First Time At Home Teeth Whitening: Does it Work?

Hey everyone! As you know I occasionally take a break from waxing poetic about life and all its twists and turns to share with you the products I have been using and enjoying. And it’s time for one of those reviews with Smile Brilliant!
Why Smile Brilliant?
For the past couple of weeks I have been using Smile Brilliant’s whitening system. Let me start by saying I have never whitened my teeth before. Ever. Outside of a little whitening toothpaste, it was never a world I explored or felt necessary. And then BAM! Here comes my 30th year on this planet and everything (I mean EVERYTHING) is changing.
My skin is different, my hair is different, my energy levels and yes, my teeth. I started to notice that my teeth weren’t as white as they always had been and I realized it was probably the addition of coffee and red wine into my diet. When I was younger I didn’t drink either and so the change in the condition of my teeth was really noticeable.
It was starting to bug me which is why I was so glad the team at Smile Brilliant reached out to offer me a test drive of one of their whitening kits. The time had come to brave this brand new world and I chose Smile Brilliant as my whitening partners (and gurus!)
The Experience 
Smile Brilliant is pretty unique, especially from the strips you buy at drugstores, because the system uses custom fitted trays to perform the whitening. That’s right, you gotta mold your teeth. The first step was a little scary, I am not going to lie, but everything turned out ok. Smile Brilliant sends you the mold making kit via mail. Following the instructions very carefully you make molds of your top and bottom rows of teeth. You let the molds dry and the ship them back in the provided envelope.
A week later my custom-fitted trays arrived and they matched my teeth exactly. (Science, right?) Included with my trays were my tubes full of whitening solution and the desensitizing gel. This gel was my lifesaver during the process. There are a couple steps to get your teeth whitening ready but you’re given detailed instructions on how to accomplish each step and achieve whitening glory.
The short version is this: you fill the trays with the whitening solution and then pop them into place and leave them in anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on your sensitivity. Pop them out, wash the trays, and then pop in the desensitizing gel for about 20 minutes. It can be a little time consuming so make sure to start your whitening journey when you are ready to commit!
For me personally, I have fairly sensitive teeth. The first couple rounds of whitening left me extra sensitive. To fix this I merely shortened my sessions down to the bare minimum and also put a day in between each session, using the desensitizing gel on the off day. This really helped keep them feeling safe and not as touchy. I noticed results after my very first use of the system which was crazy! As I went on I noticed more change and started to really be impressed. Of course, I snuck in some coffee during this period which I regret a little, but Smile Brilliant was strong enough to put up with my weakness and still provide me with some great results.
I always did my whitening at night when I was done eating for the day. I timed it so I was done whitening just before bed. While I had my trays in I’d watch TV, read, walk the dog, and do my skincare routine. I was still able to talk to my boyfriend and chat on the phone with my mom, so don’t worry about them being too bulky. They really do fit and form to your teeth so well!
The Takeaway
If you’re looking for an at-home whitening option, check out SmileBrilliant. The custom-fitted trays really do make this a whole different kind of experience and provide great results. (Goodbye gross drugstore strips!)
Here are my side-by-side comparisons:
1   IMG_1239
2  IMG_1237
The best news is you can get a KIT FREE (valued at $149) by entering my giveaway here!
Contest is open to Australia, Canada, US, and UK. And ANYONE can 15% off store wide with my code ‘cheapcourage15’.

Tooth Whitening Gel


Booklist – What I Read in July

The last time I posted my monthly reading I was 7 books behind schedule on my Goodreads challenge to read 50 books this year. I am happy to report I shaved that down a little bit and I am now only 4 books behind schedule. I’m doing it, Peter! (Shout out to anyone who gets my Hook reference.)

With that, I read A LOT this month. Summer is always great for reading because I find myself on the beach or on long train rides a lot more often than I do in any other season. Ready to know what I read? Here we go.

38447 The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I gave in to cultural pressure and read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time. After hearing some *gossip* about the TV show I was expecting gratuitous violence. What I got was an intelligent, disturbing read that unfolds with such elegance and poise in its language that I had a hard time putting it down. In a future that seems nearer than ever, I followed Offred in a world where women fill specific, often biological roles, and have no choice over their existence. Powerful. Jarring. I get it now.




The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

I must have been in a post-apocalyptic mood because right after Handmaid’s I went right into Megan Hunter’s stunning novella about a couple and their newborn surviving the destruction of London. The story is tight, never revealing anything without its emotional impact on the main character and you, the reader. This reminded me of a feminine spin on The Road. 



41laq7WUsZL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb 

I took myself out of fiction for a breather with The Jaws Log, suggested to me by my Jaws-obsessed boyfriend. I was happily surprised to find I couldn’t put this book down! Written by one of the screenwriters of the film, this book shares all the behind the scenes details of the making of this movie. It is, absolutely, an incredible book to read if you have any interest in movie-making at all.




Woman Code by Alisa Vitti

An influencer I follow on Instagram suggested this book to her followers and once I looked it up it sounded exactly like what I needed. I know the cover can be intimidating: FERTILITY?! SEX DRIVE?! But honestly, it is an amazing book all about syncing your life to your cycle– how to eat, workout etc. all so you live in harmony with your body instead of against it. I am obsessed and continue to go back to it for reference every day. Can’t wait to use it more!


41ybG235TcL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Last week when my little brother was staying over he looked at my boyfriend’s bookcase and pointed to this to say, “One of my favorites.” So I picked it out for my next read. It’s fiction but reads very much like a guide to life, meditation, and believing in your own greatness and the greater energy of the world (whether that’s God to you or something else). It’s a lovely tale and I can see myself reading it again when I need a boost spiritually.


41x8eLYN-kL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ Dare Me by Megan Abbott 

I read a review of Megan Abbott’s newest book Give Me Your Hand  in New York Mag last month and I knew I had to read her other books immediately. I am writing a Western that focuses around a girl of about 15. I have a hard time balancing some pretty adult themes with her age. Abbott does this seamlessly. So I picked up Dare Me first and I was BLOWN away by the craft and energy of this book. I just found a new author that I LOVE!


There it is! My books from July. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you have suggestions for August. I am planning lots of beach time!

My Rent the Runway Unlimited Review

This is a review I am doing on my own. I DID not receive anything from RTR to write this review. 

Me in a Cinq a Sept piece from RTR.


After considering it for OVER a year, I finally decided to take a stab at doing Rent The Runway Unlimited to see if it was a) worth the money and if it would b) make my life easier.

The short answer to both is: YES!

Listen, it’s a pretty expensive subscription ($159 a month) which is why I delayed signing up for over a year. I don’t even have a gym membership so to dedicate my money and energy to something, it has to be pretty impressive. Since I am always honest on here: I finally pulled the trigger one night after having a couple of drinks. I had been on the site earlier in the day helping a friend pick out dresses for a wedding and I saw that they were having a first month for $99 sale (they still have this btw!) so I pulled up the app on my phone and committed. I was riding the subway.

Definitely not the best time to make a big money choice, but that’s how it happened. 🙂 As soon as I signed up I was able to pick my first four items and start my magical journey through RTR Unlimited.

Me in a Cynthia Rowley Sweatshirt from RTR


If you’re unfamiliar with Rent The Runway or Rent The Runway Unlimited, here’s how it works.

Rent The Runway Reserve – This is how RTR got started and is what most people are familiar with. Most shoppers use it for important events when they want to up their game, but not break the bank. Shoppers select their dress from a literal OCEAN of dresses, go through detailed sizing notes and order. (With reserve you’re allowed to pick the same dress in a size up or down for a small, additional fee to guarantee fit.) The dress comes, the shopper can hang on to it for 4 or 8 days and return it. Most rentals fall around $100 per rental. This is how I was introduced to RTR, renting dresses for a wedding or two, and New Year’s Eve.

Rent the Runway Unlimited – Unlimited is a slightly different beast. These shoppers pay a monthly subscription fee ($159/mo as I mentioned) and have “unlimited” access to RTR’s giant selection of clothes including jeans, slacks, blazers and dresses. Shoppers get 4 at a time and can keep them for as long as they want, returning and getting new whenever. Most Unlimited users use it for work clothes as well as those special events and trendy pieces. Shipping, dry cleaning, and insurance are included always.

Me in a Derek Lam Romper from RTR


Now that you understand how Unlimited works, I’ll share a little bit with my experience so far over the past month and a half.

I have enjoyed it so much it almost makes me feel guilty I didn’t sign up previously. Seriously! I also feel like I am SAVING money this summer because with 3 weddings and various fancy work events, I would have had to use RTR Reserve a number of times, or buy dresses that end up hanging in my closet for months before being worn again.

I have used RTR Unlimited primarily for work. I cannot even begin to tell you how good it feels to pull out a brand new dress for work 2, 3, 4 times a week. I get endless compliments and I always feel really professional and put together for probably the first time in my life. And I’m 30! The clothes are from incredible brands and of incredible quality and are updated constantly so nothing I’ve received has been overused, ratty, or outdated. When I’m at work I finally feel like I’m dressing “for the job I want” and I feel fabulous at events.

What I’m saying is: RTR is a huge confidence boost. I have always loved clothes but I hate shopping, this relieves a lot of that stress. I had always heard that the right clothes can change how you feel and your outlook on life (blah blah blah) but oh my god, I am really a believer now.

Me in a Tory Burch Skirt from RTR


While I haven’t run into too many problems with RTR so far (by the way their customer service is great) I have heard of a few out there. For instance, I live in New York City, where Rent the Runway is headquartered so I get my stuff lightning fast and I also have the option of doing any last minute swapping at the store in Manhattan. For women living further away in other states, I’ve heard that the shipments can drag and it feels like you aren’t really getting your money’s worth. So beware if you are not in New York!

There are a lot of articles out there about Unlimited Hacks, like this one from Cosmo, but I’ve found that by doing it the traditional way (get 4 items, return 4 items, repeat) I am a much saner person. I only have to remember one shipment at a time instead of multiple and since they do come to me fast, I don’t ever feel cheated.

That said, my two favorite “tricks” are kind of obvious but I still feel like I should share:

  1. Heart shit like crazy.  I am constantly going through the New Arrivals page and liking stuff. I also go through different lists they’ve put together, regardless of what I have coming up. By having a massive pool of hearts, there is always something I like available to throw in for my next order. I think obsessing over a couple pieces and waiting for them to become available would drive me insane.
  2. Read the reviews! I know some of you are rolling your eyes like “DUH” but in the beginning I didn’t take the time to do this. I got a couple items that didn’t fit right and all of them could have been corrected if I had read the “size up” and “size down” notes. They really do help.


Ok! That’s it. My honest Rent the Runway Unlimited review. There are a lot of other reviews out there and I definitely recommend you read them. Some women are pickier than me or more impatient than me–which is totally fine! But if you think you’re a little bit more high strung than I am with your clothes, I’d read those reviews too. Just to be safe.




Moon Dust Review – Getting Adaptogenic With It

Me to Frank: You know, my Passion Planner review is my my most read blog post.
Frank to Me: You should probably review stuff more then.
Me: Ugh yeah.

I don’t normally review stuff because I’ve always set out to make sure this blog was not very “commercial” but it turns out that all of you freaks love STUFF as much as I do. So I’m reviewing today. I try a lot of weird trendy stuff so I might as well help you on your weird trendy journey too.

What are Adaptogens to begin with?

So I must have been sleeping under a rock for the past year or so but I just learned what adaptogens are in the new year. 2018’s got me learning new words and stuff! Adaptogen is used to describe a specific set of herbs and mushrooms that help the body adapt to stress–hence the name. Like any trend, most of these herbs and mushrooms have been used for YEARS (this time in Chinese medicine) but have gained a lot of attention recently because good looking women in LA are getting into. (This is how any health trend starts… sorry New York. At least you have Rainbow bagels?)

Moon Dust by Moon Juice, yes I realize that’s hard to follow, is a powder version of these adaptogens. (There are different ways to ingest this stuff and I have more to review, so stay tuned). You can mix it into anything: water, coffee, tea, pancake batter… whatever.

IMG_5378Why did you do this to yourself?

I know it seems a little woo-woo, whack-a-doo for someone who grew up eating Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies (still dream of these) and went two pitchers at a time in college… but I’m 30 now and I want to feel as bougie as possible. Also, I think if something like this works then that’s super cool. …It is!

What is Moon Dust?

I bought myself the trial pack called  “The Full Moon“, which gives you a couple samples of their most popular Moon Dusts. (Have I lost y’all yet?) The Moon Dusts are:

  • Beauty – For inner glow (your skin)
  • Brain – To bust your brain function
  • Sex – Creative energy in and out of the bedroom
  • Power – Physical and entrepreneurial feats
  • Spirit – Bliss bliss bliss
  • Dream – Sleepytime Tea++

Ok first things first. If you like things that taste good I would avoid these. Certain ones taste better than others (Beauty Dust for example) but for the most part they do taste like you’re licking someone’s incense tray. I happen to like weird tastes, again I want to feel 30, so it’s bearable. I drink ACV every morning, so you know exactly what train I am on.

(I’ve been mixing mine in tea but I have read that OJ is a better mixer. I am too lazy to experiment but I am going to try and put it in some pancakes tomorrow and see if Frank dies… )

IMG_5377Have you noticed any changes with Moon Dust?

So far I haven’t seen any mega changes, but I know that these types of things take time. Here is what I have noticed…

BEAUTY DUST – I broke my nose last week and couldn’t do my usual skincare routine. For the first couple of days I was drinking beauty dust and I didn’t have a single breakout. My skin looked great and I didn’t have to do 15 steps to achieve it. As soon as I stopped however, break out central. I truly believe in the beauty now.
SEX DUST – Full disclosure I took this before going to work one day. This is not Viagra. I didn’t feel anymore creative than usual. But I liked chugging it before heading to office, I felt like a rebellious pixie hippie.

SPIRIT DUST – This has actually made me more zen after I drink it. It’s hard to tell if it’s the tea, the caffeine or this pretty baby, but I do feel like I’ve just meditated after I drink it.

Cards on the table — Do I recommend Moon Dust?

If you are new to any sort of all-natural hippie activity (you had to Google ACV two minutes ago for example) I would stay away and start with something easier (grind your own Peanut Butter at Whole Foods this week!) But if you believe in the healing power of crystals and meditate daily — Moon Dust is for you!