Out With the New, In With the Old

 

It’s Monthly Theme time!  I swear Ms. Kitty must have picked this one with me in mind!  I love makeup.  I have since I can remember.  In fact, when I was three or four years old, Mattel debuted a line of Barbie Cosmetics.  I asked for that for my birthday, and my uncle complied…buying me one of every single item in each color.

I think I got to play with it for all of two days before my mother made it all disappear.  She was never much for makeup herself (beyond a little lipstick here and there) and she always hated that I was so interested in it.

I’m not the most creative person in the world.  I don’t paint or draw or craft or sew or anything like that.  It’s makeup where I get creative, and my face is my canvas. I wish I were better at getting makeup photos, actually, because I could see makeup and makeup looks taking up a much bigger part of the blog if I could.

In this post, I’m going to do two things: talk about my very favorite makeup brand, and show off my dressing table.

I was first introduced to Merle Norman in 2004. I had been searching for years for the perfect foundation for my fair and very oily skin.  Their Lasting in Cream fit the bill more than anything ever had.  It went perfectly with the Flawless Effect pressed powder.  It was pricey, but it was worth it for me.

You can’t buy Merle Norman cosmetics online – it’s only available in their independently owned studios.  The first thing I did when I was considering moving in with my husband was check to see if there was one nearby!  And there was.  Unfortunately the Alexandria store closed soon after I moved here.  That left the nearest one more than ten miles away in heavy traffic.  I was hesitant to ask him to drive me that far, given how much he hates driving and traffic. So I just…did without.

But the Clinque I’d been using for the last few months didn’t seem to be agreeing with me.  On my trip to West Virginia in June, I popped into my old studio for some Lasting.  They were out!  But they were nice enough to give me a tube from the makeover station to tide me over.  And then they special ordered it for me.  My aunt then picked it up and had it shipped.  Sure enough, the weirdness with my skin cleared up, and Alex agreed that it was worth the drive to Vienna if I loved Merle Norman that much (and it loved me right back).

If you have trouble matching foundation, or with finding a formula that works with your skin, I suggest trying Merle Norman.  The staff is actually trained for it.  Personally, I haven’t had a bad experience in a Merle Norman studio yet.  I always enjoy my visits and I always leave feeling good.

Below are some of my favorite Merle Norman products…old and new.

Lasting Foundation.  It's a matte finish liquid for really oily skin.  And it does last!

Lasting Foundation. It’s a matte finish liquid for really oily skin. And it does last!

Flawless Effect pressed powder.  By far my favorite pressed powder ever. It gives a wonderful soft focus effect.

Flawless Effect pressed powder. By far my favorite pressed powder ever. It gives a wonderful soft focus effect.

I've had these for ever.  I don't think they make Remarkable Finish anymore, actually.  And certainly not in Fair. The sparkly powder next to it was a limited edition.

I’ve had these forever. I don’t think they make Remarkable Finish anymore, actually. And certainly not in Fair. The sparkly powder next to it was a limited edition.

My two tiny powder compacts.  The one on the left is a purse sized special edition.  The other was part of a free gift.  I'm not sure how I've held on to them this long.  The teeny one has never been used.

My two tiny powder compacts. The one on the left is a purse sized special edition. The other was part of a free gift. I’m not sure how I’ve held on to them this long. The teeny one has never been used.

Ultra Powder Foundation in Ultra Fair.  I  underestand that this is now the fairest product they make.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too heavy for touch ups for me, so I did go snag some Flawless Effect.  But the next humid summer I think it will be perfect.

Ultra Powder Foundation in Ultra Fair. I understand that this is now the fairest product they make. Unfortunately, it was a bit too heavy for touch ups for me, so I did go snag some Flawless Effect. But the next humid summer I think it will be perfect.

“Back in the day,” I also loved Merle’s eye shadows and mascaras.  I can’t wait for my next trip to the studio – I’ve already picked out the shadow shades I want (okay, it’s the same ones I used to wear) and they also have a cold cream I’m itching to try.

And now, some photos of my dressing table and and how it’s organized.  This isn’t everything – I still have a box of stuff in the bathroom closet – but these are the products I use most right now and the ones I want to be close to hand.  I was very lucky to find this particular dressing table at a great price.  Malice is quite the thief and she loves makeup brushes.  I keep the drawers lined with Viva paper towels, so that they’re easy to keep clean.  I also keep a Swiffer cloth handy to wipe away the fall out from my brushes.

My new dressing table.  This is where the magic happens.

My new dressing table. This is where the magic happens.

The face makeup drawer! Powder, foundation, and etc. live here.

The face makeup drawer! Powder, foundation, and etc. live here.

The lip drawer!  I have a lot of MAC lipstick.

The lip drawer! I have a lot of MAC lipstick.

Eye shadow.  It's hard to see, but there is an absolutely huge box of Victoria's Secret shadows in the back. This isn't all of my shadow, just what I've been using the most - NYX, Urban Decay, Clinique, and VS.

Eye shadow. It’s hard to see, but there is an absolutely huge box of Victoria’s Secret shadows in the back. This isn’t all of my shadow, just what I’ve been using the most – NYX, Urban Decay, Clinique, and VS.

Eye liners and mascaras!  Yes, there are two Merle Norman eye pencils in here.  They no longer make this formula, more's the pity.  These are grey.  The rest are L'oreal and Urban Decay.  The mascaras in the back are Maybelline, Clinque, and NYX.

Eye liners and mascaras! Yes, there are two Merle Norman eye pencils in here. They no longer make this formula, more’s the pity. These are grey. The rest are L’oreal and Urban Decay. The mascaras in the back are Maybelline, Clinque, and NYX.

And finally, the brush/sponge drawer.  My brushes are mostly Victoria's Secret and mark. The gorgeous foundation brush on the right is Urban Decay.  I love it...I am afraid to use it with the Lasting, though.  I once ruined a brush with it.

And finally, the brush/sponge drawer. My brushes are mostly Victoria’s Secret and mark. The gorgeous foundation brush on the right is Urban Decay. I love it…I am afraid to use it with the Lasting, though. I once ruined a brush with it.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of leaving the face makeup drawer slightly ajar when we left to run errands….

I found this when we returned.

I found this when we returned.

What makeup post would be complete without a couple of shots of me at the table?  First a shot of me getting ready for work one morning:

A rare morning when I actually did my hair at home, rather than letting it air dry and putting it up at work.  It warranted a photo.

A rare morning when I actually did my hair at home, rather than letting it air dry and putting it up at work. It warranted a photo.

And a post-errand photo from today.

And a post-errand photo from today.

Thanks to Ms. Kitty for hosting today’s theme.  It is sure to go down as one of my favorites.

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Posted in Makeup, Old Things, Themes and Blogging Events | 4 Comments

No, It Cannot Be Summertimes Nao!!

Was it really three months ago that I wrote this post?  Unbelievable!

This summer has mostly been a bust.  Northern Virginia/DC just didn’t have the high temperatures and humidity we normally get.  I don’t think we ever hit 100 degrees this year! I got to go to the pool all of twice.  Several weekends were stormy or threatened to be; but mostly the water was just too cold and it wasn’t warm enough to really enjoy reading by the pool.  I did find a nice shady spot to set up, but even so Alex joined me for a little bit only once.

At least I had it all to myself...

At least I had it all to myself…

We tried to take a road trip to Alex’s mother’s place in Rehobeth Beach.  Of course Baby chose that week to decide not to eat.  We wound up taking her to the vet instead.  It looked like the problem was with her teeth so they did a tooth trim.  We were talking about rescheduling that trip for September…but it looks like she’s going to have to go back again (maybe as often as every three weeks!) so we’ve scrapped that for now, too.

The worst part is that the gym in my building has been closed.  I’m not sure what they’re doing to it but it’s taking forever.  No one seems to know when it might be ready to open again.  I’ve been taking the stairs more, getting off the bus farther away in the evenings,  and walking around my office’s neighborhood at lunch as much as I can, but it’s not the same workout I can get on the treadmill.  Unfortunately, it shows.

We did have a lovely time for Alex’s birthday earlier this month.  We had brunch at the Terrance Restaurant at The Kennedy Center for the first time.  That was really wonderful!  And then we had tickets for the last performance of The Lion King.

Summer isn’t really “over” until the Solstice, of course, but the Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of the season.  That means our pool will close after the holiday and a lot of the little touristy places Alex wanted to take me to at the beach will be closing too.

I normally look so forward to the autumn…but this year, the end of summer has me feeling very melancholy.

Posted in Adventures | 2 Comments

Tuck and Roll

I love updos. They can be sophisticated and elegant, or messy and cute.  I’m just not very good at them, and never have been (I can’t even get the most basic of up styles – the pony tail – to look right).  For years the very best I could manage was a simple bun.  And let me tell you, that wasn’t a very flattering look for me.  If you thought Lilith looked severe….

And then I found The Gibson Tuck on Pinterest.  This very elegant and yet very easy style quickly became my go-to.  If you follow my Instagram (or just pay attention to the sidebar on the blog page) you’ve probably seen a lot of photos of it.  I’m even sporting it two of my Red and Black Week posts, here and here. As much practice as I’ve had, it’s never once come out “perfectly,” and some days are definitely better than others!  But I still manage to get a lot of compliments on it.

A good photo of the back of the Gibson Tuck.  This one was done more or less properly.

A good photo of the back of the Gibson Tuck. This one was done more or less properly.

It’s an easy style to achieve, truly.  The Freckled Fox has complete illustrated instructions on her site, so I won’t repeat them here.  One thing I do that’s not in the instructions is use a pick, comb, or lift to pull up some of my hair in front.  I have a really deep part that I’d rather disguise if I can! So my version of the style tends to look poufier than the original.

I will say that the elastic seemed to me to be pretty crucial to the style.  Gathering the hair into an elastic prior to rolling and tucking the hair under keeps it together and is probably why the style is as easy to do as it is.

Of course, I got to work one morning with no elastic and had to improvise!

What I’ve dubbed the Gibson Roll isn’t as easy to do.  It’s not as neat, or as elegant (at least from the back).  But now that my hair is insanely long again, I find it lasts longer if I do it this way – sometimes if I use an elastic, I’ll find halfway through the day that the tail has come unwound and is poking out the back!  It takes a lot more pins to do it this way, however.  I’m fortunate that I found some large “heavy duty” pins at the Beckley Wal-Mart many years ago.  I’ve never found them again and I’ve only managed to keep up with six of them over the years…but they’re a huge help with pretty much any style.

Basically for the Gibson Roll, you do everything exactly the same…except you don’t use an elastic.  Because the hair isn’t gathered and secured, it’s not as easy to hold on to or to roll.  I’ve tried rolling it several ways and in several directions, and all of them have worked.  It does wind up a little messier looking than what I can achieve with the Tuck, but sometimes that’s okay.

Below are some photos of one of my early attempts at the Gibson Roll.  I was so excited that it came out as good as it did that the first thing I did when I got home was ask my husband to get some snaps – my new phone has a great camera, but no dedicated button…making “selfies” of the back of my head impossible. It’s a little disheveled as it’s the end of the day, but I still think it came out good enough to share!

The front!  It's not as poufy as I normally do.  But I thought it looked alright.

The front! It’s not as poufy as I normally do. But I thought it looked alright.

Side view.  It's actually fairly symmetrical, but you can still tell that my hair is just ticker on one side than the other.

Side view. It’s actually fairly symmetrical, but you can still tell that my hair is just thicker on one side than the other.

The other side!

The other side!

And the back.  I think it looks great to say I "winged it" without an elastic, and it was one of my first attempts.

And the back. I think it looks great to say I “winged it” without an elastic, and it was one of my first attempts.

I’ve done it this way many times since with mixed results, and of course I continue to do the Tuck the correct way.  But I am really glad I was able to figure out a way to improvise without the proper tools.  One never knows when one will be required to manage an updo on the fly, after all.

Posted in Hair | 6 Comments

Red and Black Week 2014 – Revisted

Wow, this post has been a long time coming!  We sadly had a death in our family this past week.  That disrupted a great many things.

Anyway.  I was lucky enough to win the Red and Black Week giveaway, hosted by the wonderful Ms. Kitty of Sophistique Noir!

You might have noticed that I almost always wear a choker of some description.  Most of the ones I have are simple black velvet or satin ribbon with a chain and a charm, pendant, or slide.  So you can imagine how excited I was to win this prize – a red and black choker!

It just so happened that I had bought a lovely new red and black maxi dress – unfortunately right after Red and Black Week! It was part of a dress sale at Wet Seal and I was itching to wear it somewhere.  I decided to wear both the brand new choker, the brand new dress, and a brand new red shadow to see Hal Sparks a couple of weekends ago.

A willing photographer and great lighting assure fantastic photos, even with a phone camera.  Sadly, I have neither of those!

The entire ensemble!

The entire ensemble!

NYX Snow White (yes, again) and the red and black shades from the Sex Bomb eye palette.

NYX Snow White (yes, again) and the red and black shades from the Sex Bomb eye palette.

You can’t see them in any of the photos we took that night, but the earrings are red and black as well.  They were a holiday gift from a friend several years ago.  The bracelet was my birthday gift from my mother-in-law this year.  It goes with everything and I wear it constantly.

These photos really don’t do the choker (or the outfit as a whole) justice, but they’re what I was able to get!  The photos of me with Hal Sparks and the lovely comedienne he was on tour with are worse…it looks like I’m about to snack on her (I wasn’t).

The choker, earrings, and bracelet all together.

The choker, earrings, and bracelet all together.

Thanks again to Ms. Kitty for hosting Red and Black Week and the giveaway!  I can’t wait until next year…I’m already planning things.

Posted in Makeup, Outfits, Themes and Blogging Events | Leave a comment

Ridin’ the Rails

It’s been a busy at our house since my birthday – we’ve had several events to attend and I traveled to West Virginia for a quick visit with my parents.  Unfortunately, the visit left me  ill.  My mother seems to smoke twice as much now as she used to (and she’s never been a “light” smoker and only occasionally considerate).  The bright side of that is that it has possibly conquered my cravings – I may never want to see or smell another cigarette again! Next time I think I’ll stay at a hotel.

Before I get into the meat of the post – Baby is doing great.  Her blood work came back from her regular vet as “top notch,” and he saw no problems there on in her exam.  She’s eating and playing normally and being a happy bunny!

I generally take the train from Alexandria to Prince, West Virginia, which is just a few miles from my parents’ home. I’m not a fan of long distance driving (especially not by myself) and the train is cheaper than renting a car and a lot cheaper than trying to fly into Beckley (Charleston is only a little cheaper and then you have an hour’s drive to Beckley).  You have to handle your luggage yourself, for the most part, but on the plus side they don’t care if you take giant bottles of hair product or a bottle of water.  Most of the time it’s an easy trip:  I just sit back with my kindle and read a lot.  For a while, I was making the trip to see Alex about every other month.  So I’m kind of “old hat” at it by now. Sometimes you do get an annoying seatmate, and sometimes there are loud/misbehaving children in your car. And sometimes, the train is five hours late.  Just like any other mode of travel, there are pros and cons.  Most of my experiences have been positive.

One of the pros of traveling by train, in my opinion at least, is traveling into and out of Prince Depot.  The station is old and the town has a lot of history. It also happens to be where my father grew up.

Prince is down the mountain from where I grew up* in a valley created by the New River. When my dad was young, the Prince/Quinamont area were quite busy because of the railway.  Coal is still king in West Virginia (more’s the pity) but in those days, the railroad was queen**. Rail was the preferred transport for the coal mined in the region.  Rail also brought in goods from other areas.

The depot that stands in Prince today was built in the 1940s in the art deco style.  Passenger rail was becoming just as common as freight in and out of Prince, and the president of the C&O wanted something stylish and modern to serve the travelers.

A better image of the front of the depot, taken from Great American Stations.

A better image of the front of the depot, taken from Great American Stations.

I took this of the outside of the station.  It's not the best, but standing in the road isn't a great idea.

I took this of the outside of the station. It’s not the best, but standing in the road isn’t a great idea.

C&O became The Chessie System, and then CSX.  My dad started with them before he joined the Navy.  He had a job waiting for him when he got out, and he would remain there until his retirement.  One of the benefits of the job was that he and his entire family could travel the rails for free.  We rarely took advantage of this (my parents were not travelers). But I do remember my first train trip to Baltimore to visit an aunt, when I was about six or so (in the 1980s). I enjoyed the ride, but I think my favorite part was the Chessie Cat mosaic on the floor.

The Chessie Cat. She was a huge part of my childhood. Her little face was on a lot of CSX merchandise. Dad still has the thermometer he was given on the back porch! As many times as I’ve made this trip and this was the first time I thought to take her picture.

The station has changed very little in all that time.  It’s only open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, as fewer trains come through.  The Cardinal that I take is the only passenger train now.  She starts her journey in New York and ends in Chicago, only to turn around and go back again.

The ticket window.  Notice the signs!  The TV, soda machine, and baggage scale are very recent additions - they weren't there when I first started traveling to visit Alex.

The ticket window. Notice the signs! The TV, soda machine, and baggage scale are very recent additions – they weren’t there when I first started traveling to visit Alex.

Walking into the station is like walking back in time, and not just because so little has changed in terms of style/architecture.   The building and the surrounding area just feel old.  You can sense the history.  It’s easy to imagine, while sitting there looking out the windows, the excitement people felt back in the 1940s, when train travel was still just a little glamorous.  I can almost see the station crowded with people, travelers and porters rushing about; hear the conductors in their uniforms crying out “All aboard!”

The back wall of the station is a huge old photograph.  Notice the arrivals and departures board...

The back wall of the station is a huge old photograph. Notice the arrivals and departures board…

Sometimes my dad will sit with me for a little while when the train is late and talk about what Prince was like when he was a boy.  Relatives of his ran the general store across the street from the station for many, many years, but now it’s gone.  People still live in Prince – there are actually some lovely homes along the river.  But the glory days of the railroad are over and Prince, and other towns like it, aren’t what they used to be.

The sign that visitors see as the train enters the station.  Photo by Brian M. Powell (user Bitmapped on en.wikipedia)

The sign that visitors see as the train enters the station. Photo by Brian M. Powell (user Bitmapped on en.wikipedia)

Business might start to pick up at Prince Depot now that the Boy Scouts have built a permanent camp at Summit Betchel.  When I got on the train at Prince to come back home, so many Scouts detrained that I lost count! Apparently the rail line will be an important part of getting the Scouts to and from the camp site, which is great.  Rail has seen a bit of a comeback since 9/11 and the restrictions placed on airline travel as a result.  I don’t think that rail is going to be what it was a hundred, or even fifty years ago.  But I know there are romantics out there who love history or just the idea of “riding the rails.”  Train excursions, often with special dinners served during the ride and historical presentations,  are becoming quite popular. Prince should be part of that.

For anyone interested, Great American Stations has more information and history on the Prince Depot and other stations around the country.

*Yes, the town I grew up in is literally built on the side of the mountain. Piney View, West Virginia sits at an elevation of 2,339 feet. I always get a really strange feeling when in Prince or on the New River.  When I was younger, I used to think the whole place was haunted! Then I realized  that my body was just reacting to the lower elevation.

**My father and his father before him were railroad men.  My mother’s dad was a coal miner.  I’m from West Virginia, all right.

Posted in Adventures, Old Things | 4 Comments

Bun Update

Just a quick update on Little Baby Bunny’s condition…

She’s been eating, drinking, and playing since we brought her home Friday night.  She takes her medicine quite willingly (it’s fruit flavored, so it’s a treat for her).  The ER vets had us put her on a regimine of Critical Care assist feed food for the week.  Unlike certain other bunny rabbits of my acquaintance, she will eat it willingly right out of the bowl.  But we make her take it from the syringe because otherwise she gets it all over her face!

They also have us giving her IV fluids.  She’s fairly good for that as well, if a little confused by it all.  It makes me a complete nervous wreck, though, because I am terrified of needles and hate wielding them about as much as being on the receiving end.

It's Baby!  I took this on Saturday.

It’s Baby! I took this on Saturday.

Her regular vet read over the ER reports and doesn’t seem too worried.  He is going to redo the blood work on Thursday to see what shows up, but he believes she got a mild tummy ache and became dehydrated as a result.  Dana got her to the vet in plenty of time to prevent a full blown case of GI Stasis.

Poor Malice was in a state by the time we got home on Friday night.  Having us gone all day and then to have Dana show up and “steal” her bunny didn’t sit well. Both she and Shelly gave her a complete examination when we got home with her!

Thank you to everyone who expressed their good wishes for her!  And I apologize for the sheer size of the photos in my last post.  It’s the first post I’ve ever done completely in the app for my phone…I attempted to edit them via the web to no avail.

Posted in Pets | 4 Comments

Birthday Blues

Today is my birthday. I had hoped to have an awesome post for Red and Black Week full of the roses of Longwood Gardens to finish out the week, but alas it was not to be. The rose arbors were bare! Only one shrub rose was in bloom, and a few in the conservatory.

We got a call from our pet sitter just as we arrived at Alex’s parent’s lake house to head to a birthday dinner-Baby wasn’t eating. So Dana rushed her to the vet and we jumped back in the car to head home.

She has an upset tummy and we will be treating that. But her kidney levels are high. Gods, but I hate those words! She’s getting fluids every day and an antibiotic and we are going to hope it’s nothing serious and that they go back down. If not…we’ll take it from there.

Anyway, here are the photos I did take. My makeup and accessories are at least on-theme.

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Not Snow White! Its Revlon's Velvet Crush line from a few years ago, in Blackmail. Its as beloved deep dark red. The necklace is old, from Avon. It came with a red velvet cord but it's too long for my liking.

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The red tropical flowers in front of the waterfall.

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Close-up!

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Roses in the conservatory.

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The shrubbery roses.

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Obligatory Goth Cliche photo

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The harbor that should have been full of red blooms....

Thanks again to Ms. Kitty for hosting Red and Black Week again this year. It was a lot of fun, and I have a lot of great blogs to check out. Hopefully next year’s finale will be on a happier note!!!

Posted in Adventures, Celebrations, General Goth, Makeup, Outfits, Pets, Themes and Blogging Events | 8 Comments