3 Symbols You Missed While Watching Hereditary

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After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.

*SPOILERS ALERT* if you have not seen the movie yet, DO NOT read further!

Hereditary is Ari Aster’s first feature film, hailed as the “scariest horror movie of the year”. The film is packed with unsettling visuals and a creepy atmosphere. The movie sees a superb Toni Collette as the troubled Annie, who has to deal with the recent passing of her mother. But as viewers will soon see, it isn’t that death that is the catalyst moment of the movie, but rather a second more dramatic death that occurs shortly, that of daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). This second death is the one that begins to tear the family apart at the seams, pitting Annie against her son Peter (Alex Wolff), and husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne).

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The movie is riddled with symbols and foreshadowing galore. During a class discussion about the flaws of Greek mythology Heracles, a student states: “The characters are all just pawns in this horrible hopelessness.” Which heavily foreshadows how every single character in this movie are simply just pawns of King Paimon, and that they will all be met with tragic deaths.

Here are THREE SYMBOLS that you may have missed whilst watching the movie:

001. Chocolate – Back in the early 1600’s, chocolate was referred to as the Devil’s elixir, hence where the name for the famous chocolate on chocolate cake comes from, Devil’s Food Cake. This symbol is used from the very beginning in the movie, suggesting that Charlie may already have been possessed by King Paimon (one of Hell’s kings) or just a foreshadowing that she will be possessed.

002. The Red Doorknob – Charlie’s room has a red doorknob, similar to the one shown in The Sixth Sense, symbolizing the presence of spirits or possible spirit possessions.

003. King Paimon’s Symbol – This is present from the very beginning of the movie, first seen as a pendant that Annie’s mother is wearing whilst in the casket at the funeral. Another instance where we see this symbol is on the pole that decapitates Charlie the night of the accident, as well as in Joan’s home after she has placed a curse on Annie’s family, and also in blood on the roof of the attic where Annie’s mother’s body has been placed. Lastly, at the very end, when the audience finally sees the idol representation of King Paimon, wearing that same symbol.

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Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Let me know below!

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Get Amazing Brows Everyday!

I’ve always been obsessed with having good eyebrows, and some people are born with naturally amazing arches, whilst the rest of us need a little help. I know that nowadays the instagram brows are the trend, but I personally prefer a more natural brow. Like most people, I don’t have time to spend twenty minutes filling my eyebrows in the morning, the steps below guarantee to give you awesome brows in less than six minutes! So go ahead and press that snooze button, get some extra z’s cause you won’t be needing too much time to get ready in the mornings with these fool-proof brow tips!

First Step:

Outline the shape you wish to have either by using an eyebrow pencil or eyebrow marker.

Second Step:

First, fill in your arch and tail using a darker shadow shade.

Then using a lighter shadow shade, fill in the first half of your brows (closest to your nose) and the top half of the arch.

I’d suggest purchasing one of those duo eyebrow shadows palettes, such as Bobbi Brown Brow Kit ($55 at Sephora).

TIP:

In order for brows to look natural you need to shade in a way where the light would naturally hit, hence the lighter shade on top, and the darker shade in the arch.

Third Step:

Using a spooley brush through your eyebrows to better blend the shadows and get rid of any excess product.

TIP:

Run some brow gel if you have unruly hair to keep brow hairs looking sharp and clean all day!

One of brow gels I absolutely love is Maybelline’s Makeup Tattoo Studio Waterproof Eyebrow Gel ($9.48).

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Travel Post – Rotterdam (Part 3)

The Buttplug Gnome AKA Santa Clause_preview

The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is. – Erasmus

Since the WWII bombing that flattened the city in 1940, poor Rotterdam has been like a misunderstood wild child with a non-traditional upbringing. She’s been called ‘The City Without a Heart.’ Shaped by many different events and architects since then, Rotterdam doesn’t quite fit into the Dutch culture the way Amsterdam, The Hague, or Delft does. On more than one occasion, my enthusiasm for Rotterdam was met by locals with a lifted eyebrow and reply along the lines of,

“Really? Why Rotterdam? (Insert Dutch city) is so much more charming.”

Rotterdam is not what the Dutch would call gezellig: that warm, squishy feeling you get when all is time-honored, quaint, and cozy. No, she sticks out from traditional European cities like a sore thumb.

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Bright yellow ‘Cube Houses’ balance on their corners atop a busy overpass like thrown dice frozen mid-roll. Blaak Station looks like a landed UFO in the market square. The angular, swan-like Erasmus Bridge poses high over the river Nieuwe Maas. There’s nothing traditional or charming about it. It’s tall, proud, sleek – just like the rest of the city. Though bruised from an unfair fight, Rotterdam’s modern and colorful. She’s survived a torrid upbringing. Amidst inner turmoil, she grew through misdiagnosed remedies and therapies and prevailed with hopes of a happier future. Formed at the hands of so many others’ desires, Rotterdam’s own identity seems ambiguous. She complicated.

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But look closer. She is one of the most important cities of her time. The largest port in Europe, fourth largest in the world. An international haven – probably more so in the near future with the coming of Brexit. She welcomes in the world, serving as a gateway to an expanded, cohesive way of thinking. And she does it quietly, compassionately, without theatrics or fuss.

I relate to Rotterdam. I’ve had my fair share of personal ‘bombings’ and well-meaning ‘architects’ try to build and reshape me throughout my life. It’s helped me see who I was and, now, envision who I want to become. A lot of people don’t understand the way I think or act. I’ve always stuck out like a sore thumb myself. It’s only until now that I’m finally learning to be okay with that. For me, pushing through my comfort zone and finding my true self is like coming home. Like stumbling toward the heart of a place that isn’t on a map. It’s the same reason I find Rotterdam gezellig.

On my last day in Rotterdam, it snowed. I didn’t recognize it at first, this white fluffy thing that had landed on my scarf, then another. It had been years since I’d seen an actual snowflake. But when I looked up, the flurry swirled in around me, lit up by the late afternoon sunlight. I stopped and scanned the street, wondering if I was the only one witnessing this wondrous moment. It was just me and an old man walking his Jack Russell Terrier up ahead in the distance. I was suddenly in my own private snow globe. The subdued disappointment I’d been mulling over about my final hours in the city evaporated, instantly replaced with the buzz of excitement. I gazed up into the gray clouds billowing above the high buildings, half-expecting to catch the glimmer of a glass dome in the sky. The air glittered all around me. It was like an ending from a movie; the city saying goodbye.

Is it narcissistic to see a part of myself in such a great city? Perhaps. But it’s the potential to assume her best qualities that I yearn to emulate the most: her even-keeled nature, her sensibility, her acceptance, unassuming charm and colorful personality. Many don’t understand her because she is so different. But I think Rotterdam’s beautiful. She allows room for the possibilities.

By: Erica Ruhe

 

11 Books On My Reading List

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I’ve always been an avid reader, but in the past four years or so ever since I got myself a Kindle, my reading has increased tenfold. What can I say? It’s so much easier to find myself reading when I’ve got 200+ books at my fingertips. Plus, I don’t have to worry about unread books taking up any physical space, which means that I can begin and stop reading a book whenever I wish. Last year I read over 30 books, and although it’s July, I’ve already read over 24 books this year.

Below is a list of books that I’ve placed on my reading list (some titles have been released whilst others still need to be released so I pre-ordered them).

001. Baby Teeth – Zoje Stage

Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied.
But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.
Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger…

002. The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

003. The Witch Elm – Tana French

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

004. Social Creature – Tara Isabella Burton

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them… They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon. 

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

005. #Murder Trending – Gretchen McNeil

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

006. On The Come Up – Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least get some streams on her mixtape. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But when her mom unexpectedly loses her job, food banks and shut-off notices become as much a part of her life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are, and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working class black families.

007. Glitter – Aprilynne Pike

Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. 

Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.
Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.

But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

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008.Pretty Dead – Francesca Lia Block

People pity me, but mostly they feel envy. I have all the luxury and freedom a girl my age could want.
Something is happening to Charlotte Emerson. Like the fires that are ravaging the hills of Los Angeles, it consumes her from the inside out. But whether it is her eternal loneliness, the memory of her brother, the return of her first love, or the brooding, magnetic Jared—she cannot say. What if it’s something more . . .
Something to do with the sudden tear in her perfect nails. The heat she feels when she’s with Jared. The blood rushing once again to her cheeks and throughout her veins.
For Charlotte is a vampire, witness to almost a century’s worth of death and destruction. But not since she was a human girl has mortality touched her.
In what way will you be transformed?
Until now.

009. The Cure For Dreaming – Cat Winters

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

010. Gilchrist – Christian Galacar

Two years after losing their infant son to a tragic accident, Peter Martell, a novelist with a peculiar knack for finding lost things, and his wife, Sylvia, are devastated to learn they may no longer be able to have children. In need of a fresh start, and compelled by strange dreams, the couple decide to rent a lake house in the idyllic town of Gilchrist, Massachusetts, a place where bad things might just happen for a reason. As bizarre events begin to unfold around them—a chance encounter with a gifted six-year-old boy, a series of violent deaths, and repeated sightings of a strange creature with a terrifying nature—Peter and Sylvia find themselves drawn into the chaos and soon discover that coming to Gilchrist may not have been their decision at all.

Set against a small New England town in the summer of 1966, Gilchrist is a sinister tale about the haunting origins of violence, evil, and the undying power of memory.

011. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White 

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. 

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness. 

What books do you have on your list? Do any of these would be ones you’d want to read?

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Travel Post – Rotterdam (Part 2)

Rotterdam Centraal Station_preview

Where I feel good, I’m at home. – Erasmus

A quick train ride in a sun-drenched morning and soon the naked trees and rural countryside gave way to the city of Rotterdam. From the slick, modern Centraal Station, I took my first steps into the city, feeling much like I had finally arrived home after a very long journey. The city’s personality put me right at ease. It was a short, straight shot down Endrachtsweg to the quaint 19th century B & B I’d reserved for my stay. Anno 1867 was as lovely as my hosts, Agnes and Anton, and exceeded all my expectations. Agnes had a wonderful laugh and easy spirit. She made me feel welcome from the first ‘hello’ and gave me a tour of the charming, multi-level house built in (can you guess?) 1867. Original wood floors, classic décor, tall, bright windows and all the creature comforts one could need set the backdrop for a cozy home base. Out of the two available rooms, I chose the Rode Kamer (the red room). Check it out here: http://www.anno1867.nl/red_room.php. Warm, clean, and comfortable with an updated bathroom, it became one of those places that I could have easily stayed for weeks or months. But sadly, my first stay would be my last. The house had been sold a few weeks earlier and Agnes and Anton would be handing over the keys at the end of March to explore a new adventure in Italy. I hope they set up another B & B there!

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Vegan Hot Chocolate at “Kek” – Delft, Netherlands

Agnes also accommodated me with colorful vegan breakfasts presented on beautiful floral porcelain ware. Fresh cut fruit with soy yogurt and nuts. Unique blends of smoothies in a fine glass goblet and paper straw. And every morning she’d prepare me for my outings with a snack bar or package of trail mix, a choice from the tea box, and hot water for my thermos. I’d step out the front door with a flask of tea steaming in the cold February air, belly warm and full, and begin my trek of the city. It was glorious.

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Tourists enjoying Vessel 11’s Hottug in Rotterdam’s Old Port.

Rotterdam was the Netherlands I came for. It must have been my home in another life. How else can I explain the familiarity and joy I feel in this fantastic city? There’s graffiti and a few city corners gathering rubbish, but streets are relatively clean and green spaces are well-kept. Museums for every interest dapple downtown. Rustic houseboats float in canals just beyond the busy street curbs. Eclectic architecture rises up like modern memorials. There’s even growing cuisine options for the vegan-minded, as I discovered on a visit to Green Delight on Nieuwe Binnenweg. And French fries. Oh, the French fries. Yes, I think I must have lived here before, but, seeing as my spoken Dutch is still horrendous after nearly a year of personal study, I conclude I was probably a happy foreigner getting by on exaggerated hand gestures and the occasional ja, nee, and dank u wel.

Space separates the bodies, not the minds. – Erasmus

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There’s a wonderful mix of cultures and ethnicities here. The fantastic eats around the city are tasty evidence enough. Delicious Vietnamese pho soup on West-Kruiskade. Fabulous Panang curry at Hua Hin near the sleepy, picturesque neighborhood of Kralingen. I even found a Japanese restaurant with my beloved iced boba tea – no matter if I froze the tips of my fingers right off drinking it in twenty-eight-degree weather.

Rotterdam brings in a diverse body of students as well with Erasmus University just around the corner. It feels like a city full of tradespeople and families. The vibe here is quintessentially Dutch. Not so much in a traditional sense, like Delft, but it is a general sense of well-being and progressive respect for oneself and the public. It’s easy-going, laid back and there seems to be no agenda except for efficiency and self-expression.

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While the calm hum of Dutch humanity plays out, there is an unspoken, non-judgmental air; a motto of ‘live and let live’ here. Rotterdammers have embraced Desiderius Erasmus as their patron scholar, along with his tempered approach to the religious zeal of the Christian Reformation. He was a Dutch humanist in the late 15th and early 16th century that encouraged a free will, Via Media (middle road) line of thinking, especially when it came to church teachings. His poetic quotes are painted all throughout the city – sentiments of open-mindedness, cultural acceptance, and autonomous thought. What novel ideas.

This type of thinking promotes a potent culture of common sense and decency, especially on the roads. Respect for cyclists and pedestrians were quite the revelation for me. Coming from Florida, where vehicles are used as tools of intimidation, it’s a refreshing respite to have drivers deliberately stop for people in crosswalks. The first time it happened, I was stunned. I had to fight against my natural instincts and cross in front of a waiting car. I forced my feet forward, thinking,

“Move! Walk! Someone is actually waiting for you!”

Dutch cyclists, however, will threaten to run right over your toes if you step in their lane. But there’s no better way to zoom around a city without leaving a carbon footprint and it warms my green, little heart to see so many people not driving a car. I think it’s an even trade-off. I never felt uneasy or unsafe in my travels around the city. I crossed the Erasmus Bridge and throughout surrounding neighborhoods as well. (Being that I was a solo female, I was also smart about the time of day I ventured about and sharply aware of my surroundings. Let’s not throw out common sense here and label it ‘innocent naivety’.)

To be brutally honest, I feel a lot safer in Europe than I do living in the US. America is relatively isolated in its egotistical bubble and suffers a lack of understanding and compassion because of it. In Europe, the cultures are so closely packed and borders are so frequently crossed that the declaration of a mother country is seen as a conversation starter rather than a battle cry to exercise exclusion.

And I get it. No place is perfect. There’s a crisis going on in Europe as I write this. Countries are bickering over who should take the next wave of refugees as people struggle to find a safe place in society. But as a majority, and especially in Rotterdam, the mingling of so many different ethnicities is considered enrichment of the city, not a detriment.

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One of the highlights of my stay was a free walking tour offered by a highly knowledgeable, cheerful guide. A group of passionate locals decided to start the Free Walking Tour of Rotterdam, offering a detailed history of the major sites in the city. Anyone interested in tagging along has simply to show up at 13:30 pm in front of the famous Markthal. To my surprise, about sixty eager tourists turned out! Our guides wisely split us up into to two tour groups and off we went. We hit the Maritime Museum, the Cube Houses, Zadkine’s sculpture/memorial to honor the destroyed heart of the city in WWII. Then a quick stop in a favorite hot spot for bitterballen. Bitterballen are basically a Dutch version of meat ‘hushpuppies’. Many people said they were delicious but I decided on a cone-full of hot, crispy fries instead. Wow! Draw a big green circle on your map around “Ter Marsch & Co.” on Witte de Withstraat. (You’ll also find the world famous “De Witte Aap” bar just a few steps away!) We saw an old church riddled with bullet holes from the war (sometimes it doubles as a rave party venue), and ended at Erasmus’ birthplace. In all, the tour took just under two hours and it was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

https://freewalkingtourrotterdam.com/

Tips are not expected, but they are a nice gesture to show your guide your appreciation. If you visit Rotterdam, do not miss this!

Check out Part 3 of my Rotterdam travels next Tuesday!

Read PART ONE HERE!

By: Erica Ruhe

Review: Jeffree Star Cosmetics – Velour Liquid Lipstick Summer Collection 2018

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Ever since Jeffree Star launched his cosmetics line, I’ve been a mega-fan! I love how bold his lipstick colour choices are and the fierce packaging, but apart from the looks what I absolutely LOVE about his velour liquid lipsticks is the formula, so far the best I’ve encountered out of the liquid lipsticks I’ve tried in the past year or so.

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Swatch of Cherry Wet.

What It Is: Liquid Lipstick

Important Detail: Cruelty-free and Vegan

Shade: Cherry Wet

Verdict: The moment Jeffree Star announced his Summer Collection 2018 on his youtube channel, I knew that I had to have the shade Cherry Wet as I’m a HUGE fan of cherry red lips. This red shade is a very summery shade as it’s a hybrid between red and hot pink. I absolutely LOVE this colour, and the formula is the same as the other Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipstick Mattes, meaning that the pigmentation is HIGH, the power-stay is over 10+hrs. without bleeding/and or smudging, and the product feels absolutely light-weight on your lips, making you feel as though you’re not wearing anything! As all the previous Jeffree Star products I’ve used, I’m very pleased with this one, and do truly recommend it, because although you may find a dupe colour-wise for a cheaper option, what makes me return back and back again to Star’s products aren’t just the colours, but for the top-notch formulas that just can’t be beat!

Tip: If you have particularly dry lips, I recommend that you apply a light coat of lip balm, let it sink into your lips for 5-10mins. and then apply the liquid lipstick.

Price: $18

Where To Buy It: https://jeffreestarcosmetics.com/collections/summer-collection

Pictured above: Me wearing Cherry Wet.

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Travel Post – Rotterdam (Part 1)

Erasmus Quote Rotterdam_preview

All the world is my homeland. – Erasmus

There’s nothing like discovering that a nearly 500-year-old philosophical dude has put one’s life experiences perfectly into words. Feeling at home in a foreign land is an enchanting experience. Referring to a map is less important than exploring the city. Getting lost is a good thing. Letting your feet lead you to incredible views, interesting people, and intriguing history is the purpose of the visit. My hope is that, after giving this a read, you’ll be entertained and inspired to get lost in foreign culture too. Even if it’s ten minutes from your house.

After many years of pining, I recently plucked up the nerve to book a solo trip to the Netherlands and London and I’m impatiently plotting my return. The day I bought my plane tickets, a surreal, hazy excitement fell over me. My entire life had been lived ‘going with the flow’ and letting others steer the boat. So this was my first big opportunity to do something I had longed to do – and to do it my way. Was I a little anxious? You bet. But it wasn’t the prospect of traveling alone that made me hesitant. It was the idea of having to plan all that travel! What a wonderful dilemma. I chose late February for off-season prices and fewer crowds to battle. Winter cold clings but the first signs of spring can be spotted if you look carefully. It’s a perfect in-between time, in my opinion.

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I hadn’t been outside the US in a while and it was blatantly obvious when I tried interacting with my new flight mate in the middle seat beside me. Trying to make friendly small talk, I tapped the armrest between us, smiled, and said,

“This belongs to you. It’s never easy being in the middle seat.”

At this, he replied with a long, “Yeeeeaaaa….uh….yeah,” and averted his attention back to the screen on the seat in front of him.

Was it my breath? Did I have something in my teeth? Then I realized: he might not speak English. It dawned on me that as soon as I stepped on to the plane I wasn’t really in America anymore. This was international territory and, silly American, not everyone speaks English. The meaning suddenly shifted perspective as I replayed our little conversation in my head:

I tapped the armrest between us, smiled, and said,

This belongs to me. Don’t test my patience today, pal. I’m in no mood.”

Perhaps this was closer to the truth than I wanted to admit. That armrest remained unused the whole flight.

I arrived in London just as my connection to Amsterdam was boarding. Even before the plane taxied, that feeling of, “Well, better just roll with this” had already sunk in. Oh how I wish I could watch the surveillance video of me rushing through the security check at London Gatwick airport, then on through kilometers of departure gates in half-undone sneakers while juggling my plastic bag of allowable liquids back into an overfull backpack. I stumbled into the gate just in time to wave goodbye to the plane. But it wasn’t a total loss. That was the best cardio I did all month.

Luckily, there was another flight just a few hours later. With the help of a flight attendant who was scheduled to work that hop, I got a backstage tour of Gatwick, a quick wave through customs and a fresh ticket on the next flight out. With what seemed like barely enough time to buckle my seatbelt, we landed at Schiphol airport just as evening closed in.

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A kind woman at a kiosk set me up with a new SIM card for my phone and a friendly cabbie ushered me to the fanciest sci-fi-looking taxi I’d ever seen. A sleek black Tesla Model X beckoned to me with open falcon-wing doors. I swooned right into the backseat, feeling much like a passenger preparing for a ride on Star Tours at Disney World – but way cooler. And cleaner. Seductive city lights streaked across the tinted windows. Cars packed in around us on the highway, heading to a large festival just kicking off for the night. The possibilities that awaited me on this trip struck home. I was infatuated with the potential.

It was nearly eight by the time I arrived at the B&B I’d booked for the night. Ineke was a most warm and gracious hostess. She even received a package on my behalf when my Eurail pass would not ship to the US in time for my trip. She led me up several flights of narrow wood stairs, passing by unique antiquities and pictures mounted on the walls. The apartment was on the third floor of a hundred year old, traditional Dutch row house with an amazing rooftop garden. Spotlessly clean, comfortable, and utterly charming, it was the perfect landing pad after a very long day of travel.

If you get the chance to visit, I highly recommend BB Ginkgo.

https://www.bedandbreakfast.nl/bed-and-breakfast/amsterdam/bbginkgo/57812/

Delft Gate_preview

Oostpoort (Eastern Gate) – Delft, Netherlands 

After a refreshing sleep, I woke early the next morning and walked to Centraal Station. With a firm goal of packing an average-sized backpack for a ten day trip, I debated for many weeks on the one set of shoes I would bring. No amount of space saver bags were going to magically allow room for ten days of bulky winter clothes and two pairs of shoes. Ultimately I decided on a comfortable pair of sneakers and suffered being chastised by my ego for my middle-aged sensibility throughout the entire trip. Boots would have been way more chic…who cares if my feet fell off my ankles on day two, right?

Blue Delft Heart_preview

Venturing out of the quiet neighborhood and into the city center, there was a distinct divide, like two Amsterdams living side by side. During this seven-ish hour, Night Amsterdam moved slowly, as if in a twilight, hypnagogic state of sleep. It had the feel of a tired owl fluffing up and settling in to its nook after a long night of activity. Day Amsterdam awoke slowly. Little dogs off their leashes tumbled and yapped in a frosty park. Streaks of sun broke through the early cover of gray. Food stalls with coffee and stroopwafels sent steam signals into the cold air that they were open for business. Sightseers trickled in from side streets, congregating for selfies at an iconic I AMsterdam sign. While the energetic odor of ‘tourist trap’ gets heavy in the stretch by the Rijksmuseum and Centraal Station, to pass by this is to miss part of the experience. A tight train schedule didn’t allow time for a pop in to the ‘Rijks’ or the Banksy exhibition at the Moco Museum, but I vowed to explore them on a return visit.

Rotterdam Canal_preview

Stay tuned for Part 2 appearing next Tuesday!

Read PART TWO HERE!

By: Erica Ruhe

Review: 3M Nexcare Acne Covers

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June is Acne Awareness Month, and in lieu of that, I’ve decided to dedicate this week to acne prevention. I’ll admit right away, I’m a picker. Whenever there’s a pimple, I can’t help but pick or squeeze it, which of course worsens the situation (usually infecting the nearby areas) and causes redness, bruising, and scarring.

But ever since I’ve found these miracle workers, I haven’t been tempted to pick at my pimples anymore!

What It Is: Absorbing acne covers

What It Does: When placed on a pimple, the covers work like a sponge to absorb pus and oil.

Verdict: I don’t know what sorcery this is, but it WORKS. I’ve tried various others acne covers from other brands, and they rarely worked as well as these. These covers actually absorb the pus from the acne overnight, even cystic acne! I can’t begin to tell you how miraculous these are! They’re a true godsend in zapping zits overnight. All you have to do is wash your face, then apply the cover directly on the pimple, and in then in the morning you remove the cover and you’ll see all the pus has been absorbed on the cover while the pimple is gone! If you haven’t tried these, do yourself a favour, and GET THESE NOW!

Price: $5.98 (if you subscribe to 5 products) or $6.29 for one time purchase

Where To Buy It: www.amazon.com

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1 Secret Ingredient to Zapping Zits Overnight!

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Need to get rid of a pesky pimple pronto? Then read on to find out how Aloe Vera can help you!

Sure, we all know that Aloe Vera is the go-to plant for when we have sunburns, but it can also be very effective in getting rid of a pimple fast.

Aloe Vera is a tropical plant that when cut in half produces a clear gel. Almost any grocery store or plant store has them, so they’re easy to find.

What makes Aloe Vera the holy grail of plants for skin benefits? Well, when applied to skin, Aloe Vera gel has been proven to fight bacteria, reduce inflammation, and speed up skin recovery. Basically, all the things you need when trying to get rid of a pimple.

It’s also been proven that when Aloe Vera gel is paired with a tretinoin cream (that is an acne medication derived from Vitamin A), it significantly reduces existing pimples, as well as not allowing new ones to come to the surface.

How to Use Aloe Vera Gel for Acne

  1. Scrape the gel out of the aloe leaves with a spoon.
  2. Apply gel to the skin at the same time as other acne treatments. You may want to try mixing it with your other treatment, and then apply this to your skin. Or, you can apply the other acne treatment first, with the aloe gel over top.
  3. Repeat 1-2 times per day, or as desired.

In summary, applying Aloe Vera to the skin can help treat burns, heals wounds, but also fight inflammation from acne. Give Aloe Vera a chance, and you may just be on the way to beautiful skin!

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Suicide Has Escalated Because Americans Are Depressed

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Suicide Can Be Preventable If We Know The Warning Signs

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.

  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

  • Talking about being a burden to others.

  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

Suicide has been on the rise in the past ten years. And it’s no surprise that that is the case when 1 in 4 Americans are depressed. There’s a myriad of reasons why more and more Americans are depressed, whether it’s for the lack of stable employment, unstable relationships, and debilitating debt. In a world where success is measured by your bank account, it’s obvious that the average person nowadays feels like they’re severely lacking.

But what about celebrities who seem to have it all? Why are suicide rates rising in their circle as well? Because depression is a serious illness and often not one that people are readily willing to admit to having or needing help. And often, when they do go to doctors for help, they are merely prescribed anti-depressant after anti-depressant, that often, one of the side-effects of said anti-depressant is suicidal thoughts.

What actually needs to find out the source of their unhappiness, and only then can a true recovery be accomplished. Medication may help alleviate symptoms for some, but it’s only with the help of other people and your own can you overcome depression and the feeling of unworthiness that comes along with it.

But while suicide rates have increased over the years, the ones who are the most at risk of committing suicide are white males by 84%. A study has shown that just this past week with celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committing suicide, has increased suicide across the states by 25%. Now experts are afraid that suicide contagion may cause those individuals that have been contemplating suicide to take the so-called plunge. Suicidal thoughts may increase when you see celebrities taking their own lives, as it has individuals experiencing a greater sense of hopelessness, thinking that if a celebrity who was living their best life committed suicide, then how could they ever achieve happiness themselves, and thus see suicide as their only way out.

Mental Health conditions and depression aren’t the only reasons people are seeking suicide as a solution to their problems. People experiencing relationship problems and loss of a loved one are at a greater risk, along with those that abuse alcohol or drugs. Stress is also a major component, whether you’re experiencing stress due to employment (or lack of one), money, legal, or housing issues are also at risk for suicide. Not to mention stress due to physical health conditions.

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So what can we do to help?

  1. Don’t leave that person alone.
  2. Separate that person from anything that might harm them.

If you or someone else is thinking about suicide, there is help!

The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.

There is also a crisis text line.

For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

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