This past December was the first time in a long time that I was in the United States during Christmas. The last time I was here was December 2012. I guess you can say that’s a big deal for me because from 2013 to 2019, all my Christmas holidays were spent in southeast Asia. Although Christmas is a globally recognized event, even for those who aren’t Christians, it’s a different feeling experiencing Christmas outside your home and culture. While I wouldn’t claim that being in the United States during this holiday is anything like being on my island. Christmas can seem vastly different even in locations that seem samilar.
As a child, Christmas started with a period of hard work before the celebrations. This meant performing a deep cleaning of the home, pulling out the best linens, cooking certain foods, and lightly decorating the living room with shiny tinsel. We never had a tree or fancy gift exchange; we cooked, went to church, and got ready for the island’s holiday parades. Despite the lack of Christmas trees and gifts, there was an air of whimsy as everyone seemed merrier, rum was poured freely, and our family shared in this signular experience that gradually crafted my nostagic feelings .
I was never raised with the materialistic mindset that Christmas has become. Some years I wouldn’t receive any gifts, while other years I might get candy or a card with money from relatives living abroad. One of the only gifts I received yearly, like clockwork, was a gift given to me by the local Sunday school. Each year they would put on a Christmas pageant that continues to this day. This pageant wasn’t about beauty queens or congeniality. We simply song religious Christmas hymns, re-enacted parts from the bible, read verses, and recited recitations.
As an adult with the ability to create the kind of Christmas I want to experience, I tend to avoid this time of the year altogether. The Christmas spirit no longer takes hold of me the way it used to. If I am not working on December 25th, I would much rather spend the day cooking, watching Netflix, or sleeping. Sometimes I am invited to dine with others, and even then, I find those invitations to be a bit tedious as dining with other people’s family increases my social anxiety. This year I experienced a level of discomfort being invited to two families’ homes for Christmas eve and Christmas day, but I powered through it and enjoyed it.
This year I got myself a few items and found joy in their use, look, and the idea of pampering myself. I got a few jars of white honey for all my wild exotic teas, lovely bags, skincare, makeup, and fragrances. When I bought them, I thought about this year and how I would use them. Most importantly, I started to believe that I could no longer settle on being stuck. In one way or the other, I wanted to see myself in a different place, doing what I love while doing something new, and these were the items that would come along with me on my adventures.
A few years ago, a co-worker who moved from the states to Germany gifted me with a pot of Langnese white honey. This honey was different from the other brands I had tried because of the color, consistency, and flavor. While making my way back to the states, I purchased a few jars of Langnese honey from the duty-free.
The best use of this honey for me is with tea or drizzled on sour or tart fruits.
While the Langnese history is based in Germany, this brand is enjoyed worldwide. Coming from the Middle East, I found a different love for honey. The Arab countries love honey and use it in many of their dishes. Not only is honey used in cultural foods, but it’s often incorporated into traditional customs. In some Arab countries, wedding ceremonies often include the bride and groom eating honey or drinking a beverage with honey on their wedding night as it is said to be an aphrodisiac. In many of the rich Arab counties, you will find stores at the fancier malls and kiosks selling an assortment of honey at different prices.
This brand was bought to me by a beautiful blogger from Jamaica. Her blog is called Adventures from Elle, and the blogger’s name is Rochelle Knight. I like what she is doing with her blog, the direction, look, and her motivation to showcase all the awesomeness that is Jamaica. This year for her Blogmas spectacular, she introduced a few local artisans in a post called Jamaican Stocking Stuffers. I homed in on many products, and the two that caught my eye were Ettenio and Laura Alexis Candles. Rochelle had a discount code for Alexis Candles, but most of the products I wanted were sold out. Then by the time I completed my travel and arrived back home, the time limit on the coupon had expired.
While waiting on the stock to be replenished, I ordered a few items from Ettenio. I love all the products, but two that stood out to me was the Casa Fresca room spray and Cocolicious balancing penetrating conditioner. The Casa Fresca room spray has a wonderful balance between freshness, cleaniness, and a citrus smell that is not overpowering. The smell lasts long enough to make an impression but isn’t overpowering. While the conditioner smells so good that you might consider eating it. I received two sample packets, and I love the consistency and smell. This product does not leave my hair feeling weight down and everything is eco-friendly with no dyes, silicone, sulfate, or paraben.
I am a satisfied customer thanks to Adventures from Elle I will be ordering more items. Below I have listed the link to their site and Elle’s blog. For more information about Ettenio check out their Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ettenio/ and website https://etteniojamaica.com/
Check out Elle’s blog https://adventuresfromelle.com/
Beauty (Fenty & Il Makiage)
I have a confession to make. I am one of those girls who go into Sephora saying I need one item but walks out with a big bag. I love makeup and skincare, this year I continued sticking with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. I have used RiRi’s products and ultimately love her liquid matte finish foundation. I get the best compliments whenever I use it, and it fits my oily skin perfectly.
When Rihanna launched her powder foundation, I had to try it. I went to Sephora and got the Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Powder Foundation in color 420, and I am delighted with the results. Some days you want a lighter finish or something more comfortable to carry around, and for me, this foundation works very well. Since my skin type is oily, I need the extra oil control as the day wears on and this foundation paired with a good setting spray is magic.
Il Makiage is a newer brand of makeup I found through reviews on YouTube. I decided to try it based on seeing the reviews and the words “try for free”. When you take the color test, it runs you through a questionnaire that doesn’t seem too different from the other makeup brand’s online color match test. Close to the end of the quiz, they ask you to select a foundation you currently use and the shade. I picked the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte liquid foundation in 420 and was matched with the color 200 in the Il Makiage line. I was somewhat skeptical because I have done digital color matches that don’t always fit me with the right color. For some reason, it was still one shade lighter, darker, or there was a strange reddish undertone. Knowing this, I took the test twice, altered the undertones in each, and ended up with 200 and 210.
I received free matches and found that both look similar, but 200 was the best match. After testing it for 8 hours, I didn’t see too much breakthrough oil, and the wear was comfortable. I can say that these products were absolutely free to sample, but they provided such a generous amount that I can keep using these for a few months before purchasing the regular size product.
Try the color match test here: https://www.ilmakiage.com/powermatch-2-0-quiz-TBYB
Stratberry of Scotland
I introduced this brand in my blog called Affordable Luxury Bags, Handbags, and Purses. I was looking for an affordable bag, that was fashion-forward and something I can have for years to come. I found many brands and ended my search with two front runners. It was Strathberry versus Coach’s newer line of handbags. Of course, Strathberry of Scotland won the contest when I purchased their black leather mini purse called the Crescent Shoulder Bag. I love the look, fit, and price of this bag and the fact that I don’t see many people wearing this designer. It’s a perfect addition to my small collection of handbags.
Coach made my gift yourself list because I actually purchased their Hutton weaved shoulder bag in taupe after Christmas for about $275, but the original price was about $550. The quality of the leatherwork, coloring, and design is impeccable. This is a color that I would have never choose. I tend to like black bags because they go with everything. After getting the Strathberry crescent bag in black, it was a no-brainer to get this one in a natural color. What impressed me the most about this bag is that it doesn’t look like the usual cheap coach purses. The way the taupe color looks on the bag gives a subtitle gradient effect that only can be seen if you carefully look at the details. I would have never considered this if I didn’t see this bag in-person because my mind was set on the Tabby collection, and not the Hutton. After seeing the Tabby collection and the Hutton together, the Hutton won.
Garden in a bottle
This year, I decided to keep four core fragrances for my perfume of the year list. I start at the top of the list with Lancome Idole Eau De Parfum Spray, which will forever be my showstopper. This year I decided to change a bit and test the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance called 3 L’Imperatice, which was launched in 2009 and heavily marketed by Naomi Campbell. This perfume has a very floral note with hints of fruit with an ozonic smell. I sampled it and loved it, and now it’s a part of my rotation.
I got Gucci Bloom Aqua di Fiori, instead of the original with the pink label. This one is less sweet and has a cleaner citrus top note with light floral smells. It’s something I can wear, lounging around the house, walking the dog, or running to the supermarket.
The last one I have is the Gorgio Armani Jasmin Kusamono, launched in 2020. I purchased it at the beginning of the year, and it’s still holding up, with the sweet smell of jasmine and other floral notes. It’s the last fragrance I have own that is a year old and was the only perfume I’ve had for a few months now.
I’ve come to the end of my truly short list of gifts. This year being in a place of fortune, I gifted myself a few items that I take great pleasure in using and reviewing. Some are consumable items, while others, I will have for a long time or at least until I cannot find any use for them. I feel like I spoiled myself, but the most significant Christmas gift I received that couldn’t successfully be listed and reviewed was being in the company of other happy people. Sometimes I forget how contagious happiness and laughter is.