Karen's Essentials

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Breaking Free The Reboot

One of my favorite Bible studies of all time is “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore. I joined this Bible study small group during a time when I was beginning my healing journey from childhood sexual abuse. If you are familiar with Beth’s teaching you know that she is an amazing Bible teacher, she’s funny and most importantly relatable. She speaks from her own personal struggle with captivity and shares how God’s word transformed her life.

When I did this study years ago my hurt was so raw that I never uttered a word in my small group I didn’t feel safe yet, I wasn’t ready. The study was life-changing as I was allowing God to slowly peel the layers of the pain away, that had been my lifelong companion. Each week in my small group we would watch the VHS tape that went along with the study. To get the most of the study you had to be committed to the homework, there was reading and a workbook (my favorite type of Bible study). I completed the 10-week study that would become foundational to my healing. Years later I would facilitate a Breaking Free small group with about 5 young women I enjoyed the study even more than I had previously.

Currently, I am calling my journey the Breaking Free Reboot; while I have come such a long way I realize I still have a ways to go. My journey has been a long one, a hard one. These last several weeks have been difficult, to say the least. I am facing parts of my journey that have been the most difficult asking WHY?  I have decided that I will not allow anyone to minimize my feelings or my pain even if it means it makes them uncomfortable even if it means relationships will be altered. Secrets should never be an option. Secrets steal your soul. Secrets keep the strongholds in place to carry on to the next generation. Secrets give you a false sense of security. Secrets are the enemy of authenticity and REAL TRUE  DEEP relationships can’t survive them. Secrets keep you looking over your shoulder.

I started the Breaking Free Updated Edition by Beth Moore about a month ago; I haven’t done the homework consistently because it seemed all hell was breaking loose around me and I needed to come up for air. This Bible study is all about Strongholds and tearing them down. It is fascinating studying how when Strongholds are left unattended or not torn down they keep coming back generation after generation.

Because so much of my life was out of my control, it has always been super important to me to be in control of my emotions, to measure every move I made to the point of perfectionism fearful of being shamed or embarrassed I had to be in control. Not controlling of others but of myself. I am learning to give myself a break.

Beth Moore painted a word picture in the original Breaking Free that I have never forgotten some 20 years later I am paraphrasing because I can’t find it anywhere. Imagine your mind being a wall and the wall is covered with wallpaper of Satan’s lies we must tear down the lies “wallpaper” and replace them with God’s truth. If we just tear down the lies and don’t replace them with truth slowly those lies will creep back up with maybe even new lies. This is the word picture definition of a STRONGHOLD.  There have been times that I couldn’t pray, could not read His word; I would just say His name over and over JESUS. JESUS. JESUS.

My Environment + Plus My Experiences = My Truth

My Truth + 0 = Incomplete

My Truth + Satan’s Lies = Captivity

My Truth + God’s Truth = FREEDOM

Breaking Free, Beth Moore

Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge. Eckhart Tolle

As long As he sought the Lord; God gave him success. 2 Chronicles 26:5

I am seeking the Lord through it all. I know He is with me cheering me on!



Best Candles Ever (BOB)

Grant Street Candle $10-$30 https://www.228grantstreet.com

I love candles and have tried many over the years. I used to buy Yankee Candles for years, Bath & Body Works candles.  I stopped buying Yankee Candles years ago because they didn’t offer a cleaner version (soy) same for Bath & Body Works. I noticed that there would be a blackish soot that would be left in the air after extinguishing the candles and they didn’t always burn evenly. They seemed to burn straight down and not all of the wax was melting at the same time.  Doing some research I was on a hunt for a cleaner burning candle I started purchasing soy candles from Target and Marshalls. The candles were fine, prices were reasonable and they are a cleaner version the only problem was still they didn’t burn evenly consistently.

Late last year Michael and I went to a local craft fair to support a friend as seen in the post: New Series: Doing What You Love (Kiva Slade Designs) selling her handmade jewelry. There were so many local artisans soap makers, jewelry makers, handmade candy you name it. There were a few candle makers there as well but 228 Grant Street Candle Co interested me the most. The packaging drew me in, the beautiful amber milk bottles and the simple but sleek label, that’s what caught my eye but the scents OH MY GOODNESS sold me! There were sultry and woodsy scents, fresh scents and citrus and so much more. The scents are a mature, and sophisticated. I HATE sweet candles, you know the ones that smell of cake or donuts or that smell artificial. The owner of 228 Grant Street was at the booth,  he told us the candles are made of soy with a no-lead wick, they are fragranced with high-quality fragrance oils and what’s most impressive is that they are all hand poured in small batches locally in Baltimore.  I was so excited, I wanted to purchase every scent but thought better of it since I had not yet tried the product. We purchased the small 8 0z candle in Amber and Sandalwood for $18 I think. As soon as we got home I burned the candle that little candle fragranced our entire place. The candle burned clean and evenly there was no dip in the middle all the wax burned down slowly at the same time. The candle lasted a good while ( didn’t record how long it took us to use it up). After it was gone I went back to my Target and Marshalls candles with plans to purchase more of the 228 Grant Street Candles because the other candles paled in comparison.

Last week I ordered two of the 16 oz jars in Amber & Sandalwood which has a sultry, woodsy scent not too masculine though and the Meyer Lemon & Lavander Scent which has a citrusy slight floral fresh scent. The candles look and smell expensive. The 16 oz candles are $30 each which I know is relatively expensive for a candle but they last so much longer than any of the less expensive versions I have tried. Worth every penny!

To prolong the life of my new favorite candles I decided to follow the instructions and snip the wick before each use (did you know you were supposed to snip the wick?  Do you snip?). Hey for $30 dollars I am following all the rules lol. I purchased a snippet tool from Yankee Candle for $10 I tried going the cheap route and just use scissors yeah that didn’t work.

I would highly recommend 228 Grant Street Candle Co. A local, black-owned brand that has an amazing product! The candles are sold locally at specialty shops in Baltimore and can also be purchased online. I have had a blast discovering these amazing brands and love sharing my discoveries with you more to come.


2 Burt’s Bees face wash cleanser reviews



Burt’s Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream $6.99 Target  https://www.target.com/p/burt-s-bees-soap-bark-and-chamomile-deep-cleansing-cream-6-oz/-/A-

I ran out of my Murad Anti-Aging Acne cleanser Night-Time SkinCare Routine and didn’t feel like running to Ulta or Sephora. I purchased two cleansers to try out from Burt’s Bees. The first thing to note is the price Murad cleanser for 6.75 ounces is $34 while the Burt’s Bees Soap Bark and Chamomile cleanser is $6.99 for 6 ounces. The ingredients are 99% natural, with soothing chamomile, aloe vera gel, and menthol which has a cooling soothing effect on the skin, it has a pleasant fresh scent nothing overpowering. The cream doesn’t lather (neither does the Murad) it is white with a thick and creamy consistency a little goes a long way. It cleanses my skin gently with no irritation, my skin feels clean but not stripped, soft and not tight. I use it on the days I don’t use the other cleanser which I will also be reviewing. I have used both cleansers for about 3 weeks. So far I really like this creamy cleanser.

I purchased the Acne Solutions from Burt’s Bees because it has salicylic acid (also in the Murad Cleanser). Salicylic acid is effective at keeping my acne under control; I was a little hesitant about using a purifying gel cleanser since they tend to dry out my skin. The cleanser has a yellow tint, with no detectable scent it does lather a little. Besides salicylic acid, it also has willow bark extract that contains natural BHA’s (Beta Hydroxy Acids). BHA’s act as an exfoliant to clear pores. I don’t use this every night for fear it would dry out my skin but honestly, I think it is safe enough to use daily without drying me out. I am pleasantly surprised by this particular cleanser I usually prefer cream cleaners. I have used Burts Bees cleansers over the years and have liked what I have tried. My son uses the sensitive skin cleanser he has very acne prone skin (he uses prescription ointments and antibiotics) to clear his acne; Burts Bees gentle cleanser works well for him. I will continue to alternate both products in my skincare routine until I have used them up and then decide if I need both cleansers.

The best part is I purchased both products for under $20 saving $14 dollars! Burt’s Bees for the WIN!


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Alikay Naturals Honey and Sage Deep Conditioner Review


Alikay Naturals Honey and Sage Deep Conditioner $14.99 Target https://www.target.com/p/alikay-naturals-honey-and-sage-deep-conditioner-8-fl-oz/-/A-15114756

You guys know I have a thing for deep conditioners I have a few in my arsenal that I love and I can easily pick up from Target or Sally’s. Corey (my daughter) told me about this deep conditioner a few years ago and I have used it off and on ever since.

First 5 Ingredients: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol (a fatty alcohol that is emollient, softens the hair and adds great slip) Aloe Vera Juice, Stearalkonium Chloride (anti-microbial to prevent bacteria and mold in the product), and Honey. This conditioner also contains oils and other nourishing ingredients. When I am choosing any product I always check the ingredients I know that my hair responds well to Aloe Vera, honey and most of the other ingredients.

The first thing you notice is the color, it has a tan brownish color, with a pleasant smell that’s kind of herbally/earthy (which I love). The texture is thick you can turn over the jar and it won’t dump out but it absorbs into the hair easily and quickly. A product that easily absorbs means it doesn’t just sit on the top of my hair it actually penetrates and absorbs into my strands. The slip is amazing which makes it easy to apply it glides on.

I apply the conditioner after cleansing, to each section (6-8 sections) and then I twist each section put on a conditioning cap and my hot head for 20 minutes and rinse. My hair is so shiny, moisturized my curls are plump and juicy after using it. My hair feels and looks nourished. I would highly recommend this product.

I have learned what ingredients my hair likes and which ones to avoid; you can’t make your decision when purchasing any product by looking at the claims on the front of the bottle, the ingredients tell the real story; If you don’t know what an ingredient is google it. You will save tons of money and aggravation by just taking that small step. CHECK THE INGREDIENTS before you buy.

Do you read ingredients lists? What ingredients seem to work well for your hair? What ingredients do you avoid? Are ingredients important to you?

Mented Cosmetics Everyday Eyeshadow Palette Review

Mented Cosmetics Everyday Eyeshadow Palette $28 https://www.mentedcosmetics.com/products/everyday-eyeshadow-palette

Mented Cosmetics has released their first eyeshadow palette, the everyday eyeshadow palette. I love the packaging, simple matte black, it has a huge mirror perfect for doing your makeup on the go, with the white Mented logo I love it! The packaging as you can see does get dirty but it can easily be wiped off. What’s most important though is what’s inside.

Top row: Bae-ge, Light Bright, First Date Middle: Tandemonium, Upside Brown, Second Date Bottom: Redbone, Queen Sugar, Brown Out

The shade names are so cute, there are 6 matte shades, 1 satin, and 2 shimmer shades. The shadows are super pigmented and easy to blend. The colors are right up my alley, as the name of the palette suggest these are everyday shades to quickly create a look to get out the door. I prefer this type of palette because it doesn’t have too many shades to overwhelm me nor does it have shades that aren’t wearable. The formula is very soft and it blends easily which reminds me of Lorac eyeshadows (which is one of my favorite brands for eyeshadow), there is some fallout when blending but that doesn’t bother me at all. The shadows don’t fade and the color lasts all day, I have super oily eyelids so I always use a primer (primers also help shadows pop). Side note if your eyeshadow disappears or fades on you by the end of the day try using an eyeshadow primer (game changer).

I attempted to do arm swatches but they turned out less than perfect lol. Eyeshadow swatches aren’t always indicative as to how a shadow will perform. I tried but I need more practice it’s not as easy as I thought it would be lol lol.

The price point is affordable at $28, I own several palettes that I have paid twice as much for. Since I am not super adventurous when it comes to makeup, especially eyeshadow this is a perfect addition to my collection.  I am loving this brand. Mented Cosmetics is a brand to watch!

You may have noticed I have not done a post on my beloved subscription boxes, I have decided to cancel all of my subscriptions and use that money to explore more BOB (Black Owned Businesses). BOB’s don’t get the publicity like mainstream brands, I think it’s important to spread the word and to share my thoughts.

How often do you wear makeup? Do you wear eyeshadow? Do you play it safe like me when it comes to makeup or are you more adventurous?

I know many of you are saying “But Karen what about the giveaway?” I am still doing a few giveaways this month (I have all the products, even the boxes to send them in) but I want it to be fair. To be honest, I thought the process would be easy.  NOPE. I am hoping to have everything ironed out and set up by the end of next week which will make every giveaway after the first one easy.