Monday, March 15, 2010

Fantastic Finds

Over the past month or so, I've found four products that have rocked my socks -- one literally did. I've been raving about them to my friends on an individual basis, so it made sense to write a blog post. Here we go!

1. Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation

Normally I'm a bit wary about drug store foundations because it's usually a case of hit or miss. In the US, there are never testers, and those transparent card things some companies came our with aren't too helpful because the lighting is usually terrible. Add to that a notoriously difficult skin tone to match, and drug store foundations are almost always a bad idea.

Enter Boots in the UK. The larger Boots stores are kind of like Ulta, Sephora, and a CVS all wrapped in one. They've got high end stuff as well as the usual L'Oreal, Maybelline, etc. A couple of weeks ago, while trying to kick a nasty virus, I went to Boots to get some medicine, but of course got distracted by the make-up. And am I glad I did. Since they have testers out for everything, I tried a bunch of different inexpensive foundations and happened upon the Bourjois stuff. By that point, there were multiple stripes on my face, but this one blended in seamlessly. Not believing my eyes at first sight, I walked away and just got the other stuff in hand, including a ridiculously cheap eyeliner, but that's a different post. On my way home, though, and out in natural light, I took a look, and I was floored. Perfect match! I went back the next day and bought it.

A little bit goes a long way with this stuff, and the key is to use a good foundation brush and then stipple a bit with a good sponge to further blend. It has a thicker consistency than a lot of foundations, so it seems like it's pretty concentrated in terms of pigment. It will look cakey if you use a heavy hand, so blend, blend, blend! I also got the Lilas d'Or blush from Bourjois, which is a very close match to Nars Orgasm. I love Nars, but I don't want to spend $25 on a blush. Funnily enough, it's actually cheaper to buy Bourjois stuff in the UK than in the US right now because of the exchange rate. I have the foundation and blush on in the self-portrait in the previous post.

2. Lush "Big" and "Jumping Juniper" shampoos

I'd passed by Lush stores a lot, especially in San Francisco, but I never actually went in. What piqued my interest were the frequent mentions of Lush products on BubbleGarm, a beauty blog I just started reading (fantastic reads, by the way). Having a bit of time to kill before meeting a friend for lunch on Saturday, I went in to the Newcastle Lush store. After standing bewildered in front of the shampoos for a few minutes, a very helpful associate came by to ask me if I needed help (customer service in the UK! oh my! Also another post...). I told him I was interested in the shampoos and that my hair gets greasy easily yet is also getting, shall we say, "flakey."

He said the Jumping Juniper would be perfect and showed me how to use the solid shampoo, which in and of itself is an interesting concept. You work up a bit of a lather as you would with a bar of soap, and as you work the lather into your hair, it gets sudsier. He also gave me a sample of Big to try and said it works wonders on scalp issues, to the point where it can even soothe eczema.

I tried Big first because my hair had decided to get really grungey, really quickly. It was a bit odd to work with this stuff because it's actually half coarse sea salt, so the bigger salt chunks take a while to dissolve. Also, I don't think I worked up a good lather, and upon reading later reviews realized that had I stuck my head under the water for a couple of seconds then rubbed, it would have been bubbly. Anyway, I washed, didn't use conditioner as per Lush associate's suggestion, and let it air dry for the most part. Even while my hair was wet, I felt a difference. My hair felt clean, scalp scrubbed, ends had their acts together. As it dried, the faint jasmine scent lingered, and my hair felt ridiculously soft. Again, floored. I was in love at first wash!

This morning I tried the Jumping Juniper solid shampoo, and similar, awe-inspiring results. I always thought I needed shampoo, conditioner, then a leave-in product of some sort to tame my mane. Add heat styling to that, and it seemed like my hair had a split personality -- greasy at the roots, a bit frazzled at the ends. I managed to work up a good lather with Jumping Juniper, and I let it sit in my hair for a couple of minutes while I washed the rest of me. This also washed out nicely, and hair behaved while I dried and straightened it.

I think I'll go back over the weekend and properly investigate Lush's other stuff. Lush definitely has a new fan.

Since I'm on Kenneth Cole's email list, I actually found out about these shoes when they were first introduced by the company. I was very intrigued because it always seemed like there was a mutual exclusivity between cuteness and comfort. Cute shoes would kill your feet, and comfortable shoes were mostly ugly. Finding cute + comfortable shoes was like trying to find a legendary creature. Lots of people would claim they'd found that elusive combination, but they were usually hoaxes. These, dear readers, are living legends, if we continue with that analogy. The diagram below is pretty impressive and outlines what went into the shoes -- memory foam, arch support, flexible soles, ultrasoft leather, cork padding in the sole, etc.

I happened to receive a coupon from Kenneth Cole while I was home in California for a visit -- $50 off a $150 purchase. That was definitely incentive enough to go to the store and check out the shoes. Ladies, do yourself a favor, and go try on a pair. You feel the difference just standing in these shoes, and once you start walking, fuggeddaboudit. For my feet, arch support is always an issue, and in fact, they tend to cramp randomly (foot issues seem to be genetic -- my mom and grandmother also get cramps in their feet). The shoes with 925 technology have definite, substantial arch support, which is a welcome innovation in high heels. After lengthy deliberation, I went with a pair with about 3 inch heels that were marked down with an additional 30% off. I've worn them about three times so far, and everytime I wear them, I'm amazed at how comfortable the shoes are. They run about a half size too big, so if, for example you usually wear a 9, try on an 8.5 to compare.

There are a number of heel heights, variations on the pump style, and textures with the 925 Technology at Kenneth Cole. Definitely great as work staples, though it would be great if there were a bit more variety in terms of color and more than pointy toe pumps. There are some open toe and sandal styles with the technology, which is good. In an ideal world, I'd like every shoe to have these kinds of insoles, but for now, Kenneth Cole says that all the women's shoes will have the 925 Technology. God bless you, sir, for saving our soles.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wow, it's been about 10 months since I last posted, which is no bueno. In my defense, I am much more active on Twitter, but still I left this blog to languish :( It just seems that whenever I sit down to write a post, I can't think of anything to write! Talk about a catch 22...

Anyway, I can at least update you on what's been going on in the past 10 months (assuming anyone is still reading!).
  • I took a work assignment in England and am now living in Newcastle upon Tyne, which is about 300 miles north of London. I had the, um, "fortune" of experiencing the coldest winter in the UK in 30 years. Before I moved, I asked people whether winter is bad, and universally everyone said "No, not really." Needless to say, I was not prepared for all that snow, and thought it was nowhere near what the East Coast in the US got, the UK is definitely not prepared to deal with snow. It was tough to leave everyone I know and love, but the good thing is that the assignment ends August 31st. Still, it doesn't get any easier to come back to England after I've been home, and I'm usually a wreck the day I fly out.
  • I lost a little bit more weight (about 10 pounds). I credit my trainer back in California and consistency. It helped to have an appointment to keep for four days of the week at 7:30 a.m. No, I'm not a morning person, but yes, I got my ass up and went to work out. Much better to get it done in the morning and not worry about it for the whole day. However, that whole routine inevitably went out the window when I got to England. I'm trying my hardest to get back into a consistent routine after working out off-and-on and then getting sick with two colds. Having my clothes look better on me and being able to fit into smaller sizes is a great feeling. I got rid of a whole bunch of old, now-too-big clothes and had to ask my mom to alter a couple of pants. Woo!
  • I met the love of my life, and we want to get married (iA)!! We met back in August a couple of months before I left for England. Talk about timing! However, we both vowed to do everything in our power to make it work, and it is. He's loving, sweet, genuine, hilarious, smart, a hard-worker...everything I'd want in a husband and babydaddy :) He met my parents on one of his visits prior to my departure, and he met the rest of my family when I was home last time in February. Everyone thinks he's great and approves. Yay!
  • Speaking of February, that's my birthday month, and I hit the big 3-o! Contrary to most people having mini-meltdowns upon turning 30, I, for one, was thrilled to enter my third decade of life. My twenties were hard and confusing and just generally blech. I feel like I have a much better sense of self and how to deal with life's challenges, which leads to a more mature presence. Twenty-something Robo was very prone to "Woe is me!" thinking, which doesn't do any good.
  • After having lived in the United States since I was five years old, I'm finally in the process of becoming an American citizen. My parents were naturalized when I was 13 or 14 years old, but I kept my British citizenship. Funnily enough, it took living in England again for me to realize that, really, America is home. I grew up there, went to school there, and have reaped the benefits of living in America, so I should become a part of its citizenry. This isn't to say I'll be a flag-waving, gung-ho patriot because I do have issues with a lot of American policies, but hey, at least I'll be able to vote!
Here's very recent photo of me for reference purposes:

I'll do my best to keep writing, even if they're short posts. Chat soon, lovelies!