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!).

Friday, May 4, 2012

My boy, who is two.

Somebody had a second birthday, can you believe it? How that happened, I have no clue, because I brought him home from the hospital approx. 3 weeks ago. Right?!
His party last year, at Travel Town with all the antique steam engines in the background, was a) simple and b) a success, so we decided not to mess too much with a winning formula. We did a very similar party this year . . . same picnic site . . . same pizza order . . . same Costco cake, balloons and another homemade bunting. The main difference with this party is that I tried to invite more of Rhys' friends than our extended family. As it turns out, that was a great idea! Concerns about entertaining a gaggle of toddlers aside, Rhys was SO! THRILLED! to see his friends. The look on his face was priceless . . . I'd throw him a thousand friend parties just to see that face again!
I bought a rug with a road/city print at Ikea and gave out favors (little Ikea trains) at the start of the party, thinking the trains could be an activity as well as a favor. Those and a few party store beach balls were basically it for entertainment, and they seemed to do the trick. Two year olds: easily amused!
There was a handmade element for this party . . .I made the bunting (as well as a cake bunting which didn't get used on account of having had soda spilled on it during the party *sad face*). I had Rhys paint along a long strip of brown kraft paper and used that paper to wrap his party favors in . . . so Rhys got in on the crafty action himself, which was not only fun for us but SUPER cool for him when it came time to pass out favors "Rhys paint that!").
The Monday after the party, on Rhys' actual birthday, we drove up to Disneyland for a super fun overnight visit. The weather was less than stellar and, it being a Monday and Tuesday, the crowds were the lowest I think I've personally ever seen them. We spent the morning of his birthday day at CA Adventure checking out Bug's Land then the evening doing a madcap run through of Disneyland, mostly Fantasyland. We jammed through the rides, with almost no crowds! We finished off our trip with a morning at Disneyland the following day . . . running through a few rides we'd missed the night before.
It was more or less perfect . . .and now we've got ourselves a newly-minted, properly inducted two year old. One who had himself an awesome birthday.