Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2016

The exact date for Mother's Day this year is Sunday, May 8th! It's fast-approaching, but there's still over a week to purchase/make something special. To prepare for day, I've rounded up a few gift ideas ranging from skincare and fashion pieces to fitness and lifestyle products. Below are my favorite options under $25, $50, and $100 to show appreciation for the motherly figures and moms in our lives:

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2016 Under $25 |

1. A cute pineapple serving tray from West Elm under $10 is perfect for summer get-togethers.
2. This decorative Voluspa candle smells of fresh California verbana and white freesia.
3. This Clarins Lady Boss Power Pack skincare set is a steal.
4. Every woman deserves a good eyelash curler like this Tweezerman ProCurl Eyelash Curler.
5. May Designs custom notebooks come in so many colors, patterns, and monogram options.
6. This breathable Fabletics Odette top is comfortable and comes in black and white.

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2016 Under $50 |

1. This long linen blend cardigan comes in regular and petite sizes and is sure to keep any lady happy.
2. All important skincare products are covered in this First Aid Beauty sampler kit.
3. A sleek and beautiful gold S'well water bottle is pleasing to look at and easy to use.
4. This BaubleBar Druzy Bib necklace dresses up any simple outfit.
5. Waffles are good, but egg waffles made from this special Nordic Ware egg waffle pan are ever better.

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2016 Under $100 |

1. These beautiful RABLABS Pedra Coasters are stylish and useful.
2. The new fragrance collection from Derek Lam has versatile frangrances perfect for layering.
3. Nothing beats a comfy + stylish pair of matching pajamas like this PJ Salvage Pajama Set.
4. Rifle Paper Co. Flat Notes are too cute not to get, because you can customize the portrait.
5. Large Le Specs Savanna Sunglasses are trendy and provide proper eye protection.
6. The Jon Hart makeup case is perfect for traveling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Skincare Tips for College Students

As a college student, skincare is probably one of the last things on your mind, but "stress" is a word that's probably familiar to you. (Any fellow engineering majors out there?) Late night studying, paper writing, stress eating, whatever it may can have a huge impact on your skin. I've been told by older ladies that girls my age have no place to talk about wrinkle prevention and skincare, but after visiting multiple dermatologists and speaking to ladies with beautiful skin, I've learned it's never too early to start. I've been a huge fan of Supergoop! products for years, and after playing around with some of their products they kindly sent over, I wanted to share some tips with you on how to take care of your skin when you're a studying, busy bee with limited time and space.

This sounds a bit silly, but I decided to perform my own little skin experiment this semester. In the span of a few weeks, I followed all the tips I'm about to share with you below. My skin looked better than ever, and I felt less of a need to wear makeup. After those weeks, I purposely decided to sleep later, eat late at night, and drink more sugary drinks just to see if it really would have a negative affect on my skin. Oh, it sure did. I'm still recovering from my few weeks of skin debauchery.

Supergoop! Lip Screen SPF 50 | Supergoop! Setting Mist SPF 50 | Supergoop! CC Cream SPF 35 (all c/o)
To be honest, my skin is far from perfect, so it feels a bit strange to be sharing this kind of advice. I still suffer from pimples and post-acne hyperpigmentation, and sometimes, I don't feel confident enough to leave my room without makeup on. But I and lots of other college folks completely understand. It's all about the effort, and every little thing that you do counts. Here are some skincare tips to know now in college that will help you for the long run:

1. Drink lots of water.
You've heard this time and time again, but drinking water really does make your skin look better. It helps flush out toxins and makes your skin look plump. I find that carrying around my Hydro Flask Insulated Bottle everywhere I go is the best way to stay hydrated. Water can taste really boring to me, so adding a few lemon wedges to my bottle before I leave for classes really helps me drink more.

2. Get 10-15 minutes out in sunlight without sunscreen. 
I know girls that can't stand being under the sun, because they're convinced it's bad for their skin. I also know girls that bake underneath the sun for hours to get their tan on. Both aren't good. You don't want vitamin D deficiency, and you definitely don't want premature wrinkles. Getting 10-15 unprotected minutes of sun every day can actually help you get healthy skin!

Supergoop! Mist |

3. Find skincare/makeup products with SPF. 
If you walk or bike between classes in college, you're probably outside for more than 10-15 minutes a day. Enter SPF. Nothing beats a classic sunscreen, but the most convenient way for me to get my SPF fix is by using products that have built-in sun protection. It's also super important to reapply if you're gonna be out all day (music festivals, day parties, sporting events, etc.) As a college gal, I love products that are multi-purpose, because they save me time and counter space. The Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50 above is perfect for SPF reapplication, but it also locks my makeup in place, and controls shine. Also, the rosemary and mint extracts in this smell really good. Just make sure to avoid getting it in your hair!

Supergoop! CC Cream |

Supergoop! CC Cream |

This right here is the Supergoop! Daily Correct CC Cream SPF 35+. I've shown this before in my everyday makeup favorites, but y'all, this stuff really is amazing. Ever since I discovered it in high school through Birchbox, I can't seem to find a better replacement. It's perfect for busy girls, because it basically combines your skincare and foundation into one step. I use the shade Light-Medium, and it does a wonderful job blurring out imperfections, neutralizing redness, and minimizing inflammation. It's packed with good stuff like essential fatty acids and apple extract to brighten your skin and give you perfect, light everyday coverage with just your fingers. Beware though...this stuff is basically waterproof, so make sure to wash your hands and wipe them with a disposal paper towel, so you don't stain your normal ones.

Supergoop! Lip Screen |

Unlike the CC Cream, this Supergoop! Shine On Lip Screen SPF 50 was completely new to me when I first received it, but I'm now hooked on this little guy. Most people don't realize their lips also burn in the sun, especially when wearing glossy lip products, because they actually magnify the sun's UV intensity. The idea of old, wrinkly lips makes me shudder, so this product is a great buy for you girls who need sun protection for your lips. This stuff isn't sticky at all, doesn't have a funny taste, and turns any lip shade into a perfect, summery gloss. Again, I'm hooked on it.

4. Get more sleep.
My mom always told me if I love myself, I need to sleep more. Seven or more hours of sleep seems impossible in college, but it can be done if you prioritize it. When you give your body more time to rest, it really does make a huge impact your skin. More on this in an upcoming blog post in my College Survival Guide series!

5. Eat smart snacks.
It's important to use good things for your skin, but it's just as important to put good things into your body. I love snacking, and I definitely get the study munchies. My rule of thumb is to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and buy things that are perishable, meaning that they'll actually go bad. For something savory, I like veggies and hummus instead of chips, and for something sweet, berries and a few pieces of dark chocolate do the trick. When you eat well, you feel good, and your skin will show it.

6. Take your makeup off ASAP.
If you're coming home from a long day of classes, and you don't plan on leaving afterwards, there's no reason to wait until the end of the night to take off your makeup. If you live in a place like Austin, you understand the end of the spring semester can get really hot. Sweat, germs, and makeup sitting on your skin for a long period of time is sure to clog up your pores and cause acne. I think it's best to just wash it off as soon as you can to avoid future skin mishaps.

Thanks so much for reading, y'all! I hope these tips were helpful. Please let me know down below if you have questions or comments!

TOP: Urban Outfitters | NAILS: Sally Hansen Tickled Pink Nail Polish | NECKLACE: Asher Bar Necklace via Rocksbox (c/o) | EARRINGS: Kendra Scott Carey Earrings in Amazonite via Rocksbox (c/o) | Get one month of Rocksbox for free with the code "thebellainsiderxoxo"

A Note to You: This post is not sponsored, but sometimes, I am lucky enough review products sent by brands for consideration. All opinions are my own. 

Photography by Kelly Rice

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What's In My April 2016 Birchbox?

It's that time of the month again! My April Birchbox came in a week ago, and I've had a bit of time to test out the products and give y'all a full review. Let me first start off by saying this box is beautiful. Birchbox collaborated with Rifle Paper Co. to make this modern floral design, and I love how perfect it is for springtime! Now on to the products...

Subscription Box April 2016 Birchbox Review |

1. Beaver Repair Rescue ShampooFull-size, $15.90
This Beaver shampoo claims to strengthen damaged hair, prevent further breakage, and make hair soft and manageable with ingredients like collagen proteins and ceramide. I really appreciate that this shampoo is free of parabens and silicones, but it has an odd fruity scent that I'm personally not a fan of, even though I usually enjoy fruity scents. Thankfully, the smell wasn't offensive after I let my hair dry. This shampoo left my hair feeling soft, but it's not my favorite, due to the scent...and the packaging. It might sound silly, but packaging is the first thing that catches my attention, and the beige color, font choice, and amount of words on this shampoo bottle didn't impress me. Besides those points, I think this is a great size sample - perfect for travel. This 60 ml size is worth around $3.70.

2. Beaver Repair Rescue ConditionerFull-size, $16.90
This Beaver conditioner is worth $3.21 and pairs with the Beaver shampoo above. Similar to the shampoo, this conditioner claims to heal damaged hair with the same active ingredients of collagen proteins and ceramide. The texture of this conditioner is quite thick and creamy, and it felt nice when I applied it to my hair. Unfortunately, this conditioner isn't the best I've used. Although it didn't leave me feeling amazed, it's still a decent one, and I'll finish up the bottle when I travel. One thing I think is odd about the full-size conditioner is that it's $1 more expensive than the shampoo even though it has less product. Does anyone know why that would be the case?

3. Penhaligon's Levantium Eau de ToiletteFull-size, $170
Beware: my thoughts of this product aren't good. This Penhaligon scent smells expensive, and it's definitely not my style. I can see how some few would appreciate it. This perfume is just way too heavy on the saffron and absinthe, and it dries down to a very unpleasant, musky, heavy finish. I'm only 19, and this stuff makes me stink like a flowery grandma who smokes. I don't know how much the sample size is worth, since it's not labelled on the vial, but I could never justify paying $170 for the full size - especially since this stuff reeks! Read the reviews on the Birchbox website yourself...they're quite funny.

4. Acure Organics Pore Minimizing Facial ScrubFull-size, $12.99
I was excited to find this Acure Scrub in my Birchbox, because I'm a big fan of their Cell Stimulating Face Mask, as mentioned in the "My Favorite Face Masks" post last week. This scrub uses ingredients like Moroccan red clay and exfoliating black jojoba seeds to minimize the appearance of pores. It smelled oddly soapy, but I enjoyed the fun red color. This scrub makes a great exfoliator, but I can't say that it minimized the size of my pores, since mine weren't too large to begin with. This sample size is worth around $3.25, but I wouldn't purchase the full-size product, since minimizing my pores isn't a skincare concern of mine...yet. Fingers crossed it doesn't happen!

5. Au Naturale Mini Face Palette in LivelyFull-size, $42
I chose this Au Naturale Palette as my sample choice this month, because I planned on flying out to the Northwest next week and thought this might be a great replacement for lipstick, blush, and highlighter. Sadly, I cancelled my trip. And sadly, after playing around with this product, I wish I hadn't chosen it as my sample choice. I loved the idea of this 3-in-1 packaging, but the sizes are inconveniently small, making the products hard to use - especially the blush. Also, this makeup smells like play makeup you used to wear as a kid. I didn't enjoy the color payoff or texture of the shimmery blush and highlighter, but I did like the bright color of the lipstick. I can't figure out what this sample size is worth, since the size of the full-size products aren't stated clearly online, but the three full-sized items together is priced at $42.

I'm happy to share honest reviews of all these products, because I love testing out new products and finding things that what work for me, so they might work for you, too! Overall, I was disappointed in this box. First, every product I received smelled odd or just plain bad. Second, I don't usually like receiving perfumes in my boxes, because I am very loyal to my Stella McCartney "Stella" Eau de Parfum, a scent that's been my favorite for years. Regardless, I loved the design of this box and appreciate that there was a 20% off code to purchase something from Rifle Paper Co. My March 2016 Birchbox Review and February 2016 Birchbox Review are also on the blog, and I promise those products are more promising. Be sure to follow along on Instagram @sarah_thebella for more beauty finds and reviews. See you back here soon!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How To: Host a Graduation Party + A Giveaway!

How to Host a Graduation Party |

I remember just a few years ago, I asked my parents if I could hold a high school graduation celebration at our house before I went off to college. I dreamed of having a dessert table with a tassel garland like the ones I had on my "Party Time" Pinterest board. My only request was to have that dessert table, but my sweet and talented mom came through with way more. I invited close family and friends, and we celebrated by enjoying lots of food and laughs before I moved to Austin. Now that graduation season is coming up, I've been thinking about those fun times I got to spend with the people I loved most from home. I wouldn't redo anything from my graduation party, but I love the idea of a colorful, fun get-together for a future college graduation event. Below are some tips and ideas if you're hosting an upcoming graduation party soon, and keep scrolling for details of a GIVEAWAY below!

1. Pick a size-appropriate space.
Whether you choose to host your event at a restaurant, rented space, or your home, pick a place that's appropriate for the type of gathering you want to have. Your intended guest size may change, so it's good to consider a flexible space. At my graduation party, we used almost our entire home and backyard to accommodate more people.

2. Choose a theme that best suits you.
Choosing a theme will help immensely when planning out your color scheme, decorations, and invitations. I love the idea of a fiesta, ice cream parlor, garden party, or girly Texas Longhorns theme. (Hehe hook 'em!) By choosing one, you can start gaining decor inspiration online and through your surroundings.

3. Have an "open house" setting. 
It's likely that your friends will also be holding graduation celebrations around the same time you are, so when should you hold yours? First, it's helpful to have a chat amongst your friends to get an idea when they'll be hosting theirs, so you can plan accordingly, and avoid the awkward "I can't come to yours, because I'm having mine" talk. Second, the most convenient time for people will probably be around mid-morning to early evening on a weekend. It's good to keep in mind that the timing may not work out for everyone, so a relaxed "open house" concept where people can freely come and go will work out best. It'll give your guests a chance to have some food, play games, and say hello without the pressure of staying for too long or too short.

4. Mailed invitations are preferred. 
Call me old-fashioned, but I really appreciate receiving invitations in the mail. It helps set the tone for the event, and they make great keepsakes for later. Of course, it's totally acceptable to send a Facebook event invite or an E-card, too! Whatever you choose, be sure to include all important information like your name, address, time, and attire for the party, and send them out a month ahead, so your guests have plenty of time to plan their schedules.

4. Build a backdrop for photo ops.
Once a theme and space is chosen, planning decorations gets much easier. I love the idea of welcoming guests with a beautiful entrance, a great place for fun photo ops. Some of my favorite design inspiration ideas include a balloon installation, floral wall, or a weaving. Just make sure to not block the doorway! Also, try using a hashtag on social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, so people can share pictures from your event. Here are some backdrops I love:

{image via}
{image via}
{image via}
{image via}
5. Stick with a color scheme for decorations.
Decorations can be made much simpler by using a color scheme based on your theme. I say simple decorations are best, but simple doesn't have to be boring. I'm all about minimum effort with maximum effect! I would go with about two to four colors for decorations. Some of my must-haves include: a colorful table cloth, statement balloons, garlands, and some simple floral arrangements. Be sure to set up a table for gifts close to the entrance, and provide some personal touches throughout the space by adding pictures and memorabilia of your high school or college journey. Here are some fun decorations:

{image via}
{image via}
6. Go with finger food.
Unless you're hosting your event at a restaurant, food will probably be the most time-consuming part of the planning process. If you're hosting your celebration at home, you might have to ask yourself the question: to cater or not to cater? While catering seems like a convenient idea, it can get expensive. If you plan on doing food yourself, I would stick with snack-sized eats, since people will be moving around. An elegant cheese board with charcuterie and olives, a veggie platter, and a variety of finger foods such tea sandwiches, fruit skewers, and crostini or chips with your favorite dip are some suggestions. If you feel like you need to provide more substantial food, go with a DIY food station like a baked potato bar, bagel bar, or chili bar. Also, don't forget with more guests comes more cleaning! To cut down on cleanup, I recommend going with disposable cutlery, plates, napkins, and cups. There are lots of festive, disposable tableware out there now (like these at Target)!

{image via}
7. Set up a fun drink station. 
Incorporating a drink station is a fun way to let guests help themselves to a variety of drinks at your celebration. To set up the perfect drink station, try setting up a separate ice bucket of store-bought ice, and pouring different mixed drinks like a simple basil lemonade or virgin sparkling grapefruit mojito into glass vessels. Fun straws, berry garnishes, and see-through cups make it a fun time!

{image via}
7. Give out fun party favors. 
Party favors are a great way to show your guests a small, immediate token of appreciation. One of my girlfriends did an impressive DIY candy bar where guests could help themselves to a variety of monochromatic candies, and toss them in a clear bag. I love that idea, but to make it even more fun, I think candy skewers are the way to go. Some other affordable and fun ideas are mini succulents, balloons with attached pictures on the ends, or confetti poppers.

{image via}
8. Show your appreciation.
I believe saying "thank you" in written form is the best way to wrap up your graduation celebration. Make a list of each guest or family that showed up at your event, and write a thank you note on some cute cards to express your thanks for the help they provided at the party and/or the gift they gave you. I would sent them out a week later, but better late than never. Make sure to include a greeting, add personal details, and restate your gratitude.

Now for a GIVEAWAY

How to Host a Graduation Party |

How to Host a Graduation Party |

How to Host a Graduation Party |

How to Host a Graduation Party |

How to Host a Graduation Party |

How to Host a Graduation Party |

I am so excited to be partnering with Pretty Goods ATX to give away one set of gold letter balloons and one confetti popper I've shown above. The balloons are super easy to blow up with a bike pump or even a straw, and they're perfect for celebrating any special occasion! I think they'd look spectacular on a wall or as a garland like I've shown above hanging on a door frame. I'm also giving away one of these fun confetti party poppers, perfect for celebrating any high school or college graduate! To enter, follow the steps below:

1. Follow @sarah_thebella on Instagram
2. Follow @prettygoodsatx on Instagram
3. "Like" the post on my Instagram. For extra entries, tag a friend below!

That's it! The winner will be announced on Friday and I'll mail these goodies out to the lucky person straight away. This giveaway is open to everyone in the U.S. Good luck!

Photo Courtesy: Kelly Rice Photography

Friday, April 15, 2016

SRD's Casino Night

Yesterday, I had such a great time at our annual dorm "Casino Night" event, I knew I had to share pictures with y'all. After attending the #ATXBloggerMixer, I told myself and my girlfriends that I would swing by the event just for a few minutes, because I was already feeling exhausted. Once I got back to SRD and started looking around, Casino Night looked like way too much fun to leave! As mentioned in my previous SRD event blog post last October, we have wonderful people at the dorm that make events like this possible. Many thanks to them, because it was such a blast! Here are a few pictures from my "night out" at home:

SRD Casino Night
{Casino Night frame photo op}
Once I arrived home, I looked around the event and immediately went back to my room to change into this outfit. I don't get the chance to dress up often, so this LBD was super fun!

SRD Casino Night
{gold, gold, gold}
SRD Casino Night
{huge poker chips}
SRD Casino Night
{mini bites}
The decorations and mini snacks around the lobby/ballroom area were perfect! Too bad I didn't get there earlier to take pictures of the complete spread of food. From what I could see, the desserts must have been delicious, since those were gone first!

SRD Casino Night
{casino games}
It's funny I was so excited about this event, because I don't ever play Blackjack, Poker, Texas Hold 'Em, or other typical casino games, and I didn't play them here either. I'd be pretty useless in a real casino! Even though I didn't play any games, I sure made use of the photo booth and dance floor!

SRD Casino Night
{This backdrop is so cool! And my friend Sydney looks fabulous, as always!}
SRD Casino Night
{My friend Daisy shaved her head and fund-raised for childhood cancer research with Brave the Shave! Isn't she beautiful?!}
I made sure to take lots of pictures with friends, but here are just a few! Thanks again to our wonderful home for bringing us a fun night. One day, I hope to be able to host events just as spectacularly, but for now, I'm still enjoying dorm life. For more college life updates, follow along on Instagram @sarah_thebella. Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!