Sunday, August 31, 2008

Narrowing Down My Essential Stash

I'm on the road this week, which prompted me to think about what beauty items I consider most essential when on-the-go. I'm not considering items I plan to borrow such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. To some people a specific product may be crucial, but I'll be staying with friends for all but one night and trust that they have decent stuff. I did bring my own gel to tame my curly locks, but again, this is a product I could easily share if for some reason I forgot it.

What I'm thinking about are items that I generally wouldn't share or that I couldn't necessarily count on borrowing.

I've already left, so it's really a moot point to go over this because I took what I wanted. But, if for some reason I had to pick my five top items...what would they be? Thankfully I have a lot of driving time ahead in which to ponder this great mystery of life!

What would you bring?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Eat Well, Cook Cheap & Easy - Cornish Hens

I wanted to make Cornish hens for a while: they're the perfect size when only cooking small batches of food. Seeing two hens in a package on sale for $3 seemed like the perfect time to try.

Things are very busy around here. I begin my full-time job in early September, I'm taking my sis up to college tomorrow and have to pack all my stuff so that when I return, I can throw it in the car and move down to Maryland for my work. Through this all, my room in my family's NY house has become a huge mess. Ugh!

Anyway, I made this a few weeks ago and thought it worthy of sharing: Orange-glazed, stuffed Cornish hens. The instructions are from, a wonderful resource with tons of recipes, reviews and meal suggestions. I made some changes to their listing, however, based on ingredients that I had on hand and on flavors I wanted to try. Specifically, this meant using pre-cooked/seasoned rice and kumquats instead of oranges.

You can click on the link above to see the original recipe. Here it is with my ingredients and approximate prices of the products for which you'll probably have to shop.


  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (>$1)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery ($1.99)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups pre-cooked rice (I used a package of Uncle Ben's Spanish style Ready Rice -- it's what my boyfriend had in his apartment.) ($2.50)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons kumquat peel (It has more of a kick than orange, and I'd just purchased some at the store. I just tore it up, didn't grate it. They are small, but about six or eight kumquats did the job fine.) ($2)
  • 2 (1 1/4 pound) Cornish game hens ($3 on sale)
  • GLAZE:
  • 1/2 cup orange juice ($1.50)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kumquat peel


  1. In a skillet, saute the onion and celery in butter. Add rice, sugar, salt, and kumquat peel; mix well. (OMG it smells so good at this point!) Loosely stuff hens. Place, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients; spoon some over hens. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Cover and bake 40 minutes longer until juices run clear, brushing often with remaining glaze.
My take:

Since I used pre-cooked Spanish style rice I felt comfortable omitting some seasoning the recipe originally called for...I was at my boyfriend's apartment and options were limited. (Oregano, anyone?) We already had rice and celery, too. I purchased a single-serve orange juice container since I was leaving in a few days and didn't want a whole container going to waste. Oil, sugar, butter, salt and honey were also ingredients already on hand that I think most home cooks have, so I didn't list a price.

The kumquats were my specialty item buy, and they are more pricey - $4 or $5 a pound. But since I only needed a handful, they cost a dollar or two. They are very small and light.

This recipe sounds complicated and tastes delicious but is super easy to make. (As long as you defrost the hens with ample time. Mine we a bit frozen and a pain to open up the center. And make sure there are no giblets inside when you cook! Mine had none.) You just mix the ingredients in the pan and then stuff them in the bird. Glaze it, pop it in the oven and it cooks itself.

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Protect Your Pout: Sticking to Lippies with SPF

My greatest beauty weakness is lip gloss. I love trying new colors, textures, scents and tastes... plus it's so easy to sneak in a purse or pocket and touch up on-the-go! I almost bought a cheap, cookie-scented chapstick yesterday, till I remembered my new goal of sorts: seeking lip products with SPF.

You likely heard the fuss a few months ago that SPF-free gloss may increase your chance of lip cancer by making it easier for UV rays to penetrate the lips. The linked ABC News article (May '08) has several doctors explaining the roots of this belief. But it also points out that the lack of "large, targeted studies proving or disproving this theory....[makes the doctors quoted and the] American Cancer Society reluctant to draw fixed conclusions."

So, it's currently a theory. A scientific theory, of course, not one out of nowhere. And it seems to me to have an obvious logical basis - oil on your skin encourages burning, so why wouldn't shiny, oily gloss on your lips? But who knows to what degree does gloss have an impact, if any? I don't. That's why there are specialists to do clinical trials on these things!

Either way, it's important to protect your skin and especially your precious lips from too much sun exposure.

"Lips don't produce sebum, or oil, like skin does, and that leaves them particularly susceptible to sun damage -- in the form of wrinkling, loss of volume, and, of course, skin cancer," wrote dermatologist Leslie Baumann MD in the Miami Herald (July '08). "...even if you can't abandon your favorite glossy gloss, it's crucial that you apply a layer of lip balm with SPF first." (Clearly, that's only one doctor's opinion -- authoritative, but not gospel.)

How am I acting in light of all this? Well, I'm not yet giving up my favorite lipstick shades or stopping myself from testing the latest hues. I usually wear lipstick at night or indoors anyway! However, I'll go for products with SPF when I can...particularly when an SPF and non-SPF product are equally attractive before taking the protection into account.

Thankfully high-end and low-end companies alike are producing a slew of lippes with SPF nowadays. Thus, in the case of my cheap cookie balm, I knew I could find something as good or better with the added protection.

In fact, I already have. Here are three products I own -- off the top of my head, I probably have more -- that are SPF friendly.

--Tarte's 24/7 Lip Sheer in Tea Time ($14, SPF 15) This is my newest HG product, and really my first HG balm/tint. I love the color though it gets a bit dry. I prefer applying it with something more moisturizing as a base. Active Ingredients: 7.5 percent Octinoxate, 6 percent zinc oxide. **Recommended

--Sephora's Operation Smile Lip Baume ($5, SPF 15) This was a gift from my sister and I think an LE product, which makes me sad because I've had it for at least two years and am starting to run out. It's a clear balm with petroleum, lanolin, beeswax and a bunch of oils. Active ingredients: octyl methoxycinnimate, octyl silicylate (sp? for octyl salicylate), benzophenone. **I've read conflicting/unclear info about this formula for sun protection, but I'm just telling you about products currently in my stash and encourage you to read more...maybe even educate me if you have links to definitive info.

--e.l.f. Super Glossy Lip Shine ($1, SPF 15) Proof that for the same price as my cookie chapstick I could get something with sun protection. I picked this up at a dollar store in NYC...have only tried it a few times, it's a tad sticky for my taste but a decent gloss overall, especially for the price. Active ingredients: 2 Hydroxy 4 Methoxy Benzophenone, Octyl 4-Methoxy Cinnamate, Titanium Dioxide **Yes, I know there's nicer glosses with SPF. I wanted to cite this one since it is the same price as the cookie balm (which was on clearance! and this is only a buck regularly).

Will you go out of your way to get lippies with SPF? Are there any products you'd recommend?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

CVS to Launch Upscale Beauty Stores

As if I needed another reason to go to CVS, right?

The company plans to open "upscale beauty emporiums" featuring luxury products, according to Women's Wear Daily. "CVS executives described the lines as “department store or specialty store brands,” the story says.

These "Beauty 360" stores will be within or adjacent to existing CVS pharmacies but have a more high-end feel. The store concept designs call for "brushed steel accents, white-tiled floors and a wall of sea-foam-colored, [and] hand-cut glass tile..." according to the WWD story. Executives are even thinking about putting in "express services" like a nail salon and hand massages.

Image via WWD.
Beauty 360 will be comparable in size to a Sephora, though not every CVS will get one. There are 100 set to be opened next year, 500 - 1000 planned long-term. This year, however, only be a limited number of concept stores will launch: WWD reports that they will be in Sacramento, Calif. and Washington, D.C. Yes, the nation's Capitol! Which, if you've never been there, has a CVS practically every other block in some places. And which is the city where I just landed my first full-time job! (Okay, actually my job is in suburban Maryland, but I'll be in the District enough to hunt this thing down, lol.)

The story doesn't have details about the products that will be offered, but definitely check it out if you're interested in the business side of things.

Props to Lipschtick for her post alerting me to the news.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Awesome Pink Polish for the Price of a Latte

Maybe even less, depending on what size latte you get!

I'm back to muse about my latest favorite nail color: #1 Hottest Pink by Milani. It's a popping pinkish-fuchsia with iridescent purple undertones. It's a fun sitting at the beach with good friends, a light reading book and an icy margarita. Or sitting at your office desk dreaming about these things. :) It matches my rosy/fair skin very well and I think anyone who likes wearing berry shades will enjoy it.

I hadn't tried Milani polish before but I definitely will again. Two coats of this color gave me a perfect, non-streaky manicure. It's even super-smooth the way polish is when you get it done at a salon, which I sometimes find hard to recreate at home. Two days in and the chipping is very minimal. I didn't use a good top coat either.

It appears almost identical to Sally Hansen's Pick-a-Fuchsia, which is part of the (limited edition?) "Pick a Color" Salon line on special display at CVS now. In the store those polishes - eye catching pinks, salmons, etc. - are $5.99; online $4.87 (before taxes, shipping or whatever else, though.) When you're talking about two drugstore brands the price difference is minimal and perhaps not worth duping. However, my Milani gem was only $3.79; $2.84 at CVS online. But price wasn't the deciding factor, even though cheaper is nice!

While examining the two brands in the store I opened both bottles and swatched them next to each other - the Milani was thick but not gloopy, the Sally Hansen was too sheer for my liking. The colors looked very similar except the Milani was more pigmented since it didn't go on as sheer. But after some layering, perhaps the SH would be as rich too. I have a beautiful, deep red polish from the SH Salon line as was disappointed with how much it chipped, so that also made me wary.

Oh, and another incentive -- until August 23 if you buy $10 worth of Milani products at CVS you get $5 in extra care bucks. And I always like using those...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Girl Can't Live Off Cheetos Alone

Though sometimes I'd like to.

Yesterday my boyfriend and I seized the rare opportunity to drive to the supermarket by hitting up a Safeway about a mile away from his northwest DC apartment. (Normally neither of us has a car but I drove down from my family's house in NY to go on job interviews this week.) I'm not a big soda fan and shouldn't indulge his habits, but I did...for the sake of an awesome sale. Buy two 12-packs of soda, get three free. Yes, buy two, get three free. I've never seen a promotion like that. So as long as he's going to drink soda we might as well get it for a bargain price. And without a car there's no way we could carry five 12-packs plus groceries back to his place!

We got four Coca-colas...and one diet root beer for me. :) I also had a coupon for a free Frito-Lay product, but alas, there were only crunchy Cheetos and not puffy ones. Puffy Cheetos are probably my favorite junk-food indulgence. (Cheez Doodles are probably my all-time favorite bright orange cheese puffs though. I mean, in case you were curious.) So I resigned myself to a salad, seltzer, champagne grapes and part of a rice crispy treat for dessert. Tasty and healthier than cheese puffs!

What I really wanted to discuss though is living healthy. The past few months - largely since I took an interest in reading beauty blogs - I've become more conscious about caring for my body. And far from just superficially, especially since I don't think cosmetics and products can be well showcased if you're not taking care of the canvas on which you put them.

Less stress has probably helped my body too. During college I didn't sleep much and was always busy working or studying. I never took 'me' time to nurture my mind and body. However, I probably exercised more then than I have been in the past few weeks by virtue of being car-less and walking two miles to-and-from work five days a week. So maybe it balances out. And then last month I started taking some medication that made my face break-out -- yuck! (It's thankfully subsiding.) Even still, in the past two weeks or so I've woken up and been surprised by the way my skin glows.

As you saw with my recent facewash post, I've been trying to be vigilant in cleaning and moisturizing my skin. Combine that with sleeping enough and trying to stay hydrated/eat healthy, and I think I've found a decent formula for pretty skin. And more energy. It feels good to take care of myself.

Hopefully I'm not jinxing myself! And who knows what will happen when work starts full time in early September?

Anyway, I am going to try hard to complete my care-transformation by trying to eat healthy and exercise more. (Hopefully I'll live close enough to my job to walk most of the time.) So I figured I'd share with you this *brief*, interesting New York Time's guide to "The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating." Beets, cinnamon and canned pumpkin make the cut...Oh, and I'd love to hear any suggestions you have for tasty, healthy foods. I'll be back with more soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peach Cheeks, Last Days of Summer

It's a cruel, cruel summer, let me tell you. I know August isn't even halfway done but it feels like summer is ending....I got a full-time job, my friends are dispersing for their fall plans, boys are giving me drama! Um, let's just skip to next summer, k?

But let's talk about some of the nicer things to enjoy this summer: warm, sun-kissed, natural looking makeup. One product that's grown on me the past couple of weeks is NYC's Color Wheel Mosaic Face Powder ($4.99) in Peach Glow.

It's very easy to over apply this stuff with a heavy hand, but lightly dusted on my cheeks makes me look like I'm glowing. The best part is that I apply it after moisturizer with SPF so I can protect my face from harmful rays while still looking like I spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach with a margarita! (Instead of only basking in the glow of my computer screen...though hey, I've been walking a lot of nature trails lately. They are thankfully shaded.)

I think Peach Glow is especially good for people who don't favor bronzer but still want a warm, subtly shimmery, *summery* glow. (I haven't tried the other palette colors but, for example, rosy hues tend to feel more like springtime to me.) I am very fair complected and find that some bronzers look too muddy on my skin, plus I haven't tried that many this is like a baby step in that direction. Of course the color will look different on everyone's skin, but this is a shade I could imagine looking beautiful on many complections because it can initially be applied lightly and then easily built-upon to look more pigmented.

I hope to be enjoying it a few more sunny weekends!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New Feature: Retro or Ridicuous?

I'm introducing a new feature to the blog -- one that questions if a piece of clothing or accessory is retro cool or just hideous. I think many of these items straddle the line...though hopefully, you have a strong opinion in one direction!

The below shirt is my grandmother's from the 70s. It's a shiny synthetic material with a ling zipper down the front. I know everything old is new, but what do you think...

This shirt is...
retro and stylish
ridiculous and best left in a time capsule free polls

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Desperately Seeking...Facewash

I was thinking about this two weeks ago, in need of facewash for my boyfriend's apartment but clueless as to what to get. A late-night trip to the drugstore prompted a decision on a whim: CVS' Oil-Free Acne Wash, a cream cleanser with salicylic acid similar to a Neutrogena product.

I've had lukewarm results with other Neutrogena face products in the past so I was a bit wary of getting this store-brand version. But for once I'd say I'm pleasantly surprised. I feel comfortable rubbing this stuff all over my face at the sink - no scrub beads to lose in my hairline! -and it takes off makeup pretty well. Like a lot of products it can leave my face a bit dry, but in a good way, if that makes sense. It feels like it dries out problem areas...and then I usually put on moisturizer, so it's all good.

I am happy with the other facial cleansers I presently use but wanted to try something more creamy, since I mostly have scrubs. The four products below are items I'd definitely recommend. (Stars are my top products.) And they offer quality for not a lot of cash.

By the way, my skin is normal though can get a bit dry and is slightly on the sensitive side.

*CVS Blackhead Clearing Scrub* (their version of Clean & Clear Blackhead Clearing Scrub)
$3.99 at CVS
It's a creamy, light facewash with two percent salicylic acid and little blue scrubber beads. My face isn't blackhead prone so I can't speak to how well this works for that. However, I sometimes get cystic bumps and have read that exfoliation with a salicylic acid-based product can help, and I think it has since I started using this two years ago. What I really like is how the wash leaves my face feeling tingly and clean and doesn't leave any residue behind.

Pond's Fresh Start, Daily Exfoliating Cleanser
$6.79 at
Another creamy wash with microbeads but without salicylic acid. Instead this product says its "white tea and china clay enriched lather purifies skin, washing away environmental pollutants." I use it when I don't want to overload on salicylic acid, especially when planning to use a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment. I can't say for certain what special things this product does, but it doesn't irritate my skin, feels nice and provides a bit of invigorating exfoliation when I'm not in the mood to use a heavy exfoliant. It's a good, simple wash to keep in the medicine cabinet when you want to clean your face and get a move-on. Check out this review for more info.

*St. Ives Apricot Scrub*
$3.99 at Walgreens

Awesome. A great, oil-free scrub that always leaves my face feeling very invigorated and soft. I tend to use it once or twice a week in the shower. It is pretty rough so I could see it irritating very sensitive skin if used too frequently. But really, if you haven't tried this stuff you must.
Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask
$3.79 at
A clay-based mask with a very fresh, minty scent. (I love it, you might have to sniff it for yourself...and for $4 or less, it's a risk worth taking.) Smooth it on and wait about 15 minutes to dry, then wash off with warm water. For me, the application and waiting process is as nice as how it feels coming off. I like taking a few minutes out of my on-the-go life to relax, pick up and book or magazine and have to wait. Makes my face feel sooo soft, but it can be somewhat drying so I only use it once in a while. Check out this review for more info....and this hilarious one too. ("It’s an oldie, but a goodie...Plus, it smells like you’re boozing it up with plantation owners from the 1800’s. Obviously, this scenario would only be cool if it ended with you freeing the slaves, then giving them your Mint Juleps.")

Thoughts? Or products you might recommend?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Revlon LE Products Free After CVS Extra Bucks

Has anyone else seen this? CVS has a promotion where you get $9.99 in Extra Care Bucks after buying certain limited edition Revlon products...which are priced $9.99 themselves, as far as I could see. So you're getting a total reimbursement in CVS Bucks after the purchase. (Limit one per household, so pick wisely!)

The four options for the Bucks are a lip gloss, eye shadow, lip gloss/palette and powder blush. The latter three are full of very pretty, delicate, swirled colors. From Revlon's Web site:

One of the eyeshadows on display at the CVS where I made my purchase was so destroyed that I wondered if it was supposed so be loose pigment! Ummm, no...just pulverized somehow. The lip palette is gorgeous but I don't really need more balmy stuff and am trying to avoid more products into which I will stick my (often dirty) fingers. Because that's stuff I'd throw in my purse and swab my pointer into on the run.

In retrospect, it seems that the least unique of the products caught my eye...the Creme de la Chrome gloss tube. I really wanted "Spice it Up," which is a sparkly neutral, but this particular CVS was out so I got the fuscia "Razzle Dazzle" instead. I'll post a swatch and demonstration later in the weekend since I don't have it on me now. It's interesting. Shimmery and very opaque - not stuff you're going to layer over a lipstick for a little extra kick.

Okay, I'll be back with the review later. Point being, maybe you'll see this promo at your CVS and basically get a beauty product for long as you'll be going back to CVS to do future shopping with the Extra Care Bucks you are reimbursed.