Harried Alive

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Whoo – it’s been a long while. I’ve been busy, y’all.

Face Paint

Doing what, you might ask? Work, mostly, and also precinct chair duties in preparation for the upcoming mid-term election. Which, I am fairly certain, the Dems will not win in Texas. I love me some Beto O’Rourke, y’all – something to which my front yard signs will proudly attest – but in spite of the need for me to put on my happy face for the Dems in my neighborhood I represent, well, come on. We all know Ted Cruz is a lock for Texas. This state might get there eventually, but I do not think this is the year. I’m perfectly willing to be wrong – and I hope I am – but I don’t see it happening.

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Visual representation of me not seeing it happening

We’ve held candidate meet and greets and block walks, and I’ve sent out fliers and push cards. And until this week I was watching/listening to news obsessively; something I finally realized I had to put a stop to. The constant news was making me insane, and the Kavanaugh nomination did me in. I was taking it all, way, WAY too personally, and it was ruining my life. Yes, I believe Donald Trump is a shitty president. I think his administration is incompetent at best; greedy, selfish, and batshit crazy at worst. But you know what – I have disliked presidents in the past, and considered them dangerous and awful (I’m looking at you, Dubya), but I still managed to have a separate and functional life from all of that. And somewhere between November 16, 2016, and last week, those lines got completely erased. I was obsessively on Twitter. I listened to MSNBC and/or CNN for about eight hours a day. I ranted and raged alongside my husband (who is as liberal as I am, but had way more control over himself and the amount of news consumption he was absorbing).

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My brain on Twitter

Long story short, I finally realized I was not going to be helpful to anyone if I was completely insane, so I put myself on a one-week news blackout. No radio, no Twitter, no Washington Post, nothing. The first two days were awful, as checking Twitter every spare second had become a terrible pastime of mine, but by day three I had started to realize there were actually music channels on Sirius XM, and there were TV shows to watch (Dancing Queen, anyone?), and work I’d been putting off, and you know, a world out there that was worth enjoying.  Of course, people are still laughing at me when I tell them I am slowly allowing the news back into my life with my favorite three-hour block of news shows each night (Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’DonnelL, and Brian Williams) as if it’s hilarious that someone’s idea of properly REDUCING the amount of news consumption to THREE HOURS A DAY is somehow inadequate. But to go from 24 hour news consumption to three is, in my opinion, progress. So there you go.

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But no, Beto still ain’t gonna win.

What else has been going on? Lots of work – I have 19 clients this year, which is a LOT. I tutor 3 or 4 kids a day, starting at 3:30 PM and usually working until around 8:30 at night. I also tutor three kids on Sunday, and then I have Friday and Saturday as my weekend off. This is working well, but it’s a lot of kids to plan for and keep track of, so I’ve really had to commit myself to staying organized and making good planning notes after each session, or else I forget what we did when I go back to that kid a week later. Note taking has become VERY important with so many students, and it’s the last thing I want to do after getting home around 9 PM, but I’ve found ways to make it work. Sometimes I do it the next morning, and other times I leave for tutoring a little early and stop by a coffee shop to make my notes before the work begins. One way or another, I’ve found that staying on top of it is essential to doing a good job, so a lot more of my time is taken up with work now than has been for the first two years of doing this. Which is to say that photography has taken a MAJOR backseat lately. I took zero photos in September, and very few in August, so I started editing old blooper photos like the ones you see in black and white above (photos where I screwed something up). It’s been kinda fun to work with photos that are basically screw-ups, and it kept me  occupied when I had a little time to play around with Photoshop.

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Here’s a few examples

I actually took the first week in October off, just to catch up with things, and I took a day to shoot some photos in a few new wigs I’ve picked up lately. But then I got so busy again I’ve barely had time to edit any of them at all.

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Except this one

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And this one

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And this one

So there you go – that’s what’s been going on with me since July 9th when I last wrote a blog post. It feels like I’ve been so busy that I should have a lot more to tell you, but at this point in the school year I can’t remember much past the last week or so, so anything else interesting that’s happened to me lately has already been forgotten. I will try not to stay away so long next time, and  I hope you are all doing well.

Summer Stuff

I’ve had a light summer of tutoring, with the past two weeks having no students whatsoever, so you’d think I would be busy taking advantage of all the free time to do things I don’t have time to do during the school year. But, you would be wrong.

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For the most part, I’ve been incredibly lazy, napping every day and sleeping late, while occasionally hopping into the pool. But I’ve had a few moments of activity here and there, just enough to keep me away from the blog, I suppose.

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For starters, my older sister and I have taken a few little day trips over the past several weeks. It started when I was staying in a hotel during the last few weeks of our mold remediation; I figured since I was in a nice hotel and she and I both love hotel rooms, she should come on over and hang out with me for a while. She spent one night with me and we spent the day shopping at the nearby mall and eating in the restaurants surrounding the area.

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I thought this was the town hall in Hallettsville, TX, but my sister thinks it’s a church. I still have no idea. 

That led to us getting another hotel room in Clear Lake City so we could visit my brother, who lives in Dickinson, when he threw a graduation party for his two kids. It’s a long drive out to Dickinson from where we live, even though technically it’s all still “Houston” – especially since Dickinson is off the main freeway to Galveston Island and the party was thrown over a holiday weekend. Traffic is always horrible on I-45 in the summer, so my sis and I figured we’d get another hotel room, check in at the graduation party, and then spend another nice night hanging out in a hotel on the water instead of making two traffic trips in one day. I forgot my camera, though, so no pictures of that little jaunt.

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Another Hallettsville shot

Most hotels were booked in Clear Lake for the weekend, though, and we ended up staying in an older Hyatt hotel that had a lovely view overlooking the bay, but had horribly thin walls and those old, adjoining rooms that I don’t think newer hotels even do anymore – and the first floor we stayed on was so poorly insulated and populated with small children that I swear my sis and I kept opening the door to the hallway to try to find out where the large gaggle of children was playing in the halls, only to realize that they were the kids in various other rooms that we were hearing as if they were right outside our door. We ended up moving to a higher floor, where they apparently don’t let kids stay, and that reduced the noise level quite a bit. But lesson learned, no more stays at the Clear Lake City Hyatt. It also must have been moldy, because after having no breathing issues for several weeks, I woke up coughing like a maniac the night of our stay, and it took me another week or so to recover. Moving on.

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Then my sister wanted to go spend a few days in an incredibly tiny little Texas town called Hallettsville, which is where all these pictures are from. It’s a bit convoluted, but my aunt and uncle bought a tiny little country house there, on about 4 acres of land, where they plan to retire someday, and my sister, who is close to my aunt, has a key to go stay out there whenever she wants (I’m not as close to this aunt so I had never even been to this house before). Sounded like a nice free vacation to me, so we loaded up her car and headed out there for a few days in June.

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When I say Hallettsville is small, I do mean small: Wikipedia lists its population as just over 2,000. Even though we were wandering around their little town square on a Saturday afternoon, there was still almost NO foot traffic, and I have no idea how anything aside from the factory supply store manages to stay in business there. The house my aunt and uncle bought is small, also – almost claustrophobic – but it’s actually a nice enough place to retire if you want some land and a Dairy Queen to visit on occasion. I was a bit fascinated by this little walkway leading up to their front porch though, and fortunately I’d remembered to take my camera so I could do some quick levitation using it as a background:

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That’s the walkway leading up to their house, and as you can see, it just sort of stops for no reason in the middle of the grass. I’m assuming someone at some point had intended to put in a driveway or something and then never did…? I dunno. But anyway, it inspired me as some sort of launching pad to a magical dimension, so there you go. The house is right behind me here, and you can see their little stretch of land with some decent trees and a pleasant view to look out over from the front porch. Not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not sure I could do it long-term though.

Fun little detail: my aunt and uncle keep a golf cart on the property so they can tool around a little, and my sister loves to just hop on it and drive around on the grass, so we did that a few times. I am not as big of a fan of this, because I HAAAAATE flying bugs, and as soon as you start cruising around on the grass all of these CREATURES leap out of the grass and into the cart. So, my sis was really enjoying driving around and listening to me scream. Then, she accidentally ran over a cow pie (that’s cow shit, for those of you not familiar with the term) and it splattered all over my leg. Two more reasons I probably should not retire in the country: cow pies and flying bugs. Moving on.

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In other news, I have new little beauty obsession – fake nails, the kind you glue on and can buy at the CVS.I wore acrylics for years, but really got tired of all the filling and drilling involved, so about a year ago I had those soaked off and just got shellac manicures for about another year. But, since my husband and I are both wanting to work less now, I am trying to cut back where I can, and shellac manicures are rather expensive where I live ($50!). So, the last time I went to the salon I just got a plain old manicure and left it at that. But, not being one to just leave well enough alone, I decided to try out these Lime Crime “Pop On Nails” I saw on their site a while back. I’d never been able to try them before, because of the aforementioned acrylics, so I figured while I had naked nails would be the best time to try.

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I’ve never tried press-on or glue-on nails before, and I was actually nervous about how these would turn out. I held onto them for several weeks, but then my sister and I decided to make one more hotel trip out to the Woodlands to see Chicago and REO Speedwagon (shut up, I’m old) so I figured that was as good a time as any to give these a go. I was really surprised by how nice they looked. I had to shorten and file them a little because they were pretty long, though:

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I don’t drink; that was actually my sister’s glass of wine

I loved them so much I ended up buying all the other available colors of them I could find online (they were limited edition at Lime Crime) but before I got them all in, I discovered some nails I like even better – the ImPress brand you can get at any drugstore or even (in my case at least) the grocery store.

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I actually prefer these ImPress nails because they are much easier to apply, and they hold up better. The Lime Crime ones look amazing at first, but they have to be applied with nail glue and the first time I applied them I used WAY too much and spent about an hour melting them off my fingers with acetone. The ImPress nails actually have adhesive already applied to the nail, so you just peel the backing off and stick them to your nails.

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I have always had seriously wrinkly fingers! When I was a kid classmates would call me “granny hands.” Kids are assholes, BTW. 

Both brands stayed on for a week (the ImPress ones are still on as I type this) but I must say that after a few days the color was starting to flake and peel off the Lime Crime nails, and every little scratch or scuff showed on the surface so that by the end of that week, they looked a lot worse for the wear. So far, the black Impress nails aren’t showing any wear and still look like new. I haven’t tried to take these off yet, so I can’t speak to how hard they will be to remove, but all the reviews say they are easy enough to do and I know I didn’t overdo it with adhesive this time. I’m so pleased with these nails, especially since the ImPress ones are easy to find, are inexpensive (around $7 for 30 nails) and are quick to put on. I never liked getting my nails done, although I do still get pedicures (ImPress actually makes press on toenails, too, but I just can’t go there), but I always loved the look of the acrylic nails, and these are a really practical and nice alternative.

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Another thing I’ve done recently is volunteer to be a Democratic precinct chair for my precinct. I do not yet know what this means, but there is a meeting for all of the Democratic chairs for Precinct 3 this Wednesday, so I’ll find out my duties then. With the mid-term elections coming up, I am sure it will entail a lot of phone calls and block-walking, which I do not look forward to, but the opportunity was there for me to fill an empty chair and even though I didn’t really want to do it, with everything going on right now I felt it was important to do it anyway. Especially being here in Texas, where so many of these immigrant families are being torn apart. By the way – our city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is awesome, and in no way supports these policies the Trump Administration has tried to implement and bungled so stupendously. He and our city’s police chief Art Acevedo are both very strong, progressive voices for reasonable immigration policy and gun control; Acevedo in particular has gotten a lot of attention lately for his outspokenness on both issues. Houston, even though it’s deep in heart of red, red Texas, tends to have Democratic mayors, and Fort Bend County – which is the county where I live – is statistically the most diverse county in the country. A lot of Fort Bend is more purple than red, except for – you guessed it – precinct 3, where I live, which is the reddest area out here. So block walking for the Dems should be an adventure. If I get shot, well, I can’t complain. I’ve had a better life than most…only partly kidding about this!

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I also discovered Venessa Arizaga’s jewelry lately, which, if you haven’t checked her out, you really should. I know a lot of her stuff looks insane, and her prices aren’t cheap, BUT the pieces look much better on that they do just sitting there against a white background, and if you get on her mailing list she has major sales ALL the time. I got a TON of her stuff during a recent 50% off all sale event, and things like that bracelet above I got for a steal. It was already reduced to  $27 and I got it for 50% off that, when it was originally fifty bucks! I now have a ton of her necklaces and bracelets and they are just what I like. I actually don’t care for metal jewelry, and much prefer necklaces and bracelets made of leather or cloth material, which is pretty much her thing. And everything is made to be worn with other items and really layered together, like so:

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It all is very light and works well together – although I will say, I bought one of her shell chokers and it was literally choking me; I had to buy a necklace extender just to fit it around my neck. That one also isn’t very comfortable; the shells are heavy and the material is itchy. But other than that, everything I have bought from her I’ve loved.

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Oh, and I have a few other things I’m keeping busy with right now – for starters, I am really trying to learn Spanish, and so far am having little luck. I’m using Babel, and there a few damn verbs I just can’t get a grasp on (those damn ‘to be’ verbs are killing me) and trust me, if I were taking this as a class I’d be failing right now. But using the app is actually helping me understand what it’s like to struggle with English grammar and spelling, which helps me with my tutoring, so it’s all good, even if my Spanish never gets up to snuff.

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The thing I am more excited about than that, though, is that I am learning how to sew. I haven’t officially started yet, because my sewing machine doesn’t arrive until tomorrow (I tried to borrow one from my mom but hers was broken), but I’ve got a good book to work with that jumps right in to working with simple patterns like making headscarves and simple skirts. I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew forever (I was forced to take sewing in high school, and in a fit of misplaced feminist rage I refused to learn anything. This worked against me because not only did I not learn how to sew but I failed the class, which was less than impressive on my transcript. I failed cooking too, for the same stupid reason). I figure that most of the clothes I love to wear are loose, light, and pretty damn simple; I dislike zippers and buttons and fancy details, I tend to wear things I can easily pull on and off, and I don’t even like to wear prints, so how hard can it be to sew this stuff? Plus, I have so many things I don’t wear but would if I could just alter them a little, and let’s not even talk about the COSTUMES I could create for my photos! I really think I am going to love this new hobby, and hopefully, I will be better at it than I am at speaking Spanish.

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As you can tell, I’ve also managed to take some photos too – so this all sounds like I’ve been way busier than I feel like I’ve been. Especially when I mention that I am taking one more trip with my sister at the end of the month to Galveston, but honestly, most of these trips I’ve taken have been her idea, and she’s done the planning while I’ve just tagged along. I promise there has also been a LOT of nap-taking, TV binging, and Candy Crush playing going on this summer, too. In truth, I’ve actually started to get bored and look forward to getting back to tutoring my students again in August.

Oh, and one more thing – in trying to spend less, I recently opted to not renew a LOT of the features I’ve paid for in the past for this blog. I am honestly not sure what some of the stuff was I was paying for, so things might randomly go wonky here if I actually canceled something I should have kept. If that happens, I’ll figure it out eventually and get things back to normal. 🙂 It just seemed like I was spending lots of money every year for a blog I only post on about once a month now, so in a fit of frugality I canceled all the extra features. We’ll see what happens!

Mannequin Avenue

Dang, I have been busy with these mannequin heads, y’all:

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First of all, I got the idea to stick a bunch of fake fruit to one of my mannequin heads. I really don’t know why this idea came to me, but once the thought occurred to me to do it I had to give it a go.

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I used double-sided tape to stick some fake fruit to the mannequin; I actually don’t have that much fake fruit – I used Photoshop to duplicate the grapes and stick’em all on there.

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I call this “The Grapehawk”

This one is my favorite of the fake fruit shots. Somehow my edits ended up making the mannequin’s face look so real, it’s almost creepy:

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What should I call this one? The Pear Devil? 

I also gave her a grape beard in one shot:

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Now, some of you may remember that when I tried out all those Oribe products, I mentioned how shiny and metallic silver the Silverati shampoo is, and how much I wanted to take pics of it running down my face. That would have been pretty messy to do, but when using a mannequin as a model, it was just crazy easy:

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I really only took pictures of one mannequin. I composited this shot and changed the face a bit on one of the images so they didn’t look exactly the same. 

These mannequin heads are so ridiculously easy to work with. The have these perfectly smooth, proportioned faces and they’re easy to manipulate as well as glue stuff to or smear crap all over. When I was done, I was able to just wash the old gal off with a rag and call it a day.

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The perfect “skin” tones on these mannequins make them super-easy to overmanipulate in processing. I don’t have to worry about uneven skin tones that don’t match up – and this all led to an absolute photo-editing frenzy. I started out simple enough, but as time went on I started to really go to town with the color and shading:

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See what I mean? The mannequin is such a great ‘blank’ canvas for some awesome edits and I can really cut lose in all sorts of ways I’ve never done before.

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Not to mention how easy the setup and breakdown is. I managed to shoot all these photos this morning before heading out to tutor in the afternoon. Usually that’s not even remotely possible – it takes me at least an hour to put on my makeup and then after the shoot is done, I have to wash it all off again. Not to mention how much longer it takes me to shoot myself as opposed to a perfectly still doll head.

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And I didn’t even need any fancy lighting, just my camera with my external flash. Heaven!

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I am sure eventually I’ll get bored with these mannequins, but then again, there’s all sorts of mannequins out there with all sorts of faces, and they do whatever I want them to do without complaining. The perfect models!

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I can’t believe how many photos I was able to take as well as edit today, while also eating two meals, tutoring a student, and swimming for half an hour. I’m over the moon with this new direction!

 

Hello Dolly

Recently I was in the Goodwill store by my house when I came across one of those big doll styling heads kids sometimes play with:

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I’ve photographed dolls before, but never ones that were so big I could put my wigs on them and really play around with the facial features in post. Needless to say, it made a difference:

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All three of these shots came from a quick photo where I just stood the doll head on a table and took a snap. I used my Portrait Pro, PhotoToolbox, and MakeupDirector software to alter the doll’s face to look different in each shot. Then, after seeing how easy she was to work with, I started to get more creative with my shots, adding wigs and wind (of course, because you know how I love hair that blows about) and taking pictures from different angles:

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Same wig as the shots below, I just put it on the doll head backwards

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I was having a hard time getting the wig to blow around dramatically, however, because I had to sit the doll head on a table and could only get the fan to hit the hair fiber from certain directions. I wanted to be able to get the fan up under the doll as I thought that would create more interesting shapes with the wigs, and then I remembered that I had two wig mannequin heads that have holes in the bottom so they can be put onto a stand. Bingo!

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I have many ideas for where to go from here, and putting wigs on a doll head is WAY quicker to set up for and easier to shoot than putting the wigs on, and photographing, myself. I also feel more free to go crazy with the processing, since the subject isn’t a real human to start with, and I’m having fun working with some filters I don’t normally use, like Topaz’s Impressions filter, which transforms photo into faux-paintings or sketches.

I can easily set up and shoot some wig shots this way every day without it being a big ordeal, so expect to see more doll shots coming soon! I am, of course, already on the lookout for more heads – the wig mannequins are definitely easier to use, but damn they are expensive, as opposed to the wig-styling kids’ toys that can be found used for around three bucks. I’ll be hitting up eBay for mannequin heads today, and we’ll see what I find. 😉 There are also some really freaky mannequin heads out there, so finding some of those for cheap would be a real bonus.

 

Mold Maid

There are so many words that rhyme with ‘mold,’ I had a hard time choosing one for my title. Hope I didn’t disappoint.

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Wearing my ROP Kai in Mocha Brown and what looks like a mop but is actually a sweater

Mold remediation starts on our house tomorrow. I am still staying with my sister, and although I tried the first few days to stop by the house each day for a while, by Wednesday I just couldn’t do it anymore. First of all, my sister doesn’t live nearby, so it was a lot of driving, and with the hacking cough and other allergy symptoms I’ve been dealing with for 7 months finally taking their toll, I just felt too worn down to keep up all the traveling. I even canceled all my tutoring gigs for the rest of the week so I could hide out at my sister’s house and just rest.

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Wearing ROP’s Evanna in Mocha Brown

It seems to be helping. Last night I actually went all night without coughing, and for some reason today I was just ravenous – I ate an ENTIRE PIZZA by myself for lunch and God knows what else. Usually this would be a bad thing, but I haven’t had much of an appetite lately so I took it as a sign that I might be on the mend. My allergies starting giving me hell around 4 PM or so, but given the pollen situation in Houston right now that’s not terribly surprising. Once your immune system starts freaking out due to black mold, it’s gonna be hypersensitive to everything for quite a while, so this is the sort of spring I’m going to get this year, it seems.

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Wearing Rae by ROP in Melted Marshmallow, and Maybelle SuperStay Matte Ink lipstick in Ruler.

If there’s any plus side to all of this, it’s that we’re finally going to fix up some areas of the house that have needed it for years. Our floors have been in terrible need of an update, but we were too cheap and lazy to get it done. Now, we have no choice, so we’re going to pony up the cash and do it right this time, instead of on the cheap like we usually do when it comes to home expenses (because we hate how much this stuff costs). Same for replacing some really old, desperately in need of an update cabinets and painting the walls (and finally removing the ridiculous wallpaper that hasn’t been in style in over 20 years, but again – lazy and cheap). I might actually not mind taking photos or making videos with my house showing instead of the backdrops I always use – but we’ll see about that. I do love my backdrops.

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It’s like I was trying to run away from Rylee but it wouldn’t let me go. Damn, that’s an ugly wig. 

I tried to at least use Rylee and Hudson in some photos, but honestly, those are still two ugly-ass wigs and they didn’t even photograph all that well. And both of them are ready for the trash after one photo session – I have $30 wigs that have outlasted these monstrosities in a photo shoot!

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I had to edit the color of Hudson here, because that Melted Sunset was just too stupid-looking. The lipstick is the Maybelle SuperStay in Ruler. 

After playing around with the Kai and Evanna, though, I’ve actually discovered I like them both better in the Mocha Brown, which was the original color I bought them in. So I guess I didn’t really need to get those two others in the Marble Brown and the Caramel after all. Oh well.

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Evanna in Caramel Brown, and SuperStay Matte Ink in Protector

The only other thing I wanted to mention was discovering the most amazing long-wearing lipstick I’ve EVER tried: Maybelline’s Super Stay Matte Ink. I love the idea of long wearing matte liquid lipsticks, but they are so tricky to wear; I grabbed a tube of this in the Fighter color at the grocery store, mostly just because the packaging was cool and flashy and caught my eye, and it wasn’t expensive so I figured what the hell. As the reviews will tell you, this stuff doesn’t dry as quickly as other liquid mattes; it will stay a little tacky for about ten minutes, which can be annoying but actually lends itself to less dryness even after it finally settles down. I actually don’t mind the tackiness as the dry-factor is my one big complaint about these lipsticks – and OMG y’all. This stuff LASTS FOREVER. Seriously. I put Fighter on the next day around 9 AM, ran errands, ate lunch, tutored three students, drank a coffee on the way home, AND washed my face around 10 PM – and I’m not lying when I tell you that after all that, it was STILL ON MY LIPS without retouching once. Even when I woke up the next morning – IT WAS STILL THERE. Miracle.

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I look insane here and I am not sure why. That’s my real hair, BTW – yes, I ombre’d it to hell and I like it, sorrynotsorry. And I’m wearing the Fighter Matte Ink here – one of my favorite colors.

I have, of course, tried like 10 different colors already, and there’s a handful I really like from the neutrals line (Fighter, Driver, and Seductress are my faves). It’s hands-down (lips-down?) the BEST longwearing liquid lip I’ve ever tried, and I’ve spent some serious coin on longwearing lipsticks over the years! So check it out!

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OK, this about catches me up for now. I’m in a bit of a wig mood since reviewing all those ROPs, but as much as there are some others I’d like to try (damn that Sarah by Jon Renau is tempting) they’re all just too much for me to spend when I don’t wear them out that much. So I will keep an eye on the clearance sales and perhaps snatch something up again soon for a future review. Anyway, time for bed now *cough, cough*

 

 

 

 

Marey January

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It’s been awhile, huh? First I got a few weeks off, and got really lazy. Then, I went back to work and got ridiculously busy right away. In neither circumstance did I do any blogging, or much picture-taking – not that the ridiculous amount of photos that are in this post are any indication of this.

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I took a fair amount of photos in December, but never got around to sharing them here, or anywhere, for that matter. I keep forgetting to log on to my Flickr account to post photos. Days will go by before I realize I haven’t shared anything anywhere, so a big-ass backlog of photos has piled up. It’s weird to look at it all now, since I haven’t touched a camera in weeks. My schedule has gotten all turned around, because once school started up for my students they all had to change their appointment times around due to extracurricular activities, and everything is flipped and flopped and I’m still not used to the new hours.

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I’ve worked basically from 3-8 Monday through Thursday, with Fridays off and a few appointments on Saturday, for a good solid year now. But all of a sudden, my students are scattered all over the place. Whereas before I saw three kids each evening, now I see two on some nights, only one on others, with no entire days off except for Sunday. And, I’m seeing students in the morning on Saturdays now, which I’ve come to learn that I dislike immensely. I don’t know how I ever taught high school all those years when the first class started at 7:30 AM – right now, I have my first morning appointment at 10 AM, and it’s miserable. Of all the changes I’ve made to my schedule, it’s the morning appointments I dislike the most, and as soon as I get an opportunity I intend to change it so I never start tutoring before 1 PM again.

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I’ve had other scheduling issues in the past that I didn’t like – I don’t mind having several hours between appointments, but getting stuck with, say, one hour between two sessions really sucks, because it’s not enough time to do anything other than sit in my car or drive around aimlessly – so one thing I’ve learned is not to sweat the unpleasantness too much, because my schedule is always changing. I’d say the longest I’ve gone without any changes to my work schedule is three months, so by now, when I run up against a schedule I don’t like, I just suck it up and bear with it until it changes again. So, I’m pretty much doing that now with the Saturday morning thing.

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Also, the weather has been bananas here lately. Just this last week, Houston was hit with temperatures well below freezing for two days in a row (Tuesday and Wednesday), with sleet and snow and roads iced over everywhere. I know people who live in cold climates love to make jokes about how a warm Southern town like Houston shuts down in weather that wouldn’t make anyone blink in, say Boston, but the fact is no one who lives here is equipped for such weather, and our city isn’t well-equipped for it, either. None of us natives have ever seen a snow tire, and we are generally hard-pressed to even buy heavy sweaters, much less coats and warm boots and the like. So yeah, the city was basically shut down on those two days, which are also two of my busiest tutoring days, so I’ve spent the rest of week cramming in all the appointments I missed wherever I could to make up for that. And, get this: it’s now Saturday of the same week where the entire city iced over and froze on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it’s currently about 60 degrees outside. My sinuses don’t even know what to do anymore, and trying to decide whether I need to wear a winter scarf or summer shorts is a daily ritual. Usually I just wear both.

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One thing I’ll mention about my photos: I’ve made a conscious decision to use less Photoshop on my portraits. Don’t get it twisted – I still use a lot of Photoshop, but I’ve really backed off the portrait editing software that can alter my face shape. It was fun for quite a while to try to make myself look as different as possible, but the thrill of that has worn off for me now that I’ve basically pushed that as far as I can, and I’ve dialed it way back. I still love to add makeup and I do still even out my skin tone and smooth it a bit, but I’m doing a lot less in that department than I was doing for a while. Obviously I’m still using wigs and makeup, though – that’s probably never gonna change.

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Speaking of wigs/hair, I was considering growing out my gray hair for a minute there, but I abandoned that idea and got some ombre-ish highlights put back in. I wanted more of a contrast than I’ve had before, so my stylist kept the base color quite dark and close to my natural color, then worked in some very blonde ‘panels’ underneath the base color and on the ends. I really like the look, but in my current state of laziness I haven’t taken any pictures of it except for a few crappy iPhone photos. I also got about an inch cut off – the first time I’ve taken off any length in several years – because I really felt like the ends were getting scraggly, and I wanted to get a really blunt cut. For the most part, I’ve been planning to let my hair get as long as possible, since I’ve never had long hair before and I thought having hair down to my waist would be amazing, but lately I’ve been noticing that it’s about as long as it needs to get right now. In fact, the longer it got, the scragglier and thinner it was starting to look, and too much length doesn’t do my long face any favors, either. So, I figured losing a little bit would give it some much-needed bounce, and I plan to keep this length for the foreseeable future. I’ve also been slowly going heavier with my bangs each time I get them trimmed, but keeping them pretty short, and I’m really liking the look right now, even though I lost enough length that pulling it up into a bun is a little tricky now.

Photo Jan 12, 8 41 23 AM

I am also on a big Oribe product kick. I’m still trying out a lot of the line although I’ve used one particular Oribe gel for years; I am not far enough into my experimentation to write about it, but I am determined to make this stuff work for me because the price is ridiculous. I’m impressed with the shampoo I’ve been using so far; it definitely is luxurious and makes my hair silky smooth, but the problem is that my hair is so baby-fine that silky smooth also = flat as hell. So I’m trying out some volumizing styling products to see if I can’t get a good system going with this stuff. We shall see. But I will say, if you have thick or coarse hair and you struggle with frizz or dryness, Oribe shampoo and conditioner just might be worth the money for you. It smooths out my hair so much that even when air-drying (which is all I do anymore) my hair turns out almost straight. Even five years ago I would have loved this, but I am really into wearing my hair wavy now, so it just isn’t floating my boat at the moment.

oribe

So maybe at some point I’ll write up a review of everything I’ve tried and what I think about it all. But for now, I’ve got to wrap this up and get to bed, since I have yet another round of early morning tutoring to do – still making up all the sessions I missed during our two-day winter of 2018.

 

Well Red

Recently I’ve been playing around with my makeup. A lot. In fact, every morning I watch CNN in my bathroom and spend about an hour viewing YouTube videos and learning how to apply my makeup better or style my hair differently. It’s actually become a fun part of my morning routine, and for someone who has NEVER had any skill at makeup application, well, I guess finally figuring it out at age 48 is better than never learning at all. I know it’s not time spent making the world a better place or anything, but it puts me in a much better mood for the day, which certainly isn’t making the world worse. So there you go.

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Some of the cool things I’ve learned recently are how to effectively apply winged liquid eyeliner (the key: pull the eyelid way out and extend the line so far out that it looks ridiculous, because when you let go of the lid it will just barely extend past the outer corner of your eye and look amazing) and how to apply a fairly decent red lip (still working on this one, actually). In fact, on my recent trip to my local MAC counter to pick up a few more bright lipsticks, blushes, and shadows, the makeup artist actually complimented the eyeshadow I’d meticulously applied that morning, and having never, EVER been complimented on my makeup application before, that thrilled me to a ridiculous degree.

closeup shawl

Now, before you get too confused, keep in mind that most of the makeup I have on in my photos has been Photoshopped to perfect all the blending and application flaws I always make. My general method is to apply a ton more makeup than usual, just so it all shows up, and then pull it all together when editing. And as much as I love using bright colors for my photos, in real life I’ve never, EVER worn anything other than neutral makeup shades. I’ve tried on occasion, but always felt terribly overdone with a bright red lip or a multi-colored eyeshadow trio on my lids. My general palette for the past 15-20 years has basically been neutral, golden browns on my eyes, cheeks, and lips, with foundation and powder – period. But, it’s finally happened – my skin has reached that stage where it really does call for more color, and all those neutrals were starting to wash me out. Not only that, but they were also starting to bore me, and lately I’ve been wanting to have way more fun with my face. So, here I am.

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I’m also loving my new pink backdrop! It was pricey, but worth every penny.

Aside from some of the nice, bright eye shadows and blushes I’ve purchased to pop up my look, I’ve become obsessed with getting a good red lip game going. And, in typical fashion, I’ve attacked this by over-purchasing makeup products and then taking pictures of all the new shades to justify the ridiculous expense. So, lucky you – you now get to scroll through photos of NINE of the TWELVE different red lipsticks I’ve purchased over the past two weeks! Why only nine, you ask? Well, because three of the colors just didn’t photograph well for various reasons. Being me, I couldn’t just quickly take photos of all the different lipstick shades while wearing the same outfit, because that would be boring, so I made a costume change with each new color, and in one of them I wore a blue top that made me look washed out and horrible (I’ve discovered quite recently that blue just isn’t my color, but sometimes I still forget). In another one, the outfit was a mess because after about the seventh costume change I was starting to run out of ideas, and the third color went bad because, after applying and then wiping off eleven different red lipsticks, most of which were a long-wearing liquid formula, my entire mouth and chin were a disaster. On the plus side, I currently have the most exfoliated lips in history. But I digress.

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Because I actually have never gotten much into makeup and I get easily overwhelmed by the limitless array of choices available, I tend to stick to the two or three brands I know well when it comes to trying new things. I may venture out a little when I feel the need to change my foundation or some other more fundamental product (and I did, actually, change my base recently as well; I figured if I was going to change things I might as well go for broke – I went with Chanel’s Ultrawear Flawless Foundation, but I’m not wearing it in these pics because I have special, heavy-duty foundation I use for photos) so the only two lipstick lines I tried here were by MAC and Lime Crime. I’ve worn MAC since my 20s, and all my blush and eyeshadow still comes from them even though I moved on from their foundation long ago; and I’ve always liked Lime Crime’s aesthetic even though they’re more outrageous than I’ve ever worn in public – I’ve been wearing their lipsticks and shadows in my photos for years. I’ve always liked both of their long-wearing liquid lipsticks, but always took issue with the more neutral colors from both lines. In fact, I’ve always found neutral long-wearing formulations problematic; while the brighter colors maintain their pop in long-wearing lipsticks, I feel like the neutrals just go flat and gray and muddy on my lips. The only one I’ve ever liked is one I found about a year ago – Kylie Jenner’s King K (see photo above) – and it’s still my favorite neutral lip in the world which is why I have about ten unopened tubes of it in my lipstick drawer; I want to have it on-hand forever (it’s currently sold out and I don’t know if they will be re-stocking it).  And it’s still the color I wear when working; I tried wearing a bright red lip ONCE to my tutoring sessions, and when I got home in the evening after my three tutoring sessions and looked in the mirror, I was mortified. At some point while teaching and talking and driving from place to place, without any real time to look in a mirror or touch up  my makeup, that bright red had slipped completely off my lips and settled into my chin as well as my upper lip, leaving only a weird, dark red line outlining my cupid’s bow. I hate to say it, but my first thought when I saw my reflection was that I looked like I’d had a quickie in my car between sessions; it was THAT bad. I looked insane. So, I’ve never worn a red lip to a tutoring session again. But I digress again – let’s get on to the lipsticks!

#1: Psycho by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

psycho

I played around with my eyeshadow and skin tone as I always do in these photos – but I do want to point out that I left the lipstick colors alone, so they should be pretty true to how they really look. 

One of my issues with red lipstick has always been that, on me, it always seems to turn pink when I put it on, even if it doesn’t look like it has blue undertones in the tube. So, I was careful to stay away from shades that had any sort of blue or pink in the color descriptions. Psycho, however, is about as far away from a blue undertone as I could go – it’s pretty much flat-out orange, and in real life it’s too bright to work for every day. But it’s fun, and it will work for photos, and I can see wanting to wear it every once in a while. I knew this one was a longshot when I bought it, but as with all the lipsticks I tried I got it during the Black Friday sales so I was feeling more adventurous due to the added savings.

Oh and speaking of Black Friday sales, the reason I am just now getting these colors reviewed for you when I bought them two weeks ago is because UPS had a complete meltdown after Black Friday, and took forever to deliver my packages. Here’s just one little snapshot of the sort of insanity they had going on while I waited, fairly impatiently, for my deliveries (keep in mind this is the tracking for just ONE package; I had three that were lost in the UPS loop for days and days):

UPS

Allow me to explain.

First of all, I ship most of my packages to a shipping business that rents mailboxes; usually shipments to a business will arrive way earlier in the day than shipments to a residence, and I like knowing when a shipment is out for delivery that I will get it by 3:30 instead of at 8 PM (even if it means I have to drive up to my mailbox to get it). I also like that if something needs to be signed for, I don’t have to worry about it, because there’s always someone at my mailbox who will sign for it. So, that first reschedule above was legit, because the business was closed the day after Thanksgiving. After that, though, things just got ridiculous. There actually was NOT an adult signature required for this stuff, because IT WAS A BOX OF MAKEUP, and MAC has never required signatures on anything. So that was just a flat-out UPS lie. Then I got the dreaded “due to operating conditions” update, where “operating conditions” means “untrained, inept, and overwhelmed UPS drivers.” Then, it just goes Out For Delivery for a few days in a row without ever showing up, then it was back to requiring an adult signature again…you get the idea. Also, make note of the times of those delivery attempts – 9:42 PM, 9:35 PM, 7:55 PM. The office where I rent my mailbox closes at 6:00, and is supposed to have a shipment guarantee with UPS that all shipments will arrive by 3:30. Sigh.

Anyway, on to Lipstick #2, which is: Red Velvet by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)red velvet

This is one of those reds that went pink on me; it’s described on the website as “reddest red,” which I figured probably meant it would be a blue-red, and I was right. However, I Googled all these lipstick shades before I bought them, and overall I did love the way it looked on other people, so even though I knew it was a longshot I figured I’d give it a go (what can I say – probably the Black Friday sales getting the best of me again). It’s pretty, but definitely no orange undertones in this one that makes it too pinky for my taste. It’s really too bad that in my frustration waiting for my wayward shipment with this color in it to arrive, I actually went online and placed a second order from another website in the hopes I’d get it sooner (or actually get it at all,  because I was pretty convinced that the shipment had actually been lost and was never going to arrive), because now I have two. Moving on.

Lipstick #3: Pumpkin by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

pumpkin

Ah, Pumpkin. I really like this one. It’s orange, but not bright, and in more of a brick-red kind of way, so it works as a neutral red I can wear with all my neutral-toned clothes in tan and gray (I’m also working on incorporating more color into my wardrobe, but hey, let’s take this one expensive step at a time, OK?). By the way, this is probably a good time to talk about the formulation of Lime Crime’s Velveteens (the name of their long-wearing liquid lipstick line). As with all long-wearing lipsticks, these are quite dry, and in fact I find them drier than the MAC Liquid Matte lipsticks I tried. And I will say it was a Lime Crime lipstick I was wearing the night of my disastrous red-lip tutoring fiasco, so, there’s that. But, I wouldn’t say Lime Crime’s formulation is the driest I’ve ever tried, or is so dry it’s unwearable. I think it’s more that the MAC formulation is less dry than the others I’ve worn, and Lime Crime’s are the usual amount of dry, if that makes sense. I purchased MAC’s Lip Primer as an afterthought and have been wearing it underneath all of these the past few days, and I do think it helps a little, but dryness is just part of the deal with all of these matte, long-wearing, liquid lipstick lines. And although Lime Crime didn’t survive one of my marathon tutoring sessions, the truth is, nothing else I ever wear makes it through five hours of teaching, talking, and driving – not even my stand-by, still-loved King K. When I’ve worn Lime Crime out of the house for anything else, like shopping, or visiting friends, it’s held up just fine. So there you go. And while we’re at it, I might as well finish up the Lime Crime lineup all at once, so on to the last one of that batch. This one also happens to be my favorite lipstick of them all!

Lipstick #4: New Americana by Lime Crime (Velveteen long-wearing liquid)

new americana

I. Love. This. Lipstick. 

As far as colors go, this one wins, hands-down. The color is GORGEOUS. It’s very bright, but since it maintains the orange undertone I love so much instead of leaning pink, it really makes me happy.  I have to say, if I were ranking these lipsticks, I would knock off half a star because I know the MAC formulation isn’t quite as dry, and dryness is my one tiny complaint about this one. But I think if I tried to wear something this bright and red in a non-longwearing formula, I would be a mess within twenty minutes, so overall this is a big win. As long as I get it applied right, and have time throughout the day to check myself in the mirror and touch it up now and then, it doesn’t end up all over everything (although you’ll still see some of it on your coffee cup) and stays in place. And the rich, red color is really stunning.

Which wraps up our Lime Crime reviews, and as we move on to MAC I’ll start with the red from them that I think is closest to New Americana.

Lipstick #5: Fashion Legacy by MAC (liquid matte)fashion legacy

Fashion Legacy is from MAC’s Liquid Matte line of longwearing lipsticks, and as I already mentioned, these are a little more moisturizing than Lime Crime’s Velveteens. That said, I notice a bit more color transfer onto my coffee cup with these, but they can still endure a lunch date while maintaining most of their color by the end of the meal. Fashion Legacy has the same nice, rich brightness of LC’s New Americana, but as you can see it’s also a bit more pink. Honestly, I didn’t really notice the difference all that much until I put these two pictures side by side, and Fashion Legacy can probably do anything New Americana do – but it doesn’t do it any better, to quote the song. So, this is a great one to wear if for some reason I’m wanting my lips to be more moisturized than they would be with Lime Crime’s version, and for that reason I’ll give this one four and a quarter stars (I’ve got to give New Americana my highest marks, even if it is just slightly).

Lipstick #6: Quite the Standout by MAC (liquid matte)quite the standout

Look out Westworld! I chose the black hat. 

I like this one. It’s a great orange-red, nowhere near as bright as LC’s Psycho but much more so than the brick-ness of their Pumpkin. I will get a lot of wear out of this one, even though it doesn’t make my heart go pitter-pat like New Americana does – and by the way, how great are all of these names? I even love just saying “New Americana” over and over. Quite the Standout? Fashion Legacy? All so much more lovely than the $60 Chanel foundation I just bought in “Color 40.” And speaking of names…

Lipstick #7: Lady Danger by MAC (matte lipstick – non-liquid)

lady danger

Lady Danger – how’s that for a great lipstick name? This one is one of the handful of non-liquid, non-longwear ones I tried; I thought maybe I could make a more moisturizing red lipstick work on tutoring days without coming home looking insane, but I haven’t tried it yet. I do like this color, even though I can’t tell much difference between it and Quite the Standout aside from perhaps a touch of coral in this one; since I really like how Standout looks on, what I may do is carry this one with me when wearing Quite the Standout out of the house as I could use it to moisturize my lips while adding some color if they get too dry. I don’t know; I’m really not sure why I bought this one other than to try out some non-liquid reds while I was on my Black Friday lipstick-shopping kick. I tried a few others that aren’t so entirely similar to something I already had in liquid form, but a few of them were in the batch of photos that didn’t work out, so I don’t have anything to show of them yet.

Lipstick #8: To Matte With Love (MAC Liquid Matte)to matte with love

That’s right, you guys – I even tried a pink. Me, in PINK. In a PINK LIPSTICK, y’all. Me, who never ever even wore pink in high school in the eighties, when pink lipstick was basically the only available color in the drugstore. I figured if I was trying out new things, I might as well try a pink or two, and again – BLACK FRIDAY SALE MADNESS. Plus, this one looked quite pretty and not obnoxious at all, and I actually quite like it. Not sure how much I’ll wear this one, but since I also bought some bright, deep pink eyeshadow and an awesome bright lime green, I could see putting that all together and making it work.

OK, last one for now, and it’s not all that thrilling, quite honestly:

Lipstick #9: Dangerous (MAC matte)dangerous

Why do I look so much like Jared Leto here?

First of all, this is the last lipstick I photographed, and it really shows. By this time, all the scraping and wiping I did on my lips had taken its toll; you can see how much the other colors had kind of faded into the skin around my lips here. Plus, Dangerous really doesn’t have much pigmentation at all; I think it’s buildable if you want more depth, but on its own it is rather sheer. This isn’t a bad thing, but because of that it looks more coral on me than I’d like, and I feel it’s an odd color for such a sheer formulation. For now I don’t feel like I have any real use for this one, but who knows. It might grow on me.

So at last we reach the end of this massive lipstick post. Keep in mind I still have three other shades I didn’t even review! Which one of these did you like best? Do you agree with my #1 winner, or do you like another one better? Let me know in the comments, or don’t, it’s up to you. But if you made it to the end of all of this madness, at least drop me a line in the comments and say hi, so I can thank you for your dedication. 🙂

Thanksliving

pennyyyy

Penny says hello

The past few weeks have been a bit of a stressful blur – I went from having 4 clients to 11 in three weeks’ time, and adjusting to the added workload took a while. Once I had a chance to step back and look at my schedule, though, I found some ways to make things flow more easily from day to day, and that helped. I went through a period of time where I was getting phone calls from interested parents daily (after a round of report cards went out, apparently, and people started to panic), and I ended up just slapping them onto my schedule wherever I could fit them. Going from tutoring two kids per day to three doesn’t sound like a big adjustment, but when you factor in drive time between sessions (I don’t have an office and meeting at libraries isn’t my first choice because they get so crowded out here) I went from working between 3:30 and 6:30 each day to not getting home until around 8:30 PM, which is a pretty big change. Add to that the fact that daylight savings time ended right as my schedule was starting to fill, and I ended up feeling pretty tired and out of sorts while I tried to manage all the new students.

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Simon is not bothered, though.

One thing I was able to do after the dust settled was look at my new schedule and find ways to maximize my time. For example, I’d ended up tutoring two kids who lived just a few blocks from each other, but I wasn’t seeing them on the same day. And somehow I ended up scheduling myself an hour break between two of my sessions, which, when you don’t have an office, ends up being just enough time to get restless and irritable between sessions, but not enough time to do anything about it other than sit in your car and check your phone. So, I moved some students around and re-arranged some of my session times to make my schedule more manageable. I’m still getting used to driving around for my last two sessions of the day in the dark, which still feels odd, but the days will start lengthening out soon enough, and it’s starting to feel more normal now than it did when all of the this started up a few weeks ago.

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A few weeks ago I got in two new photography tools that I was excited to work with: one was a pink popup backdrop that was rather pricey – pink isn’t a very popular color for these backdrops, so I did end up paying quite a bit for this one – and the other was a fairly inexpensive ring light for portraits. Unfortunately, the ring light turned out to be more challenging than I remembered it being  -I had a cheaper one years ago that could only be used when attached to my camera, and it broke after a few months of use – and my first pics with the pink backdrop didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped they would because I was also trying to figure out the best way to use the ring light at the same time. But, I did manage to get a few good ones, which I’ve shared above.

Photo Nov 02, 1 28 33 PM

A REALLY RARE decent selfie I took with my phone

I’ve been trying to be active on Instagram again since leaving Facebook, but I completely SUCK at phone selfies, and I was hoping the ring light would help with that. Here, it worked out great, and this was a real one-off, barely-planned photo, so I had high hopes it would always be this easy to use. But so far, that’s not how it’s going. Yes, it creates a lovely catchlight in the eyes, which is one of the main reasons it is used for portraits, and if you get it just right it can also create a lovely halo of light on the face, BUT for me that’s turned out to be trickier than I imagined, and I’m still not sure how best to use it to get this effect every time. Another issue seems to be that to get this effect you have to be VERY close to it (and therefore, the camera) and I don’t do a lot of super close-up photos since I like to show the hair/wigs and usually the head and shoulders to show off an outfit. You can see in the pink backdrop collage above how the shots where I’m closer to the camera worked better than those where I wasn’t, and even then, the ring light blasts out a lot of the nice soft shadows I like my portraits to have. So, I’m still working on how to use this thing best, and it may not end up being a big part of my normal shooting gear. Fortunately this one wasn’t expensive either, although I did spend more on it than on the previous one (around $80).

collage_insta2

So anyway, about those Instagram selfies. What I’ve done so far is use one of my DSLRs to take the selfies, then use Instagram’s filters to edit them before uploading. It’s not totally in the spirit of IG, but my iPhone selfies are literally the worst I’ve even seen and I just don’t have the skill to improve them – they have always been horrible with the exception of that ONE ring light photo. For the most part, though, even though I am still taking these shots with a DSLR, I do them quickly, with whatever amount of makeup  I have on at the moment, and wearing my own hair and pretty regular clothes and standing wherever I happen to be standing at the time. So, they are still way more ‘candid’ than the stuff I post on Flickr.

collage_insta

All of these were taken around the house

I am hoping that through Instagram I can also get back into photographing outfits and fashion-y shots like that. But I’m SO picky about them that we will have to see how that goes. Using a DSLR instead of my phone already ups the amount of time photos take to shoot, and since I really prefer the full length shots to have good lighting that would require even more prep time, which isn’t really in the spirit of what I’m doing. I’m going for another photography avenue that can be more spontaneous and take less time, and even though I think I’ve found a way to do it with portraits and still be happy with the results, it remains to be seen if I can pull that off with full length photos.

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Another random thing this photo makes me think to mention: the last time I went to get my bangs trimmed, I had my stylist cut them blunt and without thinning them out or making them look piece-y. I felt that a heavier bang might look better and so far, I am liking the results, although they still need to fill in a bit. Then, once I started playing around with hair looks and got my new cat-eye glasses in (from Zenni, of course) I started playing around with my makeup to create a more Rockabilly vibe (my new favorite thing to do, since I have the time in the morning, is to shut myself in my bathroom for an hour, watch CNN, and play around with my makeup and my hair). In order to do this, I’ve gotten into really pigmented, colorful lipsticks – something I have never done before. As much as I’ve always loved the look of a dark or bright red lip, I never EVER felt comfortable wearing it myself. My lips are quite thin, first of all, and the darker or brighter a lip color is the thinner the lips will look. But it’s more than that – for all the talk of how women over ‘a certain age’ shouldn’t wear bright red lips, I am actually finding that I really LIKE wearing it for all the exact same reasons the fashion industry says more mature women shouldn’t. To put it another way – I really do think it ‘ages’ me – but in a way I really like! I do think I look older in a dark or bright lip color as opposed to something pale and neutral, but in an “I’ve earned the right to wear this” way and not in an “I shouldn’t be wearing this” kind of way. To me, it looks really sassy, confident, and yes, mature – so I’m having lots of fun with that right now.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you that will celebrate it this week. I am looking forward to slowing down and catching my breath since I only have two students to tutor, then it’s off on the mad dash to the winter holidays!

Oh, and if any of you want to follow me on Instagram, this is me: Instagram. Just don’t be an asshole or I’ll block you.

 

Free (People) Spree

Since getting off Facebook, I’ve gotten back onto Instagram and been finding other ways and places to share my photos.

trucker cords

One thing I decided to try was participating in Free People’s “community” they have on their website. I used to upload photos of the things I bought from ModCloth years ago, but I was still teaching back then and when some of my students recognized my photos on the site I got nervous and took everything down. I never liked having my students view my photography, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore. And since I no longer shop at ModCloth (does it even exist anymore?) and buy pretty much everything I wear at Free People, I decided to get back into the swing of taking photos of my outfits and try uploading them there.

cardigan

I’ve also been playing around with the new portrait editing software I purchased when Portrait Pro bit the dust. The demise of PP turned out to be short-lived; miraculously someone DID respond to my help ticket, and within a few days of losing it I had it back again. In the time I’d gone without, though, I’d started using a program by CyberLink called Makeup Director that is pretty damn cool. So, now I’m using it combined with Portrait Pro to get some really nice results – although I’m still learning, and my first few attempts came out a bit heavy-handed.

Cobalt Set

I’d pretty much stopped taking full-length shots entirely because over time I became so disappointed in the results. The truth is, my studio space is SO SMALL that I really must use a wide-angle lens to get my whole body into a shot, and wide-angle lenses are really the WORST for portrait work of any kind, even full-length shots. But, if there’s one thing that is consistent about photography, it’s that at least 50% of it is learning how to make do with what you’ve got to work with, because the absolute ideal setting almost never happens, so I decided to accept the fact that I had to use a wide angle lens and read up on shooting full-length fashion shots and use all the tricks that I could to make up for the ones I couldn’t.

Baggy Sweat 2

The biggest changes I made from how I used to shoot full length shots was with my lighting. After much reading and researching, I decided to layer my two umbrella lights one over the other, so both of them were positioned on one side of me and angled towards me at about a 45 degree angle. My usual lighting setup would have one umbrella stand aimed at me from either side, but putting them both on the same side not only created more shadows to add detail, it also ensured more even lighting from head to toe without having heavy light falloff starting from about the knees down.

lights

Kind of like this.

Then, I took a third umbrella light and moved it directly off to my other side, and aimed it at the backdrop. I’d never heard of this before, but the information I read claimed it would help to distance or ‘separate’ me from the background, and once I saw the results of doing this I understood what that meant.

Pink Tunic

Even though I’m up against a solid background, I definitely see more depth in these shots than previous full body photos I’ve taken – the flatness of those was what really started to turn me off even trying to take them. There definitely is some separation here, I think, between myself and the background. At least, it feels more dimensional to me.

pleats

I just LOVE a good baggy pant! Although technically these are jeans. 

I also made sure to stand as far away from the backdrop as I could – not easy to do, because again, my space is really really tiny, and I couldn’t get as far away from it as was recommended at all, but even the little bit I did helped. I do have a bad habit of squashing myself right up against my backgrounds (again, because TINY STUDIO) but I stuck a rock on the floor as a marker to remind myself to move up a little.

corset dress

That corset top is technically a mini-dress, but I honestly don’t know anyone who could (or should) wear it as one.

Now by this time, I’m sure you’re thinking why does she keep saying these are full length shots when clearly they are cut off right below her knees? Well, that’s because I actually took full-length shots, but had to crop them because I was lazy and used my gray popup backdrop rather than my really long muslin one that actually covers the floor. I did that because I actually got started on these photos rather late in the day, the muslin is much more time-consuming to set up, and I really didn’t expect to like these photos at all anyway so I didn’t bother with it. And even though my popup reaches the floor, it doesn’t cover it, so the effect of a solid gray background is completely lost when you can clearly see that I’m standing on ugly-ass carpet. So yeah, I cut them all off to conceal the floor. But when I really wanted to show the pants I was wearing for some reason (above it was for the wide flare leg, and below, it was to show how the pants cinch in at the ankles), well, I just contorted myself into shapes on a stool that made it work:

no joke 1

How to cram your whole body into a shot when it really doesn’t fit in the frame. I’m pretty sure I fell over right after the flash went off.

Here’s the thing though: I uploaded these to the Free People site several days ago, and they’re still awaiting approval. I think, like Instagram, what they really want is mobile phone photos and not studio stuff, so I’m wondering if they are going to reject them all. I’ll be bummed if that happens, but in the end I’m glad I gave this a whirl anyway. I’m pleased with how the shots turned out, and I learned a lot more about how to take these kinds of photos properly, which is always a good thing. Learning is fun, kids!

kingsley

Remember what I said about baggy pants? Yep, I love ’em. 

October Surprise

Man, it has been awhile since I last posted – almost a month – but things suddenly kicked into gear a few weeks ago, and it’s been a bit of a blur ever since. Tons of pictures to share as I babble on, so let’s get to it.

justme1Someone challenged me on Flickr to post a ‘just me’ photo without makeup or a wig. I didn’t do it – I actually have a TON of foundation, contour, and highlighter on in this photo, and yes I did edit it – but this is as close as I’ll ever get to a truly ‘naked’ portrait (I was actually just test shooting my lighting here).

A few weeks after Harvey, my business phone starting ringing like crazy. I have picked up FIVE new clients in the past three weeks! I am now at 10 students whom I tutor, and have had to start turning people away or referring them to other tutors. I really didn’t do anything differently this fall to promote myself, but two of my new clients are referrals from parents whose kids I am already tutoring. I also think those two weeks students had off while districts in the area dealt with the aftermath of Harvey (many schools functioned as shelters and it took time to prepare for the return of students, plus schools that were damaged by the floods had to figure out where to send them) threw everyone off, and grades are low as a result. On a psychological level, I am so much more confident this year than last that I think that has to be vibing out into the atmosphere in some way; I know last year I often stumbled when I felt I had to ‘sell’ my services to a parent, whereas now I just do what I know works without feeling nervous. It’s a good place to be.

befriI found this shirt at Goodwill, and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the other half!

Most of my clients are for English tutoring still, which is actually fine as I enjoy it now. They’re mostly middle-school students, for some reason, which is age 11-13 here in the US, but I also tutor one fourth grader, one ninth grader, and a high school junior as well. The student I coached over the summer and had such a hard time with (as far as feeling like what I was doing was actually helping) has texted me several times since his new school year started to update me on his progress – he made all As and Bs on his first report card, which is a HUGE improvement over his grades last year. That has really given me the confidence boost I need in relation to that aspect of my business. I am now coaching another high school freshman, and am meeting with a potential coaching client this afternoon; it’s fun work to do so I am still hoping to build up that side of the business as well.

candacetamhair

I often get comments questioning why my ‘job’ isn’t photography instead of tutoring, but let me reiterate that I really enjoy teaching and consider it the best work I can do. And honestly, a “busy” working day for me involves tutoring for three hours, tops. Houston is very spread out and most of my clients do not live near me, and since I drive to their homes or a nearby library I do put in another hour of drive time each day, easy, but I really don’t mind that. Having grown up here, driving is a part of life and I am used to it; plus, I have always enjoyed getting out and taking a drive. Since aside from my tutoring I’m pretty much a homebody, it gets me out of the house and helps me feel like I am still a part of the world. Plus this one particular drive I make several times a week is actually a nice, pretty drive, which helps.

hairnet1This wig is called a ‘bump’ wig; Paula Young came out with this line years ago that literally has a pouch in the crown that closes with a snap! It came with a little foam piece that you were supposed to tuck into the pouch and snap closed for extra height, but of course I had to shove as much wadded up newspaper as possible in there to see how high I could get it. 

On the photography front, I hadn’t taken many photos at all since Harvey. In what at least felt like an unrelated decision, I took myself off of Facebook for various reasons, and almost immediately  began taking photos again. I also got back to being active on Flickr, which hasn’t been the case for well over a year now. I’m assuming these things are related, somehow; I do think it got so easy for me to load a photo to Facebook and get so much feedback that contributing on Flickr lost its panache, and while I do miss getting to share my photos with my friends there, cutting some social media out of my life for now has had more benefits than drawbacks, so I’m sticking with the decision. Interacting with other photographers, I think, is important to me, and Facebook had a tendency to make me feel like I was doing so much more than I actually was – not just in the photography arena, but in other ways as well. And I admit that social media is freaking me out more and more every day I read about how American voters were manipulated during this last election. My biggest concern is how easily Russia got us all to turn on each other – pitting opposing sides against each other by playing to our worst instincts, fears, and prejudices. I was as susceptible to this as anyone – understanding that people I  may have fought with in comment sections weren’t even real people but foreign agents just trying to get me to feel hatred for conservatives was the nail in my Facebook coffin. I do not want to be manipulated into hating other people, and I’d gotten to a point where at least 50% of the time I spent on Facebook I felt pissed at someone or something. So, I’m done with that.

dred leopard

So, as I said, I almost immediately started taking more photos, and getting active on Flickr again (and hopefully, keeping up better with the blog). I had a marathon photo session last Sunday; on Saturday I went to Goodwill and purchased 5 or 6 tops to use, then spent Saturday night planning out what wigs, accessories, and makeup to wear for each one. Then I pulled it all together that night, so I could just get up in the morning and get started. I do not usually do this – in fact, I usually take photos when I wake up with the urge to do it; I rarely plan things out in the detail that I did this last shoot. It made for a really long day of shooting, and by the end I was pretty bored, but my goal was to get as many looks as I could out of the stuff I’d bought and have lots of different looks to work with when I edited the shots – when I only do 3-4 looks per shoot, I get bored with them all quickly and then run out of stuff to process.

whitecurly1

Something I have done a few times before is start off with a ‘naked’ face – which really just means all the foundation, highlighter, and contouring is done but I haven’t added any color (except a  nude lipstick). Then I figure out which costume would work best with a neutral face and take those shots, figuring I can always add makeup later in post if I want (although I’ve hit a snag in that area that I will discuss later). That huge necklace came from Banana Republic; I bought it at least a decade ago, and at some point had loaned it, and a ton of other accessories, to my sister-in-law for a party where they wanted to have a photo booth. I totally forgot about all of that stuff until she returned it to me a month ago – they were moving and came across two bags of old wigs and accessories they’d forgotten they had, and she gave them back to me. Most of the wigs were already shot before I gave them to her to use, so I pitched all but a few of ’em, but the accessories made it into a lot of these shots because they were all pretty cool, and I’d totally forgotten about them.

windsongMy face was ‘naked’ in this shot, too – I added the makeup using Portrait Pro.

So back to the makeup: for my second costume change, I will add a little more makeup for a slightly different face to work with later. Again, this is easier to do when I plan in advance, so I can be sure the makeup, or lack thereof, will work with the costume and not be a problem later.

lipsandhearts1Actually, all I’d added as far as makeup for this costume change was blush, a brighter lipstick, and mascara; the eyeshadow was added in post. And yeah, that necklace is one that was in the bag of goodies my SIL returned to me. It was broken before I loaned it to her, so I had to just wrap it around my neck. And the other hearts are cheesy, but I couldn’t resist them. 

I think you get the idea now for what happens  next, and next, and next. With each costume change, I just keep adding makeup until the end of the shoot. It certainly does make for a greater variety of photos to work with later – I took almost 600 this day, which I haven’t done in a long time.

leopardyThis is one of the returned wigs that I kept. Also, I think those glasses were originally from a cheap Halloween costume I bought on sale after October 31st at a grocery store. They’re actually vinyl and really floppy. The top was actually a dress that was too small for me, so I cut the skirt part off to be able to get it on! 

The tops I found were amazing, and taking the time to even plan which backdrops to use was helpful. It made for a lot less thinking during shooting, and a lot more posing, and things went really smoothly even though it took a long time having to stop between costumes and apply more makeup and change backdrops. I even got use out of that pastel one that I almost never use, because it has never really worked with anything I’ve used it for in the past. This time, it was perfection with some of the brighter colors.

orangewif

Now for the problematic bit: Just this past week, my most-used Photoshop plugin, my beloved Portrait Pro, started crapping out on me midway through working on a photo. I’d just “upgraded” (I put that in quotes because even though I already owned a previous version of the software, I had to pay full price for what they called an ‘upgrade’) to their newest version, which is fantastic – it has a sharpening tool within the skin softening category that solves the issue of skin looking ‘too soft’ perfectly – so at first I thought it was a problem with the upgrade. But then, it started happening with a few of my other plug-ins too. The oddest part was how it would happen out of nowhere, sometimes right after I’d just used the program and attempted to access it again.

hailey1Yep, another prop returned to me by the SIL; the nails used to light up but the batteries are dead now, and they never showed up properly in photos anyway. The sweater is another one from the Goodwill haul. 

I took the error message I kept getting when trying to access the plug-in and typed it into Google, which sent me down a rabbit hole to figure out what the hell was going on. I got Doug involved, and together we finally figured out that a security update to Adobe Flash Player was the culprit: we uninstalled the update, which sure enough had been installed the same day I started getting the error, and then I had to uninstall the plug-ins that had been affected by the update and re-install them. And then I stumbled across another problem: Portrait Pro would not let me re-install the software. My license key was only good for one download, and since I’d already used it once, it wouldn’t work again. I get it – no one wants their software to be purchased once and then shared all over the world, but this was on the same computer and simply needed to be re-installed, so there should have been a way for me to manage this. However, I’ve actually dealt with this issue with Anthropics (the makers of Portrait Pro) before, so I knew there was going to be no way to get this remedied.

fuzzyhair1This is actually a pajama shirt, but I liked the colors on the sleeves. 

See, I ran into this issue when I got my new laptop last year. I had to reinstall all my photo editing software, and of everything I’ve purchased, Portrait Pro was the only one that wouldn’t let me use my license keys a second time to get what I paid for installed on my new machine. I opened up a help ticket, which went nowhere, and because this program is my primary portrait editing tool I gave in quickly rather than waiting, and purchased the software a second time.

sonominator1The lace sweater is from Goodwill and it’s so comfy, I now wear it around the house (which I don’t do with most of my costumes). That ‘necklace’ is actually a fascinator that I’ve worn in photos before; I spied it at Nordstrom and even though it was expensive, I had to have it. The colors are fabulous! Oh, and I changed the color of the eyeshadow on the right in post. 

I admit that in this case, I was itching to finish a photo I was working on, so I just said to hell with it and bought the software a second time rather than deal with waiting on a support ticket that would probably take at least a month to get answered, if it got answered at all. So yeah, I bought another copy of the upgrade I’d just bought a month prior. Stupid, I know – especially when, on the very next night, the plugin quit working again.

lovemeCome on Portrait Pro! Will you deny the world this beauty?! And yes, that’s a Goodwill sweatshirt, and it’s AMAZING. 

Turns out the Flash Player update had automatically installed again, around 8 o’clock at night. I know this because I had just been using the plugin when all of a sudden it quit working, and I went to see what updates had been installed, and there it was. So, now I realized I had to figure out a better solution, or every single night my damn software would stop working again once the update installed. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to stop the Flash update from installing only to discover that it is actually a crucial update that is needed to  fix some massive security flaw or another. I hemmed and hawed on this for a while – should I just uninstall Flash altogether? Turns out that’s not so easy to do, although it is possible. It just started to turn out to be a hell of a lot of work to do just to get one stupid Photoshop plugin to work (the others that keep failing I don’t use that much anyway, and the help tickets I submitted to those companies will most likely be addressed since they actually have real online support) plus, it was already clear I would have to purchase yet ANOTHER license to fix the damage done to the program by the new Flash install.

hairflower

I am not gonna lie, I was seriously upset about this. I use that program for everything and it is a major part of my workflow. But this is the downside of utilizing a product that has no support; when something goes wrong, you’re on your own, and I saw no real way to fix this one without a lot of ridiculous work and spending yet more money. So, I am now on the search for other software that can at least get close to what Portrait Pro could do, which sucks. I’ve found a few things to noodle around with, but so far nothing comes close to that program. But I’ll have to make do for now. I did go ahead and submit a help ticket, but I have no hope anyone will ever respond or fix this issue. A perusal of their forums made that clear; it sounds like no one ever gets responses to their issues and it’s a real shame some other company can’t buy this software from Anthropics and service it properly,  because all of their photo editing tools are really great products.

revolution1This about sums it up.

So that’s my life as it stands. I haven’t talked about my injuries but I’m now out of time, and I’m fine anyway. I need to go get ready for a day of tutoring, so I’ll catch up with you all another time. Happy weekend everyone!