Life Well Lived: My Fave Fashion, Style & Beauty Resources

BlogHer asked me to share my fashion, style and beauty resources with my readers this week and it got me all excited and spirit-fingery just thinking about gathering and sharing this treasure trove of resources. Some of you know that I started out my adult life somehow mistakenly thrown into the fashion and beauty scene as a consultant for Clinique cosmetics. I was eighteen, had never worn an ounce of makeup my entire life (and my mother never wore an ounce of makeup her whole life, so I didn't even have a role model to look up to re: how to wear makeup)... I was completely and entirely clueless about skincare/makeup, but I did have genetically nice skin, ergo my entree into the world of beauty (if you will). I quickly learned everything I needed to learn (and probably much more) about beauty, style and fashion from my newly formed contemporaries; namely my very first gay friend, Ric, who not only so lovingly told me that I needed to get my 2-inch-thick unibrow weed-whacked but also told me exactly who I needed to see in order to get it done, booked the appointment and came with me for support.

And thus I was translated.


So without any further delay, here's my list of absolutely tried and true favorite fashion, style and beauty resources:

1) Making Faces - Kevin Aucoin. This book taught me that you don't have to follow any set list of "rules" when it comes to makeup. For instance, this picture of Cher taught me that I could use lip gloss on my eyelids... because, why not? I used to spend hours just looking at the beautiful and artful creations. In this book, Kevin takes several well known celebrities and completely transforms them. This is Winona Ryder made up as Elizabeth Taylor. And Isabella Rosselini as Barbara Streisand.

2) The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own - Nina Garcia. This is seriously a list of the 100 things every woman must have in her closet. Here's a whittled down top 10 for you to peruse.

3) The Lucky Shopping Manual: Building and Improving Your Wardrobe Piece by Piece - Lucky Magazine. A better-than-best-of collection of all the advice that's ever been in Lucky magazine, plus more. A visual guide containing everything you'll ever need to know about dressing your best for less. Filled with full-color photographs and illustrations, the book provides an answer to every imaginable clothing dilemma and arms readers with all the advice they need before they spend another penny.

4) Pinterest and Polyvore These are user created, mad-fun genius. Go take a peek & get addicted.

5) Travel - it's amazing what you can pick up on in airports and while you're out and about in different parts of the U.S., and international countries.

Also? For those really interested in beauty/makeup, I'd recommend killing an hour at one of the makeup counters and just playing with their stuff. Warning: I remember working at the Clinique counter and getting frustrated with those who came by to play but gave the impression that they were serious shoppers. Here's a tip: Just be honest. A lot of these girls work on commission, so it's easy for them to get frustrated when they think they're gonna get a sale, but end up only with a mess to clean up. Tell the girl behind the counter that you're just there to play. Most of the time, they'll be cool with that - especially if you're visiting a counter with young college-aged girls who spend their 4-8 hours at the counter playing in color anyway; or if you happen to catch when the counter gets their new seasonal colors. Just be sure to go during the week day, in the early morning, when they're not busy. It's easier to do if you visit a counter at a smaller department store or in a smaller city (those multi-million dollar counters get fairly busy and are more about business & less about play).


What about you? What are your favorite fashion, style, and/or beauty resources? Who or what serves as inspiration when it comes to your look? You can read more about this topic by clicking here. And you can enter the Life Well Lived sweepstakes by clicking here (when you comment, you'll be entered to win an iPod Touch).

Life Well Lived: Getting Happy

I’ve always been a writer. I have diaries from when I was five! And I can remember when Sarah Minor and I wrote six page “notes” to each other in middle school. But the first time I ever wrote because I needed it was when I was in high school. Writing for me has always been cathartic, which allows me to live life a happier person. My journaling and writing have always been put on paper in random notebooks. I have a stack of them to prove it. To read them now is fairly hilarious. I was really boy crazy back then. And as I read these stories that are now so humorous and trivial, I try to remember the pain and angst that I felt while in the midst of those stories... which has taught me a very valuable lesson in life:

No matter how much you hurt now because of whatever situation that might be happening, you will survive it, and at some point in your life it will seem smaller. Much smaller.

Since my days in high school, a lot of things have changed. Especially in technology. What was once written on paper with a pen is now typed out on the computer. And in 2004, something magical happened.

I discovered the blog.

And boy was it a game changer! You mean I can write about whatever I want and people will read it? It was this writer’s dream! So I started blogging - which allowed for an all new kind of happy in my life: Attention. People were paying attention to me. (Yes, of course I’m a bit narcissistic. But aren’t we all?)

And as blogs are so wont to do, mine morphed -- evolved. Even my reason for blogging evolved. As the popularity for blogging grew, and kept growing (and keeps growing), I realized that blogging is not just about gaining superficial attention. It is a platform for your voice.

Isn’t that just beautiful? Everyone has a voice on the internet. (That makes me happy!) And though I get a lot of enjoyment out of sharing humorous (and not so humorous) personal stories, reviews, and tid-bits on culture, I get even more joy out of connecting with others who are of like-mind. Reading their stories, and connecting with them.

Being connected to the world through this giant web of on-line networks - reading about people’s stories, sharing mine, pledging to advocate for causes, working with people that you’d never dreamed of collaborating with, sharing knowledge within this gigantic, global brain that is the internet - has allowed me to understand the world a little better.

In fact, blogging, journaling, writing and connecting online hasn’t just made my life more enjoyable, it has changed me for the better.


I invite you all, my friends, to join the in conversation! How does blogging, journaling, writing and connecting online help to increase your happiness? I'd love to hear what you have to say - here or on the Life Well Lived post. While you're there, be sure to enter the Life Well Lived Sweepstakes.

The Weird Sisters

Eleanor Brown’s debut novel, The Weird Sisters, is a wonderful story with big, beautifully crafted female characters. The Andreas family is a family of readers, encouraged by their eccentric father who peppers his speech with Shakespearean quotes and has even named his three daughters after characters from Shakespeare’s plays.

Even though The Weird Sisters makes a thousand allusions to Shakespeare, it's no A Thousand Acres, no modern-day retelling of one of the Bard's plays. Instead, Brown has created her own charming story about star-crossed siblings who just so happen to know the greatest English verse much better than they know themselves.

The sisters are complex characters whose failures make them deeply human, and what makes The Weird Sisters so compellingly readable is the relationships between the characters.

Anyone who has ever enjoyed (or not) a sibling relationship, but especially those with sisters of their own, will recognize the ambivalence, petty jealousies, and ultimately the love that binds them each to the other. Who among us does not revert instantly to our comfortable childhood behaviors/roles the moment we are all together again? That is exactly what happens when Cordy, Bean and Rose find themselves under the roof of their parent’s home, once again.

The pretense is that they've all come back to help care for their Mom who has been diagnosed with cancer, but clearly these three adult children are in a kind of psychological convalescence themselves, shocked by their lives' crash landings, awed by the depth of their parents' love for each other and convinced they'll never find such a marriage themselves. How will they relearn to speak to one another, these smart, wounded women who've been trained to communicate their "deepest feelings through the words of a man who has been dead for almost four hundred years"?

Brown uses the plural first-person narration, a rarely used perspective that works marvelously here. The three sisters together tell the whole story, an impossible "we" that traces each one's private anxieties and indiscretions. Although initially hard to get used to, I found myself appreciating this voice because although each character is an individual, it is their collective memories and relationships with each other which informs who they become.

Eleanor Brown is such a clever writer, and she’s written such an endearing story about sisterly affection and the possibilities of redemption. But one does not need to have shared one’s life with sisters to appreciate the skill of Brown’s writing. Her work is solid, heartfelt, and funny. Take Polonius's good advice and "read on this book."


To find out more, or to read other reviewers' take on the novel, join me over at the BlogHer Book Club where we'll be discussing Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters for the next month. Come join the conversation!



*Disclosure: I was remunerated for this review. All opinions are my own.


The Lake of Dreams

Family secrets and lies are the subjects of Kim Edwards's new book, The Lake of Dreams which follows a young woman as she tracks the life of an ancestor expunged from her family's history.

Lucy Jarrett comes home to an upstate New York village in the finger lakes region called the Lake of Dreams after years working overseas. A decade ago, she left for college following her father's death in a mysterious boating accident, blaming herself for refusing to go fishing with him that night. And she's been traveling ever since, "from college to grad school, from good jobs to better ones and through a whole series of romances, leaving all that grief behind."

When Lucy arrives, every thing is different. She finds herself lost in the progress of every one else's lives.

Then Lucy discovers a stack of old papers in a room that's been closed off since her father died. They include fliers from the early 20th-century feminist movement and a note from 1925, signed only with the initial R, that refers to a 14-year-old girl, Iris, being sent away from home.

Ultimately, Lucy immerses herself in ferreting out the awesome story of her lost ancestor. But unfortunately for the novel, Edwards crams all of the plot into a scant two-week time span filled with impossibly convenient and obvious discoveries, making it feel much too contrived. Lucy’s revelations are overly long anticipated and make it an absolute grind to read through ten pages of sentimental muck to arrive at the very conclusion that Edwards pointed to in the previous chapter.


What I really enjoyed most about the book is the the story of Lucy's lost ancestor, Rose and the moment she clicked and discovered her feminism and became involved in the feminist movement. Now that is a good story!

Confession: I've not read Edwards's first novel, and best-seller, The Memory Keeper's Daughter so I can't tell you how The Lake of Dreams compares, but I can tell you that it is a look inside how circumstances can shape a life; and how altering one's perspective (or truth) can change that life all over again. And that despite it's ambition, the novel is beautifully written with lots of vivid imagery.

To find out more, or to read other reviewers' take on the novel, join me over at the BlogHer Book Club where we'll be discussing Kim Edwards' The Lake of Dreams for the next month. Come join the conversation!



*Disclosure: I was remunerated for this review. All opinions are my own.


Fahrenheit 451

A picture worth 170 pages: A world where people drive too fast, live too fast - too busy moving from one thing to the next. A world where the pedestrian is rare. A world where people are too busy (and prefer) watching television on their walls, or watching races or going to fun parks, to sit down and talk. A world where people constantly have ear buds in their ears. A world where real knowledge has been condensed and packaged into small factoids.  A world where unhappiness is over-medicated, where medication is abused, and where suicide attempts are on the rise. A world where a war is being continuously waged...

Sound familiar? Yet another example of the ever so round-about idea of "life imitating art" (the other half of the circle, being "art imitating life"). And one of the reasons Fahrenheit 451 is oft listed on lists enumerating books that have changed the world.

Did you know that in the spring of 1950, Ray Bradbury crafted the first draft of this masterpiece in the basement of the UCLA library - in just 4.5 hours?

For eighty cents?

Complete and total badassery.

The 50th Anniversary of Fahrenheit 451 was celebrated in 2003, just three years before the advent of Twitter (a social media and microblogging tool that allows for communication and the sharing of knowledge through short blasts of 140 characters or less). Interestingly, I found Ray Bradbury on Twitter! I thought for sure that he'd be protesting such a movement, but I'm happy to know that such a thought leading icon as himself has embraced the benefits of social media, even Twitter - the very idea of condensed knowledge made manifest!

The novel opens up with a description of the new dystopian world that humans find themselves living in. A new era where books have been deemed the enemy and are burned. The main character, Guy Montag, finds himself an enforcer of such dictum but is quickly shaken and riveted by three very simple words.

"Are you happy?"

The rest of the novel is Guy Montag's awakening of sorts and definitely should not be summarized - but read.

A few of my favorite quotes include:

"We are all bits and pieces of history and literature and international law."

"But you can't make people listen. They have to come 'round in their own time..."

"Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that. Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass."

"The air was cold and smelled of a coming rain." - this last one because it reminds me of his short story, There Will Come Soft Rains, inspired by a fantastic poem of the same name, written by Sarah Teasdale.

Another quote I really like is the one that Bradbury provides on the page just before the novel begins, "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way." - Juan Ramón Jiménez.



Pardon me while I digress...

I'm in love with Ray Bradbury. And Margaret Atwood. And Kurt Vonnegut. And a whole slew of others...  but also this whole idea of social satire set in futuristic dystopian worlds.

The love affair happened years ago, in high school. It was my first year teaching high school English Lit. and the very first unit was on "The Challenge of Change" and "The Price of Progress" and I was forced to read these authors and teach these universal themes for the very first time.

I'm not sure if it all made a lasting impression on me because I studied it so well so that I could teach it that I ended up loving it, or vice versa; but whichever the egg, I'm a happy chicken for having discovered such beauty!