Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Comparing My Jeweltone Summer Zyla Palette with Soft Summer Sci/Art Colors

Well, now I have two separate palettes from two completely different sources - well-regarded experts, both, but not systems intended to go together.

My Zyla palette is Jeweltone Summer. My Sci/Art palette is Soft Summer. So, how do they fit together?

I photographed them side by side:
Left: Soft Summer - Right: Jeweltone Summer
You can see some similarities but they aren't identical. Overall, I think the Zyla colors are just a touch brighter than the Soft Summer ones, but that may be due in part to the Sci/Art palette being fabric and the Zyla one being paper. Let's take a closer look at each Zyla color.
The Tranquil colors are pretty close to the purple SSu strips.
Energy fits in pretty darn well with SSu, those blued sea foam green shades.
I think Dramatic is a decent match, the darker shades in particular.
There is no true match for my Essence shades. But do they harmonize?
                                   
                       
                                       The Romantic shades are a near-perfect match for my favorite pink strip (6.1).

First Base fits right in, the darker shades particularly.

Second Base is a good match, too, especially the darker one.


Third Base really don't fit in - it's greener than any of my beiges.
Here are my Pastels and Metals. They're mostly pretty good, maybe a bit brighter.
So, what do I do with all of this? My plan is to use both. I'll especially look for the colors that exist on both palettes. If I find an item that fits the Zyla palette perfectly but really isn't on the SSu palette at all, I'll simply do what I was instructed to do when shopping with my fan in the first place: Thwap! In other other words, open up the fan, thwap it down on the item, and look at it. Do I see harmony, or does the item make the fan look dingy? Do they work together to bring out the best in one another, or does the fan make the item look garish? It's hard to tell if two sets of color strips harmonize. I really need to take it on a case by case, carefully examining each garment and comparing it to my palettes before I buy it.

Another way to think of it is to consider my Sci/Art fan to be an extension of my Zyla colors. After all, if both David and Christine are as accurate as they are reputed to be, then both palettes really are ME, and either one should bring out my best.

How do I like them, and which do I like better? I really do like them both. There are certainly colors on each that it would have never occurred to be to try (that Essence peach, the pale First Base sage, the greeny SSu yellow), but now I will if I can find them in stores. It did take me time to adjust to the muted tones of the SSu palette, since I tend to gravitate towards brighter, more saturated tones. My Zyla colors are ever so slightly brighter than my SSu tones, which I like.

I've only been shopping a couple of times since I saw David Zyla, and what I did was LOOK for the Zyla colors, but double checked everything with my SSu fan. In the future, I know there will be times when I NEED to buy something and maybe don't have time to hunt down an exact Zyla shade. Or, I will fall in love with an item that just isn't on the Zyla palette at all. I don't think the Zyla palette is meant to be exclusive, as in I should ONLY live in those couple dozen colors. So when I can't find Zyla, I'll use my SSu fan instead. It's not that I like Zyla's colors better, it's more that I think of them as my "sweet spot." While I may still buy things not pictured in my Zyla set, I will not buy anything that doesn't suit the SSu palette.

Do you have palettes from different systems? How do you use them? In concert, or have you chosen one over the other?




Saturday, August 2, 2014

David Zyla Told Me That I Am a Jeweltone Summer!

Karen's Jeweltone Summer Palette
Ok, so I'm not keeping you in suspense. That's my archetype. And above, you can see the palette he put together for me. I posted previously about who David Zyla is and my experience seeing him. Here are my results, in minute detail:

Romantic - the color of my fingertips, the color I blush - my version of red, sexy, vitality, one of the most powerful colors to wear. For me: a cool winter raspberry - don’t warm it!

Essence - skin color - my version of white, nude. Most subtle thing to wear, vulnerable

Energy - the darkest part of my iris (but not the ring) - friendly, approachable, present, I’m here

Tranquil - the lightest part of my iris - mellow, chill. For me: a cool lilac.

Dramatic - the color of the veins in my wrist - kaboom, look at me! Guest of honor. It’s the opposite of romantic on color wheel.

First Base - taken from the ring around my iris - formal neutral, my version of black. LBD, coat. For me: Charcoal.

Second Base - the darkest part of my hair - everyday neutral - my version of brown. For me: Red Plum/Aubergine.

Third Base - the lightest part of my hair - informal neutral - my version of khaki. For me: Pale Sage

Pastels - lighter versions of the above colors. Great for summer clothes, bathing suits, and home decor. For me: stay away from white or anything icy. 

Metals - metallic versions of the above colors. Use for jewelry, belt buckle, pen, business card case, metallic thread running through a scarf. For me: silvers and platinums, metallic versions of my colors.

Notice there is no true blue - it goes a little cold on me - he doesn’t like it as well. There is blue in the greens and lilacs. No brown, yellow, or orange, either.

Wearing an outfit with bases only will be pretty but it won’t have much impact. Use a pop of color.

My personality (and I think he is dead on with this):
I get along with men but stay feminine  
I have a strong energy but still feminine  
I have a nurturing management style but not coddling  
My children are getting a realistic view of the world - I’m not doing their homework for them, but I set limits to make sure they succeed

I am: Jeweltone Summer! Hyperfeminine but still strong

Overall: 
Always an element of drape, but streamlined overall (this is TMIT)
Drapes and wraps - for example, wrap dress, faux wrap top, waterfall sweater, pashmina (with dressy dress)
Roman updated - but not Grecian, that’s too wispy. Roman is stronger
Unbroken lines - top flows into the bottom - don’t color block, don’t end at the waist
Dresses are great
If separates: tie the top to the bottom with a scarf or jewelry containing both colors
I have elongated curves - like a stretched out hourglass - and my clothes should be elongated
Only one element of wrap/drape at a time, overall look should be streamlined. Eileen Fisher is too drape-y
Nothing rustic! (Rustic: tweed, heavy knit sweater, birks, whipstich, distressed)
Classical, cleaner
Clothes that look like you took a piece of fabric and wrapped it around me and it just stayed - fabulous

Patterns: 
Ovals
Painterly effects
Pointillist - confetti - looks like a solid from a distance, but up close it’s dots of different colors
Saturated
Prints should be no larger than palm of hand
Avoid anything cartoonish
Avoid hard contrast - keep tones similar
If there are “bad” colors in the pattern, then draw out the “good” colors with another item of clothing

40’s style:
Like high waisted pant, fluid leg, hollywood pant, side/back zip, no belt loop, with a fitted top (brands: Layfayette 140, Ann Taylor)
Silk Jumpsuit with a heeled roman sandal (designer: Kathryn Malendrino) - simple in shape, no metal hardware
Avoid menswear

Fabrics:
Jersey, suede, silk velvet, cashmere, mohair, crepe, crepe de cine, georgette crepe
NO men’s cotton shirt, or tweed

Suits:
Tricky! 
Separates or a dress are better for me

Jacket/blazer:
Always show waist
Single button
Go in at waist, end at hip
No collar (that notched, angled look is not good) 
Maybe a soft belt that ties like a bathrobe

Dresses:
Wrap dress is ideal - Lauren by Ralph Lauren makes a nice jersey faux wrap in a bunch of colors every season (packable, dress up or down)
No shift dress - that’s too plain for me
Example of a cocktail dress:-high waisted, crepe on the bottom and chiffon on the top

Skirts:
To middle of knee
Wrap skirts
High waisted pencil skirt, top tucked in
Perhaps a four inch trumpet
No pleats
No gathers at the waist

Pants:
Boot cut when they’re in style
Side/back zip
High waisted
If not high waisted, then wear long shirt
Instead of jeans, go for brushed cotton, twill
Look for luster, pile, velvet
Cords only if very fine wale
Denim is too flat and masculine
Brand: DKNY often does velvet jeans at the holidays

Blouses/shirts/tops:
Crossover jersey/faux wrap
Length - high hip - (well below the waist)

Sweaters:
Cowl neck (lovely with skinny pants)
Waterfall cardigan (lovely with a watercolor print blouse under) 

Purses:
Buttery, like calf skin - not patent leather
Shape - no drawstring, need some structure. Bottom wider than top is nice. Double handle
If crossbody purse, it should be really small.

Shorts:
Bermuda 

Capris:
Should stop at the ankle, not mid-calf (if I must!)

Casual:
“Jeans" made out of a beautiful twill with a cowl neck sweater
Gym: Luxe, terrycloth Juicy Couture-type pant with tank top  

Shoes:
Sandal with thin straps is great
Soft V or elongated oval - not pointy or round
Comfortable brand: Arche - they make stretch grosgrain.
Avoid hard horizontal, like a strap across the ankle
For tennis shoes - look for slip-ons, or laces that are the same color as the shoe so they “disappear” (lacing is rustic)
Boots - suede in the charcoal or aubergine

Coats:
Hood - drapes softly around the face
Draped collar 
Hidden buttons
Self belt (like a bathrobe)
Softly structured
If must get a down coat - get in Romance color! (try LL Bean)
For raincoat: pearlized, iridescent (try London Fog or Sanyo)

Sleeves:
Short short (not bustline length - that widens the bust)
3/4 length sleeves but not with capris (with capris, wear short sleeves instead)
Long sleeves - ideally really long, onto the hand
Bell sleeve sweater is nice (fitted at the top of the arm, ends in bell)

Neckline:
Softened V is perfect, echoes my chin
Draped neckline
Scoop and crossover also very good
Shorter, harder Vs are ok
portrait not as good
No crew neck

Jewelry:
Glassier-looking
Pink Tourmaline, Amethyst
Pink pearls but not freshwater (those aren’t formed/refined enough)
No turquoise or catsite or anything veined or rough or unfinished - too rustic

Necklaces:
Oval, teardrop pendants are great
Longer length necklaces, not collarbone
Layer two necklaces, say, long strand of beads and a shorter pendant/medallion
Or long necklace with beads and metals
But not heavy or chunky

Earrings:
Oval studs
White gold, open in the middle
Designers: Rebecca Norman, Melissa Joy Manning

Bracelets:
Never a cuff
Three thin bangles are nice
If it’s an inch wide or wider, it should be filigree - open work, not thick/solid/chunky

Rings:
More oval than square
This is a good place to bring in colored stones, perhaps in tones of a color

Watches:
Bracelet watch
Pearlized face is better than black or white
Open work bracelet-type band

Scarves:
Cowl neck is fantastic
Linen, translucent for summer
Avoid Hermes twill silk
Wool shalley
Wider, longer scarves - to cowl and create drama
Not shiny
Not small and perky

Belts:
Soft belt like bathrobe
Or skinny belt to define waist
Covered buckle - don’t want to see spokes and holes - it should end cleanly

Glasses:
Silver frames, or any of my metals - he really likes the metals for me
Clear plastic frame
Clear with silver flecks
Second base color - aubergine
The bases and metals blend more with my hair.
Or for more of a statement, really any of my colors, dramatic, tranquil, energy, romantic. Energy and tranquil really pulls out my eyes!
Don’t go any wider than my current pair in the temple - if too wide, you can see the arms and they compete with the eyes
Slight angle to the lens shape, not a total oval
If I go with color, it should be mottled light and dark like my purple/blue pair, not a solid color
Current lens size is perfect (I’d call it medium)

Hats:
Winter: Skullcap-style knit beret - symmetrical all the way around
Variegated in color - a combo of my colors
Maybe a brim, but fun and floppy, 70’s style - do a straw version of this in summer

Gloves:
Long - past the wrist

Hair: 
Don’t go shorter than jaw or longer than shoulder (that would be too languid)
Do go shorter in the back - if longer in the back, it would drag my head back.
Slight layering

Nails:
Any of the colors in my palette, but he pointed out essence, metallic, and pale romantic

Makeup:
Foundation/Powder: Essence
Lip/Blush: Romantic
Charcoal eyeliner (1st base) - the softer one
For variety: aubergine eyeliner (2nd base)
Eyeshadow: 3rd base over eye
For evening out eyeshadow: a little bit of energy or tranquil
Good brands for me: Shisedo for eyes, Dior for lips - the french brands go cooler

Stores/Websites good for me:
Diane Von Furstenberg for wrap dress
Kettlewell (UK) - lovely wrap sweaters and wrap dresses
Talbots (just a few pieces there - will take some hunting - 80% of the store is not good)
J. Jill
Ann Taylor 
Ann Taylor Loft 

Other questions I asked:
Will my palette change over time? It may mellow and soften a bit. I may find someday that the darkest shade no longer works, and will want to go with the lighter ones.
Why several variations of each? To give me options. The deepest color is the most potent. You can use any color in between the chips themselves.

In my next post, I'll go into detail comparing this with my Sci/Art designation.

My Color Journey Continues - with David Zyla!

The book: Color Your Style by David Zyla

I have a lot to say about this, so I'll split it up into three posts. In this one, I'll explain a bit about who David Zyla is and what he does. I'll also talk about my consultation with him, what it was like. And, hopefully, help you decide if this is something you'd want to pursue for yourself. In subsequent posts, I'll go into minute detail with my Zyla results, and compare them with my Sci/Art results.

So, as I blogged about earlier, I had a Personal Color Analysis done in the Sci/Art system. I loved the experience, and was actually quite happy with the results. But still. It's only color. So what about style? What kinds of clothes will flatter me best? Sure, I've read fashion blogs, but no one really has my exact figure, and it's hard to self-analyze to put myself into a category. Some people have great success figuring out their Kibbe style, but while I dabbled around in that, I never felt that confident that I had chosen correctly.

And then I found out about David Zyla. His system is entirely different from both Sci/Art and Kibbe. In his book, he describes his entire system. The basic idea is that everyone has a personal palette of colors, drawn from their own coloring. You can use these colors to your benefit if you know which colors to use and in which situations. For example, you might wear your Romance color (the color you blush) on a date, your Energy color (drawn from the darkest color of your iris, but not the ring) for a pick-me-up, or your Tranquil color (drawn from the lightest part of your iris) for relaxation. Additionally, every woman is one of 24 archetypes. He divides these into four seasons (which don't necessarily correlate with Sci/Art's or any other systems out there), six types within each. These archetypes not only define your style, but your personality as well.

I started by reading the book. It was really interesting, and I did "Zyla" myself according to the instructions in the book. But then, I found out that the man himself was coming right to the city I live in. While a two-hour consultation with him is quite expensive (he styles the stars after all - he works in show business and has won an Emmy for his work), the fact that I wouldn't have to travel made the idea irresistible.

Fast-forward to the day of my consultation. It was a real pleasure to meet David Zyla himself, he is personable and friendly and I could have chatted the day away with him! We spent the first hour or so sitting by a window (he needs the good light), where he had a bunch of color wheels - paint chips, like you find at the hardware/paint store. While he busily cut chips and held them up to me (from a few feet away), pasting the best ones and discarding the others, we chatted about nothing really related to anything. Our families, travel, restaurants, TV, you name it. I think he was using this time to get a feel for my personality. But he certainly didn't quiz me on anything that might be pertinent to his system.

Then, once he had completed his "Karen collage" (my term), he presented it to me along with my archetype and detailed style recommendations. He allowed me to record this last part (over an hour), and I'm glad I did. Because while I furiously scribbled down nine pages of notes as he talked, upon listening to my recording later I found I had missed a few things. I'm also glad I had come prepared with questions (five typed pages' worth) because I got a lot more detail than I might have gotten otherwise. One question I asked him repeatedly was, "Where can I find this?" I got names of specific designers, websites, and stores that he might not have otherwise suggested.

This was all incredibly fun, and it gave me some fabulous ideas for shopping in the future. So did I "Zyla" myself correctly? No, and I'm not really sure anyone can, because Zyla's eyes see beyond the literal. For example: your Second Base color (intended to be used as a neutral, where one might wear brown) is taken from the darkest part of your hair. I chose Espresso Brown for my Second Base, because that's what color it is! David, however, chose a Red Plum/Aubergine. Third Base is based on the lightest part of your hair and is intended to be used as your casual neutral, like khaki. I chose Silver, but David chose a pale Sage Green. I assure you, my hair is not purple or green in any way! And he didn't say it was. But that's how he translated the idea of my hair. I can't do that myself, no one can, at least not exactly the way Zyla would do it!

As for archetype, you use your colors to get you partway there but ultimately you just pick one. David did not select the same one I did (though it was in the same season).

So, is it worth buying the book (or checking it out from the library) and figuring out your own archetype if it's not going to be "right?" Well, why not. It could be fun, and it could give you some self awareness and some ideas for dressing better. And if you try on your archetype and it really doesn't fit you, then move on.

I can't say that seeing Zyla himself is something that every woman needs to do. The book suffices for many. (And of course, there are plenty of women who have zero interest in this sort of thing! I am speaking to my fellow color nerds here.) Additionally, there is a treasure trove of websites, Facebook groups, and Pinterest boards devoted to his ideas. But I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and I have every intention of living my archetype and my palette and seeing how it goes! Now, to go shopping...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nail Polish Review: Sinful Colors - Blue La La and Out of this World

Sinful Colors - Blue La La
Ladies, this one's a two-fer. I like to do an "accent nail" sometimes, just for fun. Since my Sinful Colors haul last month, I've been playing around with all of the colors. My favorite of the bunch is this gorgeous blue shade, Blue La La. The silver one, Out of this World, is nice too.

I applied a base coat and two coats of Blue La La, followed by a top coat. Application was smooth, and two coats gave me complete opaque coverage. I didn't get any chips or tip wear at all until about the fifth day, which is pretty good for me. I have no complaints about this polish!
Sinful Colors - Out of this World
Well, this is still the same manicure, but here I'm holding Out of this World, the silver shade. I actually had to do three coats of this one to get enough opacity to stand up to the gorgeous blue. You could really get away with just two coats if you don't mind a bit of sheerness. Other than the fact that I get cranky when I have to do three coats, I can't complain about this lovely metallic shade, either.

I bought these with the thought that they might be in my season, Soft Summer. What do you think?
Blue La La and Soft Summer fan
Blue La La is fairly close to ss7.9 but it's not as purpled, and it's probably a bit bright.
Out of this World and Soft Summer Fan
Out of this World compares to ss3.1, though it's cooler for sure.

Of course, when you're shopping for your season, you're not supposed to match things to the tiny squares. You're supposed to look for harmony with the entire fan.
Looking for harmony
I'd say both colors are not quite Soft Summer shades. They are close enough not to look garish, and I will wear them both, but I can't recommend them as Soft Summer nail polishes. I just don't see the harmony I look for.

Still, both polishes are great quality, on par with much more expensive polishes I've tried. And, the colors are lovely, if you're in the market for a fun blue creme shade and a metallic silver.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nail Polish Review: Sinful Colors - Mint Apple

Mint Apple I've been wearing this polish for five days now, and I still feel a little strange in green nail polish. However, if you have been looking for a great minty green polish, this is a good one to check out, especially for the price. It's really pretty. For you Soft Summers out there, I believe it's just grayed enough to suit.

I recently scored a whole bunch of Sinful Colors polishes when Walgreens had them on sale for $.99. They are normally only $1.99, but often go on sale for less. This brand is always a bargain, but not always consistently good. It really depends on the color. Here are the five polishes I just picked up. Hopefully all of them will be Soft Summer matches and more importantly, good formulas.
Really feeling those ocean tones
I always start with a base coat and top with a top coat. I always plan to do two coats of color. If I can get away with one, it's a bonus. If I have to do three, I get cranky. Mint Apple was streaky after one coat but perfectly solid with two. Application was easy; the brush and formula are both to my liking.
Sinful Colors - Mint Apple - #947
This is two coats. On the left, indoor light near a window; on the right: direct sun
As you can see, this is a gorgeous color. It's more mint than apple, so I'm not sure why "apple" is part of the name. But it looks pretty much like it does in the bottle. So, how does it look next to the Soft Summer fan?
Sinful Colors Mint Apple and Soft Summer fan
I think it's a pretty good match. It looks good with the fan in general, and looks close to the ss 2.9 shade specifically.

After five days with it on, I still don't have any chips. There is some slight tip wear, but that is to be expected. This is a great polish, at any price, but what a bargain it is. I'll definitely keep this one in my regular rotation, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a cool mint green nail polish.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Lazy Girl's Guide to Making Coffee: Which Kind of Coffee Maker is the Best?


Of course, this is a very personal question; it depends entirely upon your preferences. I have used five totally different coffee makers extensively over the past half dozen or so years, and here are my thoughts. I'm not going to go into detail about taste, because that will vary depending on how fresh your coffee is (and how recently roasted, and ground), how you proportion your coffee and water, the quality of your water, the quality of your COFFEE, etc. etc. My focus will be on ease of use. I don't know about you, but the first thing in the morning, an elaborate ritual is the last thing I want (however, some people crave this, and if that's the case for you, then you'll want the exact opposite of my recommendations.) I'll review them in order from least to most expensive, though of course there are many variations of each type and prices will vary widely. I'm really focussing on the type of coffee maker, not the exact brand and models. There are many more types of machines out there, but I can only comment on the five I own personally.
Plastic Filter Cone #4 Large Coffee Maker
That's a coffee maker? Indeed it is. I have this no-name plastic filter cone, which cost me about $5, but you can certainly spend more money for brand names and even more upscale materials, like ceramic. It's basically nothing more than an object that holds a paper (or reusable) coffee filter. I won't go into the method; there are plenty of instructional articles and videos out there (from simple to very complicated) on the pour-over method, but the basic idea is that you pour hot water over the coffee and filter placed in this cone. This one isn't my favorite, just because it requires some precision. You have to use water heated to just the right temperature, and if it's too hot or too cold, the coffee just doesn't quite taste right. I found that on some days my coffee tasted great; other days, less so. And it does take some doing. You have to stand there with the hot water kettle and wait for some coffee to drip through so that you can add more. Clean up is easy enough, just toss the filter and coffee grounds and rinse out the cone. It can go in the dishwasher, too. I don't find myself using this much, however, I do travel with it if I'm going to be staying someplace without a coffee maker.
Black & Decker DCM600W 5-cup Drip Coffeemaker
This simple drip coffee maker from Black & Decker is under $20. I chose this one because it's small and doesn't take up too much room in my kitchen. Since I'm the only coffee drinker, five cups is plenty, but obviously a standard drip machine is bigger. I do like this machine - it's easy enough and certainly makes decent coffee. I think everyone knows the basic idea on how to use this one. For fresher taste, you can grind your own beans, preferably purchased in small batches from a local roaster. That's a bit much for me, but I do use filtered water at least. The coffee tastes good, it's ready in less than 10 minutes, and it's not a huge amount of work. There are more expensive drip machines that grind the beans for you, and that you can set up the night before and wake up to your coffee ready and waiting. But my simple machine lacks those bells and whistles. The Black & Decker 5-cup is a perfectly fine machine. Clean up is just tossing the filter and grounds and rinsing or washing the filter and pot. However, I don't find myself using it much lately. I may, however, go back to it at some point. I'd call it my second favorite. I don't have any complaints about it except for that fact that I am the lazy girl mentioned in the title.
Bodum Brazil French Press
This 8-cup French Press coffee maker from Bodum is not my favorite. Bodum is one of the better brands, and the taste of the coffee is perfectly fine. The prices vary depending on size; this one was about $24. I have no complaints about this specific model as French presses go. However, the French press style of making coffee is not for me. First of all, it requires precision. The temperature of the water and timing (between adding water and plunging) is paramount. There is no sleepy half-focussed operation here. Second, there are always going to be grounds in the coffee. French press aficionados (and there are plenty) don't seem to mind that, but I do. Third, clean up is kind of a pain. Grounds get stuck in the mesh screen of the plunger. I still have this in my pantry though I should probably just get rid of it; I haven't used it in years and doubt I ever will.
Bialetti Moka Expresso Maker
The Bialetti Moka pot is a classic espresso "machine." It's been around for ages and with good reason. It makes perfectly good espresso at a fraction of the cost (about $30) of the fancy machines that go for thousands of dollars. This is THE coffee maker that most Italians have. However, I haven't used mine in a while. Though it's not hard to use, it does take some concentration and requires you to stand over the stove to watch it. The basic idea is that you pour water into the bottom section, finely ground (not regular ground) coffee in the center portion, and then heat it carefully on your stove top until the water percolates from bottom, through the coffee, into the top section. It takes about five minutes once you have it all set up. Clean up is tossing the grounds and rinsing all of the parts carefully. It's definitely more work than an automatic machine, and it can yield you some bad-tasting coffee if you don't brew it properly, but when it's right, it's great. Yet it's not the ideal machine for the lazy girl. And for Americans accustomed to a jumbo mug of coffee, this is not going to yield that. However, if you want espresso (or espresso drinks like cappuccino) and you're willing to put the work in, I can definitely recommend this.
Keurig K45 Elite Brewing System
At about $120, the Keurig is the most expensive of my collection. Plus, the K-cups you use in it cost anywhere from $.50-$1 per cup. But I have to admit, it IS the ultimate lazy girl coffee maker. I really hate to admit that this trendy machine is the one I keep coming back to, but it is. It is the easiest machine to use - no measuring, no heating, no "doing." Just pop a K-cup into the machine, pull down the handle, and press the start button. Thirty seconds later, you have just-right coffee (the BEST tasting? Not really. But good enough for me and my simple tastes.) There are hundreds of different varieties and flavors to choose from. Clean up is easy - you don't even have to see the grounds. Just pop the K-cup out and toss it. Ugh, I know, it is so wasteful. There are ways around that; Keurig's newer Vue machine has its own special K-cups that are recyclable, though that system is even more pricey than the regular one. Or, you can use an older machine like mine and just use a reusable filter like this one, saving both money and garbage creation. Of course, if you're going to use a reusable filter, then you're not saving any effort over using a cheaper drip machine. When I first got the Keurig many years ago, coffee was a lot cheaper. When prices went up, I branched out and tried all of these other machines. And yet - with my mornings starting early and busy, I found myself wanting to streamline my coffee routine. So I'm using the Keurig once again, with the K-cups. I do shop carefully so I rarely ever pay more than about 50 cents per cup. I figure, it's still cheaper than buying even plain coffee at a coffee shop, which is something I hardly ever do. So there you have it. The Keurig wins for me. How about you? What is your favorite way to make coffee?


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nail Polish Review: China Glaze - No Plain Jane

Fair warning: this first paragraph is going to be philosophical, or perhaps a bit navel-gazing, so feel free to skip it and go straight to the nail polish review if so inclined. I haven't written a post in a while because I couldn't think of what to write about. Not that there was nothing to write about, but nothing that seemed "important" enough for a "whole post." And I couldn't decide what direction I wanted to take this blog. I feel like I've covered the "going gray" topic (though I'm certainly happy to write more about it if anyone comments and tells me what angle you'd like to see me cover.) I like to share recipes on occasion but I don't want to do a cooking blog. They (expert beauty bloggers) say that you need a niche, and I just haven't found mine yet. I want to stay general enough that any woman (particularly but not exclusively women over 40) can benefit from reading it. And yet, I don't have the expertise or resources (or frankly the time or inclination) to cover every new important makeup release. So while I still haven't chosen a solid or exclusive direction, since I have been draped a Soft Summer, I am going to write about SSu-friendly colors. That doesn't mean that no one else can wear the colors I'll be reviewing! But the bottom line is that I've decided to stop dithering and just write. Because that is why I started blogging to begin with.

I'd like to get ahold of newly released polishes for future reviews, but I'm starting with what I already have in my collection.

No Plain Jane by China Glaze is an older polish, but it's still available, at least on Amazon. It's a beautiful, sparkly, metallic purple. It's a true purple, not a lavender or lilac, not a plum or aubergine.
No Plain Jane in direct sunlight

Bottom of the bottle
No Plain Jane indoors
The texture of this China Glaze polish is nice, and it applies quite easily. I started with a base coat. After one coat of No Plain Jane, the polish was sheer and streaky - no good. A second coat did the trick; I got full opacity. The color is just as beautiful on as it is in the bottle. In the photos, I'm also wearing Seche Vite top coat. Which, incidentally, is fantastic stuff. I can't recommend it highly enough. Seche Vite is a quick dry top coat that actually deeply dries your polish in minutes.

I wouldn't call this an exact match for Soft Summer, but it's pretty close to ss7.8 on the fan:
No Plain Jane by China Glaze with SSu Fan
It's probably just a smidgeon too pink; Soft Summer's purples tend to be bluer or grayer. For me, it's close enough - it's just my nails! Why bother matching nails to your seasonal fan, anyway, when your fingers (not to mention your toes) are usually pretty far from your face? Because, for me at least, the seasons are all about coordination. If everything I'm wearing is truly Soft Summer in color, everything just sort of hangs together and looks right. Dressing in my season from head to toe helps me look more pulled together.

Bottom line: I love it! This is definitely a polish I'll be using in my regular rotation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Should You Order Glasses Online?

Eyeglasses, that is. If you're like me, glasses are a part of your everyday look. I'm not interested in experimenting with contacts (touching my eyeballs? no thanks) and while my vision isn't horrible (in one eye anyway) I do get headaches if I walk around with uncorrected vision for long. So, glasses it is. Rather than fighting it or feeling resentful about it, I've embraced it and decided to make it a bit of a fashion statement, an integral part of "my look" if you will.

My insurance subsidizes one pair of glasses per year. Luckily my prescription hasn't changed much in the past couple of years, so I can get away with wearing last year's (or the year before's) pair. I love to change up my look, and wearing different glasses is a fun way to do that. After I had my colors analyzed, I couldn't resist the urge to buy just one more pair, IN my season. I'm not actually due for a new pair until 2015, so I decided to see if I could find something really inexpensive. I found Zenni Optical, which advertises glasses starting at just $6.95, including prescription! I had to find out if this was legit or too good to be true.

So, how does one order glasses online? It's actually pretty fun. You upload a picture of yourself without glasses on, and then virtually "try on" as many frames as you want. There are limitless options; here are a few I liked:
I chose the pair in the bottom right corner

Here is a close-up of the glasses I ordered
Let's talk about price. I highly doubt you're "walking out the door" with $7 glasses. The frames I selected were a bit more than that ($19), but that is only the beginning. Here is my detailed order:
Not $7 - but not crazy, either
The biggest expense was the lens upgrade, for nearly $35. From what I understand, those of us with coke-bottle level prescriptions need some special sort of lens to avoid our glasses actually being coke-bottle thickness. I was willing to pay for that upgrade, since I have poor vision in only one eye, and the one-thick-one-thin-lens look is not cute. Zenni recommends the particular index for your specific prescription. Your mileage may vary on that - your lenses may cost less if you don't need that high-index lens, but it also may be more if you need bifocals or trifocals. My prescription is just single-vision. Additionally, I took a mini-splurge to get clip-on sunglasses that fit just right, a whopping $4. (Those things are $10-$20 at the drugstore and never fit right; the ones from my ophthalmologist fit but cost $40.) Shipping was a reasonable $5 flat rate; if you're ordering glasses for the whole family it won't cost any more. So, we're talking about just under $63, which is a whole heck of a lot cheaper than anything I've ever bought at my doctor's office boutique, even after the insurance subsidy.

I placed my order, and just twelve days later, my new glasses arrived in my mailbox!
My Zenni glasses
I have no complaints! Luckily, they fit me perfectly, since I'm not sure where I'd go about getting them adjusted if they didn't. They look pretty darn close to how they looked "virtually." The only maybe weird thing was that color is a little bit off - the visible part of the frame is right on, but the part over the ears is a different color. Since that's hidden by my hair, I don't care, but if my hair didn't cover that it might annoy me. The clip-on sunglasses are definitely the cheap kind (I doubt they'll last long,) with no metal around the edges, but they fit right and do the job.

Ordering glasses online is scary! You are taking a chance. Although this all went very smoothly, and it was far cheaper than the boutique where I usually purchase glasses, I don't think it was really a savings over going to a local discount chain optician. However, if you find your local options lacking, you might like to give Zenni a shot. Dirt cheap, it's not. And you're not going to find the upscale designer frames you can get in the more expensive stores. But it offers a massive selection of reasonably priced frames in every kind of style and color imaginable. And the ordering process is as easy as it could be.

Have you ever bought glasses online? If so, were you happy with the glasses you purchased?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Personal Color Analysis Was a Big Surprise

Color me shocked. As it turns out, I'm not a Bright Winter at all. I'm actually a Soft Summer! They are both neutral seasons, leaning cooler with just a touch of warmth, but the colors and saturation are very different.

I wrote about what I was anticipating and a little about what this is all about in my previous post, here.

Now, how does a personal color analysis work, exactly? First, you wear no makeup. The "studio" (actually a hotel meeting room) was set up with a gray background and full-spectrum lights. I wore a gray scarf over my hair (because there is still a tiny bit of dye in the ends) and a gray drape. My analyst, Christine, also wore a gray coverall so as to not distract the eye. She started by draping me with fabric drapes representing the four true seasons, Winter (black), Autumn (dark brown), Spring (gold), and Summer (silver), comparing two at a time. It was clear that none of the true seasons were a perfect match, but Summer was the best, followed by Winter. We were looking for each color's effects on my face. You want feature definition, smooth skin, healthy skin color, bright colorful eyes, pink lips. You do not want shadows, yellowness, redness, pale lips, dull eyes, or hard lines.

We went through the red drapes (a series of pinks to reds designed to test for how much saturation suits you) and then we did each of the 12 seasons individually. Nine seasons were eliminated pretty quickly. She spent extra time comparing Light Summer and Soft Summer (SSu), but Soft Summer won out. She saved Bright Winter (BW) for last, because she know it was what I was expecting. I didn't tell her straight out, but she figured it out by my comments on how pretty certain drapes were, as well as what I walked in wearing (black and fuchsia).

The Bright Winter vs. Soft Summer draping was interesting. The BW drapes really didn't look bad - they didn't make me sallow, like the warmer seasons (Spring), or severe, like the cold seasons (True Winter and True Summer). But - in the BW, I just sort of receded. I wasn't center stage, the drape was. The SSu drapes, on the other hand, showed ME. This may sounds like a subtle thing. But I really could see it. The SSu colors are truly colors I've hardly looked at in stores. I just assumed they didn't have enough saturation for me. The SSu colors are heathered and grayed. I think they're very pretty, but they are just so far from the electric pinks, purples, and teals I've been favoring lately!

Christine sensed my shock, and she spent a long time with me. She really wanted me to see the changes that SSu made in my appearance. In fact, my session was about six hours long! Granted, much of that time was talking, about color theory in general, and then more specifically once my season had been revealed. We also talked about makeup, and she applied a full face of makeup on me, explaining as she went.

Once I got over my shock (even my shock shocked me - I swore I was totally open minded!), I decided to just embrace my new season. Hey, nothing is permanent, I can always go back to my old bright colors if I like. I've been collecting new makeup from Christine's recommendation list, and bought a few clothing items and scarves. Below, I'm sharing some photos from from draping session, as well as a selfie I took in my car wearing some of my new purchases. All of the draping photos are in my Soft Summer colors, with makeup on (I wasn't going to take any pictures of the "bad" colors, or any no-makeup shots, no matter good an illustration they might be!)
My colors (well, a few of them, anyway)

Some individual shots with Soft Summer colors

Here is my attempt at "doing Soft Summer" myself.

The scarf in the photo above is by Natasha (purchased at TJ Maxx). Foundation is Clinique Perfectly Real Makeup in 14N, blush is Clinique's Cupid. Eyeliner is Urban Decay's Uzi. Eyeshadow is a custom palette I created with MAC's Blackberry, Yogurt, and Scene. Mascara is Almay's Sapphire. Lipstick: Plumful by MAC.
A sampling of Soft Summer colors 
So was it worth it? Yes, I think so. I do love the way I look in the softer colors it would never had occurred to me to wear. And I did DO this in order to push myself out of my comfort zone - and to be the best me I can be. It's a work in progress! Have you ever had a PCA? Were you surprised by your results?