My Current Favorite Products || Video

Contains some affliate links.

Hey everyone! Long time no talk! I had a couple of post ideas that never came to frutation but I really want to get back into blogging and there is no better time than April! The A to Z Blogging Challenge starts on the first and I fully intend to participate! As of now I have no theme but that may change.

Today, though, I have a new YouTube beauty video: my current favorites. Sure, it lands at the end of the month but I’ve been using these products for a while and prefer “current” to “insert said month here”. I hope you enjoy it! I will link the products below.


Products Mentioned:

Pantene Pro-V Dry Shampoo

Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel (the fluid still exists!!)

La Mer Moisturizing Soft Cream

Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask

this works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray

Skin Laundry Gentle Foaming Face Wash

Crumpet’s Nail Tarts – 26 Great Ideas Challenge



Well, it has been a while but I’ve rejoined the Crumpet’s Nail Tarts group! If you don’t already know, Debbie (The Crumpet on IG) heads this challenge. Every week we, the Nail Tarts, take part in a prompt and post it to social media. This week is “Black and White Valentine’s”.

I sort of kind of hit this prompt but varied it with some bright neon purple. Don’t get me wrong, I adore black and white. I think it looks smart and sleek but I have to be in the right mood for it. And, this week, I am not.

Also, I recently learned American Apparel is downsizing like mad and they no longer carry their super amazing nail varnishes. So, I dug out one of mine and used it in today’s look!


I love the sketchy feel of this look. It’s very Valentine’s without being to in your face like the Hershey’s holiday (is that the term??) I hope you like it! What do you think, let me know in the comments!


hearts2BaseSinfulColors Snow Me White

StampingKonad Black stamping polish, Bundle Monstser plate BM317, American Apparel Neon Purple


Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.

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How to Not Look as Awful as You Feel | RA Makeup

Affiliate links used.

I hope you enjoy this new video. It is a quick, arthritis friendly makeup look geared towards brightening tired, dull skin and eyes. All products linked below!

Mason Pearson Pocket Size Mixture Brush (there are, however, many dupes on the market that are just as good) – Sonia Kashuk makes a good one!

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer

Chanel UV Essentiel Fluid

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette

Too Faced Shadow Insurance Eye Primer

Chanel Quad – 202 Camelia (similar to Poesie)

Makeup For Ever Smoky Extravagant Mascara

MAC Fix + Spray

Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum

Tip Thursday: Keep Your Skin Cleaner w/ this Simple Trick


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I have a new Tip Thursday video up on YouTube! This trick completely changed my skin for the better. It is fast, simple and extremely effective.

Check out the video…I hope you like it!

Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.

The Liberty London 2016 Beauty Advent Calendar Round-Up


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Purchased by me. Some affiliate links.

This is my first year indulging in a beauty advent calendar and Liberty London just destroyed the bars of every other company. I did some (albeit, not a lot) research on different brand calendars and Liberty London’s seemed the best based on value, size, and variety. It was on the more expensive side (165 British Pounds) and factoring a UK mail forwarding service the final price came to about 230 US Dollars. The full contents (25 separate days) valued at over 500 BP and while I may have rolled my eyes at first I definitely believe it now.

I opened each drawer daily on my Instagram Stories (@monicawithra) but I decided to write a round-up post of every item and my opinion on it. I love most of the items but there are a couple I can do without. But hey, how often do you love all 25 products??


The Liberty London Advent calendar is huge! It has a gorgeous painted double flapped door that claps shut and opens forward. Inside are 25 small Liberty print drawers with copper numbers embossed on the front. Each product is nestled in cute copper tissue paper confetti. I repurposed many of the drawers for storage and am currently racking my brain on how to save the large box. It’s just too pretty to throw away!


This post is very long so grab a snack and settle in or use the links to jump to specific items. Enjoy!


Aveda Hand Relief Moisturizing Creme | Aurelia ‘Refine and Polish’ Miracle Balm | Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge | Kiehl’s Amino Acid Shampoo | JinSoon Nail Polish | Laura Mercier Hydrating Primer | C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve | Malin + Goetz Vitamin E Face Moisturizer | Davines Oi All in One Milk | Marvis Toothpastes | Byredo Bal d’Afrique Moisturizer | NARS Lipgloss | Eve Lom Cleansing Balm | Odejo Rollerball Fragrance | Trish McAvoy Lipstick | Dermalogica Daily Microexfoliant | Votary Facial Oil | bbrowbar Night Balm | Skin Laundry Gentle Foaming Face Wash | Kai Body Lotion | Dr. Sebagh Serum Repair | Suratt Artistique Blush | Espa Overnight Hydration Therapy | Le Labo fragrance | Diptyque Candle


Aveda Hand Relief Moisturizing Creme with invigorating rosemary mint aroma

 ($24.00 here) – Purchase? Yes

This is a pretty impressive moisturizer. It absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy cast. The cream has a nice yet strong herbal scent.

Aurelia ‘Refine and Polish’ Miracle Balm

($98.00 here) – Purchase? No.

It is a nice midweek pick-me-up but not as effective as I hoped. The exfoliating beads are not rough enough to adequately remove dead skin and my skin looks no different after use. The Estee Lauder ‘Clear Difference’ Purifying Exfoliator Mask (linked here) and Ole Henriksen Truth Sugar Glow Polishing Mask (linked here) are both similar, less expensive and way more effective.

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Powder Pink 

($30.00 here) – Purchase? Maybe.

Bobbi Brown is the queen of the natural, light makeup and she is cool to boot. Regardless, the items in her makeup line are long-lasting, subtle and fit a wide range of skin colors. Powder Pink is a perfect pinky neutral for me. I love the creme consistency and love wearing this on my lips as a light stain.


Kiehl’s Amino Acid Shampoo

($7.00 – $30.00 here) – Purchase? I will go to the store and ask for another sample 😛

This is the one time I am disappointed in the advent calendar. Liberty London gives us the same samples Kiehl’s gives in-store. Not cool. Regardless, this shampoo is pretty impressive. It smells of coconut and cleans my hair well without stripping it of moisture.


JinSOON Nail Polish in Coquette

($18.00 here) – Purchase? No

This is one of the items not included in my Advent Calendar. The mail forwarding service removed this because they could not ship it overseas.

I hear mixed reviews on this brand and honestly would not buy it on my own because of the price and less than original color options.


Laura Mercier Hydrating Primer

($36.00 here) – Purchase? No

I am not a foundation girl so I rarely wear primer all over my face. I generally hit the spots where my pores look a little bigger. This primer is nothing special and I am not sure I would wear it in the Spring/Summer when the air is more humid and my skin is more oily.


C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve

($7.50  here) – Purchase? No

This product is a straight dupe for the original Smith’s Rosebud Salve. However, unlike Smith’s, C.O. Bigelow’s has a very off-putting strong, fake rose smell. I’ll stick with the original Smith’s which is also a dollar less expensive, found here.


Malin + Goetz Vitamin E Face Moisturizer

($46.00 here) – Purchase? Yes

I am surprised I like this moisturizer so much because Vitamin E makes my face break out. The light cream has a pleasant fresh scent and feels cool upon application. It absorbs quickly and does not leave a greasy film.


Davines OI All in One Milk with Roucou Oil

($25.00 here) – Purchase? OH YEAH

I gushed about how this magically moisturizes my skin and removes lines, etc before I realized this is a hair oil. Whoops. But, in my defense, the bottle says Multi-Beauty so why can’t I use it as a hand cream?

As a hair oil, it is completely weightless and does not leave my hair feeling greasy or shiny. It smells fresh and absorbs quickly.


Marvis Toothpastes in Amarelli Licorice and Strong Classic Mint

 ($10.50 here) – Purchase? Yes

These taste so good. I am partial to the licorice one but neither contain flouride or other anti-cavity ingredients so they are only useful as a mid-day breath freshener.


Byredo Bal d’Afrique Hand Cream

($35.00 here) – Purchase? Yes

This is a very effective hand moisturizer. I only need a quarter-size amount to fully coat my hands. This cream is fresh and light if not a little greasy.


NARS Lip Gloss in Baby Doll

 ($26.00 here) – Purchase? No

This product is just your average gloss. NARS has never WOW-ed me with their lip glosses primarily because they are not ultra-pigmented or long-lasting and the darker colors feather. For the price point, I definitely expect more.


Eve Lom Cleanser with muslim cloth

($50.00 – $135.00 here) – Purchase? Yes

Skincare is a ritual. And, the Eve Lom Cleanser is just that. Everything about applying to removing this cleanser mimics an at home spa experience. This is an effective cleanser but irritates the eyes. I definitely cannot use this during the summer when I become more oily.


Odejo Eau de Toilette Rollerball

10ml full size (only available at Liberty London) – Purchase? No.

This is one of the items not included in the advent calendar and unfortunately, I know nothing of this brand except it is exclusive to Liberty London and relatively new.


Trish McAvoy Lip Color in Pink Nude

($28.50 here) – Purchase? Probably not.

I know nothing about this brand and don’t hear a lot about it on social media platforms. The lipstick feels light, non-drying and fragrance free. It is not particularly long-wearing but this the shade is a lovely pink nude perfect to even out my natural lip color.


Dermalogica Daily Microexfoliant

($54.00 here) – Purchase? No.

Microexfoliants are fantastic when my skin needs a refresh and I don’t want to use harsh ingredients. Unfortunately, this one was not great. Once wet, the fine powder forms a paste and the scrubbing particles dissolve completely. This is not at all useful as a exfoliator.


Votary Facial Oil in Heal My Skin

($102.00 here)  – Purchase? Maybe!

I was skeptical about putting oil directly on my face but this sandalwood and herb scented oil absorbs quickly and keeps my skin feeling soft. I only need four or five drops to adequately cover my face and neck so the bottle will last a while.


Brow Bar – Night Balm

($45.00 here for day & night balms) – Purchase? Oddly, quite possibly

Initially this product really confused me. I had never heard of a night cream for my brows! While I don’t use the bbrowbar conditioner as it is intended it does make a great lavender scented cuticle treatment.


Skin Laundry Gentle Foaming Face Wash

($20.00 here) – Purchase? Yes

Skin Laundry is a new to me brand but after trying the face wash, I am definitely interested in trying some of its products. This face wash is gentle and great for a mid-day refresh when I don’t want to use harsher ingredients.


Kai – Body Lotion

($37.00 here) – Purchase? No

Complimentary toiletries are just as effective as this moisturizer, free and smell way better.


Dr. Sebagh -Pro Serum Repair with Hyaluronic Acid

($175.00 here) – Purchase? YES

This serum is magic and I need it in my life. I don’t care how expensive it is. I only need a drop and a half to cover my face and neck. It immediately plumps and hydrates my skin and protects it throughout the day. If the brand ever discontinues it I might riot.


Surratt Artistique Blush in Ponceau

($32.00 here) – Purchase? Depends.

The packaging is flimsy but cute and nice to look at. The blush is pigmented and blends out easily to a natural wash of color. It builds up nicely and evenly. However, it settles quickly into fine lines and highlights dry patches.


Espa Overnight Hydration Therapy

($58.00 – here) – Purchase? Yes

I love the strong, spicy lavender scent which lingers long enough for me to relax before bed. My skin feels soft and hydrated but not greasy. This product dries sticky which I don’t  like so I prefer the Lancome Overnight Sleeping Facial (linked here) which absorbs completely and is less expensive per ounce.


Le Labo fragrances in Santal 33 or Thé Noir 29

($175 – $290 here and here, respectively)

This is the third item I did not receive. It would have been a full size (retailing at the $175 mark). I think I would enjoyed the Santal so thankfully, there is a stand alone store right here in DC which I need to check out soon!


Diptyque Mini Candle in Figuier

($23.00 – $62.00 here) – Purchase? Yes

This smells exactly like pine trees and Christmas. I fell in love with the scent even before I lit it. The tiny candle gives off a fair amount of scent but also a good amount of soot. I now know why these candles are such a big deal, even though they are expensive they are worth the money.


Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.

Climbing Like a Pro | Memories of Times Past


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When I was 18 years old, I did the most incredible on-sight. An on-sight is the term for completing a climb, from top to bottom, without falling or taking advice from anyone. I remember it was a 5.11a, a relatively difficult level. I was always good climber, easily scrambling 10s and low 11s but there was something different about “Putty in my Hands”. Maybe I was on a high because it was my birthday, maybe I had to prove I was the best climber on the team or maybe it was just my kind of climb. Regardless of the reason, up until that point, I never before felt  like I did on this climb.

I was completely at ease. I was steady, stable and energy efficient. I did not needlessly clench holds and I moved quickly before I tired. I felt like I was floating. An incredible sensation. I was always a good climber. Now, I was a GREAT one.

My coaches used to say “if you make a climb look easy you have full control over your movement” and apparently, I made it look like an introductory climb. If you were a climber you understood the constant search for perfect equilibrium throughout the body. I was a balance, static climber which meant I did not rely on muscles or strength to ascend. I could not just “power through” moves. So, when I accomplished weightlessness, I knew I reached my full potential.

Last week, I climbed three days in a row. Since my diagnosis, I only dreamed of this kind of stamina. I flared up towards the third day but I felt stir-crazy at home so I still climbed.

Even with my flare (or maybe because of it) I climbed flawlessly. My fingertips connected perfectly with each hold, energy surged equally throughout my body and I completed every move without strain. I felt lighter than air and completely fluid.

I hadn’t felt that way in years. Actually, since my diagnosis five years ago. I didn’t know my body could still feel this way especially since everyday actions were a strain. I reveled in this able-bodied sensation; one I knew my body wouldn’t always remember. It was a nice reminder that the great climber was still in me.


Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.

Mmm…Melted Candy Canes


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It’s been too long since I did a sugar-spin. It is my favorite technique but takes way to much time. I have to carve out at least two or three hours for cleanup and drying time.

But, it is always worth it! And, unfortunately, this is a technique few nail artists enjoy.

Candy, candy canes and Christmas/festive foods are all popular challenge prompts this month and I wanted to kill at least three or four birds with one stone. I mulled over a few different candy cane ideas in my head. I had water decals with candy canes, I could do a tried and true dotticure or even attempt a striped look but none of them felt right. Of course, a melted sugar-spin was just the ticket.

I hope you like it! Check out my Instagram (here) for the full list of challenges I participated in.

Challenge Your Nail Art Facebook Group | Social Media tag: #cyna #12daysofChristmas


candycane1BaseSinfulColors Snow Me White

Sugar-SpinOPI Guys & Galaxies


Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.