Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Swatches and Stuff - September 2014 (and a HUGE Giveaway!!!!)

Hi friends,

I am back with another episode of my Swatches and Stuff for September 2014. Stick around for there is a huge giveaway at the end, in celebration of my 44th Birthday!
So, this month, is that one time of the year when I really splurge on myself, and when I say splurge, I am mean big bucks on high end stuff. The rest of the year I survive (LOL) on lowly Drugstore stuff. To me it's all worthy since I only do it once a year and it is my treat to myself. That said, I have a lot of stuff to show you and review, so let's dive right into it!

You can watch the video, if you prefer, on my YouTube Channel:

1. Estee Lauder:


As part of my big splurge this year, I rejoined the Estee Lauder band wagon! 
There was a time in my life (pre-children) when everything on my vanity was Estee Lauder. I have tried every high brand out there (to the exception of a few such as La Mer or La Prairie because really who's got the money for that!) Anyway, I visited my counter again and enlisted the help of a delightful lady who has been working for Estee Lauder for 27 years, so she knows her stuff.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair' Synchronized Recovery Complex II 

Advanced Night Repair Serum
This is the holy grail of serums and I wrote about it in previous blogs in that my Yves Rocher Elixir 7.9 is as close as it gets to this amazing product. It's not cheap, of course, at $98, but the bottle will last you three months, at least. So when considering the alternative of spending $30 on a drugstore L'Oreal on a monthly basis, I think it is well worth the investment. 
This serum comes in a fairly large bottle with its own dropper. A little goes a long way and it needs to be applied day and night after thorough cleansing. It is meant at boosting cell renewal while fighting wrinkles and nourishing your skin. I was using it for a very long time (again in the past) and always felt it gave me amazing results. While this product glides on beautifully, it does not feel like there is petroleum jelly in it (a common ingredient in other serums). So if, like me, you do not believe in spending top dollars on a Vaseline based product, this one is for you! The company boasts that more than 75% of women found their skin to be more youthful after using it for 4 weeks. It is their #1 seller and has over 25 patents. They also have the eye serum version of this product but my sale representative told me that it was not necessary to purchase it at this time in my life.

Estee Lauder Advanced Time Zone Age Reversing Line/Wrinkle Eye Creme

Advanced Time Zone
Eye Cream

She did recommend however, that I use this cream under my eyes since I insisted on treating this area of my face, noticing signs of aging creeping on me. This is a very light yet emollient cream with a pleasant scent. Again, not cheap ($58) but you do get quite a lot of product. Probably 3 months if not more. Their claim?

Tri-HA Cell Signaling Complex™ helps skin boost its natural production of line-plumping hyaluronic acid by 182% in just 3 days.

That is a big claim!  I have been using it for two days and am already seeing results in a very different way: makeup does not fill in my lines, making them more visible! I really like this eye cream. If you are going to splurge on one Estee Lauder product, try this one!

 Estee Lauder 'Revitalizing Supreme' Global Anti-Aging Creme
Revitilizing Anti Aging

You can use this moisturizer both day and night (saves me some money). I would say this is a blend of their Re-Nutriv line (seriously emollient and too thick for my age) and the more fluid Day Wear moisturizer. It is neither a cream nor a gel, more like a good blend of both. This moisturizer is not greasy on my combination skin. She specifically recommended it as a result of my telling her I was losing weight and wanted to prevent sagginess and fine lines. 
Their claim:
Instantly, skin looks smoother, clearer, more radiant. In just 4 weeks, 92% of women showed significantly firmer skin.
I like this moisturizer, it is easy to use and penetrates very well, even after applying the Advanced Repair Serum.

Estee Lauder 'Pure Color Envy' Sculpting Lipstick in Discreet

Color Envy Lipstick

I bought the shade #160 (Discreet) which is a brick/rose color, more like a true to your lips and a bit more of a fall color. I do like it very much and they offer a lot more colors within the line. The packaging feels like luxury and at $30 per tube, I dare say it is way worth the splurge. Where else are you going to find a magnetized lid...This will be the end of my lipstick tube opening itself inside my cosmetics bag and smearing lip goo all over.

Their claim: 

 I do admit that this is a very hydrating lipstick. It is a satin cream, the Discreet one does not have any shimmer and is very close to Mac's Twig. To be honest, I like this moist formula much better. Other shades I am willing to try (and might just go ahead and purchase at a later time) are: 
Powerful and Tumultuous Pink

CLARISONIC -Mia 2 -  Sonic Skin Cleansing System

CLARISONIC 'Mia 2 - Lavender' Sonic Skin Cleansing System

I have wanted this cleansing brush since the first one came out, so that's a whole lot of years waiting and saving a buck or two here and there for it. Well, I finally did it and $149 later, I got me the MIA 2! 
This is a pulsating (not rotating) brush specifically designed to dislodge grime from under your skin and more particularly your pores. In the end, your skin is thoroughly cleansed and your treatment creams penetrate better, doing what they are supposed to do.
It offers two speeds and comes with a charger, a travel case and one delicate skin brush. I went ahead and purchased the  Deep Pore Cleansing Brush Replacement Head as well because I need a lot of that these days. The Mia comes in different colors and patterns, I picked the Lavender one.

After watching a ton of YouTube videos about this product, I found out that there is a "purging" phase during which your skin is being "purged" of its nasties within a week or so of using the brush, this resulting in bumps and occasional breakouts! No Thank You! So, not wanting to have to deal with that, I purged my own skin ahead of time, prior to beginning using the MIA. What did I do? I gave myself a thorough European Facial (steaming my face and dislodging all that I could). I am hoping it works and so far so good!
I have been using it for a few days and am noticing a difference in the texture of my skin.
The brush itself is on a timer, so you are given one minute to cleanse your face all together, 20 seconds on your forehead, with small circular motions, 20 seconds on your nose and chin and 20 seconds on each cheek. That is it! 
It removes all traces of makeup, you can use whatever cleanser you want to use, as long as it is not a scrub (the tiny beads or crushed shells would damage the brush and motor). love it! Save some money girls and get yourself a MIA 2! 


That was it for Estee Lauder and Clarisonic - moving on to more affordable stuff!

Nail products I really love this month:

1. Essie - Millionails

I have tried most of the drugstore nail treatments available since I stopped biting my nails 13 years ago. I simply cannot grow long nails, they are brittle, they split, they break, they are soft, they are just plain ugly. This month, I gave Essie a shot and was completely wowed by the results! While I still cannot grow very long nail, I guess I am much too busy and clumsy to begin with, I did manage to keep a good length, enough to afford applying darker shades without looking like a 5 year old playing with her mommy's nail polish. This is a very nice treatment, it goes on well, one coat is enough though you can have two then your color. 

essie Nail Care - Millionails     

Instead, I chose to have one coat of this treatment followed by one coat of the Grow Faster. Works great for me, I recommend this product ($8.49).

2. Essie - Grow Faster

When used in combination with the Millionails, this base coat provides a smooth surface while shielding my nails a bit more from damage. Togehter they act as a serious hardener allowing me to do what I need to do around the house without having to constantly fuss over my nails. Same price ($8.49), I recommend both.

essie Nail Care - Grow Faster Base Coat

3. China Glaze in Harmony

I found this gorgeous shade of deep purple at TJMax. Unfortunately, I think it is discontinued since I cannot find it on their website. This was my very first China Glaze purchase and really love their formula and durability. I am on the lookout for more!


Other Lipsticks:

CoverGirl Smoochies:

Last month I raved about the "hot pink" color which was my very first "Smoochie" by CoverGirl. I thought it was outstanding, both in formula and color payoff, not to mention the fact that it would stay on all day! 
Sure enough, I rushed to the drugstore afterwards and purchased these three. (Check the video to find out the numbers and view the swatches). 
These are awful! I mean it, they have no color pay off, matter of fact you can barely see them. They are basic lip balms with a shimmer, one of them coming on as gritty formula that is just uncomfortable to wear. 
Awful, you may run in the opposite direction and I am sorry I wasted my money on purchasing three more, I should have stuck with the one I purchased (and still love). That proves to show that not every item within a line is equal and worth the spending!


Eye Shadows (my favorite topic!)

Coastal Scents Winterberry Palette

Coastal Scents Winterberry Palette

Let me start by saying that my picture really does not give it justice (sorry for the bad lighting).
For those of you not familiar with Coastal Scents , I am told they are perfect dupes to Mac Eye shadows and for the price of one Mac, you can get this entire palette (under $14).
These are all shimmers (you can watch my video for the swatches) and have amazing color payoff. Further, while they are in pressed powder form, they feel like a cream shadow but will not bulge. I mean the stuff is there to stay - all day! They are absolutely beautiful! The packaging is very sleek and heavy duty and to make this an even better deal breaker, the pots can be removed (they are magnetized) and replaced with either new Coastal Scents shadows or MAC shadows! In essence, I could get the matte version of my favorite hues in this palette and create a new one that would be a mix of shimmers and mattes! What a bargain!


Moving on to non skincare and cosmetics stuff:

I am a sucker for anything Steampunk! I really am and it all started when I was a little girl and started reading Jules Verne. These are earrings my husband purchased for my birthday. I completely fell over when I opened the box as they are just gorgeous, wearable, sturdy, very well made and my, oh my, do they spell Steampunk! If you look closely, you can see tiny red dots in the gears, they are meant to look like the rubies you would see in high end watches. 
These have become my signature earrings, and guess what, I am definitely going to check the website (Victorian Curiosities) to see what else they have in stock. Simply gorgeous! 

Unfortunately, when I was writing this post, their website was under construction (*sad face*). You may want to check again at a later time to see their new collection. But don't despair, you can find them on Etsy. (Click Here). 
Kelly, the owner was kind enough to provide my viewers and readers with a 10% coupon code, use code SOPHIA10 at checkout to save 10%, this is valid until 12/31/14.


And now for the big giveaway!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am celebrating my Birthday this month. In addition, I am also celebrating a 250k views on this blog and over 4500 subscribers on my YouTube channel, so there are plenty to be thankful for!

Since I spent a lot of money at the Estee Lauder counter, the lady gave me a lot of freebies (the promo gift with purchase x 2 plus some). These are yours to win since I combined them so you would get both the shadows AND the blush in addition to the other stuff she gave me. I am also adding a Sleek Palette in neutral/nude shades (perfect for fall and a natural face), two ELF brushes (shadow crease and concealer) and a Bath and Body Works hand cream and the matching hand sanitizer in my favorite scent: Pink Chiffon!
That's a lot of stuff!

The giveaway is open until October 7, 2014 (two weeks) - Simply follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. One winner will be picked at random.

You must be 18 years or older.
You must be a subscriber of my YouTube Channel.
You must follow me on Facebook.
It is open internationally but understand that I will ship at the lowest rate possible because this is a seriously heavy bag and shipping to, say India for instance, will be costly (though covered by me, so super snail mail for any international winner).

Good Luck!

Thank you all for reading and sharing my blog. Thank you for all your support and wonderful comments on my YouTube Channel, I would be nothing without you readers and viewers. I LOVE YOU!

Connect with me:

Mailing address:

My Great Challenge
PO Box 402
CEDAR GROVE, NJ 07009-9998

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This site contains affiliate advertising. This is how I support my blog. I am not solicited to write reviews for products, unless otherwise noted in my post. I am not affiliated with Estee Lauder, Clarisonic, Essie, China Glaze, CoverGirl, Victorian Curiosities, Coastal Scents or Sleek. All opinions are my own. All items reviewed above were purchased by me (or my husband). Giveaway contents are from Estee Lauder Gift with purchase for September 2014 at MACYS in addition to other items I purchased on my own.


  1. Hi Sophia, I love your earrings hubby got you for your birthday, so cute. Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Happy birthday!! I love your reviews. This is such a generous giveaway!

  3. Wow! What a lovely giveaway!! I have entered :-). Joyeux Anniversaire!!

  4. WOW! Such a huge giveaway! Thanks so much for the chance! And Happy Birthday!

  5. Happy birthday and thanks for all that you do


  6. Happy birthday!! I love watching your vlog and love the inspiration you give to getting organized/motivated to others!

  7. What an awesome giveaway! Love watching all your videos.

  8. Love all your videos. You're great and Happy Birthday Sofia! I entered give away though my husband name :) Alex Arzamastsev. Thank you for generous give away...Natalia

  9. Hello Sophia,

    Thank you so much for the feature! I really appreciate it, and hope that you are enjoying the earrings. I checked out this blog . . . great stuff!

    Sophia, Happy Birthday to you, and I hope you have a great year! If you have any questions regarding the earrings or anything else, please let me know. I did want to mention that the tiny red dots on the watch movements are Ruby jewels that are used as bearings, and the watch movements did come from high-end watches. Those on your earrings were from Bulova watches.

    I hope you enjoy the earrings, and sorry about the website being under construction, but if you would like to post a link to my shop, I would be thrilled. Here is the link:


    Thanks and enjoy,
    Victorian Curiosities

  10. Happy Birthday Sophia! Thank you for inspiring me to organize, paint, and now cut my hair! You're awesome!

  11. happy bday such a thoughtful giveaway

  12. What an awesome giveaway!! Thank you sooo much!!

  13. Happy Birthday Sophia. You are my favourite "youtuber", love your inspirational qualities, personality, and "down to earthness". I really look forward to your videos. That is an impressive giveaway!! Lorna, North Lincs, UK

  14. happy birthday! I really enjoy watching your videos and thanks for the lovely giveaway :)

    rafflecopter name Karin Shaim

  15. Happy Birthday Sophia. Fab giveaway. I LOVE watching all your videos. You really are an inspiration. Best wishes from Jane in the UK

  16. Belated Happy Birthday Sophia! Am glad you treated yourself on your special day. I enjoy your YouTube vids. as you are always upbeat, gracious & informative. TFS & being an inspiration. Your giveaway is most generous as are you. Mahalo (Thanks) & Aloha, Valerie :)

  17. You give me lots of inspiration to follow along with you to do some of the same things in my home. Thank you for such a wonderful giveaway. Thank you for sharing, Tammy

  18. WOW what a beautiful giveaway, you have BEAUTIFUL skin. I love how you organize your house it inspires me to do the same.

  19. great giveaway! My local Ulta and Sally Beauty Supply carry the China Glaze brand, so you may want to check those stores out if you have them. What a sweet gift from your hubby! It looks like you had a fabulous birthday :)

  20. amazing giveaway!! I love the earrings, they look so intricate!

  21. this is really amazing giveaway :D i love the earrings ^_^

  22. Amazing giveaway! Thank you very much for this! :*

  23. Hi Sophia I'm your italian followers. It's a fantastic giveaway. I love your youtube chanel and give me a lot of idea for organizing the house. It's fantastic. See you!!!

  24. Hope you had a fab birthday and thank you for a lovely giveaway :-)

  25. Happy belated birthday Virgo twin! I think I have entered but the rafflecopter is not letting me login, so I'm not sure how you will know which entries are mini lol! Thanks for the chance anyway and enjoy your goodies!! xxx

  26. Urgh autocorrect hates me. Mini should have read mine!!

  27. I commented once but I didn't see it, so I am commenting again. If there are 2 comments, I'm sorry. Anyway, I love your blog and channel. I appreciate the information on the Estee Lauder products. I too am 40+ and was in need of similar products. Thanks for this wonderful giveaway.

  28. Nice giveaway! Happy belated Birthday!

  29. lovely, happy belated birthday :) xxx

  30. Happy belated Birthday Sophia! I love the earrings your husband gave you, I'm also a huge steampunk fan!

  31. Your videos are always my favorites and you are one of the few You-tubers that I enjoy watching. Thank you for posting all that you do.And happy belated birthday! :)

  32. I love watching your videos! I'm a proud subscriber! (:

  33. Thank you Sophia for this amazing giveaway ! I can't wait to know who the winner will be (hoping it could be me so that I could try those unknown products to me apart Sleek !). Thank you over all for your kindness and your inspiring videos (I've just cleaned all my desk !!!), you're a beautiful person !
    -Sophie (aka pixiwoofanfromfrance on Youtube)

  34. Love your blog and your youtube channel! Thanks for the great tips & reviews! Keep up the good work!!!

  35. Love the products. Thank you for the giveaway!

  36. I love this giveaway !!! All products are amazing !! Thanks

  37. I'm so excited for that giveaway! I hope I can win =)

  38. Happy Birthday was in September too. Happy Birthday!!!. I am 10 years older than you. Take care

  39. Hope you had a wonderful birthday, loving your Weight Watchers' journey. Keep up the great work!

  40. Happy Birthday! Thank you for the lovely giveaway!

  41. i wrote you a commentsi don't know if they send or not , by the way i wanna win the giveaway , i can't wait mooore

  42. i wanna win this giveaway i can't wait until the results

  43. it's really a huuge giveaway i liked the the product soo much

  44. Happy Birthday, and thank you very much for the fab giveaway! xx

  45. To be honest, I like the products you mentioned here (not kidding), I want try but money is too limited. Anyway I enter this giveaway, it is worth a try

  46. happy birthday
    I have entered
    What a lovely giveaway

  47. Happy birthday .. great giveaway

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