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Ready to Wear Beauty with MaryKay® and Project Runway®

I’ve been a fan of Project Runway® since the very first season. I love the creativity that takes place under pressure, the judges input, and who doesn’t adore Tim Gunn? One of the coolest parts of each Project Runway challenge is how in just a short span of time the beauty teams are able to take the contestants’ visions and make them a reality. Mary Kay® is the Official Beauty Sponsor of Project Runway® Season 13 and it’s cool to see an accessible brand known for everyday beauty create such creative, intense, and high fashion looks. MaryKay® asked if I’d like to experience their makeup collection, and with MaryKay Global Makeup Artist Luis Casco’s direction and recreate some looks from Season 13 of Project Runway®.

marykay project runway emerald smoke

The “Emerald Smoke” face: click the image to view the instructions to create and shop this look.

I first tried Casco’s “Emerald Smoke” look, a bold face that is perfect for the upcoming fall season. I loved how this look is totally out of my comfort range, and loved how the colors could work on a variety of skintones. I’ll be honest, I’m clueless when it comes to makeup, especially eye color application so it was great to have on the MaryKay® site instructions from Luis Casco and videos showing how to achieve this season’s bold eye looks. I’ve always wondered how people achieve a really intense color that blends nicely; with Casco’s instruction I learned a cream shadow base will help colors pop on the eyelid. I’ve used MaryKay® before, but this experience has me loving a few new products. Their Cream Eye Color is a great consistency that blended well, didn’t crease, and was long-lasting. Meadow Grass gave a subtle hint of color on my lids that made my brown eyes stand out and would be wearable for any day, but when I applied MaryKay® Mineral Eye Color in Emerald over it I suddenly had bold intense jewel-like lids. Per Casco’s instruction, I then added their Mineral Eye Color in Lime in the inner thirds of the eyes and it really did brighten the whole look. I’ve tried MaryKay® LashLove Mascara before and am always a fan. It lengthens, separates, and doesn’t bother my contacts-wearing eyes. One coat is perfect for day, but a couple coats gives the drama needed for the “Emerald Smoke” face. MaryKay Project Runway When I received the products to create “Emerald Smoke” the lipcolor and blush scared me; even in the middle of summer I have fair skin and felt that the deep plum shades would look clownish on me. I applied their Cream Blush in Cranberry and while it looked extremely dark on my skin, when I blended it I found it looked quite pretty – more dramatic than my normal blush, but perfect with such a bold eye. The True Dimensions® Lipstick in Mystic Plum and Lip Liner in Cappuccino is an intense look, but again it balanced the bold emerald eye and I could see myself wearing this lipstick come fall with a more subtle rest of the face. I like the creamy formula and how it made my lips look more hydrated and plump.

graphic eye

The “Graphic Eye” face: click the image to view the instructions to create and shop this look.

The second look was titled, “Graphic Eye” and this was a look I have always loved on others (and think I recall from Project Runway) but never thought I could carry off myself. Thanks to Luis Casco’s instructions, I was able to try it out. The Mary Kay At Play™ Bold Fluid Eyeliner in Blue My Mind is a gorgeous color and made quite an impact without looking too crazy. I was impressed by the quality of the MaryKay® brushes; their Eye Crease Brush makes a big difference with shadow application and gave a natural contour to the upper lid while being perfect for a touch of color below the eye. Mary Kay® Ultimate Mascara™ in Black is another winning mascara (though it can’t compete with my beloved LashLove), and I have been using Mary Kay® NouriShine Plus® Lip Gloss for over a year in various colors and found Au Naturel to be just as lovely and a great topcoat for lipsticks and stains. “Graphic Eye” is actually a pretty wearable look, and the bold blue could easily be replaced by a different color or just be a classic black cat eye. Having such instruction available makes runway beauty more of a reality for us beauty-application newbies! While these aren’t everyday looks, it was fun to recreate looks from my favorite television show and have a bit of the MaryKay® and Project Runway® beauty experience in my own home! If you’d like to experience the same, I have just the giveaway for you! Which of these looks would you most like to try? Leave an answer in the comments below for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card and a collection of Mary Kay® products to create one of the looks featured + some beauty essentials.

You can visit Mary Kay® on Project RunwayFacebookYoutube, and of course, their website for more ideas and information! 

Sweepstakes Rules:  No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
1.  Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
2.  Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
3.  Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
4.  For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 9/4/2014-10/7/2014. Be sure to visit the Mary Kay brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Review and Giveaway – Mary Kay®

Want to hear about my experience with Mary Kay® and have a chance at winning a gift basket of Mary Kay® products valued at $100?

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Review and Giveaway: Mary Kay

As a blogger, I have the opportunity to receive free products for review. While this can seem pretty nice, it’s hard when the free product I receive underwhelms, and that happens more often than not. And then there’s Mary Kay, who impresses me on a regular basis. I must admit, growing up I felt Mary Kay was a bit cheesy. And then they sent me some products to review through BlogHer, and not only did I like them but I liked them so much that I’ll continue purchasing some of the products. Each time I am asked to review Mary Kay, I jump at the chance because I know I am going to be impressed and very well may find a new favorite beauty product.

Recently Mary Kay sent me a box of goodies – a collection of their best sellers as well as some new products. And let me tell you, I have some new favorite Mary Kay products because of this.

Mary Kay® Ultimate Mascara™ in Black
I had been a DiorShow mascara girl for years. When Mary Kay sent me their Ultimate Mascara a while back, I was shocked to find that I liked it BETTER than DiorShow. Mary Kay’s Ultimate Mascara has a wand that looks quite ordinary, but it does a phenomenal job of separating and lengthening. The wand makes it possible to do multiple coats without creating spider lashes, and the final result rivals false lashes. As someone who wears contacts and has seasonal allergies, I love the fact that while Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara washes off easily at the end of the day for me, it stays put through the day. This mascara is as close to perfect as I have ever found. Seriously.

Mary Kay® Lash Love™ Waterproof Mascara in Black
Mary Kay sent me my beloved Lash Love mascara in a waterproof formula, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The formula dries very quickly, feels soft on the lashes, and will not budge. I wore it swimming, photographing a wedding on a very hot and humid day, and hiking without a single smear or flake. However, it came off quite well with some makeup remover wipes. Many waterproof mascaras fall short in delivering volume and length, but Lash Love Waterproof is almost as fabulous as the traditional formula. I’m quite a fan and will be buying it again.

Mary Kay® Lash Love™ Mascara in Black
Lash Love is a pretty awesome mascara for those who like long, fluttery lashes. The wand really separates and coats every side of your lashes without any clumping. My lashes looked really long and felt soft and natural. This has become my go-to workday mascara because it’s not as pumped up as the Ultimate Mascara, but it still makes my lashes look long and lush and natural. The other day I was in the bathroom with a coworker and she said I was lucky to have long eyelashes. I told her I had pretty average lashes but a fabulous mascara. Have you ever had a mascara so good that it starts a conversation? If not…seriously…check out Mary Kay’s line.

Mary Kay® Lash Primer
When lash primers came out a few years ago, I tried them out and hated them. They were heavy, hard to use, and didn’t make my lashes look any thicker or longer. I like the Mary Kay version, though. It’s as if they took all the negative feedback from traditional primers and made something that actually works. The spiral brush makes it easy to lightly coat each individual lash. I had the best results when I would curl my lashes first and then do a gentle wiggle of the primer brush through my lashes. While still damp from the primer, I would apply mascara and then use the mascara wand to bend up the lashes until they dried. This way, my lashes maintained curl under the weight of the products, plus they got all the plumping and lengthening benefits of the Lash Primer. While this isn’t something I would do on an average day, I have liked using the primer for nights out because it really amps up the lashes!

Mary Kay® NouriShine Plus™ Lip Gloss in Mango Tango, Rock n Red, and Café Au Lait
I like the packaging of these lip glosses – short, fat tubes that can easily fit in a tiny coin pocket or clutch purse. The formulas are creamy, smell a bit like birthday cake, and feel good on the lips. Café Au Lait has become my go-to day gloss; it is a hair darker than my natural lip color, shiny without sparkle, and can be applied without a mirror. Rock ’n’ Red was a bit too bright for my taste, but I did like it as a layer over a darker burgundy lipstick. Mango Tango was a fun color for summer, with just a hint of tan and since then has become a fave with a fresh face and my fair skin. Like other glosses they would wear off with time and eating, but they kept consistent pigment (no ring around the lips), and kept my lips feeling soft and conditioned.

Mary Kay® Compact Mini
I received one of these compacts from Mary Kay in the past and I think it’s brilliant. The compact itself is attractive, and it has a good clasp that will stay shut in your makeup bag, a big mirror, and a compartment to hold brushes. The compact is magnetic so you can put your favorite combination of products in there – six shadows, two blushes, or any combination of these. For the compact, I received Mary Kay’s Mineral Eye Color in Golden Vanilla, Truffle, Lavender Fog, Midnight Star, Sweet Plum and Black Pearl, as well as Mineral Cheek Color in Shy Blush. The shadows have a lot of pigment and last a long time, but I wasn’t a fan of the slightly crumbly formula (which is quite typical for mineral shadows). Shy Blush Mineral Cheek Color is very similar to NARS Orgasm, my daily blush; I put one on each cheek and couldn’t tell the difference. Since it’s a mineral product, it has high pigment (a little goes a long way), and lasts all day. The only negative is the size of the blush; while I appreciate it being able to fit into the compact, the blush was too small to get proper coverage on my blush brush, and therefore, without some finagling, I wasn’t able to get even color on my cheeks.

TimeWise® Microdermabrasion Set
Since I am closer to 40 than 30, I have been checking out a lot of products that will keep my skin looking soft and young. I have tried a few microdermabrasion kits – some fabulous, some meh. The two-step Mary Kay TimeWise® kit is fabulous. You start with the exfoliator, which has tiny crystals that feel a bit like sand, and you massage it on wet skin for 1 to 2 minutes. You can feel it working without scratching. Rinse (and it did rinse quite easily – no crystals in the eye or stickiness), and then apply the replenishing serum. I LOVED the serum. It didn’t make my face greasy or sticky, just smooth and hydrated and happy. This kit really did make my face glow, but didn’t make it red or irritated. This is a combination that is effective yet gentle enough that you could use in the morning before heading to work. I have only used it twice, but I do feel that with repeated use it will improve my skin texture.

NEW Mary Kay® TimeWise Repair™ Volu-Firm™ Eye Renewal Cream
I faithfully use eye cream every morning and evening and always wonder if it’s making any difference. I have dark circles, bags, fine lines, puffiness, and I rub my eyes a lot. I always hope that an eye cream is at least not making things worse, but I also never see it actually improving anything. That is until I used this eye cream. Within three weeks I saw an improvement in the appearance of under-eye puffiness and sagginess and not only did I notice but my husband noticed too. The product comes with a slanted metal applicator to apply the cream, but I found that a bit awkward and have been applying it with my ring finger. I love that it really absorbs; there’s no greasiness, and I can put my makeup on soon after without it slipping or fading. There was no irritation, no heavy fragrance, and it feels good on the skin. This is a product that I will surely buy again.

If you’d like to learn more about Mary Kay, visit their website, Facebook page, or their YouTube Channel. Also, you have the chance to win some Mary Kay products of your own!

Giveaway: This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified.  Thank you all for entering!

I was provided with Mary Kay products to use and review, and was compensated for this post, however all opinions are my own.

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What I Wore: Perfect Pomegranate

Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore: Lysse Damaris Top and Dagne Dover Tiny Tote Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore: Lysse Damaris Top and Dagne Dover Tiny Tote Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore: Lysse Damaris Top and Dagne Dover Tiny Tote Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore: Lysse Damaris Top and Dagne Dover Tiny Tote
Top: Damaris Top c/o Lyssé | Jeans: Old Navy | Boots: Santana c/o DUO | Bag: Tiny Tote c/o Dagne Dover | Lipstick: Mary Kay True Dimensions in Mystic Plum | Coffee: Vigilante 😉

The older Emerson gets, the busier my weekends. Girl Scouts Daisies, dance classes, birthdays, homework (yes kindergarteners have homework!), play dates are all scheduled with errands and chores tucked in the free moments. I keep my weekend looks like a uniform so I can save my brain power for the tasks at hand. A pair of stretchy jeans, footwear that will be comfortable all day, and a top with stretch that will look great even after seatbelts, sitting, and being squashed into parkas. Lyssé sent me this top recently and the gorgeous berry color (they call it Pomegranate) keeps my look from being ordinary. This is one of my favorite colors, almost the same shade as our kitchen! Since my Saturdays are usually a two bag day (one big tote for Daisies stuff, ballet outfit, etc. and then my purse) I’ve recently switched to this adorable gold bag from Dagne Dover. It’s small and cute but well designed like its bigger sister to hold everything and have all the contents easily accessible. Got my coffee and I’m ready to take on the world of a five- almost six-year-old!

What I Wore: Weekend Errand Run

Wardrobe Oxygen in a Gap Softspun Knit dress, Adidas sneakers, Maui Jim Sweet Leilani sunglasses and a Frida Kahlo market bagdress | sunglasses | bag | bracelet | shoes

Wardrobe Oxygen in a Gap Softspun Knit dress, Adidas sneakers, Maui Jim Sweet Leilani sunglasses and a Frida Kahlo market bagDress: Gap (L) on sale! | Shoes: Adidas | Sunglasses: Sweet Leilani c/o Maui Jim | Bracelet: had forever (similar) | Bag: had forever (same)

My go-to errand running outfit is exactly this – a knit dress (with a pair of Thigh Society underneath), my Adidas shelltops or some sandals, a pair of sunglasses and a big tote to carry all my purchases.  Karl captured these shots when we were at the Greenbelt Farmers Market.  A shopping destination as well as a dining one and a social one, there’s plenty of vendors for food and drink (like Zeke’s which is where I got my iced coffee).  There’s plenty of neighbors to bump into and chat with, and a shady hill with a view of the market where we all sit and have brunch or lunch while the kids climb trees and chase each other.

This dress was a favorite on the trip because it’s a spongy stretchy knit that didn’t get misshapen from sitting in the car all day.  I’d throw on with my silver Birkenstocks for the drive, but could change the look pretty quickly by adding accessories and changing my shoes.  Gap calls this knit softspun and I really dig it. Seems others do too for they have plenty of new arrivals in the same fabric like this 3/4 sleeve a-line dress with a flattering neckline, this tank-style midi dress that is so versatile and would be amazing for travel, this banded skirt tank dress, and this midi cami dress that would be nice on its own or worn over a fitted tee which is back on trend (the ’90s are back in a big way!).  Do know this dress runs large, doesn’t shrink when washed, and can handle being thrown in the washer with jeans and towels and then a burning hot industrial dryer in Albuquerque with jeans and velcro and terry and come out looking exactly the same.

Shop Gap Softspun Collection:

Contest: Tolani Scarf from

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (
YouTube ( or

Good luck!

What I Wore: Test Pattern

Wardrobe Oxygen wearing aa Gwynnie Bee dress with Loeffler Randall Mini Rider bagdress | shoes| bag | sunglasses

Wardrobe Oxygen in a Gwynnie Bee Dress Loeffler Randall Mini Rider Bag and Nine West Peacock Pumps Wardrobe Oxygen in Gwynnie Bee Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a dress from Gwynnie Bee Dress: c/o Gwynnie Bee (14W)  | Shoes: Nine West (similar) | Bag: Loeffler Randall ‘Baby Rider’ | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Lipstick: Bite Beauty in Chai

This dress reminds me of a test pattern, it surely is an optical illusion.  This dress is why I love Gwynnie Bee: it’s something I would normally not try or wear but with an unlimited wardrobe I can take risks and know if it doesn’t work I can mail it back and get something else.  This is a bodycon dress, but the fabric is heavy and not really stretchy so it’s not like my belly button is on display (I do have a control garment on underneath).  I was pleasantly surprised by this dress but was at a loss as to what shoes to wear with it.  I thought it would look cute with a pair of sneakers like my shell tops, but it made me look stumpy.  Pumps in silver, nude, and black all looked too ’80s. I grabbed my peacock pumps (previously seen here) by chance and really loved how the patterns clashed and didn’t really go but kind of did in its randomness.  This bag too doesn’t really match, but I think works.  After finding the Mini Suki from Rebecca Minkoff too small, I picked this one up and it’s been great this summer.  It also comes with a belt strap so it can convert into a hip bag!

This tree is an art installation by Greenbelt Artist in Residence, Rachel Cross.  This tree has been in our community for a long time; while there are no branches the trunk remained.  In May, Rachel Cross collected donated knitted and crocheted items: scarves, gloves, doilies, afghans, and more.  During a town festival (this one in fact), she organized a Sit and Sew where individuals in our community sewed together the donated pieces.  Then in June, Cross took these pieces and connected them around the tree.  I think this is such a beautiful piece of art, and such a great representation of the community spirit of my town.  When trying to find a backdrop for this wacky mismatched colorful outfit, I felt this yarn-bombed tree was the perfect spot!


What I Wore: Air Flow

wardrobe oxygen what I Wore Gap Real Straight Jeans Karen Kane Messh Top Nine West Pumps wardrobe oxygen what I Wore Rough Tumble bag Ray Ban Aviators Nine West Flax wardrobe oxygen what I wore Gap Real Straight Jeans Karen Kane Top Rough Tumble Bag

Mesh top: c/o Karen by Karen Kane (similar) | Tank: c/o J.Jill | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Nine West (similar) | Bag: Rough & Tumble | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: MaryKay ‘Mystic Plum’

If you follow me on Instagram you know I wore this look to work Friday. Karen Kane was sweet enough to send me this awesome mesh sweatshirt this spring but then the whole cast situation made it impossible to wear. Once the cast came off this was one of the first long-sleeved tops I made sure to wear.  The jeans are the ones from Gap I mentioned in this post; after some weird years I find Gap to again be a destination for quality but reasonably priced denim.

And this bag I continue to adore; no need to buy a trendy brand name to enjoy high quality and style.  I found Rough & Tumble on Etsy and am thrilled to see they are growing, now with an e-commerce site.  A woman-owned business with everything made here in the USA?  Yes please!

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What I Wore: Faking Fall

wardrobe oxygen handbag heaven waverley barrel wardrobe oxygen what i wore handbag heaven wardrobe oxygen waverley barrel satchel handbag heavenBlouse: c/o Dobbin Clothing (on sale!) | Pants: LOFT | Shoes: Nine West ‘Flax’ | Watch: Citizen | Bracelets: Nordstrom, Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Bag: Waverley Barrel Satchel c/o Handbag Heaven | Lipstick: MaryKay in Mystic Plum

While it may be September and the fall fashions are in the stores, it’s still hot as heck outside! I’m craving the season’s looks so I’m making it work with the weather. Silk blouse and unlined trousers to stay cool, and accessories like my lipstick and bag to give the fall feel.

handbag heaven waverley barrel satchel bag

Speaking of the bag, Handbag Heaven sent me over their Waverley Barrel Satchel and if you follow me on Instagram you know I’ve been carrying it quite a lot. It’s big enough to carry everything to the office, but is structured so it doesn’t look lumpy or lose its shape. I have a few bags from Handbag Heaven and am impressed with the quality of the bags and how well they’re designed. This bag (and the Molly Structured Tote I featured in this post) have removable crossbody straps that can be adjusted and swivel and a minimum of three pockets inside for easy access to every purse essential.  Handbag Heaven is a great resource for vegan bags, they look great and the prices are fantastic.

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What I Wore: Party Time, Excellent

Dress: TBags Los Angeles c/o Gwynnie Bee | Bag: HOBO the Original (similar) | Shoes: Nine West “Flax” | Earrings: Argento Vivo

One of the greatest things about a Gwynnie Bee subscription is the selection of dresses perfect for every occasion this holiday season. Be it a prim frock for meeting your significant other’s family for the first time, sparkle and glitz for a cocktail party, or something a bit more wild like this for New Years, Gwynnie Bee has it. I fell in love with this dress, it’s a simply poly stretch so it’s super comfortable and travel-friendly fabric. While I could have dressed this down with black shoes and a black sweater over it, I decided to up the fun factor for a party with silver accessories, big hair, and bold bold lips (it’s Revlon ColorBurst Lacquer Balm in Vivacious with Mary Kay lip gloss in Mango Tango over it).

If you haven’t tried Gwynnie Bee yet and are size 10 – 32, the holiday season is the perfect time. Get a new outfit for every event on your calendar for a reasonable monthly fee. If you use this link, you can try out Gwynnie Bee for free for 30 days!

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Friday – White Blazer with Stripes

Tee – Ann Taylor (similar)
Pants Tahari “Hazel”
Booties – Miss Sixty (similar)
Belt – HOBO Original (similar)
Bag – HOBO Original (similar)
Silver cuff (similar)
LipstickMary Kay “Fuchsia”

On my wish list for this spring and summer was a lightweight white blazer. I had one from Caslon a few years ago that I wore to death and it has been near impossible to find a similar one. When I saw this one on the Nordstrom site the other week I felt it would be a great replacement. While it is lined, it still has stretch and is comfortable. It comes in petite sizing which makes my 5’3″ self happy. The jacket originally came with a horn button but I switched it out with a white one to make it more versatile.

I know this outfit it pretty formal for Casual Friday, but I have a meeting with a client at her office and wanted to look appropriate. I originally planned on wearing my Nine West pointy-toe pumps but a heel cap popped off as I was leaving the house. Knowing the client, they won’t even notice my tootsies on display, but I usually like to have a more conservative shoe for such meetings. Oh well, better than destroying my shoe and clip clopping down tile hallways!

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My Wardrobe Today – Wednesday

Watermelon-colored summer-weight v-neck sweater – Ann Taylor (no longer available – similar)
Black and ivory giraffe print skirtAnn Taylor LOFT
Black pumps – Nine West (no longer available – similar)
Silver hoops and cuff
Bag Brahmin “Melbourne Chelsea Selia”

This print looks so good with orange-red, but since I wore it yesterday I went slightly different with a pinky-red. Guess it’s not a drastic change, but I just love such a graphic print with bold colors, and most of my boldly-colored pieces are either wintry or uber-casual… or a shade of red!

Here’s my other score from LOFT – what a gorgeous skirt! Heavyweight twill that doesn’t crease, fully lined, classic silhouette. This could be worn year-round in such fabric – how fantastic would it look come fall with some tall black boots?!

I am in desperate need of a hair cut but want to wait until after Bonnaroo.  Think Emerson and I will have a date to the salon together because her hair is going past being beachy babe to scraggly craziness.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win $100 worth of products from Mary Kay!

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True Fashionista: Amethyst

Karl and I moved to Historic Old Greenbelt in 1999. When we bought this house, I swore it would be temporary. While the price was right, I didn’t like the idea of moving back to where I grew up (only a couple miles from my childhood home). Three years max, and we’d get a bigger house in a “cooler” community. When we moved in, our house was just a place to change our clothes and rest our heads. I worked retail, Karl worked night shifts as a UPS engineer.  We could go a week without seeing one another, so we surely didn’t see much of our town or its inhabitants.

However, each time I went to the farmers market, walked through a town festival, or headed to the town center to buy groceries or visit the dry cleaner I always seemed to see this same woman named Amethyst. She seemed to glow from within, and I felt drawn to her. She dressed to the beat of her own drum, and made it look completely commonplace to go shopping in flowing silk skirts and elf shoes. This was at a time when I was far less accepting and would happily snark on anyone who didn’t fit the sartorial norm yet I was constantly impressed by Amethyst’s clear personal style. She knew herself, loved herself, and expressed this through her clothing choices.

It is now 2012 and I am honored to call that woman in the flowing silk skirts my friend. By knowing Amethyst, I have become more comfortable and accepting of who I am right here and now, and she has helped me to see the beauty in this town, a town I now am proud to live in and raise my daughter.  Amethyst’s personal style is quite different from my own, but I am inspired by her to truly wear my heart on my sleeve and choose clothing more carefully and wear what accurately represents me and my personality.

I was at work late this week thinking Amethyst; what can I say about this woman, how can I explain why I consider her a True Fashionista, an inspiration to me not only in dress but in attitude? How can I represent her in the way she deserves?  It is as though she knew and updated her Facebook status with this quote:

“The urge to transform one’s appearance, to dance outdoors, to mock the powerful and embrace perfect strangers is not easy to suppress . . . The capacity for collective joy is encoded into us almost as deeply as the capacity for the erotic love of one human for another. We can live without it, as most of us do, but only at the risk of succumbing to the solitary nightmare of depression.

“Why not reclaim our distinctively human heritage as creatures who generate their own ecstatic pleasures out of music, color, feasting, and dance . . . There is no ‘point’ to it — no religious overtones, ideological message, or money to be made — just the chance, which we need much more of on this crowded planet, to acknowledge the miracle of our simultaneous existence with some sort of celebration.”

– Barbara Ehrenreich in her book “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy”


I must admit I was nervous asking Amethyst to be part of my True Fashionista series. I don’t even know if she knew I had a blog, and I worried she would find the whole thing weird or superficial. I should have known better – she loved the idea and was excited to be a part of it. Since she doesn’t have a blog, she agreed to have my husband take some pictures of her in one of her favorite places – Roosevelt Center in our happy community of Old Greenbelt.

As with all other True Fashionistas, I asked Amethyst the same five questions; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would probably describe it as funky bohemian.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I would say it stems from a desire for wearable self-expression. A individual may express oneself through a variety of mediums: music, painting, writing, poetry, photography, dance…..and dress! This is just as valid a medium as sketching a sunset or composing a sonata. It is art – a very personal and self-expressive art. Wearing clothes is something that we do anyway every single day, so why not take an extra moment and put together an outfit that has flair and tells the world who you are? It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. 

I find 90% of my clothes from thrift stores. Thrift store shopping encourages recycling, saves on the pocketbook, and there is an indescribable pleasure of finding something that you really like. It’s as if the Universe has aligned and has laid before you the perfect ensemble that reflects and honors who you are. To me this is much more fulfilling than going to a shopping mall where the clothes are cookie-cutter and mass produced.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I find sartorial inspiration from differing cultures around the world and through festivals and celebrations of all kind. Why wait for a special occasion to put on that shimmering hot pink kaftan that you picked up last month at the thrift store? Life is short – don’t hold back on fabulous!

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion tends to be dictated by others. Style is your own. Fashion is something that is followed. Style is innate. Fashion is merely clothes. Style is YOU.

“Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave.” ~Napoleon Bonaparte

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.” ~Gore Vidal

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her own personal style?
I would advise trusting yourself and delving into what you truly like and what reflects you as an individual. Fear not what others may think. It is an extremely liberating feeling to express yourself without thought as to how others may judge you. See yourself as a canvas and clothes as wearable art – the beauty of texture, the vibrancy of color and the fit of fabric combine to cradle your body and says to the world, “This is who I am!”.

Recent Beauty Buys: Creating a Natural “No Makeup” Look

Come summer, I feel like an idiot rocking shimmery shadows, high-pigment lips and airbrushed skin. Warm weather is a time when freckles and a flush is apropos, but as I age I find it less possible to achieve a natural “no makeup makeup” look with just a little dab of concealer and tinted lip balm. Though I am fastidious with sunscreen and moisturizer, my previous bad habits (hello, my name is Alison and I am an ex-tanaholic) have still left their calling card all over my face and I need a bit of help to look fresh.

This summer I dabbled in a few products to look fresh, polished but not too polished. Products that didn’t try to make me look ten year younger, but possibly would make my skin look less damaged from sun and fun. Some were a waste of money, some were pretty darn decent.

Miracle Skin Transformer SPF 20 Face
If Helena Christensen says some skincare product is the shizz and it doesn’t have a Le Mer pricetag, I’m willing to try it. This product is a primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and color all in one but it’s not like any BB Cream I have tried. The formula is thicker, dryer, and the coverage can be increased with additional layers without looking greasy or heavy.  It actually survives a day with humidity, sweat, and my greasy T-zone.

This won’t give you flawless skin, but I like it better than a BB or CC Cream for coverage, natural non-shiny finish, and longevity. It’s a great weekend product, and I like it with concealer and then flushed cheeks and bold lips.

Note: I ordered Medium and find it to be a good choice for my skintone.

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles “Neutralizer”
I reviewed this before and raved about it, but a few of your comments said the packaging is crap. I am on my third tube of this concealer and I have to agree. My second tube was only half used when it completely broke while I was in New York. I couldn’t get it to spin, I couldn’t eek out any more product. Sadly, I purchased two tubes at the same time so I still had one unopened to use.

I’m using that last tube, and it drives me batty. The packaging cracked, so you will click for more product and nothing happens. If you press down and spin it will click, but it cracks the packaging even more making me feel I only have a few more wears before it too is completely broken. Great formula, good coverage, but packaging so crappy it’s not worth it to purchase.

Revlon Illuminance Creme Shadow – Not Just Nudes
I’m not skilled with the makeups. All I know is from a couple years as a trainer for The Body Shop, and two amazing makeup artists (one Chanel, one Trish McEvoy) who took the time to teach me carefully while I sat at their counter (and thereby spent half a paycheck). Cream shadows and blushes are things I have tried and failed at. Too complicated, too easy to go wrong, harder to blend, easier to crease. But when I was researching the best shadows for aging lids, I saw so many artists recommend creams.

My 38-year old lids are much better with cream shadows than my 28-year old lids, and my 38-year old lids love this quad from Revlon. Some have a tiny hint of shimmer – not enough to look like a disco ball but enough to look dewy. The others are sparkle-free, but the cream formula keeps it from looking dowdy. I can pat this on almost-nude skin, but it also looks polished for the work day. I odn’t find it creases, though it does fade after a few hours.

Revlon Photoready Cream Blush in Coral Reef
As I mentioned, cream blush is another product I found too complicated but with age I am understanding the benefit. Powders look more obvious now that I have drier skin, larger pores, and fine lines. I already caught myself often adding a bit of flush with lipsticks and tinted lip balms, I felt an actual cream blush may be a better formulation.

When I was in NYC for the Foxcroft shoot, I learned a lot from the makeup artists. One thing I saw was that you could use extremely bold colors for a soft natural look. She used a very bright blush on me, but with a light hand so it looked natural. Coral Reef looked to be a similar color, and is that not-too-cool of a shade that I find flattering (I usually wear NARS Orgasm blush).

First application… I looked feverish. Second application… very clown-like. Third time’s the charm. I applied it by tapping my fingers gently in the pot, then tapping gently on the apples of my cheeks, and then softly blending. I can then add more for a bolder look. This makes for a far more natural flush, and one that looks good on bare or almost-bare skin. I apply it under any powder or wear on its own – it is far better than lipsticks and tinted balms because there isn’t any smeary greasy feel and it holds well all day long.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
I know, I know, you all have had this shadow set for 50,000 years and where have I been? Well I’ve been perfectly content with Revlon Colorstay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis… until Revlon went and discontinued it. I have bought every other neutral quad from Revlon and I find them too gray, too yellow, too pale, too dark. So I decided to get what is considered the best.

And it’s the best I have tried. The colors are perfect for creating a polished “nude” eye, amping up with a bit of contour, or a subtle daytime-friendly smoky eye. There’s a matte black shadow in the kit that could make your smoky eye dramatic enough for evening, but I have only used it so far as a liner. But yeah, I like every color in the palette and wish I bought this sooner.

Sarah of StyleIt mentioned she saw this cult fave in Duane Reade so I went looking for it and found it at Loved across the pond for its ability to airbrush skin without color, I wanted to try it and see if it would hide pores and fine lines without looking made up.

The instructions say nanoblur can be worn on bare skin or over foundation. On bare skin it works… okay. The consistency is a bit like toothpaste or wood filler and you need to pat, not rub. Rub, and you get weird white sticky ick on your skin that you need to rub like crazy to make it go away. But dabbing a teensy bit at a time and you can really blur out wrinkles and pores on bare skin, and cover with a bit of powder for a natural look.

Over foundation… I just can’t get it to work. It balls up, it’s visible, it feels gross, it won’t pat in and the rubbing makes the same mess as on bare skin. Maybe it needs a special applicator or technique, I’m not patient enough to figure it out.

Boots No7 Photo Fix Wrinkle Filler & Primer
I was scraping the last bit of primer out of my Smashbox tube and was wondering if there was a product on the market just as good but not as pricey. This primer from Boots received a lot of good reviews and I have enjoyed other products from the line so I decided to give it a try.

I hate to say this now because it’s only a month, but I think I like Boots’ primer better than Smashbox. It dries faster, it seems to blur the skin and improve its look even without foundation, and it doesn’t feel heavy. Not too shabby!

Mary Kay TimeWise Body™ Targeted-Action® Toning Lotion
The fabulous Rebecca Pruett reached out to me asking if I’d like to try a product from Mary Kay. Showing more skin in the warmer weather, I am noticing the loss of elasticity in my aging skin. I asked to try TimeWise Body™ Targeted-Action® Toning Lotion… and wow I really like it. I still apply Neutrogena Body Oil after my shower, but when my skin has dried I apply this as well, focusing on my arms and legs. Karl really likes the scent and he doesn’t like most fragranced lotions. I like that it absorbs quickly and I think does help firm up the skin a bit.  I think places like my knees look better after using this for a few weeks.  I like this enough that when it runs out I will be getting more.  It’s not sticky, the scent isn’t so strong it competes with my perfume, but you can smell it’s rose/citrus/clean scent if up close (and it doesn’t smell grody or overwhelming when your body heats up).  Not really no-makeup makeup look, but it does make my skin look better and feel more comfortable shedding layers this season.

Cover Girl LashBlast Clump Crusher
You know me, I am always on the hunt for the perfect mascara. While DiorShow is almost Holy Grail, the price is just not possible for me. After reading multiple rave reviews I decided to try Clump Crusher… and I am a fan.

This is a really great mascara for the no-makeup makeup look because it really does crush clumps, giving you long, thick, lush lashes that don’t look sticky. It’s easy to layer for more impact, it survives sweat and the occasional tear-inducing viral video at lunchtime yet washes off easily with my evening cleanser.

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Stacy London and the Westfield Style Tour Come to Maryland

It’s official, I have drank the Stacy London Kool-Aid, and I have to say it’s pretty delicious.

I have been a fan of TLC’s show, What Not to Wear for many years. Unlike many makeover shows, What Not to Wear keeps it real, helping real women with real lives learn how to dress their bodies. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly focus on flattering the figure a woman has, instead of worrying about the latest trends. London doesn’t mince words on the show, though she provides real-life advice on how to dress one’s body as well as one’s lifestyle.

Along with offering advice on What Not to Wear, London and Cindy McLaughlin co-created Style for Hire, an online agency that matches women with trained stylists in their area. Style for Hire began in the DC area and is now available nationwide for consultations, closet audits, personal shopping sessions, and more.

This past weekend (as well as this coming weekend), Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland is hosting the Westfield Style Tour. The Westfield Style Tour offers free beauty makeovers, free professional fashion consultations with Style for Hire stylists.  They created a pop-up in Center Court with mannequins showcasing spring fashions, racks of clothing and shoes from mall shops for five-minute fashion consultations, and stylists and makeup artists to provide on-the-spot makeovers.  This past weekend, they also offered an opportunity to meet and get your photo taken with London, who is also the Creative Director for Westfield Style.  

London and her Style for Hire stylists focus on geometry – the shape of your body and the shape of garments, coming up with the perfect flattering equation. They work with you to help shopping be enjoyable, and successful. They begin with a five-minute consultation, will take their clients to the mall to learn how to shop for their bodies, and help them find easy basics from which to grow their wardrobe. Seeing and hearing Stacy London discuss Style for Hire was awesome – I had heard of the program (and know a few talented folks who are part of it), but after hearing her passionately preach the benefits, I knew it was a program worth the money to consider.

I always wonder how a slim woman from the fashion industry like London came to be a woman who really “gets” the issues many find with dressing their bodies. From London’s Wikipedia page I found this quote from her:

“I have been every size in my life. I’ve been smaller than a zero, up through a size 16. I’ve had lots of issues with body image and weight my whole life and it really took a great deal of work to recognize that at all those weights, no matter how I felt, I could still find a dress that made me feel sexy and powerful.”

I was lucky to have an opportunity to interview Stacy London before the Westfield Style Tour, and asked her many of the questions that you readers regularly come to me to answer. Why not get a second opinion from an expert?

And this is where the Kool-Aid was gulped happily. Stacy was so gracious and personable, yet just as intense as you would expect. She looked me in the eye the entire time, and you could feel the passion she has for the subject of style for all women. I wanted to head to a bar with her, buy her a glass of wine, and blather on about hemlines and wrap dresses until last call. I wanted to share my experiences of being so many different sizes, that I too channeled Robert Smith in my high school sartorial choices, and where she got her amazing peeptoe booties.

And now onto your burning questions!

How to Dress a Postpartum Body – Stacy London suggests creating a waist where there isn’t one. While an empire waist can hide a soft tummy, creating one just above the belly and lower than an empire waist is more flattering and will look less like maternity clothes. She, like I, believes in the power of a wrap dress, and recommended that a woman NOT hide under fabric – the more you’re wearing, the bigger you look.

How to Dress when Losing Weight – London says it takes time to lose the weight, and you have to put a similar investment and effort into your wardrobe. It’s important to keep up your wardrobe with your body changes, and purchasing transition pieces are worth the investment.

Best Mall Shops for Women who are Petite and Curvy – London recommends Ann Taylor, LOFT, Banana Republic, and NY & Company for petite women who have curves or aren’t a size 2. She believes these brands have pant silhouettes and styles that flatter curvy frames, even if those curves are on a woman below 5’5” She also feels that J. Crew “does everything right.”

Best Mall Shop for Tall Women – Stacy London says NY & Company has a very generous seam allowance in their pants, so if their pant lengths aren’t long enough it’s easy to have a tailor or seamstress let out the pants to the perfect length.

If you are in the DC area, I encourage you to check out the Westfield Style Tour at Montgomery Mall. For those in other parts of the US, check with your local Westfield mall to see if Stacy London and her team of Style for Hire stylists will be visiting. And if you’re looking for some personalized help on how to shop and dress your figure, check out Style for Hire. Like me, you may find yourself guzzling the Stacy London Kool-Aid and loving it!

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Monday: Taste the Rainbow

Dress: c/o Gwynnie Bee | Belt: Another Line (similar) | Shoes: Boutique 9 | Bracelets: Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Lauren Ralph Lauren | Earrings: Claire’s (similar) | Coat: Thrifted (similar) | Lipstick: c/o Mary Kay Nourishine Lip Gloss in Mango Tango

Some days you just need to wear a rainbow! Gwynnie Bee sent me their Pinterest board of new arrivals and as soon as I saw this dress I had to put it in my virtual closet! It comes with a self-belt, but I chose to wear it with a wide leather one to switch up the silhouette since it’s a bit big and long on me. It’s a synthetic jersey that doesn’t cling and can easily be worn to the office or dressed up for a night out or holiday party, think it would look fantastic with black opaque tights and booties!  If you’re curious about Gwynnie Bee, check out my detailed post about them here.

I can’t believe how warm it is today, by time I got off the Metro the coat was just too much and I shrugged it off.  Speaking of getting off the Metro, on my way to the office I stopped by the glasses store and picked up my glasses, you can see a picture of them on my Instagram account and I will be likely wearing them in my next outfit post!

Note: I do have a free subscription to Gwynnie Bee and receive a commission on all new subscribers who mention Wardrobe Oxygen when signing up.  However the choice to wear the clothes and which pieces is all mine, and I promote and support Gwynnie Bee because I honestly believe in the company and the service they provide.  Good people, good company, and good fashion for plus sized and cusp-sized women!

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My Best Beauty Buys of 2011

2011 was a year where I reclaimed myself. Emerson was born at the beginning of 2009, and that year was a fog of sleepless nights, pumping milk, and I think a case of mild PPD. 2010 I started getting regular sleep and got back into the swing of things with my blog, my job, and my body. I began Weight Watchers, and started finding my personal style. And 2011 is when it all clicked again. I am not the same woman I was in 2008 – I don’t have the same exact personal style, don’t have the same body, and surely don’t have the same lifestyle. Instead of missing what I had, I created a new Alison.

In 2011 I focused on taking care of myself, be it with clothing that fit and flattered this new figure, choosing smart when eating, and also taking better care of my skin and hair. Below is a list of products I started using in 2011 that made a major difference with my hair or skin. Products that transformed, simplified, and are worthy of a re-purchase.

Crest 3D White Vivid Toothpaste. I love coffee, red wine, and the occasional Diet Coke. Thing is, these are some of the worst things for teeth. Over the past couple of years my teeth have yellowed to the point that I started a fund to get my teeth professional bleached. I tried a couple at-home bleaching systems and either they were ineffective, or caused major sensitivity. A couple months ago, Crest 3D was on sale and my husband bought a tube. I couldn’t believe it would be more effective than any other whitening toothpaste I have used.

My husband and I have seen a drastic difference in our teeth since using Crest 3D White Vivid. We don’t have blinding white teeth, but it has bleached our teeth enough that we no longer think about our teeth looking yellow, and I forgot about my teeth bleaching fund. Not only is it effective, but neither of us experience any sensitivity from it. We just got home from Target where they are selling 2-packs of the toothpaste for $5.00 – we bought two packs. I was always a Colgate girl, but Crest 3D White Vivid has made me a Crest convert.

L’Oreal Youth Code Serum. I wrote about this here, and I have to continue with the rave reviews. I use this every morning before my SPF moisturizer and every night over my retinol and under my night cream. I still don’t know what it does, but it makes my skin look better and yes, younger.

Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder. A month or so ago I had a professional facial. When I asked the esthetician what I should change about my skincare regimen, she suggested adding a Vitamin C serum for daytime to fight free radicals and even skintone. Doing a bit of research, I chose the Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder. I put ½ to 1 scoopful into two pumps of the L’Oreal Youth Code Serum and apply each morning before my SPF moisturizer. It doesn’t irritate, it smells delish, a little goes a long way, and I think in just a month it has lightened some of my freckles and age spots.

Clarisonic Mia. I bought myself this gadget for my birthday back in January and have felt pretty meh about it. A couple months ago Une Femme D’un Certain Age mentioned how she uses the Clarisonic sans cleanser just to exfoliate. Since then, I keep it in my shower and exfoliate with it if my skin is already clean, or use it with cleanser if my face is dirty. This means it gets used on my face about 4x/week. I think it does a better job at exfoliating when not used with cleanser, and since using it consistently I think my pores look smaller and I no longer have the tiny white bumps on my chin.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. I have written about this before. It’s awesome. This cleanser is super gentle, rinses clean, but doesn’t leave my skin feeling taut or dry. No irritation, no redness, and no greasy feeling that I felt with Cetaphil. It also works great with the Clarisonic Mia.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes. I have been against these wipes because I hate the idea of all this waste. Then I thought about how I end up using cotton pads or toilet paper to apply makeup remover, and then use face wash to remove the greasy residue. By using these wipes when I wear liquid liner or other difficult makeup, I reduce steps, and I only need to use one product.

I bought them for Bonnaroo and became a convert. They don’t irritate my contacts-wearing eyes, I don’t have to rinse afterwards, and they really get my skin very clean without being dry or taut. I cut the wipes in half – saves money and reduces trash. I don’t buy the fancy container, I get the refill packs and just use that.

At the same time I received a pack of the wipes from Yes to Cucumbers – they can’t compare to Neutrogena in gentleness, and the ability to remove the most stubborn cosmetics.  I would wipe with the Yes to Cucumbers, and then wipe with Neutrogena and remove a ton more makeup.

Klorane Dry Shampoo. I have tried a half a dozen dry shampoos and each one is… fine. Some good points, and some bad. I feared Klorane because as a brunette I didn’t want the ashy look to my hair. While Klorane goes on hair white, it will actually brush out leaving hair shiny and its natural color. I can’t use it on curly hair because I do need to brush a lot, but Klorane will extend a blow-out, add body, de-grease my roots without a harsh smell, ashy residue, or a weird texture to my hair.

T3 Tourmaline Evolution Hair Dryer. You get what you pay for. For years I have been using my red Conair dryer and I felt it was fine. My hair got dry, and isn’t that the point? Then Misikko contacted me and asked me if I would like to try out their T3 Evolution dryer. I would never normally purchase such a costly dryer, but my Conair was getting so old it would burn my hand if I used it too long and would often stop working mid-styling.

The T3 is like a Corvette to my old Yugo dryer; it dries my hair faster, I have fewer split ends, my color lasts longer, and my hair has more shine. Before, I used leave-in conditioners, heat protectants, and shine serums on my hair to make it look and feel less damaged. Now with the T3 I don’t need any of that for healthy hair. While the dryer isn’t cheap, when I think how much I save on products to heal and protect my hair from my old cheapy dryer, it’s worth the money. I no longer fear drying my hair!

TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier. Highlighters always make me look like a disco ball or greasy. As I age, my skin is less luminous. I wanted a product that would just make my skin look dewy and healthy, not Studio 54. April, a long-time reader suggested TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier and I have been using it daily ever since. I apply it to my brow bones, inner corner of my eyes, cheek bones and bow of my lip. If I want it really subtle, I apply it under foundation. Lately I apply it over foundation and under powder and it gives a gorgeous, natural luminous look. This product can also multi-task – I will apply some to lipstick to make it a shimmer, apply it heavy for a shimmery nighttime look, and have even applied it to shoulders and décolleté for glowing skin on a summer night. Even though I have used it daily for months, I have yet to hit pan. One compact of Mary-Lou Manzier will likely last me over a year which makes it a great value.

Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara. BlogHer sent me a tube of this to review back in June and I was highly impressed. I am extremely critical of mascaras and usually another person’s Holy Grail is meh on my lashes. If I could afford it, I would buy a new tube of DiorShow every month. So when I got a tube of Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara I was skeptical. Come to find out, it was one of the best mascaras I have ever tried. I was so thrilled when Mary Kay sent me a second tube a couple months ago, and I liked it just as much as I did this summer.

Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara has one of those spiky brushes, but it seems to work better than the ones I tried by CoverGirl and Maybelline. It coats every lash, building volume and lengthening. It dries fast enough to not smear and it also holds the curl from my lash curler. It doesn’t flake, and doesn’t irritate. It’s not waterproof, but it stays put if I sweat or watch a sappy movie. At $15.00 a tube, it’s far more reasonable than DiorShow (and it doesn’t dry up as quickly as a tube of DiorShow).

What are some of your favorite new (or new to you) beauty products from this past year?

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Book Review and Giveaway: Ladies’ Night

It’s hard to explain to a non-blogger what it is like when you choose blogging as a profession. An outsider doesn’t understand why you spend every waking moment with a camera or SmartPhone, and how something as minor as a title of a post can make or break your monthly income. So to read a book where the protagonist is a successful Lifestyle Blogger is quite a treat.

Recently BlogHer gave me the opportunity to check out Mary Kay Andrews’ latest book, Ladies’ Night. The book is about Grace, a Lifestyle Blogger who is going through a divorce and a major life change. When Grace decided to react to her husband’s infidelity by driving his car into their backyard swimming pool, she was forced to attend weekly counseling sessions with fellow women (and one man) going through divorce. The group became friends, and through it had a weekly Ladies’ Night, hence the name of the book.


I really enjoyed Ladies’ Night – it was an engaging and fun read. I looked forward to reading it each evening after a long day at work and putting Emerson to bed; it was my mini escape. It was fun to find that Andrews didn’t just write this book, but has a whole site dedicated to it with reading group discussion questions and recipes for food inspired by or mentioned in the novel. I must say while reading the book I was craving some crab corn bisque and was excited to find the recipe on the site!

Having this book from a blogger’s point of view was interesting; you saw into how a blogger makes money and has to do a lot of business deals and networking to stay relevant and profitable. But more than that, the book showed how strangers can quickly become best friends, and the power of a group of girlfriends and the occasional Girls’ Night.

Since having Emerson, my Ladies’ Nights are less frequent, but more necessary. Having that time with people you love and trust and to be able to have a couple of cocktails, dance, and gab about unimportant topics is so healthy and recharges me for work and family life. Each summer, a few of my girlfriends and I head to the beach for a weekend. We lay out, read trashy magazines, go out to dinner, hit a few bars. We drink, we dance, we laugh, we eat Buffalo wings at 3am. We let go of the drama and stress at home for those couple of days and come back better friends and better people.

This giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified.  Thanks for entering!

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Rocking the Red – Bright Lipstick Review

I have a pretty standard beauty wardrobe – some days I do a thin line of black liquid liner with a darker lip, other days I do a stronger eye and a soft glossy pink lip. Not too dramatic of changes, and pretty much the two same looks I have rocked for a decade.

This fall when bright red lips came on the scene, I decided to figure out how to rock the red. I have always felt that a true red lip was too strong and clown-like on me, but I was seeing women of all ages and skintones wearing it quite well. If they could do it, so could I! Along with red, I tried some brighter and stronger pinks. Below are my reviews – I tried to take the pictures in natural light with minimal makeup on so you can get a true feel of how the lipsticks work with my personal skintone.

This has been a hot red lipcolor for many seasons, thanks to Jenna Lyons. I figured it could never work on me, as I look far better in cool tones, and this is a very orange red. Then I saw a friend who is a true Winter wear this lipstick and it looked amazing – a real contrast, an accessory more so than a beauty product. I decided to take a chance and have liked the result.

This is not a red for a shy violet – this is a lipstick that announces itself before your ensemble. However like a statement accessory, it can really complete a look. When I wear Heatwave, I hardly wear any other makeup – a touch of concealer and blush, a few coats of mascara, and that’s it. If I wear more makeup I can quickly look as though I am performing in a play, keeping the skin fresh really balances the intense pigment.

And speaking of pigment, this lipstick is a wonderful formula – long lasting without being drying, very rich, opaque pigment, doesn’t bleed, wears nicely through the day without leaving a weird line around the lip edge. This is a lipstick that is worth the pricepoint, and I have felt this way about every NARS lipstick I have owned.

I have used long-wearing liquid lipcolors like these in the past and despised them – extremely drying, weird line around the lip edge, sticky, unnatural finish. However, this lipstick got great reviews online and I have found in the past that Revlon does long-wearing better than most other brands.

This is my first red that I bought, and still the one I wear the most. Like “Heatwave,” “Top Tomato” has an orange base, but it’s not as strong. Like other long-wearing lipcolors, this product is sticky and drying, but with a layer of balm on top (I use Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose), it maintains its longevity while looking soft and feeling comfortable.

I have found it’s best to put on a thin layer, and while still damp apply a second layer – this keeps it from creating a weird line, being clumpy, or strange in finish. By putting a balm over it, it does keep it from lasting 12 hours, but I only need to apply once in a workday, and it fades away nicely.

Honestly, I can’t recall how I acquired this lipstick – I think my sister loaned it to me once when we dressed up to see Rocky Horror. I can remember it being a really intense costume-like red, but with red lips coming back en vogue, I tried it again… and liked it.

Unlike the reds above, this is a more… elegant red. It’s dark, brick red with a velvety matte finish. It glides on nicely, feels good, wears nicely. It doesn’t last as long as NARS, but has a luxurious feel and finish. This looks great with a matte powdered face for a vintage feel, or with a fresh face – today I wore it with little foundation, a touch of blush and just mascara.

This is the type of red that looks amazing in the tube, and dreadful on me. These pictures are a bit deceiving, this is a very cherry red, almost looks pink, and quite false with my skintone. It’s the type of color that requires me to alter my blush color and use a ton of concealer to not look off, and I don’t have enough time or patience for such beauty routines.

However, it’s a very creamy formula that feels good on the lips and stays on nicely even through a cup of coffee.  If you have very fair or a darker complexion you may like this color because it is a cheery pop of cherry red, and would be a lovely complement to this spring’s fashion colors.

I bought this thinking it would be a dark wine red, but sheer and more wearable for daytime.  In fact, this is a great alternative to Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey – a color that looks like your lips but darker, richer, and shinier.  The more you layer, the deeper the shade, but even with a thick application it just looks as though I ate berries, not that I drank wine.  This has become a mainstay in my makeup bag – I can apply it without a mirror, can even use it as blush in a pinch.  It’s an easy wear like Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose, but a darker, more sophisticated color.  It also layers nicely over other colors to make a pinky lipstick more subdued, a red more berry.  It’s hydrating, soft, natural shine, pretty darn fabulous.  I keep thinking I should try this product in another color, but none of the other colors have appealed to me… yet.  This however is a drugstore winner.

This was 99 cents on and I needed a bit more for free shipping.  The lipstick arrived, and I was sure I would toss it in the trash.  Instead, I found myself wearing it almost weekly.

The lipstick is cheap – it’s a bit greasy, the lipstick broke off the tube and got smooshed in the cap, it doesn’t last more than a couple hours… but it’s the darn coolest looking color.  Metallic without being too flashy for daytime, a deep blue undertone that you can only see in certain colors, and it really brightens my face.  I love wearing it with cool toned clothing for a real pop.  If I powder my lips first, the color lasts far longer – I’ll fill a retractile lip pencil with the color for touch-ups away from home.  I like enough that I am planning on finding a higher-quality brand that has a similar color because I think it’s super fun.  Best 99 cents I have spent in a long time!

Note: I also got Nouveau Pink from Wet n Wild and wear it often but couldn’t find the tube at the time of this review.  It’s very very similar to Fuchsia With Blue Pearl, but without the pearly blue part.  In daylight, they look almost exactly the same.

Thanks to BlogHer, MaryKay recently sent me a few pieces from their makeup line to check out.  I was thrilled to get another tube of their amazing mascara (review here), but felt the shadows and lipstick they sent me were a bit too intense for my style.  Then one day, I decided to try out the lipstick and have worn it many times since.

This is not a quiet color, it’s dark, intense.  A mature fuchsia, but one that really complemented the bright bold shades of fall and winter.  I liked that it wasn’t too candy pink – that helped it look great with cobalt blue as much as it did with pumpkin orange.  Unlike some of the bold reds, I feel this color looks better with a polished face – not a lot of color, but a finished look with defined lashes and brows.  I don’t think I would buy this again, and find it a bit too dark/gloomy for my skintone come spring, but I think it could be quite lovely on a very fair face or one with a very dark complexion.  The formula is nice – almost rivals NARS for being creamy, high pigment, and long lasting without being drying.  I would try another Mary Kay lipstick in a different color after experiencing this tube.

Final verdict?  Not only am I glad I am not a beauty blogger (major props to you folks, it’s not an easy job!), I have become a bright lip convert.  As I have gotten older, I find a dark eye is aging, and a bright lip makes my teeth look whiter, my skin looks brighter, and it distracts the eye from dark circles, wrinkles, and such.  A more matte or creamy formula feels good and looks best, and it has been really fun getting outside of my cosmetics comfort zone!

Note: The Mary Kay lipstick was given to me by the company, all other lipsticks were purchased by me (except maybe the Revlon matte, which may have been purchased by my sister).  I was not asked to do a review of these products and none of the companies are aware that I am doing this post. 

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Ask Allie: My Beauty Routine

I have wavy hair like yours and I was wondering if you could tell me how you styled it and the products you used.

I wash and condition with either L’Oreal Vive Pro or Pureology Hydrate. Pureology is far better than L’Oreal – thicker, richer, kinder to the hair and keeps color far longer but L’Oreal is a fraction of a price. Lately I have been DIY with haircolor which is cheaper and temporary, so I don’t feel as bad about cheating with L’Oreal.

For Straight/Slightly Wavy Styles
While damp, I put either a pea size amount of Fekkai Advanced Glossing Creme or a few sprays of Neil George Detangle Nourishing Spray on it. I do the Fekkai Creme when the weather is super dry and I am more prone to flyaways, the Neil George when life is more humid. Then I use a wood-bristle brush (this one from Body Shop, I have replaced it multiple times but have been using the same style one for over a decade) and dry with this hair dryer (no nozzle or fancy things).

I dry starting with my bangs, since they can get the most jacked up by air drying. I read in a magazine once that Ted Gibson styled Reese Witherspoon’s bangs by using a paddle brush and swiping back and forth like windshield wipers while pointing the dryer nozzle straight down on them. Then the rest is done pretty haphazardly while reading Rolling Stone or a book via Kindle app on my phone. I usually brush the hair away from my face when drying to get it to wave and twist nicely around my head. When dry, I use this flat iron on 390 degrees and will smooth the parts I missed and give a bit of wave where needed. When finished, I do a few spritz of the Neil George Spray and finger-comb it in to separate and add shine.

For Curly Styles
Curly hair only really works on me when it’s humid. Late summer, rainy days… that’s when my hair wants to loop de loop. I wash my hair at night – same shampoo, and then about 6 spritzes of Neil George. Scrunch, let air dry, get bedhead, go crazy. In the morning my hair is about 60% fabulous curls and 40% stringy Kip Winger hair. So I use this curling iron on it, always curling away from the face. Since bangs don’t work well with this method, I curl them into the rest of the hair away from the brow, parting in the middle. When they are really bed-heady, I sometimes pull the bangs to the side and clip them. Once the hair is curled and set, a few more spritzes of Neil George and very gentle finger combing to break up curls and make it cohesive.

I love your blush! It makes you look really cheery and healthy and natural? Would you do a tutorial for us?

I use this brush from Trish McEvoy, and my blush is NARS Orgasm. I apply my foundation then concealer, I set it with a very light matte bronzing powder (currently this one from Rimmel). Then I swirl the blush brush in Orgasm, swirl in circles towards the ears, while smiling so it mainly hits the apple of my cheeks, and up towards the ears.

I’ve been pondering for a few months how I can wear red lipstick …. and have it stick around. The times I’ve tried, it has faded (or rubbed away into an awkward looks-like-lip-liner line of red, and an otherwise-neutral lip) quickly. You often wear very opaque lip color … how do you manage to make it stick around and not smear all over your face?

I first dab my lips with powder so they are pretty dry, and use a dry or matte formula of lipstick or these balm stains from Revlon. I keep the lipstick in the pocket of my outfit so I have it available each time I stop by the bathroom or end up in the mirrored elevator by myself so I can reapply quickly. After applying, I suck on my index finger to get any lipstick off the inner lips so it won’t get on my teeth.

What is your skincare routine? You have great skin and we are similar ages.

In the evening, I wash my face with CeraVe. Sometimes I wash with my hands, sometimes with my Clarisonic Mia. I use this eye cream from Mary Kay, put Roc Retinol night treatment on, a layer of L’Oreal Youth Code Serum, rub it in until it’s dry, and then a layer of night cream. Right now I am using the L’Oreal Collagen cream because it was on mega sale at and I had used it before and liked how it hydrated without feeling at all greasy.

In the morning, I wipe my face with Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel and apply the same Mary Kay eye cream. I then take one scoop of this Vitamin C powder from Philosophy and mix it in my palm with two squirts of L’Oreal Youth Code serum and apply to my face. If I wear BB Cream, that’s all I do, if I wear foundation or just concealer I do a layer of Olay SPF 15.

About once a week I do some sort of exfoliation, usually via a sample that came with a purchase. However lately I have been using this microdermabrasion kit from Mary Kay and I really like it.

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