Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


Beauty Favorites

Over the past few years I have become very interested in makeup and beauty products. I can almost entirely blame this change in myself (the girl who didn’t wear a lick of makeup until she was about 20-years-old) on the YouTube “beauty community.” Essentially, this community is group of women (and some teen girls) who make videos on beauty-related topics. I stumbled upon a few “gurus” several years back and I have been addicted ever since. It’s a guilty pleasure that I don’t see myself giving up anytime soon!

Typical video topics include: makeup tutorials, shopping hauls, empties (products they have used up), monthly favorites, blog-like tags, and celebrity-inspired looks.

Because of the huge success of many beauty gurus (Michelle Phan, the original YouTube beauty guru, is now a millionaire because of her video sponsorship’s and partnership with YouTube), every 13-year-old with a camera and some makeup now plops themselves in down and talks about beauty, and more power to them!

One afternoon a few weeks back I was lovingly playing with my makeup and decided to do a post on my favorite beauty products. It’s a far cry from actually making a YouTube beauty video, but I don’t see that ever happening!

This list isn’t comprehensive as the vast majority of what I own is back in Utah, but these are the things I love the most and chose to haul over the Atlantic with me.

I like reading blog posts like these because it helps me discover new products and hear people’s opinions.

Alrighty. Here we go!


Beauty Favorites-EyeshadowBeauty Favorites-Eyeshadow

As a redhead, I have to be a bit more careful when it come to the makeup colors I wear. I’m a fairly conservative person when it comes to this stuff anyway, so I am ALL about the neutrals!  It’s rather sick how much eyeshadow I have, but I can’t seem to help myself!

-Too Faced Natural Eye Palette

-Wet ‘n’ Wild trio in Walking on Eggshells

-Maybelline Color Tattoo (cream shadow) in Bad to the Bronze

-Urban Decay Naked Palette (I bought Naked 2 online awhile back and can’t wait to get home and use it!)


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Exploring Istanbul | Part Two

On the meeting point of two worlds, the ornament of Turkish homeland, the treasure of Turkish history, the city cherished by the Turkish nation, Istanbul, has its place in the hearts of all citizens. –Atatürk

Walking the streets of IstanbulAwesome reflection of the Blue MosqueGerman Fountain, Hagia Sophia, and part of the Blue Mosque complex

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Another Journey, Another Packing Adventure

I moved most of my stuff to Bulgaria last December; so this time around my packing list is shorter but also a bit more specific.

(Oh, but I will still obsess over it and put off actually packing until the absolute last minute!)

I generally know now what I can and cannot find in BG. I also know what things make good gifts for my family.

There’s no reason for me to stock up on many of the things that I did last time around. I am set on Ziplocs, clothes, kitchen ware, and toiletries. Let me tell you, I am extremely thankful not to be lugging over another heavy pizza stone and Tupperware!

What things are making it into my suitcase and that dreaded 50 lb. limit? Well let’s see…

  • Another case of tampons. Sorry, BG, I’m still not into scented, non-applicator feminine products!
  • A couple of bottles of the world’s best hot sauce: Chohula. I love it. My MIL LOVES it (and used up the bottle I brought in just a few days).
  • Three (YES, 3!) vegetable peelers. I took one over in December and apparently it’s a big hit. I have requests from my in-laws, by brother-in-law, and his gf for one. Easy-peasy gifts if you ask me!
  • Instant oatmeal packets. These were a big hit too. Vince inhaled them before I could even have more than a bowl or two. I know oatmeal is available in BG, but I haven’t seen the instant packets anywhere and I find them convenient as I rarely eat breakfast and usually just go for something quick when I do.
  • Maple syrup. Yet another request from the hubs. He can’t get enough of the stuff.
  • Crochet supplies. I am in the middle of two afghans at the moment and I hope to fit all the yarn and needles in my suitcases so that I can finish them over the long winter ahead. If I had endless amounts of room and no weight limit, I’d also bring along my jewelry-making supplies, my paper crafting stuff, and supplies to make martenitsi–too bad that’s NEVER going to happen!

I think living in Sofia will make things a lot easier. There are larger grocery and department store chains there, including a Debenhams opening at the end of the month in yet another new mall, Bulgaria Mall. And there’s always good ol’ IKEA. I’m sure that we’ll be able to find everything we need.


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Birchbox: A Review

I have a confession…

I’m a makeup junky.

It’s definitely no secret to my friends and family.

I can’t really pinpoint when it all started. I know it certainly wasn’t in my younger days. I didn’t wear a bit of makeup (aside from some mascara on my pale red lashes here and there) in High school. I can’t even say that I wore much during my first few years of college.

I really started wearing makeup daily when I first came up to Alaska in 2008. I don’t know what made me make it a part of my daily routine, but I started and have not stopped since.

Now, I stalk Sephora. Fantasize about MAC. Watch endless tutorial videos on You Tube. It’s slightly pathetic.

I’m not fanatical, mind you. I often go months without a single purchase. But then I go wild and spend far more than I would like to admit in one visit to the mall or session of online shopping.

I don’t use the vast majority of what I own. Crazy, I know. I wear makeup daily, but with my busy schedule and propensity to wake up 15 minutes before I have to head to work, lately I wear little more than some concealer, eyebrow pencil, and mascara.

Where am I going with all of this?

Well, in the past year my makeup shopping has actually became a bit of a problem. I don’t often spend money on myself for things like clothes, but makeup is another story.

One girl definitely does not need 20+ lip glosses, 100+ eyeshadows, 8 “backup” mascaras…You get my drift.

I think my makeup wake up call came when I found that my stash comprised an entire makeup case, large makeup bag, and overflow into a cardboard box.

It’s sure fun to look at (My Pretties!!), but not fun to add up the costs.

Essentially, I think the hoarder collector in me got a bit out of hand.

So, in an effort to curtail my spending but still get my “fix” now and then, I signed up for a monthly subscription to Birchbox.

Birchbox is a monthly  subscription which offers deluxe beauty and cosmetic samples, all packaged in a cute little box, for only $10 per month (including shipping).

Each box is themed and features 5-6 products. Most are sample size, but a few full size products are included every so often.

I got my first box back in March and have been enjoying them ever since.

Sure, some of the products have been duds; but overall, I have loved the samples I’ve gotten in my boxes. And the products definitely add up to more than $10.00, even being sample sizes.

And best of all, I haven’t spent a dime on any other cosmetics or beauty products since getting my first box.

Oh, and who doesn’t love getting mail each month? It’s especially nice up here in Alaska.

Since Birchbox exploded in popularity, many other “beauty boxes” have hit the market. I did some research before signing up for Birchbox and it seemed like the company had mostly positive reviews and was more established than some of the newer companies.

Here’s what I got in my June box…

June’s “Jet Set” box included:

  • Comodynes | Self-Tanning wipes – Sadly, not something a pale redhead such as myself can use.
  • Eyeko | Fat Eye Stick (eye shadow stick) – I like cream shadows, but this one is in black (not my color), so I’ll probably give it to a friend.
  • Likewise | Facial Moisturizer – Smells good and has SPF 50. I’m all over it!
  • theBalm cosmetics | Stainiac lip and cheek stain – Only tried on my lips so far, but I like it.
  • tili | Travel bag – This cute, reusable bag is designed to hold liquids in a carry-on while traveling. I’ll definitely use it.
  • John Varvatos Star USA | Men’s cologne –  Haven’t sprayed it. Giving it to my hubby.

I was more jazzed about the products in last month’s box, but I can’t say that I am disappointed with June’s box. There are a few things I can’t use myself, but I am sure I can give them away.

Overall I am happy with Birchbox and the 4 boxes I have received thus far. I think it’s well worth the $10 monthly fee, especially considering shipping is included (even to Alaska!).

If you are interested in joining Birchbox, email me at whitney(at)girlmeetsbulgaria(dot)com and I can refer you.

Or simply click here.

With each referral I get points that I can spend towards full size products, and ya’ll know I need more makeup! 😉

There is a waiting list right now to sign up. I was only on the list for a about 3 weeks when I signed up in March. So hopefully it is still moving that quickly.

I’ll have to cancel my subscription when I head back to Bulgaria, but that’s fine. I’m sure I’ll find something else to spend my money on! 😉

Are you subscribed to Birchbox or any of the other monthly beauty boxes? If so, what do you think?


*All opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any way to write this review.


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Calling All Sofia Friends!

I need a little help from any of my readers living in or around Sofia. You fantastic city-dwellers, you!

Vince and I are headed to Sofia next Friday (Feb. 3rd) for a weekend getaway–we’re going to see Cirque du Soleil, eat lots of food, and possibly overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.

I want to maximize my time in the city, which is why I am hoping I can get some advice from you lovelies:

  • Any recommendations for must-visit restaurants? I love Thai, Chinese, Pizza, everything really! Not looking for Bulgarian cuisine; we want something not available in Smolyan. What are your favorite eats?
  • I am dying to let out my creative juices. Does anyone know of a good arts and crafts store? On that note, anybody know of a good yarn shop?
  • Any favorite bakeries/cupcake shops?

I am also hoping to figure out a time to work in a lunch or coffee date with anyone who wants to meet up! I’d LOVE to get to know some of you better, so let me know if you’d like to get together (possibly in the afternoon on Friday or Sunday?). I thought we could do a group thing if enough people are available, then we can all grow our circle of friends!

Please leave a comment or email me at whitney(at)girlmeetsbulgaria(dot)com.

Thanks so much!




Tampons, Peanut Butter, and Ziploc bags

Yep. All things I am planning on taking with me to Bulgaria.

Vince thinks I am crazy (he’s probably right), but I’d rather lug an extra few pounds in my bags than find myself in BG with only scented, applicator-less tampons–ick!

(Thanks, Karolinka, for the tip on tampons!)

More than once he has told me, “We don’t live in the jungle! You can buy it all here!”

He’s so cute! I know there are no jungles in Bulgaria! 😉

The Ziplocs and peanut butter just come as a result of a few blogs I have read. Peanut butter is available, although I hear it’s a bit hard to find and is rather “expensive.” Ziploc bags (or anything similar), from what I have read, are not available in Bulgaria. So, if I have the space, why not take them?

However, with the way I tend to pack, extra space is a rare thing. I suppose it comes down to priorities.

The tampons are a must, but the funny thing is, I don’t like peanut butter all that much, and I cannot imagine needing plastic bags very often. Still, the little bit of OCD-Whitney in me just won’t be comfortable flying 30,000 feet in the air knowing a jar of peanut butter and boxes of Ziploc baggies (in various sizes) aren’t tucked safely away in my suitcases.

I’m a weirdo.

Other than a few random kitchen/cooking items, I consider the rest of my packing list to be pretty normal: warm clothes to get me through the winter, my electronic gadgets, wedding photos for the in-laws, and essential sundries/toiletries–including a jumbo, Costco box of Tampax, to be sure!

Another post on my adventures in packing is sure to come.

I am breaking out in hives just thinking about that 50 lb. limit.

Until then,



Black Friday

As I write this, I am still trying to recover – both physically and mentally – from my Black Friday shopping adventures.

First, let me say that I am not a huge shopper. That’s not to say that I don’t know how to spend money, no that’s never been a problem for me, unfortunately (just ask my husband). What I mean is that I don’t enjoy that hunt for a so-called ‘fantastic’ bargain.

Until Thursday night, I had never been to any post-Thanksgiving doorbuster sales. I was a Black Friday virgin. Somehow, being trampled by throngs of stressed out housewives, aggressive men, old ladies, and mouthy teenagers all in an attempt to save a few dollars on something useless, never seemed like a productive way to spend an evening/early morning.

How then did I find myself pushing my way through a Walmart at 10pm at night? Well, a temporary bout of insanity is all I can come up with as I sit amongst the aftermath (piles of shopping bags on my bedroom floor).

My friend A. convinced me to go with her, and as my turkey-coma was starting to wear off, I thought I had the energy (I was sorely mistaken) and maybe it would be good for me to try something new.

I hadn’t looked at a single ad. I did not need anything. But boy howdy, when hundreds of people are rushing a pallet of Rubbermaid containers, some fundamental human need for a set of nesting Tupperware must take over, because the nest thing I knew I too was rushing towards the boxes. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to get my hands on that 30-piece set of amazingness*.

*Turns out the containers are actually really cool and I will be taking them with me to Bulgaria. Vince has a lack of food storage options, in my opinion!

A., too walked out with the $6.00 set of Rubbermaids and we made our way past the hundreds of cars back to where we had parked (illegally along the road).

Next, A. thought we should hit up Target, which didn’t open its doors until midnight and, thus, already sported an enormous line that wrapped around the entire building.

By this point, Rubbermaids nestled safely away in the back of A’s SUV, I had had enough and realized this Black Friday business definitely wasn’t for me – I would much rather be home in my bed, warm and cozy.

But I couldn’t abandon A., so we waited (read froze) in the 2 hour line.

All in all, it was an orderly affair. I have to give props to the employees (and massive amount of cops) at the Target. They kept the peace, made sure people stayed out of the road, and didn’t let everyone stampede the doors when they finally opened.

When A. and I were allowed in, I made a mad dash towards the electronics department. From the time we were at Walmart, my aunt had been calling me to see if I could get my hands on a Wii for my 6 year old cousin. No luck at Walmart, where there was a huge line inside the store just for the Wiis.

Target came through for me and I was able to snatch one up.

After A. grabbed a few things, we found ourselves in yet another winding line to checkout. Unfortunately for me, said line wound its way through the cosmetics and toiletries section when I just had to pick up a few more things, of course (inset face palm here).

Overall, the lengths I saw people go to (like camping out for 2 days at Target for a flat screen TV) to “save” money shocked me.

I stood in awe the entire time just trying to figure out why people do this. I’m still clueless!

Weirdly, even after waiting for hours with nothing to show for it, I heard a lot of people saying they love Black Friday and think it’s fun. FREAKS! 😉 American materialism at its best, I suppose.

I am glad that I was able to help my aunt and uncle out and spend a few hours with one of my closest friends, but it was a harrowing experience that I don’t care to repeat any time soon.

I think I’ll go lie down now (and lovingly eye my Rubbermaids), 🙂