Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Year in Movies: 2013 edition

Much like I did in 2012, this year I gave myself the goal of seeing 52 new movies released in the U.S. in the current calendar year. Thanks to the fact that movies get released on DVD and VOD much faster these days, I did do a better job of staying on track this year - I even wrote about some of my favorites a few months ago.

When it came down to it though, I once again cut it close to the deadline in terms of reaching my goal, and became less discerning in my selections in order to ensure I reached my objective. Honestly, I found it hard to keep up with new movies as well as TV shows and book reading and web shows and hanging out having quality time with other human beings. (And unfortunately, I don't get paid to watch movies, so my job took up some valuable time as well.) Let me say completing my goal would have been much, much easier if I had allowed myself to count cable movies, thanks to my compulsion to watch horrible holiday movies every year. Plus, I could count Behind the Candelabra as one of my favs. But despite that handicap, I did it! And before the December 31st deadline! I even went OVER, movie marathoning two weekends here at the end.

Below is a summary of the 2013 movies I have seen up to this point, sorted alphabetically (although I did a simple computer sort so all the movies that start with "the" are clumped together) and a short summary of my impression on each. (A review of each would make this post even longer - so if I mention a movie you've never heard of, I encourage you to look up to learn more. I also linked to the trailers of several.) My favorites are in bold.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Responsible consumerism

I try to be a responsible, ethical consumer. I love a good bargain as much as the next person, but I also look at the label to see where things are made. I buy fair trade coffee and chocolate, free range meats, organic fruits and vegetables, never buy tuna without the dolphin safe label. I both recycle and buy products made from recycled products. I shop at my local farmer's market.

Look, I could definitely do a lot better, but I do try. It's probably a safe bet that some of my clothes were made in factories I would find appalling, and that children picked some of the vegetables I eat. But as much as possible, I try to support companies that pay fair wages and are sustainable and generally don't make me feel like I'm supporting Dickensian villains.

As a makeup and beauty product junkie, for as long as I can remember, I've tried to make sure to look for the "not tested on animals" label on products. I have avoided buying anything from a specific department-store brand of cosmetics for decades because I heard back in the early 90s that they were one of the few high-end brands that still tested on animals. According to a list from PETA, they're still doing it.  But here's where my world was rocked a bit ago - although a company can claim they don't test on animals, if their products are sold in China, chances are the products have been smeared on some poor bunny. The sticking point here is that the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. So basically, any cosmetics brand that sells in China has probably been tested on animals.

So what to do as someone who tries to be a responsible consumer? Well, you start doing a little research on what companies not only claim not to test on animals themselves, but also don't sell in China, so their products aren't tested on animals by others, or get their ingredients from companies that might test on animals. And then you get depressed, because the list of cosmetics companies that sell products that have been tested on animals includes most of the brands you can easily find at drugstores and quite a few high end favorites too.

Thankfully, there are a few that don't. Here's a list of drugstore brands I use regularly, and plan to use exclusively from now on:

  • e.l.f. - the brand as a whole can be pretty hit or miss, but they have some good stuff that is very affordable. I like their Studio blushes, mineral lipsticks, and baked eyeshadows. I'm also quite a fan of their makeup wipes, which I buy in bulk when they are sale. I stay away from their mascaras though: for me, a total miss.
  • Physician's Formula -kind of pricey for drugstore brand, but I really like a couple of their concealers, their blushes, and their powders in general. They also make a mascara I really like.
  • Jesse's Girl their liquid eyeliner pen is awesome. Haven't tried anything else really, but that one thing is very good.
  • Jane - I remember this brand from years ago, and it's back. I think they're sold exclusively at Ulta and online now. They make some great eyeliners. I had heard good things about their concealer too, but the lightest shade I could find, "light", was much too dark for my pale face.
  • NYX - makers of some of my favorite lip products and blushes, and pretty good eyeliners too. I've listed them in some of my favorites posts. Love that they can be found in more stores now.
  • Wet N Wild - makers of some of my favorite drugstore eyeshadows, and some good blushes too. 
  • Milani/Jordana - although they aren't included in PETA's list, I did some digging because these two (separate lines owned by the same company) make some of my favorite affordable makeup products. They don't test on animals nor do they sell in China. 
Things get harder when it comes to skin care. I guess there is a reason I don't really buy lotions or cleansers from the drugstore anymore. Thankfully my beloved (and very inexpensive) Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque in on the good list.

Anyway, thought I'd share what I've discovered, in case you too are interested in making a change to your consumer habits, and shop from the nice list instead of the naughty one. Feel free to research the brands you currently use, and perhaps get a bit depressed, like I did. Maybe we can all make a New Year's resolution to be more mindful of our consumer habits.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Favorite budget beauty: 2013 edition

I haven't expressed my love of makeup products in written form in awhile, so I thought I'd do a short post on some of my favorite budget-friendly beauty finds of 2013. I have put myself back in the no-buy zone, so I'm hoping that by looking at my current stash and writing about it, it will help curb the junkie cravings to go get more. Also, I'm focusing on drugstore brand products honestly because my favorite higher-end finds of 2013 were limited edition and are no longer available except probably at even more jacked-up prices online. And why tease like that?

Of the following list, some are products that were new releases this year, some were just products I "discovered" thanks to sales and/or recommendations from other blogs. All have gotten plenty of love and use from me. I think all would make nice stocking stuffers for others, or an inexpensive beauty gift for yourself.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I challenge these titles

As I write this, it is currently Banned Books Week in the U.S. Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Libraries and bookstores around the U.S. draw attention to the problem of censorship by hosting a variety of events during this week.

Going through the list of most challenged books, it's fascinating (well, it is to me at least) to see so many books that I love, so many books that are classic works. I usually try to "celebrate" by reading one book that has been on the list of most challenged titles. In 2012, that list included a personal favorite, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and one that I thought was total crap but is a best-selling phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. The reasons for challenging the latter title were offensive language, and the fact that it is sexually explicit. I challenge it because it is poorly written, and I felt I lost IQ points by reading it. In fact, I will never again trust a recommendation from the person who told me it was "great, and a fascinating character study."

Also on the 2012 list is Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.) Since I read and loved the author's The Fault in Our Stars earlier this year, I decided Looking for Alaska would be one of the banned book I read this week. (I am almost done, and I have a feeling I will be re-reading it. Thumbs up from me.) The other book I chose was The Giver by Lois Lowry - not on the 2012 most challenged list, but it was one of the most challenged books of the 1990s, and I've never read it. Given my weakness for dystopian future young adult novels, I thought I should fix that oversight.

Anyway, thinking about why I would challenge Fifty Shades of Grey started me thinking of other books I've read over the years, some of which I had to read in school, some which were recommended by friends, many of which are considered classic works of literature, and why I would challenge them. Not ban them, but challenge a recommendation. I'm not one to talk about offensive language or unsuitable for age group - I read The Thorn Birds when I was like 12, TOTALLY unsuitable for me at that age -  it's more like I am challenging popular opinion. Here are a couple I thought of right away, but I'm sure there are more. If you are among the many that really love any of these, I hope we can agree to disagree. If you're not a fan of them either - please let me know so I don't feel so alone in my disdain. (I feel the need to clarify that although I didn't like these books and wouldn't recommend them, they are at least well written, and won't leave you feeling dumber for having read them, like the aforementioned Shades.)

  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. I remember having to read this in high school, and being flabbergasted that so many of my classmates thought it was such great romantic story. Catherine and Heathcliff, although friends as children, grow up to be horrible to each other and everyone around them, their jealousy and vengefulness was totally is this romantic again? Why is Heathcliff considered a romantic hero? He seemed like a crazy stalker ex to me.
  • Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. While I'm on the topic of classic romances I don't get, tell me again why the story of two horny teenagers who stir up a big brawl, have sex and then wind up dead is such a great love story? I mean, I guess I did really enjoy it retold as the musical West Side Story, but that's mostly because I have a weakness for musicals, not because I thought the story of these two crazy kids was super romantic.
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. So many people I know and like list this as one of their favorite books, but I am just not a fan. I read it as a teen, didn't get the hype, revisited a few years later, still hated it. I know Holden is supposed to be an anti hero, but I didn't find him or his story compelling. (Maybe you have to be a guy to love it? Any ladies reading this a fan of it?)
  • The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. A man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel starts to drop into the life of a young girl, keeps doing so periodically throughout her life, he becomes her dream man, she grows up to become his wife. I'm simplifying here, but it's kinda creepy, right? He time travels throughout his life, but he doesn't start showing up in her life until he's an adult, married to her adult version. But he meets her AS A CHILD. Basically molding her into the woman that becomes his wife. There are other things going on, but I couldn't get over that creepy part. I wasn't swept up in that whole soul-mates interconnected throughout time thing some of my friends really liked, I couldn't get over the fact he was a grown-ass man being all flirty and charming with a child.
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I didn't find it engaging...nor heartbreaking or genius. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Drugstore makeup recommendations

I haven't written a post in awhile, and I was just talking to some buddies at work about my top drugstore/budget friendly makeup recommendations, so I thought I'd jot them down. Whether you're like my buddy who had to toss all her old makeup and has to rebuild her collection, are like my buddy who can't afford to be shopping for department store brands anymore, or if you're just in the market for something new and don't know where to start looking, here are some of my favorites. Many have been mentioned in earlier posts, but some I have never mentioned before, and all are drug store brands. So look for sales/coupons to make them even more budget friendly! :-)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Some thoughts on movies, 2013

Much like I did last year, I gave myself the goal of seeing 52 movies released this year by December 31st. We've already way passed the halfway mark, and once again I am running behind. I'm in better shape than I was at this time last year, but will have to average two new movies a week for a few weeks before the year ends in order to reach my goal.

The good thing about where I am so far this year, is that I've been pretty picky about the movies I've paid to see in a theater. I haven't hated anything I shelled out my money to see. I have been to some free screenings that I'm glad were free though, because I probably would have been wanting my money back if I'd paid anything to see them. Specifically, The Internship was a very long form commercial for Google, and The Lone Ranger was kind of a mess - better than my waaaaaaaaaaaay lowered expectations, but still a mess.

It's too early to declare my favorites of the year, but I have enjoyed several of the movies I've seen so far, for different reasons. But you know what I've noticed? I don't know if age has jaded me or perhaps I've become even more observant/obsessive as I've gotten older, but it's become harder to enjoy movies unconditionally. Nearly always, there is one thing than ends up kind of bugging me while watching the movie, and that one thing often times bugs me even more after I've had time to think about it. Like the fact that in 2013, the majority of movies still fail the Bechdel test. Or that despite the changing demographics of the U.S., it still feels like most movies are still about and for young white men. I fear I may be becoming a curmudgeon!

One of my favorite movies so far this year was The Spectacular Now, which feeds into my above comment, since it is focused around a young white man. I think I really like it because it reminded me of the teen movies I loved when I actually was an adolescent. It is heartfelt and earnest but still funny and relatable. I've seen a lot of positive reviews for The Spectacular Now, and I agree that it's well acted, with great performances by the leads and a small but powerful part by Kyle Chandler, that is quite a departure from my beloved Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I really liked the movie, and if I had seen it for the first time in my late teens or early 20s, I'm pretty sure it would sit right alongside Say Anything in my list of favorite teen romances - even without the strength of Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes on the soundtrack.

But here is the thing - maybe because I am watching it with the eyes of someone who is closer in age to the parents than the kids who are the leads, maybe because I can imagine seeing this movie as a teen and loving it, maybe because I have very personal reasons for being super sensitive to the subject  - but I had a really big problem with all the drinking and driving in the movie. The lead character, Sutter, is fun and popular and outgoing - and has a flask on him at all times. There are several scenes of him spiking his big cup of soda, and drinking from said cup while driving around town. He's basically a functioning alcoholic, who happens to be senior in high school. I also wished we'd gotten more of the backstory/development of the female characters in the movie, since I found myself wanting to know more about them than about Sutter. His mother, his sister, his love interests...I would have loved a peek into their lives separate and apart from their relationship to him.

I don't want to be spoilery about what happens in the movie, (which is based on a book) because I did really like it, and I want to encourage others to see it. Particularly if you, like me, have a soft spot for John Hughes 80s teen movies, or the aforementioned Say Anything. I'm glad that the movie didn't get all after school special with an over-the-top lesson regarding drinking and driving, but I also wish it didn't make it seem like it was mostly OK either. I guess what I'm saying is - it really bugged me, but it was true to that character, and it's not like he wins a race while drunk or anything, there are some consequences to his actions. But I hope kids don't see it and start to think that driving around town while buzzed would be a fun time. But bottom line: see it, and then tell me if I'm being overly sensitive.

Thankfully fall is around the corner, and there are a ton of movies coming out in the next couple of months I want to see - some I didn't even know about until reading my Entertainment Weekly Fall Movie Preview issue this week. Like the fact that one of my favorite YA books, The Book Thief, has been made into a movie that comes out this year. Why had I not been made aware of that sooner? If it is anywhere near as powerful as the book was, I'm going to have to go into the theater with a whole box of tissues.

But you know what I feel woefully ill-informed of? Good foreign language movies to keep my eye out for. Anyone have any recommendations? I do enjoy reading my way through a movie, and I haven't in a quite awhile. I need to be prepared for awards season - so I can blab on and on about who and what got snubbed, like the movie fan/snob and curmudgeon-in-training I am. :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rainbow collection

My rainbow collection of beauty is not limited to nail polish. I own A LOT of makeup, skin care, and beauty related products. Like, an embarrassingly absurd amount for someone who does not earn a living doing anything that is beauty related. I'm a VIP member of several "beauty clubs" - meaning I spend way too much of my hard-earned money at various beauty retailers.

I feel the need to disclose this, even though if you've read some of my past posts on this blog, you may already suspect I have a problem. If you're a good friend of mine reading this, you know I'm an addict, and you've probably seen me walk into a beauty supply store, beauty aisle in a drugstore, or department store beauty counter like a junkie about to get her fix.

The thing is, my collection is currently too big for my comfort, so I've put myself on a "no buy" zone from now until November. (Because I am a junkie, and the withdrawal if I don't let myself buy one holiday blockbuster set will be ugly for everyone.) This means I have pledged to just use what I currently own, buy nothing new, and hopefully use up some products, so I will have a legitimate reason to buy new ones in a few months. And if I do run out of a couple of things, it shouldn't be a real issue, since I have backups of backups and tons of alternate choices for just about everything. Now a couple of months may not seem like much to you, but please keep in mind that I'm a junkie. Rarely a month goes by without me buying a new lipstick or eyeliner or nail polish. Seriously, I think I currently own 10 different black eyeliners alone, in pencil, gel, and liquid form. (Not to mention blue, purple, green, gold, silver, grey, white, copper, bronze, brown, pewter, turquoise....and things in between.) Of the colors of the rainbow, only red isn't represented in my eyeshadow collection. And, lipsticks are my biggest weakness.

This spending moratorium is going to be tough. I get emails pretty much daily with tempting offers of sales or new limited edition products that are so pretty and shiny....but I must say no! I need to stay off the smack! So in order to honor my current collection, and keep my "no buy" pledge to myself, I decided that a good way to curb temptation was to shop my own stash. It's not quite the same high, but rediscovering an old favorite may calm the withdrawal systems. Plus I might finally get around to trying the dozens and dozens of samples I've been collecting over the past year.

In the process of shopping my existing collection, I came up with a Roy G Biv rainbow selection of some favorites that maybe others might be interested in trying - and spending money instead of me, to support the industry in my stead. :)

Red - So, technically the mascara is black, but the packaging is red so go with me here. I am currently slightly obsessed with the new Mega Effects mascara from Avon. It was my last purchase before my moratorium began. The product is fine, but it's the novelty of the brush that has me playing with it all the time. Like I said, I own a lot of makeup, so getting a product that is really unique is like a super premium rush for me. It's like a new drug, if we're sticking with my junkie analogy (which we have to, because I am an addict.) So this product, with it's new design and shape completely unlike anything else on the market, had me at hello. It's taken me a couple of tries to get the hang of it - I kept ending up with mascara all over my eyelid at first. The mascara came with instructions for how to get the applicator out of its case, but not for actual application - that took some trial and error. I have to say, it's cool and different, and once you get the hang of the wand it's quite effective, but it hasn't made me want to toss my other mascaras with traditional wands. (Full disclosure: I sell Avon. I'm like, the worse salesperson on the planet though, since I talk up other brands more often than not. I think I'm really in it for the product discounts, since I am my #1 client.)

Orange - I have a real soft spot for the color orange - it's just such a happy color! I own many lipsticks, blushes, and nail polishes in shades of orange: coral, burnt sienna, goes on. Two favorites in my collection are the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable balm stain in Rendezvous and the L'Oreal Infallible eyeshadow in Cherie Merie. I tone down the shadow a bit by pairing it with a taupe-y brown, but I find them both to be quite so pretty to look at. :) I've even had a couple of friends buy the balm stain after seeing me wear it - surprised at how flattering orange could be. Unfortunately, the eye shadow was limited edition this year - though it may still be available in some stores.

Yellow - I don't own a lot of beauty related products that are yellow (shocking!) but of what I do have, I'd say BY FAR my favorite is Trader Joe's Jojoba oil. It's a just an all-around solid multi-purpose product to have on hand. It is great to use as a cleanser to dissolve even waterproof makeup, it is fantastic as treatment for my dry/course hair, and it's the perfect ingredient in all kinds of DIY home beauty concoctions, like salt scrubs. It's relatively inexpensive, plus a little goes a long way - I've had the same bottle for months, and I use it pretty much daily.

Green - Green is one of my favorite colors, but it's not that heavily represented in my makeup collection, other than in my nail polishes. (But let's face it, every color in the rainbow and then some is well represented in my nail polish collection.) I do own a green eyeliner, and some green eyeshadow, but in terms of my favorite products in shades of green in my collection - they're more like beauty related products rather than makeup. First off is the oldie but goodie staple: Queen Helene's Mint Julep Masque. It's an inexpensive, effective tool in my arsenal - it can help dry out pimples, clear out blackheads - I just love it. I also love the Macadamia healing oil treatment - a lightweight but effective serum that helps tame my frizzies and soften my course hair. The packaging is green, the oil is not. Unfortunately the hair treatment is pricey - but I think I get my money's worth.

Blue - I love a pop of blue on the eye, have since high school. What can I say, I'm a product of the 80s. To keep it more subtle, I like applying blue mascara on my lower lashes (love the Sephora brand one) and some blue eyeliner on the lower lash line as well. The Sephora brand waterproof eye pencil in My Boyfriend's Jeans is my favorite - it's a beautiful bright blue that wears well, and doesn't break the bank. The CoverGirl Liquiline Blast Eyeliner in Blue Boom is quite nice as well.

Indigo - can someone please explain to me what color indigo is? Is it blue? Purple? Burple? I probably have something indigo in my collection, and I probably love it - but I just can't currently identify it.

Violet - I love love love purple eyeshadow. The thing is, I think finding a good purple shadow is one of the hardest things for a beauty junkie, because most purples will look beautiful in the pan, but then apply sheer or unevenly, and look more like your eye is bruised rather than carefully made up. Loving purple eyeshadow can be constantly disappointing. So I really value purples that deliver. My favorite is the Tarina Tarantino jewel shadow palette in Fantastical. I'm sorry it took me until the products were on sale at Sephora to try them out, because the sale meant they wouldn't be sold there anymore. It's fantastic. Also pretty great and pretty darn cheap: the Wet N Wild Color Icon palette in Petal Pusher. It lacks the beautiful violet purple shade in the TT palette that I love, but I still like it a lot. Plus, paired over the Milani Shadow Eyez shadow pencil in Royal Purple, which is superb, you can get a nice violet look that will stay put for hours.
Me, eyeing my collection. ;)
Hope this gives you some ideas for building your own rainbow collection.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Do you ever feel the need to just overshare? Or talk about intimate personal matters at great length? I'm not saying I do, just posing a question. I mean, sometimes, you just want to know if someone else is having the same problems you are. Maybe that salad you had at lunch didn't agree with you, and you just want to know if anyone else had the same issue, so maybe it's the restaurant's fault. Maybe you just want to know if the color of a bodily fluid is "normal." Or you want to commiserate with others, see if they have tips on facial hair removal. Or you're looking to confirm that your family is in fact, the craziest. Perhaps during an emergency situation you happened to come across the wonder of a fabulous public restroom - clean, well-lit, with towels and lotion - and in the process of sharing this wonder you maybe went into too much detail about what led you there in the first place. In theory, of course. Or as a question posted anonymously somewhere.

Generally speaking, I have no problem with what any of this stuff that some would consider TMI. Except perhaps if you share overly intimate details about your significant other, because I'm terribly immature and may have problems looking them in the eye and not giggling after learning about how they cried during that thing that time while naked.

Having a place to overshare is why the internet was invented.....right? The problem is that the world wide web literally contains too much information, which can be overwhelming. And then I have a hard time shutting my brain off in order to go to sleep. So then I feel the need to blab on and on about tossing and turning and how the only thing that puts me to sleep is trying to watch the movie Eat Pray Love which works better than a sleeping pill for me. (I've seen her eat, pray, and love - but never all the way through from start to finish.) And because I'm sleepless and maybe a little delirious and have OD'd on Orange Is The New Black (loving it!) suddenly I think Julia Roberts' character in that movie is totally Piper from OITNB and that movie would've been a whole lot better if instead of whining in Bali she would've been thrown in jail with Crazy Eyes and Red. And there you go, I've gone and thrown out a little TMI on the inner workings of my warped mind.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Feeding the habit

My friends sometimes call me a human IMDB. I haven't retained school knowledge that could perhaps help me advance my career, but I can remember the lyrics to songs from the TEEN WITCH soundtrack, and the fact that Robin Lively, who starred in that movie, is Blake Lively's sister, and the guy who played the love interest Brad in that movie also played Kevin Buchanan on ONE LIFE TO know, really useful information like that.

Besides watching a lot of TV and movies, my knowledge about things entertainment, pop culture, and beauty related comes from reading magazines and regularly checking-in on web sites dedicated to my various interests. Thought I'd share some of my favorites (AKA the ones I visit the most), in case you have similar interests.

For beauty info, these are some of the ones I visit like a junkie looking to get a fix:
  • I love the Beautylish site for their online community of fellow makeup-aholics, with all kinds of beautiful and inspiring ideas for costume, theatrical, and everyday makeup. They also have interesting articles with beauty tips and some product reviews. Plus, Beautylish has a great online store that sells cult/hard-to-find makeup lines. (Which they ship with lovely little personalized notes like a care package. Making it extra dangerous for this addict.) 
  • In terms of thorough product reviews, I don't think anyone does a better job than Temptalia. She tests makeup products, grades them, and includes a lot of great photographs that swatch each product. Her focus tends to be a little heavier on higher-end products, which can lead to a long and very expensive wish list.
  • Of course you know I have to recommend the website of my favorite Youtube video making sisters, the Pixiwoo team, but even cooler is their online/mobile app TWO magazine - with tips from pro makeup artists, gorgeous photography, and all kinds of makeup-related inspiration and recommendations.
Favorite sites for fun pop culture:
  • I have been reading the Pop Candy blog for years. I don't remember how long ago I first stumbled across it, but I became a loyal reader since the first time I did. I love that it covers all things pop culture - movies, TV, music, books, and more, but with a definite opinion. I think of Whitney Matheson, the blog's author, as one of my online "friends." Over the years of reading her posts I've found that we don't have super similar tastes in music, but I really trust her book recommendations. (And she even gave me a nail polish recommendation once, so her enabling is really prize worthy.)
  • I started reading Television Without Pity recaps of TV shows back when most of its focus was on shows on The WB, and the site had a different name. The network no longer exists and the site has changed names twice since I first came across it, but I still enjoy a nice snarky recap or weecap every once in awhile. Their photo galleries can be quite entertaining as well. They've branched out and do some movie reviews as well. 
  • I became a regular reader of NEW YORK magazine's Vulture entertainment blog more recently that the previous two, but we've gotten close quickly. I think it was The Thinking Woman's Guide to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY that solidified our relationship. Like Pop Candy, it covers all things pop culture, but unlike Pop Candy, there are a team of writers, so there are various perspectives - which means some posts feel way more thought out than others. The comments section on some posts are sometimes way more entertaining than the actual posts, and probably what keep me as a regular reader.
For foodie fixes:
  • If you like to cook, or just look at pictures of delicious-looking food, or recipes from restaurants you love or simply must visit one day, you have to check out Epicurious. It's tag line is "for people who like to eat" and I find it extremely apt. Their Pinterest boards are food porn you should avoid if you're on a diet or fasting. They also have some really good instructional videos with how-to-instructions on various techniques. It's my first stop when looking for recipes.
  • Find. Eat. Drink. Food/travel tips and recommendations from chefs, bartenders, and artisans that share their best addresses around the world. I wish they had a non-iPhone app as well. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book lover

The other day one of my best friends was telling me that her almost 8-year-old daughter (who also happens to be my goddaughter) had started reading A WRINKLE IN TIME and was really loving it, and what a kick it was for her (my friend) to get out her own old copy of the book and show her daughter they shared a favorite. (After getting over the hurdle of the vastly different cover art.) A WRINKLE IN TIME was one of my favorite books as a kid as well, and I after re-reading a few years ago, I have to say, it's a childhood favorite that really holds up.

This little exchange with my bestie made me realize that although I say in my bio that I love books, I haven't really talked about any in this blog. Haven't written a review, or even a list of my favorites. Mostly because I always feel a bit self-conscious when I talk about books. I think my reading habits reveal my inner 22-year-old more than my outer way-older-than-that-adult.

Look, I've read some literary classics - and not all while in high school or college either. I've read works by Jane Austen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Irving, and Gustave Flaubert for fun. But if we're being real here, and I'm all about keeping it real, most of what I read is not all that highbrow. I mean, I'm pretty sure that over the years I've contributed considerably towards Nora Roberts' dream home, or at least its kitchen. I've read everything Chelsea Handler has had published. And I somehow made it through every single book in Charlaine Harris's seemingly never-ending Sookie Stackhouse series.

Which isn't to say I'm not picky. I'm not above enjoying a semi-predictable formulaic plot, but I hate Nicholas Sparks books, and refuse to watch any movies based on them. I say that as someone who read A WALK TO REMEMBER before watching the movie. And then became increasingly angry when I realized that according to Mr. Sparks, apparently important lessons in life and love only happen when someone dies. (We parted on poor terms.)

My biggest weakness, apart from adventure romance novels, is young adult fiction. I may be way older than the target audience, but there are a lot of really great stories to be read in the YA section, they just happen to have lead characters in their teens. I seem to have a particular soft spot for post-apocalyptic young adult series - I've loved THE HUNGER GAMES, THE MAZE  RUNNER, THE UGLIES, MATCHED, and DIVERGENT. (I will probably watch and have issues with the inevitable movie adaptions of all of the above.) Not to say those are the only YA books I've read in the past couple of years. I sobbed reading THE BOOK THIEF and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. I felt like THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and KING DORK were about friends of mine, and READY PLAYER ONE was a fun nostalgia trip. I did not enjoy the TWILIGHT books though - mostly because (a) I didn't buy into the love story at all and (b) I hated the character of Bella in particular, and pretty much every character in the book in general. But I sure have had fun discussing some of the more ridiculous plot points with friends! (Have refused to watch the movies.) Next up in my very long to-read queue: CHOCOLATES FOR BREAKFAST, which I'm really looking forward to thanks to an endorsement from Whitney Matheson from the Pop Candy blog, upon whose recommendations I have found and enjoyed many of the books I just listed. (I should probably do a separate post of all the various enabling blogs I read.)

One of my to-read piles
Thanks to a friend who shared her e-book library with me, I have hundreds of unread books in my e-reader, and over a dozen unread books in my to-read pile at home - but I'm always open to new recommendations. Particularly if the main character is a kick-ass woman. Or if it's a book of humorous essays. (Funny books are my favorite reading for travel. David Sedaris, Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling got me through some boring ass flights in the last year.) But please, the only shades of grey I'm interested in hearing about are references to makeup. (A nice grey nail polish, for example.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Sometimes being a beauty junkie is painful. Not only does my love of makeup often hurt my wallet, since it can be quite expensive, but it can hurt my pride when no one notices a look I spent hours trying to perfect, and sometimes it can literally cause physical pain. Like it did for me this week.

Friday, June 21, 2013


I've really been itching to travel lately. I've been seeing friends post pictures of cool travel on Facebook - pictures from places I've never been and have wanted to visit for years - Italy, Greece, Alaska, Singapore - and all these beautiful pictures of interesting places has really brought out my wanderlust in full force.

Now I really have no reason to complain, really. I had the fabulous opportunity to travel to a different country not once but twice this year, spend some really great quality time with loved ones, and even do some booze tourism. But I haven't been to anyplace new in awhile. I haven't checked off any bucket list destinations. And I think it's time to start planning a trip to change that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling....old

A couple of days ago I woke up with Taylor Swifts' "22" stuck in my head. It's a tune that can easily ear worm itself into your head. And well, the truth is, I often do feel like I'm 22. Except I'm not. It's been a long time since I've actually been 22. The fact is, to a 22-year-old, I'm probably ancient.

Getting old isn't a bad thing. It means you're alive, you've lived, you've survived, and hopefully, you've become wiser and well-seasoned. Feeling old sucks. It means your joints sometimes creak when you get up after sitting for a long time, your head has or has started to get a crown of grey hair, you remember things that happened 10 years ago better than what happened an hour ago, and you find yourself espousing the virtues of the clothes in a window display only to look up, horrified to see the name of that clothing store you used to think was for old ladies.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hot weather makeup

Yesterday I had a marathon phone call with one of my best friends, who recently moved to New Orleans. It was one of those conversations where you talk about everything - life, pop culture, world news, who is driving you crazy, and since I'm involved, makeup. She was telling me about how crazy humid it is down there (I've found it impossible to have a good hair day when I've visited in the past) and was asking for some hot weather makeup tips. I had been outside running errands in some hot weather all day, and despite having done some sweating, was pleasantly surprised to see that my makeup remained in really good shape. While I was telling her what I had used, she told me to just write a post on it instead, so here it is.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I prefer fake restaurants

I was just talking to someone about my lack of enthusiasm for the host city of a conference I will probably have to attend later this year. It's in a big city in a big state that I've been to before and don't particularly care for. I summarized my lack of enthusiasm for this particular city by telling a long-winded story, which I will now share with you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rose gold lover

I love rose gold. I didn't at first - when I was first introduced to rose gold jewelry some 20-odd years ago (prior to that I thought gold only came in yellow tones), I thought it looked cheap and tacky. Probably because the rose gold jewelry I first saw was cheap and tacky. But over the years, I've come to love it. I'm sure I've come to love it in no small reason because the color is very flattering on me. It combines my love of gold and copper perfectly.

Because I love it and find it flattering (on people besides me), I've found myself attracted to rose gold makeup, so it was great to see a video with recommendations on some of the best posted by one of my favorite YouTube beauty gurus, Emily Eddington. While I loved that she featured some of my favs, like the L'Oreal Infallible eyeshadow in Amber Rush (love it), I thought - hey, Emily, you're missing some! So since she can't actually hear me while I watch her videos in the comfort of my home, I thought I would post on the internet and add to the list, in case others were interested. Below are some of my favorite rose gold makeup items, in addition to hers. (I encourage you to watch her video for those.) I've tried to link to other sites where you can look at the products more closely if you so choose. 
  • Milani baked blush in Rose D'Oro: it's kind of a sparkly/glowy peachy coral with gold, which in and of itself makes it lovely, but it also pairs really nicely with rose gold/rose copper eye makeup.
  • Sleek blush in Rose Gold: it is a softer/lighter color than the Milani Rose D'Oro, but a similar description applies. I think it's gorgeous and super flattering on fair skin. (If I ever go to the UK I'm positive I'll walk into a Boots and buy every Sleek item they sell, because I've loved every product I've tried so far, and the price is right. Also, I LOVE the fact that their site shows you almost all of their color products swatched on different shades of skin. Why doesn't everybody do that?) While we're on the subject of Sleek, you can get a nice rose goldish look from their i Divine eyeshadow palette in Oh So Special
  • NYX jumbo eye pencil in Yogurt: as an eyeshadow, I don't love it since it creases in like 5 minutes on me, with primer after about an hour, but it makes a great lower lash eyeliner. Really brightens the eye, and ties together a rose gold eye look quite nicely.
  • The eyelid shade on the left side of the Wet N Wild Color Icon Comfort Zone palette. This might be my favorite drugstore eyeshadow palette. A major reason I love this palette is that coppery/rose gold shade in particular, it's great for every day wear. (Although I have to admit I'm not crazy about the definer shade on the left column or the crease shade on the right since they're a bit too dark for everyday wear on me.) 
  • Essie Penny Talk nail polish - a very light copper/rose gold shade. I love it, it's a beautiful color, but I do have to say the formula is kind of a pain to work with. It will show every single imperfection. But with patience and a really good base coat, I think it's totally worth it.
  • NYX jumbo lip pencil in Copper Pink paired with NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Crystal Soda. It's a very shiny pairing, but I love it. I don't love the smell of the NYX jumbo lip pencil, but do love the scent of the mega shine lip glosses (kind of like cherry candy). Thankfully the scent of the lip pencil fades quickly, especially paired with the gloss. 
  • Last but by no means least: Color Club halo polish in Cosmic Fate. In regular lighting indoors it's a pretty rose gold/light copper shade, but in the sun/direct light, you get the full spectacular rainbow halo effect. I love the color both ways. Plus, unlike the Essie polish, it's a dream to apply, and you can almost get away with just one coat. Love this polish, will probably be playing favorites with it this summer, which is saying a lot given my rainbow collection
If you're a lover of rose gold like me, have you found any makeup products you recommend I try? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Buddhist monks freak me out

I was getting ready to cross the street, and while waiting for the light to change, two Buddhist monks walked up next to me, and I flinched. Why would I flinch as these two friendly looking men in yellow robes stood next to me, you may ask. Well, because I got a PTSD flashback in their presence. The reason for this flashback was an incident that happened to me well over 10 years ago, and I apparently still haven't gotten over. So much so I was just recounting this story to some colleagues at work when I heard the Dalai Lama was in town a few weeks ago, and here I am, telling it again.

I was taking an Amtrak train home from visiting friends/family one weekend – I think it may have been Easter since the weather was spring-like. The train was packed, but I found 2 empty seats. I sat next to the window, and a Buddhist monk who boarded at the same station ended up sitting next to me. A little while after the train departed, the monk started trying to have a conversation with me, something that was complicated by the fact that he didn't speak much English. He had recently arrived to the US and (I think) was visiting some friends or going on a retreat or something. Anyway, after a few minutes of awkward chit-chat in broken English, I turned away and started reading my magazine.

Just as I was starting to get into some article on mascara or whatever the hell I was reading, the monk shifts and starts saying that he’s cold. He repeats it. I ask if he has a blanket or a jacket, but he just had his robes. A moment later, he leans in to snuggle next to me, since apparently he loves the softness of my sweater, and then proceeds to sniff me. I am horrified, but somehow frozen. He sniffs me again. This sweet looking little old man who looks like the Dalai Lama JUST SNIFFED ME??!! He tells me I smell good. I catch the eye of the man sitting across the aisle and look at him in horror, while he just looks on in amusement.  I think, "am I on Candid Camera? Is someone trying to punk me?" I shrug the monk off my arm, press myself up against the window, and say thank you to his compliment. (I’m only good with witty comebacks several days AFTER weird things happen to me. Plus, it's always nice to know the deodorant is working in stressful situations.) The monk kept staring at me, then grabbed my hand and started looking at my palm, then into my face. Internally I was thinking, “is this some gypsy fortune telling monk?” but externally all I did was start to panic and pull my hand away. The monk then proceeded to take a ring off his hand and put it on my finger, telling me it would bring me good fortune. At this point, every self-defense alarm system in my body is going off, and I’m panicking. I was also wondering if I was just an unwitting participant in a marriage ceremony of some sort.

I tried to give the ring back, but the monk said I needed it for hard times ahead. I grabbed my bag, told the monk my station was up next, wished him luck, and walked over to the next car, where I stood for the next 25 minutes until my station stop, all the time looking around for the damn cameras, because surely this had to be a joke. Not having seen Ashton Kutcher or ever having to sign a release form though, it seems the incident with the sniffing /snuggling monk was all too real.

I took off the monk's ring when I got home, and tossed it in the corner of a drawer. I didn't throw it away because I thought I would look up the symbols on it to see what they meant, but then decided I didn't want to know, and then forgot about it. Years later, it didn't make the move up to my condo with me, but I'm not sure if I ended it putting it in the giveaway or trash pile. (I also took off that sweater and washed it twice before wearing it again.)

I hope that ceremony wasn't binding, 'cause he's not getting the ring back in the divorce.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My soundtrack

I love music and I love movies. Nothing blends these two loves as well as a good movie soundtrack. The first album I remember buying was the GREASE movie soundtrack, and I have had a love affair with movie soundtracks ever since. FLASHDANCE, FOOTLOOSE, TOP GUN, PRETTY IN PINK, TWO OF A KIND, PURPLE RAIN, WHO'S THAT GIRL, LOVE ACTUALLY, JUNO, BOOMERANG, GARDEN STATE....I have purchased a lot movie soundtracks over the years.

So the other day while listening to music during my commute into work, my mind started to wander, as it often does. I started to think - if I could score the soundtrack to the bio film of my life, what songs would be on it? And I kept thinking about it - tough choices would have to be made. Because it would have to be songs that I not only love, but that would match a particular period of my life, or would work for particular scenes. Many of my all-time favorite songs would not make the cut. My weakness for pop music would probably make this an impossibly expensive album to put together in terms of licensing. But I put some thought into it, and I pared it down to this: the soundtrack to my life, so far.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More junkie recommendations

While packing for a trip, and trying to cull my beauty supplies down to a semi-reasonable travel bag, I realized that I have quite a few more current favorites and "holy grail" products than those I just wrote about. So in case you're one of the people who have asked me for product recommendations recently, or you're looking for something new, or are buying a present for someone and want some tips, or are secretly a junkie too: here are some more things I think are great. If you are none of these things....well, thanks again for stopping by.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love songs

I take public transportation, and my commute into work can take anywhere between 45 minutes to almost 2 hours depending on what kinds of issues the Metro system is having that day. During that time, subject to my mood, I will either do some reading, listen to podcasts, and/or put the iPod on shuffle and see what comes up.

Today I went for random shuffle. Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes came up, immediately followed by The Cure's A Lettter to Elise. I love both those songs. Like, a lot. I have cried listening to them, although not for the same reasons. They are two very different kinds of love songs. The first is all epic, and deals with finding that perfect someone with whom you feel complete, with choice lyrics like "I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive" and is for many of us linked to Lloyd Dobler and that boombox. Whereas the latter is about a relationship that is probably ending, with lyrics like "I let the dream go and the promises broke and the make-believe ran out."

So because my mind often wanders when I'm just sitting on a train listening to music, I started thinking about love songs, and how they're split in the two camps, sweeping/hopeful/romantic, and mournful/heartbroken. And it seemed that many of my favorites fall into the second category. (Not sure what that says about me, but I don't feel like doing any self analysis right now.) Then I started trying to make a mental list of what all my favorite love songs are. Although my musical taste tends to be pretty cheesy overall, and I do enjoy a poppy love song, most of my favorites in this category don't really fall into that guilty pleasure category. I also concluded that a lot of my favorite love songs make really great background music for movie montages. (Again, let's not analyze that.)

Here are some of the songs I thought of right off the bat, besides the two already mentioned. They all stir up all kinds of feelings every time I hear them. There have been a lot of worn-out tapes and bad sing-alongs tied to each one of these.
  • Donny Hathaway A Song For You If you don't get feels when you listen to this song, we just don't have much in common.
  • Madonna Crazy for You - This songs transports me back to middle school, and that ridiculous crush. Who apparently never did feel the weight of my stare, or, if he did, didn't give a shit. 
  • Elvis Costello She One of those sweeping love songs I like to imagine is being sung about me.
  • Etta James At Last - A classic for a reason. I don't want no remake, give me the original every time.
  • U2 Bad I have a real weakness for dudes that sing their hearts off onstage.
  • Indigo Girls Love Will Come To You and Ghost both sung loudly and off key many a time.
  • ABBA The Winner Takes It All - No list of my favorite songs doesn't include ABBAIf you've seen THE TRIP or MAMMA MIA, you know this one is a classic.
  • Mecano Me Cuesta Tanto Olvidarte Pretty perfect song - trust me, even if you don't understand Spanish. (Also, please click on that link if only to check out the questionable and very 80s fashion and makeup choices.)
So those are a few of the love songs that get me so emotional...wait, did I leave Whitney off the list? Oops, my bad. If I thought about it more than a few minutes during my commute this would be a REALLY long list. So I'm going to stop thinking about it.

What are some of your favorite love songs?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A junkie recommends

The word has gotten out about my beauty junkie status. My close friends and family have always known about my habit - they've seen how my eyes light up when I step inside a beauty supply store, and laughed at the amount of products I deem as essential for travel (while then borrowing liberally from the stash). But for the most part, colleagues and casual acquaintances have been in the dark about my addiction, other than perhaps noticing that I change my nail color frequently.  But when your boss mentions your habit in an all-staff meeting, along with an accompanying slide show that really hammers the point home - the jig is up. Suddenly folks I barely ever talked to before are asking for product recommendations. And I am in hog heaven. :)

So since just this past week I've gotten questions and requests for recommendations from half a dozen different sources, I thought I'd write about my current favorites and "holy grail" products - in case you're one of the people who have asked, or you're looking for something new, or are buying a present for someone and want some tips, or are secretly a junkie too. If you are none of these things....well, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fickle passions

I love cooking, eating good food, and watching people cook on TV. I'm not all that particularly fashionable or into trends, but I do try to at least not to look like one of those "don't" pictures in fashion publications, so pay attention to style trends. I love "girlie" things like makeup and jewelry, peruse magazines, blogs, and pop culture websites on a regular basis, and watch entirely too much TV. I start off every morning listening to a local radio show, which in addition to offering some news, humor, and information on upcoming concerts, provides me with enough knowledge of professional sports my eyes don't immediately glaze over when I run into folks who want to talk about "the game" last night. And I love movies. I like going to the theater, I like watching them at home, and sometimes the in-flight movie is the best part of a work trip.

The thing about having so many interests is that I tend to be seasonal about how much time I dedicate to any one thing in particular. I'll go through a period of reading 2-4 books a week, then not pick one up for months.It would probably take me years to get through all the books I own in my "to read" pile, both printed and electronic. I will do movie marathons, then not see a new movie until I happen to win passes to a free movie screening. I'll get a new cookbook or a new kitchen gadget and whip up all kinds of delicacies, then go for weeks without doing any real cooking. I have drawers full of beading supplies from my occasional periods of fancying myself a jewelry maker, but I can't remember the last time I pulled them out to use them. I have enough beauty supplies to be a professional makeup artist, yet will often go days, if not weeks, wearing no makeup other than maybe lipstick. My love, it would seem, is fickle.

The end result of all these seasonal interests is that I have a lot of stuff. Not quite ready to be on an episode of HOARDERS or anything, but definitely creating some pretty junky areas in my home. And probably some pretty junky areas of my brain too - I have forgotten most of my education to make room for a ton of useless movie trivia knowledge.

Which brings me to yesterday, and me staring longingly at a picture of a fancy waffle maker on sale at one of those discount sites you have to sign up for. I'm pretty picky about breakfast foods, but waffles aren't one of the things I turn my nose at. I like waffles. The thing is, I hardly ever eat them. I don't buy the frozen variety you can toast up at home, and I rarely order them when I eat out. I eat waffles maybe once or twice a year. Yet I found myself spending way too much staring at the picture of the waffle maker on the website, and trying to justify why I should buy it. (Over 50% off! It's your birthday, treat yourself! You can experiment with fillings! It would be great for a brunch party!) And then I thought about the lack of counter space in my kitchen. And all the other kitchen gadgets I own that are gathering dust due to lack of use - the bread machine that hasn't been used in years, the rice cooker that was only used once, the mandolin that just sits there all by itself. And I clicked away.

Unfortunately, I then got an email about a new set of eyeliners, and remembered that 15% off coupon I had in my purse, and.... well, I am a makeup junkie. And it's my birthday! And I can experiment with new looks! And it will be great for a costume party.... Ok, so maybe not all of my passions are fickle.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Home improvements

I haven't posted anything in this blog in awhile. Not because I haven't had anything to say, but because I haven't taken the time to sit down and actually write about anything. And I've discovered so many fun makeup and food things to share too! I'll get to those soon.

The thing is, I've been in a bit of a funk. Maybe because in a few weeks I'll be turning 40 and I'm doing that silly self-contemplating thing we sometimes do when turning an age that ends in "0", maybe because a lot of what I'd like to share involves my (somewhat negative) feelings about other people and this is the internet where anyone can find anything and I don't want to be accused of libel or anything. So, I haven't written.
But then I went on vacation for two weeks. I escaped winter in the the mid-Atlantic of the U.S. and flew south to a land where everyday was sunny, warm, and low humidity.

I did a lot of staring at the horizon. I spent time with loved ones. I got a pedicure from a cute heterosexual male. I drank some great wine. It was a pretty fabulous vacation.

Then I got home. There was leak in one of the pipes, and a big chunk of the carpet in my condo was flooded. My refrigerator had stopped keeping things cool. And my dryer had stopped getting things hot and dry. So after 10 years living in the same place, my condo decided to tell me it too was in a funk.

I had originally planned on going to a big makeup trade show in New York to celebrate the big milestone birthday - get some cool tips, and expand my stash at a discount. But now I have to save those pennies and get paints and polishes for my home. I knew it was time for a change, but sometimes it takes everything falling apart at once to kick change into high gear. Besides, let's be honest, I already own way too much makeup, and I haven't done any home improvements in way too long.

So this coming year, in addition to looking at pretty makeup pictures on Pinterest, I'll be looking at home decor pictures, and hopefully by giving my home a makeover, help us both through our funk.