Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Moving On (My Own)

I am thrilled to announce the new
location of my blog

(same blog, different site)

Beginning August 1, 2012.

(This site will remain online for reference purposes.) 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye to Maeve Binchy

It is with genuine sadness in my heart that I write this post, my last at this location.  I woke today with the news that Maeve Binchy, one of my most treasured authors, passed away yesterday after a short illness. 

My romance with her works began in high school when my mother gave me Light a Penny Candle, Binchy's first novel, to read.  I was immediately drawn to the charming warmth of the writer, and her characters literally bloomed upon the page, becoming real before my eyes.  Shortly after that, my mom took me to our nearest bookstore for my birthday, and I remember grabbing every single Binchy book off the shelf, piling them high in my arms.  An older woman passed by and asked, "Is she good?"  And I replied, "Yes, she's wonderful."

And she truly was.

Oh, Maeve, you will never know how much you meant to a girl growing up on the edge of San Antonio, as far from the green hills of Ireland as you can possibly get.  How I sat reading your books through my high school classes, through the pep rallies, the football games, and the ceaseless chatter of my classmates.  My senior year English teacher noticed your books on my desk, and introduced me to your fellow Irish writers, Brian Friel, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and W.B. Yeats.  It always comes back to Yeats, in the end, doesn't it? 

You were a talented and prolific writer, and best of all, you wrote what you knew.  Nothing was off limits, and you covered the topics that affected real, everyday people plucked off the streets of Dublin and all the tiny little towns dotting the countryside of your beautiful island.

It didn't matter that Benny, the main character in Circle of Friends, grew up half a world away, half a century before I did.  She was me, and her struggles and coming-of-age experiences were my own.  You knew that, and your great talent lay in your realistic descriptions of your characters and their ordinary lives.  We saw ourselves in your books, and we were comforted by your words.

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with your readers throughout the years.  You wrote for all of us, across the world, and we loved you for that.   I was fortunate enough to read all of your books except one, and it is sitting on my shelf, waiting to be opened tonight.  I'm grateful that it's there to comfort me, because there won't be more coming now.

Sweet Maeve, you left us too soon.  But the skies over Ireland are brighter tonight because of your words. 

(Visit The National Gallery of Ireland's site to see a gorgeous portrait of Maeve Binchy by Maeve McCarthy.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Momentous Occasion (Or Two!)

When I became pregnant with Rhys just nine months after James was born, everyone I knew reminded me that I would soon have two babies in diapers.  Yes, that was true for quite a long time, but I'm thrilled to report that those days are over!

Though he will probably hate me one day for announcing this to the world, James is now 100% potty trained, and life could not be better!  To be completely honest, he's been using his training potty successfully for months, but simply refused to sit upon the "big boy" toilet.  This past week, something clicked (there might have been a small bribe involved), and our days of dumping out and wiping up the plastic potty basin are a thing of the past, at least for a little while.

To mark this wonderful milestone, we celebrated in true boy fashion, with a new truck and a power tool.  What could be more exciting!

(James enjoying the fruits of his, um, triumph.)

Next up on my To-Do List: getting this little guy to follow in his big brother's footsteps.

But before I embark on that journey, there's something new I'm undertaking that you need to know about.  This Wednesday, August 1st, I'm moving over to my own, self-hosted blog here!

It's been a long time coming, and though I've been intimidated by the idea, I finally decided to take the plunge.  Or, to be totally honest, I was pushed off the edge by Ryan, when he purchased my own site without my knowledge, as a birthday surprise.  That little nudge was enough to set the wheels in motion, and I truly hope that you will follow me on this next part of my blogging journey.

I won't be moving posts over from this site, but will continue to write in the same style, about the same topics.  I'm also working to make sure things look and feel as familiar as possible, and I will be linking back to posts here for reference, especially in the early days.

You will be able to follow me via all the standard avenues, so don't forget to update your subscriptions on Wednesday.  I'm also learning as I go, so please feel free to offer suggestions and advice.  Goodness knows I can use them.

I'm so excited about this big move and I hope you will join me at my new address on Wednesday.

See you over there!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Serendipitous Sea Glass: An Unexpected Craft Project

I don't try my hand at crafts very often, and when I do, I need something simple and easy that offers instant gratification.  When I found this pretty sea glass painting idea at Child's Prose, I was inspired and considered trying it.

I have a necklace of clear glass beads that is lovely, but when I wear it, the pieces literally disappear against my skin and it doesn't make a statement at all.  Ange gave me some great pointers to paint the necklace, and suggested using clear nail polish as a sealer once I painted the beads with glue dyed with food coloring.

Her suggestion inspired me once again, and instead of taking the time to mix the glue and food coloring, I skipped that step and headed straight for my new bottle of Ciaté Paint Pots Nail Polish in Superficial.  (Knowing me, there has to be a beauty tie-in here somewhere.)

(The Before Shot, still practicing my photography skills.)
I love blue and turquoise jewelry, and since the nail polish is a great shade of teal-slash-turquoise, I took a risk and decided to use it to paint my beads.  I don't wear the necklace often, and I started at the top with a single bead, just in case I didn't like the result.  But I was pleasantly surprised, so I just kept going.

To balance the beads and keep them from smudging, I literally grabbed my bread basket off the counter and hung the necklace from it.  That proved to be a smart decision and I was able to paint the entire necklace in less than an hour.  I then let it dry all morning and painted a clear layer of (what else?) nail polish as a top coat when the boys went down for their afternoon naps.

(Halfway finished.  I put some paper towels in the basket to catch drips.)
I'm surprisingly thrilled with the end result, and the beads look stunningly beautiful in the sunlight.  For the price of a bottle of nail polish, I now have a gorgeous necklace that coordinates nicely with my pedicure.   How cool is that?

(Still drying after the clear top coat.)

(Stunning in the sun.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Works For Me: Birthday Beauty Haul

Ryan and I have known each other over half our lives, so, at this point, it's kind of hard to plan surprises.  For birthdays, we've taken to buying our own presents, which is actually really fun and ensures that we both get exactly what we each want.  My birthday is this month, and I had a few beauty items (what else?) that I wanted to try.  Check out my loot from Sephora!

I know, I'm such a beauty junkie.  But before you judge me too harshly, check out what I actually purchased.

(My actual purchase.)

And what I got for free.

(Free samples!)

Sephora's Beauty Insider program offers rewards based on previous purchases, plus a birthday gift, so I always stock up in July to maximize my money.  This time around, I scored two perfume samples, a cologne sample for Ryan, deluxe samples of mascaras by Laura Mercier and Kat Von D, and my free birthday gift, two deluxe samples of lip treatments by Fresh.  That's enough perfume, mascara, and lip balm to keep me supplied for months, and they are also great to stash in your makeup bag for both daily outings and longer trips.

Sephora also offers great samples at Christmas, so I often purchase gifts there for my sisters and friends, then distribute the little extras among them, too.

To celebrate my birthday, I actually bought Korres Wild Rose Regimen Kit, since I've been dying to try their bestselling Wild Rose Moisturizing and Brightening Cream.  Beauty kits are typically a better value than the actual size product when trying something for the first time, and you also get to sample other brand products, too.  There's less commitment this way, and if something doesn't work out, you haven't invested in the full size product.

I also purchased a second Caviar Eye Stick by Laura Mercier, and I am in love with its creamy, sparkly texture.  I already own the Khaki stick and thought about purchasing Turquoise (which is not sold at Sephora) but decided to play it safe with Amethyst, which is always appropriate for my brown eyes.

Since I didn't take the plunge with turquoise eyes, I splurged on Ciaté Paint Pots Nail Polish in Superficial, a dark teal-turquoise.  I'm still pretty conservative when it comes to makeup, but I think it's fun to try new colors, especially on my toes.   Ciaté is new to Sephora, and I'm excited to try one of its bold colors.

And finally, to top it all off, I reordered some jeweled nail stickers made for Sephora by OPI.  I first purchased these last year on a whim, and they are so much fun.  I only use the stickers on my toes, so they last for months, and at $5, you can't beat the price for a little bit of body jewelry.

All total, I spent less that $100 on my actual order and received much more than that in products and samples.  I'm completely set for summer and fall now, and won't need to order anything until Christmas.  I highly recommend taking advantage of free membership programs like Sephora's Beauty Insider, because they truly help you stretch your beauty budget, and it's so much fun to try new products for free.

Monday, July 23, 2012

(Photographing) The Family Table

My very pregnant sister is nesting like crazy, and we recently had a polite, if somewhat emotional, email exchange regarding the possible painting of a sideboard she owns that once belonged to our dad's parents on the family farm.  She and I share similar beliefs about heirloom furniture, but we part ways when it comes to the issue of painting.  (She likes to paint, a lot.  I prefer the natural look of aged wood.)

I begged her not to paint her sideboard, and I lost that argument.  But, in the middle of it all, I did win this beloved table, made by our mom's father in his high school woodworking class.  My sister rescued it when our youngest sister moved, and it was taking up too much space in her guest room.  When she offered it to me, I jumped at the chance to own a little piece of our family's history. 

The table is very old and rickety, and has definitely seen better days.  It's been a sideboard in my grandparents' house, a dining table when my sisters shared their first apartment, a hall table, a guest room table, and now, for me, it will become a place to display the memories of my own little family.

I love owning something that my grandfather built, and it is an amazing link to my family's past.  He died when I was a little girl, and while I was working toward my teacher certification in college, I spent a semester with students at the high school my grandfather attended.  The high school where this table was crafted.  So for me, it has special significance and I will treasure it while it is in my care.

Ryan graciously ventured out in the rainy weather to transport the table home from my sister's house, and I spent part of a Sunday afternoon attempting to capture some of the table's natural beauty.  A good friend of Ryan's, who shares his love of homebrew and happens to be an avid photographer, was kind enough to let us borrow his really awesome camera, so I had fun playing around with it.  Since it was so dark from the storm, I had to leave the flash on.  But I'm learning as I go, and hopefully you will begin to notice better photos here soon.  Here are a few details of my new (to me) table.

A dusty detail of the table's front.
The carved support beam on the bottom.
The ornate legs.
Precious family memories.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bésame Mucho

(A vintage beauty vignette in my bedroom.)

I've been using Bésame Cosmetics' Crimson Cream Rouge for several months, and I am falling in love with this company's dedication to vintage beauty products.  I recently ordered their new Brightening Violet Powder and Classic Masterliner Pencil in Cerise and Red for lips.  Both products are excellent and, because they are so beautifully packaged, I feel elegant just using them.

Violet, a classic, old-fashioned scent, is my favorite choice when it comes to perfume, and I knew that I would love this new powder, which softly illuminates your face.  The powder itself is very lightly scented, which fades quickly after application, and it goes on easily with the included powder puff.  

I was initially surprised at the small size of the powder container, but because a little goes a long way, you don't need to use very much and it should last for many months.  The compact size makes it easy to tuck the powder inside your cosmetic bag and reapply while you are out.  And, perhaps best of all, the container features a built-in sifter, so there's no danger of spilling the loose powder.  That's a very nice touch that I truly appreciate.  Here are a few pictures of the violet powder and its lovely packaging.

(Bésame Cosmetics Violet Powder in its gorgeous box.)
(A pretty little detail.)
(The vintage powder container.)
(The container has an attached sifter to avoid spills.)
I also use the two-sided lip liner every day, and because it is thicker than most lip pencils, the application process is incredibly easy.  Each side is also retractable, which sold me right away, because I'm not a fan of cosmetic pencils that require sharpening.  That's simply too much work as far as makeup is concerned, and sharpening should be reserved for knives and writing utensils, not something that enhances your natural beauty.

(Bésame Cosmetics Classic Masterliners Pencil for lips with two sides and retractable pencils.)
I am continuously impressed with the quality of Bésame Cosmetics and I hope to try more of their products soon.  

Have you tried any fun beauty products recently?