Brows for Beginners: Tips & Tricks for Filling in Your Brows

Like most people, I have been on a brow ~journey.~ I started tweezing my brows when I was in the fifth grade. Not necessarily because I needed to but because I had read about it in a People magazine I was skimming in line at the grocery store and was fascinated by it. No one in my family tweezed their eyebrows. The fact that people groomed their brow hair was mesmerizing to me. Little did I know that brows would be a billion-dollar business in just a few years time.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

I tweezed my own brow hair religiously from fifth grade until I was a freshman in high school, which was when I lost my waxing virginity. We took a trip to the local career center where I obviously spent my day shadowing the cosmetology students. Someone offered to wax my eyebrows and I reluctantly agreed. While it did seem to be a much quicker method of hair removal, I was maimed and spent the next few weeks looking perpetually perplexed until my brow hair grew back. I vowed to never let anyone else wax my brows again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m a freshman in college looking for a cheap way to indulge in a little self-care. Some people (probably men) might think it’s weird that having hot wax applied directly to your skin in order to pull your facial hair out by the root is considered self-care, but it is. If you know, you know. I ended up at the newly-opened Ulta Beauty in Okemos where a Benefit Brow Artist, who actually happened to be now-famous YouTuber Alex Garza, waxed my eyebrows. When I left I had amazing looking brows and felt like a million bucks.

TRIAL AND ERROR

The day that Alex Garza waxed my eyebrows was the first day I ever had any makeup in them. She filled them in with a Benefit powder and I remember thinking “I kind of like this but also maybe a little too bold?” At that time, bold brows were not the trend. I did, however,  like how filling them in made them frame my face a little more clearly. And so began my years-long process of trial and error. I never remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “wow, those look terrible.” Quite the contrary, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “Wow. Those look great.” But they didn’t. Learn from my mistakes.

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Dear God in heaven, what was I thinking?

TIPS

START WITH THE SPARSE SPOTS

If you’ve never filled your brows in before, the best place to start is looking in the mirror and identifying the sparse places in your brows, filling those in and going from there. You can always add more product—taking it away is a little trickier.

USE HAIR LIKE STROKES

Even if you choose to use a pencil, filling your brows in shouldn’t be like coloring. It’s much more artful and intentional than that. Create short, hair-like strokes in the direction that your hair naturally grows by making a gentle flicking motion with your wrist. Practice makes perfect!

PAY ATTENTION TO THE TAIL

Whether you’ve overplucked or had a wax mishap like yours truly, extending your eyebrow a little bit can make a world of difference. Be careful when you do this though, because drawing it in a downward slant brings the focus of the eye down, making you look older, sad and kind of saggy. Try to draw it out in more of a straight line for a lifted effect.

SOFTEN ANY HARSH LINES/EDGES

I bared my soul (well at least an embarrassing picture) so you can all see what it looks like when you throw caution to the wind and don’t BLEND. Make sure that you brush through your brows with a spoolie after you’re done applying product to avoid looking boxy eyebrows like I had.

ACCENTUATE YOUR SHAPE

The point of filling in your brows is to accentuate the shape that you already have. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you want to alter the shape of your brow or change the arch, I highly suggest visiting a professional who can help you. In this case, we’re merely accentuating what we already have by following our brow shape.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT COLOR

Aside from haphazardly color blocking your brows, the quickest way to mess this up is to choose the wrong color. I always try to match my brows to my natural hair color, which is a dark, neutral brown shade. If you’re blonde, a taupe color will probably work best. Taupe is probably the best shade for redheads as well, although there are auburn pencils available!

HIGHLIGHT THAT BROW BONE

This isn’t technically a tip for filling in your brows, but throwing a pop of shimmery eyeshadow or highlighter on your brow bone directly under your arch gives a really pretty lifting effect.

PRODUCTS

There are a million different brow products on the market. From powders to pencils, pomades to fibers, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what product will help you achieve your desired look.

Let’s break it down:

GEL

Eyebrow gels are my favorite eyebrow product of all time because it’s the quickest and easiest way to add color, hold and fullness to the brow.  After getting my eyebrows microbladed (you can read a detailed account of that process here), I sometimes just throw some gel in my eyebrows and call it a day.

In order to use a gel, the first thing you’re going to want to do is take the wand out and wipe off any excess product—the same way you would with mascara. Once you’ve done that, you just swipe the wand through your brow hair. I like to start at the front and brush the hairs up and then brush them in the direction of the natural hair growth once I reach the arch.

I use brow gel every single day, without question. Whether or not I use pencil, soap, pomade (or a combination of all three) beforehand, I always, always finish with a swipe of brow gel. It’s a great way to get your brows to stay in place all day.

PRO TIP: If you really want to pump up the volume of your brows, take the spoolie and brush AGAINST your natural hair growth. It picks up the hairs and coats each individual hair in product, making them fuller and fluffier.

MY GEL PICKS

Uoma Beauty Brow Fro Blow Out Gel*

Glossier Boy Brow

Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel

Benefit Gimme Brow

Milk Makeup Kush Fiber Gel

*my favorite gel

PENCIL

Brow pencils are probably the most common and easiest brow products you can use. Whether you already have full brows or are looking to fill in sparse areas or add definition to your tail, a pencil can help you achieve a soft, natural-looking brow.

The first step to using a pencil is to brush through your brows with a spoolie. Make sure that all your front brows hair are brushed up and then brush all the hairs after the arch down. Start by filling in any sparse patches with short, feather-like strokes and THEN go in and define the front of your brows.

I’ve tried every brow pencil under the sun and, honestly, most of them are very very similar. My favorite brow pencil is the Anastasia Brow Whiz but if you’re on a budget, I highly recommend this Morphe one.

PRO TIP: If you mess up and end up looking boxy, take a fluffy eyeshadow brush and blend out the product the same way you would eyeshadow.

MY PENCIL PICKS:

Anastasia Brow Wiz*

Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow Ultra Fine Shape & Define

Fenty Beauty Brow VMP

Morphe Micro Brow Pencil**

e.l.f Instant Lift Eyebrow Pencil

*my favorite pencil, **my drugstore favorite

POWDER

The first time I ever filled my eyebrows in, I used a Benefit powder. Powders tend to result in a softer look, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go overboard. I am living proof of that.

Just like pencils, powders are used to fill in sparse areas of the brows. To use a powder, you’re also going to need an angled brush. I really like this brush from Anastasia Beverly Hills. Coat the brush with the powder and tap it on your hand to get off any excess product. Then, sweep it in the direction of your hair growth with a light hand. Once you’re done, be sure to comb through with a spoolie to soften the edges and avoid looking harsh.

PRO TIP: You can also use brow powder to set anything you’ve done with a different brow product. And, since the brow powder is probably going to match the color of your natural hair, you can use it to fill in any sparse spots on your hairline, too. This works especially well if you’re wearing your hair pulled back or in a ponytail. You’re welcome.

MY POWDER PICKS

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo*

Benefit Cosmetics Fool Proof Brow Powder

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12

*my favorite powder because it comes with two colors for a natural, gradient brow

POMADE

You know the infamous “Instagram brows?” That’s pomade.

If you’re a beginner, I would skip pomade. It gives a dramatic, defined look and, of all the brow products discussed, this is the most difficult to work with and the easiest to screw up. However, if you have very, very sparse brow hair or you purposefully want a bold brow, then pomade is what you’re looking for.

My favorite pomade is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow. I have used this on and off for probably 7 years and have only had to repurchase it once—and that was only because it dried up. You really have to use such a small amount of this product.

Just like with powder, you’ll need a brush to apply this. I like to delicately dip my brush ever so daintily into the pot, and then wipe the excess off on the inside of the lid. Then, start with small, hair-like strokes at the arch of your brow. Fill in sparse spots, elongate your tail and then, once you’re almost done, go in and define the front of your brow. Finish by brushing out with a spoolie to soften the edges.

PRO TIP:

My POMADE PICKS

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade

NYX Tame and Frame Tinted Brow Pomade

SOAP

You might be thinking to yourself, “WTF are soap brows?” You might be surprised to learn that it’s literally just soap in your brows. I started experimenting with soap brows during the early days of quarantine (remember when we thought it was only going to last for two weeks LOLOL). There are products specifically meant for this purpose and I did purchase one, but a good ‘ol 99 cent bar of glycerin soap will work just fine.

To start, you brush your brows out the way that you want them. For me, that’s brushing the front hairs up, and the hairs after the arch in the natural direction they grow in. Then you’re going to wet your product with some water or any kind of facial mist, twirl your brush so it’s coated with product and repeat the same steps you just did: brush the front hairs up and the rest in the direction of natural growth.

This creates a really full, fluffy and natural look—but you can definitely go for a more dramatic, editorial vibe if that’s your thing.

I follow by filling in any sparse patches with pomade or pencil, then set everything in place with a gel.

PRO TIP: Considering brow lamination? Try this first to see what your result will look like.

MY SOAP PICKS

ARTIFUN Clear Waterproof Long Lasting Shaping Soap

Pears Glycerin Soap 2-pack 

TL;DR

Eyebrows are important and incredibly easy to mess up. Try different products and find what works for you. What are your fail-proof eyebrow tips?

 

 

My Favorite Online Jewelry Brands

I love jewelry. I always have. When I was younger, I wore a lot of big, bold jewelry. Big hoops, big diamond studs (fake obviously), statement rings, statement necklaces, etc. In recent years, my style has evolved and I’ve gravitated to a more subtle approach when it comes to accessories. Particularly, I am a sucker for dainty, barely-there gold jewels. It’s chic and timeless and there’s just something borderline magical about the glimmer of sparkle that appears when the light catches it. 

Until recently, the deciding factor for me when purchasing jewelry (or anything, really) was the price. I was totally ignorant about fast fashion and about the conditions that workers are subjected to, the fact they aren’t paid a living wage or the damage fast fashion does to the environment. These jewelry brands might cost a little more, but they are all incredibly high quality, and sourced with ethical and sustainable materials—and made by people who are paid a living wage and aren’t working in abysmal conditions.

Mejuri

I’m not sure there is a single Instagram user who hasn’t seen a Meijuri ad at this point. I lusted after the Mejuri Bold Chain Ring for months, but couldn’t justify spending the money. I ended up buying it for myself when I accepted a new job, and so not only is it gorgeous but it has a special meaning to me. I also decided to buy myself the Double Line ring, because why not? I deserve it. 

Of all the brands mentioned today, Mejuri is definitely the most expensive. It’s fine jewelry, so you get what you’re paying for (but when I say that know that I’m not in any way knocking any of the other brands). This jewelry will last forever and can withstand water, sweat, etc—which is important to me—especially right now when i wash my hands every two seconds.

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Ana Luisa

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Photo courtesy of brand

I saw an ad for Ana Luisa on Instagram (lol, are you starting to see a theme here?). It caught my attention because I had been wanting a dome ring like the one in the ad that was served to me—and also because of the name. My Grandma’s name was Maria Louisa and so it kind of caught me off guard. I was so impressed with my purchase, that I ended up make more purchases, including my favorite pair of earrings andthese cute celestial huggie hoops. 

I love that they are a sustainable, conscious brand so I can feel good about the jewelry I’m wearing and buying.

Soko 

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Photo courtesy of brand

I am obsessed with Soko jewelry—and with the brand. It’s a women-led ethical jewelry brand and manufacturing platform (also Black owned!). I was served an ad for them at a time when I was trying not to buy anything, but reminded of them when one of my favorite Michigan bloggers @whatkatefinds shared a square ring she had purchased from them.

Soko jewelry is slightly different than what I would normally gravitate to because, at least in my opinion, their pieces are a little more on the “statement” side—but they are so cool and chic. Every single piece of jewelry I’ve seen of their just exudes the most stylish, effortlessly cool vibe. A really cool thing I appreciate about the brand is that they offer the option of either brass or gold jewelry, so you can save some money if you’re on a tight budget. I have a number of different pieces saved to my current wish-list that I’m sure I’ll purchase over the next couple of months.  

Katie Dean

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Photo courtesy of brand

I met Katie Dean through my friend Andrea and she is one of the loveliest people you will ever meet. She’s originally from Michigan, but lives in LA now (which is where she designs all of her jewelry). I own many, many Katie Dean pieces, including rings, earrings and necklaces and have never seen a piece of her work that I didn’t absolutely adore and want to take home with me. Her Evil Eye ring is my favorite KDJ piece that I own and I will stop wearing it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Poirier 

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Photo of Ashley Poirier wearing the Large Chain Ring, courtesy of shoppoirier.com.

I absolutely love Poirier. If I could design a jewelry line, I think it would look very similar to what Ashley Poirier has created. Aside from the fact that I swoon over the jewelry itself, I love that Poirier is size-inclusive. Finding jewelry that fits as a plus-size person can be difficult. Most rings stop at a size 8 (9 if you’re lucky!), leaving people with larger fingers and necks SOL when it comes to cute jewelry. Her rings go up to a size 13 and her necklaces come in longer lengths (with extenders) to fit anyone and everyone who wants to add a little sparkle to their life. More of this, please. (On top of all those things, Ashley is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever interacted with on social media. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things.)

Meesha Farzeneh 

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I hate to sound like a broken record, but I found out about this brand on Instagram. Earlier this year I got super into snake motifs and started wearing a lot of snake jewelry (and pinning snake tattoos on Pinterest). Around that same time, I was served an ad for Meesha’s brand and thought her Medusa earrings were the coolest things I had ever laid eyes on. She recently came out with a smaller version, the Medusa Minis, which are scheduled to arrive at my doorstep on Wednesday before 9 p.m. Meesha makes her jewelry by hand in Austin, Texas—and it’s made ethically and sustainably. I’ve interacted with her on Instagram before and she’s so sweet and kind. How cool is it to be able to talk to the person who designed and created the jewelry you wear. I love it!

TL;DR

Spending more money on an item that you know was made ethically and sustainably—and you can even talk with the person who designed and created that piece—is so, so much better than buying something from a big box store, even if you have to save for a little while to afford it. It’s worth it, I promise.

Suffering from Maskne? Here’s How to Avoid & Treat It

Whether we like it or not, masks are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). If you, like me, are experiencing facial irritation or acne from wearing a mask, I worked with my esthetician on a list of products and tips you can use to stay safe.

WHAT IS IT?

Acne mechanica, the technical term for what is now appropriately (if not slightly cringe-inducingly) being referred to as “maskne,” is a type of acne that occurs after repetitive physical trauma to the skin. It’s the same kind of acne that athletes get from say, wearing a helmet or a tight fitting jersey. It’s pretty simple: masks trap dirt, bacteria, sweat, moisture and oil (yum!) close to our skin, which in turn results in pimples, irritation, sores, and more. 

Keep reading for tips on avoiding or getting rid of maskne. 

HOW DO I AVOID IT?

  • Consider the type of mask that you’re wearing. Jennifer recommends cotton masks because they are softer and allow your skin to breathe more. It’s important to note that they will need to be washed* often and, of course, depending on your risk and how much protection you need, you may want to opt for something different.
  • Avoid wearing makeup under your mask. Yeah, it’s true. You may have to break up with make up for a little while in order to save your skin. Or, if you really don’t want to say goodbye, consider wearing it only in places that aren’t rubbed by a mask (i.e., mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, etc.)
  • Wash your face. Before applying your mask, wash your face with a gentle cleanser (we’re talking real simple, Cerave, Cetaphil, etc.). 

HOW DO I TREAT IT?

  • Professional services. I’ve been getting chemical peels about once every two weeks to combat acne. After suffering from horribly painful cystic acne for years (and then investing lots of money into getting rid of the evidence) I’m not messing around when it comes to combating the dreaded “maskne.” Jennifer can create a regimen that works for you and your budget.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. If you’re not able to spend the money on professional treatments, there are plenty of OTC treatments available at your local pharmacy or drugstore to help you say goodbye to those dreaded spots. Benzoyl peroxide is a common acne treatment and is a good option. I like this option from Target or this (more expensive) option from Sephora. 
  • Face masks. I have used this Peter Thomas Roth mask for years. It’s made of sulfur (another common acne fighting ingredient) and smells like farts (a huge selling point, right?). Another good choice is the Skinbetter Science Detoxifying Scrub that doubles as a mask. Can’t go wrong with a two for one!
  • Serums. I recently added two new products into my skin care routine because I’m hell bent on getting my skin cleared up and back to the glowy, wonderful condition that it was previously. I picked up the IS Clinical Active Serum which is supposed to help with acne (and fine lines and wrinkles) and the Biologique Recharche Lotion P50 which has a cult following. It’s smelly, but it’s touted as a magic potion so it’s worth suffering through.
  • Bonus. I’ve been using a Foreo Luna 2 to wash my face for almost a month now. It’s supposed to be more hygenic than a Clarisonic and I like that the back side is intended to use to push your products deeper into your skin, making them more effective. I might be drinking the Koolaid, but I think it helps!

All in all, I don’t mind wearing a mask. Acne is annoying but it’s preferable to getting COVID-19 (and potentially passing it on to someone who would fare worse than I would.) Are you suffering from maskne or irritation? Let me know how you’re doing!

*If you’re washing your mask by hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room-temperature water. Soak the mask in the solution for five minutes before rinsing with cool or room-temperature water and drying, in direct sunlight, if possible.

Black Lives Matter: Resources To Become A Better Ally

Racism is a problem in America all the time—just not when it’s a trending hashtag. Below you’ll find a compilation of organizations you can donate to, petitions you can sign, resources you can learn from & ways you can be a better ally.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR IMPLICIT BIASES

This is a widely-used tool developed by researchers to measure thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.

RESOURCES YOU CAN DONATE TO

TO THE VICTIMS

George Floyd Memorial Fund

Ahmaud Arbery

TO THE PROTESTORS

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Louisville Community Bail Fund

Atlanta Solidarity Fund

TO END POLICE BRUTALITY

National Police Accountability Project

Communities United Against Police Brutality

OTHER WORTHY CAUSES/ORGS

Black Lives Matter

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Reclaim the Block

The Bail Project

Black Visions Minnesota

North Star Health Collective

Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund

Campaign Zero

ACLU

PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for Breonna Taylor

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery

Arrest All Four

Raise the Degree

LEARNING RESOURCES

PODCASTS

Radio Replay: Mind of the Village

Seeing White

#TellBlackStories 

Code Switch

About Race

Still Processing

BOOKS

How to Be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism & History by Mikki Kendall

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice by Paul Kivel

The Emporer Has No Clothes: Teaching About Race and Racism to People Who Don’t Want to Know by Tema Okun

MOVIES

13th 

When They See Us

TL;DR

White people, we have to hold each other accountable. When we encounter racism, we have to speak up and confront it. Educate yourself, do research, ask questions, influence the people in your own life—but don’t be silent.

*I will continue to update this post on a rolling basis

 

 

Amazon Finds to Help You Stay Clean & Organized

I really detest clutter. Now that I’m both living and working in the same space 24/7, it’s imperative to me that I take care of it. I’ve really been trying to cleaner, more organized and less wasteful recently. Here are some Amazon purchases that have helped me!

Drillbrush Bathroom Surfaces Power Scrubber Cleaning Kit

This one might seem kind of weird but, honestly, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I have an older bathtub that perpetually looks kind of grungy (I’m pretty sure it needs to be reglazed) no matter how hard I scrub (I’m not very strong, so I’m not scrubbing that hard, let’s be real LOL). This takes literally zero elbow grease to use and makes my shower look cleaner than it ever has. I can’t wait to try the other attachments to clean my floors.

Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker

I purchased an expensive Nespresso coffee maker this past winter and while I do enjoy a nice homemade latte, I just prefer iced coffee. Since coffee shops are operating on limited hours and I’m trying to limit the amount of unnecessary trips, I found myself buying between 2-4 bottles of iced coffee every time I placed a grocery order, which a) is expensive and b) takes up a ton of space in my fridge. I ended up buying this at home cold brew maker to save money and fridge space. This ended up paying for itself in about a week. Highly recommend!

2 Pack 24 Cell Drawer Organizer

If there was one drawer in my entire house that needed to be organized and decluttered, it was my underwear drawer. Let’s be honest—there is no good way to fold underwear. That means that I just throw my underwear in the drawer all willy nilly and then I can never find what I’m looking for. It doesn’t help that I have apparently held on to every single bra and/or pair of underwear I’ve ever owned,  as well as storing random pieces of mail (why??) and random spare buttons that come with shirts in there. I took everything out and decluttered. Now everything is wonderfully organized and I feel much better about my underwear drawer (and my life).

12 Pack Silicone Stretch Lids for Cans/Bottles/Bowls

Full disclosure, I bought these because I saw another blogger (hey, Erins Inside Job!) share them. I hate tin foil. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. And for that reason, whenever I open a can, I typically end up throwing away whatever I don’t use. I know that is really shitty and awful of me and 

4 in One Drawer Organizer Stackable Jewelry Accessory

Like I said, I’m trying to be more organized. I own/wear a ton of jewelry and I have no organization system whatsoever, which results in me panicking and thinking I’ve lost something at least once a week. In a recent YouTube video, Allana Davison (allanarama) 

Shared her jewelry collection which was organized in the most beautiful, chic way in a drawer, safe and out of sight. This forced me to clean yet another drawer, so it was a win/win really. Now all my jewelry is safe and sound and in (mostly) one spot.

Shark Genius Hard Floor Cleaning System

If I had to choose a favorite recent purchase from this list, it would be this. I am obsessed with this and I wish I had known about it and bought it sooner. I used to use a regular ol’ Swiffer and when I was feeling really saucy a la Monica Gellar, I would get on my hands and knees and scrub my floor with a Scotch Brite scouring sponge. I really never felt that the Swiffer did much, plus the disposable pads are not environmentally friendly. This is so much easier and faster and makes your floors so wonderfully clean—and it comes with reusable, washable pads! Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough.

How do you stay organized and on top of household chores? Let me know!

How to Save Money When Shopping Online

There was a time when I didn’t want to shop online because I was wary about using my credit card on the internet for ~security~ reasons. Fast forward about 10 years and I basically place Amazon orders in my sleep and have all my credit card information saved in my browser.

If you, like me, have been doing a little too much online shopping during the quarantine, you might as well be earning cashback on it. I know that earning discounts by shopping online might sound too good to be true, but trust me. I spend money like I’m in an entirely different tax bracket, so I have to at least be smart about my shopping habits in some aspects, LOL.

HONEY

Honey is a free browser extension that scours the web to find every working promo code on the internet for you to use upon checkout. If you’ve ever paused checking out to Google “X promo code,” you need this. It works at over 28,000 different online retailers, including Target, Amazon, Sephora and more—including restaurants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been checking out and saved a couple bucks because Honey found a coupon code I didn’t know existed. The other day, Honey found me a magical code that saved me TWENTY DOLLARS on a necklace at BaubleBar. That is impressive.

Also, I just learned this right now while writing this blog—you accumulate Honey Points that you cash in for gift cards to your favorite retailers. I apparently have 1,100 Honey Points which means I can get a gift card to any of my favorite places which are, of course, Sephora, Target and Amazon.

honey gift cards

Honey works on Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. To download, go to their website and follow the directions. According to Honey, the average user saves $126 dollars annually, while the average savings is 17.29%.

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One of my favorite things about Honey is the “Save to Droplist” feature. It allows you to keep track of the items that you’re shopping for and will alert you if that product goes on sale within the next 60 days.

RAKUTEN

There are numerous ways to use Rakuten, but I think it’s the easiest to use the browser extension so that you’re automatically notified if the store you’re shopping at is one of the site’s participating retailers. I’ve been a member of Rakuten (formally known as eBates) since 2017.

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For instance, right now during Sephora’s Spring Sale, you can save anywhere from 10-20% (based on whether you’re a Rouge, VIB or Beauty Insider) AND get an additional 2% back from Rakuten. If you don’t use it, you’re literally throwing money away.

In addition to giving you cashback on the purchases you were going to make anyway, Rakuten compares prices and will tell you if the item that you’re looking at is available somewhere else for less money. For instance, I was looking at this cat groomer on Amazon and I got a little popup letting me know that I could save 10 cents if I purchased the same item from Petco. Obviously, in this case, 10 cents is a negligible difference. However, when making larger purchases, this comes in really useful.

cat groomer

MSUFCU PLATINUM PLUS CREDIT CARD

Another one of my favorite cashback hacks is using my MSUFCU Platinum Plus credit card. The first credit card that I ever got was from a credit union in Jackson and didn’t offer cashback, just rewards in the form of random items (it’s how I got my first vacuum, actually LOL) and gift cards—which, admittedly, is kind of fun doesn’t hold the same appeal as cash back.

I earn 3% cashback on all the purchases I make using my MSUFCU credit card and I love when I log in to my MSUFCU app every month and see the amount that I’m getting back. It’s like being rewarded for shopping (and paying bills, buying groceries, yadda, yadda, yadda).

I know there are likely other credit cards that offer more cashback/other perks but I have had such a wonderful experience with MSUFCU and, to be honest, I prefer to keep my money (the little bit I do have) in a local institution, especially one that gives back to the community the way that MSUFCU does.

ARRIVE

This doesn’t actually save you money but it helps you keep track of when all your online orders are arriving. It is amazing and I wish that I had known about this sooner. It’s a free app available on both iOS and Google Play that gives you accurate and timely updates on everything you order, across all online retailers. You literally get step-by-step notifications from checkout to delivery.

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TL;DR

If you’re just making online orders and not checking prices or getting cashback, what are you doing? Sign up for Honey and Rakuten and make your dollar go farther.

For example, if I’m shopping the Sephora sale right now, I’m getting 20% off at Sephora, 2% cashback with Rakuten, 3% back from MSUFCU and 1-4% with Honey, meaning I’m getting somewhere between 26 and 29% cash back. Insane!

This post is not sponsored (even though I wish it were), however, we both get something from both Honey & Rakuten if you use the links to sign up. Happy shopping 🙂

Not-Sexy Everyday Essentials

It’s no secret that I’m high-maintenance. From hair appointments, lash extensions, bi-weekly nail appointments and regular visits to my esthetician, there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into looking this mediocre.

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It’s also not a secret that I love the finer things in life and am not afraid to splurge on a luxe product in the name of treating myself. If that’s the list you’re looking for, this ain’t it. These are the basic products that I use that are not sexy or luxe, they just keep me functioning like a normal, hygienic human on a daily basis. Read on for more.

AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion

My biggest pet peeve with lotion is when it doesn’t absorb quickly enough and you have to walk around pantless for an hour with sticky skin. There is nothing sexy about this lotion, but it absorbs really quickly and leaves your skin silky smooth. It contains AHA, so in addition to hydrating your skin, it also exfoliates. I got mine at Costco, but you can also buy at Target and on Amazon.

Diamond White Replacement Toothbrush Heads

My electric toothbrush remains one of my top five gifts that I was ever given. My teeth feel so much cleaner when I use an electric toothbrush versus a traditional, manual toothbrush, but the only caveat is the cost of replacement heads. I found these on Amazon that fit on my Sonicare toothbrush but cost a fraction of the price of normal name brand replacements. I’ve been using these for years now and love them. I can’t say enough good things.

Meijer Men’s Precision Fit 5 Razors

This is the best razor that I have ever used. Forget all the aesthetically pleasing razors that have unlimited budgets for Instagram ads—they aren’t worth your money. As one of the hairiest humans to ever walk the planet, I have tried every razor known to man. This is the only one that I will buy. It’s the smoothest shave I’ve ever gotten and contours to every curve on your body.  I’m fairly certain that I could shave Kramer with this razor if I really wanted to. I’ve had the same handle for over 2 years and just buy the replacement blades, which is much better for the environment than the disposable razors I was using before.

Wet Brush Epic Professional Deluxe Detangler

I have really long, fine hair—and I have a ton of it. That’s basically a recipe for disaster because my hair gets so tangly, so fast. I have started sleeping with my hair in either a bun or a braid every night to help mitigate some of the snarls, but even so, I need a good brush to help brush it out in the morning. This is the best hairbrush that I’ve ever used. I have two of them, one that I keep in my office or backpack and one that I keep at home. It’s no Mason Pearson brush, but it gets the job done.

Megababe Bust Dust

The weather is warming up and, assuming that we’re ever able to leave our houses again, we’ll be dealing with boob sweat before you know it. Is there anything less sexy than boob sweat? Probably not. But if ya have tiddies, you probably deal with it.

While this is marketed specifically for women & boobs, you could really use it anywhere that you want to keep dry. If you’ve ever found yourself putting baby or talcum powder on any skin that might rub together, please stop because some studies indicate it may make you at greater risk for cancer. If you want to stay dry and prevent chafing, this is a good investment to make—for men and women alike.

Tounge Scraper

I don’t know that this is medically necessary, but I like having a clean mouth and I also love a good gadget, so I bought this from Amazon on a whim. I feel like it does a good job of scraping your tongue and at the very least, it has the placebo effect of me believing that I’m doing something good for my oral hygiene.

Just for Men Mustache & Beard Dye

If you think I’m joking about this, I’m not. I use this to tint my eyebrows at home and have been doing so for at least 3-4 years now. I have my eyebrows microbladed now, so I don’t do this as often as I used to, but I have definitely done it since being quarantined simply because I have nothing better to do. I have used demi-permanent color from Sally’s and a level 10 developer before, but this is much easier. It comes with the color, the developer. You mix the two together, and apply with a slanted eyebrow brush. Leave on for 15-20 minutes, wipe off with warm soapy water and voila! Perfect, tinted at home eyebrows.

*This is an off label use. Tint your eyebrows at your own risk, knowing that if you get this in your eye you can cause permanent damage to your vision. Please don’t sue me.

At-Home Waxing Kit

I’m very open about the fact that I’m extremely hairy. Not like, in a medical way, just thanks to my Hispanic heritage. I’ve had this waxing kit for probably 8+ years? But you don’t need the entire kit, because it comes with a lot of stuff that isn’t necessary. If you’re interested in waxing yourself at home, you’ll need a warmer and some wax, as well as the applicators.

I’ve been doing my eyebrows at home for a long, long time. I have used this to wax my legs and other things, but I prefer to primarily use this for my eyebrows. I use these wax beads, which harden and don’t require any fabric to pull off. This wax is also great for sensitive skin, so if you’re someone that tends to break out after being waxed this is a great option. I also use these petite wax applicators for precise application to the eyebrow area.

TL;DR

Boob sweat, body hair, mustache dye, tongue scraping—I told you there was nothing sexy about this list, but these are products that I use on a regular basis and always repurchase. What are some of the non-sexy products that you use on a regular basis?

My Favorite Places to Shop Small in #LoveLansing

It’s Small Business Saturday! Did you know that small businesses drive more than 40% of America’s economy? In fact, for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., approximately 67 cents stays in the local community. Here are my favorite places to shop small in #LoveLansing.

Aesthetics Med Spa 

If I were to compile a list of the best decisions I ever made, setting up an appointment with Jennifer Edwards at Aesthetics Med Spa is definitely at the top of that list. I’ve written multiple blogs about it, but Jennifer has changed my skin and, as a result, my life. I have had microneedling, Secret RF, TruSculpt iD, chemical peels, the Forever Young BBL with Skintyte, Botox lip flips, and more.

In addition to the in-office treatments I’ve had done at Aesthetics, I’ve also started using medical grade skincare that Aesthetics sells. I love skinbetter science, and Revision Skincare, both of which are only available under the supervision of a doctor—which Aesthetics is.

For Black Friday/ Small Business Saturday/ Cyber Monday, Aesthetics Med Spa is having a bunch of special promos, including 20% TruSculpt iD + an additional $200 off, $25 off any BBL service of $300 or more, 20% of all skincare products (this literally NEVER happens!) and 30% off all Jane Iredale products.

East Lansing Threads

I don’t venture to downtown East Lansing very often but when I do, it’s to pop into East Lansing Threads (or Foster Coffee, but more on that later). East Lansing Threads was voted the best clothing store in East Lansing and carries a number of brands like Kendra Scott, Vineyard Vines and Free People. If you’re shopping for a young person (or are a young person), you’ll definitely want to pay them a visit. 

EL Threads is also having some awesome sales this weekend, including 70% off mens clothing, 50% off ALL handbags, 50% off ALL accessories, 50% off ALL denim and 25% off ALL jackets. 

Retail Therapy

I love Retail Therapy, and I love what they stand for. All of the clothing available at Retail Therapy is responsibly sourced, with the vast majority of clothing being cut to order and fair trade. Celeste, the owner, is not just focused on curating timeless, unique, artisan-made clothing and accessories—she does so in a way a very intentional and conscious way. .If you’re in the market for timeless and chic clothing, or specifically looking to shop Magnolia Pearl, Lack of Color, or Quay Australia, Retail Therapy is your destination

Arched by Allie

Arched by Allie is located in Owosso, so slightly outside of #LoveLansing proper, but I had to include her. If you’re interested in getting your eyebrows microbladed, I can’t recommend her enough. I recently had my eyebrows microbladed by Allie and I can’t say enough good things about the process, the results, or Allie herself. 

Foster Coffee Company

Ah, I love Foster Coffee Company. My friend Andrea introduced me to the OG Foster in Owosso a few years ago and I was instantly in love. I was thrilled when I found out that Foster was coming to EL and their new space is absolutely to die for. Not only is the East Lansing location so cozy, so inviting and so conveniently located—the owners are wonderful people and their mission & vision makes my heart sing. Fosters mission is simple but poignant: to “foster communities through coffee.” They do this by partnering with other local businesses, non-profit organizations, and civic entities in order to create overlapping networks that serve people and build stronger relationships within the community.  In short, they’re great people doing wonderful things to bring others together in a meaningful way. 

If you have a coffee lover in your life, I highly suggest picking up a Foster Coffee Company gift card as a quick Christmas gift—and maybe grab one for yourself while you’re at it. Plus, if you’re stopping at Foster, you might as well walk over to Threads and peek around!

Katie Dean Jewelry

Here’s the deal: Katie Dean Jewelry might not be made in Lansing (it’s handmade in California) but Katie was born and raised in mid-Michigan and still comes back to visit. In fact, she’ll be here next month at a pop-up with East Lansing Threads! She makes the most gorgeous dainty, feminine jewels that you’ve ever seen and she is also the sweetest, most genuine person I’ve ever met. I truly can’t say enough good things about her or her business.

Katie is running an insane sale this weekend, where everything on her site is 30% off (no code needed). On top of that awesome deal, you can also get a super cute blush pink jewelry case for FREE on orders of $75 or more. All you need to do is enter the code GIFT at checkout. 

Megan Emmons Lashes

If you’re interested in lash extensions, Megan Emmons is a lash queen. She’s been doing my lashes for a few months now, and I can’t say enough good things about her. I’m constantly complimented on my lashes and how good they look. I’ve recently had two friends go visit Megan based on how much they love my lashes, and they have raved to me about how much they love them. Getting lash extensions is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. They make my life so much quicker and easier and it’s so nice to wake up looking at least somewhat put together. If you’re interested in booking an appointment with her, you can DM her on Instagram

Old Town General Store

I’m such a sucker for anything made in Michigan or related to Michigan. Every time I need to grab a gift for someone, I head over to the Old Town General Store and grab something Michigan-themed, whether it’s a pint glass, a t-shirt, a card, a candle, or a  Michigan-made snack or bottle of wine. I even bought a Petoskey stone there once! If you’re looking for unique holiday gifts, the Old Town General Store should be your first stop.

Curvaceous Lingerie

As someone with boobs, finding a bra that fits is a necessity. For the longest time, I squeezed myself into bras that didn’t fit because I a) wanted to shop with my friends at Victoria’s Secret and b) wanted to buy & wear cute bras. The first time I went to Curvaceous I got fitted for a bra and was amazed to find out that the bra I was about a million sizes too small, in both the cups and the band. Having a bra that fits right has made all the difference in how I feel throughout the day (i.e., no more tiddies spilling out in every direction) and also, in how my clothes fit! I love, love, love, that Curvaceous is size-inclusive so whether you’re looking for small sizes or plus sizes (in bras AND lingerie) they have you covered.

Van Atta’s Greenhouse & Flowershop

If you know me, you’ll know that I LOVE plants. Recently, someone asked me how many plants I had and I guessed 25. I went home and counted and realized I have 62. SIXTY TWO! If you’re in the market for some plants, I highly suggest stopping at Van Atta’s. They have a ton of plants, including tropicals and cacti, and a very knowledgeable and friendly staff. 

Dear Ollie

I’ve never personally met Sara from Dear Ollie, but I absolutely love her work. I LOVE sending/giving people cards and handwritten notes but I prefer for them to be funny/witty/have some kind of random pop culture reference and she just kills it with every single illustration. She is an incredibly talented illustrator and if you share my love of cards and gifts, I’d suggest checking her out. 

Strange Matter Coffee

You might be thinking, “wasn’t there already a coffee shop on this list?” Yes! But that’s okay because there’s room for everyone. I LOVE Strange Matter. I have had countless coffee meetings at Strange Matter, both professional and personal. They have bomb ass donuts, amazing lattes, and great Instagram photo ops, if you’re into that sort of thing. I love that they carry Lansing Facts merch, because I’m a big #LoveLansing nerd and I wear that label proudly. I also love that they support local artists and creatives, including hosting an annual Super Best Holiday Extravaganza Eleganza to kick off the holiday season and support small, independent and local on Small Business Saturday. 

TL;DR

When we shop small and invest our money back into our local communities, everyone wins. Where are you shopping small today? Let me know in the comments!

Five Ways to Practice Self-Care That Cost Zero Dollars

Self-care is supposed to be anything that we deliberately do to care of ourselves—whether physically, emotionally or mentally. At its core, self-care is a pretty basic idea, but for some reason, it’s become an indulgent, over-the-top practice that’s only associated with fancy (read: expensive) things. As a beauty blogger, I obviously love a good face mask or mani-pedi and admit that, because I enjoy those things, they do make me feel better. But I’ll also admit that I’ve never applied a face mask only to wash all my problems away with it thirty minutes later.

Associating self-care with luxury makes it feel out of reach for a lot of people. If your idea of self-care is a face mask and a CBD bubble bath, there’s no judgment here. But taking care of yourself and prioritizing your mental health doesn’t have to come with a steep price tag. As the holidays approach, I wanted to put together a list of ways to practice self-care that are entirely free of charge.

Clean your house

Whenever I’m in a funk, the first thing I do is stop cleaning my apartment. And then I’m in a funk and I’m living in squalor, which just makes the funk worse. One way that I’ve learned to deal with this is dedicating 10 minutes to cleaning by setting an alarm and just starting. You’d be surprised by how much you can get done in 10 minutes. Sometimes, I’ve had enough after 10 minutes but typically, I’ll see what a difference a few minutes has made and I’m motivated to do even more. Having a clean living space does wonders for your mental health.

Phone a friend

I know that for anyone under the age of 30 making an actual call seems like an unorthodox way to use your phone, but it helps (for me, at least). If talking on the phone isn’t your cup of tea, reach out to a friend or family member in any way that you prefer—but I always find that I feel better after talking to someone I’m close with. You don’t necessarily have to talk about your problems or what (if anything) is bothering you—sometimes just catching up and shooting the shit is enough to lift your spirits.

Limit time spent on social media

As someone who works in social and digital media by day and also moonlights as a blogger, it might surprise you that I would suggest staying off social media. Here’s the deal: social media is not always good for our collective mental health—especially around the holidays. I can’t be the only person who feels like the Grinch as I scroll through Facebook (hate, hate, double hate). If you’re not feeling very merry this Christmas, the last thing you want to be bombarded with is millions of posts from people who are. Sometimes taking a break from social media—or blocking/muting/unfollowing accounts/people who you can’t deal with right now or make you feel bad about yourself is just what you need.  

Set healthy boundaries

This is something that I’m actually working really hard on because I really struggle with it. As a habitual people pleaser, I have the hardest time telling people no, so for me, boundaries feel really scary—and they make me feel really guilty. This holiday season I’m working on saying no without apologizing (i.e., “Now isn’t a good time;” “I really appreciate the invite, but I won’t be able to make it;” “That sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m taking some time for myself this weekend”) and setting boundaries (“let’s not discuss this topic at dinner;” “I’m heading to my room to get some quiet time.”) In really simple terms, setting boundaries means knowing and understanding what your limits are—and they’re key to healthy relationships.  

Write something

I (obviously) like writing. Of all the writing that I do, I think that journaling is my favorite. I’ve had countless “diaries” over the years, but in the last few months, I made a concerted effort to start journaling because it helps me feel better. The writing doesn’t have to be polished, it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct or flow properly—you just have to get your thoughts out of your brain and onto some paper (or a Google Doc, or whatever you feel like). There are a ton of proven benefits to journaling, mentally, physically and emotionally. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, just grab a 50 cent notebook from Target and get started. 

What ways do you practice self-care? 

I’ll Be There for You: 25 Years of Friends

Could 1993 BE any better? The answer is no, because it produced two of the greatest things to ever grace this planet: Friends and me.

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OH.MY.GOD.

In all seriousness, Friends is my favorite TV show. The first time I ever watched it was with my best friend Jenna in the 5th grade. Her family had the complete box set and we would watch it all the time, including in the car on the way to Kalahari because they had a DVD player in their backseat (!). Jenna and her family introduced me to a lot of things (grilled ring bologna, 50 Cent, my first college football game), but I’m mostly thankful that her older siblings loved that classic 90’s sitcom as much as I eventually would.

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My friend Jenna and I. This was taken circa 2010 when we were in high school, definitely not fifth grade. I was also definitely tanning too much. Yikes.

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I immediately became obsessed with Friends, which likely had to do with the fact that it a) took place in NYC (I was obsessed with big cities and getting out of the small town I lived in) b) focused on cool young adults making it on their own and c) covered a variety of topics I knew full and well I had no business knowing about as a 12-year-old.

 

Fun Friends Fact (FFF) 1: Friends was actually one of my first introductions to sex-ed because it taught me that condoms are “only like 97 percent effective.” So, thank you.

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MY LOBSTER

My love for Friends didn’t end after middle school (clearly). When I was in college,  I would come back from class or work and watch reruns of friends on TBS (and sometimes on Nick at Nite). Then, the syndicated show came to Netflix and I could watch it whenever and wherever my internet connection would allow. Above anything else, Friends is my go-to, show. It’s really hard for me to be in a bad mood when Friends comes on. How can you resist clapping along during the intro? And, of course, it’s even better when you have someone to clap along with.

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I’ve seen a lot of freezing-cold takes about Friends recently, about how the show is offensive, or Ross is problematic, but to me the show is just a feel-good comedy about six friends who are there for each other regardless of whatever happens. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?

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Fun Friends Fact (FFF) 2: In my middle school diary, I wrote, in painstaking detail, about how one of my so-called friends hit on my “boyfriend.” I referred to it as “kick-you-in-the-neck, spit-on-your-crotch fantastic.” It’s honestly a shame that Twitter didn’t exist back then. 

HOW YOU DOIN’?

In case you love Friends as much as I do and are wanting to celebrate the shows 25th anniversary by buying a bunch of Friends themed stuff you probably don’t need, look no further!

THE COMPLETE BOX SERIES

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The show is leaving Netflix at the end of the year, so if you’re anything like me and wondering how you’re going to occupy your time/fall asleep at night when it’s no longer there for you, then look no further. OR, if you’re not into DVDs or Blu-Rays (which I mean, it’s 2019, who wants to mess with discs) you can purchase each season digitally on Amazon for 9.99 each.

THE YELLOW PEEPHOLE PICTURE FRAME

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I just purchased this for my apartment because I have wanted one forever and I decided that I deserve nice things and wanted to treat myself. Classic.

HOW YOU’ DOIN’?

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Joey’s iconic catchphrase has been immortalized on a mug—and you need it! I actually really want this, so if any of my friends and family read this and want to buy me an early Christmas/birthday gift, look no further.

CENTRAL PERK COFFEE

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No, really. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show, you can buy a bag of ground medium roast ‘Central Perk’ coffee. I mean, need.

THE WHERE IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY

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My 26th birthday is coming up on December 9, if anyone wants to send me this card. Just saying.

COULD I BE WEARIN’ ANY MORE CLOTHES?

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If your lobster is a man (or any person who enojys a good pair of branded boxer briefs) look no further. If I had seen these like 4 months ago, I would have gotten them for someone. I digress.

A SWEATER THAT’S BETTER THAN LEATHER PANTS

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They’re no leather pants, but this Friends crew neck is super cute. It’s on back order at Urban Outfitters because, apparently, it’s what all the cool kids are wearing. BRB, gonna go order it right now.

I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU

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If you’re a sucker for coffee table books (and clearly, Friends) like I am, you’re going to want this. This book is full of quotes from the gang. The version from Urban Outfitters is slightly more expensive but comes with stickers. If you’re in the Grand Rapids area, Rebel Reclaimed has this in-store (and you should also shop local!).

APOTHECARY TABLE FROM THE DAYS OF YORE

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If you’re a Friends fan with some available living room real estate and a large disposable income, this is the Friends-themed product for you. It’s the Pottery Barn apothecary table that Rachel (and Ross) both have in season six. It’s going to cost you more than one and fifty dollars, though.

HE’S HER LOBSTER

Another gem from the PB collection. If you’re a Friends fan and also a hopeless romantic (like myself), you’ll probably enjoy this mug. If you’re those things and also all alone in this world (like myself) you should probably just get it for yourself as a gift because you deserve it!

FRIENDS LEGOS

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Lego sets are all fun and games until they’re put together and you have nowhere to display them—however, I think I could make an exception for this Central Perk set. Unfortunately, it’s all sold out.

THE CHICK AND THE DUCK

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Forget Lassie—the chick and the duck are two of the most popular pets to ever grace the silver screen. While I’m not entirely sure why one would need cups specifically designed to hold eggs, if you found yourself in need of one of those, I would choose this pair.

CRAP BAG

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Ahh, Phoebe. As much as I love Crap Bag Mike (Paul Rudd), I’ve always felt that Phoebe should’ve ended up with David the scientist. Even if you don’t like Friends or get the joke, I think most people who carry purses can relate to having a crap bag so win/win.

JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD

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The sky is blue, grass is green and Joey doesn’t share food—it’s just a fact of life. BRB, ordering this spoon ASAP.

CENTRAL PERK ORNAMENT

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My mom got me this for Christmas last year and it’s one of my favorite ornaments ever. If you have a friend/family member/coworker who loves the show as much as I do, you really can’t go wrong with this gift.

THANKSGIVING CARD

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FFF 3: Season three is the only season that doesn’t have a Thanksgiving episode! This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving episodes, followed closely by “The one with all the Thanksgivings” because I love flashbacks and “The One Where Ross Gets High,” because Rachel messing up the trifle is just classic.

THE POSTER FROM MONICA’S APARTMENT

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I honestly always thought that this poster was kind of ugly, but I didn’t realize that you could buy it on Amazon! If you’re trying to recreate that classic purple living room look, you’re in luck! Also, it says “buttes” so LOL.

TL;DR

Friends is the best show to ever air and we should celebrate it all the time.