Friday, February 3, 2012

Birthdays, Lists, and Dolphins.

Last year at this time, I was closing in on forty. It felt like a big deal. It felt…kinda crappy, actually. Forty’s one of those “milestone” birthdays that you think about when you’re younger and imagine the kind of person you’ll be. (Spoiler alert for you younger folks: you’ll be EXACTLY THE SAME PERSON, but hopefully with better fashion sense and a lowered tolerance for bullshit.)

What wasn’t helping me feel better about reaching this so-called milestone were the “things to have done by the time you’re 21/25/30/40” checklists and the ever-popular “bucket lists.” (God, I hate that phrase. I don’t like the word bucket for starters, and it seems either weirdly arrogant; like you have any say in when you’re going to die, or profoundly sad; like you’re a kid in the Make-A-Wish Foundation program.)

Anyway! A year has gone by since then, and it turned out that forty wasn’t such a big deal after all. I’m still awesome, and I’m still stumbling around with no idea what the hell I’m doing most of the time. Business as usual.

I'm really sorry you had to see this. Also, it's not true.

So I say we dispense with those other lifelong-to-do lists entirely. All they do is make you feel bad for whatever supposedly important/magical things you haven’t achieved yet:
  • “Have a substantial nest egg.” Oh shit, I must be a terrible person to not have a pile of money at my age.
  • “Swim with dolphins.” Um, okay, but I think I’d rather just leave them alone.
  • “Have a one-night stand?” ONE!? Is this even a thing?
  • “Ride a rollercoaster." Who gives a shit?
  • “Buy a Birkin/Rolex/diamond ring/pair of Manolos.” Oh, go piss up a rope.
"God, get off me, bitch!"

Rather than chart what other people should do by the time they’re any age, I suggest you look at your birthday this year as an opportunity to look back over all the great and interesting things you’ve accomplished in your life so far. It’s infinitely more random and rewarding. One size does not fit all (especially when it comes to swimming with dolphins), so write down your own unique and amazing story.

Here’s mine. It only took a few minutes. I’m sure there are loads of wonderful things I forgot to include, but maybe I’ll remember them next year.

Things I’ve done by 41
  • Forgot most of everything that seemed like a huge deal in high school
  • Got married
  • Had a kid who turned out just swell
  • Got divorced
  • Buried a parent
  • Got married again
  • Went on welfare
  • Got off welfare
  • Sowed my wild oats
  • Ran a small business
  • Ran that business into the ground
  • Went back to shcool
  • Figured out my “dream job”
  • Figured out that my “dream job” is actually the hardest job of all
  • Amassed an impressive collection of abdominal scars
  • Still wear a bikini
  • Learned how to cook some nice things
  • Set a kitchen on fire
  • Made some terrifically, jaw-droppingly ill-advised decisions
  • Gave my heart away to people who didn’t deserve it
  • Got it back again
  • Felt the depths of depression and despair
  • Went into therapy
  • Caught a fish and ate it
  • Wrote and published two books
  • Watched a beloved friend give birth
  • Discovered I know things that people want to learn
  • Started sharing those things
  • Lived half my life with a weird autoimmune disorder and never (okay, hardly ever) let it stop it from doing anything awesome
  • Learned to appreciate scotch
  • Learned to apply false eyelashes
  • Spent two weeks in relative solitude and didn’t go crazy
  • Got comfortable with the idea that I don’t know everything, won’t ever know everything, and that other people might not feel exactly the way I do about everything
  • Laughed loudly and often
  • Loved my friends and my family more than I could ever tell them
  • Realized how much they love me back
  • Began to realize I deserve it. 
So...what's on your list?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Shopping Enabler Strikes Again

The only thing better than picking out cosmetics is helping someone else do it (seriously, I'm that weird lady at the drugstore who tries to help you even though I don't work there). So imagine my delight when my pal Alyssa asked me to go makeup shopping with her! She was ready for a new look and needed some help. As a gal who hasn’t worn a lot of makeup in the past, she was facing the usual challenges:
  • A makeup bag with a few old and unsuitable products
  • Unsure what colours or formulas worked best for her skin
  • Option-paralysis caused by insane amount of makeup out there. 

I asked her a few key questions to help plan our trip. These are good starting points for anyone who’s ready to embark on a makeup overhaul.
  •      What’s your budget?
  •      How much time do you want to spend putting on your “face”?
  •     Are you aiming for a day-to-day look, or something fancier?
  •     What are your favourite things about your face? What are you slightly less in love with, or feel is an area you’d like to downplay?
  •      Any other concerns/issues? (e.g., allergies, animal testing, etc)

The answers to these questions will immediately help to narrow your focus and make shopping easier. Under the “other concerns” category, because Alyssa is an environmentally conscious gal (with a sweet baby who likes to nibble on his mama’s face), she wanted to choose products that were as natural and toxin-free as possible.

Armed with our plan, we met up after work to hit the Sephora and the Shoppers Drug Mart.
Let's DO this thing!

Here’s what we came away with:

Now that's how we fill a bag.

For those of you who are scared of Sephora, I want to tell you—don’t be! We rounded up the products we wanted to try, then sat down with a Sephora Colour Expert (aka, nice guy who works there and wears a toolbelt filled with brushes). He tried all the products on Alyssa, making sure the colours were the right ones for her, and showing her how to apply everything. This way, she got to try a couple things she wasn’t sure about and see the makeup “in action” before buying. The staff are there to help, so don’t be shy! (I think I’ll do a post soon about how to be brave at the makeup counter...)

These people have been sent from the future to help you.

Then we popped over to the drugstore (because there’s no reason to spend thirty bucks on mascara, truly!) and purchased:
  •  Maybelline Define-a-Lash Mascara in Brownish Black (A good basic mascara that gives definition and length while still keeping the look natural. Another good choice is L’Oreal’s original Voluminous mascara.)
  •  Maybelline Define-a-Brow brow pencil in Dark Blonde (My favourite brow pencil EVER at any price—soft enough to blend, but firm enough to stay where you put it.)

What it all adds up to is a ten-minute routine that brings out all of Alyssa’s natural beauty, but still lets her look like herself. And a couple of weeks later, she reports that everything is going well—she’s using and loving her new makeup, and is getting lots of compliments. She also says she might be ready to try adding another eyeshadow colour…so my evil plan to turn everyone into a makeup monster is working! Mwah-ha-ha!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year, Same Old You!

I guess that’s kind of a crabby title, but I’ve got to tell you: I fucking HATE January. I hate that Christmas is over, and I don’t get to drink Bailey’s for breakfast. I hate the darkness and that there’s nothing to look forward to for the rest of the month but bills. I hate that every time I turn around, there’s a new diet/exercise/makeover program that’s going to “change our lives forever” even though we know that’s usually a load of old cobblers.
So, as you can imagine, I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions! But the one thing I do know is that if you’re going to make any, they damn well had better be easy and fun. So here’s one amazing thing you can do for yourself and your looks this year that takes almost no time at all and feels so good:


As a girl who’s had a nightly face-washing routine since the age of twelve, even telling you this seems silly. But I’ve talked with women of all ages and discovered that many of us have a less-than-diligent approach to taking off our makeup and giving our skins a good scrubbing before bed. And to that I say: EW! You don’t want to end up like this, do you?

(The Girl Who Didn't Wash her Face starts at 0:45, and I am an embedding idiot.)

 This year, resolve to wash your face every single night. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you’re tired/drunk. Even if you didn’t wear any makeup that day. Because there is NOTHING you can do for your face that will pay off more than cleaning it. If you retire with makeup and/or dirt on your skin, you’re just rubbing it in for all those hours on your pillow. Then you get your pillowslip all grimy to rub your face on the next night. Again, say it with me, now: EW!
Also, if you’re not cleansing before bedtime, changes are you’re not applying any moisturizers or serums or lovely little creams either, and that’s a crying shame. Nighttime is when these products can do their best work, ensuring that you wake up looking fresh and well-rested. This is best time for anti-agers, for exfoliants, for acne treatments….whatever special care your skin needs.
Make nightly face-washing a non-negotiable part of your routine, like brushing and flossing your teeth. Also, did I mention that it’s fun? You get to pick whatever kind of cleanser you want: creamy, or foamy, or watery, or even just one of those wipey things. Trust me, once you’re started, it will seem beyond gross NOT to do it.

Of course I have to get all over-the-top and use that most revered of beauty appliances, the Clarisonic. It’s like a sonic toothbrush for your FACE. I’ve had mine for nearly a year now, and I love it. My skin has never looked better. I used to get little bumps and things, but those have almost entirely vanished since I converted to the Clarisonic Cult.

But you don’t have to use a crazy-lady $200 machine to wash your face—lower-maintenance options abound. And I’d advise you not to spend the earth on your face wash. It’s all going down the drain anyway, so fancy ingredients aren’t that important. You want something that cleans gently—some folks treat their faces like they’re refinishing an old dresser. Less is more here!

This is my current favourite cleanser. It’s very gentle, removes makeup well (although I still use a separate eye makeup remover for the heavy duty stuff), and leaves me feeling moisturized, but not goopy. (And it plays very nicely with the Clarisonic…)

If you’ve got oiler skin and/or wear lots of makeup, this is a good option
 And if you’re really lazy, or frequently stagger home at dawn and collapse into bed, then the ultimate cheater-method are these cleansing wipes. You can splash with water afterwards, or just keep a packet of them on your nightstand. They’re handy for the gym or travel too.

And there you have it. You’re a better, cleaner person already! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

One of my goals this year is to be more regular with the blogging. I’ve grouped all my resolutions under the umbrella of “do more things that make you happy”, and since this is one of them, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
A lot of folks post “best of the year” lists, and I guess that’s sort of what this is, but I didn’t think on it too deeply, or rummage around in my makeup drawers to pick out favourites. Let’s just call it:

Stuff I Loved in 2011

Favourite celebrity makeup: Rachel McAdams at Cannes
I like edgy glamour as much as the next gal, but when it comes to unabashed pretty-in-pink gorgeousness, no one did it better than Ms. McAdams. This is a delightful, girlish look that I just adore.

Favourite makeup artist blog: Lisa Eldridge
Her video tutorials cover everything from the absolute basics to the fanciest high-fashion looks, in a grown-up and professional presentation. She’s just so approachable and warm—not to mention blessed with a beautiful face and a voice to match!

Favourite inspiring fashion blog for “normal” people: Wendy’s Lookbook
There are a shitload of websites by and for “fashion people.” But most of us aren’t that magic combination of rich/tall/skinny/connected/willing to dress like a rodeo clown. I love the coolness that’s on display, but there are many women who just want to look more stylish and pulled-together in an elegant way.
Wendy is the gal who provides that inspiration. Yes, she is most definitely investing some serious cash on her look, but she buys timeless, quality pieces. And there’s nothing you couldn’t copy for less. And she’s always finding great new ways to present information on the basics of fashion: her super-cute and useful 25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes video made the facebook rounds a while back, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

Favourite fashion blog when one fears growing older: Advanced Style
Women of a “certain age” looking chic and fabulous. Proof positive that great personal style knows no age—in fact, these senior citizens pull off some wildly adventurous fashion risks that younger folks can only envy.

Favourite fashion film: Bill Cunningham New York
Speaking of older folks, this wonderful film (which I posted about earlier this year) is the story of that most elusive and reclusive of street style photographers, Bill Cunningham. It’s a fashion feast, for sure, but it’s also a film that explores aging, work, and integrity. I get misty just thinking about it—it’s a must-see!

Favourite fashion book of the year: Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas
This isn’t a glossy coffee-table fashion book, but it is one of the best-researched and well-written books on the fashion industry I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It moves along at a thriller’s pace, and is packed with information on the luxury-goods world with an eye to history, culture, globalization, and consumerism. Whether you think a Louis Vuitton handbag is an object of desire or a symbol of corporate evil, you’re in for a compulsively good read.

Favourite rallying cry to take pride in one’s appearance in 2012: The “No Excuses” post over at The Bitches of Fashion
Just read it! You don’t have to wear a ball gown to the laundromat, but taking the time to dress well reaps benefits you can’t even imagine. It’s got nothing to do with your dress size/income/job/personal values and beliefs—every single one of us can take pride in who we are, and take pleasure in expressing that identity through our clothing and grooming.

So here’s to you looking fantastic in 2012!