links + loves


How was your week!? We had beautiful weather here which always lifts my mood. I injured my neck on Wednesday, though, and have been slowly recovering during the later half of the week. I think it’s just a pulled muscle, and I’m hoping to feel better for the weekend!

I have to tell you that I’m on a bit of a brussels sprouts kick right now. I love when they get crispy when they have been roasted for a bit. And top with a little salt, garlic, and parmesan?! Yum. Do you have a favorite brussels sprout recipe?

I tried these Levi’s after coming across them a few separate times while I searched for straight-leg ankle jeans. I’m going to be honest, the word “wedgie” scared the crap out of me but as it turns out they fit very comfortably and I love the cut!

I’m picky about matte lip colors but I’ve gone through almost a complete lipstick of the YSL slim sheer lipstick. It doesn’t last all day, but it’s a really easy-to-wear matte and sheer lipstick! I just added the brighter pink color, number 111, to the mix and love the vibrancy of the color!

Did you see my full review of the Shani Darden Retinol Reform yesterday? You can click here to read it.

I also launched my spring style series highlighting a few key pieces of outerwear that are timeless and classic. Click here to read the post! 

And here are a few things I mentioned on Instagram Stories that you may have missed: 

If you are a beauty enthusiast and interested in being on the #SephoraSquad this year, click HERE to sign up to be notified when applications open.

Peach Graphic Tee – there is a limited size run at the moment but I hope they make more. It’s a cute, basic tee!

Giordano’s Chicago Style Pizza – the best out there.

Pink long-sleeve shirt – I’ve already bought two more of these colors

$5 Layering Tank from Target – just a great tank in a lot of colors!

Pictionary Air Family Game – I saw this on Rambling Redheads feed and bought it right away. It’s been a lot of fun!

Lancome Lash Idole Mascara – This mascara is a dream. It’s everything I want in a mascara and nothing I don’t.

Self Tanner Suggestions: San Tropez Luxe Whipped Cream Mousse, San Tropez Bronzing Water Mousse, San Tropez Gradual Tan Classic, Isle of Paradise Drops, Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water Spray, St Tropez Watermelon Bronzing Lotion, Tanning Application Mitt

Glow Recipe Watermelon Lotion – This has a wonderful light watermelon scent!

J.Crew Jeans

Block Heel Target Sandals

MeMoi Sock Liners – very similar to my favorite Cole Haan liners, and they stay put!

World Market Tall Drinking Glasses – I have a set of glasses like these from Home Goods!

This week’s discount codes: 

Care/Of Vitamins: Use code KATEBRYAN for 50% off of your first order.

Miranda Frye Jewelry: Use code smallthings10 for 10% off and free shipping.


Questions from Monday’s Question Box on Instagram: 

What products do you use on your kid’s hair? I’m not very picky with their hair right now, so I just grab what catches my eye at Target. Right now Emily has a duo by Honest but I’ve also used Aveeno, Arbonne, and others.

What are some of your favorite shampoo and conditioners? For years I used different products by Redken and was usually happy with anything! I also love Pureology, Oribe, or Function of Beauty.

If you were to do a wild hair color on yourself, what would you choose? Honestly I’d love to be a redhead one day! It sounds fun!

Do you get to pick your products for a sponsored post? Yes to a degree. I always test products for some time beforehand and only move forward if I would recommend them organically as well.

Favorite overnight lip product? Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

Do I need to wash my hair twice? It depends. In general washing your hair twice is a good practice if you go a few days between washing, use a lot of products, or have very oily hair. But overall it seems like a single shampoo is good for the most part.

What are your thoughts on dermaplaning? I don’t personally do it, but I think it’s fine to explore if you want to look into that!

What are some nail colors you are liking for spring? I’m feeling the bright pinks and corals already! I typically lean towards softer shades in the spring, but anything bright pink is right up my alley these days.


A Transformative Skin Care Find!


My experience with Shani Darden Retinol Reform for the past 5 weeks.

The first time I applied Shani Darden Retinol Reform to my skin was in the evening on January 28th. I know it was that day because I had just taken part in an interview with Shani during a Sephora Squad event and was extremely interested in trying her products after hearing more from her about them.

Her name sounded familiar and I clicked back over to Anna Mae Groves’ Instagram page and confirmed that this was the same product Anna had been raving about recently. I was struck by the before and after that Anna shared on her page (you can watch it all on the highlight called “Retinol”) and was so happy to give it a go.

Full disclosure: I did receive the Shani Darden Retinol Reform as well as the Intensive Eye Renewal Cream as a part of a gratis package as a Sephora Squad member, but I have since bought an additional two bottles because I don’t want to ever be without it.

Prior to using this product, my most similar experience was with a plant-based retinol alternative product by Biossance called the Squalane + Phyto-retinol Serum. I had great results with it, and I was pleased to try a plant-based product first because I imagined it to be more gentle on my skin.

Retinol, while effective, can sometimes be tough on the skin. There are side effects like redness, peeling, sensitivity, and more. It’s important to use it very sparingly at first, and slowly build your skin’s tolerance up to a level that works for you.

You may be wondering? What is so great about retinol anyway?

Retinol, which is a gentle yet effective Retinoid, is a synthetic form of Vitamin A. The term “retinoid” is an umbrella term for any synthetic vitamin A. Retinol is good for encouraging cell turnover, revealing more radiant and even skin. It can help lighten dark spots, and work to improve some signs of aging on the skin.

While it’s always important to wear a daily SPF, it is especially important when using a retinol product regularly as the skin is being renewed.

I was nervous about the side effects that some can experience when introducing retinol to your skincare routine. It’s advised to use a retinol product sparingly at first, and slowly build up frequency of use based on how your skin tolerates the product. As someone with sensitive skin, I followed these directions carefully.

The first night I applied Retinol Reform, I followed it up with the Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Dream Face Cream. That is a night cream I have been using for a long time, and I knew it agreed with my skin really well. So I washed my face, applied Retinol Reform, waited a few minutes, then applied my night cream. I then did all my other serums like brow serum, lash serum, eyelash conditioner, eye cream, etc.

I went to sleep and, to be totally honest, I was sure I’d see some redness or side effects in the morning. As it turns out, I saw nothing but perfectly happy and glowing skin. I am not going to lie, I think my skin looked noticeably better the very next morning, but I convinced myself it was probably just what I wanted to see. Now that I’ve had 5 weeks of experience with it, I kind of believe that I saw immediate improvement.

So here is my face before I tried the product.

This is a screenshot of a video I shot for a campaign, so I apologize that it isn’t totally clear. My skin is sensitive, I have dryness around my nose, and I’m prone to hormonal + mask-wearing induced breakouts along my chin. I see uneven tone, dullness, and a lot of dark spots along the bottom half of my skin.

My hope was that my skin would be more even and that I would see some of my dark spots lighten up a bit.

Here are a few shots of my skin after one use of the product. I am wearing a moisturizer here, just to be clear.

In general, my skin was in a pretty good spot in these photos. And at this point, I had already started to see more evenness in tone and it felt softer as well.

I took the following photos on February 18th. At this point, my obsession with Retinol Reform was thriving. I hadn’t had a single new blemish arise, and my skin was glowing and healthy. And again, just to be clear, I was wearing moisturizer in this photo as well as sitting in front of my lighted mirror.

So I’m now on my 5th week of using Retinol Reform as a part of my nightly skincare routine. I typically apply it 4-5 times a week at night. Very occasionally I will skip it if I plan to use the Ole Henriksen Lemonade Smoothing Scrub** the next day. I’ve found that I don’t feel the need to exfoliate as often as I did before, which is probably due to the Lactic Acid.

The most noticeable changes for me, that I hope are coming through in the photos for you, are fewer breakouts, more evenness in tone, softer skin, and radiance. Honestly, I feel like my confidence got a huge boost from using this product because my skin is so clear and even. I am beyond pleased that I haven’t experienced any, I mean ANY, negative side effects. I was really concerned about redness and flaking, and I haven’t had any.

A few common Q & A’s:

One. Why are you using this and not a prescription from your dermatologist? For one, I wanted to use the exact product that Anna was using because she had such great things to say about it. I also wanted to use something that anyone would be able to purchase for themselves as well.

Two. Are your results better than when you were using the plant-based retinol alternative? It’s hard to say because I went about a year or more between the two products, but in general, I saw results faster with the Retinol Reform.

Three. How frequently do you use it? I started with one night a week, then the following week I did two nights, and continued adding in nights from there. A slow build-up is key for watching for a reaction on your skin.

**The Ole Henricksen Lemonade Smoothing Scrub has AHA and it’s not recommended to use a product with AHA while also using a Retinol.

So overall, as I’m sure you can gather from this post, I am really impressed with this product! I’m incredibly pleased that I haven’t had any negative side effects and I’m so thrilled with the positive changes to my skin thus far.

Just like any time you are intersted in trying a new skincare product, make sure you do your research and do your best to figure out which would be best for you!

Spring Style: Outerwear


I’ve always loved the option of having a few lightweight layers to choose from when I’m getting dressed for the day. Part of that comes from the climate that I live in, where layers are really key for any time of the year. In the mornings and evenings of winter you’ll want to bundle up, but sometimes you’ll ditch the scarf and gloves in the middle of the day when the sun is shining!

But what am I doing talking about winter anyway? Spring is on the horizon!

I love warmer temperatures and in prepping and choosing pieces for this Spring Style series my goal is to provide suggestions on timeless, classic pieces that you can wear year after year in certain seasons.

Let’s dive into the outerwear picks!

No. 1,   No. 2,   No. 3,   No. 4,   No. 5 (similar),   No. 6 (similar),   No. 7 (similar),   No. 8,   No. 9,   No. 10,   No. 11. (similar)

In general, there are 4 pieces I tend to choose from more than any other style. A denim jacket, a blazer, a utility jacket, and a trench coat. I wear these styles the most and find them to work in plenty of other seasons beyond springtime.

Beyond these four items, I’d add in a casual zip-up hoodie, like this one which is similar to what I have from Old Navy, but I honestly don’t wear it as much as I do the other pieces.

When it comes to the final layer of an outfit, you’ll see I prefer something that has a bit of structure to it instead of a cardigan or open sweater. It’s really just my personal preference and style choice, but either one of those styles is a great option if you like warmth and comfort!

The denim jacket I’m wearing in these photos is originally from J.Crew. Denim jackets can be a tough fit sometimes, and it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right one for you! I like a fitted, standard length denim jacket, that leans a little bit more on the dark side instead of being a light wash. I think it’s the most versatile! I also steer clear of distressing, frayed edges, and other details that could “age” the jacket in the years to come.

My trench coat is Vince Camuto, and I originally found it on Amazon in 2018. I’m unable to find it online at the moment, but I shared a similar option in the link above. When it comes to a trench coat, I like a tan color, a tie at the waist, and a removable hood. All of those elements make a trench coat both functional and sleek. If you are looking for something water-resistant for a more casual wardrobe, this jacket from Old Navy caught my eye recently. Aren’t the tie details cute?

My blazer is a new addition from H&M and I like the lighter wash to it. I have and still love a darker tan blazer that I found at Abercrombie (similar to this one) last year, but I wanted to provide an option that is available to buy for this series. One of my favorite outfits is jeans, pumps, a simple tank, and a blazer. It feels like a power outfit for me, and it looks great on anyone.

Lastly, a utility jacket is my go-to for Spring, Summer, and Fall. I typically find that I like one with a drawstring waist, which is a flattering detail for my body, and I like that it’s a casual jacket that looks great with joggers, denim, or can be dressed up a touch with the right accessories. When it comes to a utility jacket, I get the most wear out of one that is a dark, army green, or a lighter camel shade.

Beyond these four basics, other fun springtime outerwear picks could be a bomber jacket (I always love the look of these but I tend not to wear them if I buy them!?), a knit blazer, or a longer knit drapey jacket.

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