Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Other 2014 favorites

I have already written about my favorite movies, books, and some beauty loves of 2014. Since I'm on a roll, I thought I'd wrap it up with some of my other favorites/recommendations. I know I'm forgetting some greats, but unfortunately I did not do a good job of recording my loves as the year progressed - this is all coming from the top of my head. Feel free to share your loves with me as well.

  • Orphan Black - Folks, I am obsessed with this show. I am in awe of Tatiana Maslany's chameleon-like skills in portraying about half a dozen different characters on the regular - fully formed, unique women, who happen to be clones. Love the little bits of humor mixed in with the big mystery (that has to do with science!), and really appreciate Paul's abs. (I am very shallow.)
  • Parks and Recreation - I love this little show, love the cast, am sad it is ending. It never fails to put me in a better mood. Three words: Treat Yo Self. 
  • The Good Wife. I have been a fan of this show for years, but they really shook it up and knocked it out of the park in 2014. (And not just because they added Matthew Goode to the cast, which was a great move as far as I'm concerned.)
  • Jane the Virgin: I did not expect to like this show. The title, the premise (about a virgin woman getting accidentally artificially inseminated), and the fact that it was on the CW did not add up to a winning formula for me. But then I watched it, and it turns out it's funny, smart, and sweet, as well as a clever send-up of telenovelas. I'm a fan.
  • Mamrie Hart/You Deserve A Drink: This woman cracks me up on the regular. Love her quirky/weird improv-y Mametown videos, and her punny/funny You Deserve A Drink series, which besides a good laugh, provides some interesting cocktail recipes. Plus she wrote a movie, Camp Takota, and actually got it made, co-starring herself along with two of her best friends (who are also very funny ladies on YouTube.) I have much respect for a woman who will use just about any excuse to bust out a costume and a funny pop culture pun
  • Betty Who - I've played her Slow Dancing EP countless times this year. Feeds my love of catchy pop music that is a pleasure to listen to, no guilt involved.
  • Taylor Swift 1989 - I admit it, she got me
  • Sia 1000 Forms of Fear - loved this album. Chandalier was the hit, but Elastic Heart was the one I kept listening to on repeat. 
  • Sam Smith In The Lonely Hour - Had never heard of him until I saw his performance of Stay With Me on SNL, but after it I immediately pre-ordered this album. Happy with my decision.
  • Tori Kelly's Dear No One is one my favorite songs of the past year - I perhaps related too well to this one. 
  • Copperworks Distillery As I've said before, I'm a fan of booze tourism. Although I did get to visit some vineyards with much prettier views this year, my visit to this distillery in Seattle provided me with the most pleasant surprise: a gin I like! Their barrel aged gin was so good I had to buy a bottle despite the price tag, and I have been savoring it slowly since. 
  • While talking about food/drink in Seattle, I have to say the crab and shrimp tator tots I had at the Steelhead Diner are one of the best things I've eaten this year. 
  • Taco Bamba it took me awhile to finally try this excellent taqueria in my neighborhood, but now I'm a superfan. The "El Beso" taco is my crack.
  • Tortilla soup in Phoenix. I've had it at several different places, including various hotels, and it has always been spicy deliciousness. 
  • View from WNYC Transmitter Park.
  • Paulie Gee's really liked this pizza place in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and my culinary trip to NYC this summer in general. Enjoyed international cuisine in 3 boroughs in 2 days. I highly recommend it. :)
  • Another great meal with a view I had this year was at Restaurant Montealegre in Valparaiso, Chile. The food and the view were both absolutely fantastic, and I just remember it being a super fun time with my parents. Highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some makeup favs

As a beauty product junkie, I own A LOT of products. I mean A LOT A LOT. Not quite to the level of a YouTube beauty guru, their makeup collections more closely resemble a small Sephora, but definitely more than one woman who isn't a professional makeup artist and doesn't earn a living related to the beauty industry should. The worst part is that I'm always wanting to try new things, so I often have multiple types of the same thing. For example: I own about 10 different black eyeliners. (Pencil, liquid, gel, gel pencil, felt pen, kohl, etc.) Not to mention various other liners in shades of brown, purple, green and blue. I own more nail polishes than some small spas, and enough eye-shadow to make some professional makeup artists jealous. My collection of sample sized products has my travel bag of toiletries solidly stocked for countless trips. In short, I have amassed quite an impressive/ridiculous collection for someone who doesn't get paid to do anything beauty related.

For someone who owns so much makeup, I usually don't wear a ton of it, nor do I necessarily wear it every day. I saw a great video the author John Green made earlier this year about his love of makeup that summed it up perfectly:  "It's like really beautiful armor, because it makes me feel more confident and somehow kind of protected as I go through my day. It's sort of like wearing my favorite outfit except I can do it everyday." Sitting at my little makeup desk, figuring out my "look" for the day, is relaxing and fun, and is one of my happy places.

Because I've amassed such a ridiculous collection, I rarely use up makeup items. More often than I'd like, I have to toss products because they have gotten old way before I ever use them up. Or by the time I finally finish them, I can no longer get a replacement because it has been discontinued. But some things I love so much I actually use up, and repurchase to make sure I'm never out of it. I thought I'd share some of those, since I've been into making year-end lists these last couple of days, and these are basically my makeup/beauty favorites of 2014. I highly recommend them all, in case you're in the beauty buying mood. :) For other favorites, feel free to check out some of my previous posts.

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Books

I haven't  been doing a hell of a lot of writing this year, so obviously my goal of posting more regularly on this blog went out the window months ago. I've decided to overcompensate by taking advantage of some free time now in these last few days of 2014 and just sharing a bunch of lists about what I've been loving.

While writing my post with thoughts on movies, I noticed that a lot of the ones I saw this year were based on books I had read. And it really hit home that I spent quite a bit of my free time in 2014 reading not just magazines and things on the internet, but actual books, many of them digitized. The following are my some of my thoughts on what I read this year. Not everything was released in 2014, but they were new to me. :) I've put my favorites in bold.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 Movies

I haven't written a blog post in forever, but I have found myself talking a lot about movies lately, and since I have a bit of free time, I thought I'd write a little something about it.

I didn't give myself a movie goal this year - good thing because I am NOT on pace to match the last two years at all. But just in case you were looking for something to watch during some free time in these last few days of the year, or were wondering what my thoughts were on some 2014 releases, or like to see me make lists, I've jotted down my thoughts on the non-Hallmark/Lifetime movies I've seen this year. My favs are highlighted. (I have linked to the trailers for all, in case you're interested.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Silver celebration

I call it birthday fish stew.
Today is my stepmother's birthday. I'm not going to out how old she is or anything - that would be rude, but I will say that this year marks the 25th anniversary of our relationship. Coincidentally, June marked the 25th anniversary of her marriage to my Dad. Funny how that happened. Anyway, feeling inspired in honor of her special day, and a very fruitful visit to the farmer's market, I made a variation of the Brazilian fish stew she loves and taught me to make, moqueca. And after that deliciousness, I decided I needed to write this post.

My stepmother came into my life when I was a teenager. I don't think I was particularly horrible, I wasn't super rebellious or much of a troublemaker, but I was a teenage girl: adults just didn't UNDERSTAND, change was THE WORST, and UGH YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME. Also: I was an only child, and the "princess" of a man who was widowed when I was less than a year old.  So you know, she had her work cut out for her.

Our relationship was a bit rocky at first - when my father told me they were getting married, I acted out the only way my not-all-that-rebellious-or-tortured-self knew how: I got up from the table and walked over to the cheap jewelry place to get a third and fourth piercing on my right ear. (Conveniently, my father had taken me to an eatery at the mall to break the news.) Being a moody, hormonal teenager, I kept vacillating between trying to like this woman who my father so obviously cared for, and wanting to kick her to the curb. There were a lot of ups and downs at first since she and I are both opinionated and strong-willed and were marking our territory, but even early on, a lot clicked. We both like to cook and love kitchen gadgets. (We can spend hours in a Sur la Table.) We both love makeup. (I need to introduce her to the wonders of Ulta.) We love to sing along (off-key) to our favorite songs. We have a similar sense of humor. And we both love my father.

Me moving away to college and growing up helped our relationship A LOT, but you know what I think finally bonded us for life? Our crazy families. Maybe one day I will feel comfortable enough to post on the internet some of my wacky family stories, but let's just say, there is comedy GOLD to be had. I mean, my grandmother alone could be a sitcom. (It would have to be on cable though, because we're talking dark comedy here.) Anyway, her horrified reaction matched mine upon finding out that my grandmother sneakily set me up to go see a nun shrink (and by that I mean a nun who was a therapist - long story, worthy of more that one episode), and I knew definitively that my stepmother cared for me. Shared tears/outrage over less-than-happy family reunions solidified the two of us as family. Not by blood, but by choice. So although she didn't raise me from birth, she is my parent. I seek and value her advice and approval. Her opinion matters to me. (Except perhaps about politics - we agree to disagree on a lot there.)

My stepmother is a fabulous lady. She has a fantastic fashion sense, along with a collection of shoes, that I envy. She has great taste, is generous, is fun to travel with, has a sweet tooth that rivals my own, and a go-getter energy level that can be exhausting to watch. I hope she has an awesome birthday today. We live in different countries and I won't be seeing her for a few months - but I do have a little something for her in honor of our silver anniversary when I do.
With my fabulous stepmother earlier this year. (She's the one
with a normal sized head that can wear hats.) ;-)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beauty hacks

A friend's recent FB post recommending using oil to cleanse your face reminded me of all the "non-traditional" beauty items I've heard about over the years - items you normally find in your kitchen, or perhaps your medicine cabinet. She mentioned it would be nice to have a page with all these beauty secrets, so I thought I'd quickly jot down a post of all the ones I have tried, and recommend.
  • Oil cleansing: I use jojoba oil I buy at Trader Joe's for removing makeup - it's great, especially at melting off eye makeup. Extra virgin olive oil works too. (And it's something you may likely already have in your cupboard.) I have super oily skin so the idea of rubbing oil on my face seemed counter intuitive, but it really works, and does not break me out. If anything, I think it has helped normalize my oil production. I simply put oil in a pump bottle, and use a pump or two to rub all over my face, gently going over eye area, then rinse with water. I still use a mild cleanser after though - the oil is just for makeup removal. 
  • Other uses for oils: I use coconut oil as a hair mask on the regular - just put on dry hair and leave on for about 20 minutes before washing hair. (Kind of makes you crave an Almond Joy while you're wearing it though.) I also mix coconut oil with granulated sugar as a body scrub - works well, and leaves skin moisturized. A little jojoba oil is great to smooth dry/frizzy hair as well, and works wonders smoothed into cuticles. 
  • Non traditional mattifier: Bear with me here, but I'm recommending milk of magnesia as a beauty product. I don't know who first got the brilliant idea of putting a digestive aid on their face, but they were on to something. I have found it to be an excellent oil-control primer, and whenever I use it under makeup not only am I less shiny, but my makeup lasts much longer. If you're going to try it though, make sure to use the plain unflavored variety. I don't think cherry flavoring will work well with foundation. ;)
  • Non traditional face primer: If you thought the milk of magnesia was a weird recommendation, I have an even weirder one: chafing cream as primer. Yeah, I know. I'm not sure who the brave soul who first tried this was, but I know I got the tip from a YouTube beauty guru I enjoy watching, Tati. I like to use primer to smooth out pores and make my makeup last longer, but the high end stuff that really works can be really pricey. Monistat Soothing Care Powder Gel costs $8-$9 at most drugstores, has the same ingredients as face primers that cost triple that amount, and it really works. You just have to get over the fact that you're putting Monistat on your face.
  • The many uses of baking soda: make a paste with water and use to cover insect bites - helps control itch and dry up the bites as well. You can also mix in with your regular cleanser to make it an exfoliating cleanser, or use 3 parts baking soda to one part water to make your own exfoliant. You can also sprinkle some in your shoes to avoid stinky feet, add some to your toothpaste to help whiten teeth, and use it as a mouthwash to neutralizer halitosis in a pinch (just one teaspoon in a small cup of water.)
  • Foods as beauty products
    • Avocados are very moisturizing, and make a great hair mask (mix in with some coconut oil for a hair mask that will leave your hair SUPER shiny), and a great face mask (2 tbsp of mashed avocado, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp yogurt and 2 tbsp mashed cucumber make a very nice refreshing mask that is quite cleansing and refines pores.)
    • Cool cucumber slices really help de-puff eyes. 
    • Manuka honey is like a super food (which I was happy to see sold for awhile at Trader Joe's, and online and at health food stores at a higher price.) It has all kinds of uses: as a digestive aid, to treat infections...but for beauty purposes, it is great as a mask. You can use in the avocado mask I mention above to really help reduce redness and treat acne breakouts (it has antibacterial properties) or use it on its own. (Smooth all over face, leave on about 20 minutes, then rinse off.) I think it tastes a little medicine-y as a sweetener in tea, but it really works wonderfully as a lip balm, mixed with some coconut oil as a intense moisturizer (rub honey/coconut oil mixture on your feet at night, put on some socks, and wake up to soft tootsies), and it makes a great face scrub mixed with milk, sugar, and a little olive oil. (I've read that milk & honey was Cleopatra's beauty secret.)
So those are some of the ones I have tried and recommend - what are some of yours?  I'm sure that there are many, many others - and I welcome any tips/hacks that others have to share. I'm all about multi-purpose!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In appreciation of my Dad

While enjoying an extra helping of blue cheese on the yummy salad I had for lunch the other day, it occurred to me that I used to hate the stuff. I used to call it "Dad's stinky cheese." And then I started thinking about all the other stuff I didn't like as a child but have grown to appreciate as an adult (Brussels sprouts, wine, sensible shoes), and THEN I started thinking about my father, and how it's father's day, and I should tell him how much I've grown to appreciate his stinky cheese. And how much I continue to appreciate HIM.

I have written before how my father was my first model and helped foster my love of beauty products. He's also helped foster my love of reading, an interest in history, and my fascination with pop culture. He's always been on top of the latest gossip - both of the celebrity and non-celebrity variety, and his love of music and musical films has definitely been passed on to me.

What I have grown to appreciate most about my Dad, and I appreciate quite a bit, is his love of a good story. Growing up hearing his yarns would sometimes make my eyes roll, sometimes embarrass me - but you know what? They were never boring. A lot of them had to do with trying to kill/maim/embarrass his younger siblings, some of them had to do with his various jobs and travels, some of them had to do with my mother, and most of them were pretty interesting...the first time I heard them. But you know, I've been alive for four decades, and I could have sworn I've heard all of my father's stories at least a dozen times.

I wonder if my Dad was trying to tell me a story here
Last year during one of my visits home he surprised me though. During a rambling conversation about how DC had changed since he lived here 40+ years ago, he casually mentioned that one time he had tea and scones with Ezra Pound on the grounds at St. Elizabeths Hospital. And I had to stop and say EXCUSE ME WHAT? He was surprised I had heard of Ezra Pound. I was surprised my father had never told this story. I heard him tell the story of impaling his brother with a homemade spear about 50 times, but never this charming story about driving from West Virginia with a family friend to visit with a famous poet.

It was then it dawned on me that my father probably had a ton of stories I had never heard - and probably several of them are way juicier than how he got lice that one time from playing with the kids of the local prostitute. And I needed to tell him how much I enjoy hearing his tales, so hopefully I get to keep peeling at the layers that is the onion of my father's kind-of-fascinating life.

Happy Father's Day.

Meditatio  by Ezra Pound

When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs
I am compelled to conclude
That man is the superior animal.

When I consider the curious habits of man

I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pop culture obsessed

I have said in the past that I am a makeup geek. Well, low and behold, I have discovered I am not the only one. And that there is not only a website with that name, founded by a fellow makeup-aholic named Marlena, but that they sell makeup! I happened to see an announcement regarding some of their new eyeshadows - and I saw that one of them was called Pop Culture. And it was a beautiful blue/lavender purple color. I knew right then and there I had to get my hands on some of that. I mean, this eyeshadow was obviously made for me: a makeup geek with a pop culture obsession and a weakness for purple.

Clockwise from top left: Cosmopolitan, Cocoa Bear,
 Pop Culture, Barcelona Beach.
Makeup Geek (MUG) eyeshadows are easily compared to MAC - they come in pans about the same size, except MUG shadows cost $5.99 each, and MAC cost like $15. To the right you see I made myself a little quad of MUG eyeshadows since I can't live on pop culture alone. (I am using a $1 ELF compact - I try to be a somewhat frugal addict.) These shadows are BEAUTIFUL. Soft, nicely pigmented, easy to blend, and really long lasting. Over primer (which I always wear now), they've lasted all day on me with minimal fading or creasing, which is amazing. I will definitely be buying more. Best of all, it's a cruelty free brand. :)

So, in honor of my new favorite makeup product, here are some of my current favorite makeup and pop culture/entertainment things:
  • Orphan Black - Folks, I am obsessed with this show. I am in awe of Tatiana Maslany's chameleon-like skills in portraying about half a dozen different characters on the regular - fully formed, unique women, who happen to be clones. Love the little bits of humor mixed in with the big mystery (that has to do with science!), and really appreciate Paul's abs. (I am very shallow.)
  • Mamrie Hart/You Deserve A Drink: This woman cracks me up on the regular. Love her quirky/weird improv-y Mametown videos, and her punny/funny You Deserve A Drink series, which besides a good laugh, provides some interesting cocktail recipes. Plus she wrote a movie, Camp Takota, and actually got it made, co-starring herself along with two of her best friends (who are also very funny ladies on YouTube.) I have much respect for a woman who will use just about any excuse to bust out a costume and a funny pop culture pun.
  • Betty Who - I've played her Slow Dancing EP countless times in the past few weeks. Feeds my love of catchy pop music that is a pleasure to listen to, no guilt involved.
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour - so I think I've moved on from all my dystopian future young adult series to heartbreaking books about young adults dealing with some very real things. (My love of young adult fiction hasn't waned though.) This novel, about a teen dealing with the suicide of her best friend, was gripping, emotional, and at times uncomfortably honest. One of the best of my recent reads - which is saying a bit, because I think I've been on a bit of roll with good reads.
  • Stila Smudge Stick waterproof eye liner - my current love is specifically the Mint Julep shade. These puppies are so pigmented and easy to apply, and I love that they are true to the color of the barrel. Plus they really do stay put on the lower lash line for me.
  • Milani Brilliant Shine lip gloss in Luminous. Lovely peachy/bronze shade that isn't too sticky and smells a bit like vanilla. It's a nice neutral/natural shade that works well with the pops of color eye looks I've been enjoying wearing. I think it would look really nice with tan/bronzed skin as well. (Something I don't know much about, as I tend to stay pale year-round.)
Those are some of my favs. I'm always on the lookout for new things - if you have any fun pop culture recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On friendship

I have definitely fallen way behind on my 2014 goal of writing regular/weekly blog posts. Sometimes work and life get in the way of sitting down and writing down things. Especially positive things. I want this blog to be a place where I share and talk about things I like/love/am enjoying, not necessarily a place to vent my inner crazy and air my frustrations. Although I've started about a dozen posts in the past couple of weeks, I have only gotten around to finishing one, and I really want to make an effort to get back on the writing wagon.

Because of stress/inner crazy/frustrations, and after a lovely little birthday visit with my parents, I've been taking stock of the important people in my life. The people I can call/email/text with a stream of consciousness rant, and they will listen. The people who can talk me off a metaphorical ledge. My nearest and dearest. The people who mean the most to me, but also the people I'm hardest on. My family. Many of them aren't blood relations, but we've imprinted on each other, and wherever life leads us, we always circle back together.

I am naturally an introvert, and have never had a very easy time making friends. I've never really been someone with a large social circle. But I've been really lucky that despite my sub-par social skills and hermit tendencies, I've managed to make some really good friends over the years. Friends who have helped me move, who have taken me to the hospital, who have traveled with me, and have provided free therapy. I'd like to think they stick around because it hasn't been all one-sided - I've also helped out during moves, pet-sat, visited hospitals, and sat up all night providing a shoulder to cry on. (Let me tell you, I'm pretty sure having to help one of my BFFs go to the bathroom after she had a surgical procedure made us sisters for life.) I'm not sure what stroke of luck brought these people into my life, but I am thankful they have chosen to stick around.

There have been friends who I have lost touch with over the years, and I often think of them. Some I drifted away from, some drifted away from me, and some just seemed to have fizzled. Living thousands of miles apart doesn't help to nurture a friendship, and sometimes, as you grow up, you grow apart. But even if you don't stay friends, you remember the time back when you were.

Maya Angelou passed away recently, and there were all kinds of tributes going around, with many posts of some of her more famous quotes. The one I chose, along with what seemed like thousands of other people, was "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I chose it because I agree with the sentiment - my nearest and dearest are the people who make me feel my best, who make me feel important and cared for, and I am incredibly thankful for that. I hope they feel the same way.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tape love

Last year, in my frenzy to watch movies before all the major awards started being handed out, I hadn't been doing much book reading. With only so many free hours in each day, I usually fixate on one form of entertainment at a time. So, having reached my movie watching goal a little early, and thanks to some generous electronic-book-friendly Christmas presents, I started tackling some new books in December. And I've been averaging about a book a week so far this year.

It just so happens that the two of my favorite recent reads, Eleanor & Park and Love Is A Mix Tape, both of which I very much enjoyed and have recommended to folks who have expressed a similar book taste, had me reminiscing for the lost art of the mix tape. Then I started reading Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s and, well....I saw a theme.

Eleanor & Park is a lovely story about first love, forged out of a shared taste in music, and solidified over mix tapes. Love Is A Mix Tape is the memoir of a relationship, with chapters framed using various mixed tapes that the couple made each other. Mad World, is, as the full title suggests, an oral history of music, mostly from the 1980s, framed around a handful of songs. Maybe not coincidentally, there are artists that make an appearance in all three books. And it has me all nostalgic about my old tapes.

Making a mixed tape was an act of love - because it took so much time to make one. You couldn't just click 12 songs from a list and burn them on a CD, you had plan ahead, making sure the running times for the songs on each side of the tape was right, so you wouldn't end up with too much dead time at the end, or that one side cut off a song before it ended. You had to sit next to your recorder to start and stop each recording. You had to spend TIME - so even if you told the person "no big deal, I thought you might like these songs" - it WAS a big deal. You would never make a mix tape for someone you didn't care about. Even if it was just a copy of a mix tape you made for yourself - you still had to take the time to make that copy.

So, if I made a mixed tape for you back in the day, know it was because I thought highly of you, and your taste in music. And to those who made tapes for me, in case I didn't say it at the time - thanks! Thank you to that friend in high school who made a tape of The Bangles Different Light for me - I still love that album. (And my favorite songs are not the biggest hits.) Thank you to the different friend who gave me a tape of the hits in Canada in 1986, which included Rumors by Timex Social Club, Lessons in Love by Level 42, and of course songs from Corey Hart and Glass Tiger. Thank you to the friend who made me the mix tape that introduced me to INXS, and my great love of the late 1980s, Michael Hutchence. Thank you to the guy who gave me that mixed tape of rock en espaƱol songs- I didn't get the hint at the time- but it was very nice of you. And though not a mixed tape, thank you to my stepmother for giving me that Escape Club tape as a present the first day we met. It's a tape I still own - not so much for the music, but as a keepsake memory.

So many of my friendships have been forged around a shared love of music. I have had way too many long phone conversations or online chats with friends that consist mostly of playing or sharing links to music we love. And I really love how just reading a mention about a song I love can so easily lead to me reminiscing about a time long ago and far away.

Now excuse me while I go dust off some of those albums I haven't shown love to in awhile. (And if you too are a product of the 80s, check out the excellent mixtape put together by the authors of Mad World... I'll be over here embarrassed that the only "rap" I know all the words to is from Wham!)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Not tested on bunnies

A couple of months ago I wrote about drugstore/lower priced brands that don't test on animals. I'm trying to do better about being a responsible consumer, so I've decided to stop buying from brands I know do testing. As someone who sees stars whenever she spots a new shiny makeup product in the store, sticking to this has and will continue to take some serious will power. I've been trying to train myself to just focus on the brands I know don't test, and ignore everything else, no matter how shiny it is.

As a follow-up to that decision, I've been going through everything I currently own - makeup, skin care, and bath/body products, as well as making lists of things I have tried and loved in the past, and checking what comes from bunny-friendly brands. Based on that, I've compiled a list of what would be safe to repurchase once I run out of what I'm currently using. I have tried not to repeat anything I mentioned in my earlier post. The following are brands that don't do animal testing, along with my thoughts on some of their products.
  • Lush: Although I had seen Lush stores and Lush areas in department stores, I had never stepped foot into one into my stepmother introduced me to some of their products a couple of years ago. Then I got sucked in. They're really actively against animal testing! All their products are handmade by an actual person and each one has a sticker of that person's name and a little cartoon representation of them on the packaging! Their bath stuff smells so good! Their skin care works! Although a Lush store can be a little overwhelming at first, I have found that the folks that work there are always super helpful, and almost cult-like in their love of their favorite products of the brand. I'm personally a fan of the tea tree water, lemony flutter, ocean salt, and a their bath products.
  • Bare Minerals: I really like their matte mineral foundation, and I've heard great things about the rest of the line as well. 
  • Carol's Daughter: Hair and body care that I generally only buy when I can get it on sale, since I can never find it in economy sized containers. I haven't tried their body/skincare, but really love their haircare, which has quite a few products that work great for keeping my mane from going full-on Mufasa. I love the smell of the Tui hair smoothie, as well as the great things it does for my hair, and really like their macadamia styling products as well.
  • Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap: one bottle of this stuff lasts me forever. I get the unscented baby version, which I find is great to both clean my sensitive body parts as well as my makeup brushes and delicate clothing. It's fair trade too.
  • IT Cosmetics: A new discovery for me. I have fallen IN LOVE with their Naturally Pretty matte eyeshadow palette. Beautiful, long-lasting and pigmented matte eyeshadows that blend like a dream, AND claim to have anti-aging ingredients. I want to take our relationship to the next level.
  • Hourglass: I got a sample of their mineral veil primer, and that started my obsession with this pricey British brand. Then I tried their ambient lighting powders...and now I am tempted to start pawning things so I can buy everything they sell. (So far I have not given in to that temptation.)
  • Lather: I loved the products I sampled when a hotel I stayed in had them as toiletries so much that I took the time to visit the mothership in Pasadena when I had a work trip in L.A. a few years ago. Love the smell of their bamboo lemongrass stuff. 
  • No Ad Suncare - it works, doesn't smell too offensive. I dig it. 
  • Organix Hair: smells nice, and you can buy it at most drugstores at an affordable price. My favorite is the macadamia oil to help control my frizz.
  • Tarte: I generally love this makeup brand. All their stuff is formulated without parabens, mineral oils, or sodium lauryl sulfate. I particularly love their Amazonian clay blushes and the Amazonian clay finishing powder. The blushes in particular have great lasting power for me. I like their eyeliners, a couple of their mascaras, and lip products as well. Honestly, I've tried quite a bit of their line, and the only thing I didn't really care for was their lights, camera flashes mascara.
  • Too Faced - their milk chocolate soleil bronzer is matte, doesn't make me look like an Oompa Loompa or muddy, and it smells like chocolate. (Because it's made with cocoa powder!) What's not to love? Their eyeshadows and makeup kits are quite lovely as well, although several of their palettes tend to be a little too shimmery for my taste. 
A couple of things I feel I should disclose: a lot of the things I list here are pricey. My earlier post did cover bunny safe drugstore brands, and mention some of my favorite products in each. Some people buy shoes compulsively, I'm a bit of a compulsive beauty product shopper. I shop deals. I buy products when they are deeply discounted on sites like Hautelook or when the line's website or my favorite beauty retailers has a friends & family sale. I subscribe to a couple of beauty boxes, which allow me to sample a variety of products for a pretty low price. And much like Donna and Tom on Parks & Recreation, I believe that sometimes you have to Treat Yo Self.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Searching for a dupe

I love the movie The Breakfast Club. I have seen it many times. And every single time I do, at the end, when they do a close up of Claire's (aka Molly Ringwald) hands, I think "boy, I really love her nail polish."

So although I own a whole rainbow collection of polishes, every once in awhile, namely whenever I watch the movie, or it comes up in a conversation,  I think "I wish I owned Claire's polish."  (Also - who the hell gives away diamond earrings like that?! I might be slightly obsessed with those too.)

I actually saw the movie on TV a few weeks ago, and once again became fixated. It just looks like such a nice lady-like shade, flattering, and not too pink. (I'm really not a big fan of pink.) I thought, now is the time: I need to start actively looking for this polish.

Although what was used in the film was probably some Wet N Wild polish discontinued in 1987 or something, whenever I have actively tried to look, I have never come across what looks like a dupe. It's not something I look for every time I'm buying polish or anything, but it is something I become fixated with every now and again - always without success. Whenever I find something, it's either too sheer, too frosted, too pink, too mauve...basically, NOT the right thing.

So after having seen the movie twice in the span of a few weeks, I had the polish on the back of my mind, and coincidentally Zoya, one of my favorite polish brands, had a promotion a few weeks back that involved getting free things, and they had this one new polish, called Brigitte, that looked very promising, in terms of being that long searched for dupe. So I ordered it, along with a few others. Unfortunately, although a perfectly lovely shade, it turned out to be not quite what I was looking for - too mauve, not pink enough. So here I was, once again fixated, with no success.

BUT THEN - on a random trip to the drugstore on Friday to buy other things, I decided to look for something that might match. And I came across an Essie polish called Eternal Optimist. I think I have FINALLY added a polish to the collection that I think may come close to duping this shade I have never owned, and have had my eye on for over 20 years.

Now all I need is a pink shirt, brown pencil skirt and brown boots, and I can finally dress up like Claire for Halloween. (But I'm keeping both of my "diamond" earrings.) 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Family courier

Every time I announce a visit to my parents, I will get one or more lists of "encargos" - basically a wish list of things they want to bring with me. I live in the US and they don't, so they always want me to bring things that are hard for them to find, or ridiculously expensive if available. Over the years, that list has included a hodgepodge of items - from QTips to foot powder, kitchen gadgets, foods, clothes, water filtration systems, and very memorably, a pair of men's size 14 camouflage rain boots (memorable both because they were huge and ultimately never worn, and because when customs officials took a look at them and a matching jacket in my bag, warily and suspiciously asked if I was in the military.)

Sometimes the list of items is so long I have to bring 2 suitcases where I would normally take one. My father is a tall guy, and I've often been tasked with taking him clothes to refresh his wardrobe, since finding clothes his size can be a challenge. Let me tell you, 2 pairs of shoes for my father is basically a full suitcase. Throw in a few shirts and pants, and I definitely have to put anything I plan on wearing during my visit in a separate bag.

This past weekend I had to go shopping for the last few things on the latest wish list, and I was struck by how random the things I had to take with me was: basket-style coffee filters, men's underwear, a specific multivitamin, poultry seasoning, a DVD of a TV show's latest season, and a stand mixer bowl. Thankfully, the list is relatively short this time because family was just in the US visiting about a month ago.

Anyone who has family who lives in a different country knows all about having to serve as a mule -  I'm sorry, let's say courier instead. (Although don't couriers get paid for their services?) It's a fact of life when you have family living in different countries - you long for items that are hard to get.

My favorite courier story was actually the time I naively offered to make the wedding cake for one of my cousins. She was basically having a destination wedding, and thought the expense of a cake was ridiculous, so I offered to make one - you can't not have cake at a wedding!  She took me up on my offer - so I basically had to pack a mixer, bowls, pans, various kitchen gadgets and quite a few of the ingredients in my suitcase, then start panicking about how the hell I was going to do it. Many of us were all staying in the same apartment, and I remember everyone laughed when I opened my suitcase, since it was basically a change of clothes, baking supplies, and makeup. (I ended up serving as the bride's makeup artist too. I loved that part.) Thankfully, my uncle served as the other courier for this cake, since he hand carried some beautiful sugar flowers that really made my simple cake look somewhat matrimonial. The bride and groom liked the cake, so the combined efforts of two couriers coming from two different countries was a success.

The courier stories I remember less fondly usually involve non family members. Anyone else get saddled with a duffel bag full of letters from a group of American nuns living abroad that they requested you transport and mail from the 'states? Have you had to go on wild goose chases to 2 different states to track down that one extra special cake mold someone just had to have, and would be heartbroken if you couldn't find it? (You're a good courier, so you did in fact eventually find it.) No? Just me?

I'm with my family now, and I know they always appreciate my efforts as a courier, so it makes it all worth it when they give me a hug and say thanks.

Unless they are late picking me up from the airport. ;-)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

This is my first post of 2014, so let me wish everyone a happy new year!

The past two years I gave myself the goal of seeing 52 new movies over the course of the year, which is all well and dandy until you start getting towards the end of the year, and time is running out, so you end up watching crap you originally had zero interest in seeing. So this year, I have given myself a new goal. I will still watch movies, because I love them. I will try to get through the backlog of hundreds of movies currently in my Netflix queue. But for the once a week average yearly goal, I'm going to try to be better about posting on this blog. So I've given myself the goal of posting something at least once a week. I enjoy talking about and sharing things I love, so let me sit down and actually write about them.

For this first post of the year, I've decided to write about my love of the TV show, Friday Night Lights. Maybe it's because I keep seeing commercials for Devil's Due, starring FNL alumnus Zach Gilford (a movie I probably won't see, because horror is not in my wheelhouse), maybe it's because several of the movies I enjoyed last year starred or featured FNL alumni (Fruitvale Station, The Spectacular Now, The To Do List), maybe it's just because I came across some FNL posts on Tumblr. Whatever the reason, I hope that if you're reading this, you end up giving the show a chance. Or sharing what you love about it.

Friday Night Lights is one of my favorite television shows of all time. I own every season on DVD, often decide to do mini marathon viewing sessions, and will probably continue to refer to the actors from that show as their character names for years to come. I want to marry a man like Coach Taylor. I aspire to be as awesome as Tami Taylor, what with the constant great hair days and the fabulous advice (we already have a love of wine in common.) And Matt Saracen still breaks my heart.

It is a great mystery to me why so few of my friends have listened to me when I have recommended/pleaded/insisted they watch the show because it is awesome. I have to admit I was a bit slow to warm up to the show myself - I didn't tune in from week one. I thought it was a show about football, and that did not sound appealing to me, at all. (I'm not much into sports.) But a lot of the TV writers I love kept going on and on about how great it was, and somewhere in season one, I caught a mini marathon of the first couple of episodes. And from the first episode I watched, Matt Saracen broke my heart, and the Taylors warmed it,, I had to IMDB Tim Riggins because he stirred up some possibly inappropriate feelings....and phew, Taylor Kitsch (the actor who portrays that character) is well within the +/-10 age window. I quickly grew to care for these characters - as well as Smash, Landry, Tyra, Jason, and the rest. The show was about various people living in a small town in Texas, it just so happened that football was what brought them together.

Perhaps what I love most about the show, and there is much about it I love, is that the relationships felt real. The Taylors seemed like a real couple who argued and made mistakes but also loved and supported each other. Actions had consequences. Yes, championships were won - but games were also lost. The relationships on the show, like in real life, had ups and downs - they were lovely and messy. Season two had a big miss with a plot that felt like it belonged on a daytime soap instead of this fabulous show, but it also had some gems. Like a the scene between Tami Taylor and her older daughter Julie, where they have a talk after Julie's parents have discovered that she is having sex with her boyfriend - Matt Saracen, the boy who breaks my heart. It's a lovely little scene in which Tami gives a speech I wish every teen girl heard from her mother.

Anyway - if you haven't watched the show, I recommend it. You can watch all five seasons (4 of which are shorter, cable-style seasons) on Netflix. They are also airing the show on some sport channel I came across one day on accident, but I don't know which one. One of the ESPNs? NBCSports? Not sure...I don't have that cluster of channels memorized. (As I mentioned, I'm not into sports.)  And if you do, let me know if Matt Saracen breaks your heart too.