More people than ever are connecting, professionally and personally, through video calls, and I think we can all agree that seeing yourself on a video chat can be a shock to the self-esteem. When I first starting working from home a couple years ago, I had more than a few moments of, "Wait a minute! I put makeup on. I did my hair. What the hell happened between that and "connect to Zoom call?" If that sounds familiar, I've got a few easy things you can do to look more like your IRL self, virtually.
Essential: Good Lighting
The number one element to looking good in a video call is your lighting setup. The photo on the left is what I look like when relying on the overhead light in my office. The image is washed out and grainy; it's creating bags under my eyes and highlighting redness in my skin tone. The image on the right is how I look when I turn on the two lamps placed in front of me, on either side of my video camera - more lively, my skin tone is evened out, no weird bags under my eyes, an overall improvement.
Essential: Camera Placement
The second essential to looking good on a video call is to place your camera above you, so you're looking up slightly. I have an external webcam mounted to my computer monitor, which elevates the angle. If you don't have an external webcam like that, you could set your laptop on a bunch of books (or, you know, a laptop stand if you're fancy). I stack my laptop on a bunch of cookbooks when I take calls from different areas of my house (sometimes, you need a change of scenery!).
Essential: Modify Your Makeup
A few simple tweaks to your regular makeup application can go a long way in ensuring you look like "you" on a video call. Video washes you out and softens your features, so focus on two things:
I think the new "home tour" is going to become "office tours" - I'm extremely interested in seeing everyone's new at-home office setup. How about you? Here's mine. I work out of an office/guest room at my house.
The two lamps on either side of my desk are what I rely on during video calls throughout the day. And you can see the camera mounted to the top of my monitor. And check out that incredibly empty April calendar!
I don't always want everyone to see that I'm working out of a bedroom. Especially when it looks like this behind me. (We're doing some spring cleaning in the guest room, today).
An easy - and incredibly affordable - solution I came up with was to mount an inexpensive vertical window shade from the ceiling. And when I say "I came up with," what I mean is that my parents came up with the idea. Thanks, parents! Here it is in action.
I know there are a lot of adjustments that come with working at home during this public health crisis, and how you look on video calls might not be at the top of your priority list.What are some of the pressing issues you're dealing with in making that transition? And if you're used to working at home, what are some of your best tips for doing it well?
March was a prolific reading month; it's evident how I'm coping with COVID-19. I can't recall any other period in my life when I've consumed 14 books in 4 weeks. (We'll see what April looks like!?) I definitely went for "comfort" selections, leaning heavy on two specific genres: romance and cozy mystery.
This month, I dove deep into the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jaqueline Winspear and couldn't get enough of them. The research and writing are outstanding - the books are set in London, post World War I - and I really enjoy Maisie as a protagonist. She's smarter and more empathic than I'll ever be, that's for sure. The stories are multi-layered and so satisfying, but what I love most is that Maisie is such a dimensional character, with flaws and issues that fold into every mystery she solves in new and fulfilling ways. For example, Maisie struggles to balance a desire for companionship and the lifestyle society says she should want with maintaining agency as a woman with a career - relatable.
From the romance side, I really enjoyed Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. It took me a few tries to get into the novel, because I didn't click with one half of the romantic duo: First Son, Alex Claremont-Diaz. So glad I stuck with it, though, because I came to appreciate him more - and his depths were revealed - as the romantic foil to England's Prince Henry. Reading the book placed me right back into how it feels to discover new love - the highs, the lows, the vulnerability of giving your heart to someone and asking for theirs in return. (Sigh) The story was exactly what I needed - I laughed; I flipped pages, goofy grin on my face, heart melting as the relationship developed between the two men. The pace was excellent, the writing style smart and fun, without falling into the trap of being tedious and "too cool."
Of everything I read in March, there was only one selection that was not for me: In the Woods, by Tana French. I'll revisit French as an author sometime down the road, because I appreciated her writing style and ability to weave a complex story. But In the Woods was too dark, and offered too little resolution at the end for where I am in life right now. At this particular moment, I need massive doses of hope and happiness tied up in nice little bows by the time I get to the end of a book.
What I Read in March
Have you read anything from my March list? If so, what did you think? What's on your nightstand right now? And do you find that your reading preferences have shifted over the past few weeks, or are they unchanged? (So many questions!)
Here in Minnesota, all salons and spas closed temporarily beginning on March 18th, and I know a lot of us are all in the same boat: gray hairs grow more visible every day and no one is 100% sure when we'll get back into those salon chairs. Many people color their hair at home and are experts at it. But a lot of us do not and are not, and are getting twitchy as our roots grow out. Over the past week+, the single most frequently asked question I've received on Instagram is: Should I try to color my hair at home?
My answer is swift and serious: Absolutely not. If you're accustomed to getting your hair colored at a salon, now is not the time to panic-buy boxed hair color and attempt to channel your professional hair stylist. I've been there, I've done that (not recently - my stylist would kill me), and here's why I hope you won't:
If you really don't care what I think and were just hoping that I would support your decision to dye your hair at home - I get it. I do. If you're going to do it, I suggest you try a service like eSalon. Also, check out this article that's jam packed with good info about at-home hair color.
And if I have convinced you to wait those roots out? There are several temporary products you can use to hide those grays. I've repeatedly recommended L'Oreal Magic Root Cover Up spray because it's what I use. You spray it directly on grays and they are covered up until your next shampoo. I like it because it's easy to use and is available in a wide range of shades. I just picked up a new bottle at Walgreens for $10.99 (while I was there picking up a prescription - no special trips for something like this!). It's also widely available online. If a spray isn't your thing, you could try a powder, a balm stick - there are lots of options.
Here are a few things you can do to help your stylist while salons are closed:
I was scheduled to appear live in-studio on Twin Cities Live, but the TV station wisely made the decision to not allow guests in the building right now. So the TCL team and guests are getting creative to find ways to bring viewers fresh, fun, relevant content in a way that honors what we collectively are doing to flatten the Coronavirus curve with social distancing and self-isolation. Here's what we came up with!
I shot three short clips in my home, offering up my personal picks for a hand cream that will soothe dry, chapped hands after all the extra washing/sanitizing we're doing; an at-home hand mask that you probably did back in 6th grade but whatever, we're going for entertainment here; and an affordable, accessible bubble bath that has become part of my own daily self-care ritual.
I always try to offer up a "Behind the Scenes" perspective when I'm at the TCL studio, so I'll do the same in this case. This case being, my house.
First and foremost, I hope you are doing OK. That's such an inadequate statement, but it comes from the heart and is meant to encompass every aspect of your well-being. I hope this space can be an uplifting outlet of entertainment outside of the news cycle for you. In that spirit...
For a little over a month, I've been thinking about hosting a tea party. I could use something to look forward to: a reason to pull out Aunt Min's set of "nice dishes" which includes a tea service for 12 and make tiny food that looks cute; to set a table with Grandma Ruth's linens and a vase of hot pink carnations. But here's the thing: there's no one in my friend circle who would really love to attend a tea party.
Don't get me wrong: my friends would show up, for sure. But not because they're excited to sit around and drink tea and have that particular experience with me. And in much the same way that I avoid watching Hallmark movies with my husband Dan, even when he offers, because I know I'll feel self-conscious the whole time - and like I need to reassure him repeatedly that yes, I know this is the exact same plot from that other one we watched - I know that having a tea party with wonderful people who just aren't into tea parties would not be satisfying. I didn't want to force it, for the sake of making someone else experience something that I - and I alone - wanted.
In my twenties and thirties, this would have turned out one of two ways:
This tea party happened on March 12th, when COVID-19 was just beginning to become more real here in Minnesota. As I write this post on March 22nd, when it's now very real, I keep thinking: Use the nice dishes now. Make the cute tiny food with what's in the fridge now. Light the candles now. Sit and look out the window and breath now. Don't wait for a gathering, or the right time, or a better moment.
Make the moment.
My moment is not your moment, so I'd love to know what that looks like for you. I've heard a few people use the term "romancing the ordinary," which really lands with me. I mean, I'm certainly living my most ordinary life at the moment, at home with Dan and Gravy and a week's worth of yoga pants. So I'm very into finding ways to add a little romance and whimsy to my everyday. So let's hear it in the comments - how are you romancing the ordinary in your home these days?
"Showing Up For" is a space to highlight the small businesses that I love and hope you will too. Share in the comments which small businesses - local, online, wherever - that you like to show up for!
Fleurette Designs is a passion project of the heart, not of profit. It was formed to raise funds for the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA), and honor the spirit of Nancy Fleurette Maas. Fleurette Designs just officially launched Nancy's Bracelet, made of teal cording and a 14K gold filled center ring that symbolizes unity and eternal hope. The handmade bracelet retails for $15 with all proceeds ($7 to be exact) going to MOCA. They are available in limited quantities, with the option to join a wait list once those quantities are gone.
I'll mention right now that the founder and designer is one of my closest friends, Kara Fresk. Kara and I met in college, and it's at that time in my life that I got to spend time with her grandma, Nancy. You guys - she was quite the lady. So thoughtful and kind. Extremely quirky, kind of wacky - in the absolute best way. Giving and generous. Kara would bring me to Nancy's house for Easter egg hunts and other family gatherings because I attended college out of state from my own family. Nancy was the type of woman who always had extra eggs and Easter baskets for whomever might show up, and she made you feel like, "Of course we were expecting you! Join in the fun!"
When Nancy entered hospice in 2005 after her own journey with ovarian cancer, Hurricane Katrina had just torn through Louisiana and Nancy wanted to help. She gathered family around her to make bracelets that were sold, with profits donated to Hurricane Katrina relief projects. Fifteen years later, Kara extended her grandma's legacy of giving back with Fleurette Designs.
Kara lives and works full time in Athens, GA, with her husband and adorable toddler, and is active in the education and arts sectors of the Athens community. She is a one-woman operation, making bracelets, packaging, and shipping them out of her home. That's one reason why a limited quantity is available at a time. (Another reason? Sanity.)
Show up for Fleurette Designs by heading to the website to purchase your bracelet, learn more about the cause and about Nancy. And share with all of us in the comments a small business that you love to show up for.
This week's product empties are a mix of makeup, skincare, and body products. Love it when there's a little of (almost) everything! Here's what I finished and a mini review for each, including whether I'll buy the product again.
I remember the first time I received a PR package from a beauty brand. It was 2008-ish, and a small box with a New York return address appeared in the building mail room of the apartment I shared with my husband in downtown St. Paul. I had been publishing posts on my blog, Bombshell Beauty, for about a year. They were mostly roundups and reviews of my favorite products, with pictures snagged off retail websites. (None of us knew better at the time! Do not do that.)
Heart pounding with anticipation, I opened the mystery box. It was from John Varvatos and contained a large bottle of the brand's new women's fragrance. I had no idea how they knew who I was, where they got my address, or how I'd ended up on their PR list. I was just thrilled about all of the above.
Over the next decade, I worked with some truly amazing people at fashion and beauty companies that I love. I went on brand trips and produced sponsored content. At one point I was posting a new blog every single day, pounding out words and snapping poorly-lit pictures in the hours after my full-time job. My bathroom cabinets became filled with more products than one person could use in a lifetime, arriving almost daily on my doorstep from brands that wanted me to review their newest releases. I appeared on TV and radio and in magazines. It was awesome! Sort of. And then it really, really wasn't.
I spoke with Elizabeth Ries and Margery Punnett on their cozy podcast, Best to the Nest, about what it was like to become an influencer in the early days of influencing, and why I stepped back. It's a fun conversation about the cost of influencer culture on our kids and on ourselves. I hope you'll listen in and let me know what you think.
In today's Twin Cities Live segment, we're talking all things beauty masks. We go into everything from the dark side of masking (ahem, the environment) and discuss what to look for on the ingredients list to determine whether a mask is actually worthwhile. I share a few of my favorites, Steve tries to pocket one of the stranger masks...there's a lot going on! I'd love to know what you think about masking - is it a regular part of your beauty routine? Something you do on special occasions or a complete pass?
Chances are pretty good that if you have a beauty question, someone else has the same one, too. That's why I pulled together a collection of the most common questions I'm asked about beauty issues and shared them in today's Twin Cities Live segment. We cover everything from whyyyyy are you lips still chapped after constantly applying lip balm (including my absolute, holy grail lip treatment), how to add life to dull hair in just 8 seconds, and how to keep a curl in stubbornly straight lashes.
Did I answer any of your questions? What others are on your mind? Let me know in the comments.
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.