Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Toddler Fun Series: Blowing Pom Poms with a Straw

The number one thing about this activity was discovering the adorable way Rhys says "pom pom". The activity itself was quick and not all that engaging, but guys? My baybee . . . he says "pom pom" cutely.  WIN.

Materials needed: Pom Poms, Straws  (in the craft kit)
Time consumend: About 5 minutes. A minute blowing pom poms around, another minute sorting them by color, the maority of our time was spent putting pom poms back in ziplock bag when finished. THAT actually went over well.  Putting things in bags . . . activity idea . . . hmmm. . .
Todder approval rating: 5 out of 10 stars. It wasn't "bad", just not all that interesting to him.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Toddler Fun Series: Cheerio Threading

Having Rhys thread Cheerios on yarn or pipe cleaners had been on my activity list for a while, and then I found this totally amped up and way cooler Cheerio threading idea.  It went over really well with the little man.

Materials needed: Play doh, dried pasta, Cheerios.  We had everything on hand.
Time consumned:  About 20 minutes. 
Toddler approval rating:  7 out of 10 stars. He liked this one! It didn't hold his attention quite as long as I expected which is why I docked it a few stars, but the twenty minutes he spent were fun for him.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Toddler Fun Series: Playing Grocery Store

Rhys isn't actually a big fan of real grocery stores . . . he's the only child I've ever known who usually refuses to sit in a cart (even when we offer to let him sit in the big part of the cart!).  He does, however, like carrying things in bags, playing with rewards cards and using his calculator, so in the end this activity was a winner.  I set up a row of empty food boxes along our bench, gave Rhys a storage bin with wheels (it usually holds balls) to use as a cart, and pulled out a calculator (cash register), rewards card (credit card) and reusable grocery bag.  Rhys surprised me by wanting to be the cashier, rather than the shopper.  Other than the part where he tried to charge me $4,444 for some dried beans and crackers, I'd say this game went well.

Materials needed: empty food boxes, rewards card, calculator, reusable shopping bag, something to use as a cart or shopping basket.
Toddler time consumed: about half an hour, encompassing 7 or 8 shopping trips
Toddler approval rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Toddler Fun Series: Making Greeting Cards

Rhys' last day of daycare was a week or so ago and in preparation, he made cards for all of his teachers.  I was really surprised by how intently he worked on these, and for how long. This was a huge winner of an activity and I'm so glad . . . it means I'll always be able to come up with a meaningful, adorable card at a moment's notice!
Materials needed: Blank greeting cards (or folded over paper) and decorations.  We used: watercolors, markers and stickers.
Toddler time consumed: 45 minutes for 5 cards, in rotation: First he painted all 5, then he stickered them, then he drew with markers.
Toddler approval rating:  9 out of 10 stars.  He LOVED this project!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Toddler Fun Series: Pipe Cleaners in a Colander

I saw this idea on Pinterest and it was the first kid craft idea I'd seen there that made me want to drop everything and run home to try it.  It is absolutely perfect for little hands.  Rhys, like most toddlers, enjoys "connecting" things or "plugging things in" (not always safe!), so setting up a safe activity for him where he could "plug" away to his heart's content went over really well. 
Materials needed:Colander and pipe cleaners (in the kit!)
Toddler time consumed: about 10 minutes
Toddler approval rating: 7 out of 10 stars. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Toddler Fun Series: The Craft Kit

I've noticed lately that for all the reading and playing we do, Rhys and I actually do quite little in the way of crafty/planned activity type things.  I think this may be a working mom thing . . . I get home from the office and the school run and it is all I can do to put something reasonably healthy on the table and maybe even sneak in a toddler bath before it is time for bed.  We haven't got a ton of time for master planned activities.  Crafting is, however, something that is obviously pretty darn important to me.  It is how I spend about half of my "me time" and something I really enjoy.  And given that  preschool is starting (crazy) soon and considering all the fine motor skills Rhys will be able to pick up by practicing crafty activities, I felt it was high time we get him on a regular craft project rotation.

I stockpiled a list of ideas and, once I'd done so, I realized I needed to put together a basic craft kit for Rhys.  95% of the ideas I'm going to share in this series can be replicated with materials from this kit alone, there are literally hundreds of hours of fun to be had all contained in this unassuming box.  The kit would cost about $30 to replicate in full, but I think most moms have at least half this stuff lying around the house already.  Here's my master list:
1) Drawing paper
2) Construction paper (Ikea sells a huge pack of white and construction paper for about $4)
3) Painting paper (Not strictly necessary, but handy if you have a toddler who is heavy handed with wet, soggy paints)
4) Washable school glue
5) Glue stick
6) Tape
7) Safety Scissors (Ikea sells an set of toddler scissors and toddler pinking scissors for a few dollars)
8) Crayons
9) Markers (washable are ideal)
10) Watercolors (You can pick up a set for around a dollar. Lots of  bang for your buck!)
11) Finger Paints
12) Paintbrushes (Another item I picked up at Ikea)
13) Play doh
14) Play doh toys
15) Stickers (An awesome resource for stickers is the party store.  Super inexpensive sheets in a variety of characters!)
16) Popsicle sticks (For the next 4 items, I discovered that craft store prices were FAR lower than Amazon's prices, for what it is worth.)
17) Pipe cleaners (which might be called "chenille sticks", depending on where you're shopping
18) Google Eyes
19) Pom poms
20) Scraps of yarn (hopefully you or someone you know knits or crochets. If not, a skein of multicolor, variegated yarn might do the trick)
21) Egg Carton
22) Paper towel tubes
23) Paper Plates (The cheaper the better, plain white with no designs are most useful)
24) Paper Lunch Bags
25) Optional: Craft Kits.  Creativity for Kids makes great ones for around $5 (but they often go on sale for $2 or $3 at Joann's.). We've done a Build Your Own Wooden Train kit and a Foam Airplane kit, both of which were huge hits. 
Other ideas:  dried beans, dried pasta, glitter glue, tin foil, tissue paper, sticky back foam shapes or letters, Styrofoam shapes, empty mints tins, old magazines or catalogs, empty boxes, etc. etc.

Now that we have THE BOX all assembled, I find that Rhys and I do art projects and activities together really regularly.  Putting the box together is 3/4 of the battle.  I can't wait to share some of our project ideas here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rhys' New Train Table

When we first remade Rhys' nursery into a big boy room, we used the corner that had initially housed a big armchair for nursing (which I never used, since we were more comfortable nursing on the couch, in the bedroom, etc.) and remade it into a tent/fort area complete with tap lights and a "control panel".  The tent arrangement worked out great, until a) the tent was recalled for fear of the bars snapping and exposing sharp metal ends and b) Rhys took to flinging himself bodily into it for fun.  So!

I'd been resistant to the idea of a train table because I think that building and laying out tracks is the most educational aspect of paying with a wooden railway.  I for sure did not want to glue or bolt Rhys' tracks down onto a table, thereby limiting his play and learning options and dooming him to an eventual life of NOT being an astrophysicist, rocket scientist or similar.

I'm also cheap and train tables are expensive, yo.  And while I know that Rhys absolutely adores playing with train tables now at this exact point in his life, I assume he won't when he's, say, seventeen.  In other words, a train table didn't exactly strike me as a wise investment piece. 

The obvious solution was to make my own table: something inexpensive that would look great in Rhys' room, might remain useful even after Rhys outgrows his train phase and something that wouldn't limit his track layout options. 

I decided to start with a simple, inexpensive Ikea coffee table.  We actually returned the recalled Ikea tent and applied the credit to the table, so we got it for $10.   To be honest? We almost could've stopped there.  We set up some track on the plain coffee table for Rhys to play with for a few days as I was gathering supplies for my hack and it worked fairly well, save for the fact that there were no railings to help keep track in place during play, and so our layouts had a way of ending up on the floor after a few minutes of rough toddler train action. 

Ultimately, though, I wanted Rhys to have something a little beefed up and more interesting looking.  I initially figured that I'd find some sort of  landscape scenery printed wrapping paper to adhere to the top, but that proved difficult to find.  I started looking into maps and found some interesting ones, but thought something more graphic would work better . . . with bold lines that Rhys could run his cars and trains over rather than a spiderweb of tiny streets and highways.  Once it finally dawned on me, the choice seemed so obvious: a London tube map.  Perfect.  I found one (slightly out of date, but who cares for this purpose) for about a dollar (!!!) via Amazon.

I used gloss Mod Podge to attach the map to the table.  This was my first Mod Podge experience and, though not without wrinkles and flaws, it was actually far easier than I was expecting. The surface of the table is passable.  There is one large-ish wrinkle running vertically down the left hand side of the tube map, but as the Mod Podge dried it actually seemed to flatten itself out fairly well.  I used one coat to adhere and two coats on top, letting the layers dry overnight in between coats. 

I then used a few inexpensive strips of moulding, cut to size with my metal saw and painted white using spare paint from the garage, and attached them to the sides of the table with wood glue in order to form a lip.  I used painters tape to hold the lip in place as it dried and, although I used an Elmer's wood glue that didn't expand initially, it wasn't holding all that great so I added some expanding Gorilla glue in the cracks between the table and the moulding.  This, of course, expanded and made kind of a mess.  Which is how I found myself googling "Where can I find white caulk that gets REALLY hard?" (thank you, UCLA, for  the education that enabled me to spell "caulk" properly and thereby avoid a plethora of Internet porn).

I discovered that something called "Painter's Caulk" exists . . .for mouldings and, well, things that are going to be painted.  It applies more or less the same way as silicone-y bathroom caulk does, but it dries hard.  When my husband got home, I greeted him with "We need to go buy some really hard white caulk". So, that was fun.

The caulk did the job and covered most of the Gorilla Glue mess.  I finished the whole table off with a layer of clear acrylic spray sealer over the top surface and the rails.  It doesn't look perfect up close, but it is passable, for sure:

And with trains:
All set up:
Total cost for Rhys' bitchin' new train table, that looks perfect in his room, has meaning for our family and which may even be useful after he outgrows trains (I can totally see him taking this to use as a coffee table or bedside table in his first dorm room or bachelor pad. Amirite?):

Ikea table: $19 -$9 store credit from the recalled tent:  $10
Out of date London tube map: $1.09 + $3.99 shipping (although a bit pricier now) = $5.08
Hardware store run including moulding (only a few cents), foam brushes, wallpaper smoother, clear acrylic sealer spray, really hard white caulk, painter's tape, wood glue, etc. = about $20

Grand Total: $42.78

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Brown Rice Crust Quiche

As much as I love quiche, I hadn't ever made one up until recently.  Pastry is just HARD. So much effort expended, not all that healthy and, while I've had some success in the past, I've also had my share of total pastry flops.  For certain, pastry is NOT a weeknight friendly endeavour, in any event.

This quiche, however?  It makes a PERFECT weekend dinner.  I discovered it via this pin (and, come on, even if you don't like quiche you've got to admit that photo makes it look damn good).  I made a few tweaks to the recipe which made it tastier and a bit more weeknight friendly . . . I used frozen, bagged microwave brown rice and prewashed, micro bag broccoli to cut down on cooking time and dish dirtying.  I also used half a cup of milk rather than a full cup (as when I tried with a full cup the quiche took FOREVER to set), I used as much broccoli as would fit into my pie pan which it turns out was closer to one cup than two cups, and I topped the whole thing before baking with a thin layer of shredded fresh parmesan.  

Using microwave broccoli and rice as shortcuts, this dinner took all of 10 minutes to assemble (including time spent prebaking the brown rice crust), and required no intervention whosoever from me during the 35 minutes it baked in the oven.  It was also heartily toddler approved, Rhys asked me hysterically to "CUT IT, MOMMY!!" because he couldn't eat his slice fast enough.

Served with a side salad of rocket and caramelized red onions (that cooked largely on their own wile the quiche baked), this one is going to end up in regular rotation!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stuff My Toddler Has Said

In the backseat of the car, 9pm, driving home from a wedding, after having been told gently to "Go to sleep, Rhys . . .shhhhh . . . ":   *growling* "Noooo! I no sshhhhhh!!!!"

In bed before falling asleep "Mommy, I skeerreeddd", Me: "What are you scared of, bug?", Rhys "MONSTERS" *makes jazz hands*

To his daddy, who had just told him that it wasn't ice cream time:  "No say no, say yes!"

Reciting his routine to me, off the cuff, as we took a walk through his daycare neighborhood at lunchtime:  "I go home mommy! I get backpack! I ride car! I go home see daddy! I play choo choo! I eat dinner! I brush teeth! I go nigh nighs! I snuggle mommy! I wake up! I read two books!"

Every time any timer or bell of any sort rings: "PIZZA!!!"

He's my favorite guy ever.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nail Art You Can Actually Do (and one style you can't)

I've been dabbling with nail art lately (thanks, PINTEREST) and have stumbled on a few techniques that have yielded surprisingly cool results for minimal effort expended.   In order of easiest to hardest:

1) Crackle Polish
This is almost a no brainer.  Base coat.  Two coats of color. Allow color to dry (at least 75% of the way, if you're impatient). Apply a thickish coat of crackle polish in as few strokes as possible (you're aiming for 2-3 passes with the brush).  Apply top coat.  In this picture I used Spoiled Toad-ally Amazing (mint creme) as the base and OPI Shatter in Gold (lovely and sparkly) as the crackle:
2) Glitter Beds
Using a creme polish basecoat (OPI Lincoln Park After Dark, pictured) and a chunky glitter polish (Milani FX in Gold) on only part of the nail yields a cool, sequined effect.  I applied the glitter over half dry base polish directly with a brush.  These glitter pieces are quite large, and it took a bit of coaxing to get them roughly where I wanted them, but the entire glittering process only took 5-10 minutes, and imperfection was the look I was going for, making this a hard to mess up nail art option.
3) Glitter Tips
For this look, I applied two coats of OPI for Sephora Metro Chic (griege creme), let them dry 3/4 of the way and then applied a silver glitter polish using a sponge to the tips of my nails only.  This sounds way harder than it is.  Simply dab a puddle of glitter polish onto a paper plate and apply using a torn up makeup sponge. 
4) Galaxy
This is another sponge painting technique.  Two coats of black or navy creme, topped with a plethora of colors and glitters using the paper plate and makeup sponge technique detailed above.  I like to use a combo of mint and nude cremes, yellow gold shimmer, silver holo glitter and silver glitter.  Finish off with toothpick applied dots of white creme and a good topcoat.  

As anyone who has tried nail art knows, not every design goes as planned.  Take water marbling, for example. The technique involves making a bullseye of polish droplets in a cup of water, swiping through the polish with a toothpick, then dipping a masked off nail into the puddle in order to transfer the polish. After two solid nights of attempting this, and developing a pretty spectacular acetone high, here is my best attempt:

1982 called. They want their nails back.

Can't win them all. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

BB Cream Round Up: 5 Solid Choices

Confused by the dizzying array of BB creams on the market?  Apprehensive about buying online . . . via ebay . . . from international sellers?  Wondering what all the fuss is about?  Not to worry . . . over the last 8 months or so I've swapped out my former sunblock/primer/tinted moisturizer/concealer routine for a one tube BB cream solution, finding a few duds and a few gems in the process . . . and I'm here to share my top 5 creams with you.  In order of favesies:

1) Missha M Perfect Cover BB Cream
Price: $8.45 via eBay (lots of potential sellers, but the one linked above is the seller I used)
Size: 20ml
SPF: 42
Skincare extras: soothing, moisturizing
Coverage: Medium
Feel: Super lightweight
Notes:  My favorite BB cream for its fantastic coverage with a literally weightless feel.  It feels like absolutely nothing on the skin and the color match, as you can see above, is pretty spot on.  Your mileage may vary color wise, of course, but this formula is top notch.

2) Skin 79 Hot Pink Super Plus BB
Price: $7.98 via eBay (lots of potential sellers, but the one linked above is the seller I used.  I actually purchased a sample set of 4 Skin 79 creams, but the Hot Pink was my favorite of those.)
Size: 25ml
SPF: 25
Skincare extras: Claims to be a 10 in 1 solution:  whitening, wrinkle improvement, sebum control, moisturizing, UV protection.  That's 5 by my count, but half the page is in Korean, so what do I know?)
Coverage: Medium
Feel: Super lightweight
Notes:  A super close second to Missha . . . the coverage here is ever so slightly sheer-er and the color isn't quite as great a match, but still a total winner in my book.  I can see myself reaching for this cream more often in the winter, when I tend to be paler. 

3) Holika Holkia Peach Girl BB Cream

Price: $19.79 via eBay (lots of potential sellers, but the one linked above is the seller I used.I daresay I paid less though, by about $6.)
Size: 50ml (biggie!)
SPF: 37
Skincare extras: peach and strawberry extracts
Coverage: Full coverage
Feel: Lighter than a foundation, but heavier than the Skin 79 or Missha creams
Notes:  This is the cream I reach for when I feel like I need an extra bit of coverage. It comes packaged with a peach cream blush cleverly hidden in the cap . . .super duper cute.  I quite like the blush just on its own merits, but hidden in a cream cap? Now that I LOVE!

4) Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector

Price: $11.04 (drugstores!)
Size: 2.5oz
SPF: 15
Skincare extras: Renews, Brightens, Evens, Hydrates, Protects
Coverage: Sheer
Feel: Light, almost gel-like feel
Notes:  This is often my weekend BB cream . . . super sheer coverage and a cooling, lightweight feel.  Don't expect any "skin perfecting" coverage here, but this does a nice job of evening tone and moisturizing.  It has the perk of being the most readily available cream on my list, as it is carried by most drugstores.

5) Boots 17 BB Cream
Price: 6.99 Pounds, Boots chemists in the UK.
Size: 20ml
SPF: 15
Skincare extras: Conceals imperfections, evens tone, controls oil
Coverage: Full coverage
Feel: Closer to a traditional foundation feel, but still I wouldn't describe it as "heavy"
Notes:  This was my first BB and I still quite like it! It offers excellent coverage with a "lighter than foundation" feel. If I lived near a Boots (woe betide me that I do not), this just might have the right combo of availability, price and formula to be my go-to cream. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wrist Cuff Wallet

I got the idea from this cuff from an Etsy listing and, while I'm not in the habit of ripping off other sellers, the listing in question was well outside of my price range (over $300!) and much "fancier" than would be practical for my own use. 

The basic idea is a wrist cuff, with a wallet/lipstick holder/keychain built inside.  I drafted a pattern using paper and assembled my bits and pieces of fabric from there.  This project made an excellent stash buster, as I was able to use up tiny bits of loved fabric I'd been hoarding. 

I decided on a wallet/cash pocket (with a closure flap for security), a card width pocket with a keychain built in and a set of three elastic strips meant to hold a lipgloss tube as my interior accoutrements.  Assembly was simple, once I'd thought through the order in which to sew my pockets.  I finished off the piece with a row of three hook and eye closures, hand sewn on after the main cuff was all sewn up. 

I'm pretty pleased with how it came out! It is for sure functional as a wallet.  The weekend I made it I wore it both days and it worked well for me.  However, since I've got tiny wrists (narrower than a credit card, in fact), the cuff felt bulky on and once was actually mistaken for a carpal tunnel wrist wrap.  *fail* 

Given those issues, I'm pleased that I didn't spend $300+ on a leather and gold zipper festooned cuff from Etsy!  I'm going to continue trying to refine the design to make it less bulky and more comfortable, though.  And, if you have wider wrists, by all means, give a cuff like this a shot!  It is a fantastic idea . . . just maybe not for tiny boned peeps like me. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Union Jack Pillow for the Jubilee

I finally got around to making a Union Jack pillow for myself . . . and just in time for the Jubilee too!

This one I pieced together using all scrap materials from my stash (save for the pillow form, which I bought at Ikea, where I've found they have a decent selection of "blank" pillows at a fair-er price than most fabric stores).  The background and back of the pillow are a soft plaid flannel, the background stripes are done in a cream and wine colored toile, the crosswise ribbon accents are gingham and the foreground ribbon is plain black grosgrain.

I love how this pillow came out . . . it incorporates almost all of my favorite types of fabric: plaid, toile and gingham. 

Total project time was a little on the high side, as I pieced the toile bits together from tiny scrap pieces, instead of one continuous strip of fabric. Maybe 1 1/2 hours total?  Time well spent though, I think . . . I love how the pillow looks on our sofa!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dear Meyers

Your twenty fourth month has been the month of big sentences and long chats.  You love to tell me stories . . . especially when you really should be sleeping.  The other night, after a day spent taking the train up to Santa Barbara, we cuddled in bed and I told you it was time to go to sleep. Your replied "No, mommy. I talk you." and proceeded to tell me all about your day. About how the train stopped at red lights; how you rode with Mommy, Daddy and Namaw, but Uncle Jeff no ride train; about how you met the conductor and he said "All aboard!" and how when you tried to walk while the train was moving it was "slippery".  You punctuated  the end of every remark with "See!", like a toddler quite pleased with himself for expressing his ideas so clearly. 

You have been more and more interested in books lately.  Your attention span for long stories is growing and you hardly ever rip your books out of my hands halfway through and proclaim "THE END" anymore.  Last night we read an incredibly involved Thomas Engine Little Golden book about Thomas finding an abandoned town and then getting stuck in a mine shaft.  You were riveted through the final page.

You still love your wooden railroad and have started building your own track layouts more and more often, as opposed to choo choo-ing along layouts your dad or I have built.  We have also been incorporating your wooden castle block sets into your train layouts . . . making bridges, tunnels, and castles that span the entire width of your railroad.  I'm not going to lie, I think I have as much fun playing as you do. 

You love to color as well and I recently bought you your first pair of toddler scissors.  I was fascinated when I handed them to you and realized that you didn't know how to hold them them.  I have to remind myself sometimes that you're learning every little thing from scratch . . . in that context, the things you know already amaze me even more.   Like the eggs . . . the other night we were unpacking groceries and you picked up a carton of eggs.  Your dad told you to be careful, because "Those are eggs and they could break". You looked at him in shock and said "Der's a BABY in dere?!!?"  Babies: they come from eggs. I don't know how you knew . . .
The evolution of your sentence structure is just fascinating to watch.  The other day, in line for Casey Jr. at Disneyland, you were eying another little boy and I told you to just say hi.  You said hi and then turned to me and said "See, Mommy? I hi-ed!"  The structure wasn't quite right, but I was so incredibly proud of you for attempting to use the past tense.  During that same line time, a Disneyland employee spotted your Batman hoodie and asked "Whoa, are you BATMAN?"  You replied, looking a little confused, "No. I'm two."  It was obviously, adorable, but on another level: you heard the question; you thought about the question and formulated a response; you were brave enough to converse and interact without interference from me or your dad.  You blew my mind, on so many levels.

And, puzzles! You are *so good* at puzzles.  We've started giving you puzzles where the pieces fit together instead of puzzles with one slot per piece.  You're great at them.   You also have a little Thomas Engine Lego model with five pieces that you can take apart and put back together properly in under a minute. 

We're saving up for your MIT tuition already, basically.  I couldn't be prouder of you.

Your Mommy

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Naked2: Story of a Lemming

I'm a big fan of taupe and gold eye shadows, and while I never bought Urban Decay's first Naked palette (finding it too warm for my skin tone), I was crushing hard for Naked2 from the moment I heard it described as a "taupe and greige" palette. SWOON. However, Naked2 being $50 and me being cheap, I decided to try and cure my lemming via a less expensive route.

In all, I tried three "alternative" palettes and, as you can see, I still bought Naked2 (there's some bad math in there somewhere). HOWEVER, all of my 3 alternate palettes do have their virtues and, if I had it to do over again, I'm not entirely certain I'd have bought Naked2 after all. Observe:

 1) NYX Nude on Nude($25)

The first lemming buster I purchased was NYX's Nude on Nude palette. At $25 for 20 shadows and 10 lipglosses, this one seems like a hell of a bargain. However, as you can see in the photo above, in the several months I've had this palette I haven't even tested all of the eyeshadow shades and none of the lipglosses have been so much as swatched. The colors in this palette lean too warm for me and I've found the pigmentation to be lacking. Lipglosses in palettes like this one just aren't portable for touch ups, so they never get used in my world. This was my first NYX palette and, it being kind of disappointing, I had low expectations of the Dark Shadows palette I wrote about the other day. The Dark Shadows palette, is, however, BAD ASS. So I wouldn't judge NYX as a whole on the basis of this one dud.

2)MUA Heaven and Earth Palette (Available for the super low price of 4 pounds if you're in the UK. For those of us in the US, about $15, inclusive of shipping, on ebay)

If you're committed to NOT buying Naked2 and you're only going to buy ONE Naked2 dupe (and really, that'd be the sensible way to go about this whole endeavor), then this is the dupe you should buy. Heaven and Earth includes 12 shades, most in the same taupe and gold range as Naked2, all of which are excellent in terms of pigmentation and wear time. They aren't as finely milled as Urban Decay's shades, the pans aren't quite as large as UD's, and there are no fun extras like UD's lipgloss and brush . . . however MUA's palette is excellent in terms of shade range and shadow quality and would make a workhorse of an addition to any makeup kit.

3) Physician's Formula Shimmer Strips in Nude ($10.95, however Physician's formula often goes on sale in drugstores for up to 40% off)

This sweet, tiny little palette is (if you live in the US), the easiest to find of the alternatives I tried as well as (potentially) the most affordable (I got mine for $6.57 during a 40% sale at CVS). I'd read reviews claiming that these shadows suffered from Weak Pigmentation Syndrome, but in my own use (and I'm kind of a stickler for pigmentation, I think), I found them to be adequate. They are sheer upon initial application, but they build quite nicely and work well over a primer/base/primer+base. The thing I like most about this palette is that there are THREE shades I'd classify as "taupe".  I also quite like the inclusion of a black shade which, while it isn't the most pigmented black in my collection, functions well enough as a liner that if I were, say, traveling, I wouldn't feel the need to pack a second matte black along with this kit.  This kit lacks in gold shades and wear time . . . but three pretty taupes for (as low as) $6.57?  It wouldn't be a bad purchase at all (if purchased on sale). 

And then we have Naked2, the lemming itself:

Pretty, innit?  The shadows are smooth as butter.  The pigmentation is off the charts. The wear time is excellent. These are QUALITY shadows in sturdy, metal packaging with an extremely functional brush (not pictured) and a large, usable mirror included.  I can't fault this palette on technical terms at all.  My issue is that, well, NONE of the shades actually read "taupe" to me.  There are some pretty greys, several very pretty golds, a couple of useful highlight colors and an excellent, rich matte black . . . but "taupes"?  Not really finding any here.   

See . . . a "taupe" kit was what I was in the market for.  The NYX palette has two taupes (top row fourth from left and bottom row fifth from left).  The MUA palette has two as well (bottom row far left and third from left).  The Physician's formula palette has THREE taupes:  shadows three, four and five counting from the right.  Naked2? Billed as "taupe and greige"? No taupes.  Hrumph.

I also found Naked2's shades to cluster around the mid-tone area of the spectrum. That is to say, there are lots of medium toned lid/crease colors, but not a whole lot of contrast (save for the matte black and pale cream shades, which are more highlight/liner shades than lid or crease shades).  I've achieved some very pretty looks with Naked2, don't get me wrong, but if high crease to lid contrast is what you're after, you probably won't be finding it here.

Moral of the story:  eh, pick up the MUA and maybe the Physician's Formula (if you can find it on sale).  Skip the NYX and you can probably live without Naked2 itself as well.

Monday, May 14, 2012

NYX Dark Shadows Box

I guess I should call this a palette, not a box, but, FUNNY STORY!, back in the day while working at a record label a friend and I decided to go to Bath & Body Works on our lunch hour during the holidays to "Check out the box sets". We went on and on all day about the "box sets" until finally realizing around 3pm that we, uh, meant GIFT BASKETS. So . . . Dark Shadows "box" . . . I'm going to run with that. I was quite pleasantly surprised with this one. I have had it for several weeks now (and haven't posted about it because I've been trying to keep its existence a secret from my mother, whom I gifted one to on Mothers' Day.). In that I've had it for a while, I think my positive opinion here is genuine, since the "oooh, shiny new object!" feeling has had time to wear off. Firstly, the packaging. It is freaking awesome. No? Lovely, gothic-y images both inside and out:
A large mirror housed as part of a center divider panel designed to keep eyeshadow residue out of the lipgloss compartments (handy!):
All around toddler approved:
At $24.99, it is certainly priced affordably as far as Tim Burton movie tie in products go (Urban Decay's shadow box was in the $50 range) and as far as vampire film tie ins go (Tarte's True Blood box was in the $50 range as well). (And, yes, I own both. I am a sucker for a good movie tie in. And for Tim Burton. And for Vampires. AND FOR MAKEUP.)
I have to say, having owned the NYX Nude on Nude palette for a while now, and being mostly unimpressed with the pigmentation and wear time of those shadows, I wasn't expecting THAT much from the Dark Shadows box. I purchased it anyways, see above re: LEMMING. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. VERY much so, in fact. The pigmentation of these shadows is excellent, as is the pigmentation of the blushers and lipglosses. I got a good 6 hours of wear from the red gloss which, well, knock me over with a feather why don't you. I've used the shadows with the (adorable) included eye primer and wear time has been phenomenal. Full workdays and evenings with no creasing and very little fading. The downsides are few and include the smaller blush pans being too small to comfortably swipe a blush brush across, the lipglosses being in pans rather than individual tubes (not portable for touch ups!) and the abundance of matte eyeshadow shades (which some ladies would file as a plus, I'm just more of a shimmer/metallic gal myself). The mattes, I will say, do blend nicely into the shimmers and I have used a few of them! Here's a look I did using a few of the plummy/purpley shades:
All things considered, you could do a heck of a lot worse for $24.99. If you're in the market for matte shadows, a combo kit for travel or just a new SHINY OBJECT, get ye to Ulta and snap this one up!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Impossibly Easy Toddler Pants

I so wish this had occurred to me earlier, like when Rhys was 3-9 months old, dressed in mostly American Apparel karate pants anyways, and outgrowing those at warp speed. HOWEVER, I'm filing it away for next time: making baby pants is hopelessly easy. It started with an IM convo with my real-life-and-blog friend Natalie, she of newly knocked up status, who mentioned that she'd made pajama pants for her toddler nephew. I realized, in googling "DIY Toddler Pants" whilst still IM-ing Natalie, that I could in fact simply TRACE EXISTING MEYERS PANTS, sew up the pieces and have toddler pj pants in, like, 30 minutes. It sounded too good to be true. And I had half a yard of cute white and blue star print leftover from Rhys' birthday bunting that I knew would make ADORABLE pants.
I laid out my fabric . . . a half yard was a hair short, I'll go for a larger piece next time to get more leg length for my growing boy . . . traced (being sure to stretch out the waist band to account for elastic gathering room) . . . and sewed up the inseam, waistband and bottom hems. A bit of elastic from my stash and PRESTO! 30 minute toddler pants. The boy quite likes them:
If you google "Sew Baby Pants", you'll find a wealth of tutorials, lots with fancy additional details written in. A few I used for reference were: this one and this one (Kudos on and thanks for the great tutorials, ladies!)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Darling Girl Only One Can Win Collection Looks

Picasso with the makeup brushes I am not . . . I've had a lot of fun playing with the colors I purchased from the Darling Girl Only One Can Win collection anyways! Here are a few of the looks I've come up with: Starting with my fave shade from the collection (and one of my top shades EVER), Mayor's Daughter (metallic true gold with lilac microglitter) paired with Boy With The Bread (warm chocolate milk with subtle blue shift)
And a third pic which I think does a better job of capturing the lilac glitter ...
Next up, Live Wire (metallic silver) paired with The Seam (mid tone grey with teal shift)
And lastly, Well Dressed (lilac leaning beige with pink micro glitter) paired with Survival Instinct (matte black base with (a TON of) multicolored microglitter). In the pot, Survival Instinct is one of my favorite shades from the collection (right up there with Mayor's Daughter!). However, since the base is essentially a matte black and because I haven't mastered mattes yet, I had trouble achieving the results I'd hoped for with this look. I've tried using Survival Instinct as a lid color with Pixie Epoxy underneath to hold the glitter . . . but the epoxy doesn't play well with mattes (and, see above, I'm not that great at this!) so I didn't get the results I wanted that way either. I've had the most success using this shade with Pixie Epoxy as a liner. I'm going to persevere though . . . I LOVE the color and the glitter and someday, somehow, I'm gonna make this one work for me!
I'm loving these shades and reaching for them often. I honestly think you can't go wrong picking up either samples or petit sizes from Darling Girl. The prices are fantastic for testing and trying and I have yet to be disappointed by any of my Darling Girl purchases. I'm also a nerd and the fact that I'm wearing, say, "Mayor's Daughter" and "Boy With The Bread" on my eyes makes me happy. If you were only to purchase one shade from the collection, Mayor's Daughter would be my pick (and pick up some Glitter Glue to go with it!).