Friday Five: Sunny Summer Day Edition

My sunny summer saturday must haves.
My sunny summer saturday must haves.

I am a summer baby. I was born on a sweltering hot day in early August, and my earliest memories involve running through oscillating sprinklers in my grandma’s front yard, and sneaking off to the side of her house where a thicket of blackberry bushes swelled with dark purple jewels of fruit. I live for summer and heat and sun and the feeling of sun warmed asphalt on bare feet long after the sun has set. Fall is fine, winter is terrible, spring is Zyrtec. Summer is heaven. And because my carefree summer vacation days are long behind me, I take my weekend summer days very, very seriously. Here are my must haves.

1. Salt Water Sandals

Thanks to the miracle of the Internet and my generation’s very specific and intense nostalgia, I am now able to wear my favorite childhood shoe as an adult.

2. Acacia Sunscreen

I have come to grips with the freckles on my face, but I don’t really want any more, so when I went to Hawaii in April, I decided to invest in some heavy duty sunscreen. The Acacia Sunscreen I purchased at The Royal Hawaiian’s Rebecca Beach store is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but it did provide weightless, total, and lasting coverage. And it’s odorless.

3. Rainier Cherries

My 2nd favorite summer fruit, after blackberries? Rainier Cherries. Best if purchased local (meaning, here, in Washington) and organic, these taste like summer.

4. Summer Read: Oh! You Pretty Things

Classed as a summer read, this rapier sharp book is worthy of your attention both on and off the beach. It details the life of a twentysomething Hollywood personal assistant and all the trials and tribulations that entails, with exploration of the pitfalls of female friendships, and even a little romance.

5. Kate Spade Le Pavilion Wireless Headphones

These were a Christmas gift and I love them to pieces–the battery life could be better, but they are light, provide excellent sound, and perhaps most importantly, they have polka dots. What more can you ask for in a headphone?

What are your summer must haves?

Friday Five: Here Comes the Sun

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAs a child, spring cleaning meant a trip to my grandma’s house to help her clean the baseboards, dust her beautiful tea service, and shine my Easter Sunday shoes into sparkling white submission. As an adult, spring cleaning has taken on a dual meaning–yes, definitely baseboard cleaning, but also taking time to overhaul my beauty routine for the change in seasons. I use spring as a primer for summer, a time to repair my winter weather beaten skin, hair, and sun and prepare them for the coming of (sometimes fleeting) warm weather months here in Seattle. Here are the five products that help me shift into high gear for the return of the sun.

  • Caudalie Eau de Beaute ($18 for a 1 oz bottle, $49 for a 3.4 oz bottle) This darling of the beauty blogger world is actually all it is cracked up to be. I like to think of it as a combo toner/liquid version of the smelling salts fancy ladies use in movies about the Victorian era. It’s filled with essential oils and the soothing smells of mint and lavender, and leaves your skin feeling refreshed, while adding a wonderful glow to your skin. After a winter of loading my skin up with moisturizer, it’s nice to use something so lightweight.
  • The Body Shop Almond Body Butter ($20 for a 6.75 oz tub) I wandered into The Body Shop one day a couple weeks ago–I hadn’t set foot in a store for years and years, but the smell of an Almond Body Butter sample being distributed out front drew me in. Despite the name, this will not clog up your pores. I use it after I shower–it doesn’t leave a greasy film and it’s actually lighter in weight and texture than the body moisturizer I use in the winter. I think the scent is a good spring scent–light, bright, refreshing.
  • The Body Shop Shea Body Scrub ($20 for a 7.9 oz tub) I recently read some horrible statistic on Twitter (one of those accounts that has “facts” without sources, so I definitely should’ve taken it with a grain of salt) about the amount of dead skin cells that make a sort of layer of filth on top of your actual alive skin. That, coupled with my increasingly gray winter pallor, creeped me out on a level I’m not totally comfortable with, so when I saw that body scrubs were on sale during my trip to The Body Shop, I snatched one up immediately in the hopes that I could make my skin feel totally clean and new again. This scrub does the dirty work of essentially dusting (exfoliating) your skin, but also rehydrating it, and boosting it with Vitamin A and E. Perfect for the spring cleaning your skin so desperately needs post winter weather.
  • Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil ($36 for a 1.7 fl. oz travel-sized bottle, $48 for a 3.4 fl. oz bottle) During the winter, I generally use one of Oribe’s Leave-In Conditioners as my hair moisturizer. But in the spring and summer months in Seattle, when the moist, humid, marine air returns, the leave-in conditioner becomes too heavy and leaves my hair a little greasier than I’d like. So I switch to Oribe’s Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil–it’s lightweight but packs a heavy punch in terms of protecting your hair from heat damage (I love my flat iron) and also keeping your hair shiny and healthy looking, without being too heavy. It’s not cheap, but I only need to use a pea-sized amount for my thick, curly hair.
  • Julep Nail Kit (Free With Julep Manicure) I am not really a mani/pedi kind of girl. I categorically loathe not just all feet, but mine in particular, and because I am incredibly clutzy and hard on my hands, nail polish chips away in record time (yes, I have tried Shellac manicures. EVEN THOSE CHIP.). But I still see the importance of well-groomed nails, so I recently stopped into a Julep Salon for the first time. The whole experience was blog post worthy, so I might save that for another time, but one of the things I loved most about the service was that they send you home with some of the tools the technician used on your paws–a nail buffer, nail brush, and nail file. After a few months of shoving your hands deep into gloves and pockets for warmth, your cuticles and nail beds could probably use some love. And this mini kit sets you up nicely with all you need to make your hands worthy of warms rays of early spring sun.

Recipe for Success: Wardrobe Planning

photo(1)Spring is slowly unfurling its leaves here in Seattle–beautiful cherry blossoms providing technicolor relief from the rows and rows of evergreen trees, and an occasional burst of Vitamin D and warmth from the elusive sun mean that I will soon have to retire my trusty Spanx tights in favor of bare legs. Which means this is a great time to do a inventory of my closet, and get started on updating one of my Sunday night rituals–planning out a wardrobe for the week ahead.

As I noted in my Dress for Success post, I lay out my clothes for the next day every night before I go to bed. It’s a habit hard wired from childhood, and one that I love more and more with each passing year. I’ve recently upped by type-A quotient by laying out my entire wardrobe for the week on Sunday nights. Insane? Possibly. Wildly efficient? ABSOLUTELY. I wake up at 5:45 each day (my dog requires a long a.m. walk), and even though I’m a morning person, I would be lying to you if I told you I am at 100 percent the moment my feet hit the floor. So, in order to avoid repeating that one time where I wore two different black shoes to the bus stop, I plan pretty far in advance now.

Here’s what you need:

  • Five hangers
  • Five Ziplock/Plastic Storage Bags
  • Your Local Five Day Weather Forecast
  • A hole punch

Sunday morning is laundry time chez moi, so as I fold my clothes, I make a small pile of things I think I might want to wear the next week. I then take a look at the five day weather forecast for Seattle, have a good laugh and make sure my trusty umbrella is in my purse (people will tell you that Seattleites don’t use umbrellas. This isn’t true. People who walk/take the bus/have curly hair live and die by umbrellas in Seattle), and figure out how I will layer things to ensure that if the sun does come out, I won’t be boiling in a thick sweater. I put my clothes (usually dresses, to be perfectly honest) on the hanger, and then put any accessories, as well as…under things, in the Ziplock bag, and loop it onto the hanger. Hang it up in your closet, with the shoes that you’d like to wear with your outfit underneath it.

I know it sounds a little insane, and maybe over the top.  I like to think of it as the low-tech version of Cher Horowitz’s closet. But, all jokes aside, people frequently ask me how I look so put together each day at work, and the answer is that I am in fact a deeply lazy person who enjoys planning. With my wardrobe planned out for the week, all I have to do each morning is get up, clean up, and get dressed. There’s no thinking about where an earring back is, or where those tights might be, or where that one shirt is. It’s all laid out, and I can get ready in 20 minutes or less. So, embrace your inner type-A, Cher Horowitz, and do a little wardrobe planning in advance of your work week. It’ll save you a few minutes each morning, and give you an extra dose of sanity before heading into the office.

Recipe for Inspiration: Get Packing

I took my first airplane trip when I was six years old. At the time, my mom and I were living in the Bay Area, and my dad lived in Seattle. After a couple years of my dad traipsing up and down the West Coast to pick me up for our summers together, it was decided that I’d start flying, solo, to Seattle for visits. Even at six, I felt a slight sense of exhiliration as I walked onto the plane alone (well, not alone, guided by a kindly flight attendant), and I felt like a grown up as I buckled myself into my seat.

Since then, I’ve taken countless trips alone–in fact, most of the trips I take involve me flying solo. And because I travel alone, I make special preparations in how and what I pack–I don’t like carrying a lot of extra bags because more often than not, I take public transportation to and from airports. I’m also unable to rely on someone else to help out in case I forget something, and so I have become a lean, mean packing machine with a mini personal pharmacy in tow. I’m always fascinated by sites like What’s In Your Bag, so I decided to chronicle a few of the things I’m packing for my upcoming trip to London. Click through for photos and descriptions. And let me know how you pack in the comments!

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Sweetness: Euro Beauty Haul

I used to have really good skin. Like, pretty much perfect (aside from the freckles). People constantly complimented me on it and I always felt a sort of guilt–I didn’t do anything to deserve it, besides inherit my mom’s genetics. If I noticed my skin getting dry, I’d drink more water. If that didn’t work, I’d apply lotion. Any kind of lotion. I frequently fell asleep without washing makeup off my face, and my entire skin care routine involved Dove Body Wash and a wash cloth.

But now, as my 20s draw to an end, those carefree days are a thing of the past. No sunscreen? Serious sunburn. Forget to wash my face at the end of the day? A field of tiny, braille-like bumps will crop up across my face. Happy Hour that’s too happy? That’ll be two rolling suitcases the color of granite underneath my eyes. The final straw came in December when I got my first real zit (yep). It was an angry red and resistant to any of the home remedies that I found on the Internet. I tried to cover it with concealer, but nothing worked. So for a week or so, I walked around with 28 years worth of lazy skincare karma beaming from my chin. I invested in Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer, and my skin began a gradual recovery. I mean, it was by no means perfect, but I didn’t have any Mount Vesuvius clones popping up on my face.

As I prepped for my trip, I remembered that during previous Transatlantic flights, my skin grew grey and pallid, and I knew that if that had occurred when my skin was good, something shocking might occur in my old age. I began scouring YouTube for in-flight beauty routines, and stumbled across the treasure trove of magic that is Lisa Eldridge’s in-flight beauty routine. But the real gem I uncovered was her French Pharmacy video. I decided that one of my main goals in Europe would be to acquire these holy grail products she spoke so highly of. And when I walked into CityPharma in Paris 6th arrondissement, I seriously doubted whether any skin cream could be worth throwing elbows with the City of Light’s bright young things.

Turns out, it absolutely was.

During my 20 minute stint in beauty wonderland, I picked up a wide array of magical beauty products that I am now wishing I’d purchased more of.

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Sweetness and Snark: Working With What You’ve Got

My hair in its natural, albeit helped by bumble&bumble, state.
My hair in its natural, albeit helped by bumble&bumble, state.

Last week, I had the brilliant idea that I’d write this post on my Keratin Express blowout. I was really happy with the way my bangs turned out and you know, I’m super happy with how my very expensive full-head Keratin Express treatment ended up. But then it occurred to me that there was simply no way for me to do a full-on review of my hair without really talking about the politics of black hair. Particularly, black women’s hair. It’s not something to be waded into lightly–it’s a subject freighted with meaning and controversy, debate over culture and self-loathing and aspirations towards unattainable standards of beauty. There are songs about it. During the 2012 Olympics in London, Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair made as many headlines as her feats of strength on the balance beam, something that still makes me sad.

So, before I dig into this review, let me say that the things I choose to do with my hair are not because I don’t love what my hair looks like in its natural state, because I do. If I still lived in California, or anywhere the sun shines for more than two weeks a year, I’d wear my hair curly on the daily. I spent a week in Hawaii last summer and didn’t even pack my flat iron. But that was because I knew it was going to be warm and my hair would dry quickly (even if it was raining, the climate in Hawaii interacts with my hair more like a diffuser would than the finger in a light socket effect I get at home)  without first being  misted on in 50 degree temperatures while I stood in the rain. I take the bus and walk almost everywhere, and the rain is not my friend. A few winters ago, I experimented with wearing my hair curly in winter and after applying enough product for it to stay put, I looked like a 3-year-old had given me a really poorly executed finger wave. I lean heavily on my flat iron, Oribe hairspray, and I wear my hair in a high bun until I’ve reached my final commute destination.

In November, I saw a photo of my girl crush Kerry Washington rocking a set of amazing bangs and decided that my fivehead could use a stylish cover and decided that it was time for a bit of a change. But because I have been relaxer-free for seven years and have curly hair (and you cannot have curly bangs because hello, that is a serious folicular crime), I needed to make some tough choices.

So with the encouragement of my wonderful hair stylist Geraldine, I decided to get a Keratin Express treatment. The Express treatment differs from the long form one in that

Before (left, with just my bangs having received the Keratin Express Treatment) and After (right, with a full Keratin Express Treatment)
Before (left, with just my bangs having received the Keratin Express Treatment) and After (right, with a full Keratin Express Treatment)

it’s less permanent and doesn’t last nearly as long (10-12 weeks versus several months to a year). The Express treatment doesn’t include the formaldehyde that makes everyone balk at the thought of it, and, perhaps most importantly, the Express treatment is about a third of the price (mine was $90 for the full head, vs. a $300 starting price tag for the full treatment). With the Keratin Express treatment, I get the hair flexibility that I’ve dreamed of since my mom stopped doing my hair way back when. My curly hair still exists, but when I want to rock my Kerry Washington bangs with (somewhat) wreckless abandon, that’s an option, too. And the product is by no means some kind of miracle–my hair is still somewhat at the mercy of the weather and I still experience a fair amount of dryness. The big difference, as you can see at the right, shine and frizz. On the left side of the picture, my only my bangs had received the Keratin Express Treatment. They’re super shiny (and this is about 10 weeks old!) The rest of my hair is sort of fuzzy and dull in comparison. The picture on the right shows less fuzzy and more shiny hair. It’s a win in my book.

As women, no matter the color, we’re always inclined to fight against what we already have in an effort to make something new, and what we believe is preferable. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered the trick is not to get rid of what you’ve got–but enhance what you already have. The Keratin Express wasn’t cheap, and it probably isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of those rare beauty finds that does the trick of convincing me that I do actually have a great head of hair. If only there was a product that did the same for freckles…

If you’re in the Seattle area, you can get the Keratin Express Treatment at Gene Juarez Salon and Spa.

Friday Five: Beauty Edition

I am a late bloomer in the world of makeup–I didn’t start wearing eye shadow until a couple years ago, and I bought my first concealer last month. I still routinely leave my house without any makeup at all because, you know, I’m incredibly lazy sometimes and also Nigel Barker isn’t really that concerned about what my face looks like when he needs to heed nature’s call. In spite of, or maybe because of, my late start, I am fascinated by the ritual of applying makeup and do so even though every time my mother sees me she tells me I am wearing too much of it.

I have quite a collection of makeup now, but these five products are ones I go back to again and again.

The Final Countdown
The Final Countdown

5. MAC Paint Pot in Indianwood

I usually apply this with my ring finger and use it as a base for other colors (MAC Gleam or MAC Woodwinked work really well), but it’s also good on its own and has amazing staying power.

MAC Cosmetics, $18.50

4. Bobbi Brown Blush in #2 Washed Rose

I learned about this through the Twitter account for the show Scandal’s makeup artist. Kerry Washington/Olivia Pope wears this color and it is amazing. I’m medium skin tone and it’s a nice, natural wash of color on my face, a natural flush. I wore it to have dinner with my mom and she told me it made me look like I was glowing.

Bobbi Brown, $25

3. Lancome Artliner in Noir

I have been wearing this liquid liner for about seven years now, and even though many, many people have suggested other brands, I can’t switch. The applicator feels like a pen and makes me feel like I’m doing calligraphy on my eyes, which oddly enough, really appeals to me. I’ve also never had any trouble with this giving me too thick a line, a problem I’ve had with other liquid liners I’ve tried.

Lancome Cosmetics, $30

2. Maybelline Baby Lips Lip Balm  in #15 Cherry Me 

I hated the name of this product for a really long time and it put me off buying it because I wasn’t sure a 28-year-old woman should be near something called “Baby Lips.” Alas, it is AMAZING. I wore it to the Bobbi Brown counter a couple weeks ago and one of the makeup artists complimented me on the color. I bought it shortly after discovering Clinique’s Chubby Stick in Chunky Cherry and now realize that Cherry Me is a really great dupe at a fraction of the price. Super hydrating as well!

Maybelline, $3.99 

1. Maybelline Volum’Express The Rocket Mascara in Very Black

All of the things on this list are must-haves for me, but Maybelline’s new Rocket Mascara is basically a must-wear.  Though I do go for walks with Nigel sans makeup, if I’m running errands, I’ll usually throw on a bit of mascara, and this particular product makes my nubster eyelashes look fabulous and thick, with no clumps and without making my lashes feel brittle.

Maybelline, $7.99

Sweetness: The Best $40 You’ll Ever Spend on a Hair Product

When I was 10, I decided I really wanted a bob. At that point, my hair came down to my waist, and I thought that long hair made me look like a little kid. Short hair would surely make me a more official member of the double digit club.

Oribe Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray
The patron saint of curly haired girls with Winnie Cooper bangs

The only problem with this idea was that I had/have really curly hair. With a head full of thick yet inexplicably fine hair, the bob was basically the worst possible hair cut for me. My mom told me she’d let me do it, but I’d probably have to relax my hair (something she really didn’t want me to do). I insisted on a bob, and then spent months with hair like The Simpsons’ Selma Bouvier. So, I took my mom’s advice, and I got a relaxer and my hair took on a more manageable state.

In the years since, my hair has still fallen victim to humidity–it always reverts to its natural state whether I’ve relaxed it or not. And now that I’ve stopped relaxing my hair entirely (because my hair simply couldn’t take endless applications of lye–a subject for another blog post), my hair is even more susceptible to the sadness of whatever weather conditions I’m enduring. But my desire for hairstyles that seem verboten for curly haired ladies has not ceased.

In December, I decided to get bangs. My hairstylist advised me to get a Keratin express treatment on just the bang area, which keeps the hair from curling up and making me look like I had a particularly unfortunate run-in with a pair of scissors. She also urged me to purchase Oribe’s Anti-Humidity Spray. And with a $40 price tag, I was super hesitant. But you know what? This sh*t is for real. It doesn’t leave my hair chunky or dry, it smells nice, and it has successfully withstood the weird breed of Seattle rain that finds its way to your hair despite the presence of an umbrella.

It’s not cheap, but things this good rarely are.

Oribe Imperméable Anti-Humidity Spray available online ($39 for 5.5 fl. oz. or $19.50 for 2.2 fl. oz.), or, if you’re in the Seattle area, at Gene Juarez Salon and Spa.