Friday, March 23, 2012

You say it's your birthday?

I was brought up believing that your birthday was super-special. You were treated to presents, lots of attention, a party and a big slab of cake. If you went out to dinner that cake would usually be on the house.

I was also brought up believing that fake-birthdays were super-special.

Fake birthdays happened most nights that my family went out to dinner. Not on someones birthday, just like on any old Friday night. When the waitress would come over at the end of the meal to ask if anyone was interested in dessert my dad would say, “Well, we do have a birthday girl here...” The waitress would give my dad a wink and come back with a big piece of cake, candles, and a song at no additional charge. My family would happily pass the slice around the table, all giggling and shushing each other.

The fake-birthday celebrations went on into my teen years.

Stolen merchandise.
I remember coming home from college with my friend Erik. We all went out to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner and since Erik was our guest, my dad told the waitress that it was his birthday. I'll never forget the mortified look on Erik’s face when a heard of waiters, waitresses and busboys approached our table with the biggest piece of mud pie you ever saw singing the loudest version of Happy Birthday ever. The entire restaurant joined in the singing, praising Erik on his special day. Erik wanted to die and was in awe that my family would lie and do something like that on any sort of a regular basis.

I was in awe that every family didn’t take advantage of the free cake thing. It seemed like a no brainer.

I still get free stuff on my birthday, but today it’s a little more legit.

Did you know that you can get a free brow wax on your birthday at the benefit counter? Well you can, and why wouldn’t you? IT’S FREE. Just bring a few bucks along for a tip and you are good to go. You can mosey on up to their "brow bar" (cute) on your lunch hour and get a little mini-face-lift. And when you're done, they will apply their make up over the red left behind so when you go back to the office instead of having people ask you, "what happened - did someone hit you in the eyes?" they will say, "happy birthday beautiful, you look younger than you did this morning!"

Aveda will give you a consultation on what hair products would work best for your 'do along with some free samples of shampoo and conditioner to take home on your special day. You kind of have to sit and listen to their spiel to get the goods, like when you go and hear someone talk about time shares then you get a free dinner at a steakhouse, but hey, you get free stuff. Pretty small samples but again, free.

Last but not least is the queen bee of birthday surprises from my girlfriend Sephora. Being a beauty insider gets me free goods every year and this year they did not disappoint. I got two mini lip balms by sugar, one in the original, fruity pebbles smelling clear balm that I have raved about in the past, and one in their rose tint – so pretty and light and great for when I want just a blush of color on my pout. Yummy.

Have your cake and eat it too - whether it’s your birthday, or not.

Oh, but my dad would have been totally busted at the benefit counter – they ask to see your ID to prove it really is your birthday. They’re no dummies.

I don’t really consider it a lie to say you were born to get a free piece of mud pie. It’s more of a fib. You were born, you had a birthday at some point in the past year, right?

Yes, you did.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Read it and red it.

For the past eight years I have worked at an investment firm; and for the past eight years I have ignored the multiple copies of The Wall Street Journal strewn throughout the office.

It’s like it’s written in a foreign language – a language called money.

But this morning, as I was grabbing it to toss on my boss' desk something happened that has never happened before. Something caught my eye on the front page of “The Journal.”

I can refer to it now as The Journal since I have read it once, right? I can be all cool and use that slang...The Journal, The Times, The Voice, you know what I’m saying...I enjoy my periodicals.

So here is what got my attention, a teaser on the top of the front page:

The Bold Era in Lipstick

I hurriedly tossed aside the boring sections of the paper and grabbed my important story. My mind raced - they write about lipstick in The Journal? Why had nobody told me this before???

What I imagine myself looking like
in red lipstick.
The article talks about how bright lips are in right now. Like waaaay in. Old school Hollywood lips are now being thought of like a new accessory – and I love a new accessory.

So I decided to go out and get bold with my lips, even though that has kind of scared me in the past. I knew a few things going into picking out that perfect bright shade:
  • I wanted more of a red, rather than a pink or coral.
  • I wanted to spend less than twenty bucks.
  • I was going to need help.
I also knew that when you do a bight color on your lips, you want to tone down the rest of your face. The article suggested putting on your pout first (usually my last step, like the frosting on the cake) and put the rest of your face on, sparingly, based around your lips.

Kind of like when I plan an entire outfit around a bracelet – OK, I was up for this challenge.

I knew right where to go - right where I could get this red situation taken care of bing-bang-boom.

It was a no brainer - I went to the MAC counter.

MAC knows bold, MAC knows red, and MAC knows a good price point, coming in at $14.50.

I explained to my MAC artist what I was looking for. She gave me the once over and on the first try pulled out the perfect red for me.

Russian Red is my red. A blue-based matte lipstick, this red was a huge departure from my usual natural everyday gloss.

After she applied it, I felt like a 50's move star, ready for my close up.

On my walk back to the office I noticed my reflection in a window and saw my pretty red lips shining back at me.

The article was right, this is my new favorite accessory! And I had it all along, it just needed a coat of paint to make it exciting and new.

So now I'm off for a coffee break, to sip my cappuccino, peruse my stolen-from-work copy of The Journal, and feel sassy about my new red lips.

What I look like in red lipstick. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

German chocolate.

When my mother-in-law comes over, the first fifteen minutes of her visit are always spent pulling things out of her giant, quilted, sunflower emblazoned bag.

Coupons she has clipped for me, movies she has borrowed, old toys that used to belong to my husband that she thinks the kids would now enjoy, etc. Thanks to her we are now the proud owners of his vintage (a.k.a. old) Fisher Price xylophone, mooing pull-along cow and the What’s In My Pockets? book.

Toy Heaven - circa 1976.

But then she pulled something else out of the sunflower bag.

“Oh, and I brought this,” she said innocently.

I had my back to her; I was busy chopping up veggies - a nice, healthy snack.

I turned around and gasped.
My face winced.
My heart raced and my hands got a little clammy.

It was a Cost-Co size jar of Nutella.

“Oh no. No. I can’t have that in the house.
I really can’t.”

“Why?” She was confused and rightfully so.
No one should have that strong of a reaction to a jar of Nutella. She was trying to be nice. What had she done wrong?

I’ll tell you what.

A few weeks ago she had done the same damn thing. Innocently brought in a jar of Nutella for the family after a Cost-Co trip. And here’s what happened - I ate the whole damn thing, minus a couple of slices of toast that the boys managed to sneak in. I didn’t want this to happen again.

Here is the thing about Nutella – it is good on anything:

Wheat Thins
Candy bars
Pound cake
Goldfish Crackers
Heated up with ice cream
Fiber One bars
Fruit (fruit? yawn.)

But mostly it is best on:

A spoon
A finger
A spatula, used when scraping the empty jar.

Now I am a vanilla girl by nature. This chocolate spread should mean nothing to me. But I have a memory tied to Nutella that is like a first kiss. A first chocolaty, hazelnutty, milky kiss.

At Brookside Elementary I became good friends with a girl who had just moved to Ossining, NY from somewhere in Germany.

Her name was Valeska and we hung out a lot when I was little. She was blonde and pretty with glasses. She had cool light blue bell bottom pants that I secretly coveted. She also had jars and jars of a little taste of home in her kitchen cupboard that I also secretly coveted.

Valeska gave me my first taste of Nutella. Leave it to the Germans to get you into some serious food trouble. Not with schnitzel, kraut or even fondue but with this dreamy, sweet spread.

She and her folks had super thick German accents. They would ask me things and I would nod and smile. They would giggle. They were very nice and always hugged me when I came and went.

I was at their house for lunch one day; her mom asked me if I’d like a Nutella sandwich. I didn’t know what that was but the words sandwich and lunch were involved and I didn’t want to seem rude. And as usual, I was hungry.


Valeska and I took a break from having our Barbie’s make out with each other to reenergize and eat.

Her mom always set us up to eat all fancy style - must have been the German way. Even if it was just the two of us we would eat at the dining room table that was set with a tablecloth that was actual cloth, napkins (again, cloth) and china plates. Sometimes she would even light a candle. At my house my mom used to throw a yellow tarp down on the living room floor and set my brother Mike and I up with our Mork and Mindy tray tables in front of the television. After we ate she would shake the tarp on the back deck so the birds could eat our crumbs. So, this setting made for an interesting change.

The sandwich and glass (real glass!) of milk looked perfect and delicious. I sat down and copied Valeska by placing my napkin on my lap. As I picked up my sandwich I noticed the brown creamy spread inside. What could this be? Liverwurst? How was I going to get through this without seeming rude? But then I caught a whiff of the sweet scent. I took a bite.

It was chocolate. I WAS EATING A CHOCOLATE SANDWICH. This was turning into one of the best/worst days of my life!

Best because again, I was eating a chocolate sandwich, and worst because this had been my introduction to a chocolate sandwich.

After hearing me incessantly go on and on about my lunch, my mom talked to Valeska’s mom and she hooked us up with our very own jar of Nutella. I remember feeling all fancy and special looking in the cupboard and seeing it there, the label was in a different language, and it didn’t list calories, it listed ENERGY, so it must give me energy and be good for me! YAY!

Today I know that an entire jar of “energy” over the course of three evenings is not good for me. But I have no control. I made my husband hide the giant jar his mother so kindly bought over. Just knowing it’s in my kitchen somewhere right now just made my pupils dilate.

Valeska and I lost touch; I think she ended up moving back to Germany. After she was gone I missed her, I missed her family and I missed lunchtime at her house. The perfect table, the real plates and napkins, and the sweetest surprise I ever had at lunchtime


Friday, March 2, 2012

Watt's up with that.

What comes to mind when I say the word dewy?

• Fresh morning dew on spring flowers?
• David Arquette’s character from the Scream movies?
• A word that rhymes with ewwy?

Huey, Dewy, Louie, and Ewwy.

I never though I was a dewy-skin girl.

Like that’s a dewy girl. If you look up dewy in the dictionary, she should be there. J-Lo has that wet paint look. I would be nervous to touch her, she may smear.

Not really the look I’m going for.

But dewy is youthful – sure, I’ll go for that.
And not dried-up – yes, I enjoy that as well.

Watt’s Up by benefit is one of those beauty products I never thought I needed, and now can’t imagine being without it. When my friend Chelsea at the benefit counter went to try it on me, I gave her a sideways-why-bother look. She applied it to one side of my face, highlighting my forehead, nose, just above my lips and my favorite area, the ORBITAL AREA of my face around my eyes.

Did you know you had an orbital area? Isn't it awesome that you do?

Watt a difference!

One side of my face had that just-back-from-vacation glow! The other side of my face looked dull in comparison.

Watt had I been missing out on all this time? Watt indeed...

The packaging is adorable, as all of benefit’s packaging is, little light bulbs decorate a silver/lavender shiny tube. The cream is a bubbly champagne color that you twist up, while the other end of the tube has a ball shaped sponge to blend the cream onto your face (I prefer using my fingers, how do you clean that dirty little ball? Blech.)

Watt’s Up gives me that warm, glowy-from-within-look. I like that. It is creamy and velvety and stays on all day - I can still see the sheen when I go to take off my makeup at the end of the day. I can wear it alone, or on top of foundation and powder. And my face doesn’t look greasy or wet when I wear it. I like that too.

My world is now illuminated - my face was once a 15 watt bulb and now glows at 60.

High voltage.