FOTD: Barest hint of an effort

Sometimes, especially on my days off, I just do not care. I won't put clothes on until I absolutely have to because walking around in public in the buff is frowned upon, and I won't run a comb through my hair or wear makeup.

Well, the hair is just there being left to its own whims, but I did put on a tiny bit of makeup and get dressed. Instead of liquid foundation, I used the Bare Minerals Matte Foundation. The more I use this, the more I love it because it looks so natural and is a cinch to apply with a buffing brush.

I brushed my brows and set them with Maybelline Great Lash clear mascara. I filled in just the sparse areas with my NYX Automatic Eyebrow Pencil in Charcoal. I'm wearing no eye makeup, not even mascara. Since I got my specs and learned I can now get away with more eye makeup (I assumed the opposite was true) I've been rocking heavy liner, so I'll feature that look soon.

Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in Natural Beauty continues to be the one blush to rule them all. With my new glasses, I'm experimenting with placing blush on the apples of my cheeks. Just when I'd gotten used to wearing it on the cheekbones!

The last simple step was lipstick. I caved and got MAC Rebel — this is why I sometimes hate duping shades, because I tend to buy the originally desired one anyway. This shade is stunning worn at pa-pow  intensity. But it's also really pretty just dabbed on lightly as a stain, for that "I've just been eating berry popsicles" effect. If you're interested, swatch the shade in a department store at maximum pigmentation. It is not for everyone.

Speaking of eating sweets, I made marshmallow fondant last night! It was my first time using fondant. Next time, I'm getting pre-made fondant. While it turned out scrumptious, I had melted but hardening marshmallows all over my hands and countertops, because the recipe recommended far less powdered sugar than it should have. I had to keep piling in the sugar to get it to transform from goo to dough.

And I had a terrifying experience at Barnes & Noble involving shoddy shelving and some blood, but that's a story for another day.


Review: Suki Face Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser

Suki Face Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser is a lemongrass sugar scrub that claims to brighten and even tone, erase blemishes and boost collagen production.

At $32.95, it was a splurge I might not have made unless I had a bunch of Birchbox points to redeem. I got it for $2.95. The first time I tried it was
in a Birchbox sample that I fell in love with. The lemongrass scent is like a refreshing citrus drink for my skin — the perfect stimulating face wash for groggy mornings.

Where this scrub stands out for me is the foaming action. The sugar granules, which don't feel jagged or rough, quickly dissolve, leaving a plush foam that cleans skin just short of stripping it. You absolutely should remember to moisturize after this. While I can't prove it boosts collagen, my skin does seem brighter when I wash with this.

I find that it's gentle for everyday use, just in the mornings. More sensitive types can use it up to three times a week.

I should note that I got a few small pimples along my jawline and cheeks since I started using this. I'm not sure whether the scrub or another product caused it, or if it was just my typical misbehaving skin. But that's worth keeping in mind if you have very blemish prone skin. At this price point, you might not want to risk it.

If you're looking for an effective scrub that isn't too intense, and are willing to shell out a bit, then this might be a dream addition to your skincare routine!


Sunday Pinspiration No. 8

You know what comes up when you type "geek chic" -- for lack of a better term -- on Pinterest? Hot girls, plus glasses. When I set out to make this board, I was open to some irony, some tongue-in-cheek, costumey representations. But I was hoping for something a touch more complex than a naughty secretary stereotype. Oh well. I can play along!

When I think of nerdy fashion, I think of staples like the thick plastic frames, Converse sneaks and button-down shirts. I think of a prim and proper aesthetic gone a bit punky and askew. And I think of fandoms. We go hard. Just look at cosplayers, and slow clap for them while you're at it.

Geeks just do it better.

Woah I can see! HD eyesight + awesome hindsight

Reading copy on a computer screen all day finally eroded my vision. Of course, I didn't notice until I almost failed my eye test for a Pennsylvania license. I got myself to LensCrafters and got some sweet Prada cat eye frames.

And holy crap, was I blind! How did I not notice? Suddenly, those sunbursts became traffic lights, I could read words across the room and everything went from 360p to HD. I'd been walking around the world missing all this detail.

So in honor of my new sight, I've come up with a list of things that I was blind to at one point in my life but that I now see. Oh yeah. I'm about to get all philosophical and shiz.

1. I'm totally clueless.

In my teens, I behaved as if not being the best and not knowing everything were simply out of the question. I was proud that I had my act together, thinking I really knew myself, and I was very judgmental of people who I thought didn't. 

I know, absurd. But over time, I realized that I didn't know everything, including who I was (still don't), and it was oddly liberating. It was OK to change an opinion. It was OK to not have any opinion. It was OK to just be human and be open to learning and looking stupid if necessary in the process.

2. I'm pretty resilient.

I can't even tell you how many times I thought something happening to me was the end of the world. You get to a point when you think that any additional iota of pain will finish you, and then whatever you're scared of happens, and then ... you're fine.

3. Sometimes, I'm a real jerk. 

It happens.

4. People are kind.

Not always, but enough times to surprise me. When I'm sure someone's going to bail on me, especially when I'm certain that they won't come through, they prove me wrong.

And on a related note, I'm learning that people are too wrapped up in themselves to really notice your failures much or judge you at nearly the level you worry they will. Really, our dramas of the day aren't that interesting to onlookers.

5. Be in on the joke.

Laugh. Laugh when it hits the fan. Laugh when it feels like you are the world's punchline and punching bag. Find something comical in the ridiculous suckfest of it all. And make someone else laugh, too.


A Marvel girl's descent into Gotham

The X-Men were the superheroic companions of my adolescence. Maybe I was drawn to the easy comparison of ostracizing mutations and awkward teenage years, the convoluted plotlines, the endless array of oddball powers and the candy-colored costumes.

My encounters with Batman were limited. I was only exposed to the cartoons, the recent Christopher Nolan trilogy and the nippletastic campfest starring George Clooney. (That film holds a special place in my heart — I'm sure it was as terrible as everyone says, but all I can remember is wanting to be Poison Ivy or Batgirl when I grew up.)

Now, with the help of my Batman-obsessed friend, I'm diving into the source material. I have a print primer on the life and times of Bruce Wayne, starting with Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One.

I read the 1986 classic with no expectations or spoilers — rare for naughty little me. And I was surprised by how this was much more of a Jim Gordon origin story than a Batman one.

The shocking takeaway? Batman is pretty tough, but I'd rather run into him in a dark alley while committing a crime than Gordon. Here's a sample of Gordon's inner monologue during shooting practice:
"If that were a man, the wad would shatter his spine and he'd feel his legs go dead even as his heart explodes. ... The wad would leave a neat, round hole and I'd see the horror in his eyes as it pushed half his brain through the back of his skull. I hate the gun. I hate my job. I keep practicing."
Yikes! With the chilling narration from Gordon of the revolting, miserable city where cops are more evil than the criminals, Batman becomes a bit player in his own story. That's not to say you don't see him, but I was less interested in the man empowered by a sense of duty and his flashy toys, and more fascinated by the depressed do-gooder and his burden.

Catwoman is reimagined as a jaded prostitute. Bruce Wayne keeps in shape by kicking tree trunks to kingdom come. A snarky Alfred quips his way through humoring his boss during his pet project. Superman is a pop culture punchline. There's even a love story thrown in, though not one you'd expect.

After reading this, the influence it had on Nolan's Batman Begins is obvious. This is a great book for a filmmaker to be inspired by, with its multilayered story and artwork that's elegant because it looks gritty and is painted in a somber palette. And the pages where Batman escapes from a SWAT crew in a cloud of bats were cinematic.

Batman will return for me in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's The Long Halloween. Keep the Bat-signal lit.


Yarn bomb on the Andy Warhol Bridge

For a knitting nerd, it doesn't get better than the art installation on the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh. A glorious, laborious love token to the city in exuberant, mismatched patterns, textures and colors. 

I'd wanted to see it, but wasn't actively intending to go there today when I was walking downtown. But once I saw a sliver of hot pink yarn in the distance, I had to walk across the bridge and back the other way to see (and photograph!) as many masterpieces as I could.


Sunday Pinspiration No. 7: Curls!

 My hair has had a secret identity since I was 8 years old.

That was when I got my first chemical relaxer, kicking off a lifetime of expensive salon visits every three months to tame my spirally curls into straight submission. Which doesn't mean much — I still have to flatiron every time I wash my hair.

My parents and their parents are from the Dominican Republic, where a relaxer is a rite of passage. I've always had a complex about my hair. Black girls ask if it's real. White girls are perplexed by it. I spent years perfecting how I styled it in response to teasing from boys. And if you want to kill me, you could just throw me in a pool. Not wanting to get my hair wet is one reason I never learned to swim properly.

For all these reasons, I'm surprised that it's just now dawned on me that having curly hair might not be so bad. It might be fun. Maybe my fear of being perceived as childish and unsophisticated, which I associate with my hair being curly, is bull. Maybe I should believe all the people who, when I've let my hair air dry curly with some gel in it, have said they prefer my coquettish spirals.

I'm 25. It's far past time to outgrow a decision I made when my age was a single digit. 

Yes, I'll save money, time and release this idea that I'm not me without straight hair. 

But I'll also be able to indulge curiosity. I walk my talk, ya'll. I'm a beauty adventurer, and this is uncharted territory. I estimate I can grow out the relaxer and get my hair to the length I want in about eight months to a year. Until then, dealing with two opposing textures will be a hassle. The learning curve is steep.

I'm ready.


How to sample beauty products and save — like a boss

You know from watching my makeup collection and storage video that I buy a lot of makeup and beauty products. However, I sample many more products than what you saw without splashing out a lot of cash, by using some simple strategies.

1. Subscribe to a beauty box. I currently use Birchbox. There are many others with varying price ranges, like Ipsy and Glossybox. The boxes are hit or miss — sometimes I'm thrilled and get big samples of products I end up loving, and sometimes I get foil packets, insultingly tiny blushes and a lot of meh. At $10 a month, I've been able to shrug off the meh. When you review the samples in your box on the website, Birchbox rewards you with points that convert to cash you can use toward buying full-size items. By redeeming points, I just ordered the Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser, one of my favorite samples, and paid just $2.95. It retails for $32.95.

2. Ask for samples when you shop. Lush is so good about this. When I go in to pick up some shower gel or a face mask, they either offer me a sample without me asking, or will gladly give me a tiny pot of a shampoo I'm curious about or something along those lines. Sephora includes samples in online orders, and in-store I've gotten little custom samples like foundation (that's how I decided to buy the Laura Mercier foundation I love so much).

3. Be alert for free-gift-with-purchase deals at department stores. I've only used this option once, when Macy's had a promotion where you'd get a customized sampler of Lancome products if you spent a certain amount, I think $35 or something. I bought a lipstick and a nail polish, and got a mini eye cream that I still have tons of, a mini Visionnaire serum, a small tube of Hypnose Drama mascara, and an eyeshadow quad that I loathed, but it was the only miss.

4. Join loyalty programs. At Sephora, you earn Beauty Insider points when you shop, which can then be redeemed for curated products packaged specifically as rewards. For instance, I once redeemed my points for a 100-point Sephora+Pantone Universe emerald liquid eyeliner. And for 500 points, Sephora once had a fabulous Ole Henriksen skincare kit with facial wipes, serums, eye cream, the works. At Ulta, points translate to cash toward whatever you want. This lady used her points to snag a Tarte Cheek Stain for the price of goose egg.

5. Think small. On Sephora's website, a product listing shows you a larger size by default. Many products come in smaller or travel size versions listed right there with the big boys. Do not let your eyes skim past these! With products like my Amazing Cosmetics concealer and Smashbox primer, the fun-size bottles have lasted me FOREVER.

What do you do to save your beauty bucks? Let me know in the comments!

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A love letter from me to you ❤

Face of the Day (plus a touch of Instagramming)

Hi there, angel darling. I'm in awe that out of the hundreds of millions upon millions of blogs on the WWW, you amazingly found mine.

I am so stoked about you that I want to take this relationship to the next level. Sweetheart ... mi tesoro adorado ... will you be my subscriber? 

One click, and you'll never ever miss one of my zany, informative, divine confections of YouTubery. It's free. You know you want to. I'll give you the biggest telepathic smooch ever, you gorgeous creature, you!

Follow this link to subscribe to my channel and make me the happiest girl in the world!



Sunday Pinspiration No. 6

Happy Sunday! We still have a good chunk of summer left, but as soon as the calendar said "August," everyone got into the fall mentality.

Fall is when everyone gets ready to go into hibernation mode before winter. Then the snow melts, and we do our "spring cleaning." I want to pare down and organize before the Big Chill, carrying as little baggage as I can into my cave — and making room for Christmas presents!

We can look forward to pumpkin spice lattes and comfort food, to a drop in temperature requiring snuggling, and to grown men crashing into each other and patting each other's butts. Now that I live  in a sports town, I am eager to finally understand football. My friend Jill already has my back in my quest to learn Sportuguese and be a legit Steelers fan.

More fall fantasizing after the jump!


6 mantras to survive an ongoing catastrophe

When it can't get worse, and then it does, "This too shall pass" doesn't sound reassuring. Maybe your dog died the same week your boyfriend broke up with you ... right before your birthday. Or you get into a car accident on vacation and are woken from your muscle-relaxer haze to find your already damaged car vandalized.

Or maybe your heart is broken with no fix in sight, not even time.

These are some thoughts I treasure when I'm deep in the anxious muck. Mantras are "fake it til you make it." For me, "making it" has never been waking up one day to find my outlook changed and all my dramas resolved in a climactic musical number. It's more of a gradual shedding of layers of grime from your soul.

I hope they help you when you need a perspective adjustment.

"I'm sure glad that's over!" Done. In the can. Next episode, next adventure. This South Park catchphrase frames a situation with a sense of relief and finality — even if you know another hurdle is on the way.

"The strongest part of me runs the show." An upgrade from my much-used "I'm not going to let the weakest part of me run the show." Shove the part of you that's scared, negative or broken aside and let Big Mama/Papa take care of you.

"Nothing is as bad as it seems." Here's a thought exercise for you. Think back to a time you were struggling. Can you remember the intensity of your fear and how much you obsessed over the problem getting resolved? When it did get resolved, was the intensity of your gratitude even close to the level of your fear, or did you not even notice your prayer had been answered? Remember that even when your worst-case scenario becomes reality, it won't cause the sun to stop rising, and it won't make people run for cover as a firebomb hurls to the Earth from an alien spaceship. Nothing is as bad as it seems. You are stronger than you realize.

"I'm (your first name) fucking (your last name)!" And don't you forget it. Consider this your self-confidence battle cry. Just don't make it an actual battle cry and punch people. Violence is not the answer!

"Everything will be OK because it has to be." You've got stuff to do.

"This is a footnote in my life story." In your fascinating memoir years and years from now, this gut-snaring disaster might not even make it as a funny-after-the-fact anecdote. It might just be a footnote in your awesome story. So ride it out, beautiful. You're gonna live.

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Shop Your Makeup Personality: The Jenna Marbles

Hey there, Friendship! We continue the Shop Your Makeup Personality series with a tribute to one of my YouTube brethren, the funny and #sexual Jenna Marbles.

The Jennarafficorn. Majestic.

I was first introduced to Jenna's videos by my friend Brittany, and I've been hooked ever since. Her sense of humor is so witty and relatable, with astute social commentary (she does have a master's in psychology, you know) and the filthiest filthy language you've ever heard. The video that put her on the map was "How to trick people into thinking you're good looking," where she puts on her "hot girl disguise." In honor of the video that started it all, let's take a closer look at Jenna's makeup personality as deduced from her many videos on the subject.

Does this sound like you?

You like to look fresh-faced during the day, but when the lights go down all bets are off.

You want to look like you really tried hard, but want to be able to get ready fast.

Your preferred look: California dime. Step 1 for you is always "get a tan."

Your challenges

Ruining all your clothes with fake tan.

Losing an eyelash while drunk.

Your shopping list

Unlike in previous posts, some of these items aren't ones I've personally tried — they're items Jenna has used or talked about on her channel. I'll make the distinction where appropriate.

Shop Your Makeup Personality: The Jenna Marbles

Jenna's all about the tan, but she goes the noncancerous route as far as we've heard. I've had good experiences with spray tanning booths. It's much easier and faster than doing it yourself and dyeing your hands orange. Just be sure to exfoliate before, and boost your glow with bronzer after. I love anything from Physicians Formula. Jenna doesn't just contour with bronzer: She uses it all over her face, which is how she evens things out if her foundation isn't a perfect match. And take it down the neck!

For foundation, Jenna has said that she uses MAC Studio Tech, a very heavy, creamy foundation, for her videos, and wears Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover liquid foundation during the day. I've tried neither, but the Make Up Forever one is very popular.

Miz Marbles has professed her love for Rihanna, and recently tweeted about buying her MAC lipstick, RiRi Woo — it's basically Ruby Woo, renamed. She also loves lip gloss and anything "pink and shiny." I've discovered Rimmel Stay Glossy and think it's a fantastic formula that doesn't feel too gloopy and sticky. Jenna is also notorious for carrying a truckload of different lip glosses in her purse. If you crave variety, try the Bare Minerals Marvelous Moxie From Day To Play set of minis. The shimmery ones don't have the grit found in other glittery glosses, and the formula has a less intense plumping/tingling effect than the Buxom lippies.

For eyes, it's matte shadows for the win. I love the Lorac Pro palette, which has eight matte shades and eight shimmery ones. Naked Basics by Urban Decay is another good buy. Jenna uses NARS eyeshadow duos (she also uses their blushes), does the darker shade in the crease and then cleans up by just rubbing her eyebrows in mimicry of "your own parent judging you." She's a fake-eyelash pro and loves the cheapies. My favorite cheapies I've tried were some Sonia Kashuk ones from Target — they were also the most comfortable lashes I've encountered. And as Jenna has ranted, if you're going to take the time to do eye makeup and glue something onto your face, you need to fill in your damn eyebrows! I use the NYX Auto Eyebrow Pencil.

Sometimes, you want to get really weird and over the top with your night-out look. Jenna's ever-changing colored streaks can be achieved with hair chalk and kept until your next shampoo.

I leave you with two of Jenna's videos that I find relevant. Enjoy, and if you're at work, wear headphones — girl has a gutter mouth.

Oh, and if anyone wants to buy me that T-shirt, she's got them right here.


Programming update

Hey guys! Sunday Pinspiration will be back next week!

Kiss kiss!


Video: Makeup collection and storage

The voyeuristic joy of seeing what other makeup adventurers love and how they store it is awesome. Collection videos are some of my favorites! They also reassure me that I'm not the only one with a serious cosmetics problem.

Want to take a peek at my vanity table? Watch the video! If you're curious about any of the products I mentioned and want a review, let me know in the comments, and I'll make it happen!