Empties – November 2016

Empties November 2016

Once again I haven’t updated the site in forever!  Sorry!  As part of a money-saving mission I have been avoiding purchasing new beauty products lately, and instead have been working my way through what I have around the house already.  That means I have lots of empties for you this month, though I do want to warn you that they’re not that exciting!  As always, left to right, back to front.

Schwarzkopf Bonacure Color Freeze Shampoo and Conditioner – Last spring I was having trouble keeping my hair color from fading, so I tried a salon-brand shampoo and conditioner.  I did like the way it made my hair look and feel, but I didn’t notice any improvement in the longevity of my color.  Also, as a girl with long hair I kind of hate any brand that makes the conditioner bottle smaller than the shampoo bottle!

Gilette Satin Care Extra-Sensitive Shave Cream – I use it all the time.  It works.

Softsoap Fresh Glow Body Wash – I thought I would love the “milk, almond, coconut” scent of this body wash, and it was cheap, but in the end it was just rather boring.

Nivea Harmony Time Shower Cream – Another body wash.  I like the scent of this one a bit more (it’s “Almond Milk and Scent of White Rose”) but I don’t find the formula moisturizing enough for the winter here.

Simple Moisturizing Facial Wash – I often purchase this one when it’s on sale, as it’s a nice, gentle cleanser for day and night.

Secret Anti-Perspirant – I used FOUR packages?  I think they must have been mostly empty or something.  Secret has always been my go-to deodorant, and this summer I was loving their Capri-inspired fragrance.

Garnier Charcoal Cleanser – I bought this in Russia when I had a massive breakout after swimming in the north end of Lake Baikal (even though the locals all do it, I wouldn’t recommend it!).  Not being able to read Russian, it was the only “purifying” cleanser I could find that was reasonably priced.  Within a few days of use my breakout subsided, so I kept it around for future breakouts.  I have other products I prefer for breakouts, but sometimes you’ve got to make do with what’s available…

L’Oreal Total Repair Replenishing Mask – I can’t remember why I bought this, as my hair isn’t very dry.  Regardless, though, it is a nice pick-me-up for dull-looking locks.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion Scrub – Two big thumbs down for this scrub, which barely offered any exfoliation and which dissolved the second it made contact with my damp skin.  Major disappointment.

Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Hair Spray – You have to go pretty far down the ingredient list to find the argan oil in this hairspray, but I did actually prefer it to some of the others one I had around as it did add a nice touch of shine along with the hold.  I’d buy it if I saw it on sale.

St. Ives Apricot Scrub – I always carry one of these with me when I travel.  After an unusually grimy day it just makes my face and neck feel clean.  I’ll definitely buy it again before my next trip (details to come!).

Aveeno Positively Ageless Tinted Moisturizer in Light to Medium – I’d had this kicking around forever, but I so rarely wear makeup on my skin that it lasted literally years (obviously I couldn’t count on it for SPF protection anymore).  The formula was quite dark for me, so I generally mixed a drop or two with my moisturizer and only in the summer months.  It did help to even my skin tone a bit, but I couldn’t get behind that shade.

Derma-E Microdermabrasion Scrub – Now this is a scrub.  The granules in this product were super-fine and held their exfoliating power on my damp skin.  My skin always looked and felt great after using this, which reminds me that I should buy it again if I see it in the shops.

L’Occitane Vanilla Perfume Extract – I literally bought this in high school and found it in my house recently.  I’ve moved more than ten times since high school… how did it get here?  I used to love this, but now that I’m a more serious fragrance fan I prefer a more nuanced vanilla scent.

Beauty Protector Treatment Mask – Who cares if it works when it smells this good?  The best-smelling hair mask I’ve ever tried.

Lancome Visionnaire Advanced Multi-Correcting Cream – This was a great daily moisturizer. It felt light and made a good base for other skincare and beauty products.  At the moment a full jar would be out of my price range, but I would recommend it for girls with normal skin who want a department store moisturizer.

The Face Shop Myeonghan Miindo All-in-One Cream – I liked the rich, thick texture of this face cream (especially for winter) but it didn’t make my skin noticeably softer or smoother.

Jurlique Pure Bright Radiance Serum – I loved this little sample from Sephora.  Finally, a serum that delivers immediate brightening results.  Unfortunately the sample was too small to determine if the results would be long-lasting or not, but my first impression was good.


Weekly Photo Challenge : Nostalgia in Zarya

Zarya Tynda Russia

Two years ago I took the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia, and as part of the journey I made a detour on a parallel rail line called the Baikal-Amur Mainline (also known as the BAM).  The BAM took me to parts of Russia that few Western tourists will ever visit – in fact, in a week on the BAM I only encountered one other foreigner, who was from South Korea.  When I visited the biggest town along the BAM railway line, Tynda, I also had the opportunity to Zarya, which is is a nearby village home to an indigenous community of Evenki people.  I felt a little bit on edge during my visit as the community didn’t seem to get many visitors and most of the people I encountered were heavily under the influence of alcohol (even though it was mid-morning), but my fears were somewhat offset by this little dog, who stayed by my side the entire time I was walking through the community.  When I got home and saw the photos of the dilapidated rural village and the little German Shepherd pup, I was immediately reminded of a classic nostalgic TV show- The Littlest Hobo.  It was like I’d stepped right back from Zarya and into the classic 1980s children’s program.  Russia was full of surprises, and an unexpected canine companion was certainly one of them!

WPC – Sharp-Edged Skyscrapers in Singapore

singapore skyscraper

This week’s photo challenge is about sharp edges.  On my recent trip to Singapore I noticed this sharp-edged skyscraper in the city’s busy business district.  In fact, it was blocking my way!  My offline mapping program was telling me to walk through its courtyard to get to my destination, but security was having none of that!  So instead I walked around this massive skyscraper, in forty-degree weather (that’s Celsius for you Americans!) and happened to catch the building, and a sun flare, at the perfect moment.  Overall I was really impressed with Singapore’s multiculturalism, culinary scene, public transportation, green spaces and shopping… if only it weren’t so expensive I would love to return!

My Favorite Hostels in Eastern Europe

I’ve spent quite a bit of time traveling in Eastern Europe, but no matter how far I’ve traveled or for how long, certain hostels remain ingrained in my memories.  The six Eastern European hostels below stand out for different reasons: staff who go above and beyond, amazing locations, creative décor or even- in one case- an unforgettable fragrance!  When you’re planning your Eastern European backpacking or budget travel trip, try to include at least one of these best Eastern European hostels on your itinerary!

Nikita’s Homestay, Olkhon Island, Russia

Nikita's Homestay Olkhon Island Russia

Nikita’s Homestay is a sprawling complex that has grown beyond its original incarnation as a family homestay on Russia‘s Olkhon Island (in Lake Baikal) to something much more interesting.  It has a wide range of rooms (some with the comforts of the modern world, other with squat toilets in the garden) that they book as private dwellings or hostel-style, depending on the needs of their guests.  I shared a three-bed room with two other girls, and we shared two toilets and one shower with one other room.  Meals are included in your package, and you can choose from the basic canteen (with basic dishes like cabbage salad and pasta in tomato sauce) or pay a bit extra for a small, but interesting buffet with a good assortment of vegetarian foods.  Nikita’s is special because of its garden setting, the magical quality of its decorations, and its location next to the most beautiful sights in the town of Khuzhir on Olkhon Island.

Rooms with shared toilets and showers, including breakfast and dinner, start at 1400 rubles.

The Naughty Squirrel, Riga, Latvia

Naughty Squirrel Hostel Riga Latvia

The Naughty Squirrel Hostel in Riga, Latvia, stands out to me because it offered the perfect combination of social activities and independence.  On my first evening there I walked into a magic show in the social room.  To me, that’s the perfect kind of low-key way to meet other people after a long day of travel that’s left me too tired to want to go on a crazy pub crawl or something.  The Australian owner is lovely and personally led a group of us to one of his favorite bars to sample a very “interesting” drink.  Of course, if you like crazy pub crawls the option is there too, as is the chance to shoot AK-47s and other firearms on one of their organized outings.

Dorm rooms start at EUR 12.

The Hairy Lemon, Sarande, Albania

sarande albania

Every morning the staff at The Hairy Lemon hostel whip up a batch of cinnamon-spiked pancake batter, so you can make fresh hot cakes when you rise and shine.  Ask nicely and they might share the recipe for their homemade Irish Cream too.  Combine that with late-night barbecues on the nearby beach and the best views the town has to offer, and it’s likely the best hostel in all of Albania.

Dorms from EUR 10 per night.

Mama’s and Papa’s, Gdansk, Poland

Road to Mamas and Papas Hostel Gdansk Poland

It’s the mama and the papa that make Mamas and Papas Hostel one of the most special hostels in Eastern Europe.  The couple that runs this place is full on heart and passionate about making sure every guest has a good stay in Gdansk.  If you’re missing your own mom and dad, they will take you under their wing and give you a little parental TLC.  For example, when they found out that I was a vegetarian they brought a special mushroom pastry back from the market for me to try. The hostel is found just outside the city center, near an expansive park, on a street dotted with hundreds of tiny frogs!  Too cute!

Dorms start at 40 zloty.  Private rooms are 140 zloty.

Haris Hostel, Sarajevo, Romania

Haris Hostel Sarajevo Tour Bosnia

That’s Haris, and Haris Hostel is the hostel his family opened after the Balkan War to share their love of Sarajevo with travelers from around the world.  Located on the top of a rather large hill, Haris Hostel hosts panoramic barbecue dinners, offers city tours rooted in the family history, and gives guests a feel for the day-to-day life in Sarajevo today. The family also operates a tour company from their office in the historic city center, so if you have any questions you can get a quick response without the climb!

Dorms from EUR 10, private rooms from EUR 25.

Cobwobs Hostel, Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania

Sighetu Marmatiei Romania

This one is an odd addition to my list.  Owned by a man from the UK and the Romanian family he married into, at first glance Cobwobs Hostel is nothing special.  It’s located in Sighetu Marmatiei, a Maramures town that rarely makes it onto any Romania trip itineraries, and it’s in a pretty nondescript second house built behind the family home (bigger and newer than those in the photo of the neighborhood streets above). However, I appreciated the little touches (even when there were only one or two other guests) like a daily weather forecast, expansive list of things to do, and the gorgeous scent of the wood-burning stove used to heat the water for your shower.

Contact the hostel for current prices.

If you think I missed one of the best hostels in Eastern Europe, share it below in the comments!





WPC – Parque del Amor in Lima, Peru


Of all the things I expected to see in Peru, a huge statue of two people rolling around and making out was not one of them.  And yet, the statue (called “El Beso”, or “The Kiss”) in Parque del Amor (“Park of Love”) is one of Lima’s most popular attractions.  You’ll find it on the seaside path in Miraflores, which is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, rollerblading, cycling or jogging.  Visit at sunrise or sunset to join the crowds of cuddling couples taking in some of the city’s best views.  In the spirit of this week’s photo challenge, I want to know what is the strangest “romantic” spot you’ve seen while you’re traveling?