Lazy Girl Fitness: Why visualizing your goals doesn’t work (WOOP)

15 Apr

Hilarious Weight-Loss Quotes to Instantly Feel Better About Your Diet

via        original

I could also entitle this post: Ha! I knew I was onto something.

You’ve heard me say before that the only way I was able to become an active person was to make exercise a habit, like brushing my teeth. Absolutely no other strategy came close to getting me off my butt on the reg.

Turns out I’m backed up by #science.

Reading this completely unrelated book, I learned of a strategy call MCII, aka Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions.

Hu..What? Sorry, I spaced out for a second since that is literally the most jargony snoozefest of a term ever invented. No offense to the brilliant psychologist whose research brought forth the concept.

WOOP WOOP

Fortunately, another person with a short attention span came up with a snazzier acronym: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan–or WOOP. (Parents of preschoolers: does anybody else hear the Octo Alert from Octonauts in their head right now?) The book showed how applying this theory helped underprivileged students improve test scores, but my mind went immediately to its health implications. There are whole books devoted to this technique but I’ll summarize.

When it comes to goal achievement, some people focus on what success will look like (visualization). Other people get hung up on the obstacles to reaching it (dwelling).  Neither of these work very well on their own. You can probably guess why dwelling isn’t helpful. But visualization is at least as ineffective, if not more so.

Why You Should Delete Your Fitspo

This is important when it comes to exercise, because how many times have we been told to visualize our fitness goals? The health rags always suggest visualizing stuff like running a 10k, but please. I know y’all have a Pin or 12 of PYTs on your Pinterest board to “motivate” you. I once had a page of the Vicky Secret swim catalog taped to my wardrobe mirror with the suit I wanted to buy that summer (with the Angel I wanted to look like wearing it, natch).

Back in the stone age before we had TV and overpriced lingerie to help us imagine things, it made sense that seeing something in our minds enabled us to do it. It gave us the confidence that something imagined could be real. But now that movies do the imagining for us, we know full well that having a slammin’ body is possible–at least technically.

Happier Human lays it down:

If you’re reasonably confident but just lack motivation, positive-future visualization has been shown to hurt more than it helps. The reason is simple – your brain assumes the goal is easier to acquire than it actually is.

Don’t know about you, but lack of motivation pretty much sums up my relationship with exercise.

Your brain, so smart yet so dumb, tries to expend the least amount of energy possible at all times. For the underprivileged students, this translates to studying for ten minutes and still expecting to ace the math test. For us Lazy Girls? I think you can see how not spending too much energy is basically the whole problem.

As Happier Human puts it, “your subconscious speaks in images,” meaning that if you see fit people, it’s easy to imagine yourself as one, and if you can imagine yourself as Sofia Vergara, your lazy ass brain decides you’re pretty much already there. This is why those “if you can dream it, you can do it” posters on every middle school wall in America are utter rubbish. And why looking at attractive people has always just made me want to eat more.

I’ll get right on that. As soon as I finish these pretzels.

source
It Takes Two, Baby

So what about this WOOP WOOP stuff then (one woop just doesn’t cut it, wouldn’t you agree)? Basically, it’s the combination of the two: visualization and dwelling. You imagine what it would be like to strut down the beach in your new suit, yes, but you also mentally elaborate on how the present reality of chomping your child’s abandoned chocolate Easter Bunny while binge watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt might prevent that dream from becoming realized. This is the “mental contrast” part, for those keeping track.

Then we add the implentation int blah blarr part. Long name for a simple concept: the use of “if–then” scenarios. These scenarios help us identify the nitty gritty when/where/how of meeting goals and have been used by psychologists for years in behavior modification, for everything from bargaining more fairly to improving romantic relationships (if I cheat on my wife with her pilates instructor, then she will kill me, I guess?).

There’s one action step to each letter of WOOP, but honestly that makes it seem like more of a process than it really is. This train of thought chugs along quite quickly, even when you’re being very deliberate about it. In fact, you’re probably already doing it.

Got a real big brain but I’m lookin atcher BEEP

For example, maybe you’d like to get a promotion (wish) so you can earn more money (outcome) but Facebook stalking your crush is so much more fun than data entry (obstacle). So you make a deal with yourself that if you can finish your work early, you can briefly look through his/her photos (plan). The if–then scenario helps us overcome the obstacle (if I start to go crazy looking at these figures, then I will get up and stretch).

In one research study, the MCII method was used to improve snacking habits. At first it takes a little mental effort (the study participants had to actually write down their bad snacking habits and ways to deal with them). But after using the same imagery over and over, picking up an apple instead of potato chips became a no-brainer.

Literally. Over time, you make a whole bunch of neuron connections between overcoming routine obstacles and getting to your end result. Eventually, the connection in your brain between obstacle and future reward is so strong that it happens subconsciously. The best part is, it has nothing to do with your feelings about the change (do you think those study participants stopped liking potato chips just because they were choosing something healthier? Hell no).

That sounds like good news to me. It means students can get homework done regardless of whether or not it’s interesting (it’s probably not). It means you can quit smoking even if other people in your social circle don’t (they probably won’t). And it means I can get in regular workouts without necessarily enjoying them (I’m probably not). You just have to make a strong enough mental connection that making good choices becomes automatic.

In other words, a habit.

Say what? Yes, I am basically saying you hypnotize yourself into exercising.

One caveat: WOOP [WOOP] doesn’t work unless you have a “high expectation of success.” This is your efficient brain’s way of keeping you from focusing too much time and attention on stuff that’s never going to happen (wish someone had told my 14 year old self that when I was planning my wedding to Leonardo DiCaprio). Fortunately, becoming fit is very easy for most of us to imagine (see above re: Sofia Vergara). And you know what they say–if you can dream it, you can do it.

Status Update

So how am I getting along with my fitness plan, you ask? All I can say is that I’d better hop right to it and take a dose of my own medicine–while I was working Hairspray the past couple months, I had to use my lunch breaks to choreograph. It got me out of the habit of hitting the gym midday, which had been the bread-n’-buttah of my exercise for the week. It wasn’t a problem then because the daily dancing was plenty of exercise. But now that the show’s over, I’m left with a broken exercise habit and shorts season on the horizon. Let’s see if we can put this into practice!

NAMB: You’re Doing it Wrong

1 Apr

Somebody is doing it wrong.

 

If you’re a woman in the United States, you know by now that there are many choices available when it comes to structuring your family. But only some of them are right. My gentleman readers (or the younger ladies out there) may not know, however, so let’s talk about the many ways your lifestyle choice can be and probably is wrong.

Single, no children

This is acceptable until the age of 26 and three months. If at that age you don’t at least have a highly likely prospect of marriage you’d better start saving up the pennies you’re obviously working too hard to earn, because you’ll need to purchase a subscription to every dating site on the interwebs. And also plastic surgery because there’s clearly something wrong with you. You could spend your money on world travel, hobbies, or continuing education, but I wouldn’t advise it. Being well rounded isn’t half as valuable as being well off and well married. Which brings me to number two.

Married, no children

So when are you two going to have kids? Well, just don’t wait too long. You should probably have your responses to that tattooed to your forehead to save time. Henna tatooed, because future moms shouldn’t get inked–it might affect their unborn offspring. (Dad-to-be, you can skip the tatt, but do work on getting a promotion/raise at least every 18 months). If you aren’t preggers by your 2.5 year anniversary, clearly there are only two possibilities. First and most likely, fertility probs. If you would like kids one day but don’t have any right now, this is actually the only possibility. As the internet has taught us, fertility drops off at age 27 (hence the deadline in life situation #1). And since men can father children into their sixties, the problem must be with you, ma’am. Sure, you’re in grad school and your husband is job searching. We know postpartum depression and alcoholism runs in your family (don’t even play, I saw Uncle Tommy at y’all’s wedding). But since having a baby trumps all other considerations, we know that can’t be the reason you are still childless, so we’ll just say it: I am so, so sorry you have geriatric ovaries. Actually we won’t say it, we’ll just whisper it after you leave the party early (probably to try to get pregnant). On the upside, if you got married after 27, you can put the money you started saving for eHarmony towards IVF instead.

The second possibility is that you don’t want kids. Don’t worry, you’ll change your mind. How do I know? Because having biological children is the only way to experience a meaningful life and real love, and you want real love, don’t you? Your cat/career/friends/partner/best-selling novel doesn’t count.

Unmarried with children

This one is pretty obvious.

LGBTQ or any letter other than 100% arrow straight, with any kind of family status

See above.

One Child

Congratulations, you’ve achieved motherhood! It looks good on you too. For six months. After that we’re sure you’ll bounce back. So–when do you plan to have the next one? Everyone knows that only children are lonely at best and socially maladjusted at worst, and no matter where they fall on that spectrum guaranteed to be a prime weirdo. I know you’re interested in staying on a career track and that’s good. We ladies can have it all nowadays. But you don’t want to wait too long. Sibling spacing is indeed a heavy consideration, but five years? Your kids won’t be in the same school together. Oh. Ohhhhh….you must be having trouble in your marriage. OK, we won’t ask about it.

P.S. I know this great book about secondary infertility.

Two or Three Children

Since this is the ideal number of kids (three is the new black, you know) we’ll move on to other concerns. By now you probably don’t have any friends that aren’t part of your carpool, so you’ll want to brush up on these important discussion topics:

  • Who is your contractor and are they LEED certified?
  • Charter or private kindergarten?
  • What is the hottest workout, and how to look like you’re actually doing it
  • Is three too young an age to really appreciate a Disney World/European vacation?
  • And of course, who is stepping out on whom (husband or wife, duh, we’re not sexist).

Don’t think too much about things like life purpose and meaning (outside of your kids, obvi). Save that for empty nesting, or even better, your deathbed.

Now that you’re family is complete*, this is the time to consider the rest of your life. The gentle applause for staying at home while your kids were babies subsides once they’re in third, first, and preK respectively. Couponing as a full time gig is so 2011. What’s a lady to do? If you can’t manage leaning back in to a high powered career, there’s always activism/volunteerism. Maybe you should try blogging, that’s easy.

*unless your children are all the same gender. In which case–are you going to try for a girl/boy?

Four or More Children

Wow! You have your hands full. How do you do it? I could never manage that many. At this point your only hope of respectability is to be on the board of a Fortune 100 company or somehow in politics–a Kennedy if you can manage it. Otherwise, how could you be a loving* mother, a master chef, a fun friend, a successful careerwoman, have a home that’s a charming mashup of Pottery Barn and West Elm housing a stellar shoe collection, and be able to double as a Victoria Secret Angel on Halloween and Valentine’s Day? (In other words, the definition of having it all). If you are missing one or more of these elements as a woman with four or more children, you will automatically be labeled a hot mess. #justsayin

*defined as doting, but not helicoptery. You’ll know you’re doing it right if each of your children is well-mannered, high-achieving, and popular. 

The good news is, you should be covered in your old age. With that many kids, the odds are definitely increased that at least one of them will take you in or be able to set you up with a sweet assisted living situation. Of course this also increases your likelihood of having one or more of your children living in your basement as adults. Bottom line: make sure your will is up to date.

So, to recap.

I guess if you are an accomplished 25 year old who is engaged to a charming and successful male with detailed plans to birth one girl and one boy in the [not too] distant future with a rockin’ well-dressed bod and a successful yet flexible career, you are all set. Anything other than that and you’re doing this whole woman thing wrong.

Welcome to the club.

Give a woman in your life a high five for doing it wrong today, and more importantly, give yourself a hug. It’s all good.

P.S. Happy April Fools! Check out links in this article for evidence that contradicts the statement.

I love people, I just don’t want to hug them in church

5 Mar

As a kid, I was really shy.

Like, painfully shy, the kind of kid who not only wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but would generally hide behind my mom’s leg and cry when spoken to. The kind of kid who was afraid to call my friends–this was before cell phones, you’ll recall–because I might have to talk to their parents. Sometimes I was even afraid to talk to my friends themselves. I was a regular Beth March, only without the piano skillz.

After long years of sucking it up buttercup, I’m in a better place. I can now call and order pizza with no qualms. I can ask for assistance finding the right size windshield wipers. I make my own doctor’s appointments. I can give an audition calmly and clearly, and at a loud enough volume to be heard in the back of the house (actually, I never really had a problem with that. I dunno, cognitive dissonance?).

But certain parts of me still shrink from social interaction, and conversations, made awkward by me, are part of daily life. I will always be the person who would rather order the pizza online, given the choice.

The weird thing about all that is that I feel great affection for human beings. Even though the Myers-Briggs classification method has been mostly discredited, I’ve pretty consistently scored as an INFP and feel like it rings true.

Although they may be reserved in expressing emotion, [INFPs] have a very deep well of caring and are genuinely interested in understanding people. They make very good mediators, and are typically good at solving other people’s conflicts, because they intuitively understand people’s perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them.

Source

…In a meta kind of way. In a real life way? I can be rul prickly.

Is this your story too? I’ve noticed that people don’t hug me. Or, the only people that hug me are family members and those people who hug everyone.  After a while you have to realize the vibe is coming from you.

Recently we had a prayer vigil at work (not unusual–I work at a seminary) for the president who was dying. It was just as awfully sad as you’re imagining. People who felt compelled to do so stood up and read out verses or poems or started songs, and it was really quite beautiful, as such unscripted slices of life can be. But at the end came the obligatory, go-in-peace, hug-your-neighbor moment. And for me came the gut-level (but quickly covered) reaction, familiar since my youthful Sunday School days, of UGH. Why? I don’t know. I like everyone I work with.

I don’t fit in as a mom. At the inflatable playground, the other mothers’ eyes slide off of me. I play with my kid and write an email to my friends about book club. Nor am I among those of my peers doing Great Things with their lives. Some people are networking, and volunteering, and furthering their careers and whatnot, and I’m just over here like, Ima look up historical events on Wikipedia.

I like to watch those people though. That’s partly why I’m attracted to drama and writing–storytelling in general. I have considered the idea that my only completely natural aptitude might be a desire to connect with humanity. Notice I said desire, not ability. My college acting instructor used to tell me I was thinking about my character instead of being her. I tell you truly and strangely, sometimes I feel like I’m thinking about myself instead of being her.

But only sometimes. Even INFPs don’t sit around thinking deep thoughts all the hours. Mostly I think about how I’d really like to say something canny and hilarious right now, but the words that come out of my face don’t match what’s in my head.

Back to the vigil. By chance I was sitting next to a new coworker. A girl nearish my age with really good fashion sense. We could probably be buds–if I was capable of simultaneous extended eye contact and coherent thought. Alas, the golden opportunity rapidly devolved into that awkward peace-be-with-you hug followed by a run out the door that would make Napoleon Dynamite proud.

So the next time you feel a chill from your neighbor, throw her a bone instead of shade.  Chances are she’s not aloof, just strange.

But I still don’t want to hug it out right now.

Lee Stafford Hair Growth Line: A Review

13 Feb

You guys. I have the slowest-growing hair in the history of the world. I know they say that hair grows an average of half an inch a month, but I think my hair grows that much about every three months. You think I’m kidding? I chopped my hair off to chin length after my wedding in 2009. I started growing it out when I was pregnant with T though, in the interest of making ponytails. And this is how long it got by the time he was born.

BACKUP 1240

Yeah. Approximately one inch, and that was with hormones. Determined, I continued to grow it out. Right before T’s second birthday, it was like dis.

64

So that’s at best, what, 3 inches? In almost two years. By the half inch formula, my hair should’ve been like a foot longer, even with regular trims. (I do have a consolation prize–my nails grow super fast. Nothing like having to trim your toenails every two weeks because they’re pressing against the toe of your shoe. #beauty)

The Challenge

When I was little all I asked for in life was “princess hair.”

Specifically, this.

But because — sigh– my hair is rather fine, it’s never gotten much longer than collarbone length. Longer than that and it tends to get straggly. And that’s unacceptable by princess any normal standards.

A few months ago, I decided to go for it though. Just let it get as long as God can grow it. (OK, maybe not quite. There is such a thing as too long.) But maybe to bra strap length, not to get graphic *snort*.  I mean, why not? Eventually I’ll be too old to rock long hair, at least not without it being a terrifying surprise when I turn around.

I’d already switched to salon brand shampoos a year ago, after hearing from a few too many sources that drug store brands cause waxy build-up. But I figure slow-ass growing hair of this caliber needs a little something extra. So to help me in my mission, I turned to – where else? – Pinterest, and that’s where I came across the Lee Stafford line of growth products.

Salon Brand?

Lee Stafford is a UK celebrity hairdresser who sort of looks like he should be choreographing a group piece on So You Think You Can Dance but instead has his own product line. They sell it at Boots which basically the British equivalent of a Duane Reed, but I got sucked in by the tag line “for hair that never grows past a certain length” (once I got past the sociopathic capitalization, at any rate). I don’t know, maybe in the UK they don’t allow wax in their products. You never know.

Literally.

The bottle arrived with no ingredient list. I guess the labeling requirements are different across the pond? I couldn’t even find the ingredients on the internet, although I did search only briefly, and then really only for sulfates (since my hair is colored).

The retail price for these products is in the $14-16 range per bottle. So, not all that cheap, but by no means top dollar as far as hair products go. I paid $50* at Amazon and got all this.

*of my own sweet, sweet, hard-earned cash, as you should know by now.

There’s a shampoo and a conditioner, and a protein mask that you’re supposed to use between the shampoo and conditioner. I read somewhere that it’s really important to use conditioner of some kind after the protein treatment, otherwise it will eat your hair or something. I don’t know about all that, but I will say that I would never be able to get a comb through my locks after the growth treatment without the help of conditioner. The last item is a milky leave-in spray.

Application and Usage

The biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews was that it smelled bad. I don’t think I would have given the smell a second thought if I hadn’t read that though–it was perhaps a little stronger than other shampoo scents, but by no means did I find it gross or weird.

The protein growth treatment got used up the fastest. You’re supposed to use an egg-sized amount, and even that didn’t spread very far. Eventually I got a clue and starting using it, as well as the leave-in spray, on just my roots (the instructions say to apply all over, but come on, where does new hair come out?). The conditioner ran out before the shampoo because I was applying it all over instead of just on my ends like I normally would (I was scared of the protein treatment). The conditioner wasn’t particularly creamy–it was on the lightweight side if anything. I usually had to use an extra product post-shower to help detangle. #finehairproblems

I still have at least half of the bottle of leave-in treatment left. So my review is based on complete use of three out of four products.

Does it work?

The part we all care about, right? So here’s the BEFORE shot, taken at the beginning of October.

Hair Before 2 fix

This is my hair at the end of my last bottle of shampoo and conditioner (it was Joico, if you care). Please do not judge my toothpaste splatters.

…And this is the after, taken at the end of January (approximately 3 months later).

Hair After 2

At first glance, pretty great results I’d say.

Hair After 3

It looks like we went from clavicle length to armpit length. But wait…

Hair Before After Side

Compared side by side, is there really that much of a difference? I mean, clearly there is new length here, in my bangs if nowhere else. But is it more than would naturally occur in three months without a trim? Hmm. Maybe, maybe not.

Pros:

I think the biggest thing this product has going for it is that I wouldn’t have been able to get it this long and still have it look nice. Anytime I’ve tried to get my hair longer than it is in the before shot, I’ve had to cut it because the ends have gotten so tangly and dry and gross that I can’t even comb my hair, much less make it look cute.  It’s now the middle of February and I still don’t feel like anything except my bangs needs a trim (and that’s just because I like shorter bangs).

Also, it’s shinier. (Sigh, yes, these pictures were taken in different lighting situations but I promise, I spend enough time staring at myself in mirrors to know the effect is not a trick). I like to think that’s health shining through, but who knows. My hair definitely feels lighter and bouncier, despite its being longer (maybe) . Which leads me to…

Hair Before After Back

Cons:

The difference in length is even less distinct in the shot above. By normal growth standards it should be an inch and half longer. But my hair is a little curlier in the after shot which may have taken away from the overall length. What do you think? Maybe I should’ve put the exact same shirt on.

The resulting texture is a bit rough, making combing a little more difficult and the hair not really as smooth and soft to the touch. However, I think that may be because there were no waxes present (that’s what usually gives your hair that smooth and soft feeling–did you know that?). On the other hand, I think there may have been sulfates. Believe it or not, I actually refreshed my color about halfway between the before and after shot, and it still lightened up that much.

Caveats

I should say here that this wasn’t exactly a scientifically controlled experiment. In addition to the Lee Stafford products, I’ve also started taking a high dose of biotin. A word of caution if you’re thinking about starting a biotin regimen: be prepared for ALL your hair to get longer. Embarrassing admission–when the peach fuzz on my face started to veer into sideburns territory, I dropped back to taking that ish no more than three times a week.

I also started using a Tangle Teezer right after Christmas, and it’s been pretty life changing, even if it does take me, like, 15 more minutes to comb my hair now. Around the same time I got a free sample of the Perfect Hair Day cream from the Living Proof line, and I love it. It’s going really far toward softening my hair that extra bit.

Additionally, I wash my hair only 2-3 times a week. That’s how I was able to make these relatively small bottles last three months. I also try not to use heat styling except for on special occasions. Such as when it’s too cold to let my hair air dry.

And of course, let’s not forget I didn’t trim my hair at all. The general wisdom is that cutting your hair helps it grow, but in reality that has more to do with–again–simply keeping it from looking like garbage as it gets longer in its own sweet time. If I can achieve healthy looking hair through products instead of trims, whose to say I can’t get my bra-length hair?

Bottom Line: Would I recommend it?

Yes. If you don’t process (straighten, color, etc) your hair. I’m going to continue to use the protein growth treatment and the leave-in treatment, but I’m stopping the shampoo and conditioner in favor of the ones in this line (yeah, Blake Lively is on the Strange Rocket headed toward Planet Annoying, but you can’t deny her hair is killer). Hopefully that’s enough to save my color somewhat but still achieve the desired effect.

The thing I really liked most about this product is that it really brought out a new texture in my hair, one that was perhaps weighed down previously by those creamy conditioners I prefer. Previously I couldn’t achieve waves like that without salt spray and a curling iron (and even then usually only in fall and spring when it wasn’t raining and humidity was at a perfect 30%).

This is a decently low cost line with results that in my opinion, make it a good value. But as for myself, I might see greater results with an even more radical treatment–not cutting my hair.

It’s been a while man, life’s so rad

27 Jan

Hello friends. I’m hibernating and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I’ve been catching a lot of screen time, reading a lot of books, and doin’ a little dancing (I’m choreographing a local school’s production of Hairspray, for the three of you who don’t know me from Facebook and/or RL). I sort of despise winter and the only way I can beat SAD every year is to get a little indulgent. I buy beauty products and fleece leggings, read magazines, drink hot chocolate, and forget I’m 30-something for the length of a YA novel or movie (follow me on Goodreads and we’ll swap reviews!).

To that end, last night I convinced P to watch The Fault in our Stars with me. I’d read the book but until this moment didn’t have any interest in the movie because–depressing. But watching it had the intended effect, namely, to make me feel grateful for everything, large and small, that is good in life (Sometimes the cold can make me whiny).

So I’m coming out of my cave for a minute or two to share what I’m obsessing over now. Surprise #notsurprised most of it has to do with food and makeup.

Roku is enabling my DA addiction

The only show that I’m driven to stay caught up on for whatever reason is Downton Abbey. We couldn’t get either of the hand-me-down antennas our friends gave us to work in our house (I don’t know, trees?…), so we ended up ordering a Roku with a bunch of reward points that were built up on my credit card. (The upside to sinking hundreds of dollars a year into keeping an old vehicle in working order). We can’t watch the episodes until the day after they air, but that’s better than waiting an eternity for that ish to roll out on Netflix. I can handle a day.

But seriously. Roku is awesome, and you should get one, and then poop on Comcast’s lawn.

These nails y’all

I’m sort of over crazy nail art. I’m really loving pure colors right now, especially neutrals. Currently I’m lacquered up in this warm winter white, a color of my own invention. None of these polishes were quite right on their own: too gray, bright, and peachy, respectively. But together they make the palest skin tone neutral that my skillful phone photography can’t do justice to.

(For the interested, the recipe is: 1 drop Revlon Bare Bones, 3 drops Avon French Tip White, and 6 drops OPI My Vampire is Buff).

20150125_203232

On the other hand, this mani is kind of a mess so maybe it’s better this way.

My toes are chrome rose gold. You guys! It’s like my toes are wearing jewelry! (That matches the be-YOO-tiful new pink gold watch that P got me for Christmas, beetee dubs). The best part about this nail makeup, other than that I got it on super clearance at Ulta, is that it actually works better without a base and top coat. Laziness condoned? I’m down. Sadly, it’s been discontinued (hence the clearance) but you can still score it on Amazon and Ebay. For the moment, anyway.

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It dries quickly enough that my feet didn’t turn into ice blocks while trying to avoid slipper-smears.

 

Snapware Makes Me into an Adult where Everything Else has Failed

My friend H and I determined, when we were both drooling in the Corningware Outlet, that it’s a true sign of getting older when you are excited about food storage. But the hilarious yet surprisingly awesome set I have right now has started to get too grimy to use, and now I’m hoping to replace it eventually with the full complement of these babies.

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Not Sure Where These Have Been All My Life

I had an amazingly delicious side of roasted chickpeas at our holiday office lunch, and was floored to learn that it’s really easy to DIY that fancy looking snacky-savory-side. And you can add any kind of flavor, really–for my first go around I used garlic, cumin, and parmesan. There are about 657000 recipes on Pinterest but all you really need to know is a drained can of garbanzos for 30 minutes at 400 doused in EVOO and spices. They were intended for a rehearsal snack, but it was all I could do not to eat the entire batch standing up in the kitchen.

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Embarrassing confession: I did not know that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were the same thing before now. This is what happens when your primary food group is pizza.

 

Online Bureaucracy Means One Less Fraught Interaction with Strangers

Maybe it’s because this has never actually worked for me before, but renewing my tag was stupid easy this year. Basically since I started driving I’ve had to schedule a birthday visit to either the tag office or the DMV, even though I live in a county with online renewal. This year I got my renewal notice, emissions test, paid online, got the sticker, WAM, BAM, all in about a two week time frame. You go, state of Georgia.

 

T minus Five Days Until This is Me

Ok so not really. But my main dudes and I are going to Colorado next week to visit my cool lil’ bro C and his cooler better half S, plus one of my very best buddies is meeting up with us from LA. And we’re all going skiing at Copper Mountain! It’s like vacation squared!

 

The Only Thing That could Make me Eat Salad when 45 Degrees Is Actually Starting to Sound Warm

If you don’t have a Kroger in your area, that is a real travesty because this Private Selection Poblano Ranch is everything you could ever want in a man dressing and more, and I don’t even like ranch.

Just give me a head of lettuce and we’re good to go.

 

So This is Neat

Truly though, after that downer of a movie I was walking around my house with new eyes. For instance, I’ve had these little bird hooks forever–seriously, it sat on a dresser unhung the entire time we lived in our old apartment, and it’s been hanging here for almost three. But suddenly I looked at it and just loved it.

Side note: I seem to own a shocking number of clothing with bows.

Side note: I seem to own a shocking number of garments featuring bows.

 

I Swear This Wasn’t Intentional

Not long ago we redid the horrible green floor and mauve trim in my bathroom with peaceful white and deep gray. And that was great. But what’s even greater is that the products on my bathroom shelf are color coordinated and I didn’t even plan it. From the eye makeup remover that I don’t use because it stings but I keep because MERMAID, to my go-to winter body cream. This is the kind of randomness I can really appreciate.

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This Face Though

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This is my sweet, sweet child. My child who not only is free from horrid diseases GAH WHY movie with FEELS?!?, but is basically a 17 year old in a 3 year old’s form (he can’t be any older than that because grown men don’t think fart jokes are funny).

Oh wait.

Anyway. He came with me on the aforementioned Ulta trip, and a stranger actually stopped me to say what a great conversationalist he is, like a little adult. (The fact that he was talking loudly enough to be heard by every random stranger in the store assures me he’s still a preschooler).

He is kind of a ham, which I guess was unavoidable and totally expected, but it still surprises me sometimes. This is a gag he came up with to underscore an enjoyable meal–in this case a lunch of blood oranges and the free soft serve from Jason’s Deli #dontjudge.

Freakin Delicious

Imagine, if you will, that the entire series above takes about ten seconds start to finish, and is punctuated with a jerk of the head and a tiny toddler voice saying the words “FREAKIN’ delicious.”

So what are you obsessed with grateful for this winter?

By now I’m sure you all know I was given neither free stuff nor dollars by any of the brands mentioned here. Kroger, if you want to send me a case of Poblano Ranch I will not say no. Have your people call my people.

NAMB: The final word on baby name trends

14 Nov

Hello, my name is Unique.

As the year winds down, it’s time to put out top 10 lists, and then argue at length on the internet about them. I bet you’ve deduced my very favoritest of these lists: baby names. This piece (Thanks for keeping it fresh, HuffPo) rates the “hotness” factor of baby names, and I don’t even have to look at the comments section to know it is ri-dic. (Spoiler alert: I’m right).

Breathing a sigh of relief that “your” name for your future baby isn’t on there?

Feeling miffed because Violet has, omg, been on your list for like, five years?

Congratulating yourself because you gave your child a “regular” name so it will never be ridiculed or mispronounced? (it will; unfortunately the world still has a surplus of idiots)

Belittling a certain trend *cough* location names *cough* that you didn’t happen to follow?

Wake up and smell the judgement, people.

The perennial debates over baby names are so silly. Name your baby whatever you want. Even if the name eventually dates him or her, well, her birthday also dates him or her. Who cares if there are other kids in the class with the same name? Sixty years ago everyone was named John or Mary and nobody wrote their local paper about it. Somebody stole your unique name? Sorry not sorry. Nobody owns a name. Some celeb just named her daughter Briar Rose and now people (usually people who named their child Mary) want to make fun of her. Whatever, at least everyone will know how to spell it. I’ve had Estella on my list for years, and if I have a little girl next, I’m gonna name her Estella if I damn well please, whether it’s on some list or not. Pick a name you like and don’t defend it to me or anyone else. Your baby is going to be adorable, and your baby is also going to grow up and hate his name and probably you at some point. Accept and move on. It’s no wonder that 96.8%* of expecting parents are afraid to share their name choice with others. UGH.

*scientific number

The Beautiful and the Dead: Ghost Makeup Tutorial

27 Oct

Halloween is this weekend (on a Friday this year!), so I thought I’d share 10 easy steps to create the ghostly makeup for the character of Elvira in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Add this makeup to any outfit and you can be a dead [fill-in-the-blank] as a last-minute costume. Of course, if you’re playing Elvira you can use this too!

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A lot of ghost makeup tutorials you find online are heavy handed with the creep factor–I know, I searched.  But the script makes multiple references to Elvira’s attractiveness, and she manages to re-enchant her husband somewhat despite being quite obviously dead, so the effect couldn’t be totally ghoulish. But of course, we need to know she’s not of this world. This look strives for that balance of pretty and eerie.

My tutorial is adapted from this YouTube video by another actress who played Elvira. If you’re like me and sometimes prefer to follow written steps with pictures rather than a video (or like to have both for reference!), this is for you.

This is easy enough for makeup-phobes and novices alike,  and the whole process start to finish took me about 45 leisurely and deliberate minutes. But my fellow castmate S, who played the role of the second wife who (spoiler alert) also dies, threw on an abbreviated version in about 10-15 minutes. And it wipes off in two seconds with a cleansing wipe!

Cosmetics Used:

labeled shadow

  • Primer
  • Snazaroo face and body paint – see notes on color in step 1 (Available at Eddie’s Trick Shop and Norcosco if you’re in Atlanta)
  • neutral eye shadow palette (see above–the colors I used are labeled)
  • liquid black liner
  • black eye shadow powder (to be used as character shadow)
  • translucent loose powder
  • skin tone pressed powder
  • lipsticks – warm-toned pink and coral red
  • mascara
  • false eyelashes (optional)

(You’ll notice that aside from the face and body paint, I didn’t name brands…that’s because it really doesn’t matter. I will generally share what I used though, just in case you’re curious). 

Tools:

  • Foundation brush or cosmetic wedges – non latex
  • concealer brush
  • angled shadow brush
  • fat shadow brush (2)
  • tapered shadow brush
  • sponge tipped shadow applicator (the one that comes with most shadow cases is fine)
  • eyeliner or eyebrow brush – stiff bristles
  • large powder brush
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Brushes, assembled! Also pictured: the Ulta black eye shadow I use as my character lowlight.

Preparation:

I know I’m not the only person who experiences irritation with theatrical makeup, so let’s briefly talk skin care. Start with a squeaky clean and well moisturized face. This paint tends to flake on dry skin. I used this cleansing oil for double the moisture since my skin is quite dry, but whatever you have works as long as it gets everything off. (To prevent skin freakouts, I used the Clarisonic to deep clean and then applied an antioxidant serum whenever I washed my hair–about three times a week. A depuffing under-eye cream would not go amiss either). After cleansing, use a very simple moisturizer (I use this DDF moisturizing dew from a Birchbox that I lovelovelove, but it can be any type) and let that set. Then apply a primer. I had this color correcting type with purple for sallowness and green for redness, but anything works. Primer of some kind is very important, because that’s the secret to making the makeup look smooth instead of chalky or flaky. And remember the old adage: whatever you do to your face, do to your neck as well! (And in this case, probably your chest too).

Another quick note about prep: Generally this is a no-no, but I put my costume on before starting makeup so I didn’t need to pull things over my head and possibly get silver all over my real clothes. And also so that I could see how far down my neck I needed to apply the color.

Step 1: Base

Apply the ghost color makeup all over. I used the Classic Colour individual paint in metallic silver. I know you’re thinking–silver?! But yes. Just bear with me. You really don’t want to use pure white–the look is too clownish, and this is coming from somebody that is quite pale naturally.

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You may find it helpful to have a stack of paper towels at the ready for blotting, etc.

This type of makeup is water activated. That can be kind of a pain in some respects, but the wonderful thing about it (as opposed to grease paint) is that once it dries, it doesn’t rub off on things that it touches–like your costume or your furniture or your castmates/children/girlfriends/random hookup. You can easily control the coverage from light to heavy with this type as well, and it’s very easy to remove.

Wet either a makeup sponge or a foundation brush and squeeze out the excess. I tried both and preferred the sponges in the end, as long as they are non-latex. For some reason, the latex wedges didn’t pick up enough of the product for good coverage.

Don’t get it too wet or it will be streaky. Too dry and it won’t spread. But never fear, you can always add more water, and if you accidentally over hydrate the excess water will soak into the color block pretty quickly.

Dip it in the color and sweep over entire face and neck. Don’t forget your ear lobes! (don’t worry about your hands until the end).

A foundation brush tends to give lighter coverage than a cosmetic wedge, so whatever you prefer.

FYI, I ended up keeping this dark nail color–the effect after applying the makeup to my hands was very groovy-ghoulish.

Go ahead and cover your eyebrows, most of your lids (no need to be too thorough there) and your lips. I have bangs so I didn’t have to worry too much about this, but you might want to push it up into your hairline too.

It will be pretty shiny when you’re done but don’t worry–we’ll fix that later.

Step 2. Eyes

Use a fat shadow brush to apply a dark neutral (#1 on my palette, which is an ELF I got for $5 at Urban Outfitters BOO YA) all over the lid up to the crease.  Using a clean shadow brush of about the same size, blend so there are no harsh edges.

2 base shadow crop

 

Try to keep the shadow off of the inside corner of your eye, against the bridge of your nose. Color here can make you look sickly, and we’re going for pretty!

Step 3. Crease and Line

Use an angled shadow brush to apply a soft black eyeshadow (#2) in a sideways V from the outer corner. Be sure to tap off the excess powder.

One wing goes up into the crease…

3 crease

…and one goes across the eyeliner line.

3 line

You can fill in the V if you like. I found this made my eyes recede too much into my face, but those blessed with large Disney eyes could definitely pull that off.

Then pull the dark shadow it a bit under the eye. This adds to the dead look, but don’t get too heavy handed or you might turn into this.

3 under

If a little bit of shadow shakes off underneath your eye, DON’T RUB. Grab your large powder brush and dust it off.

Step 4. Accent and Highlight

Apply white shadow (#4) under the brow bone as a highlight. You’d think you wouldn’t need it with the gray makeup, but it adds a nice dimension. I find that the finger is the perfect width for the browbone (one of those nifty body things I think, like how your foot is the same length as your forearm). No brush needed!

4 highlight

Now, dot a Georgia Clay colored shadow (#3) right above the pupil to open the eyes up. An artist at Sephora taught me this trick years ago, along with the color recommendation. I use it a lot in real life too!

4 accent

Use the applicator that came with your shadows

Step 5. Brows

Take a stiff liner brush (or a brow brush, if you have one) and dip it in your black shadow color. Mine is pictured above with the brushes. Color your brows back in at the thickness that you like.

5 brows

If you’re actually playing Elvira, and your production is set in the originally intended time period of the 1930s, you’d probably want to keep them thin and highly arched. Our show was set in the ’80s so I just filled in my natural brows.

You’ll notice in steps 2-5 that I was careful not to rest my chin on my hand, as one might normally do to steady it. That is to keep from messing up the silver. But by this point in the process, it should be dry and safe to touch!

Eyes done! But still a little ghastly, no?

Eye shadow done! But still a little ghastly, no?

Step 6. Lips

You really have free reign here. My director specifically wanted an orange tone, which I created by combining a warm pink on top and a orange-y red on bottom. But I’ll be honest, this color made my teeth look kind of stained, and the silver paint doesn’t help. So you can choose any color lip you like (blue-based undertones whiten teeth). You could always do blood red, although that easily veers into vampire territory. I think a red wine would be really cool–there’s a nice one in the nude Clinique bonus going on at Macy’s right now, just FYI.

Red on bottom, pink on top, and BLEND!

Red on bottom, pink on top, and BLEND!

Step 7. Liquid liner

Take our old friend, black liquid liner (remember it from this post?), and line the top of the lid and the outer half of the bottom, right under the lash line. There’s no need to wing it out for this look. It doesn’t need to be crazy-thick, but if you’re going to be using falsies it looks good if its thick enough to peek out above the false lash line.

7 line

Step 8. Shadow

Here’s the dead part, y’all. We want to very subtly echo the look of a skull using dark shadow. If you went and bought a theatrical makeup starter kit, you’d find a pot of character shadow that’s usually a shade of dark brown. That won’t work for this though–we want to go more gray. So I used a pot of shimmery black (pictured above with the brushes, the same one we used for the brows) from Ulta that I’ve used for shows since forever. Yeah, I said it–years! I know this stuff allegedly expires, but why trash perfectly good makeup? Every once in a while I wet a cotton ball with alcohol and swab over it to disinfect, and it’s good to go.

So anyway. Take your tapered shadow brush, dip it in the black shadow, and tap the heck out of it. You don’t want too harsh of a line because for whatever reason (#chemistry), once the silver dries it’s hard to get anything to blend into it. Wipe the brush on your towel if you have to. You can always add more black. Brush it on lightly right inside the hollow of your cheek. Take your big powder brush and blend like crazy.

8 shadow

I happen to have really sharp cheekbones naturally, so I actually apply the shadow right above the hollow, directly under the apple. You might try a few different places to see what looks best.

There’s only one other place I use character shadow (I was playing to a small house, and I imagine if you’re doing this for Halloween you needn’t go crazy with shadow either), and that’s my collar bone.

Chicken your neck back to make your collar bone stick out (WEEEIRD!!). Take your lightly dusted taper brush and line right underneath that bone on each side, like so.

8 collarbone

 

Optional Step: I didn’t do this because my director specifically asked me not too, but you will see it in the original YouTube tutorial. At this point you can add a tiny bit of blush if you like for an even more beautiful effect. Use a baby pink powder formula in a little ball shape right on your cheeks. Same rules apply about blending though, so use a nice round brush and tap off all the excess.

Step 9. Powder

This step is not part of the original video, but it’s what makes my version of the look unique. It’s extremely important in getting a ghostly pallor and reducing tin-man status. Using your big fat powder brush, dust translucent powder all over your face, neck, and chest. If you include your lips (go back over with lipstick again if you like), I’m telling you, that stuff will not bleed or budge.

My brush was flying!

My brush was flying!

But the loose powder alone probably won’t tone down the silver quite enough, so go back over all the gray with pressed powder in the same color as your skin tone. I know, what? Just trust me.

Takea pressed powder (this one is from Mark)...

Take your pressed powder (this one is from Mark)…

...dab it on

…and dab it on all over.

 10. Finish the look!

Put on mascara, and then apply your false lashes if you care to. I used those little half lashes that go on the outer edges. No trimming required, but quicker and easier than the individual ones!

Do your upper and lower lashes.

Put mascara on both your upper and lower lashes.

BTW, I can’t say enough good things about this little eyelash glue with applicator I just happened to grab at the drug store during an emergence-C run. Where have you been all my life?!

Touch up and highlight

You might find some areas need more coverage than others. I had a lot of trouble keeping the apples of my cheeks covered for some reason. Or you might sneeze and get liquid liner all under your eye and have to remove a whole square inch of makeup with a q-tip (not that that’s happened to me…). That is why we have our little concealer brush. Wet it and dip it back in the silver paint to add extra coverage where needed. Just make sure it isn’t too wet, and don’t use too heavy a hand, because the paint you already have down will come right back off with water! It’s more convenient if you remember to do it before step #9, but you can always go back over the new coverage spots with powder, no biggie. I found I often had to do this for the massive bags under my eyes I was getting from lack of sleep during the show.

I also use the silver to highlight. If you skipped the mattifying powder step as she does in the video, you wouldn’t need or want to do this. But I take my little concealer brush dipped in the silver and dot the bow of my lips and along the tops of my cheekbones, about an inch above the character shadow line. Again, it adds dimension, as well as another element of prettiness.

Last, but not least, do your hands and wrists up in the silver. Make sure to use the bathroom and wash your hands beforehand–after this step you’ll have to settle for applying hand sanitizer to your palms if you don’t want to rub the color off. Just glob some paint on with a cosmetic wedge. I usually just dusted the translucent powder over that, skipping the pressed powder step. I found that tiny bit of shimmer left on your hands makes them look both younger and more ghostly. Win-win!

Here is the finished look! Yes, I did apply a filter here to make up for the horrid effects of cell phone photography, but you can see the finished look as it appeared on stage at the bottom and top of this post.

Spooooky!

Spooooky!

Removal

A quick swipe with a face cleansing cloth backstage–one for my face and one for my hands–took everything off so I could come out and greet my adoring public post-haste *snort*. I know I’ve said it doesn’t really matter what product brands you use, but I was very pleased with Walgreens’ brand sensitive skin facial cleansing wipes. I’ve tried all kinds, including expensive ones, and these are the ONLY ones that didn’t make my eyes burn. When you get home later, soak a cotton ball with toner (try this one or this one) and run it over your skin if you don’t have the energy or inclination to do the whole Clarisonic routine.

A note about hair:

My director wanted my hair left alone. But if you want to add another layer of ghostliness with almost no effort, all you have to do is get some dry shampoo–powder or spray–and dust it over the top of your head. Hold it close to your head so the powder is visible. Don’t touch it or brush it through!

And that’s it! The best thing about this look is that aside from the silver paint and possibly the lashes, you probably have all the stuff at home already!

These pictures were taken early on in the run when I hadn’t yet perfected my technique, but you can still see the general effect!

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Happy Haunting!

(production photos: Cloud 8 Photography. All other photos my own).

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