Friday, October 12, 2018

Astrology by Bite: A Rant

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Bite Beauty has almost finished releasing a series of twelve Amuse Bouche lipsticks inspired by the signs of the zodiac. Bite started with Aquarius in January, and they're now two signs from the end, having just revealed Scorpio on Thursday. (If you're curious about Sagittarius and Capricorn, Trendmood has leaked all twelve shades here.)

Like any other enamel-pin-collecting queer millennial, I enjoy astrology. I don't believe in it, per se, but I'm a Scorpio with Pisces rising and Aries moon, and that combination of signs is pretty damned accurate for my personality. (I didn't identify with Aries until I caught myself saying to my boyfriend, "I don't have anger issues; I'm just angry all the time.") So I've been following Bite's releases all year, initially with eager anticipation, then with increasing bafflement, and now with outright annoyance. The Astrology by Bite series was a great idea that could have been executed in a million appealing ways, but Bite simply blew it. The lipsticks themselves seem up to Bite's usual high standards (Kate of More Like Space has reviewed all the shades from Aquarius to Virgo), but almost every shade is an absolutely bizarre choice for its zodiac sign. I didn't feel the need to complain on my blog, though, until I saw the Scorpio shade.

Now, look: everyone knows that Scorpios are the goths of the zodiac. Halloween and the Day of the Dead (i.e. my birthday) fall during Scorpio season. Scorpios are INTENSE and MYSTERIOUS and VENGEFUL and occasionally PETTY. In fact, we're vengeful and petty enough to write an entire snarky blog post if Bite releases a Scorpio lipstick that isn't even close to the vampy splendor we deserve:


EXCUSE ME? A bright orange-red? A bright orange-red that looks identical not only to a bunch of other orange-reds Bite has released previously, but also to the Aries shade from March? Would you even be able to tell these two apart without the astrological signs on the tubes?


They look only slightly more different in these swatches from Bite's Instagram story:


Bite's explanation for this choice is that Scorpio is the most ~*~sExUaL~*~ sign of the zodiac: "For sexy Scorpio, Bite mixes up a bombshell shade. This searing, spicy red is perfect for hot dates." Hot fire-sign dates, maybe, but Scorpio is a water sign, and its particular brand of sexuality isn't the retro pinup look-at-me brand. Like, come ON. Everyone was expecting a dark purple or plum, or a burgundy, or even a metallic black reminiscent of the studded leather outfits we Scorpios wear while tying up our lovers in sex dungeons. A bright orange makes no sense for Scorpio. And I'm not the only one who thinks so:

Source: Temptalia

But Scorpio isn't the only sign to have gotten totally shafted this year, so let's go through the Astrology by Bite series sign by sign and analyze where the problems lie. (I wasn't able to find Bite's blurb for every shade, but I've copied and pasted the ones I could find. All photos are Bite promo images from Temptalia.)

Aquarius ("berry plum"):


Bite started the year strong with this bright purple, a good match for eccentric Aquarius. I don't have any complaints about the shade itself, but I am annoyed that Bite kicked off its series with the first zodiac sign in the Gregorian calendar year. The zodiac actually corresponds to the Julian calendar, with Aries as the first sign.

Pisces ("pitch-perfect peach"):

"Ruled by the planet Neptune, Pisces is the water sign of artists and dreamy creative types; it’s considered the most spiritual and compassionate sign of the zodiac. Pisces are soulful, and like water they 'go with the flow,' blending in and out of different environments."


Just two lipsticks in, things start to get weird. Pisces is a water sign. Its symbol is literally two fish. For this most aquatic of signs, Bite chose...a brownish peach. I think a soft shade of blue would have been perfect for sensitive Pisces, but Bite clearly decided to stick with traditional lipstick colors for this collection, despite having created blue lipsticks in the past. Lame.

Aries ("fiery orange-red"): 


Back to the expected with this bright warm red, which is exactly the color I would have chosen for impetuous, hot-tempered Aries, though I might have made it metallic for even more punch.

Taurus ("muted white-chocolate rose"):

"Taurus is an earth sign, ruled by the planet of love, Venus. Sleepy, sensual Taurus is enamored with everyday luxuries: Flowers, chocolate, and all the finer things in life are essential to beauty-loving bulls." 


When I think of Taurus, I think of rich food and dark wine. This is a beautiful MLBB, but it's more subdued and professional than I'd expect a Taurus lipstick to be. For this sign, I would have liked to see a rich chocolate brown (similar to Smoked Za'atar) or a merlot red, though I understand that Bite was trying to make a spring-appropriate shade.

Also, it's "enamored of," not "enamored with." Just sayin'. My mistake: both are correct!

Gemini ("warm nude" and "fun-loving red"):

"For Gemini, the sign of the twins, Bite offers a double-sided bullet. A warm nude and a fun-loving red let Geminis mix up their style as they please." 


Here is where the Astrology by Bite series jumps the shark. How would a human being wear this lipstick? I appreciate the spirit of the thing, but if you're going to make a two-toned lipstick, maybe pick two colors that actually go together.  (Kate mixed the two shades to create a soft salmon pink, but I can't imagine many people going to that trouble.) Or if you want the red/nude split, make a dual-sided lipstick like the ones Bite itself has released in the past. Or just give us a freaking duochrome along the lines of the Prismatic Pearl Multisticks. Bite could have conveyed the Gemini ethos in so many interesting ways, but they went with the least wearable one. If you want nightmares, check out the two-toned lip that Bite itself created.

Cancer ("muted mauve with gray undertone"): 

"For nurturing, caring Cancer, Bite mixes up a safe-but-sexy neutral. Cancers will love this muted mauve with gray undertone that looks just as good at home as it does at work."


Gosh, that looks familiar:


Cancer and Taurus aren't quite as similar as Aries and Scorpio, but they sure are close. Also, Bite missed the perfect chance to set an oceanic mood by describing the lipstick as a "sandy beige" (though as swatches reveal, Cancer is much pinker than the promo photo indicates).

Leo ("glittering gold"): 

"Leo offers incredible vibrancy and bold dimension. Leo is a fire sign, ruled by the sun. Like the sun, bold Leo lions like to be the center of attention: They’re dramatic and charismatic, always the star of the show."

The person in charge of these promo images is totally a Leo.

Here's where my inner conspiracy theorist emerges. Leo looks very similar to the sheer gold lipstick that Bite released for the holidays a couple of years ago. Is it possible that some of the zodiac lipsticks are repackaged older shades with astrological signs slapped on? I won't deny that this lipstick is appropriate for Leo, but surely the stereotypical Leo would want an opaque gold, not a sheer one.

Virgo ("grapey-red"): 

"Virgo is an earth sign, ruled by the planet of communication, Mercury. Disciplined Virgos demand perfection and order all around them; they’re known to be humble and practical, and love a good value...For earthy Virgo, Bite mixes up a shade inspired by the fruit of the vine. This grapey-red is a smart hue that goes with everything."


This is by far my favorite shade in the series (surprise), and it's not a terrible choice for Virgo, though I would have expected something a little less dramatic.

Libra ("balanced medium brown"):

"For stylish Libras, Bite mixes up a shade made for hitting the social circuit. This balanced medium brown gets along with just about anybody."


In my opinion, it's impossible to make a brown lipstick that "gets along with just about anybody." There is nothing less flattering than a brown lipstick that clashes with your undertones, as I discovered when I tried on Bite's own yellow-toned Edgy Neutrals collection last year. And Libra is a warm brown that most certainly won't get along with cool-toned folks. That said, I'm not sure what color I would have assigned to Libra. It's an artistic, creative sign, so maybe a neutral with a twist, like a grayish lavender?

Sagittarius and Capricorn are a bright pink and dark plum, respectively. Many of the Sagittarians I've known well have been narcissists with no sense of personal or professional responsibility, and neon pink is indeed a color that shouts "look at me, but don't expect anything of me." (No offense to any Sagittarians reading this, of course. I'm sure you're lovely people.) Bite's choice for Capricorn is more mystifying. Capricorn is a businesslike earth sign, so I would have assigned it an office-appropriate color, a soft neutral like Taurus or Cancer. Why not give the vampy shade to Scorpio? (Look, we hold grudges. We're not going to get over this.)

Taken as a whole, the Astrology by Bite lineup seems unbalanced and incomplete: lots of warm oranges and browns, two pairs of near-dupes, only one dark shade, and no truly offbeat colors (unless you count Leo's gold). This series had so much potential, but it's started to feel like a cynical cash grab: "Well, the kids like astrology, so let's re-release some old colors and put astrological symbols on the tubes; they'll eat that shit up." The first four lipsticks sold out almost immediately, but all five shades from Gemini to Libra are still available on Bite's website, suggesting that I'm not the only one to have soured on Astrology by Bite. I think Bite is at its best when pursuing its foodie roots (e.g. Edgy Neutrals, Spice It Up) instead of hopping on the latest trend, and I hope Astrology by Bite isn't an indicator of things to come for the brand.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Pumpkin-Walnut-Chocolate-Chip Cookies 2.0

Almost exactly four years ago, I posted my recipe for pumpkin-walnut-chocolate-chip cookies, which I've made at least once every autumn since, including this morning. These cookies are my humble attempt to replicate the ones that used to be (and still are, for all I know) sold at the coffee shop in my college library. Here's today's iteration:


I've tweaked the recipe a bit since 2014, so I thought I'd post an update for those of you interested in making them, which everyone should be. Note that the walnuts and chocolate chips aren't mandatory at all (though they are, of course, highly recommended).



INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup plain canned pumpkin (this is a little less than a standard 15-oz. can)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can use a bit less or more, depending on preferred sweetness level and presence/absence of chocolate chips. I used 1/2 cup today and wish I'd used less)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. powdered nutmeg (slightly less if using fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider, milk, or water (optional, for thinning dough)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

METHOD:

  • In large bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, oil, and sugar.
  • Dissolve baking soda in 1 tsp. milk and add to pumpkin mixture.
  • In smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.
  • Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture; add vanilla.
  • Add chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.
  • This is a thick, gooey dough; if you'd like to thin it out a tiny bit, add 1 tbsp. of liquid, e.g. apple cider (which I used today), water, or milk.
  • Drop by rounded spoonfuls (I used an ice-cream scoop) onto greased baking sheet. I find that this recipe makes about 15 medium-sized cookies or 20 smaller ones.
  • Bake for 13-20 minutes, depending on the intensity of your oven; remove when lightly browned and barely set on top. When I first made this recipe, I had a gas oven that ran cold, and I needed the full 20 minutes. My new apartment has an electric oven, and the cookies were done at 13 minutes today! So yeah, know your oven. 

And done! I'm looking forward to taking these cookies to work this week instead of my usual Larabars. Happy fall (in the Northern Hemisphere), everyone!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Glosses of Autumn, Part 1: Bite Prismatic Pearl Gloss in Rose Pearl

I'm back, bearing makeup!


For the first time in the 4.5-year history of Auxiliary Beauty, I went over a month without blogging. A lot happened in those six weeks: I moved to a new apartment with my boyfriend; finished my summer job at a university office and began an adjunct gig in Jersey City; got more serious about my creative writing and completed a short story for the first time in nearly a decade; and prepared my materials for one last go at the academic job market. So, yeah, not a lot of time for blogging. Now that things have settled down a bit, I'm hoping I can return to my schedule of two or three posts per month.

Oh, and I made it through my August replacement-only no-buy successfully...well, sort of. I placed a ColourPop order at 8:30 pm on August 31 because they were having a sitewide 25%-off sale and I didn't know how long it would last, but I'm still counting that as a victory. I ordered four powder eyeshadows, one Jelly Much eyeshadow, and one Lux Lipstick, and those kept me amused enough that I didn't buy any more makeup until last weekend, when I succumbed to a sparkly black Liquid Catsuit lipstick from Wet n Wild's Halloween collection:

It's called Shady Witch, and it's FAR better than you'd expect a $4.99 sparkly black liquid lipstick to be.

More on all those budget delights in another post, or a few more posts. This one will be a review of a pricier item: my last splurge before my August no-buy. I'd had my eye on Bite Beauty's magical-looking Prismatic Pearl glosses for a while, but a couple of things kept putting me off. First, the $22 price tag. I have no problem paying $22 for a lipstick, but gloss tends to have a shorter shelf life, and Bite prides itself on its food-grade ingredients, which means I probably can't count on its glosses to last longer than a year or so. Second, it was Bite, a brand with which I had a checkered past. But after my great experience with Star Anise, I went back to Sephora and took another look at the pink-bronze-green duochrome (tetrachrome?) glory that was Rose Pearl, and I could resist no longer.


Well, actually, I spent some time deciding between Rose Pearl, Oyster Pearl (another in the Prismatic lineup), and NARS Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer in Abruzzo, but determined that I'd get the most wear out of Rose Pearl.

L-R: Oyster Pearl (which I still want tbh), Rose Pearl, Abruzzo.

I should note that Bite also makes Prismatic Pearl Multisticks in the same shades as the glosses, but they're not quite as magical-looking: liquid formulas are the best for showcasing sparkle. Check out the Prismatic Pearl Glosses under the bright Sephora lights and see if you don't come away desperately wanting at least one, even if you're not a gloss person or a shimmer person. I dare you.

Unfortunately, Bite likes to package all its products, no matter how sparkly, in boring gray boxes. At least the Prismatic Pearl box has a tiny lip-shaped iridescent sticker indicating the shade inside:


The gloss comes in a sturdy rectangular plastic tube with a matte gray...lid? top? what do you call the handle of a gloss applicator? I've been away from beauty blogging for too long. For a size comparison, here's Rose Pearl next to my favorite autumnal cocktail, a Manhattan:


The label on the bottom serves a dual purpose: it not only indicates the shade name, but also disguises how little gloss there actually is in the bulky tube. (As if I have a chance of finishing what little there is before it goes bad.)


After buying Rose Pearl, I waited several days to open it because it was too exquisite and I didn't want to mar it with my clumsy monkey paws. Then I waited two months to write a review because I felt that neither my prose not my phone camera could do justice to Rose Pearl's beauty. In preparation for this post, I've taken at least a hundred photos, but not one of them captures what I see in real life. Rose Pearl is the perfect autumnal gloss: a sheer bronze base with densely packed fuchsia shimmer and a yellow-green shift that suggests a hint of decay.


Below, I've sheered it out as much as possible to make the base color more visible:


Rose Pearl is about 75% opaque: on my lips, it's nowhere near as intense as it appears in the tube, but it still covers my natural lip color almost completely. Because of its multidimensionality, it looks very different from one lighting situation to the next. Under artificial light, the greenish shift becomes apparent:


Direct sunlight brings out the fuchsia:


And indirect natural light turns it into a rosy copper:


I'm not usually a fan of layering lip gloss over lipstick or lipliner (too gooey and slippery), but I was curious to see how Rose Pearl would fare as a lip topper. Over a flesh-colored liner (Milani Nude), it looks pretty enough, but loses its duochrome effect:


But over a dark liquid lipstick, it's absolutely stunning! Here's Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit in Goth Topic on its own, then topped with Rose Pearl:



Rose Pearl's applicator is a small doefoot that comes to an unusually sharp point. It applies gloss decently to my bottom lip, but I always have trouble getting my top lip covered, because the point of the applicator scrapes off the product that has already been laid down. I end up with gloss collected along my upper lip line but relatively little on the lip itself, and I have to go back in with a dabbing motion to fill in the gaps. Not an insuperable problem, but somewhat annoying.


I'm very happy with the Prismatic Pearl formula. These glosses have the same sweet lemon scent and taste as the Amuse Bouche lipsticks. It's not an overwhelming fragrance, but I can detect it for at least an hour after application, so that's something to keep in mind if you're sensitive to scents. The formula is on the thick side but (thankfully) not sticky, and the glitter doesn't make it gritty. I can get about three hours of wear from Rose Pearl before I feel like I need to touch up, which is pretty impressive for a gloss. Like most glosses I've tried, Rose Pearl is quite moisturizing.

Despite its cool-toned fuchsia and green duochrome, Rose Pearl looks warm-toned overall, and I always end up wearing it with bronze and warm red elsewhere on my face. I also always end up wearing it with this one dress:


More recently, outside, same dress:


In my next post, I'll review another newish gloss that I've been wearing a lot this fall. I should note that my new apartment gets almost no direct natural light, so you'll have to bear with me while I sort out my lighting for blog photos. (I've been taking makeup selfies in the car, but that's not exactly a long-term solution.)