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Honest reviews of products I finished in November

If you follow me on the 'gram, you might recognize this series—at the end of the month, I'd share the beauty products I finished, with mini reviews. I haven't done them for a few months, because thanks to Instagram's constant algorithm f*ckery, they're kind of a lot of work for very little return. But then I thought, why not just do them here instead? So here we are, and here are the things I finished last month. I've noted where I received items for free, however as always, the reviews below contain my 100% honest and unfiltered opinions.

The Cheryl Shops holiday gift guide 2022

I almost started this post with "how is it time for the holidays already?" but as someone who loves this time of year, let me rephrase that: it's time for the holidays already! I am certainly feeling the spirit, especially since this year is (knock on wood) looking like it will be the first normal one since the you-know-what. I am really excited about everything I'm featuring this year, so without further ado, let's dive into my holiday gift guide for 2022! 

An honest review of Spanx ankle backseam skinny pants

Depending on who you ask, skinny pants are either dead or totally going strong; while I am definitely embracing the new loose fits, I still have skinnies in my regular rotation. Now that the weather is cooler, I've found myself wearing them even more often, because they just go so well with big, cozy sweaters (which definitely aren't going anywhere). And since I know you love my Spanx reviews, I decided to give the full honest review treatment to my most-worn pair of the bunch, the Spanx ankle backseam skinny pant. Spanx sent these pants to me for free, but as always, this post contains my 100% honest and unfiltered opinion. 

9 favorites from the Sephora sale (and what I'm buying)

 If you're thinking, "Wow, Cheryl, you're posting early this week," you are correct. And that's because the Sephora Beauty Insider sale has come early this year. Early access for Rouge started Friday, today is the lucky day for VIBs like me (yay!), and the remaining Beauty Insiders get to shop starting Thursday. Sephora Collection is 30% off for everyone, and the entire thing goes through Monday, 11/7. And while I'm no longer working for Sephora, I still have a bunch of new favorite products to tell you about, plus a few more that I'm planning to buy. Read on for my recommendations!

3 fall must-haves

Last week, the New York Times did a profile on the "Christian girl autumn" woman, and I found her to be equally fascinating and relatable. Then again, I am one of those people who unapologetically loves fall. It has the best weather, the best food, and the best clothes. I like to be covered up—we can unpack the psychology behind that another day—and fall means you can layer turtlenecks and sweaters and blazers  and all those other cozy pieces all on top of each other. (Note: I know you can do that in winter too, but I feel like winter adds an element of needing more protective gear, which I'm not into.) This fall feels extra important to me because the last two have been marred by pandemic uncertainty, but this year feels like we're all ready to embrace capital-F Fashion once again. I've stopped doing trend reports—trends are something I don't exactly follow anymore—but there are a few things I'm particularly excited for this season. Here are my top three must-haves for fall 2022. 

The 5 best fall candles

Confession: I am a candle lady. I almost constantly have one burning in my apartment, and I use them like aromatherapy, to enhance or boost my mood. As with perfume, there's a subtle seasonality to candles: in warmer weather, I go for lighter, more citrusy or floral fragrances, whereas in cooler weather, I want something more spicy and warm. To be honest, fall is my favorite season for many reasons—not for the pumpkin-spice clich├ęs, but I do love more substantial clothing (like sweaters and boots), food (give me a bowl of pasta, please), and, yes, scents—the warmer the better. I tend to gravitate toward anything rich and woody, and bonus points if it smells like a wood-burning fireplace, which, in my opinion, is one of the most cozy, comforting things ever. Now that it looks like we've had our last hot day of the year (knock on wood), here are my five favorite fall candles. 

An honest review of Gucci Brixton loafers

If you've seen House of Gucci, you know that the Italian luxury house has certainly had its ups and downs over the years. Its most recent resurgence, which is still going strong, has been led by Alessandro Michele, who's been Gucci's head designer since 2015. In a stark contrast to the sleek, sexy Tom Ford years (which, to be honest, did appeal to me in my early 20s), the current era is more of a maximalist, geek-chic vibe with a healthy dose of streetwear influence. While the more over-the-top pieces don't always speak to me, I do appreciate Michele's reinterpretation of many Gucci classics. Several years ago, I had my heart set on the Princetown mule, which I discovered did not fit my foot (more on that later). Thankfully, I found the Brixton horsebit loafer and treated myself to a pair for my birthday back in 2019. To this day, they remain one of my favorite pairs of shoes, and I've featured them frequently here on Cheryl Shops. But if you're thinking about buying a pair, there are some important things you should know. Here's my honest and unfiltered opinion of the Gucci Brixton leather horsebit loafer. 

What I wore in Croatia

In case you missed my Croatia travel diary last week, we spent 12 days in Croatia in September, starting with two nights in Split, then a week on a chartered boat, and finally three nights in Dubrovnik. (And I actually started the trip with four nights in Vienna, but that's another post for another day!) My challenge was twofold: first, packing clothes that worked for both land and sea, and second, fitting them all into a carry-on, because I had a connecting flight in Frankfurt and had heard horror stories about lost luggage. So, yes, I managed to pack enough clothes for two and a half weeks in a carry-on—it's all about packing cubes, but I also made sure that everything I brought could be worn at least two different ways (you'll see several items get repeated here). This isn't everything I packed (swimsuits and cover-ups, for example), but these were definitely my go-to pieces. Here's what I wore on vacation in Croatia. 

12 days in Croatia

A few years ago, a study came out concluding that most people derive more joy from planning a vacation than actually being on it. I am not one of those people. Travel is how I recharge my batteries, whether it's a long weekend close to home or a week-plus somewhere more far-flung. Although, to be fair, I do enjoy the planning part too. This particular Croatian vacation (or "Crocation," as we started calling it) was years in the works, thanks to various intercontinental moves, major life changes, and, oh yes, the pandemic. But it was totally worth the wait. Thanks to various circumstances, it ended up being the longest vacation I've ever taken in my life, and as a result, it was one of the most relaxing. I walked thousands of steps every day, visited places that were thousands of years old, ate like a queen, basked in the sunshine, and, most importantly, spent quality time with some of my favorite people in the world. Here's everything we did during our week and a half in Croatia. 

What to wear in San Francisco in fall

Happy first day of autumn! For many of you, it's the time of year that a cold nip starts creeping in at night, and you start thinking about boots, sweaters, and pumpkin spice everything. Unless you live in San Francisco—then it's finally summer. After months of getting pummeled with wind and fog, we now get consistently sunny days and temperatures in the 70s, and it's glorious. Of course, it's also a little weird, because it's fall and you don't necessarily want to be parading around in bright colors and airy fabrics as you would in actual summer. Thankfully, I've devised an outfit formula that feels seasonally appropriate yet warm-weather friendly. Here's what to wear in San Francisco in fall. 

How to smell like Baccarat Rouge 540 for less

Right around the time Maison Kurkdijan's Baccarat Rouge 540 scent went viral on TikTok, I received a bottle as a gift. It's been called the next Santal 33 in terms of how intoxicating—and popular—its scent is, and judging by how many dupes there are on the market, I'd say Baccarat Rouge 540 has even eclipsed Santal in terms of popularity. That might also be because BR540 is $325 for a 2.6 oz. bottle, and as much as I am willing to splurge on fragrance, I don't know that I would actually pay that much for it. It's a very unique scent—the notes are a very appealing-sounding combination of jasmine, saffron, cedarwood, and ambergris—and on me, it comes across as very sweet, very expensive cotton candy. Scent is a very subjective thing, and your own body chemistry can affect the way a fragrance smells (Glossier You, for example, is amazing on everyone but me); I am honestly more a fan of Santal 33, but that's just a matter of personal taste. In the name of service journalism, however, I decided to seek out some dupes, because I know you love them. Here are a few ways to smell like Baccarat Rouge 540 for less.

What to wear with a caftan

Hi, remember me? I feel like I've been slacking a lot on this blog, and literally the last thing I want to do is turn into that blogger who tapers off into nothingness. (Um, like when I ended up taking a three-year break awhile back.) The truth is that I have been working my heinie off, partly because we're neck-deep in holiday at the moment, and partly because I'm about to take the longest vacation I've had in probably 7 years. So to give you fair warning, I am going to take the first two weeks of September off and really unplug—like, not-take-my-laptop unplug. But in the meantime, I've got a few posts planned, and in the spirit of vacations, this one is all about the caftan. Caftan? Kaftan? I'm going with a C for Cheryl. Caftan it is! Here's my favorite one and how I'm wearing it. 

How to wear Barbiecore

I've found myself inexplicably drawn to the color pink this summer, and turns out I'm not alone: Barbiecore is everywhere at the moment. As Vogue explains, it's a little Valentino fall 2020 runway, a little excitement over the upcoming Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling (!!), and a little summer dopamine dressing. Pink comes in all different kinds of shades—my last pink outfit was definitely in the bright category—and while there's a Kardashian way to wear Barbiecore, here's how I'm doing it.


An honest review of True Botanicals Chebula Active Immunity Serum and Renew Pure Radiance Oil

I write about skincare quite a bit for my day job, so when I got Jessica DeFino's newsletter a few weeks ago, I stopped dead in my tracks. I realized how many times I've written copy along the lines of "yes, it actually works"...and the thing is, shouldn't all skincare? The sad reality is that a lot of it doesn't—or at least, it doesn't produce the results you're looking for. Again, I don't tell you about most of the products I receive for free, but when I find something that, yes, actually works, I get very evangelistic about it. My last rave review was quite spendy, so I'm happy to report that while this week's duo is not exactly a bargain, it's definitely more palatable. Read on for my unfiltered thoughts on True Botanicals Chebula Serum and Pure Radiance Oil.

Yes, this is my actual skin, in good lighting. I am not wearing any foundation.