Category Archives: beauty

test case: opi pure lacquer nails

I have been dying to try these clever little patterned stick-on applications of polish ever since they debuted…but I’ve waited. Waited patiently and loyally, until OPI came out with them. I try a lot of polish, friends…a lot of polish…and (other than Chanel), OPI just always comes out on top.

So, I finally heard they’d launched Pure Lacquer Nail Apps, and absolutely had to try. The results? Adorable, thanks. And not that hard to do, once you learn the ropes.

A few application tips I learned the hard way (in case you’re as clueless in these matters as I am):

  • The patterns are more sheer than they look in the package, so the brights are much more wearable than they look.
  • Cuticle scissors are infinitely useful for removing the excess along the sides and base of your nail.
  • They apply upside-down, so the tab you hold onto while applying is at the top of your nail, not the bottom.
  • The strips are actually a little bit stretchy, so feel free to manipulate them a little while applying.
  • There are more than 5 nail strips to a row for a reason – check your nail size before just blindly applying. Not that any sane person would need to be told that.

In all, excellent fun – and definitely worth it for a fun night out or an event. The magic lasted about three days…though I suspect a layer of top coat would have given me a few extra days. But then, the novelty wore off around the time the polish did. Just about perfect, I think. Next time, I’m taking that snakeskin version out for a spin.

Because these are only supposed to be sold at salons, I shall not tell you they’re available on Amazon. Go to, check them out, and then buy them from someone with a license!

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beauty buzz: summer for the sun-phobic

With Memorial Day on the horizon, it’s time to talk sun. Being a girl with a pasty white complexion, not-inexpensive highlights, and a tendency to break out into a rash in the sun (no, really), I dread summer. The moment the sun first peeks out for the season, I bust out the highest SPF I can find, and huddle under any café umbrella in sight. Besides the fact that it causes wrinkles, freckles and melanoma (not necessarily in that order), a lot of time spent in the sun bodes for dry, unhappy hair and skin – not exactly that youthful, dewy look we’re all going for.

But this year, I’m feeling a bit less scared of those sun rays – because I have some excellent ammunition.

Clarins is always be my go-to for sun protection (and, well, most everything else too). For my skin, at least, they offer the best sunscreens around. Not too oily, not chalky in the least, and my skin doesn’t even put up a fuss when I make my seasonal switch from Multi-Active Day SPF 15 to UV Plus SPF 40 Day Screen. This year, they’ve released it in a tinted formula – excellent news if you happen to match one of the three shades. As for me, I’m still layering my Clinique Moisture Surge Tinted Moisturizer on top, but that SPF 40 leaves me much less tense about an alfresco lunch. Best of all? When I whipped out the Clarins for the first time this year (and skipped the Clinique), the husband asked if I was wearing makeup. When I said no, he said – I kid you not – “Wow, you look really nice – all glow-y.” Um, I’ll take a case, please.

For the rest of your bod, I recently got hold of Target’s new up & up continuous-spray sunscreen. Between the Sport SPF 30 and the Kids’ SPF 50, I think you know which I chose. The kids’ version applies seamlessly, isn’t greasy (as so many spray-ons are), and did a fantastic job of protecting me on that charity walk I did last weekend. There is a faint chemical quality to the smell, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a spray sunscreen without it. Oh, and it’s $5. Win!

Then, of course, there’s the matter of your mane. It’s no surprise that summer does awful things to hair – all that sun exposure, a few more trips to the salon for a few more highlights, and those “beachy waves” that turn into impossible-to-remove tangles. I’m kind of in love with Sachajuan, a line I was introduced to by the geniuses over at Woodley & Bunny (go ahead, just try to visit their awesome new online apothecary without being sucked in). They personally test each and every item on the shelves, so I knew I was in good hands. Sachajuan’s products are incredibly gentle and nourishing, with the goal of making you do as little heat-styling as possible (volume powders, repair balms) with as little product as possible, so your hair gets loaded down with moisture and not much else. Love the philosophy, and absolutely love the products.

And I can’t wrap up without dishing on my latest favorite lip balm (SPF 15, naturally). Bobbi Brown Lip Balm comes in this sleek silver tin, and is packed with goodies like wheat germ and olive oil. It feels absolutely amazing on (and can also work wonders with your cuticles in a pinch), and somehow lends just the palest of tints without having any color at all. Plus, it’ll save your lips from that super attractive sunburned-slash-scaly-and-peeling look. As always, I don’t know how Bobbi does it, but I’m sure glad she does.

What are your go-to summer products? Come on, fellow sun-phobes…dish!


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friday finds

Ha! As if I could “find” anything in this mess of a house. Moving is so not conducive to my hyper-organized style. My living room is like something out of Hoarders, my kitchen looks like a bomb hit at my local Williams-Sonoma, and don’t get me started on the state of my closet. I can’t even get to my shoes!

But, I’m making progress. And if nothing else, I’m back to blogging. Which really, is not nothing at all. So, shall we talk Friday Finds?

First up is the highly-talented Nichole Robertson’s much, much-anticipated new book, Paris in Color (from Chronicle, of course). I am obsessed…and much too tempted to take an X-acto knife to the thing and frame half its pages. There are oodles of photos of this gorgeous tome floating around the www this week, but none as cute as mine:


I am almost sorry to tell you about this find, because it’s biggest problem is just that: it’s really hard to find. Also, not cheap. But Philip Kingsley’s styling products are a serious obsession at my place these days. I use the Smooth Cream for frizz-free curly hair days, and the Preen Cream (this site has a killer price, and free shipping) for blowouts that last at least an extra day, sometimes two. Totally worth the hunt.

Spotted this J.Crew linen tee via the lovely blue moss girls, and am now obsessed. Slouchy, bright, and just the thing to throw on when you’re feeling style-less. Since I have at least another two months of long sleeves before summer arrives in Portland, I think I’m entitled to a little treat, don’t you?

To say that the very last thing I need right now is something else for the kitchen would be a massive understatement. That said, I am in love with this measuring cup from Terrain (via creature comforts), and it needs to be mine.

And last but not least, my weekly Pinterest pick. Truth be told, I haven’t been anywhere near prepared to Pin this week, but I hope to remedy that by catching up on my 800+ unread blog posts over the weekend. For now, I am borrowing a pin from Nina Garcia, a seriously awesome pinner. In the midst of moving chaos, nothing looks better to me right now than a room that’s utterly blank and serene.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!


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beauty buzz: the juice cleanse

{Editor’s Note: I’m thrilled to welcome my exceptionally talented and health-conscious friend, Megan Clark, to the blog today. She’s here to tell you all about a juice cleanse…which I’ve always been secretly curious about, yet too chicken to try. She volunteered to play guinea pig, and I think you’ll love her rundown of the results. Enjoy!}

Oh, the mysterious juice cleanse. I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories, watched documentaries, seen friends suffer through cleanse and wondered: is it just a fad? I decided to find out and finally tried it myself.

For many, just the mention of a juice cleanse conjures up the mandatory fasting that takes place before surgery or a blood test. I’m happy to say that it’s actually a very different experience. There’s still some anxiety and food cravings, but what you get in return is well worth it. A juice cleanse gives your digestive system a break. Consequently, all the junk that has been put into your system has a chance to get flushed out. (I have a mental picture of coffee, donuts, cookies and bottles of wine floating down a river through my digestive tract. Just in case you were wondering.) It’s like a reboot for your body.

We were privileged to partner with The Feel Good World in Portland for this little experiment. Their three-day program, affectionately known as the “Juice Feast” is made up of eighteen juices, or six juices each day. The entire experience is titled Shine Signature VIP. It includes all of the juices for the cleanse, a bag of fresh snacks and prepared meals to help you taper off the cleanse at the end, one week of yoga/movement classes and a spa treatment to top it off (though the package has now changed, and the spa treatment is a colon hydrotherapy session).

So, you probably want to know how it went, right? Read on

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friday finds: updated classics

Happy Friday, friends! I’m so glad you enjoyed my Bobbi Brown outing as much as I did…what a treat to see all of your responses! I’m getting the feeling you’d like a little more beauty news here, so I promise to do my best to deliver.

In the meantime, though, it’s Friday…and I am pretty in love with my list of finds this week. They’re all simple classics, just slightly updated…in other words, precisely my cup of tea. I could buy each and every one, and they’d feel perfectly at home in my closet.

Speaking of beauty buys, this pale gold Giorgio Armani eye pencil (brand spanking new for spring) has risen to the top of my favorite products of late. The subtle shimmer is perfect for day, and the color is light enough that absolutely no precision is required. In fact, I’ve been just drawing a thick-ish line and foregoing shadow altogether. It also does amazing things for green/hazel eyes.

I know, I know…more striped tees. I’m nearing total saturation too. But I’m kind of feeling the jolt of pink in this J.Crew colorblock stripe tee, and I’m envisioning it being every bit as useful as the traditional version, but certainly more interesting. The neon yellow version could be fun too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Linen tees are an old favorite of mine. If you can find one that’s sufficiently nubby, they’re more breathable (and no more wrinkle-prone) than your favorite cotton version, but somehow totally office-appropriate. Madewell just launched a few new solids and this Cloudbreak print, with which I’m smitten.

I made a fatal wardrobe error last year, and purchased a “steal” when I should have gone for the “splurge”. My French Connection trench just isn’t pulling its weight, no matter how hard I try. Burberry was the obvious upgrade…until I spotted this Kate Spade Topliner Trench, from their Florence Broadhurst collection. Check out that lining! Who needs plaid? Most coveted item of spring, my friends.

Sometimes, I think people are shocked when they meet me on the street and hear I’m a fashion writer. My style is far less ambitious in real life than you might hope. These Anniel ballerina flats, for example, are as simple and unassuming as they come, but I have not a doubt I’d wear them to death.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends! I’ll be playing around with some Bobbi Brown goodies, indulging in the Sunday New York Times subscription my hubs surprised me with recently, and house-hunting (my least favorite kind of cardio). I hope you have something fun in store.

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SMC interviews: bobbi brown

Prepare yourselves, friends…I got to meet the Queen of Beauty! That’s right, the one and only Bobbi Brown stopped by Portland yesterday to give a Master Class at my friendly neighborhood Nordstrom. And, since I’m the luckiest girl in town, they let me sit in…and ask a few questions along the way! It was a fantastic event, packed with great tips and info (if you follow me on Twitter, you got the full scoop – I live-tweeted the whole thing!), and the cherry on top of the sundae was this little moment:

{Note me squatting down like an idiot, because Bobbi is a petite little thing!}

Oh, what? Yep, that’s just me, chatting away with Bobbi Brown. No big deal.


The Master Class was an incredibly informative event – I learned tons of tips and tricks. For example:

  • After you apply lip gloss, dab the excess off with your finger and rub onto the tops of your cheeks, along the line at the base of your eye socket. The result is a beautiful glowing sheen, and your lips don’t look goopy!
  • Bobbi is an evangelist when it comes to concealer – or, more specifically, a concealer/corrector combo. You’ll hear more about that below, but her best tip was not to be stingy with the concealer. Apply generously with a brush, then dab with your finger to blend. I tried it this morning – totally works!

I could go on. But instead, I’ll tell you about Miracle No. 2 – in which I got to interview the Queen herself! I asked so many of you for questions in advance, and you delivered (big time!). But I snuck in a few of my own as well. Here we go!

Shopping’s My Cardio: Hi, Bobbi! During the spring and summer, I think most women want to try a cleaner look with their makeup. We’re all hoping to achieve that dewy, make-up free look, but of course, few of us can go makeup-free. What products should we be using, and how should we apply them to get that look?

Bobbi Brown: Tinted Moisturizers are great for the spring and summer because they are lightweight and hydrating, but still provide a sheer veil of coverage, which many of us need. Use one that contains an SPF so that you are protecting your skin from the sun. I also suggest using bronzer in the spring and summer to even out your skin tone and achieve a natural ‘glow’. Lastly, try using a sheer color lip gloss. It’s the perfect way to polish off your look by making the lips look fuller and imparting just the right amount of color without looking too heavy.

SMC: Now that I’m in my 30s, my skin has officially started its aging process, and I’m buying products I never thought I’d need. What do you think changes about a makeup routine when your skin starts to age – or at least, what should change?

BB: First off, great makeup starts with great skincare. Make sure you are using a hydrating face and eye cream. When you get into your thirties, you are working, raising kids, running errands, etc. You’re busy, but a few simple steps can instantly freshen up  your look. Don’t forget to apply corrector and concealer. Corrector is pink or peach based and will instantly lighten up any darkness under the eyes. Concealer is yellow-toned (and should be one to two shades lighter than your foundation) and will brighten up the under eye area making you look instantly refreshed.

Also, be sure to apply blush. Nothing makes a woman look prettier than a pop of blush—it gives the face an instant lift. I suggest layering two, one that is your natural color (the color of your cheeks after exercising) and a second brighter color applied only to the apples of the cheek for a pop of color.

SMC: A few of my readers have asked about your recommendations for skin care. What should women be doing for their skin every day, and in what order? I’m an unrelenting advocate of sunscreen, but beyond that, there are so many mixed messages and contradictory advice out there! Can you give us a definitive routine?

BB: In the morning, gently wash your face and then apply a repair serum.  Over time, serums work to help improve skin’s texture and moisture barrier. Look for one infused with anti-aging ingredients like Vitamin C and peptides. It will help  smooth the look of lines and wrinkles while giving skin a firmer, more lifted appearance. Follow that with a hydrating moisturizer that contains SPF and a hydrating eye cream.

At night, make sure to wash your face well to rinse off all the days impurities. Exfoliating your face 2-3 times a week will help slough off any dead skin you have. Apply the repair serum again and top with a heavier, denser balm that will sooth and repair your skin overnight.

SMC: Dark circles. They’re my cosmetic Achilles Heel, and I know I’m not alone. I can never seem to get the concealer perfectly blended, nor can I get them completely covered. Can you help? I’d also love any tips for covering up dark spots or moles on the face – is there a way to do it without ending up with a face caked with foundation, or must we make peace with our dark spots?

BB: One of the biggest mistakes women make when applying makeup is to use concealer on their face. Concealer should always be one to two shades lighter than your foundation, as its purpose is to brighten under your eyes. You don’t want to use a product that is too light on your face or the coverage will look unnatural. Also, concealer is creamier in texture and therefore is too thick to use on the face. I suggest using a skin tone correct tinted moisturizer/foundation (one that disappears seamlessly into the skin) and then using a blemish cover stick on any area that is particularly dark or discolored for  flawless coverage.

SMC: I have to ask – are you a person who will run to the grocery store without makeup?

BB: While I admit I do leave the house without makeup sometimes, I try not to leave without at least applying concealer, blush, mascara and lip gloss to look polished. If I have a couple minutes more, I will apply eyeliner. Eyeliner is the best way to make your eyes stand out. It makes them look bigger and more defined, which are things you want as you get older!

A huge thanks to Bobbi for taking the time to chat with me, and to all of her peeps (and the truly fantastic folks at Nordstrom) for bringing all this magic together!

Next up – I’m going to test out all of the products Bobbi suggested for me, and report back. Stay tuned!

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trend to try: the bold manicure

Editor’s Note: Welcome back, Kim! I have to admit, today’s trend might be a bit beyond my ken, but Kim’s here to help us push our style boundaries a bit. And there’s no question that I’ve been seeing this look absolutely everywhere this season. As always, our trusty Trends columnist has her (very well-polished) finger on the pulse.

Okay, I confess…now I’m contemplating a bit of glitter. Baby steps…


So, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not too quick on picking up manicure trends. I think I was the last person in the world to discover the power of a great nude polish. And I definitely rocked the acrylic French manicure well beyond the appropriate high school years. All of this to say that, while this may not be news to you, bold manicures are absolutely everywhere lately.

To get me started on the road to a more modern mani, my lovely friend Molly recommended that I pick up a bottle of Butter London’s matte finish top coat.  You add a coat to any color and it instantly becomes matte, and almost chalky in appearance.  I picked up a bottle at the Adorn fire sale this weekend and tried it out last night.  Pictures do not do it justice.  You’re just going to have to take my word and go try it out.  Seriously, I will never look at polish the same way again!  High-gloss solid shades suddenly feel so 2011.

Now that I’m in the mood to update my look, I thought I’d see what I could find to maximize my efforts. To scout out a few fun, bold trends, I started out on my niece’s Pinterest page, where I quickly discovered Prima Creative. Not only does this girl have mad nail painting skills, some of her designs are created based on runway trends and paired accordingly. It’s pretty amazing – check it out.

All images via Prima Creative

Some of these are clearly not for a beginner, but I love the idea of taking this photo to my favorite manicurist and seeing what magic she can work.

On the slightly more attainable side of things…

Images c/o Prima Creative / PinterestNails via Xfinity / Sweet Talk on the Spot

I just might attempt these ones on my own…rumor has it to get the ‘ombre’ french tip effect, you use a sponge eyeshadow application brush.  If you get there first, let me know if you try this and it works!

Cupcakes and Cashmere recently offered up a great tutorial to get your own mod mani, and I loved the look she came up with using glitter and paint pens (below left). You can see part way through the process all the nails are a solid color with a single sparkle finger.  I like that look too. But really, it’s all about the amazing final, graphic result.

Images c/o Cupcakes and Cashmere / Little Chief Honeybee / Hey Nice Nails

I LOVE these stripes and roses. And the stained-glass effect?? Pretty bold, but also pretty fun!

So, let’s be honest. Unless you’re crazy talented in the hand-eye coordination department, chances are you can’t do most of these manicures yourself (I know I couldn’t). Luckily, I’ve come prepared with a few tips to make these looks more attainable:

  • Adding dots is easy – just take the head of a straight pin, dip it lightly in polish, and apply the dot to your nail.
  • Stripes are a bit trickier, but there’s a new wave of nail polish paint pens on the market that would be invaluable here. Just paint on your base color, then draw the lines on with the pen. Done!
  • To get those half moons, use the stickers that come with a DIY French mani kit – they’ll give you the pefect guidelines. Just be sure to start with the lighter color, as it’s easier to cover mistakes.
  • Simplest of all, you can find all sorts of ready-made bold mani options these days. Check out the options from Sally Hansen or Butter London, or go even bolder with a site called Nail Fraud – it’s the ultimate bold mani cheat. Order a set of high impact nail decals and stick away!

Good luck…let us know how you do!

~ Kim B.

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beauty buzz: and the best new moisturizer award goes to…

I spend a lot of time testing products, friends. My bathroom (as the hubs would tell you) is positively littered with them, in fact. Of those zillions of products, most I use up as quickly as possible (I am positively flagrant in my excess use of serums), impatient for the next great thing to roll into my mailbox. But every so often, I get something really wonderful – and I hoard it like a squirrel in winter. I dole out miniscule, careful portions every day, I savor applying it, and I dread the day when I finally coax the last few drops out of the container.

Such is the new Extra Repair Balm from Bobbi Brown. I’ve been patiently biding my time to tell you about this newbie until it released this week, but I’ve been testing it for a while, and I’m hooked. My skin is finally back to its pre-winter state – no dry spots, no flaking, and maybe even a little bit of a dewy glow. After months of trying virtually every other option in my arsenal, this was all it took.

Naturally, nothing in life is perfect, and there were a couple of obstacles to overcome here. First, the scent. It’s kind of like an herbal, mellower rendition of Vick’s VapoRub. Not a bad thing, just not how I expect night cream to smell. Fortunately, it dissipates almost instantly…and after a week or so, I didn’t even notice any more.

Second, the texture is unlike any moisturizer I’ve ever used. It really is a balm, not a cream – the texture is almost like butter. So, you have to use a very tiny amount, and you have to massage it in lightly at first, so that it has a chance to melt into your skin. Once it does, and once your skin adjusts to this serious dose of moisturizer (which may take a couple of weeks), you’ll be sold.

A generous pot of this runs $90, but I’m guessing I’ll get at least two months of use, maybe three, since you use so little at a time. Oh, and Bobbi Brown has a great special running for Valentine’s Day – code VDAY12 will get you free shipping and two free samples.

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