Friday, December 19, 2014

Makeup Tutorial - Christmas Bitch

I feel like holiday beauty ideas can be kind of repetitive. Red lips, gold shadow, cat eye liner, or shimmery brown shadow with rosy cheeks and lips. It's all very pretty, but it tends to blur together after a while. There's wholesome, Norman Rockwell winter beauty, but there's also stark, bleak, frozen tundra winter beauty. I wanted to try something a little more along that vein, something that was still really pretty and wearable, but not your typical look. It's a little Robert Palmer girl, a little goth, and really fun.
 One note that I should make is that I didn't realize how weird the low angle of shots made things look until after I had finished putting on all the makeup. Whoops. I guess that's what test shots are for. I hope things are still pretty clear.
I did this at the end of the day, over the minimal makeup that I was already wearing for the day, but the instructions are pretty much the same as they would be if you were starting with a clean face.
My starting point.
Start, as usual, with foundation. I used a little heavier hand that I normally would, and went it and corrected all the little spots and dots and blotches with concealer. I dusted on a light layer of powder to finish and set. 

My brows were already filled, but I elongated the shape and rounded the arch, giving them a slightly exaggerated appearance. I also still had on the mascara that I'd applied in the morning, a fairly heavy coat on the top and a lighter coat on the bottom.
For the eyes, I started with a base of silver eyeshadow. Using my finger, I applied Maybelline's Color Tattoo in Silver Strike all the way up to my eyebrows. Then, I applied the shimmery charcoal shade from my Pixi palette to my crease with a small brush, blending it upwards towards my brow for a cut crease effect. With liquid liner, I made a straight line under my lower lash line, adding a slight, downward flick at the inner corner. I also tightlined my lower lash line.

I wanted to keep the look pretty frosty, so I skipped blush in favor of highlighter. I used my silver cream shadow (including the leftovers from applying my eyeshadow) to highlight the tops of my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, and my cupid's bow. I also brushed a light bronzer under my cheekbones for some added definition.

For the lips, I was looking for something along the lines of frozen berries. I wanted it to be matte, but not too perfect. I used my OCC Lip Tar duo in red and blue to blend a deep berry color, then blotted it until it was just a stain. I applied it well within my natural lip line, minimizing my lips a little bit. It might sound weird, but I feel like it makes my eyes look bigger.

This is a great look for casting sultry glances over your shoulder - all big eyes and glimmering cheekbones. It might not be your every day style, but I think it could be an awesome look for New Year's.

So what do you guys think? Is this a look that you would be interested in trying out for a night?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Chicago Christmas Plan

While I'm terrible about decorating, slow about getting presents for anyone other than myself, and in possession of a rabid dislike of that holiday classic to end all holiday classics, It's A Wonderful Life, I still really enjoy Christmas and Christmas related activities. (How's that for a sentence? I wanted to put in a lot of clauses. Get it? Clauses? I'll see myself out.) While I've lived in Chicago for the better part of 10 years, there's a lot of stuff that my city has to offer that I've never experienced. This year, in the run up to Christmas and New Year's, I'm going to try to work some of them in, and enjoy a new tradition.

Ice Skating in Millennium Park
I actually did this last year for all of about half and hour. I don't have the best balance anyway, so sticking me on sharp metal blades on hard, unforgiving ice was only just short of disastrous. Nevertheless, Brian and I are going to try to make it a tradition, first grabbing a drink at the beautiful Palmer House bar and then heading over to the park for a skate. This year, I'm wearing a petticoat, and possibly some butt pads.

This is right down the street from where I work, so I have no excuse not to go! Ok, yes, it's total kitsch, but that's kind of what Christmas is about, isn't it? They've got lots of crafts and trinkets, as well as food and hot mulled wine, which I've never had and would love to try.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Festival
Lincoln Park Zoo is a Chicago institution. It's in Lincoln Park, which is itself pretty scenic, it's close to downtown, and it's free. Every year, they make a beautiful light display, and I've heard from a nearsighted friend that if you have poor vision (which I do), it's a lot of fun to just wander around and enjoy all the shimmering, flickering halos of light.

A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theater
This one might be a little outside of my rather miniscule budget, but my neighbor is Bob Cratchit. No, really! A Christmas Carol has been running at The Goodman Theater in Chicago for the past 37 years, and he's been doing the Cratchit role for the past seven or eight of them. The Goodman is a pretty prestigious theater, and this seems like the sort of Christmas tradition that gets very firmly engrained if you take your kids.

Double Feature at The Music Box
The Music Box is an independent theater, and one of my favorites. They do Rocky Horror every month (although, like most people, I usually only go around Halloween. Sorry, kids), and show tons of second run and independent films. This year, they've got two Christmas-themed double features - White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life, and Home Alone and Die Hard.
I can't really explain why I hate It's a Wonderful Life so much. It just irritates me. George Bailey's constant freakouts, Clarance's bland platitudes, the little girl with her annoying, piping voice - it all just coalesces into me sitting on a couch rolling my eyes so hard they almost pop out of my head.
I love White Christmas, though, despite the fact that it hinges on the most incompetent eavesdropping  the world has ever seen.

Chocolate Chestnut Pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop
I have heard from numerous friends and loved ones that Bang Bang Pie shop is the place to go in Chicago for pie, biscuits, and candied bacon, and yet I still have to set foot in the place. A serious oversight on my part, and one that I really want to rectify for their seasonal chocolate chestnut pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

What are some Christmas traditions in your area? Is there anything that you're particularly looking forward to?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Giving the brownies all their spice

Here's me in a pretty dress. I'll get back to that in a second.
But first - can I just live at the Korean spa?
For those of you who haven't experienced a magical place like this, a Korean spa is more of a health spa than a luxury experience. You walk in, and they give you an over-sized set of what are basically cotton pajamas. There are Roman-style baths (hot, hotter, and ice cold), and a steam sauna, which are gender segregated because everyone's naked for this bit. If I ever have kids, I'm taking them there all the time, because nothing promotes a positive body image like seeing a wide range of normal, naked bodies.
When you're ready, you can slip on your comfy jammies (no shoes or socks - the floors are heated) and head out to the common area, where there are a variety of dry saunas that range in temperature from about 80° all the way up to the Sudatorium, which tops out at 275°. When you leave, you're warm, happy, relaxed, and usually stuffed with Korean food. It's just about my favorite place n the world when it's cold out. You can even stay overnight, like I did, and it's really cheap - only $15-30, depending on if you get a Groupon and how good the deal is.
Just one of the 7 or 8 saunas. They're all supposed to have special properties, although the only one that I remember is that the charcoal room is supposed to purify.  Afterwards, I always go to the big Korean supermarket next door and pick up some treats. I don't eat a lot of junk food, but Asian junk food is kind of my jam. If I can't read the label and there's a picture of some kind of dancing seafood on the front, I'm all over it.
Oh my god so goooooood. Ddukbokki chips.
I also picked up some treats for my face in the form of a bunch of snail extract sheet masks, which already seem to be helping my poor skin. They also gave me some little samples of BB cream, and holy crap is it nice. I will definitely be investing in more Korean skin care products in the future, because it really works.
Korean skin care may or may not involve actually skinning people and wearing their face. I mean, that's one way to get prefect skin.
The other really fun thing that I got to do this weekend was wear the dress that I bought myself for Christmas. I mentioned it here, and when it arrived, it was just as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. It's the kind of dress that reminds me why I love vintage so much - it's really well made and still structurally sound, even at 60 years old. The fit is pretty much impeccable. It's maybe a tiny bit tight in the shoulders, but the waist and bust just fit like a glove. Thank you so much for making my dress dreams come true, Very Vintage!
It's a 50s dress with a dropped waist, so I thought I'd add a little 20s flavor to the styling. I set my hair with sponge rollers, and while the final product was a little wilder than I had originally envisioned, I thought it still added a little bit of flapper to the look.
Ok, maybe a little Bride of Frankenstein, but that's cool too.
It was really warm out this weekend, up near 50°, so I hardly even needed a jacket. I was really happy to have an excuse to wear this beautiful velvet cape again, though.
Another thing that I was really happy to be able to bust out again - these killer leopard heels and my back seam stockings. I figured if I was going to do it up, I was really going to do it up.
Oh, and here's a picture of my in full hair and makeup and my nightgown. I just feel the need to remind you all that I'm actually pretty after the serial killer/sheet mask photo. It doesn't have to put the lotion on its skin! I don't even own a hose!
So, what's your favorite dress (or other item of clothing) that you own? What makes it so perfect to you? I'd love to see some pictures, if they're handy. ;-)

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Coat of a Different Color

I've mentioned before how much I love coats in the winter. I mean, there's obviously a practical aspect to that - I really love not freezing to death, for example - but they're also an important part of putting together any winter outfit. A good coat doesn't just keep you warm, it makes it easy to feel stylish and pulled together when your nose is running, your cheeks are chapped, and your hair is floating around your head in a staticky haze.
Most of the coats that I own are long and full, and I really needed something shorter for riding my bike. I also get overheated pretty easily, so I wanted something a bit lighter weight.
I'd been searching online for something for a while, but it was hard to find that I both liked and that was in my budget. Coats are obviously workhorse items, and have to be well-made to last through all the constant wear and tear of winter. I don't think that necessarily means they have to be $300+ in order to also be stylish, though.
I popped into Buffalo Exchange, and while I was standing at the register with a cute, black, faux-fur coat, I saw someone pick up and put down something vibrantly green. Green is one of my favorite colors, and I like having something a bit more fun than a black coat in the winter, so of course I had to go investigate.
I took these the day before I dyed my hair. Bye-bye, brunette!
It really couldn't have been a more perfect find. It's a little lighter than my other coats, but still very warm. I love all the details to it - the collar, the puffed shoulders, the slightly flared, a-line shape, the striking color. And it was only $40!
I thought it looked cute paired with a pencil skirt in a similar color and this golden yellow t-shirt. It's a bit of a casual suiting look, which I thought was fun.
I took these photos in an alley down the street from my house. The garage behind me is actually covered in ivy, and in the summer it's beautifully green. Although the leaves have died back, the vines criss-crossing the wall behind me are still really interesting looking.
I've realized that most people don't say anything or even show much interest if you're taking photos in public, but a guy who lived across the street from where I was doing this saw me out his window and asked me if I wanted help. It came as a bit of a surprise, but it was nice to get a positive and helpful reaction to my amateur modeling efforts, rather than the opposite.
My baby blue swing coat or navy military style coat will undoubtedly still be my go-tos when the temperature plummets, but for the mild weather we've had so far, this coat is perfect.

In other news, after a bit of thought, I'm going to be stepping back on my posting efforts, at least through the holidays. While it's fun to post every day and it also pushes me to be creative, I want to make sure that I'm always creating quality content. I'm planning on doing three posts a week, or perhaps four if I have something that I'd really like to talk about. There are some changes in store for 2015, and I want to make sure I'm running a tight ship in preparation.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Year in Television

I actually watch a lot more TV than I do movies. It's not because I necessarily like TV more (although I will say that I'm more involved and more in love with my favorite TV shows than my favorite movies, just because I've spent so much more time getting to know the characters), but because it's hard to find the time to actually watch a movie from start to finish. That's a two or even three hour commitment; it can be much easier to know that I can stop after half an hour or an hour and not feel like I'm leaving something hanging.
I freely admit that I don't have the most distinguishing palette when it comes to entertainment, including TV, but here are the currently airing TV shows that I've been watching over the past year. If you haven't been keeping up with some of these shows, there might be minor spoilers.

New Girl - Finding a new voice, but still ridiculously charming. I want to hang out with these people all the time. I was pretty heartbroken last season when Nick and Jess broke up, but I think the show is doing a good job showing their sense of shared history and affection, while also setting them up for something new in their lives. The supporting cast is still really strong, and while I wish they'd give us a little more of the Schmidt magic that happened in season one, I love the way they've developed Winston.
I may love this show at least in part because the main character is named Jessica, and I have a weakness for things that have the same name as me. It might also be why I love Jessicas Alba, Simpson, Biel, and Lange.

Vampire Diaries - Got off to a really slow start this season, and although it's picked up a little bit of steam, it's still mired in some really annoying subplots. The show has never utilized Bonnie very well; either kill her or give her something to do. And will someone please kill Enzo already? His charming psycho routine is shades of season 1 Damon, and we do not need the retread.
Fire water and underbutt. Oh my.

How To Get Away With Murder - Soapy, crazy, silly, maybe even a little stupid, but very entertaining. Viola Davis is both the star of the show and the reason that it holds together at all. She attacks each scene with an incredible level of ferocity, which is good because sometimes it feels like the rest of the cast is just kind of meandering through their scenes. Also, there's some really hot dude on dude action.
This photo is kind of weird.

Black-ish - I enjoy this show so thoroughly. While I can't say much about its portrayal of the black, upper middle-class experience (or even of the middle-class experience, full stop), it's always laugh out loud funny and topical without coming across as strident. Tracy Ellis-Ross is always fantastic, and the two younger kids are ridiculously cute. It's like a new Cosby Show, except no one involved is a rapist. That we know of.
See? Adorbs.

Sleepy Hollow - This show is fucking bonkers. There is no other word for it. They churn through plot a mile a minute, and the first season was basically out to show just how good a show could be while being utterly, completely stupid. The WTF-ery is strong in this one. Season two, unfortunately, has not managed to tie things together quite so well - lots of dangling threads and weird character non-development have created a hole that I'm not sure the show can dig itself out of. I'm still going to watch, though, because the chemistry between Ichabod and Abby will always be worth it.
I've kind of made the theme song my own unofficial theme song. Like, when I walk into a room, I pretend the spooky violins and horns are blasting behind me. It's pretty badass.

Game of Thrones - I am a massive fan of the books, and it stands to reason that I'm a massive fan of the show. I'm consistently amazed at how well they translate something so sweeping and fantastical from the page to the screen. They've managed to streamline a lot of things that needed it without losing the depth and sense of history that made the books so special. All the little tweaks and changes have taken the show in a slightly different direction, and I'm interested in seeing where things continue to head. Some things that I don't like - Theon. Just fucking kill him already, his storyline is not interesting or important. Some things I love - pretty much everything else.
A throne that will cut your balls off if you sit down to fast doesn't sound like much of a prize.

Orange is the New Black - I'm going to sound like a bit of a crazy person, but while I enjoy this show as I'm watching it, this season, I felt no pull to keep going with it. I watched it half-heartedly for the first six or seven episodes, and then just stopped. I can't even really tell you why. It wasn't that the characters weren't interesting anymore, but rather that things seemed weirdly easy, even tame, after all the shit that went down in the real world this year. I know it's stupid that I'm saying that about this show and not, like, Sleepy Hollow or The Vampire Diaries, but I feel like I want my TV to either be totally escapist or incisively, bitingly topical. For some reason, OitNB didn't feel like either.
I just don't care what happens to you anymore, pretty white lady in prison. Sorry.

Black Mirror - Holy shit, this show is awesome. It's a big like The Twilight Zone, in that each episode stands alone and has a different cast, and it deals with issues of technology - what it means, how it affects us, how we interact with it. It's a fascinating show, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something both though provoking and entertaining.
I no longer have any interest in going on American Idol. Not that I did before, but really not now.

Space Dandy - I'm a big fan of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, so I had to give Space Dandy a try. I'm on a couple of episodes in, but so far it's pretty good. I don't know if I like it as much as the others that I mentioned, which were tied to and defined by a particular music style and culture (although maybe Dandy is a subculture that I'm just not familiar with, now that I think about it), but there's something pleasingly trippy and frenetic about the style of animation, and the sly humor and attitude are there in spades.
This show features a lot of unnaturally bouncy and buoyant breasts. It's actually a signficant plot point.

True Detective - In like a lion, out like a lamb. There was no way the ending was ever going to live up to all the metaphysical craziness and drama, but when it was good, it was soooo gooood. And it made me feel smart, so that's cool. I'm very interested to see where they go with it in season two.

Just imagine William Shatner doing the whole "time is a flat circle" thing.

Forever - This show does not make me feel smart. It's really silly, but that's kind of the fun of it. It's about a medical examiner in New York City - pretty standard, right? But, shocking twist, he's immortal. If he's killed, his body disappears and he wakes up in the nearest body of water. It's because of an Indian curse/blessing/whatever, and he's lived for over 200 years because of it. It's like a low key Sleepy Hollow, but it's weirdly entertaining.
"Hello, I'm attractively British and very clever."

I don't actually have cable, just internet and Roku and whatever, so there are some shows that I haven't been able to keep up with that I would really like to. I've heard amazing things about The Americans, about Soviet spies in the 80s, but I haven't been able to catch it at all yet. Hopefully it'll be up on Netflix sometime soon. I was absolutely crazy about the first season of Orphan Black, but *cough* I can't seem to get my hands on it anymore. Again, I'm counting the days until it's up on Netflix or something.
What did you guys really enjoy this year? Do you watch any of the shows that I talked about? Agree or disagree with my assessments?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Links to Love

I'm a huge proponent of bathos - the world is grim and depressing enough without me just piling on. So, in the interest of following up something solemn with something a little more light-hearted, here are some cool things, some fun things, some pretty things, and some awesome things. You can decide for yourself which things are which.

Diana Vreeland: Why don't you...
I recently watched the documentary about the incredible Diana Vreeland, The Eye Must Travel, and I was really interested in a feature from her Harper's Bazaar days that they mentioned. Every issue, she would ask "why don't you..." do something interesting, or decadent, or outrageous? This collection of her suggestions might inspire you to glam up your life a bit. One of the easier suggestions - "Why don't you tie black tulle bows to your wrists?" I don't know, why don't I?

How to draw on bigger (or smaller) lips
Flickr, for some reason, does not want me to have a picture of lips. I tried to upload three different images, and each time they timed out. I seriously think it's a conspiracy. Here's a picture of Al from Home Improvement.
This tutorial from Alle of xoVain is actually a must read for a vintage-makeup-loving lady. If you're trying to evoke a particular star or era, a little change in the shape of the lips can make a huge difference, and she walks you through a few of the most popular styles to try.

Oops, I got distracted (felt ornament tutorial)
I don't own any Christmas decorations, and I'm really cheap, so something that will let me spruce up my place without costing a whole lot of money sounds pretty ideal to me. These felt ornaments are easy to make and super cute, too.

K-Beauty 101
Sheet masks with snail slime extract make me preeeeeeeettyyyyyyyyy.
I'm heading to the Korean spa this weekend (So warm. So happy.), and while I'm there, I'm definitely going to stock up on some products at the massive market next door. My skin has been going insane lately, and I'm looking forward to giving it a little TLC.

Cheng I Sao, 19th Century Female Pirate
Speaking of things that make me all warm inside and out, this history of Cheng I Sao, a female pirate captain from the early 1800s, is beyond awesome. Ok, so yes, she was a pirate, and didn't have any problems with killing or enslaving anyone who crossed her path; however, she enforced rules against rape or unusually cruel treatment of female prisoners amongst her 50,000 strong pirate army. Not only that, but when she decided to retire, she got to keep all of her money, as did most of the men in her fleet, and she even set up a fund to help the former pirates transition back to civilian life. What a badass.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'm not qualified to talk about racism

It's so hard to look at events in this country and not feel like there is something terribly wrong with the way certain segments of the population are treated. To me, that's an undeniable fact, but I know plenty of people who are more than capable of denying it. I spend a lot of time reading about all of this stuff - crime statistics, history, psychology, personal accounts of how racism has affected actual people - and yet, sometimes, no matter how many examples I throw at people, they remain mired in a fog of casual racism.
From their perspective, they're not racist. Of course they're not racist! They don't hate black people, they just know that black culture is hopelessly violent, black men are drug using thugs, black women have too many kids with too many baby daddies, and sometimes unarmed black children are killed and that's sad, but it's collateral damage because do you know how many black kids really do have guns these days? (I do want to note that this is not my perspective, but it is the sort of thing that I have actually heard from some people that I know.)
I'm totally qualified to talk about how racist some white people can be - it's amazing the sort of shit that people will spout off to me, thinking that I agree with them. I am equally unqualified to talk about the black experience in America, and I think that that's the story that needs to be told. It's like when there's a congressional panel on birth control or abortion, and every fucking person sitting there is a man. As a woman, I find that incredibly frustrating, so I can kind of imagine what it must be like to be an African-American to hear a bunch of people who don't share your experiences talk about what they think racism is like. Here are some articles that talk about racism far better than I ever could.
The Case For Reparations
This long form article does a fantastic job laying out the systemic racism that has defined the black experience in America. It's not just about slavery, although obviously that has had a huge impact; the next 100+ years saw violence against blacks, housing discrimination, less access to education, political disenfranchisement, and more. My own city, Chicago, figures prominently in this story, and really opened my eyes to just how segregated the city is and what that means.
Applying 'Broken Windows' To The Police
Broken Windows is a theory of policing that cracks down on minor infractions in order to prevent larger ones. It's a theory that's taken hold in a lot of places, but it seems as if the same standard is not applied to the police themselves. In many of the instances of excessive force against black men, the officers involved had prior allegations of misconduct. If police treated their own with the same strict scrutiny as they treat the rest of the world, how many instances of police brutality could be avoided? To me, this is one of the most important issues that we could address as a society.
The New Racism
This is what I see more often than not. There are so many people who deny that racism is a factor anymore, but believe the worst of any black person because it fits the narrative that they have in their head.
Actually, Blacks Do Care About Black Crime
Another one that I hear all the time is "why aren't blacks out protesting all the violence in black communities?" For starters, there's something very different about a group of people that are supposed to enforce the law using their authority to kill with impunity, and regular violence in a community that is usually investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Moreover, there are plenty of people in the black community who are speaking out about violence in their communities, and working hard to promote jobs and education in order to prevent violence.
Why did Darren Wilson think Michael Brown had super powers?
Good question. Why would a man who is 6'4 and 200+ pounds feel so threatened by a teenager who was not significantly larger than himself? Basically, people tend to attribute super human characteristics to African-Americans, such as strength, speed, and ferocity. Think about the way that people talk about black athletes, and you might recognize what I mean.
Obviously, this is just a small dose of the wide variety of pieces that have been written about the issue, but I think they offer a good primer about the current situation. If you have any articles that you've found particularly enlightening or interesting, please feel free to share.