Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weight Loss 'Diary' - Entry One

I don't plan to update this daily, but I thought some public accountability might help my motivation. Look for updates on this particular section once a week on Sundays. I'm also not going to post a number yet, I just can't face it, but we'll say that I've got a lot to lose. I weighed in last Sunday before I got started and have made weekly weigh-ins part of my new life. We're now one week in and I'm down 7 pounds. Feeling pretty dang good about this!

Last week I didn't do anything special. An hour at the gym every day (with one exception, when I stayed home and did a work out video instead) and generally smarter eating choices. More moving combined with less crap going into my body showed real results.

This week I've cut red meat. Not completely, mind you, but red meat will only be served in this house once a week. I replaced all our ground beef--the staple meat in this house--with ground turkey breast. Tomorrow I begin the gym routine again, not planning to up the length or intensity of the workouts as I'm still struggling to make it through what I've already laid out for myself. But, I'm doing it!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Is It Worth The Wait?

Yesterday, my dear friend A. was picking up her wedding set for the second time and invited me to tag along with her to the mall. The trump card? The mall has a Sephora. Did I agree? You bet your ass I did. To say that I was excited would be a gross understatement of fact. I was utterly euphoric.

I woke up bright and early, though not as bright and early as has been my habit these last few weeks, and set to work on my face. Silly as it may be, I didn't want to walk into the store of my dreams with a naked face. As I carefully primed and patted and blended, visions of Cosmetic Paradise danced through my head. I saw clinical white walls and stainless steel accents. I saw sales people in immaculate black clothing with outrageous, flawless makeup. I saw thousands of little packages, all stacked just so and begging for me to take them home for a spin.

Our adventure began when we missed the exit to the mall. No biggie! We finally made it to the mall and picked up A.'s beautiful ring, then went in search of my dream store. A., I must interject, is a three product girl. Though she always looks fabulous, the world of liquid pencils and tone-correcting concealer is a foreign one to her. While I babbled on about products I love (and love to hate) we began browsing this little slice of heaven. It started out so well!

We entered the store a little after 1:45 pm and were approached by one sales woman with an enormous pink bow, a promotional gimmick for the new Hello Kitty! line and no doubt about it. We declined her offer for assistance and began browsing the Kat Von D collection. A. found a perfume she adores (it smelled great on her, but I can't remember what it's called at the moment) while I carefully opened sample pallet after pallet of eyeshadow. It was that moment when I first felt a little shiver of foreboding. The entire section was a mess. A hot mess, in fact. Shadows were dragged into other shadows and over the containers. The little shelves they were set into looked like they hadn't been wiped down in at least a week. It was at this point that we were approached by another sales woman. Again we declined her help and moved on.

As I moved through the store, my horror grew. It wasn't just the Kat Von D section that was filthy, they were all filthy. The products were stacked, but mixed up and messy and when I finally did have a question, we got a very nice man who (thank heaven) was allowed to forgo that ridiculous pink bow. I asked my question and he sampled the Tokodoki liner on the back of my hand before telling me that they are out of the black, but he could show me another liner that he thought was similar in quality. Okay, no problem. We headed over to the Stila stand and he samples that pen, too. I thank him and set about calculating my makeup finances and decide that 20 dollars is a little outside my makeup budget for a liner, even if said liner is fantastic. Meanwhile, Mr. Stila-Pusher is hovering. When the silence finally grew painful (remember, I'm deciding if I'm going to splurge), A. engages him in conversation before he excuses himself abruptly and walks away. Rude.

We made our way through the store, A. commenting on the beautiful packaging of some of the products while I check out the prices on some of the products I wanted to check out in person before buying and finally stumble across the Clinique stand. Finally a bit of luck! The Black Honey Almost Lipstick was sold out at the Clinique I usually use, but the Sephora had it stocked to the rafters! Okay, not really, but they had at least seven sticks of the lipstick and as many of the gloss. I grab the lipstick and we mosey through the rest of the store before going to pay. No one offered assistance again, though we hesitated at several sections. I am choosing to believe they thought I knew what I was doing rather than purposefully ignoring customers, but. . .

All-in-all, it was a disappointment. It was kind of like finding out my favorite person in the world moonlights as a $2 crack-whore. Painful all around. Will I go back? Probably, though I might just go down to Annapolis instead, but I won't be nearly as excited as I was to go the first time.

In other news, today I tested out several products. There are several eye shadows from new companies and, of course, the Black Honey, but I will be writing about those in another post. Here's a quick break down.

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer. I wanted to love this. I really did. I've been reading about it for years now and the only thing stopping me was the high price tag. Am I glad that I didn't pay for this! Maybe I'm using it wrong, but about 4 hours into my day, my 'skin' was peeling and flaking and super oily. I didn't notice any discernible difference in how well or smoothly my foundation applied or looked after using the primer. Won't be purchasing in the future.

Ulta Extreme Wear Gel Eyeliner in Primetime. Love! This is a black liner with a multi-color glitter. Some reviewers have had issues with clumping, but this went on smooth as silk for me. I set it with a translucent powder and it didn't budge until I removed my makeup tonight. In fact, I like it so much I might try to get my hands on some of the other colors! I know some other reviewers have had issues with the product drying out so I'll keep you appraised.

Ulta Amped Lashes. I usually use CoverGirl Volume Exact mascara and I love it, but it does have some flaking issues. The Amped Lashes didn't flake on me at all. I'm not comfortable saying I love it just yet, but I'm cautiously optimistic. I'll be using this mascara instead of my normal for about a week and I'll let you know!

Yesterday's Look:
Primed: Urban Decay Primer Potion, Ulta Eye Crayon - Birthday Girl, Fyrinnae Pixie Epoxy.
Colored: Inner Corner - Cirus Insanity Eyeshadow (VIE) - Panda. Center - VIE - Cotton Candy. Outer Corner - Aromaleigh - Hades.
Highlights: Ulta in Truffle and Platinum
Lined: Ulta Extreme Wear Gel Eyeliner - Primetime.
Lashed: Ulta Amped Lashes - Jet Black

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The girl I love she got long wavy black hair*...

Alright, so my hair is actually curly and it's not quite black, but I really do love it. My hair is long, my hair is dark and my hair is curly. Curly hair, as any of you who have it already know, is not easy to care for. Because the cuticle remains open in curly hair, it's more prone to dryness and breakage than straight. I personally have some other issues to deal with in terms of hair care. My mother is a redhead and my father was black. I got the best of both worlds, I have to admit, but also the worst. My hair is fine and relatively thin from my mother, but impossible to blow dry and comb through from my father. Add to this the fact that my hair is roughly 30 inches long (I just measured) and what you have is a recipe for follicular disaster!

Don't worry, though! I've got my haircare regimen down pat. I have used just about every product out there in an effort to tame these tresses, Salon Brands, drug store brands, homeopathic potions sold from the back of a van (which worked but I have my doubts as to the legality of the ingredients....). Here's what works for me, in order of how I apply.

TRESemmé Moisture Rich Shampoo and Conditioner. Relatively cheap, $6 dollars for a large bottle at just about any store you can imagine, but this has absolutely been the best for me as long as I can remember. It leaves my hair feeling silky and nourished and I haven't had to deal with the intense breakage that I experienced pre-MR. Every once in a while a new "wonder product" will come along and I'll give it a go, but I've never gotten the same results as I do with this one. I know there's a lot of buzz right now about sulfate free products and shampoo bars but I haven't tried them. I'm almost afraid to, but when I do, I'll definitely discuss my results here.

Biosilk Silk Therapy. Okay, this one doesn't come cheap at $24 for 12 oz (the better value. The smaller bottles aren't worth the cash), but this little bottle of magic serum has saved my hair. Please don't think that this is hyperbole, I'm quite serious. Before Biosilk, my hair was damaged and you could forget about using a flat iron (or anything, really) because my hair would literally break off halfway down the shaft. I use roughly a quarter sized dollop and smooth through my hair right out of the shower. It is heat activated, but I use it as a leave in 'conditioner' as well. It works when my hair is curly or straight. When I flat iron, my hair stays glassy and smooth. *A Note: I do not recommend the companion shampoo and conditioner. My hair felt like straw after I used them.

Garnier Fructis Style Curl Sculpting Cream-Gel. I use this whether my hair is going to stay curly or I'm going to straighten it, though it's definitely intended for curls. This is the first product I've ever used which really works the way they claim with the amounts they suggest. The product feels silky during the application and smells fantastic. On the back of the tube, it suggests a quarter-sized drop for your entire head. I've always needed at least double that, so I plopped a decent size amount in my palm and started spreading it through the first time. I realized immediately that this was a mistake. I wiped my hands off, but the damage was done. You really only need a quarter size amount (or less) of this product to get smooth, beautiful curls. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of my hair curly with this product but as soon as I do, I will post it. *A Note: Until very recently, I was a die hard Suave Healthy Curls Mousse girl, but it appears that they are no longer selling it. The Curl Sculpting cream-gel is my replacement for that product and a very recent discovery.

Now, if I'm going to wear my hair curly, this is the end of my routine. It literally takes two minutes out of the shower and I'm ready to go. As I said above, blow drying and I aren't great friends. This, unfortunately, includes using a diffuser. Every time I've tried, my hair has looked like Diana Ross in all her disco glory. Great for her, not so much for me.

If, however, I'm going to do my hair straight (or 'wavy') I go about it in two ways. Usually I just air dry and flat iron my hair 1-day-dirty. If I'm in a hurry or didn't get my prep work done the day before, I do blow dry. Either way, once I've brushed my dry hair out, I break out my secret weapon.

Sedu Pro Ionic Ceramic Tourmaline Flat Iron. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I've tried just about every single flat iron out there; I've had a Chi and a Solia. I've had Hot Tools and Conair and BaByliss and HAI. None of them have ever come close to the performance I get from my Sedu
. This flat iron is a work horse! With an infinitely adjustable dial, you can crank this baby up anywhere from 240 to 400 degrees. This one begins where some of the cheaper brands end. I personally have the 1" iron, which I also use to create beautiful loose waves when I'm in the mood. It takes me roughly 30 minutes to flat iron my hair. 30 minutes! It used to take me 2 hours and my hair was never this smooth! Not only is the performance the best I've ever had, hands down, the thing lasts forever. I got my first Sedu (my first of two) roughly 10 years ago. The only reason I replaced it was because my mother stepped on it and snapped the bit that holds the spring. Even then, I used it until I just couldn't stand manually opening and closing it anymore. I got my replacement 6 years ago and it still works just as well as it did the day I bought it. *A note: I flat iron 2-3 times a week.

So there you have it! My hair routine every time I shower and some of the products I can give glowing reviews to. I would be more than happy to post my experiences with some products that haven't worked for me if you ladies are interested!

How do you do your hair? What do you use?

*The Girl I Love (She Got Long Wavy Black Hair) by Led Zeppelin

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please allow me to introduce myself...

And I think that's enough of the Rolling Stones. I'm Amber and I've decided to embark on this grand adventure known as Beauty Blogging. I'm a twenty-six year old Army wife and a passion for writing. Now, I have another blog where I talk about all kinds of things, but this one is going to be very focused.

I am, by no means, an expert in cosmetics or beauty products. One thing is true, however; I've always been passionate about makeup. I think it all began when my mother bought me an Elizabeth Arden train case packed full of cosmetics for Christmas the year I was thirteen. It has snowballed into a full blown obsession with all things beautiful.

Recently I've been introduced to what's known as the "indie crowd" of mineral makeup, and this has quickly grown to be one of my absolute favorite venues for getting my fix. It's all relatively cheap and the colors are usually amazing. If a fair number of these posts concern themselves with those companies and colors, I sincerely apologize.

Of course, I don't plan to only talk about makeup. I will also discuss things to do with my personal haircare and nail products (if I ever get around to using any. . .). I've also recently begun an exercise and eating regime that should be considered illegal (seriously, whoever invented the elliptical should be shot!). What better place to talk about the transformation of self than a blog dedicated to beauty and self confidence?

So! Now that I've introduced myself, I'd love to know who you are! What are some things you'd like to see from this blog?