We all mark time in ways that are both universal and deeply personal. Birthdays, anniversaries, changing seasons. The passage of time has felt especially significant since the start of the pandemic. At first, I was marking time by how many days in a row I wore yoga pants. Or the last time I ventured out to the grocery store. Or how many inches of gray was showing at the roots of my hair. Now, I'm marking time by the grooming appointments for my dog.
Every five weeks, Gravy transforms from a Wilford-Brimley doggelganger (dog version of a doppelganger, of course) into a little tiny baby Gravy thanks to the careful snips and fluffs and trims made by his groomer. And every time one of those appointments comes around, I'm struck by how slowly the days seem to drift and how quickly the weeks seem to stack up.
For all intents and purposes, quarantine started in my household on March 16th. The day before, Dan and I were at one of our favorite local spots - Cream and Amber, a bookstore on Main Street in downtown Hopkins, MN. Our Sunday morning ritual was to get there early and snag one of the tables in the back where we could sip tea (me) and iced coffee (Dan), while journaling (me) and working on lesson plans (Dan). Every 20 minutes or so one of us would get up to stretch and languidly browse the shelves, bringing a new book back to the table and adding it to the growing stack that would come home with us.
On this particular Sunday morning, we were killing time while Gravy endured his every-5-week grooming appointment at Zoom Groom nearby, and I posted this shot on Instagram. It was taken moments before Dan found out that in-person learning would cease the very next day at the school where he teaches.
I've scrolled back to this post frequently over the past week or so. It took me a while to realize why: This was the last moment before everything changed in my little world.
The photo and the caption convey an innocence that I didn't even realize was in me at the time. Right then, I had no idea what lay ahead. In that sweet, mundane moment, my mind was on tea, that stack of books, and my bright yellow nail polish. The tone of that caption and of my very next post, put up a few hours later, is noticeably different.
I'm not sure who exactly I was trying to reassure when I wrote that we were careful to observe social distancing while out and about. I think I was questioning whether we should have been out and about. We'd thought it was fine, but then everything we thought we knew changed in the blink of an eye. Maybe it wasn't fine. I didn't know.
I still don't know. I've grown accustomed to supporting my local businesses through online ordering and curbside pick-up. I worry that I've lost the ability to navigate what used to be second nature, like a crowded aisle at Ulta or merging onto the highway. A mindless scroll through Instagram or a walk through my neighborhood readily show me what some folks are comfortable doing, and I wonder if I'm being overly cautious. Then I wonder if being overly cautious in a pandemic is actually possible. I honestly don't know. Ask again in another five grooming appointments.
I did find myself this past Sunday sitting at a table at Cream and Amber for the first time since March, journaling and sipping tea while waiting for Gravy to finish up at his most recent grooming appointment. This time, our seating option was outdoors and had been reserved in advance. Dan and I sat on the otherwise empty patio, red and yellow leaves skittering across our feet and a chilly breeze ruffling the napkins under our drinks. I was wrapped up in a blanket that Dan had teased me about grabbing from home but which I think he secretly wanted to steal off my lap. I drank tea and journaled. Dan sipped iced coffee before putting on his mask to browse the books inside.
Alone, I glanced around at what was familiar, yet very different, and told myself, "Hold on to this moment. There might be something coming that you don't know about. But you do know that it's a beautiful, fall morning. The tea is good. You are OK. And it will be another five weeks before Gravy has to be groomed."
Two things always make a Twin Cities Live segment more fun: viewer input and a game. We've got both in my latest appearance, which is all about busting beauty myths. Many of you shared myths you've heard (or believed) with me on Instagram, and I incorporated as many as possible in a little game with Elizabeth and Steve. Were any of these myths something you've believe in? What other beauty rules have you picked up along the way? Let me know in the comments below!
Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you never miss a new upload.
For every book, there is a reader - but not every book is for every reader. That's where I'm coming from in this new book series on my blog. Inspired by the wonderful podcast, What Should I Read Next, which encourages readers to identify three books they like and one book they don't in order to help guide them toward their next book choice, I'm going to share a book that falls under one of three categories:
Loved It: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb
Goodreads Rating: 4.37 out of 117,591 ratings
This book is a memoir about Gottlieb's dual experience as both a practicing therapist and as someone who is in therapy. She reveals truths to the reader (at least this reader!) by breaking down the invisible barrier between patient and therapist.
Gottlieb finds herself in therapy after a shocking breakup that turns her life and her self image upside down. It was really interesting to read what it was like for her - a practicing therapist - to find a place on the couch and to see how that experience informed the way she helped her own patients. I also thought the "inside baseball" view into what it's like to be a therapist was really interesting.
The patient stories - including a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a newlywed with cancer, a woman threatening to kill herself on her next birthday if her life doesn't turn itself around, and a woman in her twenties who self sabotages with alcohol and dead-end relationships - were the real heart and soul of the book, told with such compassion and an engaging narrative arc that I became invested in what the hell was going to happen to each person. I laughed, I cried (and cried some more), and cheered each one of them on over the course of the book. They felt like friends, and they also acted as mirrors in many ways.
I think that's something especially effective about this book - it held a mirror up to me so I could see some of my own issues and unhealthy ways of thinking reflected back at me in a way that felt both resonant and fresh. I also enjoyed reading about some of the science behind why people do what we do, and think what we think. I came away from this book with a deeper appreciation for therapists, and for the common problems so many of us face in life. Gottlieb is insightful and offered a unique-to-me perspective that's stuck with me as I navigate the ins and outs of my own life (and with my own therapist).
Liked It: Well Met, by Jen DeLuca
Goodreads Rating: 3.88 out of 28,759 ratings
Well Met is a contemporary romance that finds our heroine, Emily, at a crossroads in her life after a bad breakup with a truly horrible person - the kind of guy who let her drop out of college to financially support him while he completed his degree only to dump her because she's a college drop out. Emily is homeless and jobless when her older sister and teenage niece get into a serious car accident, leaving her sister with debilitating physical injuries that make caring for her daughter difficult over the summer. Emily to the rescue!
She shows up, moves in, and jumps feet first into care-taker mode - which includes becoming a cast member in the local Renaissance Faire so her niece can take part in it, too. The Faire introduces Emily to new friends and helps her become part of the community. It also introduces her to the man who simultaneously pokes at all her insecurities, infuriates her, and turns her on. This is an enemies to lovers trope and, although it's told from a single point of view (Emily's), DeLuca did a great job creating a fully developed love interest out of Simon, in large part because of Emily's strong sense of empathy.
"Emily to the Rescue" is an on-going theme in the book, and one that I can relate to. One thing I found frustrating was that we never got more than just a surface-level acknowledgement that "rescuing" is Emily's thing. I would have loved for Emily to dig deep and learn why she pins her self-worth to rescuing others. Overall, she's a wonderful character - funny, self-aware in so many ways, crippled by her very relatable insecurities in many other ways, giving and thoughtful. And funny (I know I already said that). The humor in this book is a huge part of its charm.
Key impressions for me of Well Met are that the romance between Simon and Emily was a deeply satisfying, sexy, slow burn that intensified, page by page. But what I appreciated most was that the true love story was between Emily and herself. Her story arc was to learn to love and appreciate who she is, and decide not to settle for anyone who couldn't love and appreciate her just the same. I enjoyed this one and am looking forward to the second book in this series (out now!), called Well Played.
Wasn't for Me: A Sweet Mess, by Jayci Lee
Goodreads Rating: 3.55 out of 975 ratings
A Sweet Mess is a contemporary romance with such a good setup. I really thought the foundation of the plot was clever. Aubrey runs a successful bakery and is focusing all of her time and energy on expanding her business. Except for the brief amount of time (and considerable energy) she expends on a one-night stand with a really hot guy who's just passing through town. She has a great time with the guy and thinks that's that. However - the hot guy, Landon, is a big-time celebrity food critic who is accidentally served from her bakery a really disgusting piece of cake that was baked as a special order for a child's birthday. It was a simple mistake that snowballed. Landon writes a scathing review about Aubrey's bakery (not knowing she was both the baker and the one-night stand), which torpedoes her business and reveals each of their true identities to one another. Cute, right?? This is where the wheels started to fall off for me.
Rather than simply write a retraction and explain what happened, Landon invites Aubrey to appear on a new cooking show he's producing. She is whisked away to a villa in California's wine country for two weeks to prepare for her appearance on the show. And of course they wind up sharing the villa, and a whole lot of sexual tension. Sort of. The chemistry between Aubrey and Landon never clicked for me. I couldn't at any point understand what the heck she saw in this guy. He was arrogant and patronizing, and the few moments I could recognize as, "Ahhh...humanity!" felt forced and trite.
Rather than building, their romance chugged along as they did the same things over and over and over again: she likes him, he pushes her away, he likes her, she pushes him away. The repetitiveness of their push/pull extinguished any momentum of the story and was, frankly, exhausting.
The setup for A Sweet Mess was fantastic but couldn't sustain itself. I can suspend my disbelief in almost any story as long as I'm rooting for the characters, but that lack of chemistry is why this book wasn't for me.
That's what I've read lately - how about you? Is there a book you've loved, liked, or wasn't for you? Let us all know down in the comments!
Makeup trends are constantly shifting, though a pandemic as the catalyst is definitely a new one to me (and the rest of the beauty industry). Lipstick sales are dramatically down as masks usage is up. In this Twin Cities Live segment, I share my top tips for making your eyes pop. There are as many ways to do that as there are eyeballs in this world, so I focused on just a few of my favorites:
To catch up on all my Twin Cities Live segments, and to view other bonus videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel. Be sure to click the notification bell icon on the right of channel page so you never miss a new upload!
I fell into a rabbit hole a couple weeks ago on YouTube, caught up in watching videos about things people no longer buy (this one, that one, and this one in particular). Isn't it interesting to find out what products people either find really useful or not, and how shifting needs or taste impact spending habits? This, of course, got me thinking about what I used to be very into but no longer purchase, as well as a few things that seem to be generally out of favor but I'm still spending my money on.
3 Things I No Longer Buy
Seasonal Decor for My Home
I struggled with this for years because I grew up in a magical home where my mom swapped out the decorations almost monthly to fit the season or an upcoming holiday. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, 4th of July - you name it, we had an on-theme wreath for the front door. I loved how festive and fresh our house always felt. And to be honest, I thought that was the norm - doesn't everyone have a Nebraska Cornhuskers theme for the month of September? (If you live in Nebraska, chances are you do)
But when I moved out on my own, I struggled to remember to put my seasonal decor out. And in my late 30's, I had to accept that I couldn't force the magic my mom had made - because it wasn't my magic. My seasonal decor is paired down to only what I really love and am excited to put out - Halloween (Dan's favorite holiday), Christmas (because, obviously) and Valentine's Day (one of my favorites).
Free Gifts with Purchase
As someone who works in marketing, I appreciate the genius that is the tactic known as "Free Gift with Purchase." When I was in high school, Clinique was IT and that was my first introduction to the idea of spending more money than I'd intended to earn a makeup bag full of product samples that rarely suited my skin tone or needs. I can't even tell you how many small bottles of Dramatically Different Moisturizer were stacked up under the bathroom sink when I was 17. It was just so hard to not to fall into the trap..."If I spend another $10, I get this FREE thing!" Nevermind the fact that instead of spending $15 on the one item I really wanted, I was now spending $27 on an item I really wanted, and an item I kind of wanted, in order to get a gift that contained one or two things I might want.
Now, although my heart does involuntarily start racing a bit when I see a GWP offer and I instinctively start scrolling to find something else to buy in order to earn it, I usually stop. I don't need another makeup bag, and if I do I'd rather it be one of my own choosing.
There was a time in my twenties and early thirties when I was trying very hard to be the independent, career-driven, fashion-forward, unrepressed woman that Sex in the City told me I should be. Except my career was more like one job after another that I didn't like, my closet was full of business-casual clothes to fit those jobs, and the relationships I was in were the definition of repressed. So I filled my closet with fabulous high heels, hoping at least my feet would fit the image I had in my head of who I should be by then.
Fast forward 10 years and I own one pair of 2 inch black heels that I have worn outside the house exactly never. I came to grips with the fact that heels are just not for me. I'm 6' tall so don't "need" the height. And my plantar fasciitis really acts up if I don't wear a supportive flat. And flats are cute! I can walk a lot more quickly toward the life of my dreams in flats than I ever could in heels.
3 Things I Still Do
I was so sad to hear over and over in many of those YouTube videos that magazines are something people aren't buying any more. I mean, this isn't news. But still. I love a physical copy of a magazine. I have a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens because Grandma Ruth gifted it to me one year. She included a note with the magazine that said her mother always had a subscription, and she did too. Magazine subscriptions are a family legacy! I get a thrill every month when the latest issue shows up in my mailbox - something other than bills and junk mail. I enjoy sitting down with a mug of tea on a Sunday morning and reading the whole issue, from cover to cover, snapping pictures of articles that inspire me and filing them away digitally for future reference.
Look - once a paper person, always a paper person. That's just how it is. A paper planner, paper calendars, notebooks for taking notes, all of it. One element of my stationery buying that has really ramped up during the pandemic is cards. I've placed more Hallmark orders since March than ever before. Writing out cards and sending them to friends and family makes me feel like I'm doing something - to let them know I'm thinking of them, cheering for them, connecting with them from afar.
Paper Hand Towels
This practice is a throw-back to my Grandma Kappy. Her bathroom always had two things: shell-shaped bars of hand soap, and a sterling silver paper hand towel holder filled with thick, disposable hand towels. That always seemed so fancy to me. I'm well aware that disposable hand towels are not eco-friendly, which is why I only bust them out when entertaining a lot of people in my home. There's nothing quite like being the 10th person to use the restroom at a party and discovering the cloth hand towels are sopping wet after being repeatedly used. In that instance, paper hand towels are a luxury I will continue to get behind.
That's my list - what's on yours? What did you used to buy that no longer fits into your lifestyle? And what are you still buying, after all this time?
Spoiler Alert: Everything in today's post are products that I continue to buy over and over. And! I don't know what's going on, but lately I've squeezed that last glob of shampoo and conditioner from the bottles...at the same time! What? How? No clue! How often do you go through shampoo and conditioner? Do you normally finish them at the same time?
Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Moisturizing Lather Shampoo & Keratin Cream Rinse, $11.00 each for 3.7oz
These products are ideal for dry, color-treated hair - the color stays true, and my hair feels smooth and hydrated once dry. But let's be real: I'm mostly here for the scent. It's gorgeous. Light, floral, gingery which makes me like I'm treating myself at a tropical spa every time I jump in the shower.
Andalou Naturals CannaCell Hydrating Toner, $12.99 for 6.7oz
I've purchased countless bottles of this hydrating toner for two reasons: the mist is so fine and even that it feels like a true luxury to spritz it alllll over my face, and the citrus scent is incredibly refreshing. In the morning, I spritz it right before moisturizing in order to add a light layer of pre-hydration. In the evening, I apply it right after my retinol and before my rose hip oil.
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil, $10.99 for 5oz
This oil serves as the first cleanse during my nighttime routine. Two pumps removes every stitch of makeup on my face. It's especially effective at removing eye makeup and mascara without any undue tugging or scrubbing. My purchase history says I've bought this 6 times over the past few years. I'm trying something new at the moment, but this will absolutely be in my cart for the 7th time, soon.
This sunscreen segment was the little segment that almost couldn't make it on-air. It was initially scheduled for earlier in July, but because Twin Cities Live is, as the name suggests, a live show we're subject to breaking news. Which is exactly what happened the first time we tried to make this happen. Governor Walz here in MN held a press conference that overlapped with my air time. No big deal - especially since I was joining the show live from my home.
On the reschedule date, it happened again. Only this time, it was the President's press conference that broke in while I was mid-sentence. That was pretty funny. After realizing the conference was going to go on for a while, we decided to scrap the live segment completely and record it. So, I sat down with Twin Cities Live reporter Kelli Hanson to talk sunscreen over Skype. *Please note Gravy's fluffy butt in the background. He snoozed - once again - through the entire interview.
Those are a few of my best sunscreen tips - especially the fact that relying on the SPF in your foundation probably isn't enough. I'd love to hear your top sunscreen tips. Is there a product you swear by? And do you remember to reapply (I am...not great at that. I admit it).
This week, I finished up three products. I'm going to put these posts up more frequently - when I have a handful of products instead of a basketful - because my mom told me my longer empties posts are overwhelming to read (hi, Mom!). Do you agree? Do you prefer shorter posts of fewer products more frequently, or one long post once a month or so? Let me know in the comments. Here's what I have, right now.
Cover Girl Exhibitionist Mascara, $8.99 - will not repurchase
This mascara claims to provide show-stopping volume that defines, lengthens and separates lashes, with no flaking or smudging. No shows were literally stopped by my lashes when I wore this mascara, but I did think they looked fuller and longer. However, my sensitive eyes couldn't take this formula which includes an extremely strong chemical scent.
Mad Hippie Eye Cream, $24.99 for 0.5 fl oz - might repurchase
I've used this eye cream off and on over the past few years and tend think it's fine. Just OK. It's never changed my under-eye area in a noticeable way, but it's also never done any harm either. The formula is thin and has a nice amount of slip going onto the skin, which means it wears well under makeup. I appreciate that. I don't yet have an eye cream that wows me and that I go back to over and over, so it's likely I will buy another bottle of this one at some point. It's overpriced, so if I do repurchase I'll look for a sale at Whole Foods or Ulta.
RapidLash Eyelash Enhancing Serum, $49.95 - would repurchase
I've used RapidLash off and on for the past 5 years because it produces visible results - my lashes are fuller and longer when using a lash enhancing product, and when I skip it the lashes look less lush - and it's an affordable option. This isn't my favorite lash serum (that would be the Epitome Skincare Lash & Brow Enhancing Serum, $80), but it does the trick. I will admit to having purchased this off Amazon a time or two for half the retail price, which I won't do again. Amazon is just way too sketchy when it comes to selling artificial beauty products from third-party retailers, and I'm not taking a chance with putting a knock-off product on my delicate eyelids.
So, that's what I've used up this week. How about you? Have you finished any great products the rest of us should know about, or anything not worth the purchase?
Do you find that in this heightened era of online ordering, it's even more of a blow when something doesn't work out for you? Ordering a product, then (obsessively) tracking its delivery progress, and finally seeing that box land outside my door creates such an extended sense of anticipation for me. And if whatever I've ordered doesn't live up to its website description (or however I've built it up in my mind), it feels so much worse than when I've walked into a store and made a dud purchase in person. Last week, I ordered a few new things and the success rate was...not great.
If you'd like to watch me talk about these products, head over to my IGTV channel and look for the video titled Mini Reviews: 2 Fails and a Maybe. If you'd rather read through a quick review, here we go!
L’Oreal Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation, $15.99 for 1 oz.
A lot of people are surprised to learn that my makeup collection is comprised of mainly drugstore products. And to be honest, it surprises me sometimes too. Over the past 13 years of writing about and reviewing makeup and skincare, I've tested a lot of products across various price points but what I use every day falls toward the lower end of luxury.
In my teens and twenties, I lived for a department store makeup counter. As a 90's teen, Clinique was certainly the entry point: the sketchy 3-step skincare regimen, Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, and an iconic green-swirled powder compact were IT for me. By college, Clinique was shoved in the back of my makeup drawer in favor of Bobbi Brown, Benefit and Origins. I worked at the mall throughout college and spent all of my breaks and most of my paycheck from Lane Bryant at those counters.
It will probably come as no surprise to anyone with a few years and a 401K under their belts that as a 20-something woman working an entry-level job, I couldn't actually afford the $25 Bobbi Brown bronzer or $30 Origins body lotion. Every time I swiped my credit card to make one of those purchases, the pit in my stomach grew along with the outstanding balance and I would defiantly vow to myself that, "Once I'm a real grown up, I'll only buy high end." Don't worry - the stupidity of all that is not lost on me.
I am now a real grown up and guess what? I don't want to regularly spend my money on $49 eyeshadow palettes and $35 highlighters. I want to spend it on lots of things: books, and my home, squeaky toys my dog will play with once and then ignore, dinners out with friends, trips with my husband, and new plants to fill that bare spot in my garden.
Even more so, I no longer reach for my credit card to buy self-esteem. Because that's absolutely what I was doing as a younger woman. I wanted to fit in with the other girls in the locker room during high school, and brandishing a Clinique compact was one way to do that. I felt insignificant at my first job out of college, where I pulled paper off a fax machine and delivered it to someone who literally sat less than one foot from the damn machine, so I'd drive over to the mall during lunch and buy a new lipstick or eyeshadow or literally anything that would give me enough of a lift to face an afternoon of faxes back at the office.
I appreciate the democratization of makeup, these days. There's something for everyone, at almost every price point and in a variety of store types. If high-end makeup is something that you love, you have a lot of wonderful products to get excited about. I love that for you. I'm able to look the way I want to with products from the drugstore, and I love that for me.
Note: Yes, that is my actual makeup collection pictured above.
Also: You might like this and this.
This is a place to celebrate all the parts of yourself that come with age and experience. I'm here to share with you what I know and to explore with you the many (many) things I don't.