Friday, August 22, 2014

Flower Beauty Fridays #5 // Flower Nail'd It Nail Lacquer

In the fifth and final installment in the Flower Beauty Fridays series, I'm tackling part of my beauty routine that I often neglect: my nails. I would be remiss if I did a Flower Beauty series and did not mention the Nail'd It Nail Lacquers. Priced at $4.98 for each eye-catching colorful bottle, who can resist these little gems?
Budding Romance, I Lavendare You!, April Showers
Budding Romance, I Lavendare You!, April Showers
My nails are very brittle, thin, and break off easily. They grow to a respectable length, but I am forever snagging and breaking them. Polish does help, but I have a difficult time getting it to stay on unless I have a professional manicure done. (Even then, I never get the length of time others seem to get out of their manicures.) More often than not, I walk around with bare nails that are so weak, they are practically transparent. With that full disclosure, I can't speak to the lastingness of the Flower nail polishes.

Though I am a novice with my poor nails, I still collect polish even though I have no business doing so. Something about them is still irresistible to me: the colors, the packaging, the way they could compliment an outfit if I would just get around to painting my nails, and the promise I make to myself that I will paint my nails more if I just had this one last color. I swear, it's the last bottle I'll buy until I make my nails a routine!

Routine yet? Not so much. Still, 3 Flower Nail Lacquers managed to find their way home with me. Though I am not qualified to give an opinion on durability, chipping, or longevity, what I can attest to is that these polishes are of great quality in other areas that I look for in a nail polish. They are easy to apply, and the vibrant color you see in the packaging translates to the nail in 2 coats without a streaky application.

There are 16 tempting shades total in the Flower lineup. I have 3 very different colors, I Lavendare You! (pastel purple), Budding Romance (a shimmery ruby red), and April Showers (a dark teal cream). The purple shade needed an extra coat for a boost, but they all read very true to the color shown in the bottle. They are "3-free" which means they are free of DBP (dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer), toluene, and camphor.
I Lavendare You! (pastel purple)
I Lavendare You! (pastel purple)
Budding Romance (a shimmery ruby red)
Budding Romance (a shimmery ruby red)
April Showers (a dark teal cream)
April Showers (a dark teal cream)
The Flower Beauty line has really changed my perspective on drugstore cosmetics. Quality makeup can be found at a drugstore price because of companies like Flower Beauty who care about churning out products that can stand up to department store brands. I might not be cured from perusing the counters at Nordstrom, but learning about the quality and the detail that has gone into Flower's products rather than into its marketing budget has given me a new perspective on the cosmetics industry. We aren't just paying higher price tags for the ingredients in high end cosmetics, we're paying for the brand name as well. And in some instances when all is said and done, sometimes a lipstick is just a lipstick.

Flower Nail'd It Nail Lacquer - $4.98

Links provided are not affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

12 // Happy Birthday, Molly!

Molly with cupcake
Yesterday, our sweet girl turned 12. We can't believe that we have already spent 7 wonderful years with her.

At 12, Molly's motto is eat, sleep, and be merry...and take a nap. She is a California girl through and through who lives to sunbathe on the deck. She lies in the sun until she pants and drools, comes inside for a short break, and repeats the cycle. She plays with toys less frequently, but dad can get her riled up running around the house with a squeaky toy (usually Ducky).With me, she is content to cuddle. She still knows that she can badger dad into table scraps and cookies, though.

Molly was very timid when she first came to live with us, but her shyness has gone by the wayside. Each year that passes she becomes a more vocal curmudgeon. If she is not getting the attention (or amount of food) she thinks that she deserves that very second, she will "fake bark" at us. It's not a full bark, but a muted one that is very direct and annoying. This manipulation technique works with dad, who is usually on his laptop when she does this. He quiets her with a trip to the cookie jar. I am usually manipulated into cuddles.

Whatever she wriggles out of us is more than well deserved. She is a wonderful dog that rarely causes trouble. She only barks when she hears a big noise (or a smoke alarm, which she gets a treat for), never takes anything that doesn't belong to her, and doesn't mess in the house unless it's an emergency. She is a content dog that doesn't ask for much...just her weight in cookies and a soft spot to nap. On top of being an angel, she takes amazing care of both of us. She barks at dad when she thinks he needs to shut the laptop and go to sleep, and she saw me through another round of PICC line treatments this past spring. When my nurse would come to change the dressings, or when I would do my daily treatments, she would hop up on the living room chair and watch carefully (or sometimes fall asleep and snore.) Having "Nurse Molly" around to keep the routine was the best medicine I could have received. 
Molly with her cupcake.
Still a frequent traveler, Molly's most recent trip to Michigan was this past July. Ever the jet setter, she was elated to be bumped to first class on one of our flights. She enjoyed grandma's yard and time with Gracie. She has taught Gracie that each time a dog comes in from outside "business", they get a treat. Gracie now waits expectantly at the cookie jar each time she enters the house. Molly will enjoy her usual holiday season travel again this fall and winter for Diwali and Christmas. 
Because she tires of toys so quickly, we were at a loss for what to get her for her birthday. She received much quality cuddle time, a trip to the park, and the usual Sprinkles doggy cupcake. Her age makes me nervous, so we wished for her to someday become the world's oldest dog as this title is usually held by a dachshund. A lifetime with her would be too short. We are so in love with her and to us, she is the perfect dog.
Molly eating her cupcake.
We love you, Molly.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flower Beauty Fridays #4 // Kiss Stick Velvet Lip Color

Lipsticks are like pieces of chocolate: nobody stops at just one.

A few years ago, my coworker (signature shade: NARS Cruella) convinced me that red lipstick would change my life. Up until that point I had only dared to wear anything that resembled my own natural lip color. I thought it couldn't hurt to heed her advice and get just one red lipstick to round out my collection. One tube of Make Up Forever Moulin Rouge later and my life was indeed if I needed another collection, I became a woman possessed with lipsticks. Mattes and satins and stains, oh my. If I could wear red, there weren't many colors I wouldn't dare to wear anymore. The reds collection alone, unable to be housed with my burgeoning array of lipsticks, has to be housed separately on top of my vanity. And each one is special. Among those overflowing drawers are the Flower Beauty Kiss Stick Velvet Lip Colors.
Flower Beauty Kiss Stick Velvet Lip Colors in Packaging
Housed in white and rose gold, these lipsticks tick the first box on a lipstick lover's list: packaging. True to the brand's promise of delivering a luxury feel at a Wal-Mart price point, the packaging of Flower Beauty's lipsticks feel both substantial and luxurious, much like the product it houses. The wear time of the product is on par with any department store brand, as is the color it delivers. Each shade is heavily pigmented and is as true-to-color on your lips as it is in the tube.
Petal Kiss, Get to the Poinsettia, Tender Tuberose
I have 3 shades: Get to the Poinsettia (an orangey red), Petal Kiss (a dusty mauve), and Tender Tuberose (a dark mauve). With a collection as vast as mine (said with a hint of shame) one is bound to find a lipstick "dupe": that awkward moment when you discover that you have purchased the same shade of lipstick but from different brands. Indeed finish, price, and quality can vary with dupes, but I daresay that Flower's Get to the Poinsettia gives MAC Lady Danger a run for her $16 price point. In the picture below, I am wearing Flower on one side of my lips, and MAC on the other. After a few hours of wear my $7 lipstick holds up just as strong as my $16 lipstick, to say nothing of the similarity in shade.
Get to the Poinsettia on lips
Get to the Poinsettia/Lady Danger
Tender Tuberose on Lips
Tender Tuberose
Petal Kiss on lips
Petal Kiss
At this point having tried everything from Dior to E.L.F., it's fair to say I know a good lipstick when I wear one. With as many choices as we have available to us in this day in age, it's not just about the color anymore. It's about the finish, the longevity, the packaging, the price, and above all it's about how we feel when we wear it. We turn to lipstick when we want to look as polished as possible. There is a glamorous feeling that lipstick brings, from the way its shiny packaging looks in our hands to the way it brightens up our face from the inside out. Lipstick is queen of the makeup bag. And while it can be a treat to have a Chanel or a Tom Ford, nobody can stop at just one tube. Brands like Flower narrow the gap between drugstore and luxury lipsticks, ensuring that the magic of lipstick is an affordable experience that we can collect in every shade.

Flower Beauty Kiss Stick Velvet Lip Colors - $6.98

The links provided are not affiliate links. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This morning, I took my Lexapro because of Robin Williams.

This morning, I took my Lexapro because of Robin Williams.

I had two small mental reminders to myself yesterday to get my week back on track: remember the dog's flea+heartworm pills, and get back on track with my own medication. Only one of those things happened...and it involves flea prevention. Like a lot of people, I "forgot" my own medication, thereby forgetting to prioritize myself. One of those "I'll get to it right after this" tasks that never come to fruition.

I had a hectic July. Unfortunately, like a dog or a child, whenever I get out of my routine I tend to let things slip, namely my health. Before I departed for my trip, I was proud that I refilled my prescription in a timely fashion. I was really going to stay on top of it this time. But like countless other times before, the refilled prescription never made it out of my suitcase. Several other events in July made the 5 seconds it would've taken to swallow a pill seem like it would've taken hours. I hate to start and stop medication (as I am wont to do when I am trying and failing to be a model patient), so instead I dream up the "perfect time" to start my medication again. For some reason, "now" never seems like a good idea.

On top of everything else wrong with my health, I have major depressive disorder. Both genetics and environmental factors are textbook guesses as to the cause of MDD, and I fall into this category. Given my father's own death by suicide and my struggles with my physical disability, I don't believe I had much of a fighting chance in avoiding such a diagnosis. What I do believe, however, is in my fighting chance not to meet such an undue fate. My fate is not sealed by depression or genetics, and I consider myself one of many in my family who will honor my father's legacy by living the life he was medically incapable of living.

I am not ashamed to admit my diagnosis. In fact, it came at a time when I was just starting to learn how to become an open book about my disability, which was a major step in me accepting myself. It sounds odd, but I spent a majority of my life not accepting the disability as part of my life. By owning it, I learned not to let it control me. Ironically, it's easier to wear the "badge of honor" from depression than it is from Spina Bifida. Society tells me Spina Bifida is not my fault. Only part of society tells me that depression is not my fault. And nothing makes my voice louder than the ignorant members of society who invalidate my father's memory or my own struggle by calling it a "choice".

Despite being unashamed, my health (physical and mental) is a battle that I liken to wrestling an alligator. Sometimes you're the alligator, and other days you're the human pinned to the floor. With the mental factor, and you have yourself a chicken-and-egg debacle: Am I depressed because of my father, or because of my disability? Am I sad about my mobility issues, or does my depression lead me to be sad about my mobility issues? Is it more like a Venn diagram? And in this over-complication of things is me "forgetting" to take my pills, waiting for the "perfect time" to restart.

The "perfect time" came yesterday as I drove home from the grocery store, hearing over the radio airwaves that a beloved actor had taken his own life. I pulled over and immediately dialed my mother, unable to relay more than just that he was dead, and suicide was suspected. At the point where the "suicide" bomb was dropped, I was unable to listen to further details. My family is all too familiar with the pain of losing a beloved man who appeared to be happy on the surface. My own father was a kind and well-liked man whose death by his own hand might never make sense in our lifetime.

In the absence of my own father, Robin Williams was one of those Hollywood dad characters from my childhood that always managed to strike a chord with me. One of the films I quote most, Mrs. Doubtfire, debuted a few years after my father's death at a time when I was just starting to think it might be OK to laugh again. I associate the film with a time in my life where any small fraction of happiness was clung to with desperation. I still quote the film regularly with friends I watched the movie with in junior high. In fact, four days before his death I was on Facebook making Mrs. Doubtfire jokes...yet again. 

I normally don't jump on the public grief bandwagon. I read the news, perhaps express my sympathies publicly once or twice, but I try to keep a respectable distance between myself and the story. At the root of it, in that gap between the public and "the story" is a person and their grieving family. To express more than just sympathy in divulging actual grief seems disingenuous to a person that I did not know personally. However, watching the world grieve for such a beloved man struck very close to home.

When bad things happen, it can be difficult to turn to Facebook. None of us are immune to being hell-bent on ramming our opinions down the gullet of social media. However, the outpouring I saw yesterday, at least on my feed (thank you all), was a positive one. Suicide prevention hotline numbers, mental health awareness memes and articles. For once, it felt like the collective was taking a positive approach to our responsibilities as contributors to "the machine". While I don't have high hopes that this will continue, my real hope is that the loss of such a treasured person will educate the ignorant on the issue. If the funniest man on earth is not immune to the pain and despair that depression brings, no one is.

In an article by Forbes so well-timed it couldn't have been scripted, it was reported that researchers at Johns Hopkins may have identified a genetic biomarker that could indicate suicidal behavior. This gives me hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. This could give survivors of suicide a MEDICAL answer to their long-unanswered question: why? This could be the tangible response we are looking for to silence the ignorant who claim that suicide is a "choice". 

This morning, I drink to that with a gulp of water and my forgotten pill. Taking care of oneself is a learned skill. I do not come by it naturally. Nature, in fact, works against me on my quest for better physical and mental health. But before me are those who led by example, fallen heroes in their own wars, who remind me that tomorrow is, indeed, another day and that I can actually try again.

There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country - and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months... even years at a time. But if there's love, dear... those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you, poppet, you're going to be all right... bye-bye. - Eugenia Doubtfire 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mascara // More Than You Wanted to Know

Women often deflect compliments with self-effacing rebuttals. I'm certainly not immune to this habit, but I do have features that I am proud of. My eyes are my most complimented feature, and when they are called "beautiful" or "pretty", I say a hearty thank you. I don't believe this makes me too proud or boastful. I believe that it's in a person's best interest to learn to take a compliment and to find something about themselves that they love.

Part of the reason why I love my eyes so much is because they make me the spitting image of my late father. It's nice to be reminded of him when I look in the mirror and to know that I might remind his friends and family of him. Seeing our features through the lenses of our loved ones gives us perspective.

It was requested that I do a post about my mascara. Eye makeup is my weakness. If I have time only to do the "five minute face", I just do my eyes and let any zits or facial imperfections go. When I do my eyes, I feel like I look more awake and polished. And even if I have zero time, it is rare for me to leave the house without mascara (or some form of it. See: Lash Tint).

I'll let you in on my biggest tip from the get-go: I have amazing eyelashes. Not sorry, I'm going to own that pride. That being said, they are straight and have blonde tips. Thus, I take action to give what I've got going for me a boost. 

Eyelash Curler
Lash curlers look scary, but when you get used to them, it's like riding a bike. I achieve a more wide-eyed look with a lash curler, an indispensable tool in my makeup bag. Since the departure of the Shu Uemura brand from US-based stores, my favorite has become the Sephora eyelash curler. What I like most about this is the rubber grips on the handle. I noticed just how accustomed to the grips I became when I hurriedly used an old eyelash curler without grips...and my fingers slipped. Ouch. The main point is to get an eyelash curler that fits your eyeshape. They all look like they're created equal, but they can have subtle differences in their shape. This linked article hits the nail on the head: you want a lash curler that is flatter and can encompass your entire lash line, rather than one that is too curved. I believe in spending just a bit more to get a quality one. You'll have it for a while, and it's important to get the shape right.

Last Tint
I've been getting my lashes tinted for over 2 years. You can see my previous post on last tints and their great results HERE. This semi-permanent dye darkens the ends of my lashes and renders mascara optional. When I've no time to do my face, I'm grateful to have had my lashes tinted so as to appear more fresh and awake. If I have a fraction of a second, I'll curl my lashes and throw on some clear mascara. While most days I still wear mascara, I like having the option of not doing so. I also like the fact that my lashes will stand out 24/7. I'm not so vanity obsessed that I sleep in my makeup (gross) but it's a nice bonus when I'm brushing my teeth at night to look in the mirror and see defined eyes. That small bonus aside, it's a real time saver for those mornings where I just don't have the time. Also, I find the need to use less product with my lashes already so dark. It's nice not to need heavy layers of products. Because my bill is lumped together with eyebrow wax and tint, I do not remember the exact price of this particular service. I had it done at a high end salon once (which charges $30) before my regular esthetician began offering the service. She charges about the same and the results last about a month and a half.

I know this is about mascara, but no one's going to be looking at your lashes if you've got Kahlo-brows (God love her). As I write this my esthetician is out of town, which is perfect timing to be taking photos of my eyes and waxing poetic to you all about the importance of decent brows as a frame for the eye. I did my own brows while I lived abroad in college...and it was not good. Therefore, I have revoked my tweezer privileges. I pay somebody to wax and tint these babies, and compliments abound. No need to futz with tweezers or eyebrow pencils. However you do it -tweezers, waxing, threading- just do it.

Darkening the lash line enhances your lashes. Eyeliner can be a scary prospect. I know it was the thing I feared most when I started with makeup. The good thing is in this day in age, smudgy and smoky is the liner look of our time. Find yourself a dark brown pencil (my recommended color for everyday) with a smudged attached to the other end, work it in as closely to the lash line as possible, and smudge it. No precision required, and your set of lashes will look fuller because of it. If you want to get brave and more subtle, consider learning the art of tightlining. Be warned: it takes practice. 

How to Find the Right Mascara
Now, on to what you're here for.

I think finding the right mascara for the look you're going for is a delicate job. First of all, unlike a bright lipstick or bold eye color, no one's really going to notice if your lashes look particularly volumized vs. lengthened. Lashes have a hard job. They don't stand out like a bold choice in lip color or winged liner. (Tammy Faye Bakker notwithstanding.) However, skip the mascara and there will be a noticeable "can't put my finger on what's missing" difference. Furthermore, no one's going to notice that you plopped down $25 on Diorshow vs. $10 on Loreal Voluminious. While I'm a pushover at a high end counter, and some of the favorites I call out below are high end, I'll be the first to admit you don't need to spend big bucks to get great lashes. If you have a high end favorite, by all means, but I've gotten as many compliments on my lashes wearing Maybelline mascara as I have wearing Bobbi Brown mascara.

Knowing your lashes is key. We've all got a skintype, but no one ever thinks about their "lash type". It's usually presented as what kind of mascara type you're going for: natural, volumizing or lengthening, or some combination of any of these. My hair is fine and this translates to my lashes: I don't have a lot of volume/thickness, but I have a lot of long lashes. And like my hair, my lashes need help in holding a curl. (Fortunately they can hold one longer than my hair.) As a result, I find that volumizing mascaras are usually too much for me. The way the wrong conditioner can weigh down my hair, a mascara that is too volumizing can weigh down my lashes. Though I've tried a few volumizing formulas I've liked and will wear heavier formulas for certain looks, on most days I'm looking for something in the lengthening category to enhance what I've got, or a hybrid length+volume formula. I think that's key to getting a great mascara: know what looks best on you. It's harder to copy your friend's awesome eyelashes than it is her trendy lip color. By choosing the right formula for your lashes, you'll frame your eyes in your own unique way.

That being said, here are my thoughts on a few mascaras I have in rotation.

Mascaras I Like
In this previous post I waxed poetic about my all-time favorite mascara. Clinique Naturally Glossy has been my stand-by since 1996. (We have an anniversary because we're in a serious, committed relationship.) This is a natural mascara. It won't give you any volume. Its function is merely to darken, slightly lengthen, and separate. I won't carry on, you can read my love letter to this product in my previous post. The point is that this mascara will enhance what you've already got going on. I always have one in my possession. At $16, it's a bit more than drugstore mascaras but considerably less than a high end brand.

Maybelline Full 'N Soft: A washable mascara that removes easily to prevent lash loss, it builds length and (some) volume making it true to its name. This is quickly becoming my drugstore favorite. It's perfect for everyday use and is pretty close to being (dare I say it) the drugstore equivalent to my beloved Clinique mascara.
Full 'N Soft Mascara on Lashes

Full 'N Soft Mascara in Tube
Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket: This was the mascara I was wearing in the post that set off the requests for this post. I was discussing Mad Men in this post, so I was going for the full blown 60s lashes, heavy coating be damned. I bought this after hearing a lot of good things about it, but I was skeptical. The proof was in the application: it volumizes well and isn't clumpy thanks in part to its plastic brush.
Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket on LashesMaybelline Volum' Express The Rocket with full face of makeup
Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket in tube
CoverGirl Clump Crusher Mascara: Speaking of plastic brushes, the mascaras in the LashBlast line by CoverGirl are the first ones that come to mind. The Clump Crusher is the only one in the line that I've tried, but CG's plastic-brush mascaras are wildly popular. This is another volumizing mascara I enjoy because it lives up to its promises of being clump-free.
Clump Crusher on Lashes
Clump Crusher in Tube
Flower Beauty Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara: While it's pretty safe to say that plastic brushes have made volumizing mascaras more user-friendly for me, this one from Flower has a traditional-bristle brush yet still manages to coat my lashes without clumping. Read more about it in this post.

Flower Beauty Zoom-in Ultimate Mascara on Lashes

Flower Beauty Zoom-in Ultimate Mascara in Tube

Lancôme Hypnôse Doll Lashes: In glancing at the high end selection of mascaras in Sephora's lineup, I've tried many but few have knocked my socks off. Lancôme mascaras are popular, but this is the only one I've tried that I like. I can attest that the description is true: it lifts, extends, and thickens lashes without weighing them down.
Doll Lashes on Lashes

Doll Lashes in Tube

Bobbi Brown Extreme Party Mascara: I don't have any of this on hand currently, but this is one of the blackest mascaras I've tried and is a great option to use as directed: while partying.

Josie Maran Argan Black Oil Mascara: This is my most recent favorite after trying it in deluxe sample form from Sephora. It's another great example of my preferred level of volume: not too much. Blackened with iron mineral pigments, it has the bonus of added argan oil to condition lashes. It doesn't just perform as well as other products in its price bracket, it surpasses them, which is major considering it boasts a 91% natural formula.
Black Oil on Lashes

Black Oil in Tube

Expiration dates of cosmetics is a much-debated topic. The experts say to rotate your mascara every 3 months. They also say mascara is a product that is designed to break itself down so as to encourage you to keep your product fresh. Because it is a product that is in close proximity to your eyes, and its packaging can be a dark breeding ground for bacteria, it's a good idea to remember when you opened your tube. I usually have a few in rotation at at time, and since I don't use each one everyday, I sometimes use my product a little longer. You'll know when your mascara is up - it's formula goes flaky and begins to dry up in the tube. I just don't wait longer than 3-6 months. I also never try to extend the life of a dried up mascara that's on its last leg. I'm not willing to risk an eye infection for a few bucks.

Other Things to Consider
Wear contacts? Got watery eyes? Remember to take these things into account. Labels sometimes contain "ophthalmologist tested" or "safe for contact lens wearers" taglines to help your shopping. Personally, I've never had issues with mascara and my contacts, nor do I care if the formula is waterproof. The athletic and watery eyed among you may want to check into waterproof options, but I've never had an opinion one way or another on waterproof formulas.

The links provided are not affiliate links.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Flower Beauty Fridays #3 // Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara

Don't you hate it when your favorite makeup gets discontinued? That kick-in-the-gut feeling you get when you go to the makeup aisle or counter and discover that your must-have product is no longer being produced? If I were the proprietor of my own makeup company, my first order of business would be to bring some of my discontinued favorites back from the dead. From Clinique Shadowliner to Nars Penny Lane cream blush, I would be positively drunk with Pushing Daisies power. This was surely the impetus behind Flower Beauty's Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara.

Flower Beauty Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara in Packaging

Modeled after one of Barrymore's favorite 80s mascaras, Maybelline Dial-a-Lash, the Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara has a unique adjustable mascara wand. One of the few tools of its kind on the market, the rotating cap adjusts for length, curl, or volume depending on the setting. Housed in luxurious rose gold packaging and promising to do the work of 3 mascaras in 1 tube, one would think this reincarnated product would come at a higher price tag than $8 at Wal-Mart.

Flower Beauty Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara in Tube

I'm not going to lie. When I read about the concept, I was completely skeptical of this product. I thought that the brush was surely a gimmick. I thought that the formula couldn't possibly do the work of 3 different types of mascaras, and that there was no way there would be any marked difference in the way this product performed based on the click of a dial. Fortunately, it proved me wrong. The Ultimate Mascara does actually give 3 different effects.

Setting 1-Lenghten
Wand on Setting 1
Setting 1 on Lashes

Lengthening mascaras are my usual M.O. They enhance what I've got going on and are a no fuss option. Setting 1 gives the lightest application by lengthening (fancy that) and separating the lashes. This is the best setting for a no-frills, natural look.

Setting 2-Curl
Wand on Setting 2
Setting 2 on Lashes

The second setting, curling, is what I'd consider to be a hybrid of the lengthening and volumizing settings. Perhaps it's because of my fine, straight hair type, but I've never really noticed a "curling" effect with mascaras that promise this kind of result. I'm forever chained to a lash curler, and I'm OK with that. But hold the curl given by my lash curler? Check. Little bit of volume and pretty substantial length? Double check.

Setting 3-Volumize
Wand on Setting 3
Setting 3 on Lashes

The final surprise this mascara had in store for me was the third setting: volume. Volumizing mascaras are hit or miss for me, which I will detail in a special and highly requested bonus post tomorrow, but spoiler alert: it's hard out here for a straight-lashed girl. I thought for certain that when I bought this mascara that if I liked it, it would likely be stuck on settings 1 or 2, but since I bought it last month the dial has been almost exclusively set to 3. It not only gives length and holds the curl, but it gives my lashes an extra boost without weighing them down or looking overly done. It gives substantial volume without giving the dreaded tarantula-eye effect.

When considering what makeup to buy, people often opt for budget mascaras over high end ones. Our needs are usually straightforward: we want it dark, and we want it to perform the function listed on the packaging. There are few revolutionary functions a mascara could perform, so don't think you need Diorshow on the basis of it being a runway favorite. Sometimes a mascara is just a mascara. A good formula plus a good brush is all one needs for great lashes. Trial and error? Yes, but consider the source when this makeup junkie says that the drugstore is a treasure trove of tons of great mascaras, so big money does not need to be spent.

Even if I weren't a makeup junkie, I would keep 2 mascaras in rotation - one for everyday, and one for more dramatic looks. This product eliminates the need to keep 2 different products around because it delivers on its promise of being a 3-in-1 product. Given that with each setting the formula performs in 3 different ways, it proves that mascara is pretty dependent on its mode of delivery. Couple this with the fact that the formula itself isn't heavy, doesn't flake, and is a rich black color, and I put it to you that we've found ourselves a winner in the Ultimate Mascara.

Flower Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara - $8
These are not affiliate links. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Travel Treasures #1 // Michigan Edition

It is difficult for me to discern where the line between my love for shopping and my love for travel lies. At this point, the line is so blurry in my brain that the two activities are lumped into one big orgy of fun for my prefrontal cortex. A vacation without having shopped is no vacation at all.

Similarly, there is a blurred line between "trip" and "vacation". To me, "trip" implies that there is work or business attached to it. This grey area is where family trips lie. I spend a lot of time shuttling back to the Midwest to see family. That I consider these "trips" isn't necessarily a bad thing; I've got a finite amount of time and a lot of quality time to squeeze in, so I mean business when I go home. Still, if I'm making any sort of trek you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be searching for treasures. My eyes are always peeled. 

Here is where we run into a challenge: my Michigan hometown is not a shopping mecca. In fact, it is so rural that you should tread lightly when describing things as a "mecca". This was always my biggest grievance about my location growing up. I shop, therefore I am. Therefore, existing without malls in my proximity in an era when online shopping was merely emerging is what I considered "roughing it" growing up. Desperate times called for desperate measures in the aisles of mass retailers like Wal-Mart and (recently deceased) K-Mart. Given that this hasn't changed, and that there's family involved in this kind of travel, we are better off not using my previous description of "orgy of fun" when talking about shopping during my family trips to Michigan. Despite that, even though I may not be having all the fun that the Romans did when in Rome, I'm pretty good at creating my own culture.

Whatever you fancy, locals at home know that sometimes you have to create your own fun in our remote corner of the world. When one gets desperate to scratch the retail itch, one gets crafty. My late grandmother, a purveyor of garage sales, auctions, and dollar stores, was a master at finding items for a dollar or less. (My husband cringes each time I channel my grandmother's enthusiasm from beyond the grave to say "it was on sale!") I like to think that my eagle eye came from being her shopping apprentice. Just as I can spot the pins in the carpet after my mother's sewing group leaves her house, I can spot a one-of-a-kind item in the abyss of a rummage sale. My keen eye is an inherited trait.

It was this force that was with me when I bumbled into Kim's Creamery in Elkton, the local ice cream shop around the corner from my childhood home. Kim's is open seasonally and in addition to scooping up ice cream, they also serve other great desserts and sandwiches. (The latter makes me wish they weren't a seasonal operation!) As if the ice cream weren't enough of an indulgence, Kim's also has a small selection of vintage items, which you know I couldn't help but rifle through. And and it was there, in my post-black-cherry-ice-cream-haze, that I saw her: a vintage Saks Fifth Avenue pocketbook.

Vintage Saks Fifth Avenue Pocketbook, Black, Gold Hardware
I did a little internet digging to see how old it might be. In matching the label with one found on, my best guess is that the bag dates back to the late 1940s/early 1950s, an era in which things were built to last. Considering she's sailing right past 70 years old, I'd say a lot of love went into making this bag. Her "Made in England" tag also appeals to my Anglophile heart. This post-war beauty came from a time and a place where the future was looking brighter, quality mattered, and a good structured bag helped one put their best foot forward. The mere thought of the hand gloves she must have held sends my heart aflutter...
Saks Fifth Avenue Label
Made in England Label
Gold Clasp

She needs some love (the handle leather is cracked where it meets the hardware), but she's in standard vintage condition. I tried a smidge of black shoe polish on the handle, but it only minimally masked the issue. I would like to find a way to spruce it up without replacing the handle, as it is tacked onto the bag quite hard, but defects add charm for vintage lovers. They present challenges for us to bring out the best in our items, as well as add character when little flaws aren't fixable. I appreciate one well-worn item ten times more than several items, unused, in impeccable condition. (Do as I say, not as my closet sometimes indicates.)

Over the years, I've had recurring dreams of upscale shopping in close proximity to my old stomping grounds. A mall next to my high school cafeteria (like the cool kids in my current town get...spoiled little turds), a Ralph Lauren at the corner of Elkton and Geiger Roads (with a wheat field backdrop). But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine finding a Saks Fifth Avenue gem right smack in the center of town...with ice cream to boot. 

While my wildest dreams are the place where a 2-story Saks is erected in place of defunct banks on Elkton's Main Street, when will lightning strike again and plop a classic leather bag right into my hands for the low price of $10? Probably around a quarter to never. And isn't finding a one of a kind better than picking one of ten off the rack? In my not always humble opinion, way better!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flower Beauty Fridays #2 // Color Play Creme Eyeshadow

Recently a friend of mine asked if I wore a full face of makeup everyday, or if I tended to wear a more natural look on a daily basis. In my view, I tend to go for a more natural look. As much as I love makeup, ain't nobody got time for winged eyeliner every morning. (RIP Elizabeth Taylor.) Also, I tend to use makeup as a tool to look like an enhanced version of myself. (Read: me with minimized dark circles and darker eyelashes.) The "natural" face may or may not take a myriad of products depending on the day, but rest assured that no makeup hoarder enthusiast is above a slap-dash application.

Check out Flower Beauty's Instagram account. There are dozens and dozens of photos of everyday people and even Drew Barrymore herself doing the usual (manicures with the kids, hanging out at the beach, on the subway) with the occasional special event photo sprinkled in. And isn't this really how life operates? This is a line that is marketed toward and used by everyday consumers. These pictures are proof positive that more often than not, we want to enhance our own beauty and look like ourselves on an everyday basis.

While there is a time and a place for all products in the cosmetics market, I tend to put more stock in a celebrity that's selling me this more realistic approach to makeup. Who better than a self-proclaimed hippie to start a makeup line for those among us who want to look like ourselves, with just a little more color?

Cream eyeshadow is the busy girl's key to looking like you tried. It does not require fancy brushes or skilled technique to get it from pot to face. Use your fingers. No joke. No one is Orchid-Ing around here. Even the most famous makeup artists encourage us to use our own digits to do our face, so there's no shame in it!

There are 12 "Color Play Creme Eyeshadows" in the Flower Beauty lineup ranging from $6-8 depending on the shade. Given the considerable wear time of the product, the ease of application, and the fact that it's a product I'm likely to reach for in a hurry, I consider these to be a pretty amazing value for the money. (Let me not even start on the $40 cream eyeshadow palette I recently acquired from a high end brand. Crease City. High end brand, you have just been trumped by Wal-Mart.)

Flower Beauty Color Play Creme Eyeshadows

Shade Swatches: Awesome Blossom, Lilac You A Lot!, Good as Mari-gold
Shade Swatches: Awesome Blossom, Lilac You A Lot!, Good as Mari-gold
Today (and honestly, most any other time I use it) I applied Good as Mari-gold all over my lid using my index finger. With this neutral of a shade, I really could have thrown on some mascara and called it a day. Mari-gold is a light, yellow-gold shade that brings light to my otherwise dark lids. Also, I did use an eyeshadow primer. Regardless of whether a product claims to be crease-free or not, I always throw one on. Can't hurt.

Next, I applied Awesome Blossom to the outer corners of my lids and in my lash line using both an eye shadow brush and an eyeliner brush. This is a purpley-hued dark brown shade that lends definition to the eye. While I could have applied the product sparingly with my index finger, the brush helped me to give a more defined and blended application. It also helped me to be as precise as I wanted, keeping the shade on the outer edges of the eye and on the lash line. You could definitely use this shade as a smoky lid color if you so chose. As a note, I did apply dark eyeliner to the lash line.

Eye makeup close-up
And sometimes, we're too busy to do our eyebrows...
Side view of face

Eyeshadow in a cream form probably seems counterintuitive to anyone trying to get out the door quickly and get the most wear time out of their products. Anyone busy enough to work up a sweat knows that eye shadow creasing can occur on your lids by the time you hit the lunch table. Most cream shadows, however, set after applied so you're not left with a creamy, oily mess on your lids. Companies have upped their game with the quality of cream shadows in recent years, and Flower Beauty's Color Play shadows are no exception.

Flower Beauty Color Play Creme Eyeshadow - $6-8
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