Brunch Chronicles: Biggity

Hello Lovely,

Last week, I had the company of my best friend, Doran and I was super excited. He had never been here before so I wanted to make sure he had fun and most importantly, ate well. With my work schedule, I couldn't exactly take him all over the place but we did enjoy a few sights and tastes. Last Saturday, I took him to Biggity, downtown. It was my first time ever going there. 

I immediately fell in love with the re-purporsed design scheme. Although this trend is everywhere, I love the idea of re-using an old item that normally would be thrown away because it's economical and great for the environment! We were able to choose a seat anywhere. There was only one setting for two people so we sat there. This is definitely a place to go with a small group of friends or family. Why the name Biggity you ask? Apparently the name comes from a bold scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Shortly after being seated, we were presented with a menu.

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I was disappointed to see so few choices for brunch, but I appreciated that each meal came with a cup of coffee, and the prices weren't bad. I couldn't decide between the Bacon Wrapped Omelette and the Conch n Waffles, so when Doran said he'd get the waffles, I knew I could get the omelette and we'd share. We also ordered a side of Johnny Cake to share. While we waited to order, I couldn't help but notice the restaurant seemed to own the entire collection of Boyz to Men greatest hits. At first I loved the nostalgic feel, but after the fourth song or so I wondered out loud, "How many more songs could they possibly have?" After awhile I heard other artists playing but it was still R&B. The slow R&B music really didn't fit the feel of the restaurant.

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The coffee took forever to come, which I couldn't understand because the machine looked like one of those Instant Nespresso type machines. Then the server forgot that I wanted white chocolate syrup in my coffee and had to bring it after the coffee was delivered. Everything came piece by piece. Doran's coffee came first, then a small carafe of milk (no choice in the milk, just plain milk). Then the sugar, then my coffee, then the syrup. And the coffee wasn't even hot, but actually room temperature. By the time we left, I had a mug of iced coffee.

Luckily the food did not take long after that. I loved the presentation of Doran's plate, but mine looked a little thrown together. I was dismayed to see they had used one of those frozen hash brown patties and not fresh handmade hash, so it stuck out on my plate like a sore thumb. The fruit was a bowl of caramelised apples way too sweet to eat. And my omelettes were in fact, mini frittata muffins. Despite my initial disappointment, I must admit, the food was delicious. The conch and waffles were absolute perfection so I must order this the next time I go.

I loved the creative presentation for the bill but $35 really is a bit much for two people for brunch (I'm frugal and still remembering the days breakfast was £15 for Doran and I in London).

FINAL VERDICT: Go for the atmosphere, that is, the decor, not the music. The food is great, but don't expect well trained excellent service. Come prepared to relax and spend about an hour with a good friend.

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Salmon Pasta Salad

Hello Lovely,

Eating well is so important. Lately I just do not have the energy to cook or bake. Time isn't a factor but the creative energy and the physical energy are just....not...there! I had a week of meal prepping and while it helped me tremendously to cut down on time spent getting ready in the morning, it left me feeling drained. One of the things I was able to create before throwing in the towel was a delicious Salmon Pasta Salad!

I love easy pasta dishes and I had a salmon fillet in the freezer for weeks that I didn't want to go bad. So I thought, what about a pasta salad with Salmon? It was really easy to put together. If you thaw and marinate the salmon overnight, all you have to do in the morning, is grill it and boil the pasta. You could even save some of the marinade as a dressing for the pasta. So before I hop on a plane today for the annual VIVA conference tomorrow night, I thought I'd share this quick and easy lunch dish that anyone can make!

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Salmon Pasta Salad

Serves 1 (simply double ingredients to serve more)

Ingredients

  • Salmon fillet thawed
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes 
  • 2 cups pasta of your choice (I used Rotini in lieu of Bow Tie pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 cup Kraft Raspberry vinaigrette
  • 1/8 cup Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • pinch of salt
  • grated cheese for topping

Directions

  1. Thaw salmon then mix the vinaigrette, seasoning, salt and olive oil in the salmon pouch. Allow to marinate overnight.
  2. Boil pasta according to directions on box, then drain.
  3. Saute the salmon in a skillet while the pasta cooks.
  4. Once pasta is complete, combine the noodles with the salmon, marinade and tomatoes in a dish. Feel free to add other items like corn, bacon or spinach. I just used what I had on hand because I was in a mad rush.
  5. Top with grated cheese and serve!
  6. Enjoy!
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If you try this and any of my other recipes, don't forget to shout me out on Instagram by tagging @life_by_olivia or #lifebyolivia; or on Twitter at @lifebyolivia!

 

 

How I Saved For My European Trip (and you can too!)

Hello Lovely,

Imagine your dream vacation. Maybe you see yourself trekking in Australia’s Outback, relaxing in a hammock on a beach in Bora Bora or taking a six-month cruise around the world.

But here’s the thing: Your dream vacation will remain a dream unless you begin saving for it. I recently travelled to London, Amsterdam and Switzerland this summer. The entire trip (transportation only) cost me just under $1300. And it would've cost me a lot less if I had purchased my tickets further in advance. There are a lot of ways you can save for a European getaway. Here's how I did it!

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1. I Opened a Dedicated Vacation Bank Account

One easy way to save for a special trip is to open a dedicated vacation savings account. You can set up automatic payments into the account, and, with a little restraint, leave that money there until it’s time for your trip. If you choose an interest-bearing account, your money might even grow while you’re looking forward to your trip.

I opened a Christmas Club account with Commonwealth Bank and it's one of the best decisions I ever made. I would deposit anywhere between $50-200 every month. I have been able to withdraw from this account twice since opening it (the first time was to pay for my trip to St. Croix). The beauty of a Christmas Club account is you are allowed to withdraw once per year any time of the year for free. This month also gains interest, so the more I have on it, the more interest I get.

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2. I Cut Back on My Monthly Food Budget

The biggest waste of money is eating out. By limiting fast food and restaurant expenses, in favour of cooking and eating at home, I was able to have money to put in savings. Sure I still treated myself occasionally (I didn't eliminate just cut back). This teaches important resources on how to make groceries stretch and how to enjoy leftovers. Truthfully, there were many days that I ate ramen noodles, so once I was on vacation, I ate well!

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3. Cutting Back on Entertainment

I already had to limit my outings because I was paying for school out of pocket, but I had to be extra wise because of my savings. I'm not saying I didn't go out at all. I'm sure if you follow me on Instagram, you could see I still found time (although very little) to socialise. I became the master of finding free entertainment. I paid attention to Facebook events. I found free wine tastings, started having dinner parties with friends at home and went to almost every free event I could find. Check Facebook events and other social media outlets for local events that are cheap or free if you're looking for a good time on a budget.

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4. Plan ahead and pre-pay as much as possible

Stretch your vacation savings a little further by finding deep discounts on trips using websites such as LivingSocial and Groupon. I used Expedia to book all of my tours and realised that I saved a lot of money when I looked at individual entrance fees to the tourist sites and how much landed I would never have been able to cover on my own.

5. Pay attention to the time of year you book

Had I booked my trip earlier, I could have saved about $200! My round trip ticket to London, connecting through Toronto cost just north of $1,100. Had I purchased my ticket in March instead of May I would have only paid about $980 round trip. Obviously the closer to your trip, the more you'll pay. And the more you monitor prices, the more the price will actually increase. Try to book on particular days during low demand hours. Naturally some places will cost more to travel to depending on the time of year. Certain festivals or national holidays can make your ticket much more expensive so pay attention to these little details when booking.

Saving up for a big trip isn’t easy, but these strategies should help you save a little bit faster and have your trip already paid for before you leave home.

Your Turn: How do you pay for your vacations?

Dream Matcha Powder Review

Hello Lovely,

When I was asked to review a new matcha powder, I couldn't resist! I love matcha but it can be so costly, it's almost not worth it. I wasn't always a lover of matcha and it's still a hit and miss for me. I had a matcha green tea frappuccino at Starbucks once which wasn't bad but when I had a matcha iced coffee at a local coffee shop I wasn’t very convinced. It was terrible! But I was determined to find a reason to love matcha so I bought some from Whole Foods during my Christmas trip. I spent about $18 for 2 oz. I didn't realise there would be so little in the canister.  After about 6 servings, it would be all gone. It definitely felt like a rip off.

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That's why I love Dream Matcha Powder. At only $16, you definitely get your monies worth! So far I've enjoyed a steaming cup of matcha tea and I already have plans for other recipes to try with it this week. I'll keep you update on how that goes.

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What is Dream Matcha Powder?

Dream Matcha tea is a high quality ceremonial grade matcha green tea powder, imported directly from the Uji region of Japan. Renowned  as the matcha capital of the world, the Uji region produces only the finest quality matcha green tea.

Matcha green tea comes as an extremely fine, bright green powder. It is ground through exclusive stone mills and has a lovely smooth, sweet taste unlike any lower grade matcha powders offered elsewhere.

Each pouch contains 50 g, equating to roughly 30 servings. Matcha powder is mainly used as a tea but also has many other uses; it can be used in smoothies, food, shakes and more.

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You can purchase Dream Matcha here. I can't wait to share all of the fun recipes I try with this product!

How do you enjoy matcha? Share your favourite matcha recipes in the comment section below and maybe I'll try it!

5 Things to do This Sunday For a Less Stressful Week

Hello Lovely,

It seems Sundays roll around just as you're getting into your weekend. And before you know it, it's Monday again, and you're back to your regular commute and routine. I used to look forward to Sundays, but with all of the planning and work I do volunteering with my church on the weekends, by the time I've woken from my after church nap (if I even get to take one), the whole day feels wasted and gone. Sundays can suck sometimes, but they don't have to. With a little mindfulness and planning, a well-intentioned Sunday can help set you up for a successful week. Here are some helpful habits you can do every Sunday to help your week feel less stressful.

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Plan your wardrobe

When I challenged myself to wear grey for an entire week, that made getting ready in the morning much simpler. Because I already knew which colour to wear, I simply pulled out items in that colour to iron. That way the only thing I needed to do in the morning was accessorise. Use apps like Pinterest to help you design your weekly workday wardrobe. 

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Make sure your calendar for the week is up-to-date.

Having a firm grasp on your schedule at the beginning of the week works wonders. While life isn’t always predictable and things certainly pop up for all of us, try to have your schedule outlined as much as possible at the beginning of the week so you can feel prepared for what’s ahead, and so you don’t miss any important meetings, deadlines or appointments.

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Meal prep the easy way.

I've only just begun to meal prep and it's still not a consistent habit for me, but the weeks that I do meal prep have made a huge difference in my morning routines. When I have a clear idea of what I want to eat, and when, I have all the necessary groceries ready to go. Nights are spent prepping or cooking so that in the morning I can just grab and go. I'm not saying to do all of your cooking on Sunday; that could drive anyone bonkers! During the week, you can put together quick meals with your prepped produce and protein without having to spend your entire weekend in the kitchen. You can even prep lots of healthy snacks so you never go "hangry". Having tons of pre-made munchies for the week means you won't have to dip into a convenience store every time you're famished and need something right now

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Pamper yourself.

Don’t forget to spend a little time self-indulging and taking care of you. Whether it’s taking the time to read your favourite book every Sunday, catching up on some much needed rest, or indulging in your favourite TV show with your favourite snack, take care of yourself! Trust me, you will feel more rejuvenated and energised for the week ahead if you spend some time taking care of you. 

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Clean

Weekends are perfect for clearing out and cleaning house. You can start with your purse or bag. By the end of the week your bag has become a black hole filled with random receipts, gum wrappers, loose change, and that random flyer the guy handed you on the way to work. Empty out all the unnecessary things you've collected and organise the important stuff so you know where everything is. It'll make your life seem a little more ~together~. Then move on to your fridge. It'll be easier to meal prep with a cleaner fridge and fresher ingredients. Grab anything that's definitely gone bad or just all the leftovers you know you're not going to eat. If you do a regular clean every week, it'll always be quick and easy, whereas those monthly purges could get gross and take forever.

Basic Invites for Every Occasion

Hello Lovely,

The holidays are coming up and that always puts me in the mood for a few things. Today we're talking about Holiday Greeting Cards! I bet you didn't know before I started this blog, I actually had a small business making handmade greeting cards for special occasions! Many years ago, I got into greeting cards with my mum when we took classes on how to make your own. We actually still have some because we just couldn't bear with part with our beautiful creations.

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Of course it's not always practical to send these overseas, so when I want to send someone a really nice card, I go to Basic Invites! I've referred a friend to them for  first birthday invitation  and with all of the parties coming up you should check them out for the perfect party invitation. There's even quincenera invitations. Stationary may be a dying art, but there is still something so special about receiving a physical card from someone.

Why Choose Basic Invites for Your Next Occasion?

Almost Unlimited Colours - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited colour options with instant previews online. Once you select a design you can change the colour of each element on the card to over 180 different colour options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail. This is what we feel sets us apart from almost any other online stationery company and is what we feel is our biggest draw.

Custom Samples - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their actual invitation so they can see exactly how it will print as well as the paper quality before they ever have to place their final order.

Over 40 Different Colours of Envelopes - Basic Invite is just as colourful with our envelopes as we are with our invitations. Customers can choose from over 40 different colours when it comes to their envelopes so that they can make their invitation stand out even before it is opened. All of our envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed.

Free Address Collection Service - Use our free address collection service to request your addresses with just three simple steps. Share a link, collect addresses, and get free envelope printing. 

Have I sold you on trying them out yet? Need a little more incentive? How about 30% off when you use my special code: holi30? I knew that would get you! Don't forget to Follow Basic Invites on all of their Social Media platforms:

How Travel Can Support Your Addiction Recovery

Today's guest post comes from Henry Moore of FitWellTraveler.

Travelling during your addiction recovery can be challenging but rewarding, giving you a wider perspective than you experienced during your addiction, and many rehabilitation centres encourage travel during the early stages of recovery from substance abuse. According to one Goalcast author who healed through travel, “I went from being the only important person in my life during my days of addiction to someone who realised that I was just a tiny, virtually minuscule part of this world. Talk about taking the pressure off.”

If you think a getaway could help you heal, consider these tips on staying sober away from home and getting the most from your travels.

Get Some Perspective

While visiting other areas and cultures can broaden your perspective on life - and its challenges - be mindful about when and where you plan to vacation while maintaining your sobriety. Obviously you’ll want to avoid Napa Valley wine tours, Germany in October, Daytona Beach during spring break, and possibly even countries where wine is served without prompting, the way restaurants set out water glasses for customers here. Instead, focus on planning activities and outings and set up some night-life fun that doesn’t involve getting hammered.

Travelling For Self-Discovery

Take some time during your travels to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are, and where you see yourself in the future. Many of those who overcome addiction feel that they’ve been given the opportunity to rebuild their life for the better. Ask yourself what you’d like to change, what you want to continue, and how you eventually want to spend your days.

You may also choose to keep a travel journal during your journey. While you might mention any particularly hard won triumphs over temptation, your journal needn’t focus on your sobriety. Record your thoughts, insights, and interesting cultural facts you learn. You may also choose to note exceptional meals, interesting people, and favorite places. To add some visual flair, pick up inexpensive postcards during your trip to tape into your journal’s pages.

The Freedom To Travel

You probably spent months (possibly years) putting off your travel plans or planning around your substance abuse. Places you’d liked to visit were bypassed if they didn’t serve alcohol or fit into your lifestyle. And while substance abuse may have severely limited your travel options in the past, it is now easier than ever to plan a sober getaway with the help of a number of substance-free travel organizations. If you’re planning to use a travel agent, consider contacting Sober Vacations International, Clean Getaway Travel, or Travel Sober to see what packages they have available.

Escape Temptation

Being away from home will help you avoid the people and places that can trigger temptation but travelling alone can create the feeling of being cut off from your support system in times of crisis. To keep your temptation in check while you’re away, Psychology Today suggests using technology to stay connected. “It’s unnerving to be suddenly un-tethered from your usual support networks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take support with you,” writes psychiatrist David Mack on Psychology Today. “Apps, many of them free, can be downloaded that offer inspirational messages of encouragement, daily reflections, and tips for staying sober.”

Healing On The Go

There are a number of other steps you can take to ensure a healthy vacation, whether you go alone or with friends or family. Call ahead to your hotel and request that the mini-bar be cleared of any alcoholic beverages. Research high-crime areas that may translate into the availability of drugs and avoid them during your trip. Make any wait staff that serves you aware of your alcohol-free preferences. Refrain from wandering the city at night without a clear destination and avoid areas known for its ‘nightlife’.

While temptation is bound to follow you no matter where you travel, experiencing new places, people, and cultures can broaden your mind and put your addiction in perspective. Traveling solo can also build your confidence, something that is paramount to abstaining in the future and will serve you well in building a new substance-free life.

 

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. He enjoys travel, running, cooking, baking and reading. He believes travel can change you, and good health preserves you. He combines both in his work on FitWellTraveler.

Pumpkin Banana Oats

Hello Lovely,

Breakfast easily gets dull for me. When I get up in the morning it's always a mad dash to pick something to wear (if I haven't already) and figure out what to cook for breakfast and lunch. I had gotten to the point where I simply rotated between girts, cream of wheat and a microwaved omelette on a slice of toast. So I recently challenged myself to begin meal prepping and planning. It made a HUGE difference. It drastically cut down my grocery bill as I was able to use the same ingredients for multiple recipes.

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I'm on a mission to change up my recipe routine to prevent getting stuck in a rut again. I'm trying to incorporate more vegetables and fresh ingredients because it's not only good for you, but also cheaper. And this recipe is so totally good for you! Of course it’s made with healthy, nourishing ingredients that will energise your day.  

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This is also the perfect recipe for Fall. It's been awhile since I actually got excited about the Fall season but this year I'm a little excited. I don't know what it is, but I guess I'm anticipating change. This Pumpkin Banana Oats breakfast is creamy, lightly sweet, and perfectly spiced for fall.  You’re going to love it. Now you're probably saying Liv, I've never seen oats look so grainy and you're right. As I was cooking this, I realised I didn't have enough oats. I remembered reading somewhere that quinoa is like the new oats for breakfast so I added it. Newsflash: QUINOA IS NOT THE NEW OATS! It was so bad I couldn't even eat it. But I had already photographed this one. I had to make it over with just the oats a few days later and I felt redeemed.

The banana sweetens this up nicely on its own, so you can totally make this without any added sugar.  I think it tastes great with a little drizzle of pure maple on top, but that is optional.  I also topped mine with extra milk and some pumpkin seeds, both of which make it even better.  I think it’d be excellent with a few extra banana slices on top, as well.  Go crazy!

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Pumpkin Banana Oat Breakfast

Makes 4 servings

Prep Time:  5 minutes

Cooking Time:  15 minutes

Total Time:  20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup milk (I have used almond and cashew milk, any milk will work)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 large ripe bananas, thinly sliced or mashed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Optional Toppings:  more milk, maple syrup, pumpkin seeds

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and stir well.  Bring to a  boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring once or twice during the cooking time.  The quinoa should be cooked and creamy. Top with optional toppings, if desired.  If reheating the next day, you may need to add more milk.  Enjoy!

I Tried Fenty Beauty This Weekend and I Think Its...

Hello Lovely,

I am in no way a makeup fanatic. My idea of daily makeup is literally just lipstick, and a liquid eyeliner if I feel like it. If I'm going somewhere or doing something special I literally wear a full face of concealer. I'm sure I just made make up artists and enthusiasts every where cringe just now. But that's just me. Less is more. I like the natural look and I do not have the patience for contouring, highlighting and all those other techniques. I also hate to get makeup stains on my clothes, so my solution is to stick to lipstick.

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So how did I end up trying Fenty by Rihanna?

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna launched into stores on September 8, 2017, and the line has already made waves in the beauty industry. Not wanting to be left out of this trend, Mr. Ship It teamed up with local Make-Up Artist (MUA) Guru, Lucy Lu, to bring Fenty to a few select ladies in The Bahamas this past Friday. The exclusive event was by far one of the best put together I've ever attended.

With a live DJ, The Natural Empress as the host, waiters serving appetisers and signature drinks, the atmosphere was amazing! Of course everyone enjoyed the live makeup demo by Lucy Lu on a lucky guest. I actually learned new things about highlighting and contouring. I can't guarantee that I'll be able to do it myself but I did feel a little more inspired to try. Lucy did a great job answers questions from the audience and her make-over was gorgeous! The ladies were lining up to try and buy Fenty before she was even done!

Prizes awarded at the end of the night included Fenty beauty products and a full makeover by Lucy Lu.

I was able to try it at the end of the event once the guests cleared out. I tried the 450 foundation but was told a 440 would suit me better. I also tried the Rum Highlighter. So what do I think?

*Drum roll please*

IT'S GREAT! As I applied the foundation, it felt like I was putting water on my skin! Even after applying, it felt like there was nothing there! I had no smudging, no heavy feeling and it was very easy to forget I was even wearing makeup. I loved it! But before you head off to stock up on the shimmer sticks or find out more about the foundations, here's what you need to know about the diverse new line.

1. What is the meaning behind the name Fenty Beauty?

It amazes me that people don't know that Rihanna's real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty. So I think that clears up the mystery.

2. Is Fenty Beauty cruelty free?

Yes, the entire line is 100 per cent cruelty free.

3. How much does Fenty Beauty cost?

This is where I checked out. The conceal, contour and highlight trio is going for $75! $75!!!! Who has $75 to spend on makeup? Foundation and highlighters are $50 each, skinsticks (not sure what these do) are $35, brushes range from $35-50 and lip gloss is $25! There's even something called blotting paper with goes for $23 with refills at $15. Remember this is coming from someone who really isn't that into makeup. Everyone I spoke to about the price said the same thing, "It's not that serious." To make matters worse, I'm not even a Rihanna fan, so I feel in no way compelled to support her.

THE FINAL VERDICT: So while I believe it's a nice product because it feels great on the skin, it loses major points for me in the price department! I can't afford to spend that kind of money on something I just wouldn't use. So unless you're a makeup enthusiast or MUA, save your money for important things like groceries or your new Fall wardrobe.

Have you tried Fenty yet? Do you have any reservations or are you all in? Sound off in the comment section below and don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more updates!