The Story of My Skincare Struggle, and the Products That Saved Me

The skincare struggle is real, people. That’s why it’s like, a billion dollar industry. And I am all for it.

I didn’t used to be. In fact, I hated skincare. Absolutely hated it. You know why? Because anything that adds ten minutes to my morning routine is not welcome. No thank you, sir. But then I became a college student, and my skin rebelled. Apparently as an adult, I still have teenage skin, because it is angry and oily and loves to erupt in acne right before important social functions, such as fraternity date parties, and my college graduation. Sigh.

So I got desperate and started trying everything. I tried my roommate’s put-toothpaste-on-it trick, I tried using spot treatments but all over my face, I tried moisturizers, Proactiv, Exposed Skin Care, everything. I kept playing Whack-A-Mole with my face: Every time a pimple popped up, I squashed it, and then another pimple would pop up next to it. Finally I knew it was time to get my butt into the dermatologist.

Taking the bitter pill

At some point, you have to suck it up and do an acne treatment that sucks for a few months before it gets better. I had cystic acne, which meant I had those awful monster bumps deep under the skin that won’t go away. My derm patted me on the arm and said, “We will beat this,” like I had some kind of horrible disease. And then we did. We beat the crap out of it. I knocked the thing out with Doxycyclin, a powerful antibiotic that I was very happy to stop after three months. The bad news: I had to start a skincare regimen. With prescription products. And because one of those products is an antibiotic, if I didn’t do it right, if I wasn’t consistent, the products would stop working. Eek.

The new skin workout

I told myself that I would rather have to take ten minutes out of my day to fix my problem, than face another cystic mountain zit. People face worse things. People have worse health problems with worse treatments. So why was I so frustrated? Maybe because it still felt unfair that I had to deal with this while other girls have beautifully clear skin. Bu that was stupid thinking, because everyone has their thing they need to deal with, and I’m lucky that my thing is skin. Because, hallelujah, I could fix it!

My prescription products include a daily face wash, an antibiotic lotion, and prescription Retin A. Beyond that, I mix it with other products to keep my skin feeling fresh, clean, and happy. No more angry zits.

My current skincare routine, with life-saving products

Some of the products I use are prescription, but for the ones that aren’t, I provided links!

Every day

Morning: I start by washing my face with PanOxyl, a benzoyl peroxide face wash. Then I apply prescription face lotion (this prevents the cystic acne). The benzoyl peroxide kills all the bacteria, which not only helps acne, but also makes sure my skin doesn’t get used to the antibiotic lotion that I put on after.

Sometimes I do see a little pimple starting to pop up, especially if I’ve slacked on washing my face, so I’ll apply a spot treatment.

Next is SPF, the most important step. I’ll put on a BB cream with SPF in it, or a primer with SPF, or I’ll wear a tinted sunscreen moisturizer. SPF is so, so important. Not just for preventing wrinkles, but also for preventing cancer. 

Finally, I’ll usually wear a foundation specifically for acne-prone skin. Lately I’ve really liked Clinique! It gives me moderate coverage with acne-fighting, medicated ingredients.

Night: Remove makeup, cleanse face, then apply Retin-A (well, the generic version of Retin-A). Retin-A is a retinoid, which is basically a vitamin A derivative that helps unclog pores and speed up cell turnover. Mine is prescription strength, but you can find retinoid creams over the counter, too. Whether you have acne-prone skin or not, they’re super beneficial for improving lines and discoloration.

Important Note:If you use a retinoid, only use it at night (sunlight makes the ingredient stop working) and be sure to use SPF in the morning!

Once every few days

At night, sometimes I’ll use a sonic facial cleansing brush (like a Clarisonic, but a different brand) and a sonic face wash to give my face a deeper cleanse. I would never have tried a sonic brush if I hadn’t worked in beauty PR, but now I’m a believer. It’s like an electric toothbrush, but for your face.

I’ll also put on moisturizer every couple days, because even oily skin types need hydration! It’s easy to forget that when your skin gets too dry, it can overreact and start producing even more oil, causing more breakouts. I also have a lot of redness, so moisturizers help calm it the eff down.

Once a week:

I love face masks, and I try to treat myself to one every week. Depending on how dry the weather is and how oily my skin is feeling, I’ll switch up my routine with a mask and put on an episode of This Is Us. And try not to cry the mask off.

I also use sleep masks, which are ideal for dry times. You just put it on, go to bed, and let the mask do the work.

Once a month/Whenever I can afford it and I’m feeling rich:

Occasionally, I’ll get a professional facial! It honestly feels better than a massage. The Dermologica Skin Bar at Ulta Beauty is pretty awesome and inexpensive– you can even get the 10-minute facial for $10, if you’re like me and you’re short on both time and money! But really, it’s worth a splurge, because it’s your skin. And your skin deserves all the pampering you can give it!


There you have it…my skincare story! Have you overcome any skincare struggles? Let me know in your comments, and be sure to share your secrets to success!

XO,

CC

A road map to your travel beauty bag

Do you ever daydream about getting in your car and running off to the mountains? Is this just me? Well, this week, I actually decided to go for it. I’m such a Type A personality that it’s super out of character to just up and leave, but sometimes, you just gotta get away, and this weekend was one of those times.

My boyfriend and I spontaneously decided to drive 12 hours to Rocky Mountain National Park…why? Because we’re going stir-crazy here in our college town and we literally picked a place on the map. Colorado, here we come!

Here’s the catch with last-minute road trips to the wilderness: Camping. Hiking. Limited access to showers. Which is great for a getaway, but not so great for a beauty-obsessed, sorta high-maintenance girlfriend. But I don’t let my boyfriend see me sweat (literally and figuratively), because I have my bag of beauty tricks. Which is just as important as the road map.

With dry shampoo, travel sizes and double-duty products, you can still look like a normal person even while living in a car or tent for a few days.

Scroll down for my must-have travel bag of mini beauty goodies!

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Kate Spade Scenic Route Tote Bag

For holding it all, of course.

DESTINATION: SKIN

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Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30

This is a newer product that takes care of a few things at once: SPF, moisturizer, and a bit of light coverage. When you’re on the road, heavy foundation isn’t a priority, but you’ll definitely want to protect yourself from the sun and dryness.

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Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer

You’ll probably need to cover up some serious undereye circles from the travel fatigue, but this product’s got you. Better yet, you can also use it to contour. BOOM. You’ve got a coverup and a highlighter in one. Bonus points: Apply it with the Double Duty Beauty Quickie Blending Sponge.

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Soap & Glory Clean On Me Creamy Clarifying Shower Gel

For when you’re using the communal shower in a campsite. This will wash all your germaphobe worries away. Plus, whenever I use it, the song “Lean On Me” pops into my head. Anyways. It’s great.

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First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser Mini

Don’t ditch skincare just because you’re ditching your regular life routine for a few days! This cleanser gets the job done: It removes dirt and makeup, moisturizes, and helps soothe redness.

DESTINATION: EYES

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Urban Decay Travel Size Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion

A favorite essential in the cutest, tiniest bottle I’ve ever seen. Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you should skip your shadow primer!

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Maybelline The City Mini Palette

With limited space for giant palettes, this mini one has all the essential colors in a small package. Stick to neutrals, and apply with your finger if you forget to pack brushes!

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Clinique Chubby Stick Shadow Tint

Sometimes you need a quick eyeshadow boost on the go, and I keep these in my purse even when I’m not traveling. You never know when you’ll need to swipe on some drama. Also works great in bar bathrooms during a night out.

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Clinique Travel Size Chubby Lash Mascara

This one’s pretty straightforward: Just one of my favorite mascaras in a smaller size. But I also stock up on my mascara samples (like the free gifts with purchase) because they’re the perfect travel size. Next time you get a mini mascara, save it for the road trip!

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e.l.f. Eyebrow Kit

It’s a tiny, two-shade palette, but it works surprisingly well and fits nicely in your bag. Simple is best here. Road tripping it does not mean overdoing it when it comes to brow business.

DESTINATION: LIPS

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e.l.f. Tinted Lip Balm

The challenge here will be keeping your lips from drying out, especially if you’re flying or traveling to a dry area. Chapstick is a must, and the e.l.f. lip balm has the added bonus of adding color while moisturizing. And maybe the biggest bonus: It’s $1.99.

DESTINATION: HAIR

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Batiste Travel Size Dry Shampoo

Another classic in fun-sized form. Arguably the most important item on the list.

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Bumble and Bumble Travel Size Pret-A-Powder

Another great hair solution in a pinch– it’s a dry shampoo, but also a volumizer. I have such fine, thin hair that this is an absolute life-saver on the go.

 

And there you have it– your travel guide to travel beauty products! Do you have any must-have beauty products for when you’re on the go?

Happy travels!

XO,

CC

Fave Five: Rocking the red lip in fall

Growing up in southern California, I never experienced the fall season at full force. Now, in the middle of Missouri, I love nothing more than the crispy cold air, the gold and red leaves, the endless corn mazes, and the excuse for fall fashion and beauty. Well, and the excuse for pumpkin spice lattes. But you already knew that. And who really needs an excuse for PSLs, anyways?

What I love about the fall is the drama it brings. Halloween parties? Haunted houses? Hayrides? Thanksgiving break? Outdoor concerts? Football games? It’s all the prime opportunity for some dramatic beauty looks, and no dramatic look is complete without the right red lipstick on hand. Because when the leaves turn red and the basic girls start dressing as vampires, it’s time for your lips to follow suit.

In this Fave Five post, I’ve rounded up my top five lip products for achieving the bold red lip, with both mass and prestige products to pick from. Let’s rock ‘n roll, shall we?

Fave Five Lipstick (1)

  1. Chanel Rouge Coco Ultra Hydrating Lip Colour: Chanel lipstick is iconic. So iconic that no respectable lipstick roundup would leave it out. It’s a classic for a reason– it makes you feel like Coco herself. After all, it was Coco Chanel who said, “If you’re feeling sad, add more lipstick and attack.” Wise words from a wise woman. Buy her lipstick.
  2. NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Kitten Heels: I love how smoothly this goes on, and you honestly can’t beat the $6.99 price tag. It’s sold in places like Target, so you can easily pick it up next time you’re getting groceries. An excellent dupe if, like me, you don’t currently have the resources to spring for Chanel.
  3. Ulta Lipstick in Chili Pepper 203: A deep brownish red that fits flawlessly into fall. This is my weapon of choice for hayrides and bonfires, and because it’s such a small, convenient size, I keep it in my purse at all times for when I’m seeing red and need to add a lip on the go.
  4. Kylie Cosmetics Mary Jo K Lip Kit: I first tried the Kylie Lip Kit when I got the holiday edition for Christmas (Santa gets me and my beauty needs), and I. Am. A. Believer. In spite of my skepticism, I wore the lip kit out one night to a Christmas bar crawl, and it stayed perfectly in place like nothing I’ve ever seen. For a long haul like Halloween or football tailgates, the Lip Kit is a lifesaver. Try it in this shade of true red.
  5. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in F-Bomb: With a name like F-Bomb, how can you not buy the shade? This is a classic red cream color for when you need to summon your inner Marilyn (Monroe, not Manson) and bring the drama. F-Bomb is truly The Bomb.

Which lipstick makes you feel your most badass during the fall? Comment below if you have your own favorites!

XO,

CC

Lip color: Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in F-Bomb

Fave Five: Spa Night Essentials

When it comes to a night in with Netflix and facials, I have the essentials. With combination skin, stressed-out pores, and a college lifestyle with a questionable diet, it’s not just a luxury to do facials once a week: It’s a necessity. Add in body lotion, nail polish, Chinese takeout, and Gossip Girl, and I’ve got a beautiful night in (that sometimes rivals a night out, TBH).

Self-care is real, people. And Spa Night In is not to be taken lightly.

I’ve rounded up my favorite five must-have products for the perfect spa night in:

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1) Philosophy Purity Made Simple Pore Extractor: This face mask is the real deal for pulling any gunk out of your pores. The main ingredients are white clay and salicylic acid– the clay extracts your pores, while the salicylic acid helps with acne. It only takes about 5 minutes for the mask to harden, so this is a good one to do on busier nights. I try to do it around once or twice a week, and it’s always my first step on Spa Night In.

2) Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief: After literally scrubbing the crap out of my face, I moisturize with a tried-and-true Clinique product. It makes me feel like I’m at a resort in Palm Springs getting a face massage and I’m all about it.

3) Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Butter: Even though I’ve always thought “body butter” is a slightly weird term, I became a believer when I started using it during the drier months. Body butter is thicker than a regular lotion, and Bliss does it best. My skin gets super dry and even starts cracking once the weather gets cold, and the Bliss Lemon + Sage body butter does the trick to keep my skin soft. Plus it smells like pure stress relief.

4) Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment: Your face shouldn’t have all the fun– give your hair a facial too! The Living Proof mask is luxe AF and lasts a long time. If you use it once a week, you’ll notice the difference, and believe me, I rarely notice the difference when it comes to hair products.

5) Butter London Glazen Nail Lacquer in Rose Quartz: You’ve got the hair and the skin covered, so lastly we’re on to nails! Lately I’ve been obsessed with the shinier rose-gold polish colors as we go from summer to fall, because if the trees are turning gold, why shouldn’t my nails?


Treat yourself to a spa night at least once a week, even if you only take one episode on Netflix to do it. Have other ideas for spa night essentials? Let me know in the comments!

XO,
CC

Why the self-care trend shouldn’t be just a trend

We Millennials get a lot of smack for talking about “self-care” and its importance, while spending money on face masks, Netflix, yoga, crystals and candles that will promise to heal our souls. This NPR post recently described the Internet obsession with self-care, with increased Google searches in the past year.

I say, bravo. Because not only has the self-care trend increased the understanding of mental health, but it also gives us permission to take time for self awareness and happiness (not that we should even need it in the first place). In a world where we’re constantly under pressure to work our butts off while looking perfect on social media, we feel guilty for putting our lives on pause to watch TV at home and eat Chinese takeout, when it’s a super normal thing to do. We feel ashamed for doing something selfish, doing something that makes us happy. Why are we so upset over doing what makes us happy?! Since when is it a bad thing to do what we want?

Unfortunately, the flip side of a trend is that there are a lot of BS self-care tips and products out there, so it’s important to understand how to apply it to your life without getting duped into thinking a magical(ly expensive) body oil will do the trick. After lots of research, experimentation, and digging through my Instagram feed to figure out the difference between brands that actually care and products that have nothing to do with my well-being, I came up with my own version of no-BS self-care tips:

Self-care can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

Practicing self-care doesn’t necessarily mean doing yoga every ten minutes and eating spinach for every meal. You don’t have to adopt a whole new lifestyle– but you can, if that’s what you need.

Try new things to see what works.

It might take some trial and error to understand what you benefit from. Going to a concert or getting drinks with a big group would definitely count as self-care if you’re extroverted and you need more of those times in your life. If you’re more on the introverted side, maybe you need to try spending an extra hour on yourself. If you’re active, a new fun workout class could be it. If you’re a workaholic like me and want a way to relax “productively,” watch Ted Talks or listen to podcasts.

Or maybe none of these help and what you really need are cupcakes. Point is, you won’t know until you try it. Good excuse to eat cupcakes.

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There’s a difference between indulging and over-indulging.

“Self-care” doesn’t equal “not doing my dishes.” Even if you think math problems are detrimental to your mental health, your algebra professor will probably not enjoy “I was practicing self-care!” as an explanation for “I didn’t do the homework assignment.” Self-care habits should be productive to your mindset, instead of an excuse for procrastinating on things you just don’t want to do. **ALSO: Self-care is not a replacement for seeking professional help if you need it!**

Don’t get marketed to.

Speaking as a PR professional, I totally get why brands are jumping on the health/wellness/self-care trend…if they’re relevant and could actually help someone. But I don’t believe in trying to make a buck off someone’s well-being if you’re just trying to get Instagram likes and not being truly beneficial. Think before buying the overpriced oil. Is it your thing? Does it fulfill a need? Does the brand seem like it actually cares? Don’t let self-care lose its meaning by buying into an ideal, as this article reminds us.

When it comes to spending money, though, don’t be afraid to spend a little on yourself.

Buy yourself flowers for once. Or Lollapalooza tickets, in my case.

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Make it personalized.

Don’t just take self-care tips at face value from BuzzFeed, or even this post. What might make some people happy might not work for others, and you need to try different things before you see what’s best for you. I personally have no use for “be one with nature” during allergy season, but “try yoga once a week” has actually worked wonders in clearing my mind and giving me positive energy. As dumb as that sounds.

Long story short: If you think crystals are New-Age nutso, ditch them for a face mask and call it a night. You do you.

That said…

What does your version of self-care look like?

Spill.

My version of self-care looks a little like this:

  • Go to as many concerts as financially possible
  • Find an excuse to get dressed up for something
  • Play video games and drink beer with my guy friends
  • Watch rom-coms and drink wine with my girl friends
  • Sit in a hot tub
  • Buy a coffee instead of making it at home (shocker)
  • Embrace my inner nerd and do homework on a Saturday without feeling like a loser, because getting homework done relieves my stress during the busy week
  • Grab Panda Express for dinner, because even though it isn’t the healthiest thing, it makes me a lot happier than it should. And that’s okay.
  • Put in 20 minutes on the yoga mat by watching a Yoga With Adrienne video
  • Catch up with someone I haven’t talked to in a while
  • Stop by an Ulta Beauty and buy a fun new lip gloss or highlighter
  • Use a minute to think about all the positives happening in my life, because it’s easy for me to get dragged down by small things
  • Take the world’s longest, hottest shower, and then wear a face mask while watching really terrible videos on YouTube

Honestly, sounds amazing right now. I think I’ll go get Panda Express, buy new mascara, and watch Sex and the City while wearing a face mask.

XO,

CC

 

 

 

 

 

Fave Five: Eclipse-Inspired Beauty

As someone lucky enough to be in the path of totality for this year’s Solar Eclipse (score one for Missouri), I can say with full confidence that I have no idea what I’m about to witness. But it does say a lot about 2017 if the highlight of the year is the sun getting temporarily blocked out by the moon.

I can also say with full confidence that any celestial event is a good excuse for celestial beauty (and for listening to David Bowie). While the sun glows from behind the moon, your face can glow from behind the best highlighter, eye shadow and moisturizer a girl can find.

To celebrate the fact that my world will be plunged into total darkness for two minutes and thirty five seconds, I present my top solar eclipse-inspired beauty accessories, from head to toe: starryeyed

  1. Sequin Scrunchie: I absolutely love this oversized sequin scrunchie from Free People! No one does hair accessories like FP, and this one’s no exception. Your basic pony will shine bright in the starlight today or any other day!
  2. NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Little Denim Dress: Okay, so I know it’s a little out there to wear bright blue lipstick, but hear me out. With the Mermaid trend and Unicorn trend taking over mainstream beauty and mainstream Starbucks drinks (I never did try the Unicorn Frappucino), blue lipstick will become the norm. So jump on this trend now in anticipation of my predicted Alien trend.
  3. OPI Nail Lacquer in By the Light of the Moon: I always loved a good glittery pedicure, in spite of my desire to be less basic. And this shade name is just too spot-on to not wear for an eclipse.
  4. Ulta Beauty Liquid Illuminator in Bright Lights: This is my favorite everyday highlighter, and when I want an extra oomph, I add extra glow.
  5. Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit – Moonchild: The ultimate kit for even MORE glow. There can never be enough glow.
  6. Urban Decay Moondust Eye Shadow in Intergalactic: The Moondust shadows are a fan favorite, and it’s because they’re super pigmented and gorgeously colored. If you want a glitter smoky eye, this is your stuff. End of discussion.
  7. Anastasia Beverly Hills Metallic Luster Liner in Liquid Silver: You can’t forget a good metallic liner for this, even with solar eclipse glasses on. Anastasia Beverly Hills does it right.
  8. Algenist SPLASH Absolute Hydration Replenishing Sleeping Pack: I was always skeptical about overnight moisturizers since I have combination skin on the oily side. But I’ll try anything once, and a perk of working in PR is getting free samples. So I gave this sleeping pack a go, and I was amazed at how much it made my skin glowy and dewy the next morning. And no breakouts! I think it’s a general skincare rule to moisturize even with oily skin, because dry skin can cause more breakouts.

 

Last, but not least…

Of course, don’t forget your most important accessory: Grab a pair of solar eclipse glasses! Check that the vendor is on the approved list before buying. Please don’t burn your eyes out. And remember to protect your phone if you take pictures– the sun can burn your camera the same way it burns your eyes!

XO,

CC

Beauty in Transit

Lately I’ve found myself on a train with a bare face and 30 minutes to kill before I have to arrive somewhere and look like I didn’t just run out of my apartment.

Except I’m always racing against time, and when you have 5 minutes to hop on the Metra, mascara isn’t as important as making it there. The good news? My makeup bag is always with me, with beauty tools made for moments of panic.

Here are some pointers for beauty on the go, whether it be trains, planes or automobiles:

Foundation

Hopefully you got this on before you left the house– this one is most important to do under good lighting– but if not, no worries. Just make extra sure you’re blending with the right brushes.

Start with a primer that has SPF (ALWAYS SPF) and then use a BB cream that gives you nice coverage without being super heavy. When you’re applying quickly, you can’t afford to do heavy.

Be sure to use a brush that gets the job done in quick, broad strokes. I use the e.l.f flawless face brush.

Cheeks

A duo palette is the call here. I like the NYX Cheek Contour Duo Palette. If you can go pricier, Clinique and Tarte have great options. Right now I use Clinique bronzer, and apply it with the e.l.f fan brush.

Bonus points: Finish it off with highlighter to look like you really have it together.

And with that, you’ve gotten your base done. On to the hard part!

Eyes

If you’re a travel pro, you have the travel size Urban Decay Primer Potion.

It’s so itty bitty! Look at it next to my mascara!

Next, use a palette with your essential neutral shades. I usually have the original Urban Decay Naked or the Naked Smoky palette with me, but it’s not ideal since it takes up more space. Try a mini palette with the best of the basics. You can always darken it depending on where you’re going. A couple suggestions:

As for eyeliner: Beware of bumps, and choose an eyeliner that won’t smudge if you do hit something. The Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Waterproof Gel Pencil is a good smudge-proof option.

Mascara

When you need to swipe it on quickly, it’s important to have a mascara that will still achieve the same volume without being clumpy. I use the Clinique Travel Size Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara or the classic Maybelline Falsies to get the voluminous effect in seconds.

Lastly: Lips & Nails

When it comes to shaky transportation, you want to avoid neon-bright lip colors and lipsticks that are unforgiving with mess-ups. Opt for a neutral or light pink color in either a lip gloss or lip crayon, which won’t need as much precision and still looks great. The e.l.f. Lip Kiss Balm  is swell.

If you have time, paint your nails with another light, forgiving color. Then grab a magazine and your headphones to sit back and relax, knowing you just pulled off a polished look in the middle of rush hour. Not bad at all.

XO,

CC