Thursday, May 27, 2010

Makeup Is Easy [For Men Too]: Make Your Hands Un-Gross

Your hands are one of the primary ways people make contact with you, whether it's a handshake or if you're a hand-talker. People notice them, so you should do what you can to keep them nice. I know it's tough for men to make peace with the idea of going to a salon - it seems to be the last bastion of belief in cooties - so if you get the value of having nice hands to recommend you to the world but aren't quite ready to go, here's a quick spiff-your-hands primer.
  1. Drink lots of water. This is a good policy anyway, but your hands and fingernails are all made of skin, and you will want them as pliable as possible. Make sure to drink at least a couple glasses of water well before and up to the time you start working on your hands.
  2. Wash your hands. Dirt, smudges, penmarks, whatever, it's better to avoid having gunk on your hands anyway, but if you're going to take the time to clean up your hands the best starting point is with cleanliness. You can clean your hands with soap and water, but for this exercise it's even better if you put a teensy - seriously, TINY TINY TINY - amount of olive oil on your hands and massage it in. Olive oil is a miracle product - it cleans and softens your skin and you probably have it in your pantry right this very second.
  3. Push back your cuticles. (Just in case: those are the little rims of skin at the base of each finger nail.) I do this with my other fingernails, but you can also do it with a nail file or an "orange stick," also sold as a "cuticle stick." I don't know why it's called an orange stick, because it's not orange, or orange scented, or any of that. If you're feeling daring, you can trim your cuticles, but you don't have to. It's really, really important to have moisturized hands for this. Push all of the cuticle down, then carefully use a pair of nail scissors or cuticle nippers (both available at CVS) to nip away the excess skin. Always cut LESS rather than more - you can always take off more, but if you cut too much, it hurts like a MOTHER. I should note here that the cuticle plays an important role in keeping bacteria and grunge out of your system, and that's why I say this step is optional. Pushing them back will go a long way, particularly when you follow it up with...
  4. Exfoliating your hands. Lots of ways to do this! Exfoliation takes all the old dead skin off the surface and lets new, healthy skin come through. You can always buy an exfoliant like St. Ives Apricot Scrub at CVS, but since we're keeping the men in mind, let's come up with some other ideas, too. Option one: steal your female cohabitant's St. Ives Apricot Scrub. I think every woman in the United States has a tube of this. Option two: take that olive oil you used earlier and throw some sea salt into it. It should be grainy, not goopy. Option three: get the roughest washcloth you have in your stash, and throw some hand soap on it. Whichever option you choose, you want to rub it all over your hands, focusing on your cuticles, then rinse it off. (I like to give my elbows a scrub-down while I'm at it.)
  5. Shape your nails (yes, men too). There are two aspects of your nails to consider: length and surface. With length, take a second to think about how you usually treat your hands. If you work with your hands a lot and your nails break constantly, just cut to the chase and keep them short. For longer nails, think about the shape you want and make sure it's uniform. If you can find a glass nail file, that's the best option, but no matter what you use, make sure you file in one direction only! People tend to reflexively use a sawing motion, but this chews up your nail and makes it weaker. Just go one way - it's annoying but better in the long run.
  6. File your nails. I actually really like those little four part files, but you can get them in blocks too, which form to your nails a little better. Even out any ripples, then give it a smoothing once-over. This will remove any cuticle residue and give you a polished look.
  7. Optional: Strengthen your nails and apply polish. I have weak nails, so I use a nail strengthener. You want the Sally Hansen stuff in the gold bottle - it's at any drugstore. If you're a man and don't want shiny nails, no problem! Just put on two coats of the nail strengthener, then take a file and buff the tops of your nails so they're a matte texture. If you want to apply polish, put it on now, starting in the middle and moving out allllllmost to the edge of the nail.
  8. Finish with moisturizer. Finally, give your hands a once-over with a moisturizer of your choice or another round of olive oil. You could also use a different type of oil here - I like the Body Shop's Monoi Miracle Oil (which really is miraculous; you can use it for ANYTHING), and Rich seems to like Dr. Hauschka's Lemon Body Oil, which has a nice zippy scent that picks you right up.
Tada! You have soft, good-lookin', good-feelin' hands, using the very basics and without going to a salon. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Garden Update: Dahlias...Alive, Planter Planted, Epic Weeding

So about three years ago I went to the nursery with Mom and Dad for Mothers' Day, which was notable not only as a demonstration of why our family can't really be trusted to behave in public (we downloaded the lightsaber app onto Dad's iPhone and promptly became completely unmanageable), but also as a total giant planter score. Big dramatic planter pots can be pretty pricey, and certainly more so than I'm willing to shell out when I have lots of excitingly plantable dirt surrounding my home. When Mom and I stopped for a bathroom break, we had to walk through the sale zone, and found a gigantic white clay planter with handles marked down from $65 to a practically-free $30. I was stoked and hauled it right out of there.

And then it sat on my driveway for three years.

In the spirit of the Getting Stuff I Like Doing Done Summer, I put it on my list of gardening things to accomplish. I got a $100 gift certificate for our wedding last summer, so I rounded up my Local Plant Advisor - Mom - and off we went to Southern Exposure in Rutland, MA (run by one of my neighbors, as chance would have it) to find some plants for my planter. I wanted at least one traily plant and one to give it some height, accented with some great color. Here's what we came up with:
From top spiky left: "Red Spikes" Cordyline, "Survivor" Geranium, "Margarita" Sweet Potato Vine, variegated golden sage Salvia, and Million Bells.
The Red Spikes will get nice height, and I just love the combo of foliage. I really like the Salvia because it looks like a lizard ( that weird?). We came home and potted the whole thing right up, and it looks awesome. I can't wait for them to fluff out and really develop. We got a bunch of other plants too, and I'll have to write about them some more later because I want to take pictures of everything to go along with the descriptions. Mom is such a wealth of knowledge that I'd like to pass it along.

Oh, and also, there were chickens:
Maximum cute factor!

I went on a weeding binge, which was long overdue. The dandelions have been freaking epic this year...I assume they're colluding with the chipmunks, but I can't prove it. It seems like they're knee-high as soon as James the Lawn Guy pulls out of the driveway. (Side note: When James started mowing our lawn, he was in high school and using our mower to mow our lawn. Now he has a trailer and a ride on mower and the whole thing. It hasn't been that long. Why am I working a desk job again?) There is now a heap of murdered weeds on the driveway waiting to be carted back to the mulch zone...I'm going to let it stay there for a day or two as a warning to the rest of the dandelions.

The dahlias are mostly potted up and growing. My Memorial Day project is the installation of a raised garden bed in the back to house said dahlias, so they should be in the ground this weekend. Mom paints her dahlia stakes this great purple color and I'm thinking about painting mine as well - they just look so festive! The bed will be 8'x5' and it will be a great chance to provide the dahlias with nice loose, healthy soil from the get-go. Can't wait until they start blooming!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Makeup Is Easy: Get a Foundation Brush

I've always been a fingers-and-palms makeup person. Up until a couple years ago, this even applied to eye makeup - I just never used brushes. I don't know why, but my nearest guess is that my Mom didn't worry too much about in-depth makeup bootcamp (...well played, Mom. Seriously.) so I just figured that makeup only needed what came in the package. No brush included, no need for one. I now use brushes for eyeshadow - standard EcoTools ones available from your local CVS - but for a long time I resisted using a foundation brush, quite frankly because that whole concept sounded dumb as hell to me.

But oh my God you guys, you've gotta get a foundation brush.

My theory on foundation brushes' usefulness is that the bristles allow finer spread of the foundation and also remove the problem of the makeup getting snorked up by your fingers as you work it in. I don't have any MAGIC SCIENCE to back this idea up but that's how it works in my brain. Moisturizing will always allow better makeup application, but the brush really takes it to the next level. Check this out:
My skin is not that good...but it LOOKS that way because foundation brushes are awesome! As with all brushes, it's important to clean them regularly. I've started just cleaning them after every use, and I usually use shampoo but I want to try Michelle Phan's technique with olive oil and dishsoap to see how that goes.

On to the specific eye makeup, I've used my Anastasia brow powder to define my brows, which as you can see really goes a long way. The key is to keep it within the edges of your natural brow so you avoid the Older Lady From The Boonies Effect.
I used a new liquid liner I got that I'm kind of ambivalent about. On theone hand, it really stays put and the color is nice and rich, but on the other, the applicator kind of sucks. I like liquid liner applicators to be super, super fine, and even though this one does have a mitered edge, it just doesn't go on as thin as I would like. Dealing with liquid liner is always dangerous thanks to the increased potential for small-but-incredibly-problematic misfires, so having a less than ideal applicator is a bigger problem that with other makeup types. In any case, I carefully winged out my eyes, then added The She Space's Yin and Yang over the top of it, working it into the hollow of my tear duct so the color really popped. I finished the look with a dose of Phenomen'Eyes mascara and made sure to do the lower lashes as well, to compensate for the strength of the black liner. Voila!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Scheduling and some fun stuff

First of all, exciting news:

I finished my undergrad degree and graduated cum laude from Assumption this past weekend, which was very exciting and completely draining. Friends and family were loose all over the place and the weather was spectacular. I'm so grateful for all of those wonderful people being there for me, and to Assumption for the top notch, enriching education they gave me, particularly in the Political Science and Philosophy departments. I'll be going on to Boston University's Political Theory Ph.D program in the fall. Summer assignment: figure out how to pay for it.

I've been thinking about how to rework this blog so I am more inclined to update it regularly, even during the school year. I have settled on a more routine schedule which I think will work out well. Here's how I'm hoping it will work.
  • Mondays will be floater days because I am rarely motivated to do anything. Monday posts = bonus posts. Ditto Saturdays and Sundays. I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm just saying it's not guaranteed.
  • Tuesdays will be open topic days, either for whatever I want to talk about or something other people want to talk about. You can email any topic requests, but I reserve the right to pick and choose with extreme prejudice because I cannot promise to like what you like or care about what you care about. Nothing personal.
  • Wednesdays will be book review days. I have abandoned the Cannonball Read, having read 100 books but not the sticktuitiveness to write reviews for all of them. A book and review a week seems more reasonable, so I'm going give that a whirl.
  • Thursdays will be a new feature, suggested by my friend Val, called Stuff In Josie's Closet. People seem to like and be mystified by my personal style, but the secret is pretty simple - Ijust use a lot of cool accessories. I'll be posting pictures of various shoes, jewelry and other items, with some commentary on how I would wear them, etc. Also, my shoes are cool.
  • Fridays will be reserved for Makeup Is Easy posts. I feel like a lot of my makeup is generally the same basic technique, and I'd like you to get something more out of it than "and then I did this same thing but with a different color." This way, I can focus on doing one superawesome face a week and post that.

Suggestions are always welcome! Thank you for reading, I really appreciate your taking the time to pop by.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Mother is My Biggest Fan

The Sharks are in the playoffs, and Suzanne at the front office got in touch to ask if I could sing the National Anthem for Game 1 of Round 1 against the Lowell Devils. I did, and it went really well, but unfortunately it was kind of the best part of the game since the Sharks rolled over and just failed all over the place. But they rebounded, won the series, hooray! On to Manchester. Game 2 comes around, I sing again...they lose again. At this point the problem makes it to one of the Sharks message boards:
Although Josie sings better then most people that do the anthem I don't think she should sing any more before the playoff games we are now 0-2 when she does. Just a thought lol
Oh dear. The man has a point. I figure I'll just wait until next season to sing, fine. Last night we were up in Manchester, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd met up with some family friends who live in New Hampshire and attended the game. She responded:
Hope the Sharks do better tonight...fingers and toes crossed! Give the [Friends] my best xxx

I texted her back saying that every time the mom of the friend family came down, the Sharks scored, so I just needed to get her down to our seats one more time and we'd be good. She texted me back a minute later:
Just don't sing the national anthem!!

Thanks, Mom.

Next time any of you readers out there wonder how I've accomplished the things I have in my life, here's your answer: years of support from my family.