Thursday

Why an all-female X-Men team is absolute brilliance

Little-known fact about me (except everyone knows it, so never mind): I love comic book superheroes. My interest in them in earnest started when the first X-Men films were out, and I became frenzied with a need to read the comic books, read character backstories and find out everything I could about the Marvel Universe. I was a walking teenage encyclopedia of Marvel lore.

Even before that, I watched the Spider-man and X-Men cartoon series as a kid, and remember being so in awe of the Dark Phoenix saga and just wanting to be Jean Grey, in all her incarnations. And once I started reading comic books, I would go to the comic book store in West Palm Beach, Fla., every week to pick up the new issue of the very temporary Emma Frost series.

So I'm quite excited and eager to get back into comics, because for the first time, the new X-Men  series will feature an all-female team of mutants.

They don't need adamantium claws to put a hurt on you
 You can say it's pandering, it's lame, it's irrelevant, whatever. I don't care. I think it's fabulous, and here are a few reasons why:

Little girls deserve better than Bella: When I say "Bella," I'm not just referring to the wimpy "heroine" of the Twilight series, who is such an unhealthy role model for young women that I can't stand it. I'm referring to, in general, any representations of women as superficial, ditzy, man-eating morons or submissive damsels whose stories we're supposed to think are so damn romantic because some handsome, wealthy man comes to save them. When that stereotype is presented as the ideal, we're in trouble.

Little girls deserve fictional female portrayals that aren't defined by the men in their lives. Women who are flawed, but not oblivious to it. Women who refuse to be victimized even by their own minds. Little girls deserve superheroes who make them feel like they have superpowers, too. And any handsome, costumed suitor is just a nice extra.

More images promoting a less-damaging body ideal: There's plenty of criticism of the major boobage and minor cloth coverage of comic book women (see: Emma Frost). And... yeah, valid. Totally valid. But while the X-Men still represent a largely unattainable physical ideal, at least the emphasis of the way they're drawn is on showcasing their muscles, their strength. And that's a good thing. I have never, even as a teenager, looked at a comic book female drawing and wanted to starve myself or cry. I've wanted to get my ass in a kickboxing class! I've wanted to do push-ups and throw high-kicks at the air!

Are you sure you don't want a jacket or something?
 Three cheers for female camraderie!: God help them if they mess this up, but I hope Marvel uses this opportunity to portray a group of women without clich├ęd cattiness and girl-on-girl hate. I'm all for anything where women are cheering each other on instead of tearing each other down.

Books are good stuff: Comic books are books. I refuse to hear differently. If you can follow the intricate, universe-jumping, supernatural story arcs of comic books, you're a genius in my book. More human beings reading is a good thing. And if a lineup change like this one makes someone pause at the comics section, that's awesome. If boys pick up the books because they want to see pencil-drawn tatas, that's fine by me. I'm just happy they're reading the words.

The main perk is that this is something different. It changes the dynamic of the X-Men and squeezes a new idea out of an industry where every ridiculous trope has been done and repeated and ret-conned and re-done. I hope it'll give a creative boost that's needed so people don't forget how amazing comic books are.

Wednesday

Styling a va va voom dress for daytime

Styling a bombshell dress for daytime

Styling a bombshell dress for daytime by lizofswords

Wearing a more formal dress during the day is simple. Just choose pieces that tone the dress down. I like the way it makes something sexy and over the top seem like something you just threw on as an afterthought.

Wedges are so much more comfortable than heels, and if you choose on that doesn't have a platform, they look more sleek than clunky. I really love my J. Crew ballet flats, which are similar to the ones I put in this collage, but without the stripes and in a different color scheme.

Denim shirts can be very summery and perfect over a dress. What I like to do is roll the sleeves up, button just the top few buttons and then tie the ends of the shirt in a knot that defines my waist. If you want to add more color, you can drape a scarf underneath the collar of the shirt and let it hang down or do a loose loop.

These post earrings are bold and punky and would create a great contrast with the classic silhouette of the dress. Another casual but high-impact accessory is a colorful braided cuff bracelet. For makeup, keep everything simple and use a glassy gloss like one from Buxom and a natural blush (I like Tarte Cheek Stain or their Amazonian Clay blushes). And since everything else is so vibrant, haul your stuff in a neutral tote, like this one from the Coach Poppy line.   

Tuesday

Jo Malone 154 fragrance review: Sensory playtime

After flirting with Jo Malone scents during the course of a few visits to Nordstrom, I settled on 154.

Jo Malone fragrances are designed to be combined to create your own custom scent, a very cool concept. The colognes are divided into the categories Citrus, Fruity, Light Floral, Floral, Spicy and Woody. If you want to just live in Jo Malone's world all day, every day, you can also find candles, diffusers, room sprays and bath products.

154 is classified as a Woody fragrance. It's named after the street address of the company's first London boutique and is described as a "grand olfactory journey" through notes of mandarin, grapefruit, lavender, basil, nutmeg and vetiver.

Jo Malone 154 1 oz. bottle (center) and samples of other fragrances

The scent is masculine but less astringent than other male-leaning fragrances I've tried. It smells clean and lush at the same time. There's a hint of sweetness to my nose that's not saccharine, not synthetic, just like the smell in the air when you're outdoors in spring. It's comforting, but grown-up, sophisticated and sensual.

I love using it along with Red Roses, and the combination with Wild Bluebell is also very pretty. But I find 154 to be so fabulous on its own — if you're not into gender-bending with fragrances, look elsewhere or pair it with a Floral or Fruity cologne.

Pia at Nordstrom was wonderful and had a vast knowledge of every single fragrance we talked about. She really made my fragrance search a luxurious experience, and sent me home with loads of samples. Everything was beautifully gift-wrapped. Such a treat.

The one that I'm most intrigued by and considering buying a bottle of is Pomegranate Noir. On my skin, I barely get any pomegranate, just smoky, hypnotic incense. It's a bizarre thing, smelling like lit incense, but for some reason I find that incredibly sexy. Jo Malone says it's inspired by a daring red dress, and I can totally see that. The first time I smelled it, I audibly gasped. It's a bombshell, bad-girl fragrance. The more I type, the more I want to run out and buy it right now!

Jo Malone fragrances are $60 for 1 oz. (the size I chose) and $110 for 3.4 oz. I'd recommend getting the smaller bottles to start, because if you're going to experiment with combinations, you won't use up the 3.4 oz. — save that purchase for when you find one you absolutely cannot live without.

You can buy 154 here and shop for other Jo Malones at Nordstrom and Nordstrom.com.

Monday

Lush haul: Ridiculously cute, fabulously fragrant

A while back, I filmed a Lush haul video after my first visit to the Ross Park Mall in Pittsburgh. It was fun having Stephanie from Lush help me pick out products and try them right there in the store. Since I filmed this video, my apartment is a bit more set up but not done, and I've had a chance to try all the products. I loved the Sex Bomb bath bomb so much that I went back for another one and a few more bath products.

From left: Sex Bomb, Karma bubble bar, Phoenix Rising bath bomb




Watch my video to see what I could not resist. Make sure you subscribe to my channel!



Products mentioned:
Sex Bomb: http://www.lushusa.com/Sex-Bomb/00157,en_US,pd.html?start=3&cgid=bath-bombs Dark Angels: http://www.lushusa.com/Dark-Angels/9999906954,en_US,pd.html?start=4&cgid=cleansers
Chou Chou I Love You Toothy Tabs: http://www.lushusa.com/Chou-Chou...-I-Love-You-toothy-tab/03607,en_US,pd.html?start=5&cgid=toothy-tabs
Daddy-O shampoo: http://www.lushusa.com/Daddy-O/9999902003,en_US,pd.html?start=1&q=daddy-o
American Cream conditioner: http://www.lushusa.com/American-Cream-Conditioner/9999902017,en_US,pd.html?start=1&q=american%20cream

Wednesday

Latest buys at Sephora

Living near a Sephora is grand. The mecca of makeup-heads was an hour away from me when I lived in Santa Fe, but in Pittsburgh, it takes me just two shakes of a lamb's tail to get there.

My first Kat Von D purchase ever is unusual in its normalcy. I have a surplus of reds and neon pinks, so for the tube of Painted Love lipstick I got I chose Lolita, the tamest of the line's shades. It's a dusty rose, my-lips-but-better shade, that reminds me of a less brown Revlon Pink Truffle. The finish is velvety and opaque and it glides across the lips like buttah.

I have mentioned before that I usually skip my bottom lashes when I put on mascara, but I decided to take the $10 risk to try Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara in Black/Brown (they were out of black).

In the impulse buy section, I got a mini of Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil. I was actually looking for the mini in the Josie Maran section, but only the full-sized was there. I get the mini because the bigger bottle is $48. Like a kick in the eye! But I've used this before and love it. It's miraculous for my complexion, my hair, my cuticles, and has no offensive smell.

And I have to say, I'm really disappointed that my birthday gift this year is a mini set of Benefit They're Real! mascara and Watt's Up! highlighter. I LOVE both products, but I JUST bought a full-sized Watt's Up! and have tons of the mascara. The irony...

Sunday

First day in the 'Burgh goodies

We made it to Pittsburgh! I can't even get into the disastrous, treacherous trip here, but the point is we are here, the truck is unloaded, no vehicles were wrecked and no limbs were lost. Now I just have to unpack and adjust to my new life. Wish me luck and courage!

After getting some home essentials, I popped in to Ulta to get the Smashbox CC cream I've been lusting after. It claims to correct dark spots, which I hope is true. I struggle with post-acne hyperpigmentation. Major drag. It has SPF 30, which is great because I admit that I never wear any sunscreen. And while I am skeptical, reviews claim it covers as well as a foundation, but that it can also be used before foundation.

I was happily surprised to get a free gift with purchase of three mini Smashbox foundation primers and a small mascara. I love the Smashbox Photo Finish clear primer, which was one of the samples, so I'm excited to try the other two, especially the hydrating one. And these go a looong way, so these samples should last me forever.

And mascara is my favorite product aside from blush, so a freebie is awesome.






Thursday

Road trip beauty complaints

I'm not amused that...

... my thumbnails are split and broken and too short, causing me pain when I try to accomplish simple tasks and rendering my thumbs useless. Turns out opposable thumbs are important.

... my face wash and serums are hidden in the caravan of vehicles.

... my blood caffeine content is dangerously below the legal minimum, and I'm concerned the lack of coffee-derived antioxidants will lead to free radicals destroying my skin. How would they do that? I don't know, my degree is in English and journalism, not dermatology.

... my legs are NOT Skintimate-smooth.

... I cannot be bothered to perform the public service of putting concealer on my dark circles, and I fear I may traumatize young children who see me at rest stops and might confuse me with a Disney villainess.

... I may still own a hairbrush, but I'm not positive, because I haven't seen it in a while.

... s'mores Pop Tarts are not flat-belly foods.

Wednesday

Follow me! (in a nonstalkery way)

Right now, I'm in the passenger seat of a Budget moving truck that's leading a caravan of our belongings from Santa Fe to Pittsburgh. Getting out of New Mexico took most of the day, because my car wasn't properly secured to the truck (the rental people gave bad instructions), and we're still driving through Texas.

Once it's my turn to drive, I'll continue to listen to the audiobook of Tina Fey's "Bossypants." Hearing it read by Tina is probably the best way to enjoy it.

For bite-sized, in-between-blog-posts updates, you can now follow me on Twitter @LizAndStripes. Come tweet "hello" at me!

Tuesday

First impressions: Givenchy Dahlia Noir Eau de Toilette

Oddly, my beloved Flowerbomb doesn't smell the same to me anymore. It's too syrupy sweet and cloying. Time to investigate other scents, because maybe I am too young and too inexperienced in fragrance to pick a signature.

I wanted a rose perfume that was youthful, spicy, not too sweet and just a touch woody and naughty. Stella has been described as a gothic, retro floral, but I couldn't track it down at a store.

I purchased Givenchy Dahlia Noir in the eau de toilette formula. It 's described as a "fresh, vibrant interpretation of the original Eau de Parfum for a sensuality that becomes one with the skin," a "mysterious" and elegant scent.

I've heard that this is very different and perhaps better than the parfum. Now, I suck at describing scents, and while I can tell what you had for dinner if you're within a three-foot radius of me, I can't pick out "notes" in perfumes. But with Dahlia Noir, I can sense the scent evolve on my skin. First, there's the citrus and a hint of sweetness. Then I get a bit of the pink pepper and a certain sorta naturey, foresty scent (scientific terms). That must be the musk and amber, I believe. Then comes the rose. Ooooh the rose. It's gorgeous. It's also got vanilla in there and smells a bit like baby powder when it's been on some time, but I like it. As far as the sillage (a fancy, French-derived word that I just learned today and that means scent trail) I'm not sure how close you have to be to smell it, but I have to get my nose right up to the skin to get the fullness of the rose.

I do think I'll like this scent, and definitely want to explore more rose perfumes and anything less saccharine.

Oh, and I have a Twitter, guys! Follow me @LizAndStripes







Saturday

The Lazy Jerk Method of finding your foundation shade

I don't like foundation. I've only recently started using it, after my skin went CRAZY and the desert winter sucked the life out of it. So I've amassed a lot of foundation in a short amount of time, trying to find what works for me and which shades are closest to my skin tone.

Obviously I'm no expert, but I think the simplest starting point to finding your perfect foundation is getting matched at a MAC counter and using your MAC shade number as a reference. Then you can use different websites, forums, foundation matrices, etc., and narrow down shades that are known dupes or that other people say have worked for them.

Watch my video for more of my idiot-proof tips!


Friday

Doctor Who companion series: The incomparable Dr. Jones

Martha, Martha, Martha. Few people loved the Doctor more, but her timing couldn't be more off, what with the Doctor still mourning not being with Rose. But Martha more than held her own with Ten, and she became a towering figure in Whovian mythology with her own happy ending.

This look was based on "The Lazarus Experiment," but instead of a deeper, softer purple, I went for a lighter shimmer and a gradient effect that would be great for a party or formal occasion. Hope you enjoy!

And remember to head on over to my channel or hit "suscribe" on that little widget to the right, so you never miss a video!


Wednesday

The curative powers of red lipstick

I'm in a bit of a Mood. A capital M Mood. Everyone knows I hate moving. Today is my day off, and I have an enormous amount to do.

I'm attempting to make my face look closer to how I wish to feel on the inside, so I'm trying out a new Revlon lippy I got at CVS today. It's the ColorStay Ultimate Suede lipcolor in Finale. So far it seems like a not too overwhelming red that really grabs on to your lips without feeling gross and drying. We'll see how it does throughout the day.