Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: "Indiscretion"

 "Indiscretion" by Charles Dubow

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I've waited a little while to review it, because I've been trying to process what I think about it. I was hoping I would lean more toward a firm "loved it" or "hated it," but I'm still sitting somewhere in the middle.

The main way in which this book excels is that it makes you want to keep turning the page; it makes you want to read the next chapter. This is important to me, because I hate reading books that don't give me a sense of urgency to find out what happens next. This book definitely does that. It's not a murder mystery or crime novel, but it reads with an element of suspense.

On a less positive note, the story as a whole is lacking. There is nothing unique about it, except maybe the ending which...(semi-spoiler alert) is tragic. I keep trying to figure out what point the author was trying to make with this book. The best I can come up with is: We face consequences of the bad decisions we make, and sometimes the ones we love and never meant to hurt are collateral damage. This is nothing revolutionary; I knew that before reading this book.

There are holes in the writing. The largest is the narrator's in-depth knowledge of everything that happens throughout the story. The author tries to explain how he knows all of these things, but it doesn't work for me. There is also a lack of character development. The author makes every attempt to explain the characters, but I never really felt like I knew them, therefore I did not really like or dislike any of them. And although I didn't really connect with the characters, there were times when I just couldn't picture the people doing what they did. Actions came out of nowhere; there was a disconnect.

There are some beautiful passages and lovely scenes of places I cherish, including Paris. I enjoyed envisioning an idyllic summer in The Hamptons. And overall the book flowed well, but I just wanted more.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mind & Body Healing

I woke up Saturday with a terrible migraine. I've had migraines since 4th grade but can count on one hand the number of times I've woken up with one. I physically could not sit up long enough to get out of bed until 8 p.m. I knew it was a sign my body and mind had had enough.

The past couple of months I have been really busy and have felt completely overwhelmed: Work, emceeing a million events, meetings to plan those events, a fashion show, multiple fittings for that fashion show, some personal drama, volunteering, countless appointments, and lots and lots of running for my half marathon training. Almost every minute of every day has been scheduled with rarely a moment to spare. Even if each obligation seems small on it's own, the collective effect was huge in terms of stress. Friday I felt like I might explode; I knew I couldn't take one more over-scheduled day.

Ironically, the migraine that ensued Saturday was one of the best things that has happened to me in months. Yes, I felt like crap and missed my run that day, but I spent the entire day in bed with the doggies, sleeping, relaxing and watching 200 episodes of House Hunters. Max said it was the only day in the nearly three years he has known me that I had taken a day of rest.

Once I finally felt better, I had a cleansing of sorts; I felt like I was symbolically ridding myself of everything negative and stressful.  I did laundry, took a long bubble bath, did a little cleaning and tossed out some stuff that had been on my nerves for months. It's amazing how great it feels to throw old throw pillows in the dumpster! (Yes, I usually donate, but Goodwill would not even want these things.) Then the next day I watched a ton of Super Soul Sunday on OWN and read my O Magazine, which was coincidentally about wellness. 

I ended the weekend feeling relaxed, renewed and ready to take on the week. I can't think of the last time I said that. Stress is sure to pop up in the coming weeks, but I'll be starting from a much more zen place.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Five II

1. YOLO and Twizzle

I learned these are two actual moves competed in the Olympics.

The YOLO flip was invented by Iouri Podladtchikov; he landed it in Sochi to win the gold for Switzerland and dethrone two-time Olympic champion Shaun White.

Less likely to be deadly but more difficult to do in unison while wearing sequins, the twizzle is an ice dancing move. Of course it was performed wonderfully by Meryl and Charlie for the gold! USA! 

2. "Kim of Queens"

Some compete in the Olympics, others pageants, me neither, but this is still my new favorite show! The only shows I get to watch are those that repeat in the wee hours of the morning after I get off work. This is one of them on Lifetime. I love this lady; I want her to be my life coach. I've never done a beauty pageant, but I'm hooked on this show. If you like "Dance Moms," you'll love "Kim of Queens."

3. Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser

Courtesy: Liz Earle

I'm hooked. I'm obsessed. I got this in my Birchbox several months ago but had not tried it because it looked complicated. I'm so glad I made myself use it. It is fantastic! Smells like a spa, not messy, surprisingly not complicated, and makes my skin look and feel fabulous. It comes with a muslin cloth that helps exfoliate. I plan to buy the toner and moisturizer that are part of the company's three-step system.

4. Wedding Etiquette

CNN Matrimony: 24 sticky wedding etiquette issues solved
These aren't just for brides and grooms -- wedding party and guests included!
5. You be the judge

The latest in a string of bad press for Lululemon - the see through pants controversy, the controversial comments made by the founder blaming women's bodies for pants being too sheer, his resignation as chairman. I don't own anything made my Lululemon, so I don't really have a dog in this fight.
Check out Analisa's Friday 5!

Mattie and Jade Wielgus contributed to this report. 
(They suggested I add Beggin' Strips to the top five list- maybe next week.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Running Essentials

Yesterday during my eight-mile run, I had plenty of time to think, and it came to mind all the clothing and gadgets it takes to make running comfortable. When I'm going for a long run, it often takes me a good 20-30 minutes to get dressed and prepared.  Here are my head-to-toe essentials; I stress that these are the things that work for me. Like everything else in life, running is personal, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy.

1. Headband

I cannot run with hair in my face. I cannot. I actually cannot do much of anything with hair in my face, hence my overuse of hairspray on the anchor desk. I go for something simple, like these Goody ones, or sometimes a similar Nike version. I find that as long they have some sticky material and fit snugly, without being too tight, they work. You don't need anything expensive or fancy. Oh, and I save the Emi Jay-type for barre classes and running errands, not running miles. They tend not to stay well for high-impact exercises.

2. Sunglasses

Much like hair in my face, I can't do anything with sun in my eyes. Plus, it's not good for your eyes to go without sun protection. I got the above C9 by Champion pair at Target for less than $20. The important thing is that they stay put (i.e. don't fall off when you tilt your head down).

3. Sports bra

Since I don't have much to support in this area, I tend to focus more on comfort. I really like this C9 by Champion style, again, at Target. (I should be getting kick backs!) It's virtually seamless at the bottom; it doesn't have that thick band many sports bras have. That means more comfort and less sweat around your ribs! The material is really nice, too. As much as I like the convenience of tops with built-in sports bras, for running, even A- cup size people like me need a little more more support. (By the way, I see this one is on clearance on the Target website for $8.48!)

4. Flowy, sleeveless top

If a top is tight or fitted at the bottom, it tends to ride up as I run and it ends up bunched up around my waist. It's hot and annoying. To me, loose at the bottom is key. I have one of these Brooks Women's Distance Singlets and it's super comfortable.

5. Shorts

Unless it's really cold, (I live in Florida; that's rare.) I hardly ever run in pants. Getting hot while running in my Achilles' heel, and it's amazing how much heat pants can trap. The rule of thumb when running is to dress like it's about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is outside.

Just like with tops, when shorts ride up it's extremely annoying. The key is finding shorts that are long enough. I found a pair similar to the ones above at T.J. Maxx for half the price you would pay on the Brooks website or at a fancy running store. And, shocker, I also like the C9 by Champion shorts at Target. They're basically a copy of the very popular Nike Tempo Track shorts of which I own about a half dozen pairs. But I think the C9 version is more comfortable because they have more room, and when you have a little junk in the trunk, you need the extra room!

6. Compression calf sleeves

These adidas Recovery Compression Calf Sleeves have been a major game changer! I was struggling with shin splints, but after I started running in these, most of the pain went away. I was shocked. Apparently compression technology promotes circulation and stabilizes muscles. Of course ice is also really helpful!

7. Asics GEL-Kayano

I was a Nike-for-life person until about six years ago, when a salesman at Racquet & Jog in Tyler suggested I try Asics. I loved the Kayanos as soon as I tried them on. Last year, I went to a running store to have my form analyzed on a treadmill. They suggested I try the Asics Nimbus; I ran in those last year, but they weren't the same. I'm back to the Kayano 20- it's the 20th anniversary of the shoe. Still love them!

8. Tiger Balm

An old tried-and-true pain-relieving balm from my swimming days - It doesn't feel too hot or too cold on the skin and it lasts.

9. Foam roller

I've used a foam roller at the gym for awhile, but buying one was definitely worth it. I read recently it helps to foam roll muscles before you run, and that really does help. I also use it after I run and anytime my muscles feel sore or tight.

10. Energy Chews

When it comes to food, I'm a texture person, so I can't imagine eating Gu Energy Gel. I prefer the chews, including Honey StingerJelly Belly Sport Beans and Clif Shot Bloks. You really only need these on long runs to help replace carbs and electrolytes.

I would love to hear suggestions on what running gear has worked for you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Convert

"Happy Valentine's Day" by OutKast 
(Sidenote: My mom got me the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album for Valentine's Day one year; it remains one of my favorite V-Day gifts.)

As a child, Valentine's Day was fun. We got to turn shoe boxes into red and pink love letter mailboxes that our classmates would fill with cards and candy. And for a dollar, we could send the friends we REALLY liked a carnation with a note that would be hand-delivered to their classroom.

Then as we get older, it can become a little less lovey-dovey. Or maybe that's just me. Say, for example, your high school boyfriend gave you box of cheap chocolates with the picture of dinosaur on the front and the saying: "You are Dino-mite." Even cheaper, since say he couldn't even spring for the $2 it costs at Walgreens, but instead took it from the collection of treats his younger sister got in her elementary school class (see above). And say to make it up to you, he bought you a discount from his uncle's store...that you specifically asked him not to buy you, since you can't stand the scent. Then, say your college boyfriend decides he just wants to hang out with his roommate ON VALENTINE'S DAY but changes his mind at the last minute and you have to cancel plans you made with a girlfriend so you can go with him to dinner at a mediocre Mexican restaurant, the only one with a table, since, you know, it is Valentine's Day, and most people plan in advance for these things. Then say your grad school boyfriend (who technically wasn't your boyfriend yet at the time, but still) leaves you standing outside of a bowling alley on two feet of iced over snow (it was Chicago, in February) because he thought you had another ride home.  (Disclaimer: He and his friends only got a few blocks away before they smacked him upside the head and turned around...but STILL.)

So imagine my grudge against Valentine's Day, and I really don't hold grudges.

But as the years have gone on, I've actually warmed up to the holiday. Because there's no reason not to celebrate love, in the words of The Beatles, "All you need is love." And it's not just romantic love: love for our family, our friends, our pets; they do give the best smooches, after all. In this wonderful life of work, and appointments, and deadlines, and obligations, and meetings, and bills, we really shouldn't pass up the chance to celebrate just about anything. So whether it's lunch with your co-workers, dinner with girlfriends, or even just a heart-shaped red velvet cupcake and French Kiss martini by yourself, why not embrace Valentine's Day?  And if you do have a special someone to share it with, well then, that's just icing on that cupcake.

Valentine's Day 2013

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Birchbox Review: January

I've decided that each month when my new Birchbox comes in, I'll review the products I got in the previous month's box. Here's a look back at my January box: 

1. Klorane Dry Shampoo -- It worked well and wasn't sticky like some dry shampoo sprays, but using it confirmed I prefer powders over sprays.  I only got two uses out of it. I think that's partly because you can't tell how much you're using when you spray it and half of it goes all over the bathroom instead of on your hair.  Again, that's why I like dry shampoo powders!

2. Ahmad Tea -- Really liked this tea! I don't know how much of a review you can do on a few bags of tea, but it had a great flavor. I've found drinking a cup of tea at night is quite relaxing. 

3. Juara Candlenut Body Cream -- It worked well, not too light, not too greasy. I wasn't crazy about the smell, but I didn't hate it. 

4. 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara -- Haven't tried this. Update to come!

5. Nail Rock - Haven't tried this either, but the chances of me going through the process of painting my nails AND applying the words of Sweet Brown, "ain't nobody got time for that!" 

Here's my February Birchbox:

I'll have reviews on these products next month; I'm most looking forward to trying the dr. brandt pores no more refiner. Happy sampling!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Five

My blogger bestie and I are starting "Friday Five."  We'll share five things we're loving on a bi-weekly or weekly basis, so between the two of us, we'll have a top 10 list to kick off the weekend!

1. Wear Red DayDon your favorite shade of crimson and/or this red dress pin today for the Go Red for Women campaign's Wear Red Day and join the American Heart Association in fighting heart disease. It is the number one killer of women, but largely preventable. February is American Heart Month.

2. Valentine's Day Goodies: Since we're already talking about hearts and red is the color of love, this seems like a natural segue. So many cute things on Refinery 29's list of 50 V-Day gifts under $10. I'm particularly fond of this key bottle opener, because isn't beer the key to almost any guy's heart? 

3. OPI Bogota Blackberry: Speaking of red-ish hues, this is my new favorite nail polish color. It's similar to one of my longtime staples, I'm Really Not a Waitress, just a little darker.

4. News Lists: The quickest way to get the day's top stories. The AP does a "10 Things to Know", USA Today does a top five, and The Skimm emails those who sign up its must-know stories for the day. No excuse to be out of the loop!

5. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams: This song is aptly named, because you can't listen to it without feeling, well, happy! Since it's Friday, put the video on repeat. TGIF!

Check out Analisa's list here!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 4: World Cancer Day

I had cancer. I feel guilty writing that. Guilty because many people's cancers are much more serious and advanced than mine was. I don't even feel like I'm in the same category as those brave people who have fought so hard. And also guilty because I'm almost positive I had a part in causing my cancer.

I was diagnosed with melanoma in November of 2010. It was one of the worst days I can remember.  The morning started off stressful with a serious incident at work that already had me on a phone call in tears when another call beeped in.  It was my dermatologist's office; a woman left a message that I needed to call the office.  I returned the call and an office associate, not a doctor, not a nurse, said to me, "We received the results of your biopsy. It is cancer. It's melanoma." She went on to tell me not to worry (easier said than done), because it was caught early and should be easy to remove.  I was able to get an pre-operative appointment with a PA that day.  He was incredibly friendly and made me feel at ease about the situation.  Then a few days before Thanksgiving, my bestie Anne came to town to take me to the surgery.  The night before we had Italian food and champagne. Sometimes good things come from bad situations :)

An hour and 20 stitches later, the melanoma was removed.  The cancerous mole was only the size of a pencil eraser, but my doctor took out a silver dollar-sized amount of tissue. I have a nearly four-inch scar on my back. I AM SO BLESSED AND SO LUCKY.  A simple surgery and a scar are NOTHING compared to what cancer dishes out to so many people!

But the thing is, if I had not been going to a skin cancer screening appointment every year, this could be an entirely different post. The mole was in a spot I rarely ever see - the middle of my back. And even if I had seen it, I may not have noticed anything unusual about it.  Melanoma is very easy to treat when caught early, but very difficult to treat once it spreads. It's deadly. It's a type of cancer that doesn't respond well to chemo; luckily new immuotherapies are offering hope. But for many, there is no cure.

But there is prevention. Skin cancer is a type of cancer in which prevention efforts really make a difference. That's where I failed. I grew up a swimmer, with a pool in my backyard, always riding bikes and rollerblading outside.  Then later in life, I was a lifeguard and a swim coach...and yes, worst of all, I used tanning beds.  My UV exposure was through the roof. But all of that changed after melanoma. I live in Florida, five minutes from the beach, and I'm the most pale I've ever been. Self tanner is my best friend. 

Tomorrow I have a skin check up appointment. Because of my history of melanoma, I have a screening at least once every six months. Studies by the National Institutes of Health have concluded melanoma survivors have a nine-fold increased risk of developing a subsequent melanoma, compared to the general population.

I rarely leave the dermatologist's office without something sliced off. I have weird marks and little scars all over.  I'm the worst patient, so trust me when I say it's nothing to be scared of or avoid. I know so many people who have spent a lot of time in the sun but still have never had a skin cancer screening! What are you waiting for?  Yes, you have to get nearly naked, yes, you might have something removed. But really, it's quick and easy. Really. I'm not lying.

Breast Cancer: Early Detection

I feel selfish telling that whole story before pointing out that my mom had breast cancer. Although she can tell her story much better than I can. She was shopping at a boutique that had a MD Anderson Cancer Center mobile mammogram unit parked outside and some ladies urged her to get a mammogram. She resisted because she didn't have an risk factors for breast cancer. Luckily, she did have the screening. Her breast cancer was caught early and removed with a lumpectomy at MD Anderson. Again, our family is blessed!

What I like to point out about my mom's story is that, a few years ago, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force put out a controversial recommendation that most women wait until age 50 to start having mammograms. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years before she turned 50. And just recently, ABC News Anchor Amy Robach was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 after having a routine mammogram on-air for a story. 

World Cancer Day -- National Cancer Prevention Month

Today, February 4, is World Cancer Day. February is National Cancer Prevention Month. It's a great time to think about how lifestyle factors, such as exercising, eating a healthful diet and wearing sunscreen, can possibly reduce our risk of cancer. Unfortunately a lot of it is out of our control; people get cancer for reasons we don't know or understand. Therefore, early detection and raising money for research are some of the best tools we have at this point.

I'll be attending a Moffitt Cancer Center Women's Cancer Awareness luncheon next week. I look forward to sharing stories on-air about strong people facing this awful disease and the doctors and researchers working to help them beat it!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Best in Beauty

Facial oils are "having a moment" right now. Just about every magazine I subscribe to has had an article on this trendy beauty item in the past few months. Let me tell you, I'm sold.

I never thought I would want to put anything oily on my face, but apparently these facial oils don't contain the type of oil that makes your skin oily. Yeah, I don't really get it either, but I'll just trust what these skin and beauty experts say. 

As a self-professed beauty product addict and, simultaneously, an indecisive person, there is nothing better than SAMPLES. Browsing the 4,000 aisles of Sephora and committing to spend a generous amount of money on a product I've never tried before, is a nightmare for me. That's why I love when I purchase a tested, tried-and-true product and get several samples for free. I've found some of my favorite products this way. (Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Creme).  I also love trial sizes, because not only do you get a test drive for a fraction of the cost, but with many products I only use a small amount, so even a trial size lasts forever. 

I recently cashed in some Sephora Beauty Insider reward points for a trial size of Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil.  Among some other components, it has two anti-aging all stars: Vitamin C and Vitamin A (retinol). Although I read some complaints about the smell, I love it. To me it smells like orange honey tea. It gave my skin a smooth glow.  It has a slight orange tint, so I only put it on at night under some other face cream.  That's what I like about these face oils; you can layer them under products you're already using.

There was a sample of this Loreal Age Perfect Glow Renewal Facial Oil  in a magazine. I tried it and loved it, probably even more so than the Ole Henriksen one. It makes my skin feel so soft and smooth, and gives it a beautiful glow. There is something luxurious and almost old-fashioned about using a product like this. I'm not sure if these effects are just temporary or improve your skin in the long-term. I'm a practical, results-driven person, so I usually only buy products I think will help fight future lines and wrinkles, not just make my skin look better while I'm wearing it.  But in this case, even if it is only short-term, I love the results. So much so that I used the coupon attached to the sample and bought the full-size product. Here's to beautiful skin!

What new beauty products do you just love?