November 24, 2014

Hiatus Announcment!

Hi friends!

As you may be aware, my birthday is on November 26.  As you may also be aware, I am from Michigan but live in Maryland.  This year, I'm visiting home for my birthday/Thanksgiving.  As it's my only holiday visit this year, I'll be staying for nine days.

So from November 25 through December 4, I will be inactive on the blog.  I can't bring too many nail polishes on the plane, and even if I could I'll be so busy visiting family and friends that I wouldn't have time to do much nail art, photo editing, or writing.

I'll likely be semi-active on Twitter and Instagram, but they'll be personal posts.  (Both accounts are a mix of personal and blog.)  I might post a tiny bit over on my blog's Facebook page, but it'll be pretty limited!

Last time I took a short hiatus, it took me a few days to get back in to the swing of things - so don't hold your breath for a full post on December 5th! 

In the meantime, be sure to enter my birthday giveaway!  It's running until a week after I get back, to ensure that I'm on top of things when the winner is chosen.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Birthday Nails!

Happy birthday to me!
Happy birthday to me!
Happy birthday dear Kate,
Happy birthday to me!


I know I'm on hiatus, but I prepared this post early because I wanted to share my birthday nails with you on my birthday!

I spent an embarrassing amount of time deciding what to do for my birthday nails, even testing color schemes out on paper and on fake nails.  But I wanted my birthday nails to be super special awesome as this is my first birthday since starting blogging!

I snuck in a turkey on my right hand because tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I won't have time to redo my nails.  But also because Thanksgiving has always fallen on or near my birthday, so it's kind of a part of my birthday.

I used a bunch of different colors for this look.  The blue background is Zoya Robyn, and the gold background is Zoya Ziv.  (You'll see a full swatch and review of Ziv in a few weeks!)  The glitter gradient is Twisted Colors Alas, Earwax on top of China Glaze Fairy Dust, while the glittery "23" is Formula X Free Fall.  (I'll probably also do a swatch of that one fairly soon, too!)  The numbers stand out a lot more in person, but because everything is so sparkly and shiny, on camera it doesn't stand out much from that Fairy Dust.

My birthday cupcake is made up of many colors: Zoya Nyssa, China Glaze Ingrid and Sunset Sail for the wrapper; ALIQUID Lacquer Wolverine Loves Spartan for the frosting/sprinkles; and Sally Hansen CSM Red My Lips for the cherry.

The turkey is OPI How Great Is Your Dane, and his feathers are Nyssa, Red My Lips, China Glaze Happy Go Lucky, and Finger Paints Master Muse.

Okay, back to my hiatus.  I'm spending the day with my sister and nephew, and in the evening we're having dinner at Mongolian Barbeque with the rest of my family!

Also, don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway!  It's continuing for another two weeks!

Zebras for EDS Awareness

Indie nail polish maker Dazzlings is teaming up with several other indie brands to host a pretty neat contest/giveaway on Instagram.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a really shitty disease.  It's an invisible illness, meaning that you can't really "tell" a person is afflicted with it by looking at them (the way you can tell that someone has, for example, a broken leg or the flu).  A chronic pain disorder with no cure and very little treatment sounds like a shit card to be dealt in life.  My Yiayia had severe rheumatoid arthritis, which is another chronic pain disorder, so I can sympathize with EDS sufferers sort of by osmosis.

Anyway, EDS isn't talked about very much, not even in the medical research community.  So Dani of Dazzlings, who suffers from EDS herself, is hosting a giveaway to spread awareness and the entry requirement is a zebra manicure.  (In the medical community, a "zebra" is a rare or little-known disease.)  This giveaway is open until Friday, November 28, so there's still time to get your manis in if you're interested!  I'm not sure what the prize is yet, but I'm guessing it will be a good one as there are so many sponsors.  And it's worth noting that the winner will be chosen randomly, not based on their artistic talent!

I decided to go Classic Kate and paint my nails to match my purse!

To answer the age-old question: it's white with black stripes.  China Glaze White on White with Finger Paints Ch-Art-Coal Black stripes, that is! ;)  The blue is Essie Strut Your Stuff, and the silver dots are Sally Hansen CSM Hi Ho Silver.

Fun story: I ended up doing the zebra mani twice for this!  The first time I did it, I forgot to hold a piece of paper with the required hashtag.  And I painted this on a very busy swatching day, so I removed the mani almost immediately after taking the pictures!  But I wanted to show it to you anyway, because it was my very first-ever zebra mani and I was very proud of it.

I've got to hand it to Julep - their bottle shape may be awkward for a normal swatch picture, but they're great for showing off thumbs!

The darker purple is Julep Elle (which has a surprisingly wonderful formula for Julep!), the lighter stripes and accent nails are Zoya Malia (with a coat of Zoya Sparkle Gloss), and the background on my pointer finer is Sally Hansen CSM Trouble Maker.

Which color scheme do you like best?  Let me know in the comments!

December Giveaway Mega-post!

All righty guys, enough time has passed that now, most of the giveaways I come across end in December.  There aren't too many so far but I'll be adding to the list as the month goes on!

Firstly we have MY GIVEAWAY!  Have you entered it yet?  I'm giving away four full-sized bottles from OPI's Nordic collection.  USA only, and ends December 10.

Kelli of The Nail Polish Challenge is giving away Barielle's Jetsetter collection.  That's six polishes and, while I've never used Barielle before, they look really great based on reviews that I've seen.  USA only, ends December 8.

Amy of Amy Loves New Wave is giving away one HUGE grand prize and a second surprise prize in honor of the holidays!  (This giveaway was already featured in my November post, but I decided to put it here too.)  Ends December 1.

A couple of people are hosting 12 Days of Christmas giveaways, which is super fun and exciting!!  Since I was on vacation through December 4th, I'm a little late to the game on some of these, but each day's giveaway runs for more than a day.

Cirque Colors' 12 days started on December 1.  Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for each post so you can enter!

Heather's Hues is running their 12 Days on Instagram, and this one started on December 4.  (Update: Day One ended on 12/8, and I won!!!  There are a few nail polishes headed my way, as well as some discount codes to indie brands.  I'll be posting about that soon enough!)

Nail It! Magazine is at it again.  This time they've paired up with Sinful Colors and are giving away a huge holiday polishes collection!  To enter, you must follow the instructions on this Facebook post  and fill out this form.  US only, ends December 9 at 11:59 pm PST.

Gloss 48 has teamed up with Lydell NYC for an awesome giveaway.  Neither of these companies are strictly nail polish, but the prize is a $50 gift card to Gloss 48 and $100 to Lydell NYC - and Gloss 48 carries a ton of nail polish brands, including some indies!  I'm honestly not sure if this is international or US only.  Giveaway runs until December 15.

I AM Custom Color is celebrating their one year anniversary in making nail polish and cosmetics.  Congratulations!!  In honor of their anniversary, they're hosting an epic giveaway with two winners and TONS of prizes!  This one is international and it runs until January 5 (but it's in the December post because I feel silly starting my January post already).

Gloss 48, as if they don't have enough giveaways every month, is giving away a $100 gift card to their store!  Runs until December 22.

Polish Galore has a flash giveaway!  Win a set of Morgan Taylor Nail Lacquer polishes just by commenting on the linked Facebook post with your favorite nail polish texture!  International, runs only until December 17.

The Mercurial Magpie has THREE giveaways running currently.  One of them ends TONIGHT, 12/17, at midnight EST - I wish I'd found it sooner!  She's giving away two Literary Lacquers polishes.  This one is US only. 
The second Magpie giveaway is a collaboration with lots of other beauty bloggers for a $350 Visa gift card - not exactly a nail poilsh giveaway, but think of all the polish you could buy with $350!!  I assume this one is international, and it's open for another 38 hours as of now (11 am on 12/17)... so what's that math?  It ends somewhere around 1 am on 12/19, EST, I think.  Another one that I wish I'd seen sooner! 
And finally, we have The Mercurial Magpie's Holiday Hullabaloo: a collaboration with a bunch of indie polish makers for a total of 38 prizes!  Wowza!  This one has some international prizes and some that are US only, and it runs until midnight on 12/29.

November 21, 2014

Half of Zoya Wishes

What is this, a Zoya Promotion Blog?  Nope!  Zoya just happens to be one of my favorite brands and they KEEP ON HAVING SALES.  I mean, sales are a good thing, but I need to stop buying from EVERY SINGLE SALE.

The polishes from this post are actually from two different sales.  I got Prim from a Zoya sale (3 for $15), and Nori and Haven from ULTA.  Through November 29, several brands of nail polish are Buy Two Get One Free, including Zoya and China Glaze! (See page 26 of this ad.)  Online, I wasn't terribly impressed with the Wishes collection, but in person I fell in love with Haven and rather liked Nori, so I got them.  (My third was China Glaze Fairy Dust.  I bought that entirely because of The Mercurial Magpie's Fairy Dust All The Things post.)

So, without further ado, I give you...

Zoya Wishes: Prim

I'm actually a little disappointed in Prim.  EVERYWHERE I've seen it online - Zoya's official pictures and ads, and in various blogs - it looks like an icy, barely-purple blue.  It's actually an icy, barely-blue purple.  Zoya even describes it as a "velvety blue," but frankly I think they're wrong.  It's still quite nice, and it does still feel very wintery, but it's just not what I expected.

Please ignore the bright orange on the bottle.  I need to stop wearing neon clothes when I take nail pictures!
Also, ignore the nasty dents in the polish.  I should have waited longer before typing, apparently.

Other than that, I do like Prim.  It's a bit brush-strokey, but it's not as noticeable in person as it is in the photos.  The formula is very smooth and a great consistency.

Despite my disappointment in the color, I have to give Prim major credit because I got perfect, complete coverage in just one coat!  In fact, I used two coats to clean up the line around my cuticles on a few nails, and I found that I ended up with worse brush strokes on those nails.  Never in all my year of polish hobby-ing have I seen a polish that actually fares BETTER with only one coat than with two!

I tried really, really hard to get a picture without too much glare.  Prim is just so shiny and metallic, and my lamp is really bright but gets too dim if I move it too far away from my nails.  I love that metallic glare in person, but I think it's distracting in photos!

Zoya Wishes: Nori

Nori is another reason that I'm disappointed in Prim.  The purple of Haven matches Thea perfectly, and the black of Willa matches Imogen perfectly.  And then you have icy purple Prim and sapphire blue Nori.  Zoya is usually so much better at pairing colors - just look at Ignite/Entice and Tickled/Bubbly!

Anyway, Nori is the first Ultra Pixie Dust that I've tried.  The concept is similar to Liberty - a matte polish with large, super-sparkly 3D glitters.  Except that Nori doesn't dry as matte as Liberty.  I'm okay with it, as it's still incredibly sparkly and a very pretty polish, but I've seen that a lot of bloggers were really disappointed with the Ultra Pixie Dusts in this collection.  Maybe I'm less disappointed because I haven't used an Ultra Pixie Dust before.

 Out-of-focus to help show the sparkle!

As far as application goes, Nori is great, on par with all of Zoya's polishes.  Some of the larger glitters will spread across the nail, so it does require a little bit of dabbing, but it's quite easy to work with.  Two coats for full coverage.  And I really like the color - sapphire is my second favorite shade of blue!


Since Pixie Dusts are supposed to be matte, here's Nori with a matte top coat.  (This first two pictures had no top coat, which is how Zoya recommends you wear Pixie Dust polishes.)

Here she is with a shiny top coat.  I think I like this better, though I think it really looks best with no top coat.

Zoya Wishes: Haven

Oh man.  Haven is absolutely gorgeous.  It's definitely my favorite of these three.  Wonderfully, perfectly smooth application with no brush strokes.  The color is really accurate to what I'd seen on the internet.

And what a color!  It's such a wonderful, amazing deep purple.  So regal!  I can't wait to pair Haven with Ziv.  Zoya describes it as a "true holiday plum liquid metal with a thin vein of orchid to ensure brilliance," and I totally agree.

I quite like the Wishes collection, and I'm glad that Zoya picked something other than red, green, silver, and gold for their Holiday collection this year!  What are your favorites from this collection?  Got any great holiday mani ideas based on these colors?  Let me know in the comments!

November 18, 2014

Kate's Birthday Giveaway!

My 23rd birthday is coming up in about a week.  This year, instead of getting presents, I'm going to be giving the presents to YOU!  :D

 That's right, in honor of my birthday I'm hosting my very first giveaway!  Woohoo!

For my very first giveaway, I'm giving away four colors from OPI's Nordic collection.  I wish I could afford to give away the whole collection!  I decided that the cheapest way for me to be able to swatch the colors and give away fresh, unused bottles was to buy the Little Northies box for myself, and purchase the full-sized polishes for you.  So, the prizes for this giveaway are: OPI How Great Is Your Dane, My Dogsled Is A Hybrid, My Voice Is A Little Norse, and Do You Have This Color In Stock-holm.  Just to be clear, the minis are not the prize here - the prizes are all full-sized bottles!  Oh boy!  (I did hold the full-sized bottles for the swatch photos, because mini bottles are frustrating to photograph.  Don't worry, my hands were clean, and I promise I painted my nails with my mini bottles!)

How Great Is Your Dane?

Dane is a lovely brown creme.  OPI describes it as a "cinnamon coffee" brown, and I'd say that's pretty accurate.  I originally bought it when the collection first came out with thoughts of painting a dark forest in honor of the Into The Woods film that's coming out soon(ish).  I also used this color in my Autumn-Colored Retro Dots tutorial.

Application is really good, though it's a bit uneven on the first coat.  A second coat evens it out completely, though!  The formula is a tiny bit on the thin side, which explains the unevenness - but it's not frustratingly thin.

Here it is with one coat of the glitter topper, My Voice Is A Little Norse.

My Dogsled Is A Hybrid

Dogsled is a great turquoise creme.  It's a bit muted, so it doesn't look out-of-season in autumn or winter.

Don't mind the band-aid on my finger - my cupboard handle attacked me and I lost.

The formula is wonderfully smooth.  It applied like a dream, even out of a mini bottle.  (Mini bottles have smaller brushes, which tends to make polish more frustrating to apply.)  Two coats for complete coverage, but you might be able to maneuver only one coat if you're very careful!

 Pictured with one coat of My Voice Is A Little Norse.

My Voice Is A Little Norse

Little Norse is a super-awesome glitter topper.  Silver holographic microglitters in a clear base = yes please!  I can see it looking amazing as snow on top of a white polish for a lovely winter manicure.  Or as stars on top of a galaxy mani!

 Out-of-focus to help you see the holographic shine!

It applies VERY smoothly - no glitter clumping or sticking.   I used one coat in all of the pictures.  I tried out two coats over Dogsled on my thumb, but I felt that it greyed out the color a bit too much.

This picture really doesn't do the sparkle justice, but from pinky to pointer finger I have it on top of China Glaze White on White, one coat of China Glaze Innocence (to simulate bare nail but cover up my yellowed nails), Zoya Ryan, and Nina Ultra Pro Black.  On top of the lighter colors it doesn't look special in this photo, but it looks AWESOME in person!

This is pretty textured.  I definitely recommend using a peel-off base coat with this.  I can still feel the texture of the glitter underneath two coats of Out The Door - which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  That's just a sign of a glitter that will be VERY frustrating to remove with remover and a cotton ball.

Do You Have This Color In Stock-holm?

Holy crap, this color photographed WAY BLUE.  Dark purples tend to do that on my camera, and I just don't get it - I use manual white balance and all other colors photographed pretty accurately...

Far, FAR more blue than it looks in person.

Anyway, Stock-Holm is a really nice, blue-violet creme.  Applies just as beautifully as the rest of the cremes in this collection - OPI is typically very good about their formula.  Two coats for complete coverage.

I messed with the colors to show the color more accurately.  This is still a bit bluer and darker than it is in person, but it's much closer.

With one coat of Little Norse on top.


Now, for the giveaway.  Rafflecopter is pretty simple, but I'll explain the rules for any of you who may be unsure how this works.

First, I'm sorry to say that this giveaway is open to US residents only.  If you are international and know somebody who lives in the US, you can still enter and have the prize delivered to them if you win - just know that once the prize is delivered to your US friend/relative, it's their responsibility to get it to you.  I also can't ship to a PO Box, so you'll need to use a street address.

There are only two requirements to enter: tell me where you live (city, state), and give me an e-mail address so that I can contact you if you win.  I will not be saving any e-mail addresses, and I won't sell them to anybody.  You'll only get an e-mail from me if you win.  Doing both of these will enter you in the contest and earn you two entries.

If you wish to receive more entries in the giveaway, you can like and follow my various pages and profiles.  None of these are required for you to be entered in the giveaway, but they are highly encouraged as they earn you tons of extra entries!  Please note that anyone who Likes, follows, or subscribes to me for the duration of the contest and then unfollows after it ends will be noted and banned from all future giveaways.  If you don't want to add another page to your feed, just don't follow it and sacrifice the extra entries!  Additionally, I do not accept entries from giveaway accounts.  This term is pretty loosely defined across the internet, but I view a giveaway account as one with over 50% giveaway posts (not including giveaways run by you).

When the winner is announced, they will have 36 hours to respond to me.  If I don't get a response, I'll draw another winner - so check your e-mails!

The giveaway opens on Wednesday, November 19 at 12:15 am and ends on Wednesday, December 10 at 11:59 pm, EST.  I will announce the winner by 11:59 pm on Thursday, December 11.

All right, that's all I have to say.  Happy contest-ing and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 16, 2014

Matte Topcoats: OPI vs Zoya

First off, just a heads up: this is going to be a long post, and VERY photo-heavy.  Bear with me!

Recently, Zoya offered their Matte Velvet top coat for free with any purchase.  Being the frugal nail blogger that I am, I opted to buy just one polish (Zuza - a beautiful mermaid-turquoise that I will swatch eventually).  Although I already had a matte top coat, I wanted to get Zoya's because I haven't been very happy with the one I have.

So, naturally, as a nail blogger with two of basically the same polish but by different brands, the only thing I could do is a comparison.

In this comparison, I look at three different factors: Application (does it smear?), Dry Time (which is faster?), and Wear (does it crack or chip easily? does it allow edge shrinkage?).

I decided that the best way to test smearing upon application would be by doing a variety of nail art designs: stripes, dots, a gradient, and Crackle.  I figured that a white background would show the most smearing.

This nail art is ah... well, horizontal stripes aren't my strong point, as you'll see on my thumbs.  This really wasn't meant to look like super good nail art; I simply wanted to show a good variety of colors and designs.  I chose dark colors for the horizontal stripes and the dots, since I figured those were most likely to smear.  And the gradient, well, I missed the candy corn day of the LPLGlamghouls Halloween challenge, but I'd really been looking forward to it!

OPI's Matte top coat is on my left hand, and Zoya's is on my right.  Bear in mind that I'm right-handed, which means the nails on my right hand take more of a beating in my day-to-day activities.  Both hands have the same base coat: ORLY Bonder.

For reference: Day One was Wednesday, Day Two Thursday, and Day Three Friday (Halloween (yeah, this post has been sitting around for a while)).

Day One: Application 

For both of these, I sat back and let my nails dry for at least ten minutes before applying two coats of top coat. I also wrapped my tips, both with the base color and with the top coats. 


OPI's Matte is rather thick.  Not un-spreadably thick, and not problematically thick - just thick.

I barely wiped off any excess polish, to prevent the bristles of the brush from smearing my designs.  This is a trick I learned a while ago.  It worked on my four fingers, but on my thumb I still got a liiiittle bit of smearing.

This wasn't really a surprise, since black almost always smears no matter what you do.  However, the smearing wasn't so bad that I had to clean off the top coat brush.

OPI Application rating: 8/10


The formula for Zoya's Matte Velvet is much thinner than OPI's.  Not too thin.  It's about on par with INM's Out The Door top coat, which is what I'm most used to.  I wiped off some excess polish and was still able to keep the bristles from smearing directly against my designs.

It did smear a tiny bit on one of the dotted flowers, and a little bit on my thumb as well - but again, the smearing was not so bad that I had to clean off the brush.  There is a bit of a smear on my pointer finger, but that's because I smooshed the yellow stripe before it dried - not the top coat's fault.

And the ding on my thumb is more user error - I dinged that as I was setting up my camera and lighting.  I need to be more patient with that....

Zoya Application rating: 9/10

Day One: After Cooking

My timing when I paint my nails is often pretty bad, and I end up having to cook dinner less than an hour after I finish painting.  This day was no different; even though I painted much earlier in the day, I had to prep a slow cooker recipe almost immediately after taking the initial pictures.  I decided to show you how the top coats held up after cooking.  (This recipe was simple; all I did was trim the meat and pour some sauces over it in the slow cooker.)


My left hand held up pretty well, though the knife did slip and chip in to my middle finger nail a tiny bit.

That counts as user error; I'm sure that would have chipped no matter what top coat I was wearing.


OPI Dry Time rating: 10/10


I didn't notice anything while I was prepping, but when I went back to my room I noticed a terrible wrinkle on my middle finger.  I would guess this happened while I was holding the knife; I tend to put a lot of pressure on my middle finger when cutting.

After noticing that wrinkle, I poked a little at my other nails and found that they were still slightly damp as well.  In future, perhaps I'll use a thin coat of Out The Door before using this top coat.

I also noticed some slight edge shrinkage on my pointer finger, and I dinged the tip of my thumb on something-or-other.

Zoya Dry Time rating: 5/10

Day Two: After Showering and Sleeping

After I cooked on Wednesday, I didn't do much with my hands all day and I didn't notice myself slamming any fingers particularly hard against any surfaces.  I showered before bed, and the next pictures were taken not long after I got up on Thursday.


A HUGE crack appeared over night on my pointer finger, as well as some edge shrinkage.

This wasn't surprising based on my experience with this top coat in the past.

There was a little bit more edge shrinkage on my middle finger, and a small spot of shrinkage appeared on my ring finger.

OPI Initial Wear rating: 5/10


A thin crack appeared on my pointer finger, but I actually didn't see it until I looked at the pictures on my computer.  The cracks were so fine that my eyes didn't really pick up on them at this point.


There was little change otherwise, even on the wrinkled-polish nail.

Zoya Initial Wear rating: 9/10

Day Three: After another Shower and more Sleeping

Admittedly, I did not do very much at all on Thursday.  I wasn't feeling well all day, so I didn't go out at all, and I didn't exercise either.  I would have liked to keep wearing these top coats for at least another day, but as Day Three was Halloween, I needed to re-do my nails to match my costume!  These photos were taken after eating breakfast and right before I removed this polish.


Another large crack appeared on my pointer finger.

A slight crack also appeared on my middle finger.   

Edge shrinkage worsened noticeably on all fingers except my pinky and thumb.  (In fact, there was very little change in either of my thumbs at all - and since this post is already so long, I decided not to bother showing my thumbs.)

OPI Overall Wear rating: 4/10


The cracks on my pointer finger worsened to the point that I could see them with my naked eye, but they were still nowhere near as deep as the ones on my left hand.  This says a lot about the top coat, as I use my right hand more frequently.

There was little to no edge shrinkage on any other finger, and I also didn't notice any cracks on other fingers.

Zoya Overall Wear rating: 9/10

To Summarize

OPI Combined score: 27/40 (D+)
Zoya Combined score: 32/40 (B-) 

While OPI's Matte Top Coat dries faster, the quality of the manicure diminishes greatly as time goes on.  Not only does cracking look bad, it's also bad for your nails as the crack can potentially damage the top few layers of your actual nail.  I would much rather sacrifice dry time for a good, lasting manicure.  It looks like from now on, I'll be using Zoya's Matte Velvet Top Coat!

What's your matte top coat of choice?  Have you had a different experience with either of these two?  Have you found a matte top coat that would get a B+ or better?  Let me know in the comments!