no place writing about travel, but here’s the thing about me: I like to be a good helper. And when I have info that I think could help someone, I have to share it.
I recently spent nine days in Ireland, the country of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors (until 23andMe tells me otherwise). I traveled with a friend, hitting up six different cities/towns with no real itinerary. We decided to “wing it,” which goes against the core of my very being, but I surprisingly ended up being totally okay with it. We started in Dublin, then went to Galway, then to Doolin, followed by Killarney, then Dingle, then Kilkenny and finally back to Dublin. I learned a lot while I was there, and since Ireland seems to be a popular travel destination lately, I thought I’d pass on what I learned.
Cash Money. I planned on primarily using my credit card while I was there, but I wanted to have some cash on me when I arrived (to avoid hefty ATM fees). I ordered 250 euro from my bank, and I came back after my trip with 10, so I think I got the right amount for me. There were a couple of tours we did (Cliffs of Moher and Killarney National Park) that did not accept credit cards, so I think it’s good to have euros on hand for those kinds of things, as well as for tolls if you are driving.
Euro Euro Bills, Y’All. When you pay by credit card, the merchant will ask you if you want the charge to be in euros or dollars. I’d learned beforehand that the financially wise answer is “euros,” so I stuck with that. There’s no way I can explain the reasoning to you in a way that makes sense, so just read this.
Gettin’ Tip-sy. They say there’s not a strong “tipping culture” in Ireland, and that certainly was the case from what I observed. There was no gratuity option for most of the credit card transactions I made. I tipped the tour guides, a taxi driver, some restaurants, the Dublin hair stylist who gave me a great blowout and my friend and I left one or two euros at some pubs where we could see others had done the same (seemed cheap but that’s what others were doing). I was a little confused about who to tip and how much to tip. As an over-tipper in the US, it felt so weird not to tip or to leave a smaller tip than I would normally leave, but I tried looking it up beforehand and seeing what others were doing. If I screwed anyone over, I’m sorry!
Where You Rest At? Out of our eight nights in Ireland, we stayed in B&Bs for all but three of the nights. Our first one, which was also our second night in Ireland, was in Galway. My friend had researched some the night before but we didn’t book anything. We walked in, asked them if they had a room, and luckily they did. WINGIN’ ITTTTTTTTTTT! Our first and last nights were in Dublin and I had booked hotels there before we left (I figured we wouldn’t want to deal with a potential hassle of finding accommodations on travel days), but other than Dublin and Galway, we booked the rest of the places the night before we got there. I think this worked because it was off season, but I’m not sure it would be as easy during peak season. We heard that B&Bs–not Airbnbs–were the way to go, and I have to agree with that. We had breakfast options at the B&Bs and our hosts were all very nice, plus the rooms were very affordable (again, likely off season perks). If I were to go to Ireland again, I would definitely stay in B&Bs.
Bed Time. When booking a B&B or hotel in Ireland, you’ll be asked to choose whether you want a twin or double room. A twin room has two beds, which are sometimes twin beds, sometimes doubles. (In one hotel room in Dingle, there was one twin bed and one double bed, which my friend and I played rock, paper, scissors for. I slept very well and spaciously that night.) A double room has one bed, and it’s usually a king or queen. My friend and I got twin rooms everywhere we went, and most of the time, the rooms had two twin beds. And FYI, twin beds in Ireland are roughly thee inches smaller (less wide) than American twin beds. Even I felt like they were small, and I’m referred to as “tiny” on a regular basis.
Be Adaptable. You know they have different outlets over there, right? I was bringing a laptop and phone with me so I knew I’d need to charge them each day. Someone had suggested this three pack of adapters, and they worked great for me. If you’re going to buy adapters, just be aware of the voltage of the thing(s) you’ll need to plug in so you can choose the right adapters.
Switch It Up. I think all of the outlets I saw in Ireland had a little switch on them to be turned on or off for power. My jet lagged brain didn’t even see the switch my first night there, so I woke up to an almost dead laptop. My friend nicely pointed out the switch, and I made sure to turn the outlets on going forward. Easy peasy.
It All Comes Out In The Wash. I had heard that a lot of hotels and B&Bs in Ireland don’t have wash cloths–and this makeup ain’t coming off without one–so I brought some with me. I knew I would just use them and leave them there, so I bought some cheap ones instead of bringing the ones from my house. Some of the hotels and B&Bs did have white wash cloths but along with those were signs saying they were not to be used for makeup removal, so I think I made the right choice.
Pack Rat. The type of clothing you pack for Ireland depends on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. If you’re an outdoor adventure traveler, it doesn’t really make sense for you to bring three dresses now, does it? But if you only ever wear dresses and you don’t plan on hiking anytime this millennium, do you. I brought mostly casual clothes, saving my dressiest options for Dublin. But actually, Killarney is where I saw the most fancy folk. I don’t even remember seeing any women in heels until we got to Killarney, which–and this might have been due to the bank holiday long weekend–was full of dressed up people, some in what I could consider club clothes. Other than that, I didn’t feel out of place in my casual clothes.
Minimalist Tendencies. I overpacked, no doubt about it. I was in Ireland for pretty much eight full days (got in around 8:00am the first day), and then a half day there the day we left. For some reason, I had in my head that I needed 12 days worth of outfits. I’ma get real detailed here because I know some of you want that. I brought four pairs of Topshop skinny jeans (denim, light gray, dark gray and black). Three or even two pairs would have been enough. I wore one of them only once. I brought four pairs of leggings (two thin, one thick and one fleece-lined). One thin and the fleece-lined (which did come in handy) would have been enough. I brought three fleeces (knowing I’d wear one or two over my pajamas), but two would have plenty. I packed 12 shirts and didn’t wear three of them. I bought four pairs of shoes–flat boots, wedge boots, hiking boots and sneakers. I could have done without the sneakers, as I mainly wore the flat boots. I brought too many pairs of underwear and socks, but I don’t regret that because they didn’t take up much room. But I definitely could have done without some of the pants, shirts and the sneakers. Ooops.
Weather Through It. I thought I was going to need to buy a raincoat when I got to Ireland, but that would have been unnecessary. It didn’t even rain all of the days that we were there, which I had expected it would. (But it was also implied several times that we were there in a good weather stretch.) A few people told us that you can experience all four seasons in a day in Ireland, but I never felt summer. It was in the 40s and 50s while we were there, but high 50s and sunny does feel like spring, so I’ll give ’em that. We got hailed on–twice–while on The Cliffs of Moher, and there was a cold, windy day in Dingle. If you want to travel somewhere for consistently warm, sunny weather, Ireland is probably not the best option. But if you hit a nice stretch like we did, it’s really not bad (and that’s coming from someone who flees to the South to escape New England winters).
PUBS & RESTAURANTS
Ready, Freddy? Have your drink order ready when you go to the bar. Cocktail menus were scarce (which I’m fine with, but I know others expect them), and it became clear early on that you’re expected to you know what you want when the bartender comes over to you. We didn’t encounter any small talk from bartenders anywhere we went. Usually we got a “Hiya” or “Hello,” followed by a stare, which I learned meant “Order your drink now or I’m walking away” at most places. This could have just been the places we went to, but it’s worth passing along anyway.
DIY Style. If you order a mixed drink–like a vodka soda–you will be given the vodka in a glass, then your club soda in a bottle, and you become your own bartender. I liked this, as the majority of mixed drinks I’ve gotten in Newport lately have not even been given a half-assed stir, so I’m used to doing that part myself anyway. And since I often drink tequila with club soda and either grapefruit or pineapple juice, I like my mixer proportions a specific way, which only myself and most Charleston bartenders can get right. Maybe it’s my control issues speaking, but this was one of my favorite parts of the Irish pub experience.
H2 Oh No. Contrary to what the last paragraph may imply, I’m not a big drinker. That’s due to a variety of boring reasons, so let’s gloss right over that and skip to the fact that I sometimes just order a water, or have one drink then a water. Apparently this is a weird request in Ireland. I also like to have a glass of water with a drink because I’ve repeatedly read and now wholeheartedly believe that helps with hangovers (which are probably unlikely after one drink anyway). I love a bar that automatically gives you a water with your drink, but you won’t find that on The Emerald Isle. So go ahead, order some aqua, but don’t be surprised if the reaction is a weird look.
What’s Your Number? If you’re traveling to Ireland and you have a food allergy, you’re in luck…kind of. Every menu I saw had a list of allergens (did you know celery is one?) with a corresponding number, and that number would be listed next to any menu item that contained it. I have a gluten allergy, which was number 1, so I scanned menus for 1s then made my selection. The problem is that sometimes I only had one or two meals to choose from. It was fine though, as I’m about as big of an eater as I am a drinker. If you have a food allergy (like sulfites, which they also included on the list), you’ll probably feel safe eating at pubs and restaurants in Ireland. But depending on your allergy (mustard is another one!), you might not feel like you have a ton of options. I think a lot of us with food allergies feel that way anyway, so maybe it isn’t an issue. But I like to be thorough in my travel guides.
Speak Up. Being obviously done with with your drink or meal doesn’t mean you’ll be asked if you want another drink or if you want the check. If you want another drink, it’s up to you to get the bartender’s attention and ask for it. Pushing your empty glass to away from you means nothing in Ireland (whereas if you do that in some places in the U.S., you’ll hear a “Can I get another drink?” as you’re taking the list sip of your current one). When you’re done with a meal, you may be asked if you want dessert or anything else, but saying “No thanks. We’re all set,” will not get you your check. If you don’t ask for it, you’ll be sitting there all night. So ignore No Doubt and actually do speak if you’re trying to get another drink or settle up.
The Terror. Driving on the left side of the road is scary as hell, and I didn’t even drive in Ireland. My friend very generously did all of the driving (she had volunteered to several months ago) because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Now having been in it, that was an accurate assessment. I was the copilot and I took my job very seriously, but Irish countryside roads are insanely narrow, so it was anxiety-inducing. My friend did an awesome job driving and she said it really wasn’t that bad, but I’m tensing up just thinking about it.
Roundabout Central. Ireland has so many roundabouts. And there are often several in a row. It’s enough to make a copilot dizzy! The good news is, they are pretty easy ones and we only got off track once in a roundabout when the GPS lied to us. They’re no Kelley Square (a famous Worcester roundabout about that’s so ridiculous that I know someone who pulls over, calls her Worcester native husband and has him come pick her up if she finds herself coming up on it) roundabouts, so you really don’t need to stress about these.
Get Low. Or rather, look low if you’re trying to find a traffic light. In Dublin, let’s say we almost went through a couple of red lights because the traffic lights were lower than we are used to so we didn’t see them. I don’t remember that being an issue outside of Dublin, but that may be because we learned our lesson on Day 2. Now that you know what to look for, just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be fine.
I Saw The Sign. Dublin may seem like a city with no street names until you look on the buildings where they hide the street signs. It’s like an extra challenge when you’re already in a foreign country driving on the left side of the road, so just embrace it.
Taxicab Confessions. There are no Ubers or Lyfts in Ireland, so get ready to go old school if you’re not driving, taking public transportation or walking somewhere. We only had to do this once, getting from a bar we ended up in outside of Doolin (it’s a great story) back to our B&B in Doolin. I thought my friend and I should go outside five minutes before the cab arrived so we could watch for it, which prompted someone I met to say my favorite comment of the trip: “You’re too organized for Ireland.” I guess I’m Type A in any country, huh?
Early Bird Special. I realize it can vary slightly by airline, but I think the general suggestion is to get to the airport three hours before your flight for international travel. My friend and I did just that, and it worked out well. In Boston, it gave us enough time to check our bags, go through security, have dinner at Wahlburgers then hit up Hudson News. It didn’t feel like we had a long wait at our gate after that. For our return flight from Dublin, we budgeted three and a half hours because we had to return our rental car first. That process was a bit of a mess, so I’m glad we added the extra half hour. It did take some time to do everything we needed to do at the airport and while it didn’t take three hours, I’m glad we had the time because we did have to wait in several long lines. If you’re a risk taker, you could probably cut the time down to two and a half or maybe even two hours, but I personally wouldn’t. I’ve been early for everything, including the day I was born, so of course I’m not going to cut it close for an international flight.
Get Customized. At some of the airports in Ireland (including Dublin and Shannon), you can do pre-clearance there so you don’t have to go through customs when you get back to the US. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do something before boarding than after landing when I just want to get home. We had to wait in three separate lines to get through pre-clearance, so having the padding of the three hours kept it from getting stressful. No worrying that we were going to miss our flight and have to run through the airport like maniacs.
PHONE & WIFI
A Cell Phone’s A Celly. I have a Samsung Galaxy (keep your comments to yourself, please) and have Sprint. I had checked with Sprint before I left and they said as long I switched my phone into international roaming mode, I could use it regularly. That wasn’t quite the case, but I was okay with that. If you want to be able to fully use your phone while you are there, maybe just read this. (And if you caught my Big L reference, know that I consider you a friend.)
Stay Connected. I had zero problems getting and staying connected to WiFi networks in Ireland. I was a little concerned about not having consistent WiFi before I left for my trip, but it turns out I didn’t need to be worried. Lesson learned.
Whoa. I’m including this section because hey, this is still a beauty blog. My friend and I noticed that many women in Ireland–particularly those in their 20s and 30s–wear a lot of makeup. Like beauty guru levels. Heavy foundation, contour, eye makeup, lips–just full on. I noticed lash extensions on 90% of the younger women I saw. I’m not knocking it, just making an observation.
WHAT I LIKED BEST ABOUT EACH PLACE
Dublin. Let me first say, I’m not a big city person. So I didn’t expect to like Dublin, but since it made sense to be there on travel days, I was fine with it. There were less people than I expected, which I loved. And I got a great blowout at Dry & Fly on Wicklow Street. It was also cool seeing Trinity College and the Temple Bar area (where we stayed both times).
Galway. We spent time primarily in the Latin Quarter, an area of Galway with structures that date back to medieval time. I’m happy in any cobblestone street areas where vehicles aren’t allowed, so I was into it. There was a comedy festival happening in Galway, so my friend and I went to a show the night we were there. Now I can say I’ve been to comedy festivals in three countries, so that’s something.
Doolin. Ah, Doolin. This was my favorite part of the trip. We stayed for two nights at O’Connor’s Guesthouse in huge room with a bathroom at least twice the size of the bathrooms any of our other rooms had. We had a great breakfast there one morning before we went on what they call a “walk” but is really more of a “hike” with local farmer Pat Sweeney. This walk-hike was one of the best parts of our trip. It was a four hour, off the beaten path tour that gave us information and views we couldn’t have gotten on any other tour. Pat suggested to my friend and I that we go to McGann’s Pub, where we ended up making friends with some locals. Doolin is an adorable little town and the first place I would go to if I went back to Ireland.
Killarney. We were in Killarney on the Sunday of a long weekend, so it was pretty busy. One of our new friends from Doolin had recommended we take a carriage ride, so we did that. (The carriages are stationed across from the Killarney Plaza Hotel, where we also had good dinner.) We took a ride through the Killarney National Park with our wonderful guide, John, and his horse, Suzy. Like we did everywhere we went, we stayed in the main/downtown part of town so we could walk everywhere. We wanted to see Ross Castle, but it closed before we were able to get there. We did see it from a distance during our carriage ride, so that half counts, right?
Dingle. The seaside town of Dingle reminded me of Newport. Water, boats, a million shops and restaurants–you know the drill. We went to the famed Murphy’s Ice Cream, where even a gluten-free gal like me had options. Instead of a B&B, we went with the Dingle Benners Hotel, which was nicest hotel we stayed at. (FYI, the parking lot is behind the hotel, you have to circle around the hotel through side streets to access it.) We found some very friendly people in Dingle, and I would say it was my second favorite place. Much like Newport, I bet it’s packed during the summer months but I think it would be fun to go there then.
Kilkenny. This medieval city looked and felt different than anywhere else we had been. I was determined to see a castle in Ireland, and we finally got to one in Kilkenny. We did a (self-guided) tour of Kilkenny Castle, and I pretended I was a queen while I was walking down one of the staircases. I had my favorite meal of the trip–a perfect burger with no bun, obviously–at Butcher. We didn’t do a ton of exploring in Kilkenny, but I’m glad we went.
If you’re traveling to Ireland and this post helped you even a little, I’ll be pleased as punch. If anyone has Ireland recommendations, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.