Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Office Without Clutter

Word on the street is that Martha Stewart runs a tight ship when it comes to neatness in her new offices. (And by "street" I mean Gawker media.)

A Gawker post from late-January says that MS Living Omnimedia staffers are barred from having "ink colors other than red or black, desks that are not completely clear at the end of the day, except for one metal basket of approved office supplies, and anything that could be construed as being personal, such as photos or coffee mugs," according to an anonymous tipster. The post includes photos of some very dreary, plain cubicles, reportedly from the office.

Martha quickly responded to the accusations on her blog, writing that "this article is a misrepresentation of what actually was discussed within our offices. The list of pens is an assortment of what our company will provide our employees with at our expense. We never stated that other pens were not allowed to be used. In these tough economic times, harmony is essential within the working environment. I must also inform you that we use a great assortment of writing implements from the Martha Stewart crafts line available at Michael's Crafts and Walmart. "

As Celebitchy points out, great plug for her product line in there!

Personally, I try to leave my work space clean at the end of the day by putting all my pens back in their storage mug and filing stray papers into folders on my desk. I think that an uncluttered space helps keep the mind uncluttered too. But not having the freedom to decorate at all or manage my things the way I like them...that might be a bit much for me.

Then again, for the chance to work at Martha Stewart Living, I might be able to deal for a little while. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MAC Hello Kitty Swatches...for my Mama?

In recent years, my mom has become a major Hello Kitty fan. (Just go with it, lol.) So I'd love to get her something from the new MAC HK collection, which I checked out in-store for the first time yesterday.

I think I'm going to go with a lip product because she'll probably use that the most. I was considering accessories but didn't see anything that seemed irreplaceable, especially since she has no special love for MAC so getting their compact versus a regular Sanrio one wouldn't make a difference to her. High-quality HK cosmetics aren't easy to come by, however, since most are made for 5-year-olds!

The question is what to get. The collection is so playfully (and appropriately) bold that nothing jumps out at me off that bat as fitting my mom. Shimmer is okay but globs of sparkles will look too immature and not flatter her. She doesn't wear neon pink, instead favoring more demure colors appropriate for a middle-aged woman. She has rosy fair skin and light blue eyes.

I'm leaning toward one of the lipglasses -- possibly Mimmy or Sweet Strawberry. Mimmy would be great to layer over lipstick, but since my mom is often on-the-go I don't know that she'd take the time for the two-step application process.

Sweet Strawberry could work since it deposits color, but I don't know how the berry shade would look on her. I look good in berries so that's a somewhat promising sign, however, my mom has red hair and tends to wear red lipstick whereas I have light brown hair.

Hmm...guess I'll go back to the store and try those two specifically on my own lips, and make a decision. Better do it fast, since some of the HK products are already sold out online!

Any ideas for what to get my mom from this collection?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Passing on Some Love - The Triple Award

JennBee over at Bare Budget Beauty (which just celebrated its first birthday!) made my day brighter by awarding me with this Triple Award. Naturally I want to pass the love on to some other fellow beauty bloggers! Even though I haven't met you guys, I appreciate that we share a common bond in this blogging thing. Not to mention the great and varied content you provide, and how you steer me in the right direction as far as what products to thanks for your continual insight. :)

The "rules":
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

There are so many blogs I adore, so picking ten (I have to get back to doing work for my job now) wasn't easy, but here goes:

Alheessa 4 Realz
Beautiful With Brains
A Digital Angel
Ichigo Bunnie
Life as ICEY it
Makeup Masala
Vanity Treasure

Monday, February 16, 2009

Forget Mascara: Grow Your Own Longer Lashes

"Your eyelashes will experience real measurable growth." That's the claim made by Latisse, a new product from the makers of wrinkle-erasing/muscle-paralyzing Botox.

Pharmaceutical company Allergan got FDA approval in late 2008 for Latisse, whose active ingredient, bimatopost, has been used for several years in a product called Lumigan that treats glaucoma.

"The company began studying the potential of using a lower dose of topical bimatoprost to stimulate eyelash growth after Lumigan users developed unusually lush lashes," according to a Scientific American article from Dec. 29, 2008. "It's specifically being marketed as a once-a-day med to treat eyelash hypotrichosis, or lack of hair growth."

Of course, it's also of interest as a beauty-enhancing product. Latisse is expected to be available for prescription in March and cost $120 for a 30-day supply.

So there's real science behind Latisse, but is it worth it for the price?

"David E. I. Pyott, Allergan’s chief executive...suggested that many women would not blink at spending $120 for a one-month, three-milliliter supply of the drug," according to a New York Times article from Jan. 13, 2009. "He compared the cost of longer lashes to a daily cup of coffee.“If you think about it in terms of luxury, it’s four dollars a day,” he said. “We think this is fairly acceptable to a large segment of people even in these times.”"

Keep in mind, the lash-enhancement is not permanent.

"Because the drug works by keeping hairs in their growth phase -- the phase during which hairs become longer, thicker and darker -- lashes return to their normal, genetically determined length within a few months after discontinuing the drug," according to an ABC News article from Dec. 29, 2008.

Reported side effects
include itching and red eyes or darkening of the skin by the lash line, where the drug may come in contact with the skin. There's still more extensive testing to be done, though.

On a cool side note...the NYT article linked above quoted a fellow D.C. beauty blogger:

"Jennifer Nobriga, one of a pair of stay-at-home mothers behind the Web site, said she intends to stick with plain old mascara rather than splurge on the eyelash drug.

“It would not be at the top of my list,” said Ms. Nobriga of Woodbridge, Va. “I would rather spend the money on a good under-eye cream.”"

So what do I think?
It's an intriguing scientific development that I'm curious to learn more about. I think it has great potential, especially for people who've experienced hair loss or lack eyelashes. But it's not going to be joining my beauty arsenal any time soon.

As a young professional, I definitely don't have the cash to spend on Latisse! (Or a $4-a-day latte habit, though when you think of it that way it seems more reasonable.) Plus, I'm lucky to have naturally long, full lashes to begin with, and the suppleness of youth in my face, so I'm probably not the target audience for this product anyway. (I don't mean to toot my own horn too loudly, it just happens that I consider my eyes one of my stronger features.)

I definitely understand its appeal, though, and would probably try Latisse as long as I was confident in its safety. It's not injecting botulism into your face, so to me, it seems a tad less extreme than Botox.

But yeah, I'm going to keep unnecessary prescription treatments away from my eyes and stick to my Maybelline Full 'N Soft.

I'm curious what you all think!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Taking Care of Dry Hair

I got a great haircut just before the new year in New York. It's layered, falls slightly below my shoulders and has little side-swept bangs to boot. It's basically just three inches shorter than how I last had my hair, but losing the extra weight really gave my curls new life -- even now, six weeks later.

But an ongoing problem is how dry my hair and scalp are. I don't know if it's the shower water, or the weather, or products, or my diet, or damage from coloring treatments (though I haven't done that in a year). I rarely heat treatments on my hair but I use mousse or gel several times a week. Since I'm not a morning person I usually shower at night and throw my hair into a ponytail for work.

Oh, and split ends drive me CRAZY!

So I've been trying two inexpensive, out-of-shower treatments for the past few weeks: Jojoba oil and styling cream. I can't definitively prove their effectiveness since I don't have a scientific study or something behind me, but personally, I've found them beneficial. I plan to keep using them, since they certainly haven't visibly hurt my hair.

Jojoba oil is the liquid wax produced from the seed of the jojoba plant, which is native to parts of Arizona, southern California and northwestern Mexico. I chose it after reading that it is similar to sebum, the oily matter naturally present on human skin. It's purported to moisturize the scalp and help restore moisture and shine to hair. It doesn't have a strong scent and can be combined with essential oils.

I've been rubbing a nickle-sized drop into my hair occasionally before showering, particularly concentrating on my scalp and the ends of my hair. The oil I have is a combination of jojoba oil, castor oil, sunflower oil, lanolin, olive oil, BHA and fragrance. A little bit goes a long way, mind you. I picked mine up at a local beauty supply store.

For my styling cream, I've been using this Sedal (spanish-language Sunsilk) product I bought last year in Mexico to use in place of styling products while on vacation. This crema para peinar is intended to protect against the effects of summer, like heat and sun.

It seems like somewhere between a leave-in conditioner and styling product to me. Frankly, I bought it because the bottle was so cute! The main ingredients include cetearyl alcohol, cetrimonium chloride, glycerin and dimethiconol -- as far as I can see, a combination of emulsifying waxes, which contribute to locking in moisture by keeping water and oil from separating, and silicones, which feel soft to the touch.

So there's my science for the day. And since I've got jojoba oil in my hair I think it's time for the shower! Happy Valentine's day everyone!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Flower Earrings Made From Fish Scales

This weekend my friend V and I went to a chocolate lovers festival in Fairfax, Va. Aside from consuming a chocolate chip pancake breakfast and loads of little confection samples, we also browsed some local vendors displaying good. Above is a pair of earrings I bought my sister -- made of dried and painted fish scales. (So cool, right?)

The full display was so beautiful, it was hard to make a decision which to pick!

She's coming home to New York later this week after two months studying in Spain. I'm not sure when I'll give them to her, since I'm in D.C. anyway...I think she'll really like them, not only because they look pretty but because they are also somewhat extraordinary, at least from what I've seen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Busy Week Over! Eight Tips to Chillax

Whew, another weekend is upon us! I'm planning to spend all night chillaxing here at home by myself, trying to enjoy every minute of it. Sometimes we all need a bit of alone time to just focus on ourselves and unwind at our own pace. No schedule, no obligations, just a free night.

So, what is the difference between relax and chillax? I consider it subtle yet important in this setting. Let me use an example. Some people find reading The Economist, browsing blogs or watching historical documentaries relaxing. But to me, those activities are not chillaxing.

Chillaxing is an even greater break from your normal life, a time to recharge so you can return more mentally and physically focused. Like being sprawled out on a perfect beach under a big white umbrella, sipping something fruity and not being a bit worried about how you look in your bathing suit or getting sand in it! That's chillaxed.

Since we can't have an oasis like that all the time, we just need to carve out our own bits of heaven. Here are some ideas I have to help get there:

-Pamper your body: Light some candles, leave your watch in the other room and take a nice, warm bath or shower. Shampoo, condition, shave, put on a face mask, the works -- it's not like you're running late for work! After the shower you might continue this step by applying body moisturizer or manicuring ragged nails.

-Step away from the computer: Take a break from compulsively checking social media and e-mail, reading blogs or spending the night im'ing friends. The focus of the chillaxed night is you and your comfort. Enjoy the peace and quiet. See if you can even stay away from your cell phone.

-Get comfy: Pajamas work. So does anything else that will make you feel really comfortable. Your work clothes matched your 9 to 5 routine, now you need a get-up to match being more laid back. A mug filled with a warm drink is a great accessory for this outfit.

-Eat well: I know that in an effort to keep on schedule during the week, I often eat with the objective of fulfilling hunger instead of appreciating my food. But tonight there is no work to chow down over and no need to compromise for someone else's taste buds. Eat something tasty that won't upset your stomach. If you feel up to it, even cook a nice meal. Enjoy the preparation and the delicious product.

-Indulge a passion: Now is a great chance to lose track of time playing music, crafting, writing or working on another hobby.

-Give your mind a break: Pop on a feel-good movie, light-hearted television shows, soft music or read a fun magazine or book.

-Adore yourself: Hopefully it goes without saying, but since this is a night about taking care of yourself, make sure you're on-board with that spirit. Know that you're worth taking care of. :)

-Take on a little challenge: If you are looking for some productivity, I suggest trying an easy-to-conquer challenge that will leave you contented at the end of the night and ahead-of-the-game in the morning. This could be cleaning off a particular space which may have become cluttered during the week. Your bed or desk are probably likely candidates. Focusing your energy into removing all the items on those places that don't belong hopefully won't take too long and you'll feel much better after the work is done. It will leave you a new, clean space in which to chillax!

Other small projects could be reorganizing a medicine cabinet or straightening your closet. You probably don't get around to them during the week or when you have company, but you're on your own tonight. Care for your body and your living space....because that's what chillaxing is all about.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Hydrating, Lipstick Substitution

I am especially picky about lipstick this time of year, when cold, dry weather leaves my lips chapped. Sometimes I still want a color boost though, like when I'm conducting an interview at work or going out on the town. Of course, those are the times when I'm probably too involved in talking, sipping and/or eating to worry about whether my lipstick is smearing or melting off or some other I'd like something with minimal maintenance too.

Impossible? Not necessarily.

What I've done lately in a pinch is line my lips and fill them in with a fairly natural-looking lip liner, then coat with lip balm. This leaves my lips soft and hydrated with a nice wash of soft color. Using a shade close to my natural lips also means that if it happens to rub off, it won't look shocking weird to reapply, which is good when I'm aiming for the polished-yet-natural look. (Note: A simple swipe of shimmery, light-colored gloss adds extra 'oomph.')

I came across this by accident. While hurriedly applying makeup in the bathroom of a reception hall, a fellow patron at the wedding I attended on Jan. 1 actually commented on how nice my lips looked. I intended for the lip liner and lip balm I had on to just be a base for lipstick, but considering all the drinking and eating I was bound to do that afternoon, I figured I'd just leave my pout as-is.

I've mostly rocked this look with NYX's Mauve 831 lip liner and Lizard Lips chapstick, which I'm in love with! It's made of beeswax, aloe, lanolin, grape seed oil, a combination of other oils and vitamin E. It also has SPF 22.

Lip liner + lip balm = subtle, moisturized beauty.

**Btw, I tried photographing myself wearing this but I'd just eaten some cabbage and it gave my lips purple spots!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Review: Vanilla Noir Radiant Powder Spray

It's hee-eere. My Bath and Body Works Vanilla Noir Radiant Powder Spray took less than a week to arrive.

And I'm back, after a very long few days...I'm back to normal posting.

On to the product.

What the company says:
This Radiant Powder Spray gives skin an indulgent kiss of golden shimmer, leaving it powder soft and luxuriously fragrant.
  • Our exclusive Vanilla Noir fragrance is a tantalizing scent that transforms Madagascar vanilla into pure glamour
  • Key fragrance notes: Madagascar Vanilla, Dark Vanilla Bean, Black Plum, Bergamot Orange and Warm Musk
Originally $24.50, now $9.75 at

What I think:
I love the concept of the product and the initial application, but I'm disappointed that it doesn't last longer.

I like the scent -- it's a mellow vanilla, a somewhat musky, definitely not a one-note, sugary vanilla that many products have. The shimmer is pretty, though the few larger sparkles (about the size of a pencil tip) make me think this is too glittery for work. It'd probably look nice under candlelight on an evening date or out at a club. (Note, it does not make you look like you fell in a vat of glitter!)

The bottle is worthy of being out on a counter. It's probably more attractive in person than in the photo and, in my mind, would look great beside some attractive atomizers in a glamorous powder room.
The bottle and the powder look gorgeous and the brushed-metal for the top feels sturdy.

But if you look up close some of it's charm is peeled away: You see that the textured ring under the pump is pasted on a bit crudely, the pump is a bit rough too. It can be a bit finicky, press it hard.

And as I said at the top, my biggest complaint is that it doesn't last long. The scent faded pretty fast on me, as did the shimmer. Maybe because I was looking at it under florescent lights at work? Could be. I'll try wearing this out at night sometime and see if it works better, since I love the styling of the product and would like it to work.