Don’t Be Gel-ly

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Hello my fellow homebound, hopefully healthy hopefuls! I am here with some more ramblings about my coloring obsession, and anything else that comes to mind while I’m writing about that, so let’s get to it. 

Coloring Tools – Gel Pens!

I should probably start by talking more about gel pens, since it’s related to the title. I still love coloring with gel pens, and I am learning to do shading and blending with them – although that has been a challenge, and one I am just beginning to master after weeks of experimenting.

The shading isn’t great, but I’m getting there.

After working with some different brands, I’ve decided that my favorite set is actually the inexpensive Fiskars 48-pen set I mentioned in my last post. While the Gelly Roll Pens offer the smoothest coloring experience, the set of them I purchased just has so many pens in it that I find useless and icky, which is a bummer considering the high price point, so it’s actually the Fiskars set that I’ve used the most, and have already had to repurchase because I’ve completely used up many of the colors.

Still working on this one, obviously – but it has all the elements I enjoy, both color-wise and image-wise. 

In general I’ve learned that I prefer the opaque gel pens in either pastel or neon colors, with the glitters close behind. I really loathe metallic gels, and that Gelly Roll set I purchased has a TON of them, which is one of the reasons it’s a big letdown for me. Out of the six different styles of gel pens included in that set, three of them are metallics, so, ugh. I tossed the card included with the set that listed how many of each style there are, and since I’ve broken the set down and scattered them all to the winds, I wasn’t going to hunt them all down and count them, but I can say that the Fiskars set only has about nine pens total that are metallic, and that is WAY less than I got stuck with from the Gelly Rolls. Plus, the Fiskars pack has some specialty pens that are actually cool, instead of the Gelly Roll set that only has a handful of specialty pens and that are, as already mentioned, metallic. 

These are what Fiskars calls “color changing pens” – a description that’s a bit misleading, and that has led to a fair amount of negative reviews about these particular pens in the set. Most people don’t like them because they don’t change color quickly, and if not used properly the different inks will blend together into an unpleasant muddy gray. For some reason, I never had problems using these pens, probably because my style of coloring works well with what they can do. I think a lot of people use gel pens to write, and these would be a real disappointment in that case because you need to cover large swaths of space to get the color-changing effect out of these. For example:

OK now – this was an experiment page that I didn’t color too carefully, and I made some weird choices here because, again, I was just messing around; but you can see how these pens WILL change color over time, just not right away. And once the pen color has changed, it’s not going back to the previous color, which is also an expectation people have that disappoints them, I think. It takes a LOT of coloring to get the colors to change, and when they do the change is gradual, so since buying my first Fiskars set in May I have already completely used up most of these (there are only 5 in the whole set, one each in yellow, orange, green, purple, and blue). In fact, it was primarily these 5 pens that prompted me to re-purchase the entire set; Fiskars doesn’t sell any smaller sets than this one, and I figured since I don’t plan to re-purchase a lot of Gelly Rolls and most of the colors in that set that I like are represented in the Fiskars package, it made sense to re-purchase another one . They don’t flow quite as smoothly as the GRs, but they do have a variety of different nib sizes, which helps. For coloring, the medium and large nibs work better for me as I find fine points too scratchy, but I am learning to work with them since so many colors I like are only available in fine point. 

As my first set of color-changing Fiskars started to run out, I searched Amazon for alternatives, and it turns out this concept is fairly common. Most brands refer to them as “swirl” or “marble” pens, and most of them get fair to middling reviews. There are tricks to using pens like this that, for some reason, I am able to figure out easily; again, from reading the negative reviews they mostly come from people who use them for writing, and I can see how these wouldn’t work well for that purpose. After reading and researching a ton of different brands, I landed on these Geddes Swirl Pens – primarily because I could get 50 of them for a decent price; I can’t recall any other reason that prompted me to choose these over others, except that most swirl pens come in small sets of 4 or 5 and I figured, as much as I use these things, I should just get a shit-ton of ’em. 

All the shading iou see in the teal here was done using a combination of copic markers and colored pencils, BTW

As you can see, these function differently from the Fiskars, but if you don’t use them properly they will muddy up. I always color using a circular motion with both my gel pens and my alcohol markers, and this seems to work well with swirl pens, but ONLY when I use a really, really light touch – I barely press down on the page at all; these have a medium point so a light touch still deposits a good amount of ink. Also, these pens sputter out different colors in little spotches and spurts, so I pay close attention to that, and do my best not to swirl the little pops of unusual color together too much, so they stand out. You can really see the pen strokes this way, but it’s the only way I’ve found to capture the different inks, and overall I like the effect. I do feel like the “blue” swirl pen is pretty dark and muddy (it’s the portion of the mandala that looks purple and green; even though the occasional pop of blue comes out it tends to get drowned out by the more dominant colors) so I use it more sparingly than the others, but overall the effect is really quite cool. Thank God, because I have a buttload of these to use up!

Now let’s talk about my favorite colors – pastels and neons! 

As I mentioned earlier, I have broken down all my sets into different categories rather than keeping them in their original packaging (one tray for pastels, another for neon, etc.) and have banished all but a few of the metallics to a pencil holder stuck on a shelf in my closet, along with my first cheapo set of alcoholic markers that are already busted and useless and a set of Chameleon color-changing felt-tip markers that are total crap (more on that later). I also have a tray of glitter pens that I love, but the glitter ink didn’t show up in the photo so I figured why bother. I trust that you all know what glitter looks like, so you know, use your imagination. 

For whatever reason, I don’t use the primary and “basic” colors too often, even though I have a ton of them from all the different sets. I really should make it a challenge to try and color at least one mandala or something using nothing but basic colors, but I’m fairly certain I’d get bored and never finish it, just like I did the time I challenged myself to color a mandala in nothing but grays and browns (ugh, why?). I just gravitate towards the pastels and neons, and end up using the primary colors as accents, or as darker shades to use when blending.

Recently, I decided to add some earth tones to my collection, something that I found more challenging than finding swirl pens for sure. There aren’t many options for earth tones, and most of the smaller sets didn’t include the olive green I definitely wanted. I ended up buying a pretty cheap set from a brand that has several interesting sets with a variety of tones – a set of cool tones with a big variety of blue shades, and a warm set with just about every variation of red and yellow you could want. However, these sets also had a LOT of metallics, but since their vintage set was the only one I found with some of the greens and different shades of brown I wanted, I went ahead and made the purchase. The set also came with refills, which I thought was a good deal for 24 pens at $15. 

Tons of browns and greens! And also, sadly, MANY metallics that have already been banished. 

Most of these pens really aren’t good quality. The ink doesn’t flow well, and they’re pretty scratchy due to the fine points. But I have already ordered two more refills for this set for two BIG reasons – namely, two of the pens in the set that are a color I can’t find anywhere else. 

I freaking ADORE these colors! They also don’t deposit ink smoothly, but I am learning to work with them because I can already tell these two pens are going to be a staple in my artwork (can I call the pages I color from coloring books artwork? Well I just did so there you go). That beige is an amazing neutral that is great for “filler” in mandalas where I want to balance out some of the brighter shades, and that other pen is actually cream, not yellow, which is REALLY hard to find anywhere else – meaning, I’ve searched the whole wide web and not found another cream or ivory colored gel pen anywhere! 

You can see the beige in the background of the rectangle with the circles, and that half-triangle at the top of the uncolored, stripey triangle is a blend of the beige with the cream (the cream looks more yellow-y in the photo than it does in reality, but you get the idea). This set came with two of the cream pen, and only one of the beige, so I have already ordered more refills of the entire set so I have several of them in case the company stops making them in the near future – the company not only includes one pack of refills with the initial set, but also sells refills separately, which is a nice touch. I am pretty sure these two colors are going to make it into almost every page I color, so I really want a stockpile of them! The rest of the colors are just OK – some of the options are great, like the aforementioned olive greens and deeper browns, but unfortunately the ink is runny and uneven. They can be worked with, but will probably only be used as accent colors due to the poor quality. 

Lots of the earth tones used in this one, but also other pastels and neons worked in. 

Coloring Books and Pages

After playing around with a lot of different types of coloring pages, both content and style, I am starting to figure out what I like best. I am a huge fan of coloring pages with black backgrounds, and have purchased several coloring books from Amazon with black pages. Here are a few that I’ve tried, in no particular order:

100 Amazing Patterns: This is the first coloring book I bought, and it is still a favorite. Patterns, particularly mandala patterns, are one of my favorite subjects to color, because the focus is really on the colors and not much else. As a photographer, I have always been obsessed with color as its own subject matter, more or less, and color considerations factor greatly into my choices through that medium. Coloring is no exception to this, and to be able to focus on color without having to consider realism or restrictions due to subject matter is probably the most relaxing and rewarding experience I can have. Based on some of my other choices, I realize I really got lucky with this first book – the patterns are intricate without being too busy, and the lines are strong without being overpowering. Also, I’ve come to realize that 100 pages is a lot for the average book, and there are only a handful of pages I don’t like. So this one is highly recommended, and I can only imagine other books by this same artist would be great also. 

F*ck Trump: OK, look. I loathe our current president. But I am not interested in fighting about that, or ranting about it, or judging anyone who doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, I would have left this book off the list entirely except that it has some artistic flaws that helped me narrow down my preferences – even though initially I found the images empowering as a means to creatively express some of my disdain for the man, as coloring pages these just didn’t work for me. While I really enjoy coloring text, sayings, and slogans of various kinds, I found the backgrounds on these slogans to be too busy and rather illogical. And the text font is the same on every page, which gets old quickly. In fact, there’s very little variation throughout the book, and quite honestly it has the feel of something that was created using coloring book software rather than an artist’s drawings. Even the lines aren’t quite right – they’re too thin to be useful as a guide for placing color, and there’s no helpful detail at all. Overall the images on each page just feel – insubstantial, I guess. And the choices often make no sense. For example, one of the pages said, quite simply, “Fuck Trump,” and had a background of – mushrooms? Why? Is that supposed to  be a penis joke? I mean, I guess it could have been – but they weren’t appealing, or interesting to color – they had strange horizontal stripes on them and were surrounded by a background of vertical stripes, which, ugh – and then there were random swirly lines floating about, and the occasional stem-less flower thrown down for good measure. Another page had the phrase “Our Country” (using the same font of course) against a background of fish. If there’s a joke there akin to the possible penis reference, I’m missing it. So what I learned from buying this book was that subject matter is important, but if the images aren’t carefully created by someone who knows what they’re doing, well, all the political slogans in the world won’t make it fun for me to color. I ended up only coloring two pages from this one before I got bored. But as I said, it did help me learn what I do and don’t want from the books I buy. 

Southern Sayings and Sass/Creative Haven Chalkboard Art: These were the first two coloring books I bought with black backgrounds, and I enjoyed both of them – for a while. An issue with slogan books in general is that they can get repetitive, and there will be a handful of slogans I really love and then a bunch I either don’t care for, or have already seen and colored in other slogan books. Of these two, I found the Creative Haven one to have more pages I really wanted to color due to the slogans being ones I wanted to work with; the Southern Sayings one has some REALLY busy backgrounds that I can’t imagine wanting to tackle, but it did have ONE page that is still one of my favorite pages ever:

If you are not from the US South, you probably don’t even know what “mums” are, and I am too lazy and it is too late at this point for me to explain it to you. But trust me, Homecoming mums are the most Southern thing ever, and as a high school teacher it always tickled me every year when students who were new to the area tried to acclimate to the whole weird tradition. So I love this page, enough that it ended up framed, which doesn’t happen to most the pages I color. By the way, I totally intended this gal’s blush to be softly blended, but I totally screwed it up and had go overboard to salvage the picture. Which reminds me I need to talk about paper later. Oh lord. There’s no way I’m going to get to talking about paper in this post. Moving on. 

Beautiful Dresses: Fun! Some of the images in this book are of women wearing lovely gowns, but most of them are of dresses on hangers or mannequins, which is really unique. Up above, I have another picture showing one of the pages from this book I framed, which doesn’t include a dress, interestingly enough – it’s the photo of the jeans, top, purse, and shoes. Such a cute idea, and it really looks great hanging on the wall (my husband referred to it “paper doll clothes,” which he thought was really cool).

This book also has some bustiers in it, too – two of which I colored using alcohol markers and hung in my bathroom:

Many of the pages in this book, I feel, remind me of cute framed pictures you might get at a home decor store or something; they lend themselves nicely to framing and using for decoration. I like that they are not all images of people wearing the dresses, as I find that to be a unique presentation of the subject matter. I really love almost all of the pages in this book also. 

 Salty Bitches – Vintage Ladies Talking Trash: Oh. My God. Y’all. This book is hilarious. Almost every page is hysterically funny. The problem is, it’s not a typical coloring book. It’s really not much of a coloring book at all. And I really, really wish it was. The images in this book are reprints of classic paintings, and the sayings added to them are an absolute scream – and completely inappropriate. I have sent many photos of these pages to my friends, and every single one is funnier than the last. I really don’t like photographing and uploading un-colored pages as that seems to be unfair to the artist or publisher of the work, so I’m not going to do that here, and I don’t have much to share with you as far as pages I’ve colored because, I’m sorry to say, that coloring these pages SUCKS. They are printed in grayscale, which is a totally different coloring experience, and it’s not one that I enjoy. Really the only way to color on grayscale that works is colored pencil, and I just don’t enjoy using that medium. I’ve tried with several of these pages, but I do not like the results, and I just don’t enjoy doing the work. It’s really too bad, because while there are a TON of so-called ‘naughty,’ curse-word laden coloring books out there, most of them are not particularly original or consistently funny. But THESE are laugh-out-loud hysterical. 

I did force myself to complete one entire page just to prove to myself I could do it. It’s not very good, I didn’t enjoy doing it, and I made weird color choices just because I didn’t much care. And I didn’t even choose one of the funnier pages because I knew I was just messing around, and even then it’s still really, REALLY funny:

It actually came out looking pretty good, weird color choices notwithstanding. I used colored pencil in graduated shades and followed the ‘map’ provided by the grayscale, and then I outlined everything with a black gel pen just because I felt it needed something extra. The background was black and textured and it really bothered me, so I sort of slopped a black background over it using one of my alcohol markers and decided I’d use a blue gel pen for the trim around the edges. I don’t know why. Then a few hours later I got my earth tone gel pens in the mail and decided what the hell, I’ll use them on those floral patterns even though they in NO WAY match neon pink and bright blue. So I guess overall it’s impressive that this doesn’t look a lot worse, all things considering. Maybe someday I will try harder with some of the others, and go for one of the more brutal slogans like the image of two Renaissance women standing next to each other under the slogan JUST STANDING HERE PRETENDING TO TOLERATE THIS B*TCH or the lovely portrait of a youthful, Rubenesque damsel with the slogan EAT A BAG OF D*CKS printed underneath. As far as humorous slogans, this book does it right – the contrast between the beautiful, angelic portraits and the COMPLETELY crass sayings hits just the right note, but the images themselves aren’t really made for coloring. It makes a great gag gift though, or a real conversation starter for the coffee table, which seems to be the way most people end up using this one. 

Day of the Dead: Sugar Skulls: Although there are an absolute TON of sugar skull coloring books out there, I decided on this one due to the unique feature of having two versions of every skull – one on white paper, and another on black. How cool is that? I thought it might look cool to color both versions of one skull, in completely different colorways, and hang them side-by-side, but I haven’t yet had a chance to color any as I just got this book in two days ago. It’s promising though, and the lines on the artwork are strong and feel solid, just how I like them, and they are patterned without being too intricate. So I think this will be a book I like when I get chance to dig into it. 

Mandala Design, Black Background Edition: It made sense that I would eventually get a book of mandalas on black backgrounds, but that’s the not the only reason I bought this one. The designs are also very different from my first mandala book, but in ways I still love. Both black-background mandala pictures I posted above are from this book – the images are smaller and more intricate than the first book, and they take up far less of each page. While in general I dislike super-small details, in this case the designs all really appeal to me – I think the black background helps, along with the fact that it is so different from the previous book I purchased. I also really like the symmetry and geometry of these designs – I have yet to find one single image that I don’t feel excited about coloring. I doubt I will be able to use my alcohol markers on any of these, unlike the first mandala book – black background pages (and in fact, coloring book pages in general) can’t tolerate alcohol markers, first of all, and these designs are too small and detailed for me to use the bigger, brush nibs on my copics or Chameleons. But all of these images are PERFECT for gel pens, as the opacity of my favorites really come alive against all that black, and those fine point tips I generally hate come in handy. Really excited about coloring more of these. 

And just for the hell of it, here are some of the other coloring-book subjects I’ve seen that I have no interest in working with, but you might:

  • Animals in every configuration possible – cursing, farting, gallivanting, drinking coffee, or just being normal animals
  • Cityscapes
  • Country scenes and rural landscapes
  • Pro-Trump books (felt I should throw those in there since I mentioned the anti-Trumps ones already)
  • Fantasy/magical subjects
  • Female empowerment
  • Religious subjects
  • Patterns of all kinds (geometric, art deco, etc.)
  • Forests and nature
  • Flowers and florals
  • Coronavirus – I suspect these to be more like the F*ck Trump book. I can’t say for sure, but these books would have been rushed into production rather than being created by an artist over time, and the quality may be lacking
  • Famous people
  • Psychedelia 
  • Human Anatomy
  • Popular books/movies (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc)
  • Disney
  • Ocean life

OK dammit – I have been writing this post for about three hours, and I haven’t even gotten to talking about papers and accessories I use when coloring. And I haven’t had time to mention that since tapering off of Lexapro I have lost TEN POUNDS without even trying – that’s ten pounds in about three weeks, y’all. But, since getting on that medication, I’ve gained about thirty, so it kind of made sense that some amount of that would drop quickly. We’ll see how the next twenty go. And I have still failed to discuss my experiences learning to read Tarot cards (so fun!) and about a million other things. But I will say this real quick-like before I go: if you want to color for fun but you also don’t want to stress about messing up a really cool page while you do it, then do what I do and tear the pages out of the book and copy them onto a separate sheet of paper. I always do this and it has turned out to be a real lifesaver as I’ve made some serious errors on some images I really, really wanted to turn out well – it wasn’t a problem because I still had the original and could just copy it again and start over. The only exception to that has been black background pages, which I only copy if I am going to use alcohol markers on. The black really doesn’t transfer all that well onto another page, but if I want to use the markers I make it work. 😉 There are also better papers you can use – you have to use thicker, better paper for alcohol markers because the paper in the coloring books will just disintegrate, but even for gel pens there is often better paper you can use. I’ve learned about that too and have tried out many different kinds, but I am all out of steam for this blog post and will have to get into that later. 

Stay safe y’all! And if you’re in the South like me, and your state or city is currently spiking at NYC-in-April levels, please social distance and stay home as much as possible. It’s bad out there right now. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisalign Time

In January of 2019, I decided to pull the trigger on using Invisalign trays to straighten my teeth. I know there’s a ton of interest online about the process, so now that I am on my last tray, I thought I’d share my experience. I am  not including any before and after photos because honestly, the correction I needed was pretty slight and mostly involved the teeth in the back of my mouth on one side that had gotten so crowded I could barely floss. Plus, I kinda feel like sharing photos of the inside of my mouth is gross, so, sorrynotsorry.

The best way I know to share my experience is through categories rather than a long-ass winding reflection on the past six months, so let’s get to it.

Cost 

I paid $5000 for my trays. I can’t recall the specific term Invisalign uses for people who only need the bare minimum of correction, but whatever the term is, minimum treatment is what I qualified for. The $5K covered 14 trays and all dentist visits throughout the process. It also covered replacement trays – I was doing some damage to my trays at first with the way I was removing them, and I had to get two replacement trays because they were tearing at a certain point. There was no charge to me for those replacements. I am ASSUMING that the retainers I get at the end of this process are also a part of the cost, but as I write this I realize that I’m not completely sure about that, so I will ask the dentist about it when I see her on Friday and update this part of the post.

The Process – Dealing with Dentist Appointments

Step One was to get my entire mouth scanned at the dentist’s office. This is exactly what it sounds like – I sat in a chair while the attendance stuck a scanner in my mouth and ran it over all my teeth, front side and back, while looking at the results on a screen to be certain everything (teeth and gums) was being scanned clearly. It didn’t take long, and there is no contact with the teeth while this is being done, so there’s no pain beyond having to stretch out your mouth to fit the scanner in, which is a little bulky.

Step Two was a second appointment once the computer had generated my 14 trays based on the scan. From the initial scan, trays are computer generated by determining the process of straightening my teeth at two week intervals. The program also determines where “attachments” needed be placed on my teeth to properly pull the teeth in the right directions. You can think of the attachments like little white ‘snaps’ on your teeth; the bumps on my teeth coordinated with indentations in the trays, so that they actually do snap on when you put them in.

ccpro1

This is an image I just stole from the internet – not my teeth! However, it’s a decent representation of how the software works. I believe those red triangles on some of the teeth represent where attachments are placed. Every individual will have a different number of them; I was told I had more than the usual number for some reason (doesn’t really matter or mean anything special, just that the software determined I needed that many on those specific teeth).

Step Three involved getting the attachments put on at the same office visit where I got the initial trays; this was not painful, just sitting there with my mouth open while they used some sort of powdery substance to create the attachments. Once that was done, the dentist showed me how to snap on the trays and we practiced how I should take them off (more on that later). Then, I was given my first two sets of trays and told to come back in a month to check the progress. Just keep in  mind that yes, you will have a bunch of bumps on your teeth, and they are visible. The trays are certainly not as visible or distracting as traditional braces, but they are NOT invisible!

Step Four involved making regular check-in appointments with the dentist. I went in after the first month to see how I was settling in, and after that, wasn’t required to come in as often – just every 2-3 months to check progress. I insisted on getting re-scanned at every appointment to be sure everything was on track; it seemed like sometimes they were just going to look at my mouth and send me home, but I always wanted to get scanned again and see the progress; especially after my second visit where it turned out my teeth were not ‘tracking’ properly and I had to wear a certain tray for an extra week. That made me paranoid about how I would even know if my teeth were moving on schedule or not, because I certainly couldn’t tell on my own. It does happen, so if possible, I would insist on getting a scan each time to be sure things are moving along as they should – if at some point your teeth quit shifting according to the schedule the computer generated to make your trays, you will have to go BACK to the tray where the miscalculation started and re-do wearing every tray that comes after. So, I reiterate – always insist on a scan when you go for a check-in!

Step Five will be to get the attachments removed once I’ve used up all of my trays, and then get scanned for retainers that I will wear constantly for SIX MONTHS. I want to be sure you read this part, because it slipped past me when I started this process, AND Invisalign just recently upped the number of months patients have to wear the trays from three months to six. Yes, I just found out yesterday that I will be dealing with wearing trays for ANOTHER SIX MONTHS instead of another three; and it was a surprise to me that I would be wearing trays for an extra three months already! Bummer.

Step Six will be to wear retainers only at bedtime; I am not yet sure if this involves getting new trays or just transitioning the daily wear ones over to only bedtime. It’s freaking SIX MONTHS AWAY, so I will update this part much later.

OK, so that covers the dentist visits throughout the process, now let’s talk about the fun part:

The Daily Grind (pun intended)

OK, so. Let me kick this off by saying that wearing these trays has turned out not to be that big of a damn deal for me. But at first, it sure is intimidating and annoying. It becomes routine quickly though, so if you are struggling at first, just hang in there. By about tray 4 it will be old hat, and you will start to figure out how to make this process work for you.

The most important thing I can tell you is this: when you are told to wear the trays for 22 out of every 24 hour day, believe them. Your damn teeth will snap back into their old place faster than rubber bands if you leave them off too long. That said, I am 100% certain I did not wear them for 22 hours every single day – there are simply times where that is not possible due to having an actual life and wanting to go out to eat with friends, or have an extra cup of damn coffee. For me, the goal was to wear them as often as possible every single day, and hope that would make up for the times they were off more than usual.

The biggest question for me was, did I really have to take them off every single time I ate or drank anything? I used trial and error to determine my own personal answer for this. At first, I took them out every time I ate or drank anything, and it was very annoying, because you are supposed to floss and brush your teeth before you put the trays back in every single time. I don’t know about you, but flossing and brushing in a public bathroom after a lovely meal isn’t exactly my preferred method of capping off the evening; so having to brush and floss in public bathrooms several times a day (due to the amount of times I would eat out or get coffee while tutoring during the week) was just a majorly awkward chore. So at first, I tried leaving them in when I drank anything cold (I felt like hot drinks might damage the plastic, so leaving them in when drinking coffee was always a no-no) or ate something liquid like soup or ice cream. Which leads me to my first big lesson:

Any eating or drinking (other than water) that you do while the trays are in your mouth is going to stain them. However, because during the school year I have to eat a lot on the go, for the first four months I continued to eat liquids and drink things other than water with them in. And not be too gross about it, but by the end of each two week period, my trays would be pretty yellow. I did my best to keep them clean, but as often as I drank smoothies or got a coffee at a coffee shop while tutoring, I felt this was the better option than taking them off and dealing with the flossing and brushing in public places. My breaking point with that process came after my trip to Disney World, where I just abused the shit out of a set of trays – wearing them while eating, not brushing or flossing before putting them on, I mean, fuck it, I was on vacation – and they were so gross by the time I got home that I swore I’d do better with the next set. But – and this is a big but – yucking up the trays was better in the long run that not wearing them long enough, because although I had one nasty set of trays at the end of my vacation, by teeth were still on track. So, choices.

My after-Disney commitment: back to no wearing of the trays while eating or drinking ANYTHING but water, but reducing the amount of time I spend snacking between meals so that I’m not taking them out too oftenThis is how I am handling the situation now, and I can attest that my trays are almost as clear when I am done with them as they are when I put them in. So, I feel a lot less gross now at the end of a tray period. But what does that mean for eating out, since that is my main area of weakness with these things? I simply eat out less while tutoring now, or, when I go to a coffee shop to tutor (which I do two days a week) I just get a sparkling water and hold off on the coffee until my tutoring is done – then I can get a cup to go, take out my trays, drink my coffee on the drive home, and brush and floss before putting the trays back in after I get there. So see what I mean about adjusting – I eventually figured out a way to deal with my trays and keep them in long enough without being gross or miserable, and so will you.

But let’s say I am going out to eat with a friend, and I am not heading straight home after lunch because we’re going to go shopping or see a movie. In that case, I do something kinda gross, but since I don’t do it often it doesn’t do much in the way of staining or ruining the trays. I take the trays off before we eat, then when we are done, I go the bathroom and just swish swash some water around in my mouth, rinse off the trays, and put them back in. Then when I get home I make sure to clean out the trays extra-good to make up for the time they had possible coffee stains or food bits mashed into them. As long as this is not a super-regular occurrence, this has worked out fine.

People who regularly consume alcohol may have more of a problem. I know for me coffee is tricky, because of how leisurely I like to consume it, and I would think alcohol might work the same way. The best you can do is make up for the lost time somewhere, and be cognizant of how long you are keeping your trays off.

Now let’s talk about comfort. Your mileage is going to vary here. Personally, I never experienced pain when wearing the trays. My mouth was never sore from the teeth shifting – I would have pain in relation to the new trays rubbing against my gum or cheek the first few days sometimes, which would create canker sores I had to deal with, but after a few days with a new tray that would subside, and for the most part, the actual wearing of the trays has not been a problem for me. I don’t find that I speak funny, or drool excessively – which are both things I’ve heard others complain about. Aside from occasional mouth sores, the process has been pain and drool free for me. But I have known others who had different experiences. Keep in mind that once you’ve paid for the trays, you HAVE PAID FOR THE TRAYS; meaning, you won’t get your money back if you abandon the process due to pain. I am not someone who has sensitive teeth, or issues about going to the dentist and having someone rummaging about in my mouth, so I felt pretty certain I could handle the process. If you commit to it, you really have to commit – so don’t make the decision lightly, because you are stuck with the cost no matter what!

The Unexpected

Other dental work may suffer. As with any process like this, unexpected obstacles have come up as I’ve meandered down this road. The first big one was that, as my teeth began to shift, an old crown I had on one my teeth finally popped off – I literally took out my trays one evening, and there it was, nestled into the groove of my lower tray. Wonderful. If you’ve ever had a crown put on a tooth, you know how freaking expensive it is, as well as spending that 2 hours in the chair having your enamel shaved off and the root exposed and then wearing a temporary crown while waiting for the new one to come in then having to go back and – UGH. I really hate getting crowns on my teeth. Root canal? No problem. But the fucking CROWNS, y’all. I. Hate. Them. Not all crowns make us queens, ladies. Boo!

I’ve actually read that this happens sometimes to other people as well – especially with an old crown like mine that probably needed to be replaced anyway. The teeth shift, and the crown can’t accommodate for it, so off it pops. Unfortunately, I ended up having to go in to the dentist and get that old crown glued back down, because my trays had been scanned and generated with the old one on, and the dentist didn’t want to risk the trays not fitting if she put in a new one. So, now that I am at the end of my trays, I have to go in for a new crown that will be put on before we make my retainers. YUK. And also, yikes – it’s gonna cost me at least $800, and that’s after my dental insurance.

And also, tray damage. I found getting the trays out of my mouth with my fingers to be incredibly difficult. Just using my bare fingers rarely worked, and when it did, it damaged my fingernails, so my first solution was to buy those little finger protectors you can get at a CVS:

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Fanger condoms rule! Yay!

I think the most common use of these things is to insert medications/pills into the rectum, quite honestly – one time when I was checking out with these the woman behind the counter asked me what I was going to use them for, and my first thought was OMG WHAT IF I REALLY WAS USING THESE FOR THAT PURPOSE AND THIS WOMAN ASKED ME THAT LOLOL but since it wasn’t why I was using them, it was no big deal. Still, if you are rummaging around in someone’s med cabinet and come across these things, just don’t ask. You don’t wanna know and they probably don’t wanna tell you.

Anyway, I would put these just on my pointer fingers and they would grip the trays better, making them much easier to remove. There was just one problem – something about the angle at which I was pulling kept cracking the trays. I had two sets of trays with a break in the upper one at the exact same location (these were the two I got replaced without paying extra) which is a problem because a crack affects how well the tray can pull on your teeth, and you can end up off-schedule with your teeth movement. So number one is, if a tray cracks, go to your dentist and get a new one ASAP. Number two, find a way to remove your trays that doesn’t tear at them. I did some research and found a ‘pull tool’ on Amazon that not only fixed the cracking problem, but made taking out my trays easy to do quickly and effectively. I will link to the tool I used below.

Moving the teeth might create other problems. My main complaint right now is that as my teeth have moved, the two on the front bottom have created a gap between them as they moved apart, and it is pretty noticeable. However, to correct this would cost me well over $1000, so unfortunately right now I am stuck with the gap unless somehow I can get this cost down – I HAVE to get the new crown first, which is also gonna cost a buttload, so, choices. Just keep in mind that when moving your teeth around, new problems like this may happen, and you will have to decide what you are doing to do about them, because it won’t be included in the initial cost.

And lastly, poor teeth tracking. Your teeth are ‘tracking’ if at each transition point from one tray to another, the new trays fit perfectly against your teeth. I am gonna be honest here, my dentist has tried repeatedly to show me how to determine if my tray fits properly or not, and I just CANNOT see it – I end up just nodding my head and saying, oh yeah, uh-huh, I see what you are talking about – but in reality, I do not. So that is part of the reason why I insist on being scanned at every dentist visit. It’s pretty cool actually – they scan your teeth, and the software determines what tray you are currently on, and shows which teeth are ‘on track’ (ie, moving at a proper rate) and if any teeth are not where they should be (which is where the problem comes in, because that means you can’t yet move to the next tray, and may need to even revert back to a previous tray until your teeth catch up – this adds time onto how long you will be wearing the trays!).

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I don’t recall what each color means, but trust me that they do mean something…let’s say for sake of argument that red means no movement, green means proper amount of movement, and purple means not tracking, or not moving properly. Well, on my second check-in, I had some teeth that were not tracking, and I had to extend the length of time I wore that tray. In my case, I’d tried to get creative with eating and drinking with trays on; I thought that when I was eating or drinking coffee I would simply take out my current tray and put on an older tray, and that would be good enough to hold everything in place while I chatted away for hours on end. It was not. Once I knew that little trick wasn’t going to work, I quit doing it, and I haven’t had an issue since. But, having teeth fall behind course for one reason or another is pretty common, so I feel like it should be something you prepare to have happen to you at some point in the process, at least once.

The Tools 

The first thing that made my life way easier was the PullTool. This lovely bit of plastic saved my bacon when it came to taking out my trays – it is super easy to use and doesn’t damage the trays or my fingers. I bought three of them; I keep one in my purse with my tray case, and two in my cabinets at home, so that anywhere I need it I have it – I really encountered so many situations where I wanted to take out my trays without having planned for it ahead of time, so just one tool wasn’t enough for me. It was super helpful to just keep one of them in my purse at all times! You just use the curved hook at the back of the trays, one little tug on each side either pulling down or up, as the case may be, and off they pop! Lovely.

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The PullTool!

 

Hydrogen Peroxide. I am assuming you don’t need a photo of this or a link – I just buy big-ass bottles of it at the grocery store to keep on-hand, because the only time I don’t soak my trays in something while they’re out of my mouth is if I am out and about. If I take my trays off at home, I soak them in a solution of some sort, and it has made a world of difference in the cleanliness of the trays! I use hydrogen peroxide most of the time – I have a little bowl that I fill with half of the peroxide and half water, and soak the trays in them while I eat. When I am ready to put them back in, I can floss, brush my teeth, and then just rinse the trays off before putting them in and I am good to go.

By the way – Nowhere does Invisalign require you to soak your trays in anything every time you take them off, this is just what I feel most comfortable/least gross doing, so keep that in mind. They simply recommend you clean off the trays before putting them back in, with a toothbrush and some water or some mild soap. I just like doing extra.

Bleach. Once a day I soak my trays in a solution of half water and half bleach. I was super worried about getting the measurements right initially, but honestly now I just slop it into the bowl, drop the trays in, and go eat. Is this necessary? No, but I feel better doing it and I do think it contributes to keeping the trays clear for the two weeks I have to wear them.

Hand soap. Definitely when I use the bleach, and sometimes when I use the peroxide, I do an extra cleaning with some hand soap and toothbrush, gently scrubbing the inside of the trays in particular. It also helps to get most of the bleach taste out of them; but honestly, I’ve gotten used to both a slight taste of bleach AND hand soap at this point, so there you go.

Chewies. OK, this was another one of those things that no one told me about until I needed them, and it felt like it should have been mentioned to me sooner. When I went to the dentist and discovered my teeth were not tracking, she gave me some ‘chewies’ and told me I needed to chew on them for about 10 minutes after putting in a new set of trays, at least for a day or two until it was definite that the trays were settling onto my teeth properly. The fact that it was casually dropped on me that I in fact needed to be gnawing on little mini pool noodles for days on end seemed like something I should have been alerted to earlier, but you know, live and learn, I guess. The dentist gave me a few, but I found that they lost their sponginess quickly, so I now buy them at Amazon when I feel like I need them. For no real reason, I pretty much hate doing this. I don’t know why; but of every unexpected thing I’ve encountered while wearing these trays THIS is the one that irritates me to no end – there’s just something so I can’t believe I have to gnaw on this stupid thing for twenty damn minutes every day if they had told me I’d have to do this I never would have gone through this stupid process about it. I guess everyone has that ONE THING they hate about Invisalign, and this is mine.

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Chewies – don’t let the cute name fool you, these things are of the devil

Tray Minder App.  If you find you are forgetful about remembering to put your trays back in after you take them out, or you have a hard time keeping track of when it’s time to switch to a new aligner, this app can really help. I am pretty good with remembering to put my trays back in, but I constantly lose track of when I should switch trays, so this thing has been a godsend to me as it reminds me when I need to do that. You can also click on the app when you take your trays out, and it will remind you in an hour (or whatever time you set) to put them back in – you can also take ‘teeth selfies’ to monitor your process. It’s a handy little app, and it’s free, so it’s worth having on hand.

OK, so. I think that’s all I have to share at this point; I typed this up quickly and suspect there are a TON of typos in it that I’ll have to correct later. But if anyone wants my overall summation of whether or not this process is worth it, I’d say: meh, it’s fine. There are things I am happy about, and things I’m not so pleased with, so for now I am leaning towards being pleased, but just slightly. I am happy that my teeth are no longer crowded and that this one tooth that was really jutting out at an odd angle no longer does so. So yeah, I am pleased with the effectiveness of the process. What I am NOT pleased about is having to spend another two to three grand of my money for problems the Invisalign caused – the crown replacement, and the gap between my two bottom teeth. That just sucks. And I just found out yesterday that I have to wear retainer trays constantly for another six months, which doesn’t thrill me either. So, I do wonder if, knowing these things, I would have gone through with it. I probably would just because it hasn’t been that bad, and probably did need to be done due to the crowding issues I had; but ending up with a gap between two of my teeth that I don’t like is a real bummer. Especially since I will have to spend so much money to fix it when it’s really a purely ‘cosmetic’ procedure – I mean, I don’t have to do it, but after spending a year wearing trays and already spending $5,000 on the process, why would I settle for having that gap? Grr. That is really annoying me right now, and influencing my opinion.

I will say this, though – I have had a lot of people tell me they want their kids to have Invisalign instead of regular braces, and I do not recommend this. I don’t see kids being able to keep up with the maintenance of taking them out, brushing and flossing after each meal, and remembering to put them right back in after eating. I also see a LOT of lost, expensive trays in your child’s future. These things have their advantages, but they are a big responsibility, so keep that in mind when it comes to the kiddos.

Skin Care Finds

Over the past year, I went through a listacles phase, especially Buzzfeed, for their quick and easy lists tailored to any number of interests, like skin care or cool home gadgets – usually with links to super-cheap items you ‘can’t live without’ that you can find online. I was particularly interested in the skin care lists, since over the years sun damage and Father Time have been showing up more and more, and as much as I’ve never given a whit of attention to all the miracle claims skin care products tend to make, Buzzfeed’s lists usually included products that were cheap enough for me to be willing to try. And lo and behold, some of them really, really helped.

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The DermaRoller!

OK, hands-down, this has been the best product I’ve tried all year. I got the idea from my plastic surgeon, from whom I get Botox every 3-6 months. I asked her what treatments were available for sun damage and hyperpigmentation of the skin, and she recommended something called microneedling, which is expensive and requires recovery time. I researched this online and it did seem to produce excellent results, but the cost and the downtime from the procedure both put me off, and in the process of doing that research I also came across DermaRolling, which is much milder form of microneedling you can do at home. I found a kit on Amazon with the plastic handle and three extra rollers for $30, so I figured I’d give it a go, not expecting much, but willing to try it out for the price. And holy cow – the results were noticeable after using it just one time. I’ve been doing it a few times a week for several months now, and it has significantly reduced the hyperpigmentation and evened out my skin tone, as well as giving my skin a healthier glow in general.

There are a ton of videos on YouTube about how the process works and why, so I’ll just summarize it quickly: before starting, you should apply a serum to your skin; it really doesn’t matter what serum you use, so I will link to a few I like below. The roller has tiny needles on it, as you can see in the picture above – and no, they don’t hurt – and you simply roll the roller over your skin in an up-and-down and then a back-and-forth motion, working in sections. I roll my forehead first, up and down and then back and forth, until the skin turns slightly red, then I move onto my nose, both cheeks, and end with the upper lip and chin. Then, because I have a lot of sun damage on my neck and decollete, I also do the same process in those areas. It’s important not to overdo it – when the skin turns pink, move to another area. After you are done rolling, you apply another round of serum, and then whatever night products you put on your face, and you’re done (oh yeah, don’t do this process in the morning; it’s definitely a night-time treatment).

According to dermatologists I’ve watched on YouTube or read online, the main reason DermaRolling works is because it allows the skin to truly and deeply absorb the products you put on  your face before and after you use it. That seems to be the main benefit. It has not only worked wonders for me, but everyone else I’ve recommended Dermarolling to has also been impressed – even my sister, who has acne scars from her teenage years. She even told me shortly after she starting doing it that she is no longer ashamed to go out without makeup on because her skin looks so much better. It did not completely erase my sun damage – no product will do that, I don’t think – but it has improved it so much I don’t notice it anymore. And as I said, I’ve also noticed that when I take pictures, I don’t need the heavy foundation I needed before; I can use my regular tinted moisturizer and it works just as well.

Here are some of the serums I’ve used with the DermaRoller and quite like:

Valjean Labs Facial Serum, Combo Pack of Hydrate, Glow, and Firm 

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum for Face

Elizavecca Hell Pore Control Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum

In addition to the DermaRoller, there are two masks I’ve tried recently and really love. But honestly, if you only try one thing I recommend here, go for the roller. It is by far the most effective.

Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

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Before I discovered Botox, I used to go get facials once a month, and my technician often used a pumpkin enzyme mask that I really loved, and Buzzfeed reminded me that such a mask exists. This is pricey in my opinion – about $60 – but it can be used sparingly and still be effective. The way I use it is in the morning, before I apply any other products, and I don’t use it every day, just a few times a week because it’s quite strong. The smell is amazing, though! I wet my face, scoop out a dollop of the mask, spread it over my skin, and then – this is an important step – I re-wet my fingers and work the mask in a little with wet hands. I have found that if you don’t re-wet the mask after applying it, it is too harsh and can burn. I don’t know why. I guess it dilutes the product a little. Then, I only leave this mask on for 3-5 minutes, which is the recommended time limit – this is why it’s easy to use in the morning to freshen up the skin. I do NOT recommend leaving this on any longer than five minutes, though, because as I said, this shit is strong. Once time is up, I just wipe it off with a damp rag, follow up with a splash or two of water, and move on to rest of my morning routine.

Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay 

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This stuff has a huge cult following, and rightly so – it is a serious, old-school beauty mask, and it makes your skin feel amazing. It’s only $10 for a big old tub of the stuff, and I see it at my local grocery store as well as on Amazon. It’s a bit messy though – it is in powdered form, and you can mix it in a little bowl with equal parts water and apple cider vinegar (which is what works for me) or, if the vinegar is too strong for your skin, you can try it just adding the water. I use the water with vinegar concoction, and it creates a paste that I smear all over your face and then wait for the magic to happen. I call this an old-school mask because it’s the kind that dries on your face, unlike the pumpkin mask which stays moist, and you look like a zombie and will scare your dogs while you leave it on. How long you leave it on depends on your comfort level; my skin is not overly sensitive, so I leave it on until it’s completely dry OR my skin starts to feel too tight (you will feel a tingling/tightening sensation that personally I find pleasant, but it may bother others) and then I scrub it off with a rag followed by a splash or two of water. Now, your skin may be quite red when you take this off (one reason why I recommend not leaving it on too long the first time you try it) but not to worry – it fades quickly and your skin will not be red when you wake up, at the latest. But because of the redness, this is another product you only want to use at night. If you check out some of the before and after photos on Amazon, you’ll see some pretty amazing results. I am never sure how much to trust such things, but I still do notice great exfoliation from this and I love how my skin feels afterwards. I also think it has contributed to the lightening of my hyperpigmentation, so there you go.

Now, a moisturizer that is super-affordable and that I feel has also REALLY helped with my sun damage:

Pond’s Correcting Clarant B3 Dark Spot Skin Cream

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Amazon lists this moisturizer at $14, but I’m pretty sure I pay a lot less than that at my local grocery store. I use this every morning and night on my face and neck. While I can’t say that this product alone has helped do reduce my sun damage, because I tried all these products at about the same time, I am willing to give it credit for helping; especially since it’s a very affordable moisturizer that is easy to find, includes sunscreen, and doesn’t bother my skin.

Other than these staples, I’ve tried a TON of other eye creams (not found one yet that does anything to reduce dark circles, although I found a few that I liked), serums, masks, and moisturizers that have had varying degrees of success. But most of these are things I either keep around and use because I just like them in general, or discarded and did not re-purchase because they didn’t thrill me and I saw no real benefit. However, can I just address one product I did try that has a huge following and that baffles me completely?

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Jade face rollers are huge THING that the internet swears by, but for the life of me I just do not see any difference when I use one of these things on my skin. It does feel good at first, because the jade is cold when you roll it across your face, at least until you’ve done it enough for it to warm up, but other than that – nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No bueno. I know people who swear by these things, so clearly they work for some people, but for the life of me I don’t even know how (In fact, I kept trying to convince a friend of mine to try DermaRolling, and she kept refusing because she thought I meant JADE rolling, and she too had tried it without noticing any effect to her skin at all. We got it straightened out quickly enough, though). 😉

So, there you go. My little recent skin care wonders/recommendations. You’re welcome. Happy Sunday.

Oribe! Oribe!

I thought since I’ve spent a small fortune over the past several months trying out a ton of Oribe hair products, I’d go ahead and write a review of the different things I’ve tried and what I think of them. I don’t have any photographic evidence of how this stuff affected my hair, but I think I can use my words to describe how it all turned out.

First of all, I will say that using the Oribe shampoos and conditioners does mean my hair air-dries into a bit of a mess. It’s all natural and lacks all of the sulfites and other stuff that’s supposedly bad for your hair, so while it leaves my hair feeling soft and silky, “soft and silky” on baby-fine hair often = frizzy mess. In that sense, if I wanted to just air-dry my hair without any future styling, I’d be better off sticking with the Goldwell or Moroccan Oil products I use that have the more traditional formulations, because they weigh my hair down more and give me more curl and definition, as well as less frizz. But, since I enjoy styling my hair anyway, I do find that when combined with heat-styling this Oribe stuff is amazing, and in the end my styled hair has less frizz and some really nice wave. Also, I recently added a LOT of blonde highlights to my dark hair, which changed the texture somewhat, and also makes it more necessary to style it than it was when it wasn’t highlighted. Moving on.

I’ve tried a few of the shampoos so far, and here they are:

Oribe Silverati Shampoo and Conditioner

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I got this stuff when I was planning to grow out my gray, and continue to use it at least once a week on my blonde hair now. I don’t know that it really makes my blonde look any blonder, but the highlights haven’t gotten brassy or anything, and there’s a cool factor here because the shampoo and conditioner are both shiny silver instead of the usual purple tint. If this stuff didn’t cost $50 each, I’d dump a bunch of it over my head and take pictures, because it really does look like liquid metal coming out of the bottles.

Oribe Beautiful Color Shampoo and Conditioner

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I also bought this stuff to use on the days I don’t use the Silverati. Both of these lines smell and feel amazing, and do not take much at all to lather up and get to work. Again, they both leave my hair feeling amazingly soft and silky, the only downside being that I must style my hair to add some weight and curl to it since it turns into a little puffball without the usual goop to hold it down. Is it worth the money? I think so – if only because it’s so gentle, it smells amazing, and when used with other styling products (oh, so many styling products in my case) my hair really does turn out great, and continues to look great for 2-3 days after shampooing. With my Goldwell or Moroccan Oil, I can’t stretch a shampoo for three days without looking greasy, but with Oribe I can. So that’s something.

Supershine Moisturizing Cream

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I’ve found that when going full Oribe, products which add moisture are essential for me. My baby-fine hair tends towards looking dry and frizzy, which is interesting, since when using more traditional products with sulfites and other chemicals my hair gets weighed down and greasy, and I tend to have to wash more often. I’d never dream of using so many moisturizing creams and things on my hair before switching to Oribe, but the overall effect is still hair that feels smoother and lighter than when using heavier products. So, this cream is a real must-have for me; I work it into my wet hair right after stepping out of the shower, and can sometimes add a bit to my hair when it’s dry if it looks a bit frizzy.

Oribe Matte Waves Texture Lotion

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Another cream-based product to put into my hair would have sounded insane before Oribe, but here we are. I didn’t get how to use this stuff at first, and combined it with a few other gels which was too much – now, I just put this on after the Moisturizing Cream and scrunch it into my hair and it’s good to go. It doesn’t add a lot of extra texture when air-drying, but I find that it makes my hair very easy to heat-style into waves the next morning and creates a touchable hold that lasts all day.

Split End Seal

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This is the product I’ve been using up the most; it’s a smaller bottle so that has something to do with it, but it’s a great little cream that I like to put just on the ends after heat-styling. I often throw some on them when it’s still wet, too; my chemically-treated hair needs help, y’all, and I do think this cream delivers. I also like that it weighs down the ends of my hair a little, which helps since it’s so fine; the ends of my hair can look stringy even without all the highlights, and anything that adds some weight to them combats that.

Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Oil

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I was hesitant to commit to this oil at first, still loving my Moroccan Oil as much as I did, but I eventually gave in to the lovely bottle, the great title, and the desire to go full Oribe. It’s an oil. It’s in a lovely bottle. Like everything Oribe, it smells amazing. And in case I haven’t yet mentioned it, my hair is frizzy, y’all, and it loves hair oil. It drinks this shit up. I sometimes dab a bit on, concentrating on the ends, while it’s still wet, sometimes not – but I always apply it last after putting a ton of other products on it after heat-styling. It adds a touch of sheen and weight that makes my hair look and feel silky even though it’s loaded with expensive goop. Good times.

Oribe Balm d’Or Heat Styling Shield

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First of all, aren’t all these bottles just gorgeous? I love to just look at all this crap on my shelves. This was another one of those if-I’m-going-full-Oribe-let’s-really-go-ALL-OUT purchases, but I really ended up preferring it because it’s also a cream, and I feel I can really saturate my strands with it better than the spray form most heat protectants take. Also – and I don’t know why this is – but most sprays I put in my hair end of making it frizzy and dry-looking, including heat-protectant sprays. This stuff doesn’t make my hair crispy or dry at all. And like everything Oribe, I don’t have to use much of it for it to work.

Apres Beach Wave and Shine Spray 

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First of all, another gorgeous bottle! And, this is one of the few sprays from Oribe, or any brand really, that I feel I can actually use. It’s pretty light, and it does what it says it will do, which is add some volume and texture to my waves. I don’t use it when my hair is wet, though, even though the instructions say you can – this just gives me frizz for some reason, so I stick to using it as a finishing spray, after I’ve air-dried, heat-curled, and applied the Split End Seal, but before I use the Anti-Humidity Spray and Gold Lust Oil. I just flip my hair over, spray some on, and scrub it in, and poof – a little added texture and volume. Voila!

Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray

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If I feel my hair needs it (and living in Houston, Texas, my hair often needs it) I will add this anti-humidity spray to my daily routine. I also keep a small bottle of it in my purse. Unlike the oilier shine spray from Oribe that I tried and did not like, this one smooths out frizz without making my hair look flat and greasy. I don’t use every day, but I use it often enough to know it works to reduce flyaways on high humidity days without dragging my hair down or flattening it out.

OK, so far, everything I’ve discussed is stuff I use regularly – but I’ve also tried out a lot of items that I don’t use as much because they’re either treatments you use less often, stuff I just bought and am still on the fence about, or stuff I just don’t care for. Here we go.

The Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo and Essential Antidote Replenishing Conditioner

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Wow, ladies. This stuff is amazing. I’ve tried a few shampooing/conditioning products by Oribe that don’t even look like shampoos or conditioners – both of these come in cans that look like they would distribute mousse, and in fact both of these have that consistency, more or less. Hell, I don’t even know if they do a good job clarifying or conditioning my hair, but the absolutely luxurious feel of these two products almost makes me not care. The shampoo foams out into a rich, fat-ass lather that actually was WAY more than I needed the first time I used it, so now I know to press that nozzle lightly. Honestly it feels so good I kinda want to lick it after I foam it into my hands; it’s already in a lather as it goes into my hair and overall it just feels (and of course, smells) delicious. It’s also this bizarre silvery, shiny color that matches the bottle, which – how do they do that? It’s amazing.

Then, there’s the conditioner. It also foams out into the palm of your hand, but it feels – I swear to God – like warm honey, and smooths into your hair like butter. So, honey butter for your hair. Need I say any more? I used these both after a major-heavy product-trying day, including one product I seriously over-used to the point that I had a big knot of product at my scalp, and everything rinsed out easily and my hair felt soft and squeaky-clean. Love.

Oribe Bright Blonde Radiance and Repair Treatment

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This is for use in the shower instead of a regular conditioner about once a week; it’s in a pump form, and the treatment is purple-tinted like a lot of blonde treatments are. I didn’t notice anything majorly different about my hair after using this, but my husband did ask me if I’d gotten my hair highlighted any more because it looked blonder after I used it. So, there’s that going for it. It’s fine, but it doesn’t do anything noticeable enough that I would re-purchase it.

Soft Lacquer Heat Styling Spray

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This was the first heat-styling product from Oribe that I tried, and remember what I said about heat protectant sprays leaving my hair dry and frizzy? Yeah, that happened here. When I mentioned to my stylist that I didn’t like this spray because it left my hair feeling crunchy, she laughed and said, ‘Girl, when a product has lacquer in the name it’s gonna be crunchy,” which I probably should have figured out on my own, but whatever. That said – and this is probably going to make me sound a little crazy – I actually do use this product every day, but only on my bangs. Yes, I am very picky about my bangs, so much so that I use a teeny little half-inch flat iron on them every morning to get them just how I like them (otherwise they curl up and I don’t like them) and for some reason, this laquer spray works with the heat to give me perfect bangs every time. Go figure. So yeah, this big old bottle is only used on my bangs and no where else on my head. As is the little flat iron (in fact, I use three different hair irons to style my hair. It’s a process, y’all).

Shine Light Reflecting Spray

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Nope. One of the few utter fails from my Oribe experiment. It just leaves my hair looking and feeling greasy. I kept trying it day after day as a last-minute afterthought, thinking my hair still looked a little too dry, but it never did anything but kill all the good I’d gotten out of the other products and tools I was using. When I discovered I could use the Gold Lust Oil, Moisturizing Cream, or Anti-Humidity Spray and get better results, I was done with this one. Doesn’t even work on the bangs!

Swept Up Volume Powder Spray

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If you’ve ever tried Big Sexy Hair’s powder spray, then you know what this stuff is – I was always a bit amazed at that product, but the application of it eluded me. I’d always end up with this big WAD of that powder in my hair that I couldn’t distribute through it, so I’d have one blob of sticky, weird, volumized hair somewhere random on my head. This feels like the same product, with a catch – it’s a pump so you can spray the powder onto your head instead of coming in a shaker you have to shake onto it. Turns out (go figure) this makes a huge difference, and I can actually spritz a little of the powder onto my scalp to give my hair a boost without feeling like I’ve put glue in it. But be careful – it’s a powerful little spritzer, and if you aren’t prepared for how much powder comes out with one little pump you’ll end up with glue-head again. It kinda sucks to pay so much more for what’s essentially the same as a $10 product, but form factor matters, people, and trying to shake sticky powder into my hair like I’m salting and peppering myself for supper was never gonna work in my favor. So Oribe it is.

Star Glow Styling Wax

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I’ve been a fan of KMS’s Spray Wax for years, as I’ve often used it in lieu of hair spray as a finisher because it’s softer and more malleable, so what could be better than a spray wax but a non-spray wax, because sprays generally don’t work for me? So I decided to give this one a try – it’s described as a “gel-wax” which, whatever, but it is odd – it looks just like honey and is as hard to squeeze out of the tube as honey can be to boot. I’m still not sure what I think of it, because I’ve only used it once and I’d over-used the spray powder already, so it didn’t stand much of a chance once I’d blasted my scalp with glue. But as hard as it is to get out of the tube, I’m not sure how useful it’s going to be. I literally had to crush the damn tube with both hands to get anything to come out, so I’m wondering if I got a defective bottle or something. More on this one later. I got it in the hopes it could add just a bit more texture to my curls, so that’s how I intend to try and use it.

Gel Serum

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This was the first Oribe product I ever tried and it was at least five years ago; it was one of those times I was at a salon checking out, and I realized I needed some hair gel, so my stylist recommended this one and I tossed it onto the counter without looking at the price tag. I was shocked when it ended up costing $65, but I bought it anyway, and that one damn bottle ended up lasting me four years! You don’t need to use much of any Oribe products at all because they’re all highly concentrated, and this is a good, sturdy hair gel with a nice, medium hold that does the job nicely. It was good enough that I did re-purchase it, but I don’t use it every day, only at times when I feel a little added hold is needed. I’ve found the Texture Waves Lotion to be my primary ‘foundation’ styling product, but this gel pairs with it fine when I want a little extra hold. Plus, it literally is loaded with little gold sparkly flecks, if you’re into that.

Curl Gloss

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This is another gel that’s fine, and I use it on occasion, but only paired with other products like the Gel Serum or the Texture Lotion. On its own, it’s just too light to really give my hair the hold it needs, but at times I throw it into the mix and it doesn’t hurt anything.

Dry Texturizing Spray

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This stuff gets raves from everyone, but for me it’s just meh. As a texturizer, it’s a little drying for me, and as a dry shampoo it doesn’t tend to make any difference – but dry shampoos have never worked on me that well anyway – because again, it’s a spray.  Out of this one and the Apres Wave spray I tried, I find the Apres Wave is less drying and gives me better volume without frizzing. This is fine, and it hasn’t ever made my hair look awful, and you can read tons of raves about this stuff from other people online, but it isn’t a huge winner in my book.

Maximista Thickening Spray

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Spraying anything into my hair when it’s wet has always been a fail for me, and this one is formulated to be applied to wet hair. It failed.

Volumista Mist for Volume

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Same.

 

OK, so. That’s everything I’ve tried. I didn’t put prices on any of this stuff because it’s all stupidly expensive, and please don’t anyone add up how much I’ve spent on all this crap. I will say, unlike previous hair product obsessions like DevaCurl that I’ve had over the years, I’ve ended up using almost all of the Oribe I’ve purchased on a regular basis, with quite a low number of fails. Most of it I can still use on occasion even if it’s never going to be in regular rotation, and overall I am really impressed even with the things I’ve tried that haven’t worked out. It’s a huge line of products, by the way, and even as much as I’ve experimented with barely scratches the surface of what they offer, so there’s definitely something for everyone – if you’re willing to cough up the cash.

 

 

 

 

Reviews News!

I don’t wear wigs except for fun in photos and on rare occasions out of the house, so the ones I normally buy nowadays are less expensive and far more costume than wigs for daily wear. But I do love the internet equivalent of window-shopping – I will sit in bed at night with my iPad in front of me while I watch TV or listen to an audiobook and scroll, scroll, scroll through the new wig releases from time to time, and honestly, I have not seen much of anything in the way of new wig styles in the past few years that has motivated me to even consider spending my money. Jon Renau, Raquel Welch, Envy, Estetica, or whatever – the styles don’t look all that different from what’s been released in the past, and the colors generally aren’t all that new or exciting, either. But of course, the huge rise in prices over the past five years has a lot to do with that, too – especially when I’m not wearing them full-time anymore.

However:

ROP 2018

Damned if every time Rene of Paris comes out with new styles I don’t want them ALL. Why is this? I think one reason why is because each time ROP comes out with new styles, they also drop at least one or two new cool colors that really think outside the box – like the new color on the Kai (only pic on the bottom row) or the Hudson. And where all I feel like I see when Renau or Welch comes out with new releases is a few long wavy wigs, one bob with bangs, and a few short shags in the same colors that they’ve been pushing for years, I always feel like ROP’s new styles are truly something new. Maybe that’s because the ROP line isn’t nearly as vast as Jon Renau, so there’s less to compare the new styles to, but also, it feels like ROP will release a good mix of styles – a curly one, something long, something short, and at least one that’s just really funky. Or maybe I am a sucker for the more interesting photos they use instead of the same four women in the same four poses in front of a white background, who knows.

Anyway, what is the point of all this? The point is, while browsing around Friday morning as I drank my coffee, I wandered over to Vogue Wigs and these new styles were the first thing I saw. AND O.M.G. I immediately wanted, wanted, WANTED THEM ALL. Yes, these price points are way higher than back in the days when I could easily snag an ROP wig for between sixty to eighty bucks, BUT these retail prices are still significantly below the sticker shock of a $400 Jon Renau synthetic, and as any good online wig-shopper knows, if you search around and wait for sales and/or know where to go, you’re going to snag even a brand new style for a good thirty percent less than Vogue Wigs or Wigs.com is going to sell them. I bought four of these five new styles – every style but the Dakota – and each one was between $160-$170, which I feel is reasonable for a wig with very nice synthetic fiber in a gorgeous color (which ROP really excels at).

So, the point – WIG REVIEWS COMING SOON! I haven’t made any videos in a few years, so they won’t be great or anything, but I will review these when I get them in, because for the first time in years I’m excited about getting some new wig styles. So stay tuned! 🙂

Lagenlike

Ha! I thought of another great title playing off the term Lagenlook. I am awesome! Thank you!

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Levitation editing – in the original photo I was just sitting on a stool. VERY easy to do with these pants on, because they’re so baggy they covered up most of the stool I was sitting on, and I only had to edit out chair legs.

I am SO behind on uploading photos to my blog – still haven’t shared my latest portraits or any of my Wings Over Houston stuff – plus I’m way behind on photo editing, too. I have sets going all the way back to September that I haven’t finished processing yet, but since the actual taking of photos is hard to accomplish right now, I guess that’s a good thing. I’ve been able to take clothing shots by just moving my furniture out of my office and sticking the 7D on my tripod, but as you can see I’ve not even bothered to put up a backdrop in months so you keep getting views of my lovely, incredibly un-fashionable carpet and a blank wall instead. Sorryboutit. Moving on.

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Got this green jumper back from the tailor, with the green string-straps replaced with something more durable 

In my last Lagenlook/Oh My Gauze post, I mentioned how great these clothes photograph, as well as being wearable outside the studio, which is nice. Since that time, I’ve gotten back the pieces I took into the tailor as well as buying a few discontinued items off eBay, and buying yet more stuff direct from the store’s website. What can I say, when I get obsessed, I get really obsessed, plus they still have some clearance items for sale and the prices are so good I just can’t resist picking a few more things up here and there (in fact, I was back on the site looking at what’s left on clearance this evening and snagged a few more items. Even my husband took note of the great prices, so there you go).

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The pants here are called the Carnival Pant and I really didn’t think I would like them. But, they were on sale in a color that was unusual and not overly available (all the clearance stuff is in discontinued colors, so I’ve ended up with a LOT of the same colors), and they were really inexpensive so I gave them a go. They turned out to be quite cute on, and they look more like a skirt than pants anyway. I actually get a lot of compliments on these when I wear them. The May vest was a longshot too – I didn’t think I’d get much use out of it but for twenty bucks (clearance price no longer available) I thought why not. And of course, it’s ended up being a very functional piece as well. The key to the whole lagenlook style is incorporating a lot of layers and creating unusual shapes with them, so a lightweight piece like this works to pull looks together quite nicely. The top is called Marcy, and at this point I don’t think there’s any more available in the sale colors. It’s one of the few tops I didn’t have to get altered, as the shape is a bit more slim than a lot of their tops.

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And for what it’s worth, I do think those shoes were a bad choice for this outfit. Oh well.

I don’t know if I’ve shown any dresses from OMG yet, so let’s throw a few in right now:

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There’s the Robin wig again

This is called the Bella Dress, and it’s the first item I saw from OMG that inspired me to investigate the brand. I’m pretty sure it came up in a lagenlook search on Pinterest, and I found the slightly rounded, bubble shape of the skirt really appealing. I did have to get it altered in the top because it was a bit too wide, but as with everything from this line I was careful not to take it in too much as its looseness is part of the appeal. The color here is Fig, and it’s one of my favorite colors – but it’s not a discontinued one. Bella is one of the more expensive pieces OMG has, but it’s hella popular so I can see why, and it was definitely worth it.

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The rare barefoot shot – only because my shoes kept flying off

Then there’s this Lea Blouse Dress, which I think may be my favorite piece so far: the shape is so casual and unusual and the fit is really interesting but still quite lovely (they only have one color left of this one on clearance, so I just linked to the full-priced version). It’s crazy baggy, and it looks like a sack, but strangely, a very attractive and fashionable sack. I love it – but I’ve already gotten the top taken in once and still feel like it’s a bit big, so I will probably take it back for another round of alterations. It’s the neckline that fits me a bit wide, and it keeps slipping off to one side when I’m wearing it, causing me to tug at it a lot to get it back into place throughout the day. It’s quite an interesting neckline, though:

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I guess you can’t really see the neckline here, but it’s kinda square. The boots are Uggs, of course. 

I don’t much agree that this could also be a blouse; it’s a whole lotta fabric to then throw over pants or a skirt, but to each her own. I had the sleeves taken in a little bit too, but as you can see there’s still a lot of room in this thing. And yet, I think it works, and I feel really pretty when I wear this. Hey, some gals want ruffles and a tiara, and I just want a fashionable sack. Whatever works (although I wouldn’t throw a tiara out of my closet if someone flung one in there either, so there you go).

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The hair is my customized Code Mono by Ellen Wille

And now for another dress – the Belva is a new style and is only available at full price:

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Please forgive the goofy face. And the hair here is Coco by Rene of Paris – another really good deal. The shoes are by Sperry, and they were not a good deal price-wise, but they are incredibly comfy. 

One interesting thing about OMG’s new fall colors is that there are a LOT of very springy shades they’re using, like the one above. It’s called Lilac but looks more Periwinkle to me, and while they discontinued a lot of khakis and grays and browns and put them in the clearance section, their new colors include some pastel yellows and greens as well as the one pictured above. I’m not complaining, as the colors are very pretty; it just seems unusual for a Fall line. There are also some more vibrant jewel tones like violet and orange, but still, the colors overall feel more like spring than fall to me (although there are some nice grays and olive greens in there, too). Oh, and this dress needed no alteration. And I adore the hemline. And the pockets. And I forgot to edit one of the many jumping pics I took in it, so you’ll have to see that one next time.

The next few pieces are discontinued items, and can’t be found on the actual site. I got them both on eBay, but they can be found through a Google search at some other online stores.

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I am wearing a hairpiece here, but I can’t recall which one. It’s one of those hairy ponytail scrunchies you wrap around your own ponytail to add volume. And, in my case, horns.

This top is called Rain, and it was not cheap, but it got lodged into my brain from the first time I saw it, and I had to have one. For awhile, all I could find were colors I didn’t really like – crimson red and coral (coral is SUCH a no on me) – but then lo and behold one showed up on eBay in gray and I snatched it up. I’m really glad I did, because it’s lovely, although I may decide to tailor this one too since the neckline might be a little wide on me. I paired it here with the Lola pant, and if you click that link you’ll see that they are a SUPER bargain right now, and in a lot of nice colors too. I did not order Lola right away, because the shots on the model didn’t make them look all that great, and I wasn’t sure how that balloon hem was going to work on a pair of pants.  But in the end – and you should be able to repeat this along with me by now – they were just too good of a deal to pass up, so I got them in a basic black, which isn’t something I normally do. I hate to buy clothes in black if there are other, more interesting colors available, but I went with it for these because I figured I didn’t have a black pair of bottoms to work with my new wardrobe so why not buy something I’m not really sure I’m going to like in the boring color and see how it turns out. Well, how it turned out is that I love them, and have already bought a second pair (in the Fig color I like so much) and I am really trying to hold back on ordering a third (again – so CHEAP!). Really, really cute.

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And just look how they move! And, I think my hairpiece flew off right after this shot.

Here’s another discontinued item I had to search for a little, and that I couldn’t get at a sale price, but was totally worth it:

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The skirt is the discontinued piece here – it’s called Robin and I think I managed to snag it for around $75 on eBay – it usually sells for about $90. I loved it, though, and finally took the plunge; that balloon hem combined with the pockets made it a bit heavy and it was pulling down on me, so I had to alter the waist a bit. But it’s a really interesting shape and it will go with a lot of things. The top is called Sweet – it was too wide on me and had to be taken in, but now it’s a great staple and the ruching gives it a little pizzazz it wouldn’t otherwise have, I’ve mentioned this jacket before – it’s the Rome that had long tails in the front which I lopped off to create a more cropped look that’s made it more wearable, in my opinion.

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Last but not least – whew! There’s a lot going on in this outfit, but I think all the different shapes are really fun:

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OK, what all do we have here? The pant is called the Basic pant, and I think you can see why. Nothing funky there, but it is a nice, loose straight-but-wide leg and in the khaki they’re incredibly wearable (I had to buy this pair off eBay because at the online store the khaki was not available – it was one of the sale colors that has already run out). The blue top (the color is actually called Washed Reef) is called Hawaii and I love it – it’s a tank top, actually, so it’s great for layering and I love how long that asymmetrical hem is. It jazzes up anything you choose to wear it with, and the color is another one that’s unusual for me, but I figured I needed to give my wardrobe a little pop; it’s also got a tie-dyed pattern that isn’t overdone but that adds interest to what is otherwise a fairly basic, subdued outfit. And of course, it was one of the colors that was on sale, which helped me decide. The white jacket is called Siesta and it’s another versatile piece I’ve found dozens of uses for already – I can’t say enough about how well all this stuff works together. I can probably get dressed with my eyes closed now, and as long as I choose OMG pieces I’m not only going to be OK, but look unique and put-together too.

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Photo nerd alert: this is a composite of two shots – yes, I did leap while holding Simon, but my legs were barely off the ground for obvious reasons. It didn’t look all that impressive that way, so I layered a different leap shot where I wasn’t holding a cat over the original and put them together.

Not as much movement with the Basic pant, of course, but those two tops are great for interesting, flow-y movement, In fact, last week we had a couple of very windy days here, and I loved walking outside and feeling everything blow and float around (except the Robin skirt, which got a little dangerous). The hair up there is my trusty Easy Edge by LuxHair HOW, and that necklace came from Nordstrom a few years ago and can only be worn in photos; it’s ridiculously heavy and scratchy against my neck, which is a shame since it’s a really cute piece. Oh well.

Believe it or not, that is it for now – and if you actually read all this, you deserve a medal. Or at least a cute piece from OMG, so get on over to their website and look around! And tell them I sent ya! Speaking of which, I sent the owners of the store a message linking them to my first blog post, and they actually sent me a $50 gift card as a thank you for my review! Ain’t that grand? I just haven’t used it yet because I have to call them to do so since the website can’t process it, and I’m usually online shopping at night past store hours (not sure what that says about me), plus I’m actually pretty shy and am a bit nervous about having to call them up and identify myself as that crazy lady who takes pictures of their clothes while she’s flying through the air and goes on way too long talking about clothes. But I’ll get around to using it sooner or later. And oh – there are probably more leaping photos coming of this stuff; I wasn’t kidding when I said the clothes take great movement photos! And no, I have not yet photographed everything I’ve bought. That may never happen. 🙂

Quick Pics of My Stitch Fix

Helloooo everyone, I know it’s been a minute, but I’m busy as usual and only have a little sliver of time in which to catch up. I’ve taken a lot more Oh My Gauze shots, both posing and leaping, and the Wings Over Houston Airshow was last weekend and I took about 2,000 shots at that. But for now, I’ll pop in here to share a few photos of the clothes from my October Stitch Fix box, then upload some of the other photos later. Let’s get to it:

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The wig here is the Robin by Noriko in Chocolate Swirl; the shoes are the “Fang” flatform sandal from TopShop (cute, but sadly, not comfortable, so I only wear them in photos for the most part)

So what we have here is the Kut From the Kloth “Kate” boyfriend jean, and the Collective Concepts “Lidy” poncho cardigan. The jeans are nice; when I took them out of the box they felt really stiff, but they are 1% spandex and do have some give, so when I got them on they were comfy, just a little heavier than my usual denim. There was nothing wrong with them, but no real reason for me to keep them, since I have all the jeans I might need at the  moment and these look exactly like a few pair of those. Plus, as you can see, they were a touch too big on me. The poncho cardigan was a keeper; it’s fairly light and will go everything. So that piece stayed.

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This is the Crescent “Spooner” Cross Back Top, and I can certainly see why my stylist sent me this shirt, since it’s khaki and loose and a little hippie-ish with the fringe trim, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I think the fringe around the bottom might actually be too heavy for the fairly sheer material of the rest of the top, making it hang a bit awkwardly when it should just flow. Plus, that fringe hits me at an awkward spot and accentuates my widest area more than I’d like. Cute, but no. And yes, it’s very wrinkly, but remember it did come in a box. Moving on.

Last shot:

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Snake-print slips-ons from Vans. And sorry about the weird face I’m making here.

Another pant by Kut From the Kloth, this one’s called the “Siena” Cropped Pant, and although they’re a little snug around the hips (making the side pockets stick out a bit), they are very light and comfortable and with the spandex in them should stretch a little with wear. I may take them to the tailor and get the pockets sewn shut, which I often have to do with chino-style pants that have them. It’s a minor detail, but it makes a big difference in how the pants fit and look once they stop poking out like that. The jacket is not from Stitch FIx, but it is another Oh My Gauze piece – it’s called the Rome jacket and it actually had two very long “tails” in the front that were just begging to be tied into a waist knot, which is something I refuse to do. So, I had my tailor chop the long bits off to create a shorter jacket all around, and I really like it now. Tailoring makes a big difference, people! #themoreyouknow

That’s actually all the shots I have from this shipment; you may have noticed I only took pictures of four items when they are always five things in each Fix, and if so, good for you for being observant! But the fifth item was a chambray, long-sleeve, button-up top, and since I’ve not once liked myself in any top like that I’ve ever tried, I didn’t even bother to put it on. Plus, it was buttoned all the way up, so I would have had to unbutton it to get it on, and it wasn’t worth the effort. Yep, I’m that lazy.

Here’s to the end of another busy week. More pics later!

Stitch Fix n’ Pix Review

Got another Stitch Fix in, and tried to take some decent pictures real quick after filming that tragic Forever Young wig review. I didn’t keep my entire Fix this time, but FINALLY at least, they did not send me skinny jeans!

And before we discuss my latest shipment, can we all just say halleloo and yaaaaas gawd that the SCOTUS ruled in favor of sanity, reason and LOOOOVE? I’m so happy I could backhand anyone who doesn’t agree, so don’t go there with me. Moving on.

Oh, and before I show any pictures, yes, I know my background in these shots is less than stellar. Apparently, this is what you get when you pay $89 for a “wrinkle resistant” material. I’m not sure which wrinkles this thing is resisting, because it seems to find most of them too good to ignore.

Anyway, back to the Fix. Item #1 is right up my alley, but it has a downside: the Skies are Blue Folla V-Neck Knit Top (kept):

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Skinny Ankle Jeans from Ann Taylor Loft, Fairwayy (NOT a typo) sandals by Lucky Brand, Misha wig by Rene of Paris

It is good in that it is basically a slightly upgraded tee shirt, so I can wear it to work and be comfortable as hell. I realized the bad Friday afternoon, when I was out and about and happened to catch a glimpse of my reflection in a store window and wondered fleetingly who the prison inmate was staring back at me. You can’t see it very well, but the shirt has a v-neck, and well, orange v-neck shirt = Orange Is The New Black, basically. So, hopefully if Stitch Fix sends you this shirt you get it in a different color. Other than that, don’t wear this with orange pants and you’re probably OK. It’s roomy and comfy and easy to wear, although it wrinkles easily too. Also looks great with shackles!

Item #2 is the Market & Spruce Bernadette Lace Overlay Raglan Top (kept):

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Same jeans as above, Classic Leather/Snake Slip-Ons from Vans, Coco wig by Rene of Paris

I really like how this photo turned out, for some reason. I think its all those coordinating color tones. And that Coco wig is the business for less than $80. Normally those little shag cuts don’t work on me, but Coco is an exception. Anyway, the top. This is the second baseball-tee-with-lace-detail Stitch Fix has sent me, and since I love me a good baseball tee (as well as any glorified tee shirt I can get away with wearing to work) this one had my name all over it. The other one I got a few months ago is the reverse – the sleeves are lace while the bodice is a ribbed knit, and it’s in navy and light blue – and this one is also a bit more fancy. The jersey knit is incredibly soft, and the lace is lovely and entirely lined. My only complaint here is that it is almost a boat neck, and that’s going to cause problems because my shoulders are so narrow. I can’t stand a bra strap showing, so I’m hoping at least I can wear this gray bra I have under it that will somewhat match the top and look intentional if the straps show – it may show through that cream bodice too much though, so I’ll just have to see. Other than that, this one is a winner.

Item 3 is the Kut From The Kloth Callie Denim Jacket (returned):

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Linen tee from Ann Taylor Loft, Linen T-Strap Mary Janes from Urban Outfitters, Rainbow Stripe 4-in-1 Trapeze dress/skirt from the Gap, Laine wig by Rene of Paris

First of all, this skirt looked so great in photos that I got really distracted by it while shooting, and when I was looking the photos over later I realized I didn’t take even one where I wasn’t swooshing the skirt  around in some way, so this was the best I could do, sorryboutit. And how that skirt can be worn four different ways is beyond me – even the photos on the Gap’s website only showed the model wearing it two ways (as a skirt and as a dress) so I’m guessing they’re taking lots of liberties with that title. I mean, if a six-foot-four skinny sixteen year old can’t get into this dress four ways, how am I supposed to do it? Like, wrap it around my head as a turban, or throw it over my head and wear it as a poncho? Who knows. And those shoes are always on sale 2 pair for $20 at the UB, and you wouldn’t believe how often you’ll wear them if you keep a pair or two handy. I keep one pair at work for days that my feet hurt, and I use them in leaping photos constantly because they are practically like being barefoot but much more flattering than bare feet can be. Sure, they will forever emit a chemical smell that means you can never keep a pair of them contained in a small space without killing yourself the next time you go in there, but keep them thrown in a corner and you’re good to go. And hey, each pair is only ten bucks!

Anyway back to the jacket – it was fine; it had stretch to it and was lighter than your average denim jacket, so I was tempted to keep it, but I have one already that is practically brand-new and doesn’t get worn much so I certainly didn’t need a second one. I liked that this one was a lighter weight so I was torn, but in the end I couldn’t justify paying $78 for a second jean jacket when a barely-used one was already hanging in my closet. It would have been a nice staple,. though, had I needed it, and it was good item for them to include in the Fix as it certainly does fit my style. I can’t say the same about…

Item #4: Skies are Blue Diane Dress (returned):

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Reese wig by Noriko, Snick platforms by Jeffrey Campbell (I’ve had these shoes at least four years now but I still see them being sold in stores, are they still in style?)

OK, I did try this on earlier in the day, but at picture time I had on tons of makeup and since this is pure white linen I did not want to risk getting it dirty – especially since it would have been useless for me to keep it. I dislike everything about this; the cut is one I don’t like, the material is too stiff, the white linen is just asking for trouble, and the length is too short. If you asked anyone who really knows me to come up with a dress that’s the exact opposite of everything I like in my clothing, they’d come up with this one. Back it goes.

Then there was this little Item #5: La Made Leia Pom Pom Infinity Scarf

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I really dislike this picture; my face came out weird and the lighting and color balance are off, but I took it so dammit you’re going to look at it. Anyway, there it is – a cute enough scarf that I almost kept because I would have found use for it, but my goal was to keep my final order under $100 this time, and this piece at $38 put me right over that once I purchased the first two tops. In hindsight I probably should have kept this and sent back the Folsom Prison Special (now that I think of it, the name “Folla” top almost looks like “Folsom” if you just glance at it quickly), but at the time I didn’t realize I was going to look like an escaped convict in it, so back went the circle scarf. Cute poms poms on it, too.

While I was at it, I took some leaping shots in all these outfits as well, but I’ll share those in a different post. For now, there you go – Stitch Fix Quick Pix and some wig shots to boot. Happy weekend everyone!

Stitch Fix Quick Pics: May

How long have I been using Stitch Fix now? I think it’s been about a year. At first, I went back and forth over keeping my service or cancelling it, but they’ve really been sending me some great stuff the past few months, and it’s become my primary way of buying clothes now since I don’t shop nearly as much as I used to (in stores, that is – let’s not kid ourselves I’ve stopped shopping completely).

While my room was set up for photos the other day when I took a bunch of macro florals (I’ll show those in a separate post later) I threw on some of the stuff I’ve gotten from them recently to share here. Keep in mind I didn’t edit these shots except to process them from RAW to JPEG, so they’re not up to my usual standard, but it seems fair to do them that way since it shows the clothes themselves in the closest representation to what they look IRL, rather than adding all my usual bells and whistles. My mug is also SOOC which bugs me a little, but hey, I am willing to suffer for you, people. Oh, and while I was at it, I put on some of my new wigs to change things up in the pics. So here we go.

First up is the Minna Crew Neck Top:

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Minna Crew Neck Top; Gap Authentic Boyfriend jeans; Seville by Noriko wig in Banana Split-LR

The shirt is more orange than it came out in the photo; it’s a true orange and white print, not red-orange. As with pretty much everything SF sends me, I took this out of the box and thought oh HAIL no and started to shove it back in there, but then remembered that I needed to try everything on since those nice people went to all the trouble of packing this stuff up for me and I should least put it on once before casting it off the island. Besides which, I never like anything SF sends me right out of the box, but usually find that I do once I get it on – and this top was another example of that phenomenon. The solid orange sleeves and shirttail are a stretchy jersey knit, which you know I am always a sucker for, and the printed front and back panel are some sort of silky polyester – which usually bugs me as I don’t find it comfortable, but it worked OK here since it was just the bodice and not the whole top. I got it in an extra small, so it was a touch tight in the armpit and chest areas, but not so much that it wasn’t wearable (just a little difficult to get off and on) and it looked great. Put this one down into my ever-growing pile of Stuff I Got From Stitch Fix That I Never Would Have Bought On My Own But Really Like Anyway, because I’ve already worn this top twice and I just got it five days ago. Moving on.

Next up is the Analisse Anorak Jacket:

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Analisse Anorak Jacket; Under Skies shell (also from a Fix I got it a long time ago); Destroyed Wash Straight Leg jeans from Ann Taylor Loft; necklace from Free People; Oprah Wig by Mica for Jessica Lin in Color 6

This jacket came from April’s shipment, but since it was clean and hanging in my closet I decided to show it anyway (I also got a really cute crochet sweater from April’s box that was in the dry clean hamper, so I didn’t show that one). This is a very light rayon jacket that is easy to carry around and throw on when needed; my only complaint is it has all these various ties and zippers and snaps that get annoying and aren’t particularly useful. I never see the point in this MacGuyver-style clothing that can be added to or taken away or converted at random. I get that camping and hiking-style wear has need for all that stuff; but when it’s a faux-outdoors jacket like this one I feel like we’d all be better off if the manufacturer didn’t play like we’re ever going to take this thing camping and leave all the shenanigans alone. I actually cut the waist tie from this one (which could  be used to cinch the waist but I would never wear a jacket that way and the ties were so long it would just come untied every five seconds anyway) and am considering cutting out the one at the bottom because it’s long also and is always banging around my knees – and again, why do I need to cinch the bottom of the jacket, exactly? Exactly. Aside from that ramble, this is nice and light and goes with everything. Love it.

Here’s two pieces put together – the Adam Crochet Detail Top and the Mea Lace Skirt:

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Adam Crochet Detail Top; Mea Lace Skirt; Lucky Brand Fairwayy Sandal (not a typo); Caitlyn wig by Rene of Paris in Coffee Latte

First of all, yes I am over-posing there which makes me look like I’ve twisted my body in some weird way, but whatever. The skirt may be lacy but it’s still casual in style and very comfortable, and an over-the-knee length which means I will actually wear it. I like to have at least a few items like this on-hand that can be dressed up on those very few occasions where I need to do so, but this can also be worn quite casually which is nice. The top was only kept because it goes nicely with the skirt; it’s cute enough but a bit fussy for me, and the cotton fabric isn’t soft or stretchy at all and requires (gasp) ironing, which to me is synonymous with dry-cleaning. It’s also pretty transparent, so although for the photos I didn’t require a cami underneath IRL I will – and there’s this lace panel in the back that hits right where my bra strap would show so that’s another reason a cami is needed. However, it is a cute top and it wasn’t too expensive, and I love me some white tops I can throw on with anything when in a hurry, so it stayed. The sleeves are also a nice touch with the elastic that gives a cute pouf to their 3/4 length.

Oooooh guys, I really love this next one – it’s the Char Geo Print Maxi Skirt:

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Char Geo Print Maxi Skirt; Sweater from Ann Taylor Loft; Braided Circle Scarf Necklace from Nordstrom; barely visible Dayna Point Flat from Free People; Amanda wig by Jon Renau

I got the skirt in my April shipment, and when I saw online that I was getting something called a “geo print” skirt I recoiled in horror. Not exactly my style. But the print is small, and the colors are lovely and spring-y (mint green, soft tangerine, navy blue and white) and it has enough of an A-line that I can actually wear this even though the material is clingy (jersey knit maxi skirts are usually a problem for me). I’ve worn the hell out of this since I got it, although when looking over my photos I realized that the point-toed flats I like to wear with it don’t look nearly as good as I thought they did, since the skirt’s so long all you see are these two little pointy witch feet poking out, and it’s odd. As Cher Horowitz says, always take a photo of your outfits, people, you’d be surprised what you find when you do.

Last but not least is a dress I almost didn’t keep, but my  husband commented that it was pretty, so I changed my mind. My face looked really goofy in this shot and I wasn’t willing to put out the effort it would have taken to photoshop a different head onto my body, so I just cut it off instead. Moving on – it’s the Briar Printed Maxi Dress:

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The color is also reading green here for some reason; the bodice is a true gray and the paisley print is far more green than the light blue it appears, sorryboutit.  The cut on this one is pretty narrow, but I guess my recent weight loss has been significant enough in the hip/thighs that I can actually pull this off. It is a jersey knit (score!) and super-comfortable, and this is another one I started wearing right away.

Now – here’s my one complaint about my recent shipments that I have to mention. Guess what else came in May’s box that I didn’t take photos of or keep? Say it with me people – FREAKING SKINNY JEANS. I have received a pair of skinny jeans at least three more times since begging Stitch Fix to quit sending them to me, and every time they do I have to send them back and miss out on the 25% discount. I am starting to think they are doing it on purpose just to mess with me. Once again I left comments online when checking out, repeating my request to stop receiving them, but so far my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The ones they sent me were a color other than black at least, I’ll give them that after they sent black ones 2 or 3 shipments in a row, but the color was hardly unique – a light faded denim. Plus, they were $160, the most expensive item in my box by far. They fit nicely and were comfortable, but of course I sent those suckers back. So, once again no 25% discount for me since I couldn’t keep the entire Fix. Sigh.

All in all, though, a successful shipment. I continue to wear most of the pieces from SF regularly (except the fabulous jeans I got a year ago that are now way too big), and they’ve certainly been sending me fun boxes of stuff. So, the subscription continues. Now if I can just get them to STOP WITH THE SKINNY JEANS I’ll be all set.

Oh, and if you liked this review and want to sign up for the service, consider using this link so i get credit for it. Until next time!

Purse Post: The Free People Slouchy Vegan Tote

I have to rave about this Slouchy Vegan Tote I bought recently from (no surprise) Free People. I loved it so much, I bought three of them.

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Simon likes the brown bag best

I am actually not a big purse person (a “purse-on”?); I tend to find one I really like, then keep it for several years, or buy the same style for several years in a row. My last favorite was a large tote by Tory Burch that was very big (I love a huge purse) and square and open (love a big-mouthed purse too; one I can just toss things into from across the room) and most importantly, it had pockets on both sides that made it incredibly convenient to place keys and cell phones in them and know exactly where they were. But in the past year or two TB quit putting side pockets in the totes, which made them decidedly less fabulous in my book, so when I realized the huge blue one I’d carried for two years needed replacing (I am VERY hard on handbags), I needed to find something new.

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My pics are unedited and kinda sloppy, sorry – had a lot to do tonight so I had to prioritize.

I wanted something big, of course, and floppy, because I much prefer soft purses to sturdy, structured ones (again, I like to throw tons of stuff in there and sort it all out later, so floppy helps with that). I also wanted something a bit bohemian, perhaps with fringe or some interesting print – but it was not to be found. Apparently, my current style obsessions are not IN style, at least not in the purse world. I’ll skip over the part where I bought a Coach bag on sale in a snake print, just because it was the closest thing I could find to an interesting print and it was good deal, and skip right to two weeks later, when my friend Candace and I spied this bag on the way out of the Free People store in the Galleria. It was floppy (check) and big and square (check-check), but then we discovered so much more when we looked inside. It also had a very large zippered clutch-type removable insert (people in their reviews refer to this as a laptop case, then complain that laptops don’t fit in it, which leads me to believe it was not intended to be a laptop case in the first place, but I could be wrong about that) and a third, small zippered bag roughly the size of a large square wallet. It also had an extra-long strap, and – here’s the real clincher – the purse is also reversible. It’s also NOT leather, although it looks like it (in fact, most people who’ve asked about the bag since I started carrying it were under the impression it was quite expensive) and it feels buttery soft, so it is both cruelty-free and inexpensive – the bag retails for $68.

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A peek inside the smallest pouch.

I bought one, then a few days later decided I needed a few more. One reason for that is the one I’ve been carrying around since I bought it is starting to “peel” a little around the edges (see pic below), so I thought having a few others to switch around might help slow that down a little. I don’t really care about the peeling so much though, and mostly wanted a few more just because I love this bag to death and was feeling spendy. When it comes to bags, I am not opposed to handing over some decent cash (although I’d never pay the cost for a Louis Vuitton or anything like that, at least I haven’t up to this point) for whatever it is that I like, and since this one was not expensive, I figured getting two more still kept it in a good price range for me.

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A close-up of the peeling – you can also see the magnet that holds the purse closed no matter which way you’ve reversed it

The cool thing is how many ways I can mix and match all these pieces. Because the bag itself has nothing going on inside (no pockets of any kind), I have everything I regularly carry arranged to be either in my wallet, my makeup case, or one of the two pouches that come with the bag. My ID holder/debit card and cell phone fit perfectly into the smallest bag, I think it’s obvious what my wallet and my makeup bag hold, and the big zippered pouch holds everything else. This way, it’s super-easy to switch purses by grabbing those four pieces and stuffing them into another big purse; no pockets to go through and organize or anything. If I have time I can do some color-coordinating, of course, by taking all my stuff out of one colored pouch and putting them into another one, but if I don’t want to mess with that, the switch can be made in about four seconds.

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A peek inside the larger pouch – Simon was interested, too

I’ve also found that the small zippered pouch works well when I don’t want to carry the big bag somewhere, as I can just pull it out and go, and the larger zippered one is easy to pull completely out of the purse and dig through for whatever it is I’m trying to find. The only downside I’ve discovered so far is that the inside of the big zippered pouch is black, which can make it hard to find what I’m digging for. And, I found the dark brown one to be stiffer faux-leather than the black or the natural one, so the softness of the vegan material isn’t consistent I suppose. But other than these two things, I am in love with these bags. I got six purses, really, for the price of three (although the reversed color of the black is almost identical to the natural colored one, it’s just a touch lighter) plus 6 multicolored pouches to play around with, and in total I spent about $210 for all of it.

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The black purse – the reversible side is the same cream color as the small pouch

I’m not one to go around switching bags to match my outfits, but for that price and for how easy it is to do with these, I am going to start. It’ll also help each bag last longer to switch them out, because as I said, I am hard on bags. I’ve carried all my usual stuff, plus my lunch, an iPad, and an extra pair of shoes in this thing a few times (when going to work) and it can handle all that and still look great, but I know from past experience that won’t last forever. Fortunately this appears to be an incredibly popular bag at the Free People site, with a lot of color options they keep updating, so I think it’ll stick around for a season or two if I ever need more. It certainly feels sturdy to me, even when loaded down and requiring the bigger strap to carry, so I hope they last awhile.

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The brown bag reverses to cobalt blue

Now I just have to figure out what to do with that Coach bag that I only carried for three weeks and no longer want…if anyone wants to buy it off me, make an offer!

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The bags reversed!