August Faves!

With summer officially at an end and an autumnal breeze rustling outside my window, it’s time to share my favorites of August. I’m excited to share what I’ve been loving!

[Disclaimer: An asterisk (*) denotes something that was given to me as gratis to try. Everything else was paid for with my own hard earned money. As I’ve mentioned before, I will not review something given to me as gratis if I wasn’t satisfied with the product. I will, however, give any free product an honest & glowing review if I do love it, as I will repurchase the item.]

My absolute number one favorite of August has been the local library. I’ve always been a fan of any library, and have found our local library to been pretty awesome. The past few months, I’ve been making more of an effort to read for pleasure, but don’t want to shell out $15 each time I need a new book to read. I find that checking out a book from the library not only saves money, but gives me a deadline to finish a book. I’ve had to renew some books a couple times when I get a bit caught up with other things, but I’ve managed to get through a few books the last couple months. I highly suggest you get a library card & read!

If I haven’t mentioned, I am a skincare junkie. I love good, effective skincare that is gentle on the skin and full of skin & environment loving ingredients. I will use some “clinical” skincare if the ingredients list isn’t too scary or overwhelming, but I generally keep my skincare to the more natural side. [And, yes, there are many natural skincare lines with great clinical research supporting their products.]

I have such a hard time finding a shampoo that takes care of my scalp as well as keeping my aging Irish curls healthy. It’s been a long battle this past decade trying to find the right one. My scalp is extremely delicate and most shampoos I have tried create small sores in random spots on my scalp. Aveda’s Be Curly usually is fine, however my scalp sometimes will react to it. But, I think I may have found a winner. Aveda’s Rosemary Mint shampoo is currently working wonders for my scalp. I think this is primarily because it doesn’t have any sodium laurel/laureth sulfate or ammonium laurel/laureth sulfate in it (which wreak havoc on my scalp). It does, however, have vinegar in it. Just a few weeks ago, I had to make a baking soda paste mask & raw apple cider vinegar rinse for a horrific reaction I had on my scalp. The only thing that soothed & corrected the reaction was the baking soda & vinegar. So, I think that the small list of ingredients that includes rosemary, peppermint, and vinegar has helped keep my scalp at bay. Any remnants of the past reaction are almost gone & I have had no flare up since using this shampoo. YAY! So, I went out and bought a litre of it. Yes, an entire litre. I know that I’ll use all of it, even if it’ll take me six months. [You may notice that I like Aveda’s Rosemary Mint. The hand & body wash made an appearence in my Summer Empties post.]

This past month, I’ve used up almost of my first bottle of Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner. Back in June sometime, I bought two bottles of this toner at GNC as they were having a gold card sale on it. It’s alcohol free and has a good amount of aloe vera & rose in it, which I need for my dry skin. This toner is great after I’ve taken off my makeup. After using my makeup remover (I rotate between two: Ren Cleansing Balm or a double wash with the Sephora Foaming Cleanser) & drying my face, I’ll swipe a good dose of this all over, then let it dry.

I’ve also been loving with my Josie Maran Rosey Mist which I apply after my Thayer’s toner. Just a few spritzes seems to lock in a light veil of hydration because of the rose oil. This is superb for drier skins, although I am sure it will work really well for normal/combination skin types. I really wish I had bought two in one go, because I have to schlep all the way up to San Francisco to repurchase (I’m not a big online shopper when it comes to anything that’s not electronics). I know, #FirstWorldProblems. Next time I do go to San Francisco, I’ll hit up Sephora and buy at least two bottles.

This month, I have been obsessed with layering two Korres products in the evening. After cleansing, toning, spritzing, and slapping on one of the many serums I have (all geared for hyperpigmentation & aging), I start with the Wild Rose+Vitamin C Sleeping Facial. Oh my gosh, I know, I use a lot of stuff with rose in it. What can I say, I’m an Isles girl. So, I’ll massage that into my skin, including my neck. This “sleeping facial” can work as a night cream for normal to combination skin. For drier skin, another moisturizer can be applied. As my skin is on the drier side, I layer the Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial* on top. Man alive! This gets my skin feeling smooth, soft, and hydrated. The skin on my neck gets really rough if it isn’t hydrated properly, but this keeps my neck in check. This combination is working wonders for my skin. The Wild Rose will (hopefully) help with my discoloration and sun damage and the Greek Yoghurt is already working wonders for my dryness. I’ve noticed that if I don’t use the Greek Yoghurt cream one night, the next day my skin is visibly drier.

Like I said, I’m a skincare junkie, so there isn’t much makeup I’ve been fawning over this month. There is one thing that’s caught my eye, pun definitely intended. I’m always in the market for a new mascara, as Sephora stopped selling my one true mascara love (Fresh Supernova). Out of all of the mascaras that I have either bought or have been given to me to try, it took a long time for me to be blown away. So, when I came across a heavy tube of mascara in my cosmetics goody bag, I was hesitant to try it. The name is a bit off putting, even for a super liberal, outspoken gal like me. But, I’ve learned to ignore names of cosmetics if they get the job done. Okay, enough rambling. This mascara I’ve fallen in love with is Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara*. The name really isn’t an issue until someone asks what mascara I have on. My cheeks flush bright red and I find myself quietly saying the name. What I love about this mascara is that the brush is almost identical to the brush of Fresh Supernova. It is full, soft, and hourglass shape. And, the actual formula of the mascara is very smooth and also soft. When I put it on, almost immediately my lashes appear to look false. I get incredible volume, definition, and length. I will toot my own horn here for a moment and admit I’ve been blessed with long lashes that have a natural curl that holds. I’ve never bought an eyelash curler and I’ve never had to use an eyelash growth serum. I just got awesome eyelash genes. Thanks parental biochemistry!! But for people who don’t have uber-long lashes, you will still get great results. I’ve watched people with completely different lashes use this mascara. Just a quick pump of an eyelash curler and a couple coats of this mascara, and voila, you’ve got va-va-voom lashes! I am so glad I’ve found a replacement mascara that I can buy within a five mile radius of my house (instead of ordering it online & waiting & hoping it’s not dry, like would with a new tube of Supernova).

Lastly, laughter is always a good thing to have in one’s life. To ensure I have had a lot of that this past month, I downloaded a lot of comedy podcasts. Three that I’ve found really amusing are:
Ten Minute Podcast with Will Sasso, Chris D’elia, and Bryan Callen. There is absolutely nothing serious about this podcast. Every “episode” is, you guessed it, ten minutes long. And, every single time I am brought to audible amusement. I listen to a few driving to and from work or school and have found myself laughing really loudly with the windows down, startling people.
Go Bayside! with April Richardson. I just started listening to this podcast this week. The whole premise of this podcast is April Richardson and a friend discussing and analyzing an episode of Saved By The Bell that they’ve just watched. Like me, April loved SBTB when she was a kid, and now understands the complete wackiness of it. The conversation that happens in this podcast is amusing and entertaining and something I totally get.
I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman. Again, I only just started listening to this podcast within the last couple weeks. But, again, I’m completely amused. This is just Jen in bed talking into a microphone. And, I find that I share a lot of sentiments, outlooks, and general feelings about life with Jen Kirkman, so I find myself giggling along with her.

Wow, this went on longer than I thought. Many apologies! I do hope you check some of these places, products, podcasts out! Please do & report back! And, if you have already tried them, please let me know how you feel about them!

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TYT Again!!!

Happy Thursday everyone! You know what that means!? It’s another Treat Yourself Thursday post! w00t!!

Last week, I got y’all started with a playlist to take yourself on a walk with. I hope you were inspired to get out there and move. I know I was!

I work retail, so I interact with a slew of personalities. Most of them are amazing & positive, but like life, there are always a select group of “interesting” people. I’m sure you’ve all met these kinds of people. You know, the ones that leave you saying to yourself “shake it off…”

So this week, I’m going to share with you my way of relaxing and recharging after a long day on my feet.

I am a huge fan of aromatherapy. As humans, we are all wired to associate different smells with different emotions and reactions. My bathroom and bedroom are both always stocked with specific essential oils: Lemon, Orange, Peppermint, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. For many people, the true scent citrus fruits are refreshing and uplifting. They help clarify the mind. Peppermint does the same, as well as offers a cooling sensation. For me, rosemary is grounding as well as clarifying. And, we all know how well eucalyptus works for our sinuses during colds. Like peppermint, it opens up nasal passages & cools any heat or discomfort we may feel.

These five essential oils aren’t very expensive, which is why I am happy to keep a constant supply of them. Depending on the brand and amount you are purchasing, they range anywhere from $3-$12 per vial. Not too bad, as you don’t need much of any of them during each use.

I use essential oils in many different things. But, I won’t overload you! Instead, I’ll share a couple different ways of using aromatherapy to help relax yourself.

[Lil’ legal disclaimer: I am not a licensed aromatherapist, naturopath, nurse, MD, et cetera. These are things that have worked for me safely and work for many people. However, I do suggest you please consult a licensed ND or MD if you have any major health concerns. Thank you!]

Refreshing & Calming Foot Soak:
Tub big enough to soak feet and ankles in (use bathtub if you must)
Warm water (I like fairly hot water myself)
10-15 drops Peppermint Oil
10-15 drops Eucalyptus Oil
10 drops Rosemary Oil (optional)
After you have filled your bucket/tub/bath with enough warm/hot water, add the essential oils. Please make sure the temperature is safe enough to submerge your feet and ankles in! Get settled in a comfy seating position & soak your feet. I like to soak my feet for 15-25 minutes, adding hot water a couple times. After soaking, dry off your feet and follow with any lotion you like. I usually use the Aveda foot lotion or argan oil with peppermint & rosemary essential oils. The heat, water, and essential oils will help with any pressure, swelling, and circulation issues standing for extended periods of time can cause. The weightlessness of the water takes pressure off joints & tendons, allowing blood to circulate better, which assists with any swelling. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary all assist with circulation, drainage, and detoxification. [Again, not a chemist, naturopath, ND, MD, nurse, or aromatherapist. Not everything works the same for everyone. Capisce?]

Uplifting Body Hydration & Stimulation:
Argan Oil, Coconut Oil, or Unscented Body Lotion
5-15 drops Lemon Essential Oil
5-15 drops Orange Essential Oil
5-15 drops Lime Essential Oil
5-10 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
5-10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
This works best right after a shower. The reason why there is such a variance in the drop amount is because it depends on how much of your body you are going to massage. You’ll see the main focus is the citrus oils. They are naturally happiness inducing. For most people, we associate citrus smells with warmth, joy, happiness, and cleanliness. The citrus oils also help brighten the skin. And, the rosemary & peppermint essential oils are there to help with circulation, detoxification, and fluid drainage. What I find easiest to do is to work section by section. In your hands get just enough argan or coconut oil or body lotion, add a few drops of each essential oil, then work it into your skin. For my skin & body long circular motions seem to work the best. I’ll do one thigh, then the other, then each calf seperatly. Then I’ll do each arm seperately, then I’ll do my torso last. The two places I save for absolute last are the back of my neck and chest. These two places are where I seem to hold most of my tension. Also, it is nice to have the scent of the essential oils still fresh when I get into bed.

I do hope you enjoy these little things to pamper yourself with. If you don’t have the time or patience to do either of those, you can still do aromatherapy! One drop of an essential oil warmed up in the palms of your hands will still brighten your day! Find one you love, and a few times throughout the day place one drop in the palm of your hand, warm it up with both palms, then cup your hands around your mouth & nose and inhale/exhale slowly & deeply a few times. This is a great way to take a one minute break to reset your mind. You’re smelling something that has a positive effect on your brain, you are slowing down for a minute, and you are getting some good oxygen flow to your heart & brain.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, all you Americans reading this!!

Treat Yourself Thursday!

I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but I’m going to start! Every Thursday, I will offer something fun you can do for yourself to lift your mood & take care of your wellbeing (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.). And, if you keep watch, something might just be in store for a lucky reader!

Today’s Treat will be a playlist to be played during a leisurely stroll. Walking, no matter the pace, is an amazing action pretty much anyone can do. Taking 20-30 minutes out of your day to go for an intentional walk is not only great exercise, but a way for you to process your emotions. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, taking yourself on a walk by yourself allows you to take inventory of why you feel stressed & formulate a way of letting go. Also, exercise is a natural stress reliever in general. It regulates many hormones, including cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (hormone that helps dictate your own circadian rhythm & sleep). Walking outside in the sun for 20 minutes will also get you a good dose of natural vitamin D, an essential nutrient that allows your body to absorb other nutrients more effectively.

Treat Yourself Playlist:
Floetic – Floetry
She Gave Me Love – The Getaway People
Radio, Radio – Elvis Costello
Thing of Beauty – Hothouse Flowers
Trouble – Ray LaMontagne
Candles – Daughter
Dreaming – Loudon Wainwright III
Hold On – Alabama Shakes
Bad – Luka Bloom
What You Wish For – Guster
In The Twilight – Alexander
Revolution Song – Fefe Dobson
Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers
La ou je suis nee – Camille
Badass – Kacy Crowley
2000 Miles – The Pretenders

This playlist is just a start and enough to fill a decent walk. I like to mix up my playlists with some faster paced songs with some mellow songs, as variety is always a great motivator. If you do want to try out this playlist, please support the arts and use iTunes or Amazon or some other legal channel to access these songs. And, please check out any artists/bands I mentioned if you haven’t heard of them. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Happy Walking!

Walking Backwards

For those of you who aren’t close, personal friends, I’m going to let you in on a lil’ secret. I’m finally running my first official half-marathon. Official? I’ve managed to run 13 miles once in my life, back in my varsity cross country heyday when 4-6 miles was the (almost) daily norm. I trained for a solid six years of my life and ran competitively almost that entire time. When I was a teenager, I dreamed of running a half marathon, even possibly doing a triathalon. The triathalon idea was a result of working at the local pool as a lifeguard. My two modes of transportation to begin with were jogging or cycling there. On down time, I got to swim for free, developing stronger swimming skills.

Cut 13 years later (wait, I just got that, YIKES!), and I’m finally doing something I wanted to do all those years ago when I had the body & stamina (but no emotional drive) to do so. I was approximately 50-60 pounds lighter than I am now and was exercising somehow six days a week. I will admit, my training for this half marathon started with a bang, then slowly dwindled…

Today, my passion to get in shape and finish something I started was reignited. I made my way to a famous “landmark” & frequented recreational trail, known fondly to Peninsula denizens as The Dish. This huge chunk of land is used for research by Stanford University (and other scientific orgs., I believe), as it is home to a rather sizeable radiotelescope dish (hence, the name) and a few smaller ones. The acreage also serves as an environmental restoration and habitat conservation area, allowing Stanford biology students to learn. What the rest of use use it for is to get a healthy dose of vitamin D & some milage under our belts. The complete “trail” is approximately 3.5-4 miles, but where I park, at least half to three-quarters of a mile is added on. I think I covered about 4.5-ish miles while at The Dish today. I jogged some flat and downhill bits, walked most of it, and when no one was near, I even walked backwards up some of the hills. I hadn’t planned on doing the entire thing, just up & over, then back. I got two thirds of the way around and decided to keep going, and I am so happy I did.

I’ve been so used to training on a treadmill. Treadmills give the ultimate control and I can force myself to run at a certain pace. Running outside without stats blinking in front of me is so much harder to control when I am training. But, I’ve decided that once a week, I am going to make myself train outside, whether it be at a track or to the library & back or at The Dish. All I need to do now is invest in some high quality running socks that don’t scrunch or chafe or wear thin. My shoes are top notch. Now I need socks to match. Our feet are extremely important, especially when they are pounding away on cement. So, if any of you have suggestions for some great quality running socks, I welcome them!

If you can’t guess, my favorite for today is The Dish. If you live in the Bay Area, I do suggest you utilize this area while the open hours are still extended! Once Autumn & Winter come, the access is limited to reflect the amount of daylight hours. Plan accordingly!

Summer 2013 Empties

We’re in the first weeks of August and, by my pagan Irish standards, that means summer is officially over & we are in the beginning of autumn. Please, do not make any comments on the “correct” seasons, as pagans and Celts and agriculture have been around a lot longer than the USA has been as an official country.

Currently, I’m not making videos, although I am well aware that an empties post generally does better on YouTube. However, I do want to cover some of my favorite products I’ve finally emptied! Some products were given to me to try, and those will be marked with an asterisk(*) and I am mentioning them because I actually use them, love them, and will repurchase them.

The first to empty is the Sephora Collection Supreme Cleansing Foam. This cleanser I use as primarily as a makeup remover after using a cleansing wipe or cleansing water. This, I feel, is able to get off anything residual on my face. Two pumps on dry skin, then rinsed off, my face is completely clean without feeling tight. It took me awhile to get through one $12 bottle. I don’t wear makeup everyday, and sometimes I am too lazy to follow my cleansing water/wipe with a second clean. Yes, such a terrible habit! Also, I sometimes use the Ren #1 Purity Cleansing Balm as my makeup remover instead of the wipe/water+foam routine.

Next is the Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand & Body Wash (8.5oz/250ml). What an amazing scent combination. For 15 years or so, I have been a fan of the Rosemary Mint collection from Aveda. In fact, I keep a mini bottle of the lotion (which I refill from a larger bottle) in whatever bag I’m carrying so I can keep the smell near me at all times. This hand & body wash is a permanent fixture at my bathroom sink. The scent is fresh, crisp, and clean, which means it’s a hit for both men & women, and is always a hit with guests who use my bathroom. I always buy a new bottle when there is approximately a third left in the “currently in use” bottle. One of these days, I am going to splurge on the litre size & just keep it in my cupboard under the sink to refill the smaller bottle. Or, I will just recycle the smaller bottle & people will have to deal with the huge bottle of hand wash at the sink.

Another product I finally finished is the Ren Resurfacing AHA concentrate*. The bottle that I managed to finish was given to me from the brand, as I had mentioned I wanted to try it. After a few uses, I fell in love with it, so I bought another bottle, so I’d be prepared for when I finished my first bottle. Let me give you a little insight about my skin. Many products with glycolic acid are too harsh for my skin. There are products out there that I am glad I sampled instead of purchased. Many glycolic products that claim to be safe for delicate skin do not work for my delicate skin, even when used more sparingly than directed. For many of these products, within about 12 hours of one use, my skin looked as though I got a professional, medical grade chemical peel, you know, the really intense kind you get done by a dermatologist. Imagine the Sex & The City episode in which Samantha Jones gets a peel done before Carrie’s book launch party & she scares the little girl on the street. My skin wasn’t too far off from what her’s looked like. That’s how delicate my skin is when it comes to glycolic acid. So, you can imagine my excitement when I find a glycolic product that doesn’t rip my skin to shreds. I use this concentrate 1-3 nights per week, depending on how dry I feel. I focus primarily on my nose and forehead. My nose, of course, is the most congested. My forehead has the deepest wrinkles. This concentrate smells amazing and absorbs really quickly into the skin. The morning after, my skin always feels comfortable and more hydrated.

Sticking with the glycolic trend, another “empty” are the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads* in original. Again, a product gifted to me. I absolutely adore these pads. This 2-step system is phenomenal. Designed with glycolic sensitive people in mind, these pads have fairly low amounts of five different acids in step 1: Glycolic, Salicylic (hey, “beauty gurus” – notice how there is no D in salicylic?), Citric, Latic, and Malic. There is also witch hazel, chamomile, Copper & Sodium PCA in step 1. The second step, the neutralizing step, helps prevent over exfoliation and acts as a hydration barrier. I have never had a problem with the glycolic in this system. I can even use it every day, although I don’t out of sheer laziness. I know I’ll have better results if I do use them every day. However, when used 3 times a week (even on nights I use the Ren AHA concentrate), I notice my skin feels & looks fresher, the pores on my nose aren’t as noticeable, and my moisture levels are in check. This system is a must have for anyone, especially those with glycolic sensitivity.

I’m so picky about my unruly, independent willed curly hair. It’s difficult to find products that actually work & continue to work over time. Two products I love and managed to go through quickly are Bumble & Bumble’s Tonic Lotion and Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control spray. These two sprays have been permanent fixtures in my haircare routine this last year. The Bumble Tonic is a spray that has tea tree oil, peppermint, rosemary, and nettle extract in it to stimulate the scalp & keep it clean. I don’t use shampoo everyday, so I need something to keep my scalp on point. After the shower I squeeze excess moisture out of my hair, then spray some Bumble Tonic, focusing primarily on my scalp. After 20-30 sprays on my scalp & through my hair, I follow with Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control. This gets sprayed primarily throughout the rest of my hair, as it it is designed to hydrate & protect the hair. Apparently, this is a great heat protectant, but I rarely use heat on my hair. 99% of the time, my hair gets air dried. It is also a UV protectant, which is great, as I am now coloring my hair more frequently. Both of these sprays can be used on hair wet or dry, which is a lifesaver. As I mentioned, I don’t shampoo my hair everyday. In fact, I don’t even (traditionally) wet my hair everyday. These two products work as curl re-stylers, allowing me to reset some wayward curls if I am on the go. I do use other products in my hair, but I switch between a couple different ones, so it takes awhile to get through them. I’ll talk about them in a later post, possibly one about my haircare routine(s).

And, of course I have to mention some non-beauty items that I hold near and dear to my heart. I’m a candle girl. Always have been. A die-hard hippie at heart, I’d rather light a dark room with the glow from candles than the forced, uncomfortable light of bulbs. I made my way through quite a few candles this summer. My favorites were (and still are) Pacifica votives, TruMelange travel tins, and (surprise hit) a Bath & Body Works 3-wick candle.

The Pacifica candles I used and loved were the Indian Coconut Nectar, Persian Rose, and Island Vanilla. When I burned the Rose with either the Coconut or Vanilla, the house smelled luxurious. I couldn’t afford a tropical vacation, so the combination of the rose+vanilla or rose+coconut allowed me to visualize myself on a remote white sand beach. Tru Melange has a couple scents I used this summer, as well as all year round. Harmony was my introduction to the company and I used the scent in the evenings and/or if I was taking a bath. Harmony is a blend of vanilla & peppermint. The warmth of the vanilla mixed with the crisp liveliness of the peppermint allow me to get focused and relaxed before turning in. The other scent I adore is Refresh. This candle blends bergamot & lime together. A classic combination I often associate with drinking tea, this candle always energizes me. On my days off, I’d light a Refresh votive soon after waking. While relaxing or doing simple household chores, I never felt dull, instead happy. Lastly, I discovered a candle at Bath & Body Works that I could actually stand. This summer, they came out with some candles that were supposed to represent different metropolitan areas (and one tropical setting, perhaps). I remember there being a Parisian one, a Greek one, a Tropical one, and a London one. I’m sure there were a couple more. The one I instantly gravitated to was the candle named “London Calling” as that just happens to be where I was born. (I am still a UK citizen, 31 years later, and have lived in the US for 23 years.) This candle claims it is a blend of tea & lemon. And, sure enough, it smells like freshly (but weakly) brewed iced black tea with the juice of a lemon or two. I noticed that I couldn’t burn it too long as the smell filled the house quickly. That goes for any Bath & Body Works candle, I’ve noticed. Because I love these candles, I stocked up on quite a few of them. Bath & Body Works were selling the destination inspired candles for $12, so I bought a couple. And, the local Pharmaca had a 20% off Tru Melange sale, so I bought their entire stock of the Harmony & Refresh travel tins. Seriously, I did. I bought four of each.

My last empty I want to talk about is Traditional Medicinals Linden Flower Tea. I have a hard time sleeping, and don’t want to rely on pharmaceuticals to aid me. I usually use a combination of GABA & Melatonin to help. Sometimes, it is too late to take melatonin, or I have an overly anxious day, so a couple mugs of this herbal tea allows me to fall asleep without any trouble. It is a blend of linden flower, hawthorn, and lemon balm. I didn’t think it would do much other than calm down blood pressure. I was happy to find that the first mug I ever drank of it managed to make me drowsy within 20 minutes of drinking it. That was without any melatonin! Since that first mug, I have been a fan. I’ve noticed I don’t take melatonin as often, which is great, especially as I have become more busy incorporating school with a full work schedule.

These are my current empties! At the end of August, I have a feeling I’ll have more empties and will update you on them. Enjoy!