Monthly Archives: February 2012
We have finally come to the conclusion of the awards season, and how appropriate that it ends on its highest note, and in more ways than one. Last night’s show was memorable; eloquent and emotional speeches, classy production, and politics kept to an appropriate minimum. And then there was the style.
Sure, the Golden Globes and Grammys also turn out noteworthy fashion, but it’s just different. The Globes have its own touch of glamour and the Grammys can be counted on for its edginess. But the Oscars just have that je ne sais quoi. Designers and their clientele hold back their best and most beautiful designs, waiting to make that statement on the world’s most celebrated red carpet.
2012′s bevy of haute couture was in some ways no different from the 83 previous years. Some styles wowed. Some not so much. And while we may expect to see certain fashion trends it doesn’t necessarily work out that way. We keep hearing about bright colors and bold pieces being on trend for this spring. But what’s cool is that this event is so special, whatever we see on that one night in Tinseltown really transcends any seasonal expectations. I just love Oscar night for this very reason.
My husband and I, like we do every year, sat together and watched the two hour parade of high fashion leading up to the show’s big start. I can say there was really nothing that had me speechless, good or bad. I did not see anything I would describe as iconic, that will be talked about for years to come. But there were several ensembles I liked very much. I never had to divert my eyes upon the sight of something awful, but yes there were a few I could have done without. My husband can always be counted on for giving these ladies the benefit of the doubt: “maybe you just need to see it in person.” In some instances I am sure it is the case.
I thought this year was unexpectedly subtle, and overall it worked. No need to talk about what I didn’t like. Let’s keep it positive.
One of my favorite looks of the night was Michelle Williams, Best Actress nominee. She embraced the bold color spring trend in a beautiful coral Louis Vuitton. Simple and demure. Her understated jewelry was appropriate with her Fred Leighton choker, no earrings (it looked great that way with her pixie cut) and a bejeweled ribbon around her waist. The peplum style worked beautifully on her slender frame. And I loved-loved-loved the pink Bottega Veneta clutch. Perfection.
Another I really enjoyed was the gown selected by Tina Fey. An exquisite midnight blue custom Carolina Herrera, and also an on trend peplum style. While Tina is not the typical Hollywood stick thin little tiny thing we are so used to seeing, her bod is rockin’ and the peplum worked well on her. Her bold sapphire and emerald chandelier earrings were also on trend, and her matching ring, dramatic updo and sleek Roger Vivier clutch wrapped it all up beautifully. Bravo.
I have to give a shout out to Rooney Mara. She was striking in her ivory Givenchy. While this look is not for everyone, it worked on her. It’s edgy, structured, and minimalist. She went without jewelry, really not necessary with her raven hair and the pop of her dramatic red lips against the ivory of her dress. And can her skin be any more perfect? Good gracious. She wasn’t my husband’s favorite look of the night; he did point out more support up on top may have suited her, or maybe the dress would have worked better on a curvier figure. Regardless, Rooney stayed true to herself and the ivory selection was a refreshing departure from her usual black.
Penelope Cruz hit it out of the park with her classic and feminine Armani Privé. A beautiful lavender gray organza, and just classic old Hollywood style, with a fitted bodice and off the shoulder straps. If I have to pick a favorite, this may be it. She just gets it right time and again. I was also fond of her 2007 blush Atelier Versace. Lovely!
Emma Stone made a statement in her selection of a deep ruby Giambattista Valli. While some critics panned it immediately for its similarities to Nicole Kidman’s 2007 Balenciaga, I felt the comparisons were unfair. The dresses were different enough in silhouette and Nicole’s gown was more orange red. And with a five year time span between them, any criticism of Emma in either regard isn’t fitting. I thought she channeled old Hollywood glamour beautifully, when most last night fell short of that. She took a chance, and the color was beautiful. While the large bow on the right shoulder isn’t necessarily for me, Emma clearly loved it. Nothing else matters.
I loved Octavia Spencer, stunning in her super pale gold Tadashi Shoji. Gorgeous. The draping and beadwork on the gown flattered her beautiful curves. And those Neil Lane earrings! 50 carats of heaven! What a night she had. Not only did she look great, but she took home Best Supporting Actress, too. In a night of great acceptance speeches, arguably hers came out on top. She handled herself beautifully, and looked fantastic doing it.
While my tastes aren’t in line with everyone else’s, I think it’s important to remember these women base their selections on who they are and what they feel. Some statements find themselves on top the best dressed list. Others fall pathetically flat. But ultimately taking risks and being yourself is a great thing. Any woman who presents herself on that stage has made her selection with confidence. If she loves it and feels absolutely beautiful wearing it, that is what matters most.
Rock on, ladies. I can’t wait to see what you pick next year.
This is just too wonderful not to share. I got it from my personal news feed on Facebook.
It’s not new. You may have seen it already since it began making the rounds online about nine months ago. An active duty soldier Skyped with his pit bull after being apart for five months. His mom snapped this priceless photo after their precious time together online.
I’m sure this sweet dog’s grandma just loved witnessing this. I thank her for capturing the moment, and her son for sharing it with the world.
The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s. ~ Mark Twain
The bond between us and our dear animals is without question. Whether your baby is soft and furry, or feathered or scaly, it is all the same. There is absolutely nothing like it.
I am someone whose every day is touched by some degree of pain and fatigue. Unfortunately, conventional medicine is not much help. It always involves a pill with a bad side effect or two, like hair loss (no thank you). Or there is a medication that may work, but my insurance would rather not cover it. It’s always something.
It isn’t in my nature to give up. I always look for ways to feel better and enhance the quality of my life. Time and again the simple things give me the most relief.
Recently I decided to treat myself to a massage. Since my pain issues began, this is something I have to approach with caution. Sounds nuts, I know. But in my world, a totally harmless rubdown can be too much of a good thing. If the therapist applies just the wrong amount of pressure, an hour of bliss can later throw me into the flare from hell. And what is okay one day isn’t okay the next. It is all very confusing and frustrating.
On this particular day, my massage therapist Natalie was trying to navigate the minefield. What could she do that wouldn’t hurt me too much? She asked me about the pain I was experiencing that week. We decided to go with some gentle cranial sacral work to help alleviate the all over body pain that was making me miserable.
As I was on the table, her hands working their magic and me zoning out, her soft voice broke the silence.
“Have you ever tried Epsom Salt baths?”
We agreed the discussion would wait until the end of my session. I’m not one for conversation when I am sprawled on a massage table in a candlelit room, with nature sounds coming from a CD player. But she definitely got my attention. I had read somewhere long ago that pain, nerve pain in particular, can be helped by the use of Epsom Salts. She reminded me all over again.
So what is nerve pain exactly? The answer calls for a quick anatomy lesson (bear with me, you geniuses out there who already know this stuff). Our spinal cord is the liaison between our brain and the nerves that weave throughout our body. These nerves that leave our spinal cord and branch out to the rest of the body comprise our peripheral nervous system. This system is made up of sensory nerves (they receive sensory stimuli, telling us what feels good and what hurts) and motor nerves (which control muscle movement). When something happens, be it illness or injury that can damage these nerves, abnormal processing of messages happens. Pain is amplified and all hell breaks loose. And that’s when life can get pretty crummy.
After my hour of bliss, Natalie went on to tell me that Epsom Salt baths replenish much needed magnesium sulfate in the body. And mineral deficiencies, magnesium deficiencies in particular, are linked to chronic nerve pain conditions like fibromyalgia. Some patients have had a great deal of success in improving their symptoms, just by paying close attention to adequate mineral levels.
So what’s the big deal with magnesium?
It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Concentrated in our bones and tissues, it is responsible for 300 different biochemical reactions, all of which a healthy body needs to function. It boosts immunity, helps control anxiety (this is all I need to know), and is crucial in the development and maintenance of healthy nerve tissues. When a deficiency occurs, weakness, fatigue, pain, numbness, and muscle contractions often result. This is beginning to sound like the story of my life.
If you go into my bathroom you will see I have a problem. Bath stuff is everywhere. Six different kinds of herbal infused bath salts, foaming bath oils, mud treatments; you name it, I have it. All designed to help my pain, make me feel pretty and bring my body to that elusive happy place I miss so much. But I have grown so tired of things not working as effectively as I expect them to. Don’t get me wrong. I love all my stuff. I am sure I look positively splendid sitting in a bubble bath with a Hungarian mud mask on my face. It just isn’t all that when it comes to making me more comfortable.
After a lot of money and frustration, I decided to give regular Epsom Salts a try. Plain. Boring. Cheap. No fancy packaging. No exotic smell. And not too sexy. Who knew this possible remedy would not be found in the posh confines of a boutique or department store, but instead right next to the pharmacy counter in a no frills Costco warehouse?
I was able to find twelve pounds of Epsom Salts (three 4 pound packages) at Costco for under $7. This is a steal compared to the fancy pants bath salts I have tried. Granted, the more expensive stuff is infused with oils and herbs, and the salt is derived from some far away place. But they are meant for a completely different experience. I will always have these more appealing versions on hand when I want some luxury.
The process could not be any simpler. I dumped two cups of Epsom Salts under warm running water and filled the tub to my desired level. I didn’t add anything else to the water this first time. Normally I would be inclined to add a few drops of essential oil or a few tablespoons of bath oil to moisturize my skin. But this first time I didn’t want anything interfering with the salts and the job they had to do. In actuality, it doesn’t matter. In my second bath I added a bit of moisturizing jojoba oil and lavender essential oil for some extra pampering. In the end it’s all the same.
I noticed things happening right away. I began to sweat. A lot. And the water was not hot, just pleasantly warm. This detox effect is remarkable, and I recommend having a bottle of water handy, or better yet some delicious herbal tea if you choose. I was surprised at how I was feeling. My pain lifted and I felt great. Sometimes I can be in a hurry to get out of the bath, especially if I have things to do. Not this time. I didn’t care. The water wasn’t fragranced or moisturizing, but something about it just felt really good. I didn’t want to get out.
Yes, something as simple as a bath can replenish much needed minerals. Scientific evidence shows the salt’s content is in fact absorbed through the skin. Magnesium levels in blood and urine go up exponentially in people who soak for the recommended time. Studies show it requires twenty minutes to fully reap the benefits. The detoxing and relaxing effect can also make you feel a bit sleepy, a nice perk if you have difficulty falling asleep at night. I sometimes do. My pain can often keep me awake. But after my salt bath I slept like a baby.
Of course this isn’t my cure, but it makes me feel good and reduces my pain for hours. All of us chronic pain people know how precious even five minutes of reduced pain can be. Hours free of pain is heaven!
If Epsom Salts just bore you to death (believe me, I understand) and it’s more pizazz that you crave, seek out bath products that contain Himalayan pink salt, which contains 84 different minerals, magnesium being one of them. Himalayan pink salt is simply an exotic sounding name for plain old rock salt. It comes from the second largest salt mine in the world, located in Pakistan. It is hand mined, hand washed and sun dried, and the purest salt available on earth. Dead Sea salts also contain many minerals beneficial to health, and are commonly found in many products. A good soak in a Himalayan pink salt or Dead Sea salt bath can help strengthen your immune system and detox your body.
If you don’t mind spending significantly more for salts of the Himalayan or Dead Sea variety, try Essential Oils Bath Salts. 22 ounces can be yours for $11.99 (www.eoproducts.com). They have formulas for serenity, sleep, balance, wellness, and warmth. Or try Masada Dead Sea Mineral Spa Salts, 2 lbs. for $20. I do like their Joint & Muscle and Detox MD formulas (www.masada-spa.com). But for me, as simple as they are, Epsom Salts get the job done well and for a lot less.
Maybe you find yourself with persistent achiness that you can’t seem to shake, or you have pushed yourself too hard during a tough workout. Get back to being your awesome self and give an Epsom Salt bath a try. Make it part of your evening ritual and it will surely give you a good nights’ sleep, too.
I have never been a huge makeup wearer. Pancake foundation and the Cleopatra-Kim-Kardashian eye just aren’t my cup of tea. I wish I can say it’s because I’m naturally beautiful or I’m really earthy, but that isn’t true. I’m just lazy when it comes to cosmetics. I can’t be bothered dedicating even a minute to a flawless concealer application or selecting the right eyeshadow shade on a daily basis.
Granted, I never had the kind of career (or lifestyle) that called for it. I was not destined to be a model, makeup artist, or entertainer. Regardless, I’ve always harbored just a fraction of self loathing when it comes to this.
Don’t be fooled. I am a tried and true girlie-girl. My wardrobe would be considered feminine by most, I love pink and lace and accessories, too. My nails are always manicured, and I do them myself (thank you very much). As for makeup, I have been a committed lipstick and mascara wearer since high school Freshman year. And I have the big makeup guns on hand because every once in a while an occasion does call for more effort. Shimmery liners, cream shadows, heavenly rich lipstick; I have them all. A few times a year they are called to duty if I have an event to attend, or an upscale date with my husband rolls around. But I feel like a complete disaster whenever that time comes. I am always afraid of overdoing it.
In the past year, I’ve been a bit hung up by the signs of aging. I’m spending way too much time in front of my bathroom mirror, paying particular attention to dullness and discoloration. Basically, I’m feeling really self-conscious about my skin. I never had an acne problem (thank God), but the emerging fine lines and occasional dullness have compelled me to try a little harder most days of the week.
I got brave recently and added a new product to my meager makeup repertoire: tinted moisturizer. Basically the sheerest base you can find, and so light in its coverage there is plenty of room for error. This is necessary for me and my perceived skill level. I love how there is no obvious color difference between my neck and face. And I have to admit, I look so much better with my skin evened out just a bit. And it is super lightweight, also necessary for me. There is nothing worse than a thick layer of foundation. It can feel like a mask. Who wants to run to the mirror all day long to see if everything is in place?
I love the dewy, just-a-bit-of-shine-on-my-skin look. While I have found a low maintenance foundation I can live with, the powder product I need to set it with has been elusive. On me, most powders look phony. And until now I hadn’t found the powder product to get the job done. The perfect formula to set the little bit of foundation I may apply, and give me that just right hint of a glow, without looking too Las Vegas showgirl. That something I can wear confidently throughout the day without feeling like a slave to it. Or a clown for that matter.
I have finally found it, the Holy Grail!
If mascara and lipstick are the reliable players in the dance, then shimmer illuminating powder is the undisputed belle of the makeup ball. One flourish across each cheekbone and you go from so-so to positively lit-from-within, and all in a matter of seconds. It just pulls it all together so beautifully.
For all the fashionistas and cosmetic aficionados out there, Guerlain’s Spring 2012 Limited Edition Cruel Gardenia proved to be the must have item of the year. An absolutely sublime shimmer powder, presented in the sleek black packaging Guerlain is known for. But alas, it quickly sold out everywhere. I contacted all high end retailers and Guerlain’s headquarters. All confirmed it is no longer available. Of course some are selling it on Ebay at ridiculously high prices, in some cases quadruple the $67 price. I did see a few international sellers asking for a more reasonable $85-$95. Still, in my opinion not worth it when there are many quality products out there to try.
I decided to start my quest by finding an illuminating powder under $20. I was doubtful. In my twenty plus years of experience wearing makeup to some degree, higher end products have always proven to be a bit more pigmented, and therefore had better staying power. But I would give it a go.
I am familiar with Avon products, and given the affordability of their makeup, the smart move was to begin there. The company’s Mark line is for the younger and more hip set, and I was excited to find out it has two illuminating palettes available.
The first one I tried is Mark Touch & Glow Shimmer Cream Cubes All Over Face Palette, which can be yours for only $16. Nine shimmering “cubes” of gold, peach and bronze, and varying shades of pink comprise this product. Individual cubes can be used with a precision brush to sweep the creamy formula across eyelids for a pretty look. Or with one swirl of a kabuki brush, all shades can be blended and swept across the cheekbones and forehead for a glow suitable for all skin tones.
The other is Mark All The Highlights Soft Glow Illuminator, also $16. This is very much a powder formula, combining four shades: a light shimmery peach, a darker bronze-y peach, a pale and muted pink, and a subtle plum. Like the Touch & Glow, individual shades can be used for highlighting, or a sweep across all four shades produces a universally flattering light veil of shimmer. The bright pink butterfly in the center is merely an accent; its pigments are only on the surface. It is easily brushed away to reveal the four shades which comprise the palette.
Remarkably, both are oh so versatile, flattering all skin tones, leaving a soft luminescence. All The Highlights is a limited edition product. I plan on getting my hands on as many of these as I can. Yes, I love it that much. And I say the same about Touch & Glow (one of Mark’s all time best sellers, by the way). Both leave a dreamy candlelight shimmer on my skin. I just feel pretty. Of the two, Touch & Glow is the creamier formula, while All The Highlights has a more powdery feel to it. Both are buildable, too. A light sweep of your brush may give you what you need for a daytime look, with a few more sweeps creating a more dramatic look reserved for evening.
Both have notable staying power, wearing well all day. I thought my face looked great even eight hours later. It is worth noting that my skin is neither oily or dry.
The verdict? With each costing a mere $16, what a real bang for the buck! I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the pigments. Both made me feel beautiful and confident, and have found a home in my makeup bag.
Continuing my experiment, I decided to go a step up price-wise and checked out Benefit’s line of powders, which can be had for $28. Some may call this product a blush. With the hint of shimmer and subtlety of it I would consider it an illuminator. While any one shade will not flatter all skin tones, they have over eight shades with catchy names. You are sure to find your fit. For the gals who are into pink tones, try Sugarbomb (a brighter pink), Dandelion (my favorite, a light pink with a hint of shimmer), Hervana (two deep pink shades mixed with a pale shell and peachy tone) and 10 (a pale shimmery pink with a light bronze for the perfect contour). For the ladies with warm based complexions, we have Coralista (a warm orange tone and hint of shimmer), Dallas (a beautiful bronze rose), and Hoola (a true bronze to give you that sun kissed look, more mattifying than shimmery).
Taking my skin tone, and the look I wanted to achieve, into consideration, I decided to test drive Dandelion, the pretty sheer ballerina pink. Given the pale pigments, I figured there would be room for error. While I did find this product flattering (it left a slight shimmer on my cheekbones, and I did feel feminine and pretty wearing it), after trying Mark’s two palettes, Dandelion just didn’t have that za-za-zoo I was looking for. Given the difference in pigments and the much lower price, for me Mark comes out on top here.
It was time to try something new, and move up on the price scale a bit. I wanted to try one more quality product that would not break the bank. I settled on the quite divine Shimmer Brick compact by Bobbi Brown, which can be yours for $39.
This compact comes in seven different shades to satisfy all skin tones. I purchased Pink Quartz, which would best flatter mine. When I cracked open the compact for the first time, all I wanted to do was ooh and aah at the five shimmering, delectable shades staring back at me. I swirled my brush across all five, and very lightly swept it across my cheekbones. I am glad I wasn’t heavy handed. The beautiful, light color and shimmer left on my cheeks was substantial. It created a much more dramatic look with one application, compared to Mark and Benefit.
It has been widely reported the newly minted Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton, applied her own makeup on her big day last year, and did so knowing she would have a worldwide audience of over a billion people (if that doesn’t scream confidence, I don’t know what does). It was also reported she was instructed before the wedding by Hannah Martin, one of Bobbi Brown’s veteran makeup artists, and the Duchess selected Ms. Brown’s products for herself and her sister, Philippa. While the actual products used that day have not been officially revealed, Ms. Brown herself has suggested Shimmer Brick Pink Quartz adorned the cheeks of the future Queen. Her sister Philippa chose Shimmer Brick Bronze for her own gorgeous glow. Each sister dusted their shade of choice over the blush already applied to complete their perfect look.
The result? Ethereal, picture perfect luminescence.
Shimmer Brick has found a home in my product stash, though I will probably reserve it for a more dynamic, evening look and either Mark palette can be my go-to for day. I love my Pink Quartz so much, I just might check out the other shades, too, and add one more to my arsenal when my budget allows. Perhaps the Rose Gold or Bronze for summer, or maybe the more subtle Beige will be my choice. We shall see.
What I love most about these products is how they can really pull together a low maintenance makeup application. All I need is a bit of my tinted moisturizer, a few sweeps of powder, a coat or two of mascara and a quick dab of lipstick. I feel pretty, even date worthy, without fussing with complicated eye makeup or other heavy products. A perfect solution, too, for the upcoming spring and summer, which can call for a lighter look.
Some of us out there may feel that shimmer, even a mere touch of it, is reserved for the youth. Absolutely not so! Just a few sweeps can make your cheekbones appear more prominent, your skin healthier, and you will feel ridiculously pretty. Also, instead of the pinks or bronzes we typically gravitate toward (depending on skin tone), try a palette with a hint of peach. It is the color of health. It goes on light, wakes up the skin, and looks great on everyone. Add a gorgeous illuminator to your makeup bag today.
In February 2007, a long weekend on the coast culminated into one life changing moment. Little did I know that tucked away in his suitcase was a small burgundy leather box. We stood atop the cliffs to enjoy the last sunset of our time there, the Pacific crashing below us.
He had a question for me, and a ring in his hand. And I had an answer for him. Just like that I was a newly minted fiancée. And my date with destiny would be here that December.
Before throwing myself into the uncharted territory that was planning my big day, I went in with the idea that some things were more important than others. I could not have been more wrong.
Sure, some things are big. It doesn’t get much bigger than selecting your perfect venue. And let’s not forget the dress. But it is the other things that bring it all to life. It adds up to one sublime experience.
I wanted to burn it all into my memory. Enjoy every second. I knew I wouldn’t pass that way again. When we selected our picture perfect place in Carmel, my mom was there with us for her opinion and approval. Ditto for the florist, photographer, and cake bakery. And naturally she was by my side for that magic moment; in that dreamy bridal salon in San Francisco, helping me choose what would be the most important garment I would ever wear in my life. I would not have done any of it without her.
The initial stress melted away. Finally, my intended and I had found our footing. It was time to make the rest of the decisions, just the two of us. And I didn’t realize how special it would feel.
I will never forget that spring Sunday, side by side in the paper boutique. Running my hands over the heavy, pearlescent silver card stock and letterpress, my heart jumped. We found what would be our invitation, and its accoutrements. No discussion required. We were both in love with this perfect reflection of us and our day.
Like a favorite fragrance, classic handbag or perfect lipstick shade, the cards and personal paper style we choose are very much a signature accessory. They speak to our personalities. What we selected that Sunday five years ago, to this day, is very much an expression of who we are. And the same can be said for every card I purchase, and what stationery catches my eye.
Ever since my husband entered my life nearly seven years ago, we have been religious about keeping up the ritual. Not a birthday, holiday or anniversary goes by without exchanging beautiful, thoughtful cards that speak our every sentiment. Nothing else is required actually. Sure, any card he gives me is fantastic with a robin’s egg blue, white ribboned box to accompany it. But no material gift can compare to words lovingly written for only me to see.
I still go to the same paper boutique here in town. I can easily spend an hour selecting just the right card for my husband, my mom, my grandmother, or a friend. I read each one, and read it again. I study every picture. I run my fingertips across the paper, appreciating its texture and heaviness. Some are feathered. Some hand painted. Some elaborately beaded. I always have to find the perfect one. My husband is the same way. And he never fails to wow me.
It seems for all of us there are never enough hours in the day, and we are more disconnected than ever before. We are overworked and overstressed. Technology is wonderful, but along the way formality has been lost. We don’t take the time to express how we feel in meaningful ways. Sure, sometimes a quick email or ridiculously abbreviated text message will suffice. But the appeal of a beautifully handwritten note or thoughtfully chosen card will never go out of style.
I’m lucky. I know I will get to open a beautiful heartfelt card on Valentine’s Day. He never fails to make me feel like I’m the center of the universe, and he doesn’t wait for just one day a year to do it.
This Valentine’s Day and every day, think of your loved one. It’s not about being attached. It is about anyone who is lucky enough to love you and be loved by you. Your partner, your mom or dad, brother or sister, or your dearest friend. Whatever you give them does not have to be fancy or expensive.
Only a reflection of the person you are. And that is the sweetest gift of all.