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April 17, 2012

Good Stuff for Spring 2012 (plus one product I'm mad at)

I love sharing products that I use and enjoy, the creature comforts that make life happier or shinier. Here is my list for Spring 2012:

Birchbox was my Christmas surprise from Jennifer and I have since become a total Birchbox addict. Sign up for the boxes and every month you get a cute little package of goodies and samples delivered to your doorstep. Through Birchbox I've discovered all kinds of unique and beautiful products, plus the randomness of the samples introduces you to items you may never have run across otherwise. Once you get your box, give feedback on the products to earn points in the store. This whole business is such a good idea, I wish I'd invented it myself!

Draw Something App (Free, or paid version is 99 cents)
Another addictive thing that Jen got me hooked on. I love this app, it's a combination of pictionary and words with friends and is an excellent way to goof off.

Guayakí Yerba Mate Chocolatte Tea Bags
Yerba Mate was recommended to me as a magic tea that would improve energy and help you lose weight and get purified and keep you young. I am not sure this magical elixir lived up to the hype but hey, that is a lot to ask from a tea bag. I like that Yerba Mate has just enough caffeine to perk me up midday but not enough to keep me awake all night like coffee. The only problem is that it tastes like muddy grass. The Mate Chocolatte version tastes SO GOOD. Way better than regular Yerba Mate and still only 4 calories. Magic yet to be determined.

Caslon camisole (Available at Nordstrom)
I wear these camis all the time, usually under sheer blouses or sweaters. This version is super high quality, holds up well to repeated washings and best of all it comes without the built-in shelf "bra" most camis have. If you're over a B-cup those shelf bras create an ill-fitting mess and offer exactly enough support to be NEVER USEFUL. So this great tank eliminates all that drama. It also has adjustable straps and comes in a wide variety of colors.

Assets tights, pantyhose and shapers
This is the lower-price version of the Spanx brand and you can find it at Target. I swear by Spanx but have switched to the Assets version (still made by Spanx, just less pricey.) Tight-End Tights under my skirts smooth everything out and provide a completely opaque leg. The Cool Shaper is good under pants or a skirt with bare legs. These products wash and wear well -- place Assets in a lingerie bag and wash on delicate with your other delicate stuff. Hang to dry. I would still hand-wash the sheer pantyhose but it's your call. Live wild.

Kerastase hair care
Kerastase makes the most amazing shampoo and conditioner, crazy expensive but one of the few beauty buys that is always worth the price. You'll want to dig through the product line to find what works best with your hair, but my favorites are Kerastase Reflection Chroma Reflect Masque, Kerastase Nutritive Bain Satin Shampoo, and the new styling product Elixir Ultime which I discovered through a Birchbox sample and loved.

These next items are all about the manicure...

Nailtiques Nail Protein
I lost the genetic lottery on great fingernails, mine are soft and bendy and prone to peeling but don't cry for me, Argentina, I won the genetic lottery for boobs so it's a trade off in life. Plus I discovered Nailtiques! This stuff looks and functions like clear nail polish while it makes nails stable and healthy. (With genetically inferior nails no amount of vitamins or nutritional supplements do the trick.) Nailtiques is a topical protein and ... well, I have no idea how it works but I do know it works. Apply one coat of the clear Nailtique each night. You will be shocked how much it improves strength and length. Now I wear it under my polish like a base coat and I swear by it for stronger, prettier nails. One bottle lasts about three months of daily use.

Zoya nail polish
This beautiful line of polish is my most favorite beauty buy. The colors are lovely and last longer than my other polishes, plus they have a huge selection of very light, feminine colors that work so well with my skin tone. Lately I am all over the pale lavender color, Kendal, and the true nude, Avery. You'll be happy to know Zoya nail polish is toluene, formaldehyde, DBP and camphor free. According to the website it's also vegan friendly (but don't eat it!) and Zoya doesn't test on animals.

Sally Hansen Mega Shine Top Coat
If I had only one motto in life, it would be "Don't engage with crazy." If I had two mottos in the life, the second would be, "A top coat makes all the difference!" I love painting my own nails, and while I am not as good as a real manicurist I still do a pretty good job, also I make house calls at my leisure. Through trial and error I have learned you must use a top coat, ladies. It keeps your mani going for longer and adds shine and that little professional touch. This version is inexpensive and does the job, plus it dries quickly.

Little manicure scissors
If you don't own a pair of good manicure scissors, get thee immediately to a drugstore. The tiny, sharp little points are perfect for precisely trimming your nails and cuticles. These scissors come in handy for everything from removing tags out of delicate clothing to trimming split ends on the fly. This is one of those all-purpose tools that I keep in my makeup bag at all times. And they're cheap!

... and that concludes the manicure section. For now.

Lately I am all over applesauce. The individual servings are portable, tasty snacks around 50 calories per cup. Read the label, though. Good applesauce is just one ingredient -- apples! The single-serve cups don't need refrigeration so they're perfect for travel or lunch bags. It's like pudding made from fruit. Delicious.

Wine: Six At A Time!
This isn't really an item, it's more of a tip for smart shopping. If you buy six or more bottles of wine or liquor -- mix and match anything -- most grocery stores will give you a discount on the total price. Ralph's gives a whopping 30% discount on top of the sale price. It's the perfect way to get very good, semi-expensive wine even if you're not rolling naked in money.

For example, a bottle of Folie a Deux Cabernet retails at Ralph's for $25.99. The sale price last week was $17.99 and with the 30% discount the final price is $12.59. That saves you $13.40 per bottle! You save more than the wine cost. This is a delicious wine for steak, pork chops, and anything with a heavy cream sauce.

Not sure what else to splurge on? I recommend La Crema Chardonnay, delicious and creamy just like the name implies. The regular price is $24.99 a bottle, on sale it's $17.98 and with the discount it's $12.59 -- a savings of $12.40 a bottle. For a bubbly, you can never go wrong with Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Regular $59.99, sale price is $53.78, and with the 30% discount you pay $37.59. That's a savings of $22.40, enough to buy another great bottle of wine.

Now that makes everyone happy.

Finally, a product that lost my love...
For years I listed Revlon Colorstay Overtime Sheer lip gloss in Sheer Mocha color as one of my all-time favorite beauty buys. It was inexpensive, available everywhere and the color was PERFECT. Sure, the product itself could be a little chalky by day's end and the gloss was a tad gloppy but that was a small price to pay for a perfect color. I heard from lots of readers who also loved this product for its natural and flattering color tones.

Revlon "revamped" the product. The gloss is still gloppy and the color is still chalky, but they changed all the colors. Every shade is just a little peachier and pinker now, enough to be completely unwearable for me.

Revlon, I've learned to accept that products I love may come and go, but if you keep the color palette standard I'll stick with you. Unfortunately, you regularly throw away entire color lines and replace them with colors that never seems as good. It makes me distrust you. Since I know you will discontinue any product I like and you won't bother to give me a decent replacement, it's better to just not get attached to you at all.

So I am over you, Revlon. We're through.

I have yet to find a complete replacement, here's what I'm using (and liking) in the meantime:

• A glossy, smooth lipstick in the vicinity of the sheer mocha color family, NARS sheer lipstick in Dolce Vita. It's pretty, but you have to reapply often.

• A smooth, velvety balm from Vapour Organic Beauty. This is another item I discovered in a Birchbox shipment. I adore the Siren Lipstick in Ravish. Yes, the color looks dark in the tube but it goes on semi-sheer and makes lips soft and perfect. It leaves behind a tint like a stain but less intense (and never dry or chalky.) This product is made with food-grade ingredients, too, always important when it's going on your lips!

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I hope you liked this season's list of Good Stuff. I'm not paid to endorse these products, they're simply things I use and like.

Comments are currently unavailable while I am moving to a new software, but save up your beauty bits and tips for the summer edition! I already have a list brewing of my favorite warm-weather goodies.
xo, L

Posted by laurie at 7:25 PM