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Books

books I remember the day Evan and I packed up our books. We were recently married, moving to the New York City suburbs, and in the middle of a purge-induced adrenaline rush. We parted ways with dollar store kitchen utensils, tossed all 90s fashion, and left our yellowed white couch on the sidewalk for bulk trash. We saved the books for last, because there were hundreds, and needed to clear the floors to make space for the task. It took longer than expected, because what began as packing with the occasional pause to reminisce about a favorite author, evolved into frantic searches for favorite passages and lengthy readings. I’d recite something from Philip K. Dick’s Valis, and Evan would offer something from Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. From there it escalated into some kind of Shakespearian Jeopardy: “I’ll take ‘Princes Who Dodged the Bullet’ for $1000, Alex.” Of course, Evan kicked my ass. While I had merely read Shakespeare in college, he had spent a lot of time playing princes at Juilliard. But though his knowledge and handle on the text was greater than mine, we were an equal match when it came to the passion we felt for literature. It was midnight when we hoisted the last box onto the moving truck, and we still had to drive 30 minutes to Montclair, unpack, and return our crummy U-Haul by 8am. When we arrived, essentials were taken to the appropriate rooms, and non-essentials, like books, were stacked in storage. We intended to purchase shelves and turn our guest room (oh yes! a guest room!), into a library. But before that happened, a baby happened, and the guest room became a nursery. And once our son arrived, I had no time to think about 17th century literature or shelves. A few years later while packing for a move to Paris, we shuffled the books from our basement to a rented storage space. As we stood surveying the 10×10 room that would safeguard everything we still owned while we moved overseas, we laughed. The books we hadn’t seen in years took up more than half of the room. We had spent weeks ruthlessly editing our possessions, yet here were these 20 boxes of books. They were like one big middle finger to feng shui. One year later, we moved the books again. We were back from Paris and settling in to our new home in Glen Ridge. For another year they collected dust in a closet on our top floor. During breakfast one day, I tried to recall a line from Matthew Arnold’s Sweetness and Light, and decided it was time to stop depriving myself of my favorite Norton Anthology. While Google is always good for a quick, cheap fix, I wanted more. I wanted my notes in the margins, I wanted all of my favorite words together in a beautifully bound book, I wanted to reconnect with the people who connected me to the person I wanted to be back then. I went upstairs and edged my way into the back of our storage closet where we stored the books. What began as a focused expedition to find my Norton Anthology turned into a lengthy reunion and a great unpacking. I called Evan upstairs and we spent the afternoon reconnecting with favorite authors. We were shocked that it had been six years, that we had two kids, that we had built careers and started a business in the time we had last held those books in our hands. But what struck me more was that I had spent six years filling my thoughts with the banal logistics of daily life, preachy advice in parenting tomes, obtuse investing how-tos or social media noise. In figuring out and living my adult life, I had had little time to question what Simone de Beauvoir saw in Jean Paul Sartre or why Wordsworth was able to so eloquently convey the flapping of a bird’s wings. While we unpacked our books, our two sons played in the adjacent room. I overheard bits and pieces of conversations about Egyptian kings, dinosaurs and a magic tree house. I had the sudden urge to go back downstairs and collect the parenting books. I tossed them all into a box, sealed it shut, walked back upstairs and put it in the back of the closet to collect dust. We ended the day with fourteen piles of books divided by genre or period. We agreed our favorite pile was the books we planned to someday read with our kids. - - - Nichole Robertson Updated for Medium, originally published June 7, 2010.

The Creamiest Aioli

Two weekends ago, we had dinner with my husband's family. My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook, but she outdid herself with this creamy, garlicky aioli. She served parmesan topped grilled steaks on a bed of lemony arugula and baked potato wedges which we all dipped (and redipped) into the aioli. Heaven! We were all embarrassed by the degree to which we fawned over it. It quickly went from polite, to exuberant, to an eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-our-head-style swoon. I couldn't stop thinking about it, so a few nights ago, I recreated the whole meal (including a double batch of the aioli). Here are the recipes: Aioli recipe via Epicurious.com Baked potato wedges via The Barefoot Contessa Arugula salad with steak, shaved parmesan and lemon vinaigrette via The Barefoot Contessa

Sexy Eyes

The above video is a testament to how dangerous youtube pissing contests can be. In an attempt to outdo the reigning champion, I veered off the well-worn path of 80s and 90s pop disasters and stumbled into the icky love den of 70s slow grooves. Have you ever witnessed the mustached Captain seducing Tennille with a plastic recorder? I hadn't, which made me realize: despite being familiar (in a muzak-y way) with a bewildering array of these tunes, I had very few visual references. What unified them was a sticky-sweet, unabashed, dopey sincerity. Nothing derivative here, folks, just a coupla guys and gals eager to make out under the shifting glow of a lava lamp. They went for it without reserve, and last night it was precisely my own lack of reservation that led to the following compilation of get-your-groove-on seventies jams. Without further ado, a cultural sinkhole of flutes, smoke and sexy eyes. Peace out. Do That to Me One More Time Make it With You Don't Give Up on Us When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman Angel of the Morning Afternoon Delight Imaginary Lovers Magnet and Steel Knock Three Times I Just Want to Stop More, More, More Emotion I Go Crazy Cool Night Loving You Lights Baby I Love Your Way I'm Not in Love

Lounging

Seine, Paris Seine, Paris Seine, Paris Seine, Paris Seine, Paris Seine, Paris On my way home from work yesterday, I walked through NYC's Bryant Park. I love Bryant Park. It's green, it's calming, there's a charming carousel and a babbling fountain - you know, things that are supposed to relax us. But yesterday, a majority of the people were anything but relaxed. Many were tapping away on their phones or otherwise engaged with a digital device. They were not only seemingly oblivious to the charms of the park, but in most cases to the people with whom they sat. My jaunt through the park was brief, but I continued to think about the implications of being plugged in for the majority of one's waking hours. I started to assess my own habits, and anyone who knows me will confirm that if I'm awake, I'm not too far from my computer. The exception to this is when I'm in Paris. When I'm abroad, I maintain a US work schedule. I work from about 4pm - midnight Paris time, which is 10am-6pm NYC time. I spend all day (while the US is sleeping) away from my computer, taking photos, lounging (for real!) and generally enjoying the slower pace. My clients in the US are sleeping, my friends are sleeping, my family is sleeping, and I have absolutely no reason to be near my computer. At 4pm (10am ET), I head back to our apartment and start working. By that time in Paris, I am fairly tired, have had a full day, and am happy to sit down and do some work. In many cases it's an ideal schedule. No pressure lounging all day, engaged with work and friends all night. What I can't figure out is why here in the US, I don't seem to have any time to lounge. It's part self-imposed, part unwillingness to disconnect, and part blurry borders between work and life. It's crazy to me that I have to skip time zones to unwind.

Lost

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A Lost Theory by Liam, Age 2


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Okay, so let's assume this blue scribble represents the island.


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And that this lemony fresh cleaning spray represents the magic river and magic ocean surrounding it.


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Every time it rains, the magic water from the magic cave ...


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... washes over stuff and makes it more mysterious.


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Like John Locke.


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Here's Locke and Jack fighting in the magic rain.


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Which was so much better than Jack and Kate kissing in the magic rain.


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Cuz girls are icky.


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I kinda miss Shannon though.


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But I digress. So the Man in Black decides to exit the island here,


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by making a donkey wheel out of bamboo rods and spit, with which he is able...


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...to construct a crude wormhole!


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ERGO, THE ISLAND IS A SUB-SPACE-TIME, QUANTUM ZERO-POINT, INFINITY GAP WHICH MAKES TIME TRAVEL NOT ONLY POSSIBLE, BUT INEVITABLE!


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Any questions?

Rue de Charonne

Coffee on Rue de Charonne Au Jardin Des Delices, Rue de Charonne Hotel de Charonne Rue de Charonne Seven years ago today, I woke up in Paris for the first time. It was our honeymoon, we were staying in a b-u-d-g-e-t hotel, and I was suffering from an embarrassing case of perma-smile. Our crappy little hotel was located on Rue de Charonne, and last week, I went back for the first time. I snapped a few photos of our favorite cafe, the facade of the hotel (ha! nothing much to look at), the metro stop, and the fruit stand from which we bought oranges everyday. No idea why we bought oranges everyday, but we did. The thing that struck me the most as I stood and looked around was how funny it was that *this* was the epicenter of our honeymoon. This unspectacular little street was the place I spent my first week as a wife. No umbrella drinks, no lavish dinners, no fancy dresses, no honeymoon suite. I'll admit that for a minute or two I was a bit bummed that we had been so frugal (not that we had much choice back then). I mean, where are the fancy photos to show the grandkids? But then I realized that it was the beginning of my love affair with Paris as a real city, not a glamourous, idealized destination. I often receive emails from readers asking about hot spots, the nicest restaurants or the best place to shop. I always struggle with answers to these questions, because I truly don't know. I'm okay with just wandering around. I eat street food and fresh fruit from the markets. Mediocre coffee in a random cafe doesn't piss me off. I take photos of garbage cans, people! I'll never be able to convey what it is that draws me to this city, but it has more to do with the five senses than it does with Le Jules Verne or the Champs-Elysées.

Coquelicot

On Saturday, we braved the Amelie obsessed tourists on Rue de Abbesses in Montmartre to visit Coquelicot--a sweet little bakery recommended by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini. I adore Clotilde's blog and books, and her Paris picks never let me down. She raved about the baguettes at Coquelicot, and her blessing coupled with a glimpse of their charming website, was all we needed to pen a visit into our schedule. The first thing we noticed was that we were not the only ones with hot, crusty Coquelicot baguettes on the brain. The line exemplified human impatience, and was so long it spilled into the street and around the corner. Drats! But a few moments of observation revealed that the second door was for those interested in dining in, and that would be us. We approached the hostess expecting to be turned away due to a lack of tables or our unobscured camera (rookie mistake), but she smiled and pointed to a teeny table a few feet away. Score! It was a challenge to focus on the menu with so many delicious things whizzing by us at warp speed. Was that brioche steaming? Did that guy really just tuck 12 baguettes under his arm? Holy crap ... look at the size of those latte bowls! The latte bowls were the star of our pre-breakfast conversation. So big you could barely wrap your hands around them, and so full of delicious cafe au lait that even the most sleep deprived, jet lagged, coffee addict would emerge from the experience wide-eyed and wired. Lucky for the latte bowls, their moment in the limelight lasted for a full five minutes before the baguettes, brioche and accoutrements in the form of homemade jam and honey stole the spotlight. Our trays overflowed with fresh, perfect bread (thanks, Clotilde!), three flavors of homemade jam--cassis, raspberry and peach--and honey from Provence. I'm always torn between sweet and savory bread, so I enjoyed the first few bites of the baguette with salted butter. But after just one taste of the Cassis jam, I sided with the sweet team for the remainder of the meal. The bread wasn't the only treat at Coquelicot. Evan and I treated anyone who watched us to a hilarious scene of two bread and coffee junkies getting the best fix of their lives. Coquelicot 24 Rue des Abbesses Paris 18e 01 46 06 18 77 PS. Check out the cute bathroom door.

I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere

I judge books by their covers. I developed this nasty habit during the height of the chick lit boom in order to avoid purchasing yet another book about Lisa the aspiring writer, her mean boss, her raw food diet and her jerk ex-boyfriend. If a book cover has a martini glass, black stiletto, engagement ring or handbag, I pass. These simple rules help me steer clear of contrived plots and cookie cutter protagonists. And here is the part where Nichole gets bitch-slapped. See that book up there? Had I stuck to my rules, I wouldn't have cracked the cover. Handbag? Check. Black heels? Check. Potentially sappy content (see title)? Check. But the vintage/sexy vibe was a far cry from the typical Daily Candy-esque illustrations, so I gave it a shot. Not only was I dead wrong about the content of the book, I liked it so much it slipped into my top ten. Anna Gavalda's I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere is a collection of unrelated short stories, each of which revolves in some way around fate and free will. I'm stunned by the author's ability to write from so many different perspectives - her main characters are both male and female, and young and old. I was captivated from paragraph one, and happy to re-visit a golden rule: never judge a book by its cover. PS. I still hate chick lit

Blenderless Pina Colada

Did you know I was a bartender when I was in college? Not the seedy, shorts-wearing, cussin' kind, of course. No, I made fruity drinks and served them to khaki-clad country clubbers. It was fun, it was lucrative, and I learned how to make a mean margarita. In addition to bartending, I served tables. And as a server, I knew the quickest way to get on a bartender's bad side was to ask for a blended drink during the dinner rush. Why? Because next to requests for hot tea (fellow servers, you know exactly what I'm talking about), they are a pain-in-the-ass time suck. In addition, it was easy to screw up the ice/liquid content ratio. Unless measured perfectly, your Pina Colada either ended up straw-blocking thick or a half slush/half ice concoction that would slide around in the glass and slam against your face if you tried to drink it without a straw. Though I hated making blended drinks during my bartending/serving days, I love to drink them. Pina Coladas are one of my favorite cocktails, and I'm open about my addiction to all things coconut. So a few weeks ago, I decided to forgo the blending and serve Pina Coladas on the rocks. We were two days into living in our new house and I craved a Pina Colada. Unfortunately, our blender was in one of twenty dusty boxes in the basement. Anyone who knows me well will confirm that patience is not one of my defining characteristics. So was born the blenderless Pina Colada. All the ingredients, none of the waiting, mess or inconsistent results. Bingo. And guess what? I like them better this way. Purist I am not. The flavor is more intense, and I can have one in under a minute. Here's the recipe: 1.5 ounces of coconut rum 6 ounces of pineapple juice 1-2 ounces of coconut milk Pour over ice, stir, and serve. Shameful update: A friend of mine just reminded me that I did, in fact, wear shorts for one of my serving gigs. And to add insult to injury, those shorts were accompanied by construction boots and a cowboy hat that dangled from a string and rested on my back (it was a steakhouse). I wish I had a photo.

Fashion Magazines: A Man's Point of View

As I sat down with a fresh stack of glossies for some client research this morning, I realized someone had been there before me. There was a faint smell of shaving cream, and a note on page two. I recognized the handwriting as Evan's, and he had left comments. Lots of comments. Above is a man's take on women's fashion magazines.

L'As du Fallafel

I'm working on a project that requires me to piece together my favorite places to eat in the Marais. Looking at the first draft of the list, I'm surprised by the number of them that are carts or small food stands. In short: I eat a lot of street food. Top on the list is L'As du Fallafel. Having lived in New York for years, I am no stranger to good falafels. But sorry NYC, you can't hold a candle to the goodness that is the falafels at L'As du Fallafel. On Sunday, Rue de Rosiers is absolutely packed with people standing in line to get their chick pea and tahini fix. The falafels are huge (they fill both hands) and stuffed to the brim. Sweet crunchy cabbage, golden brown falafels, tahini sauce (oh the sauce!) combine in what can only be described as culinary perfection. Good food aside, it's just as much fun to watch people eat with reckless abandon. The falafels are messy, and most people eat them on the street. No one seems to care that stray cabbage clings to their chin or their shirts are tainted with tahini. It's all part of the fun that is L'As du Falafel. 34 Rue de Rosiers

The Red Wheelbarrow

We live above a wonderful English language bookstore named The Red Wheelbarrow. The staff couldn't be friendlier, and the selection is impressive considering the store's petit footprint. This morning Evan vaguely remembered that William Carlos Williams wrote a poem titled The Red Wheelbarrow, and raised the question of the bookstore's connection to it. The shop wasn't open at the time, so I did a little googling. Though the question of the bookstore's name remains unanswered, I did stumble upon the poem: The Red Wheelbarrow so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. According to my ten minute crash course, Carlos wished to break free from the symbolism and complicated forms common during the Victorian period in honor of that which was more direct and realistic. His work was part of the Imagist movement, whose writers favored clarity and precision over allusion and ambiguity. Given the double talk coming from wall street and the economic powers that be lately, I can't help but think how much America would benefit if those pulling the financial strings would adopt a similar approach. Direct talk? Realistic talk? Straight-up, say-what-you-mean talk? Yes, please.

Bite Size Wit

When it comes to pleasures, I'm in two camps. Tactile pleasures like freshly laundered sheets, the smell of rain on a hot pavement, cupcakes. And intellectual pleasures. I often joke that I married my husband because he's smarter than me and keeps me on my toes. And it's true. We work together most of the day, and spend an embarrassing amount of time ping-ponging snarky zingers about the economy or challenging each other to remember the exchanges between Deckard and Rachel in Blade Runner ("Is this testing whether or not I am a replicant or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard?"). He'll be going over a financial report with a client, and I'll email him word play on a part of the conversation. I'll be writing a headline for a piece of marketing collateral, and he'll offer a side-splitting alternative. Like some people need cigarettes or crack, I need witty discourse. And like any true addict, I seek hits throughout the day. Lately, my dealer is twitter. People who've never used twitter incorrectly assume it's just about literal status updates. As a friend of mine once put it:"Why do I care if you're running to the store or running out of patience at the post office?" I don't think she agreed with my opinion that she's "missing out" on the fun. While twitter on a very basic level allows us to communicate and keep in touch, the imposed brevity in the form of the 140 character tweet results in some very good writing. You can't ramble, pontificate or otherwise stall getting to the point. You say what you mean. This has wonderful implications, as clear concise thoughts win over unfocused drivel every time. In addition to being clear and concise, a lot of the people I follow on twitter are incredibly funny, witty and engaging. They're the antidote to intellectual lethargy, and deliver those highs I need to function all day. If I'm having a hard time writing, I log onto twitter, and someone's waiting with 140 character inspiration. From a comment on last night's Daily Show spoof to Ben Bernanke Haiku, I'm very rarely let down. Photo from here. PS. Couldn't I have summed up the above into this twitter-friendly sentence?: Twitter's 140 character limit challenges us to write more concisely and clearly, and tighter writing is often that which is better/smarter.

Sweetness and Light

The essence of Matthew Arnold's 1867 essay Culture and Anarchy, as he wrote in the preface, is "to recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties." I struggled to remember Arnold's theory of sweetness (appreciation of beauty) and light (pursuit of knowledge) as I walked around Notre Dame this morning. All roads lead to Notre Dame lately, and every time we go out, that's where we end up. It's no surprise since it's always been my favorite place in Paris. Yet lately I've experienced physical reactions with increasing weight each time I step inside. This morning, I attmepted to put the reaction into words, and uttered something along the lines of "simply being inside, I breathe in passion, dedication and beauty, and exhale indifference, practicality and cynicism." In other words, I go in sour and dark, and emerge sweeter and lighter. Sweeter because I'm awed and inspired by not just the vast amount of architectural beauty, but the juxtaposition of the weight of the stone and the weightlessness of the space it defines. And lighter because I'm impressed by the amount of knowledge and intellect it must have taken to build a structure that after 900 years, still causes everyone who enters it to look up and gasp. Either that, or they've got some incredibly potent incense going on in there.

Down and Out on Valentine's Day



Given the economy, this seemed like a fitting story.

It's February 14th, 2001. Evan and I are both broke. B-r-o-k-e. We weren't yet married, and lived in a crappy apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. An apartment that to this day gives my mom chills.

I was a dot-com darling turned dot-com unemployed, and Evan was playing Claudio in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. He made $400 dollars a week, and I made about the same teaching SAT prep to fifth graders (you read that right) at an academic factory in Chinatown. There were lots of beans and rice in our cabinets, and pitiful gazes at barely-above-negative bank statements.

We were as cynical about Valentine's Day as they come, considering we were still in that post-college, existential/fight the man phase, and didn't have money to burn on cliched tokens of affection. So we decided not to use our last $50 to go to dinner, buy chocolates and bears, or hire a mariachi band to profess our love. Instead, we challenged ourselves to come up with a little fun for less than $20.

We did it. And I will remember the night forever as one of the best times we ever had.

So in honor of the crappy economy, and with hopes that I can inspire someone else to have a memorable evening on $20, here is what we did.

Movie: The Bicycle Thief
Total cost: $2.99 rental

Still one of my favorite films. It hits me even harder now that I am a parent.

Dinner: Pasta with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil
Total cost: Roughly $6 for the ingredients
Recipe: Saute 4-5 cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 2 cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes, and serve over the pasta of your choice.

This was a staple recipe for us during the broke years. Way better than jarred sauce, and about the same price.

Wine: Smoking Loon
Total Cost: $6.99

Costco usually stocks Smoking Loon, and I think it retails for $7.99 now. We usually have a few bottles on hand. Evan's dad knows wine well, and introduced it to us as one of the best bangs for the buck.

Dessert: Whoopie Pies
Total Cost: Pantry items, so pretty much cost us nothing

I am from Lancaster, PA, and whoopie pies are a favorite dessert there. If you've never tried one, you absolutely must. Must. Must. Must.

Dress in the Moment






I've always maintained that one could make a million dollars by opening a store that sold gloves in January and bathing suits in July. But it wasn't until last weekend that I realized the fantasy store's potential to help fulfill the quintessential American girl's dream: to dress like a French girl.

A delightful thing happened on my dash to the department store restroom last Saturday. Without that detour (long story) I would never have come face-to-face with what I've accepted as the impossible: Gloves for sale in January.

If you're American or in the US at the moment, I double dare you to find winter accessories for sale (messy bargain bins aside). A store stocked with coats and scarves is what happens in July, not January. Right?

So we're smack in the middle of winter and:

1) You can't replace cold weather clothing or accessories that are worn, torn, or tattered. This violates the "always be impeccably dressed" rule touted by literally every "foster your inner French girl" how-to.

2) You're more likely to spend more time dreaming about sunny yellow shift dresses, straw bags and sandals, than dressing impeccably in your winter attire. You get sloppy, you don't care, you let things go.

3) You're robbed of the pleasure of embracing the moment. You're reaching for the dangling carrot (wearing a pretty dress) and are routinely disappointed. After all, it's the middle of the winter.

The entire American sales/marketing cycle is seemingly set up so that you hate the season you're in, and lust after the one that's next. So in effect, you're never "dressing in the moment." You're buying the fantasy, not living the reality.

But the Parisian girl in my neighborhood is. Very much so.

After I saw the gloves, I started taking notes. The overwhelming majority were buying new scarves, checking prices on gloves or trying on new boots (and boy do they look fantastic when sporting all three). This evidence is admittedly anecdotal and based on very limited observations, but it's such a stark contrast to what happens in America that it got me thinking.

Want to dress like a French girl? Here's my theory: Embrace your scarf. Love your gloves. Clean your boots. Repair that little tear in the coat. Don't write off the season while waiting for the next.

In short: Dress in the moment. It dovetails nicely with that whole "living in the moment" thing don't you think?

PS. Guess what? Small business owners still sell winter gear. I selected these items because they're the types of gorgeous accessories I see on the streets here.

Merino Wool Cowl
Flurries Cowl
Tubeway Arm Warmers
Embellished Tubeway Arm Warmers
Twist of Fate Cowl

Top Five

A few readers contacted me regarding what products I use/recommend. It hit me that I never talk about that stuff here, so thought it might be fun to mix it up. I am by no means an expert, but as a copywriter for beauty brands, I've tried many products over the years and gleaned some useful (and usually cheap!) tips from makeup artists. When it comes to beauty products, I'm a monogamist. I don't know if it's because I'm a pathological minimalist by nature, or because I've learned that most beauty products are just "same stuff, different bottle." I've used the same products, or slight variations of those products for years, and I though I sometimes flirt with a perky eyeshadow or bat my lashes at some over-promising treatment, I don't think you'll find me chatting up the spiky-haired makeup artist at MAC any time soon. Here's my top five list: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer I can't count the times I rolled my eyes when I saw this particular product featured. I pegged it as lazy editing, because it literally popped up in every issue of every magazine. It wasn't until I had a particularly horrid skin day (the kind where you go to the mall, catch a glimpse of yourself in florescent dressing room lighting and run), that a shameful skulk to the Laura Mercier counter proved I was wrong and everyone else was right. I couldn't look the sales woman in the eye for fear she somehow knew about the aforementioned eye rolling. But wham. Bam. Thank you for the fabulous foundation ma'am. I loved it from that day forward, and will never let myself run out. Benetint I'm a bit embarrassed that I like this product, because like Laura Mercier, Benetint had a cult following. But unlike Laura, Benetint hasn't maintained its following, and being obsessed with Benetint is akin to being obsessed with Benetton - a bit dated. But I'll take my chances with giggles and glances, because dammit, I really like it! I am fair-skinned (as in pale, not porcelain) and I need color to look alive. Benetint does the trick. Speaking of tricks, there's one you need to know regarding application: Be quick! Apply and blend, or you'll suffer in the manner of streaks. Long-lasting, scrub-until-you-are-raw streaks. Amala Rejuvenating Treatment Oil The requisite disclaimer here is that I currently write for Amala. That said, you also need to know that I abandoned a few other cushy gigs to work exclusively with Amala. Why? No one can touch their product quality. I wrote for their parent company, Primavera, for years, and became instantly addicted to their organic treatment oils. I can honestly say I have not used any other moisturizer on my face in years. I now use Amala treatment oils, and without them I look ten years older. Effectiveness is always subjective when it comes to hydration, but at least for me, they are way more effective than any other pricey moisturizer or treatment. To boot, they really (honestly! truly!) make your skin "glow." I wrote that word thousands of times and never meant it. I can now sleep at night because there is no spin involved. If Amala is out of your budget, use jojoba or evening primrose oils. You can get them at any health food store. You'll seriously rethink moisturizer. Fresh Sugar Lip Balm I am hopelessly devoted to Sugar. The lemony scent is luscious, and my trick is to keep it in my pocket so it's soft-on-the-verge-of-gooey when I apply. Sweet bliss. Nars Eros Lip Gloss On the rare occasions I wear lip color of any kind, this is it. It's the prettiest, rosiest, most flattering shade ever. It was tied for years with Mark's Glow Baby Glow Lip Gloss in Pink Crush, but I no longer write for mark, and don't have easy access to the product closet. I recommended Eros to my friend Rachel, and it looks fab on her even though we have completely different hair colors and skin types (she actually has perfect skin, so everything looks great on her). Give this one a whirl the next time you're wasting time in Sephora. That's it. The only other thing I use is mascara, and any garden-variety drugstore brand serves its purpose. I've used Maybelline's Full and Soft for ever and like it a lot. What about you? Any makeup favorites? Tips? PS. Forgot to mention. One of the BEST tips I ever received was to toss every single body balm, butter, moisturizer, lotion, etc, and replace it with a single bottle of olive oil. I did, and I never looked back. Straight up olive oil. And you surprisingly don't smell like pasta. Go figure.

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