Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Gel Lamp: Abody UVLED Nail Lamp 9C

If you're interested in DIY-at-home gel manicures (and not the "no-light" sorts of gel) then you probably already know that you MUST use an appropriate light in order to complete the manicure. My brother gifted me this Abody UVLED Nail Lamp 9C this past Christmas and I'm downright giddy to post about it here on the blog because I love it! Here's what it's packaging looks like:
The packaging is really nice and simple. It's easy to read and let's you know all of the important deets: the left bottom corner has little icons and says "sunshine, non-harmful, non-blacken UV/LED, 24W Power." Some lamps out there are either UV or LED but this one is both, if you're into that sort of thing. The lamp itself is so light--I doubt it's even one pound--and shaped in a half circle/dome. From straight on it looks like this:
The top is a glossy clean white with a power button (the only button on the light) and two LED lights. There are actually three ways to use this lamp. First, you can simply put your hand in the dome to activate the lights for however long you want. Second, you can tap the power button once for 30 seconds of light. Third, you can tap the power button twice for 60 seconds of light. If you press the button to activate the light, then the light will turn off after it hits your desired 30 or 60 seconds.
The underbelly of the lamp is where all of the lights are, obviously. My lamp has 15 lights in a U formation and is tinted pink. Abody sells these lamps in green and blue though too, in case you're not into pink. My brought gave me the pink one and I really like it.
That's a lot of lights! In order to make the lights actually work though (i.e. light up) you need to plug in the power cord. There's a spot on the side of the lamp where you can plug in the cord. It's the little boxy area in this photo:
It's a pretty standard power cord. I saw online that Abody also sells lamps with a USB option that would plug into your computer. I don't have the USB so I don't know how well that works.
All in all, I am SO pleased with this lamp. It's lightweight and easy to transport. It's not clunky and doesn't take up much space at all. And it works! Plus, it's big enough that you can fit your toes in there if you want to do a gel pedicure. Abody also sells a version with a digital timer on the top instead of the power button. I think that version is called the "9S" lamp. If you need some more info on gel polish, check out my Gel Q&A post.

ULTA HAUL

Ever have a day that you just wish would end? I totally have, except it was a whole week that I was just struggling to get through. Seriously, it's only Tuesday. Anyway, I stopped into Ulta on my way home from work to pick up a gel polish system. My buddy Sarah is getting married May 6th as you know and she asked me to do the bridal party's nails! Plus, doing some nail polish shopping always lifts my spirits and I was happy to be getting more acquainted with gel polish in general. I needed a gel system (I already had the light) and off to Ulta I went. Here's my haul!
So what did I get?
Carol's Daughter; Sacred Tiare; Shampoo; conditioner; shampoo and conditioner; mario badescu; enzyme facial cleanser; Red Carpet Manicure; Must Haves kit; Red Carpet Manicure gel polish; gel manicure; gel polish; nail polish
  1. Carol's Daughter Sacred Tiare Shampoo and Conditioner
  2. Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel
  3. Red Carpet Manicure Must Haves kit
  4. Red Carpet Manicure Nail Wipes
  5. Red Carpet Manicure LED Gel Polish
  6. Nail buffer
  7. Nail Files (.99 cents for a set of 6!)
I'll do a more in-depth review of some of the products later after I've had time to try them out!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What the gel, bro? A Quick Gel Polish Q&A

What is gel polish?  Good question. Let's get the basics out of the way so we all know what we're talking about. Gel polish is basically nail polish that needs to be "cured" with either a UV or LED light. Each layer has to be cured for a period of time but once the final layer is cured your nails are hardened and good to go. You can go from curing your nails to doing dishes in 2 minutes!

How do you apply gel polish? It's really easy and not too different from the way you (should) do any standard polish manicure. The main difference is that you need to cure gel polish after every coat. You start with a base coat and then you cure it under the lamp. Then you follow with a THIN layer of gel polish in the color you want and cure that. You can repeat the color coat and cure 2-3 times depending on the polish (if it's really sheer you may even need more coats). Then you apply a layer of top coat and cure that. Then you have to wipe off the sticky top layer with a lint-free nail wipe and isopropyl alcohol to finish your manicure. TIP: You can buy specialized "finisher" liquid for this last step but you can also by any old rubbing alcohol for a fraction of the cost. Then you're done! You nails are completely dried, hardened, and ready to go!

What is the difference between acrylic and gel polish? Both gel and acrylic look very similar because they're both thick, shiny, and super hard. However, acrylic is a liquid and powder mix that is applied to your nails with a brush that hardens without use of any UV/LED lamp. Gel, on the other hand, is a polish and is basically useless unless you have a UV/LED lamp.

How long does gel polish last? The gel polish that requires a lamp can stay on your nails for 3-4 weeks. This means that you won't be taking it off because it chipped, you'll be taking it off because you want a different color! Other non-lamp gel polish will last anywhere from 7-14 days. Be sure to check the gel polish bottle to see their wear time since wear time can vary from brand to brand.

Is there gel polish that doesn't require use of a UV/LED lamp? Technically, yes, there are gel polishes on the market that don't require use of a lamp. For example, the Sally Hansen two step Miracle Gel gives you a gel manicure without use of any lamp. However, the gel-without-a-lamp options DO NOT last as long as the gel-with-a-lamp options. I have used both types and can attest to the different in wear times. I used Sally Hansen for gel polish before I tried out my first REAL gel polish.

I read online you have to use a base and top coat. Is that really required? You know, I'm not sure. I have never tried a gel manicure without a base and top coat. I read online that if you don't use a base coat the gel polish won't stick to your finger....but I've never tried it so I don't know! If you have had success with gel polish without using a base coat, leave a comment!

Can I use regular nail polish in between the base and top coat? Yes. You can use regular nail polish in between the base and top coats. However, you can't force the regular polish to dry quickly by curing it under the lamp (it won't work). You will have to wait for the regular polish to dry COMPLETELY before putting the top coat. Also, your manicure will not last as long as it would have if you used all gel products.

Where can I buy gel polish? Depending on the brand you want, pretty much anywhere! There are good gel options at Target, Sally's Beauty Supply, and Ulta. Although, to be honest, I was a little disappointed in Ulta's selection. You can also find them online at Amazon. I like the Red Carpet Manicure gel polish I bought at Ulta and they're only $10.00. A typical gel polish will cost between $10-$15.

How do I remove gel polish? Unfortunately, removal of gel polish is sort of a huge pain, not gonna lie. I guess when you have a beautiful manicure that lasts 3 weeks we can handle a bit of a nuisance in removal. Gel polish is considered "soak off" which means you essentially have to apply acetone to your nails and let them soak in it for about 10-15 minutes. You can soak your nails in a bowl of acetone, use one of these manicure clip sets and clip an acetone-drenched cotton ball to your nails, or use a DIY foil wrap to keep the cotton ball on your nails. My only word of caution is DON'T PICK at gel nails. Picking is no bueno and can lead to damaged nail plates!

UV or LED lamp? What's the difference? The main difference is the length of time you have to cure your nails. UV lamps have longer cure times (between 2-3 minutes typically). LED lamps have shorter (30-60 second) cure times. Again, be sure to consult the brand of polish your using to determine the appropriate cure times.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Swatch: Sally Hansen Hello Pretty

Today's post is a swatch of a vibrant almost-neon pink and, honestly, professionalism be damned when it comes to this color. I mean, hot pink in the courtroom? Hmm. But luckily I didn't have anything scheduled so I was just wearing these nails around the office. I should confess, I love vibrant nails. Maybe it's because we're finally over with winter and we're starting to get some spring weather. So it's time to bust out the colors! Plus, I wear a lot of black...so colorful nails do a lot to keep me from seeming like I'm in mourning all of the time.  Here are the nails:
This color will make you smile. And will definitely get noticed!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Let's Netflix and Chill

It's Friday (hooray!) and after a looooong week this post is literally the most perfect post to do. Recently I was contacted by Adore Me and asked to describe my perfect "Netflix & Chill" night here on The Files. You probably recognize that company name from their television commercial -- a matching bra and panty set for $25?! Yes, that one. Anyway, they pose a good question....what is my perfect Netflix & Chill night?

For me, it's not truly Netflix and Chill unless I'm wearing something comfy.  I'm all about that tee shirt bra! Throw a soft set of pajamas on top and I'm ready to chill. But if you're Netflix and chill night is a bit more oh la la they have a great line of lingerie for you to try.

My favorite part comes next -- the food! Depending on the time, I'd either be noshing on some Chinese food (chicken chow mein, anyone?) OR a delicious bowl of popcorn. Yes, I can be pretty traditional when I netflix and chill!

And what am I watching on TV? Hmmm, that's difficult to answer. If I'm by myself I'm watching the new E! series The Arrangement or The Royals. It's seriously addictive! Or perhaps Outlander on Starz. But if I'm watching with my fiance it's likely Billions on Showtime or Mr. Robot on USA.

So, we've got our chill clothes, food, and shows. There's only one last thing.....the blanket!
Image result for animal fur blanket
I loooove these luxurious blankets. They're so soft and cuddly. I'd definitely wrap myself up in one of those! We'll have to register for one on our wedding registry! But seriously, they can be SO expensive. Definitely a luxe treat.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stop and Smell the Flowers....on my nails!

Ugh, I woke up not feeling well this morning. It started out with a sore throat but now I'm pretty sure it's a sinus infection. I'm going through tissues like CRAZY. Anyway, hopefully I feel better quickly because it's my future husband's birthday this Sunday and I don't want to be a buzzkill because I'm sick! The nails I painted today make me feel a little better because they're just fun and simple. I also love the oversized flower on the middle finger.
purple manicure with flowers
purple manicure with flowers

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

*Tap tap* Is this thing on?

When I first started blogging it was an exciting time. It was back before the indie nail polish craze. Before gel (okay maybe not entirely before gel). And it was back when the biggest nail blogs were those like The Daily Nail and All Lacquered Up. Well, in case you haven't noticed...times have changed. A LOT of people have ditched blogging. Some have replaced blogging with Instagram and snapchat but others have vanished entirely.

I was going through my blogger feed today (which I am so behind on it's not even funny) and I noticed one thing. Almost every blog I follow is no longer active. And I don't mean no longer active like moi where they've disappeared for about a month or two. I mean no longer active like last post was a year ago or longer. For reals. A year ago. Or longer. That's a long time for no update! If I weren't so behind on blogging I might have been curious where everybody went to!

It's so disappointing when blogs get abandoned but I understand people's lives and priorities change and sometimes people just lose the joi de vivre that blogging used to bring. I experienced that myself for a little where I questioned whether or not I would even continue. You know that feeling? I think that's why I only post once (if that) per week (I'm working on it though--I have some pretty blog-worthy events coming up so all will be well).

But seriously, ever feel like you just don't have any content that you want to share? Or that you just don't have the inspiration or motivation to keep at it? I swear. The struggle is real my friends.

I have now gone through the blogs I follow and have bid adieu to those no longer with us. The silver lining? Now I can follow some NEW blogs! So....if you're just stumbling upon this blog and you're looking for a new blog buddy or follower, drop me a comment below! I'd enjoy reading some new blogs!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Philadelphia Flower Show

Andrew and I were bored this weekend and decided we would do something we've never done before: we went to the Philadelphia Flower Show. I've heard about it for years but we never actually went so we figured why not try something new. Plus, we have to decide what flowers to have at the wedding so it was good to see some options. We probably won't be returning next year (once is enough) but it was good fun for the day. Plus we had an early dinner at one of Andrew's favorite go-to's in the city that we don't get to very often.

One of my favorite things was the competition for best orchid IN A TEACUP. Haha. How cute are these beautiful orchids in tiny teacups?
Philadelphia Flower Show; Orchids; Orchids in tea cups
The theme of the flower show was Norway. So that means there were bikes:
Philadelphia Flower Show
And windmills:
And plenty of tulips:
Philadelphia Flower Show; tulips
There was also this really cool "Butterfly Experience" thing where you got to walk around in a room with over 1000 butterflies. They gave you a Qtip with some sort of butterfly-food solution so that you could entice a butterfly to come to you. Needless to say, I was terrified. I'm not a fan of flying insects even if they're pretty, but Andrew enjoyed it. He would catch the butterfly for me and then give me his Q-tip with the butterfly on it.
butterfly; butterfly on hand
How pretty was this monarch butterfly? It reminds me of my monarch butterfly nails from here and here. And before you say, "oh Nikki, your nails are lovely" that is my fiancee's hand not mine!

Next year's theme is Wonders of Water and it will take place between March 3, 2018 and March 11, 2018. If you want to see some pretty flowers you should definitely go!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Swatch: Sinful Colors Magik Touch

Ok, you may not know this about me but I am a fan of the Karsashians. Don't worry, I'm not an I-want-to-do-everything-they-do-wear-what-they-wear-and-I-follow-them-all-on-Instagram fan. Rather I just like how close they all are as a family (seriously their mom is one of the girls) and how they can travel and pretty much do whatever they want. Where do I sign up? You won't find me shopping at Dash, or watching their TV show live when it first airs (sure, I've been known to get sucked into a marathon of KUWTK if I get caught on E! Network...but who hasn't?), or losing my mind about which one is currently pregnant, engaged, married, or separated...but you may find me purchasing a nail polish or two when I find out one of them has launched a line. For example, a Sinful Colors collaboration with Kyle Jenner. Today's post is a swatch of Magik (with a K you see. Kardashians only use Ks) Touch, a shimmer matte that delivers what it promises. It's also serene and calming. Definitely "office appropriate" if you ask me!
At first I didn't know it was supposed to be a shimmer matte so when my nails dried I was totally disappointed in the ashy texture. But then I realized it's a shimmer matter so it was all good! Not bad at all I'd say. It only took two coats to get even coverage and it dried surprisingly fast. However, in looking at these photos I think a third coat would have been nice. I see some definite balding on my index and ring fingers. Bummer!
See the shimmer? Super pretty!
Did you pick up any from this line? How did you like shimmer matte effect?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Weekend Recap: A Visit to the Wedding Venue

This past Sunday we attended an open house and food tasting at our wedding venue. Can I just say...I adore our wedding venue. It's the perfect combination of special and luxury that I always think of when I picture a wedding. It has the most stunning staircase as soon as you walk in and then it has multiple different cocktail hour and reception rooms for you to choose from. I can't wait to share photos of the venue from our wedding day!
We're not doing gold for our wedding but how beautiful is that tablescape in the photo above? I almost reconsidered our choice to do silver instead of gold.

Let's be real though. The decor was nice and it was great to see all the different color schemes and possibilities. However, we were most interested in the fooooood. And man was there a lot of it! Including a seafood bar. Okay, mini crab cakes and scallops (not so mini) are a MUST have for the wedding but I think I'll do without the lobster. The lobster was good, but it was just okay. 
And what would a venue open house be without cake, cake and more cake? We met both the in-house bakers as well as a few venue-preferred bakeries. How cute is this little cake??
The in-house bakers had huge sample cakes, including all different flavors. My favorites were the raspberry marble, vanilla pound, and chocolate marble. So delicious! How will we choose when it comes time to design our wedding cake?!

Thanks for reading!



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Weekend Recap: Part Two - Bridal Shower

My sister and I spent the night in New York City but then I had to hustle back home on Saturday morning to set up for my buddy's bridal shower. After so many months of planning and keeping ten bridal party members in line we were finally able to pull it off. As you all know from my engagement post, my buddy S and her fiancee (such a fancy word!) are getting married this May and I am her Maid of Honor. They have ten girls and one boy (A's brother) in their bridal parties. A's Maid of Honor ended up getting pregnant and dropping out of the wedding but another girl took over as Maid of Honor for A's side so it was all good and swell. The theme for the Bridal Shower was Harry Potter because they both love Harry Potter. These were the invitations:
I had the invitations custom made at CatPrint.com. As an aside, can I just briefly say CatPrint is the MOST amazing company to work with? They let you custom design anything  you want, they will send you a hard copy proof and help you make it exactly as you want, and their prices and shipment/delivery times are seriously unbeatable. I bought about 45 custom made and high quality invitations WITH envelopes included for a total of $40! Did I say CatPrint was fantastic? They are! I highly highly recommend CatPrint to anyone who needs invitations or stationary of any kind. Ok, back to the shower now.

Because the theme was Harry Potter, the decorations we all Harry Potter-esque. For example, we had a banner made that said "Muggles to Mrs" hanging above the gift table.
We also incorporated the theme into some of our DIY items. For example, we wrapped the silverware in the various Hogwarts houses:
Had floating candles above where the guests were eating. You know, like the great hall in the Harry Potter movies and all. This isn't the best photo of that's ok.
And then we also had games for guests to play while at the shower. Guests were asked to write down a favorite memory so the girls could guess who it came from. Guests could also write down a recipe for the girls.
The shower was s surprise and I think we pulled it off.
The gift for the girls came from the bridal parties as a group and included a pretty wooden sign saying their names and wedding date...
 ...we also got them necklaces too. From these faces the girls were very pleased!
Of course we had to take some photos with the bow bouquet/bow hat made from all of the ribbons off the shower gifts. This is Sarah's bridesmaids (me on the end).
 and Alysia's.
Everyone had a great time and the girls were so appreciative. I have to be honest, I had a great time and I loved watching the girls enjoy themselves BUT I am so glad it's over. One more thing off the list! Now there's only a couple months left until we celebrate this magical bride to be!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekend Recap: Ariana Grande Concert

This past weekend was eventful in all the best ways! First, on Friday I ditched work early to head up to New York with my sister for the Ariana Grande concert. My supervising partner wasn't at the office and I jut waited until all counsel had gone to lunch or were otherwise busy before slipping out the door. I met my sister at the train station and off we went!
Double decker train! My broski would be so jealous! Once we made it to the city we headed to our hotel room. I booked us at The New Yorker since it's a landmark and icon of a hotel. I can't say it was my absolute favorite hotel ever but hey it was built in 1918 and we were only in the room to sleep...so it did the trick.
Not a bad view!
We ended up at the cutest little restaurant called Bella Vita, obviously Italian! I had the most delicious chicken, eggplant, and mozzarella panini...yummm!

After dinner we went in search of some treats. Every time we go to the city we end up buying Baked By Melissa (which you might remember I incorporated into her bridal shower as favors) and macarons. Before the concert we stopped at Baked By Melissa and then also Paris Baguette. At Paris Baguette we bought the most delicious chocolate mousse cake, which we in ever the New Yorker style took to Central Park to devour. We sat, watched people in Central Park, and watched the city lights start to come on.

We also ended up purchasing some macarons the next morning so I'll input a photo of those drool-worthy treats here...

Then it was time to get changed and head to the Ariana Grande concert. The concert was at Madison Square Garden, which we've never been to before and I have to say it was a fantastic venue. Our seats were in the second level and was off to Ariana Grande's left. Her opening acts were Victoria Monet (who danced more than she sang) and Little Mix (who we are now obsessed with). We waited about two hours for Ariana Grande to take the stage but it was worth the wait. We may have felt a little old in the crowd (most people were probably teens and tweens with their parents...but it was all good). We like her music and it was a fun night out!

Overall, the concert was okay. Ariana Grande seemed a little tired and spent a shocking amount of time literally sitting on the stage. However, we heard some of our favorite Ariana Grande songs and it was a blast doing something special with my sister! Can't wait to plan something like this again. Perhaps the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC?!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

This marks Andrew and my 6th Valentine's Day together! We've never been one for the get-dressed-up-and-go-out-to-a-fancy-restaurant Valentine's Day celebration and so we've started to just make a really yummy dinner at home. It's low key but we try to make it as gourmet as possible. I mean, we may not want to go out to a fancy restaurant, but we certainly don't mind some fancy food! This year I went all out. Think candles, fabric napkins, menu card, etc. And the menu for this year?? Over the top. The main course was bacon-wrapped filet with mushroom gravy, steamed lobster tail, potatoes au gratin, and steamed broccoli. It was delicious and my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

We also don't go nuts with gifts for this holiday. Partially because we don't actually like Valentine's Day and partially because...we're lazy? But I was pretty pleased with my pun of a card...
Andrew really likes the wireless lightbulbs that you can control with an app on your phone or by voice command to our Google Voice. So I bought him some Philips Hue light bulbs to try out. He loves them. He immediately started setting them up and playing with the colors and voice commands.
While he was playing with his new toys I sat back with my wine and dessert (store bought--no credit to me there) and relaxed.
 And if you're wondering what Andrew got for me....well....my favorite Godiva chocolates of course! And this year it came with a parisian teddy bear! How cute is that little beret??
 And a quick (somewhat blurry) photograph of my nails. Pink for Valentine's Day of course!
I hope you all enjoyed Valentine's day with your friends, family, or that special someone!