Beauty Review: Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30

ihwx.c4628849-8e47-4e5e-98d1-4f9b4dd261d0.1200.800It has a terribly long and tongue-tying name, but that seems to be par for the course for a lot of contemporary skincare products. In fact, bonus points appear to be in order if a branding specialist can squeeze in an exotic, preferably French-sounding word in a product’s name. (Is Génifique an actual word?)

Regardless, don’t let the dull name fool you. A lot of you know that I’m a huge fan of Paula’s Choice products, and have been a devoted user since the early 2000s. Like founder Paula Begoun, I have oily/combination skin prone to breakouts, and if there’s one thing I love about living in the 21st century (right up there the with the Internet and smartphones), it’s the explosion of combination skin-friendly products on the market. Paula’s been taking care of us combo-skin girls from the beginning, though, so I always eagerly await the latest and greatest from her lab.

The Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF doesn’t disappoint. For daily wear, I still rely exclusively on her reliable, mattifying Hydralight Shine-Free Daily Mineral Complex SPF 30, but when I need a tad bit more coverage, this is my new go-to.

The product page on her website lists all the usual, impressive promises: feather-light, sheer tint that works beautifully for all skin tones, fortifie[d] with potent antioxidants to repair and stimulate collagen production for firmer skin. It’s marketed as a miracle in a jar, and I have to admit, the marketing copy is enticing. What drew me in and why I keep my medicine cabinet stocked with this product is the silky texture, gently mattifying effect, and flattering tint that lets me get away with skipping foundation altogether. I wear it anytime I have to actually dress up and attend a business or social event that requires more formal dress than my usual t-shirt and jeans, and with a swipe of eyeliner, a bit of blush and a little tinted lipgloss, I look pretty darn good, if I may say so myself.

Plus, I still get the high-SPF protection I need for daily wear without worrying about that weird, gray/white cast many sunscreen products leave behind.

It’s more expensive than a lot of drugstore brands and even some department store lines, but if you’re anything like me, when you find something that works, you stick with it and pay whatever it costs. This is what works for me.


Book Review: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Sophia Loren

51NCyYBV--L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Even more so than Catherine Deneuve or Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren has always represented Old World beauty, sophistication, and, yes, joie de vivre. Sure, she’s proudly, unapologetically Italian and couldn’t possibly be a better ambassador for her country, but something about that impossibly beautiful face, her eyes, and the voice that always seems on the verge of laughter, reminds me of happy, sun-splashed valleys under a dazzling blue, Mediterranean sky.

I’ve always loved Sophia Loren. Maybe because, unlike wispy, boyish Audrey Hepburn or icy Catherine Deneuve, Sophia’s curvy figure, wide mouth, and open, wicked eyes have always seemed so much more approachable to little ol’ me. I love the elegance of Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey, but there’s no way in the world I could possibly fill that famous little black dress without looking like a sad, lumpy, funereal shadow. That’s not me being modest. That’s be being honest.

So it was with much eagerness and anticipation that I dove into her newly published autobiography, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I’ve read several books about her before, including her style book, Women & Beauty, and the lovely Sophia Style, so there really was nothing revelatory in this latest version of her life story. I knew about Cary Grant’s infatuation with her and was very familiar with the particulars of her poverty-stricken childhood growing up in war-ravaged Naples. I knew about her long struggle to conceive, the overwhelming joy she felt at finally becoming a mother (twice), and her fierce loyalty to, and passion for her husband, the powerful, much-older Carlo Ponti.

Knowing the intimate details of her life, however, took nothing away from the fascination I still harbor for this woman. The book’s literary framing device — it begins and ends with Sophia in her silver years, celebrating Christmas with her large, extended family, and sifting through a treasure trove of memories and memorabilia — feels artificial and not a little clunky, but the writing, while not exactly brilliant, reflects its ostensible author’s energy, intelligence, warmth, and wisdom. She sprinkles plenty of anecdotes about her close friendships with Grant, Vittorio de Sica, and of course, her most famous on-screen partner, Marcello Mastroianni, and even throws in a couple of arch observations about Audrey herself, Sophia’s former neighbor in Switzerland.

No one should expect salacious details about Sophia, who managed to simultaneously be one of Hollywood’s most glamorous women and yet also one of its most likable. On screen and in her public appearances, she radiates charm, ease, and that enviable bien dans sa peau I so love of French women, and she manages to do the same in the pages of this hefty book. The photos alone are worth perusing, as they’re filled with gorgeous shots of Sophia through the years, from her awkward, frizzy-haired adolescence to the jaw-dropping beauty she eventually became in her busy, jet-setting adulthood.

Most of all, the book serves as a wistful reminder of an era when movie stars projected an ethereal, otherworldly appeal, revealing little of the mundane, dull detail that our era can’t seem to get enough of. Whatever makeup Sophia wore, whoever made her dress, wherever she shopped for groceries or whatever she drove, none of that matters here, nor does it matter to me. What remains is the woman herself, who continues to define and personify authenticity and grace at a time when our modern day “celebrities” suffer such a deficit of both.



My Inner French Girl On the Go: Travel Tips

Miami downtown

I pack light so that I can spend more time exploring, say, Miami, than unpacking my bags.

My goal in 2015 is to learn to truly travel light. Not just one-checkin-one-carryon light, but seriously: just one carryon plus a small purse. And when I say “small purse,” I mean a purse meant to carry a cellphone, wallet, and maybe my car keys, not the enormous leather sacks stuffed to the brim with books, electronic gadgets, food, water bottles, and god knows what else that women are increasingly bringing on board planes in an attempt to avoid the $25 checkin bag fee. I saw quite a few of those in Portland and have no idea how they manage to swindle their way through security with their massive rolling bags and purse/duffel bag, not to mention the puffy jacket or sweater that can easily carry another 20-30 pounds of stuff.

So far it’s an ongoing experiment for me, but after decades of international, intercontinental and domestic air travel, I’m pretty close to unlocking the “travel light” achievement goal – I spent a week in Sicily a year ago with just one rolling carryon and a small backpack — but it’s a work in progress.

Here are some things that have worked marvelously for me:

  1. A couple of years ago, I discovered this amazing app that’s been a godsend for me and B. Packing List lets me create multiple lists, so I have a list each for short, weekend getaways; business trips/meetups of 3 days or less; business trips/meetups longer than 4 days; cruises; and even a pre-travel checklist for the days leading up to each trip (e.g., an item to “check toiletries kit for any necessary purchases” for the 1-week-before-departure list). There’s a very robust, free version that’s more than adequate for most travelers. (A separate app is available for purchase if you need to sync or share your list, which is useful for if/when you update your phone.) The list saves me loads of time packing – although I still can take about 30-45 minutes to pack for a weeklong business trip, that’s still so much less time than I used to take before I had these pre-made lists. Each list has multiple categories (Toiletries, Money & Documents, Clothing, etc.), making it easier for me to organize my suitcase as I pack. The app also lets me hide each checked item to make it easier for me to see what I still have left to pack, and then when I’m done and have confirmed that everything I need is packed, I unhide and uncheck everything so that the list is ready for use again the next time I need to pack.
  2. I have the Pro version of Tripit, a fabulous tool for frequent travelers. The app can be connected to my email so that anytime it “finds” a flight or hotel or car rental itinerary in my inbox, it loads all necessary details and creates a personalized itinerary for each trip. It also notifies me when I can check in for a flight and lets me know of any delays and cancellations.
  3. In addition to Tripit, I use the official American Airlines’ app. There have been more than a few times where the AA app notified me of critical delays that Tripit failed to catch. Plus, it lets me check into my flight so easily, with just a couple of screen taps. The only time I ever print out a boarding pass now is if I have to check in a bag – otherwise, I usually just arrive at the airport and head straight through security with my phone open to my mobile boarding pass on the AA app. No fuss, no muss.
  4. I enrolled in TSA’s Global Entry program, courtesy of my employer. The most significant benefit is the PreCheck feature, which allows me to breeze through security without having to remove my shoes, jacket, laptop, or liquids. (Except for certain airports, though, including Kauai’s, where I didn’t have to remove my shoes but I still had to remove my laptop and my jacket.) PreCheck is usually a separate line, and depending on the airport and the efficiency of the TSA staff manning that particular queue, security screening can take literally seconds for me. It definitely eases quite a bit of the stress that seems to go hand-in-hand with contemporary air travel.
  5. I carry few electronics, even on business trips. My smartphone is also my music/podcast player, camera, and video camera. I almost never carry a separate camera or camcorder. Although I have a Kindle and an iPad Mini, I usually just bring the iPad Mini since it already has the Kindle app loaded with all of my books, plus my subscription to Next Issue, which lets me read the latest issues of nearly all of my favorite magazines for just $15/month. (That means the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Inc., Fortune, Wired, Outside, and yep, even People, US Weekly, More, Essence, and InStyle. I never run out of things to read or listen to, regardless of how long my flight may be. A few days before departure, I’ll download a half-dozen podcasts on my phone and load up my Kindle with magazines and books. When I’m due to replace my 13″ MacBook Air later this year, I’ll probably pick up the new 12″ MacBook Air, which is significantly lighter and even more minimalist and travel-friendly.
  6. I’m lucky in that my job rarely requires me to dress up in fancier digs than a t-shirt and jeans, so I typically don’t. (In fact, during a recent business trip that included an unexpected invitation to an awards ceremony that demanded cocktail attire at minimum, my colleagues and I had to make a last-minute dash to Ross across the street, where we each picked up quite lovely formal wear for less than $20 apiece. I consider it a highlight of my year.) I usually have the jeans I’m wearing on the plane, plus just enough shirts and underwear to last me the duration of the trip. If there’s an on-site laundry facility at my hotel or resort, I’ll bring just a couple of shirts (plus what I’m wearing on the plane) and wash as needed.
  7. I used to bring my running shoes plus all the other necessary running gear (shirts, socks, shorts, etc.), but I found that my business travel is usually so hectic that it’s been difficult to find time to use them. Plus, not every hotel has a gym, and as a single woman traveling alone, I’m not always in a position to try and find a safe running route near the hotel. Instead, I’ll do yoga stretches and calisthenics in my room, which saves not only time but also luggage space, and still keeps me limber and active.
  8. I bring the bare minimum of beauty essentials: facial cleanser, moisturizer, conditioner (most hotels have shampoo but for some reason rarely offer conditioner), deodorant, toothpaste, tinted sunscreen. For makeup I’ll throw in one eyeliner, one small blush compact with brush, and possibly a lip stain.
  9. I bring the bare minimum of jewelry: a watch, my wedding and engagement rings (which I always wear), a silver medical bracelet that looks quite elegant, and a pair of small earrings. I wear all of them while I’m traveling so that I don’t have to worry about losing them in my luggage.
  10. I never bring food and only occasionally bring a small, empty water bottle. It’s not worth the hassle and stress of trying to shove granola bars, fruits, or god forbid, sandwiches, in my carry-on, trying to find space for something that will only need to be carried for a few hours. Airport food is overpriced, yes, but the extra dollar or two is worth the luggage space.
  11. I try and avoid bringing home any and all swag, with very few exceptions. I used to be a swag queen, loading up my free tote bag with any goody a sales person or booth personnel would throw my way, but now I steer clear of them, no matter how tempting they may be. I only have to remind myself of the closets stuffed with swag that await me back home — closets that I seriously need to purge for a future Goodwill or Salvation Army trip.
  12. The only souvenir I generally buy for myself now during any trip is a fridge magnet with the name of the city or country where I’m staying, plus some kind of picture or artwork that represents that location. It’s cheesy, and sometimes it means buying something in Palermo that’s really Made in China, but it still means that whenever I see that tiny, ceramic painting of a classic Italian village on my fridge door, I’m taken back to that sun-dappled seaside dot of a municipality along the Mediterranean where my colleagues and I spent an unforgettable afternoon.
  13. I’m a big Uber fan now. Cabs are so 2010. I take Uber cars now to go to and from the airport, and to get around my destination city. It’s cheaper, safer, faster, and definitely cleaner, and I never have to worry about a driver angling for a tip. Receipts are super-easy to file in my expense reports, too, since I never have to track down paper receipts. If I can help it, I’ll never take a cab again.

There are a few more things I’m experimenting with in my quest to travel light, including:

  • Exofficio clothing and underwear, which Tim Ferriss constantly raves about in his blog and podcasts. The pieces are supposed to be easily washable, wrinkle-free, and super-lightweight, but they’re also pretty pricey, so I’m waiting until they have a sale before I plunk down my credit card.
  • A smaller rolling bag, one that can fit under the seat in front of me. Right now I have two different carry-on bags, and which one I bring depends on how long my trip is. The smaller one is a Timbuk2 messenger bag that’s just big enough to carry my essentials for a weekend business trip (including laptop) and which can fit under an airplane seat with plenty of room to spare. The other is a bigger rolling bag that’s just under the size limits for carry-on, but which has enough room for everything I need for a week-long trip. It does, however, need to be stashed in an overhead bin, which I’m trying desperately to avoid because I hate the competition that inevitably arises among passengers for that coveted space. I’m heading to Phoenix in a couple of weeks, so next weekend my goal is to find a rolling carryon that can fit under an airplane seat but which can handle a bigger payload than my little messenger bag. Plus, it’ll be kinder to my shoulders.
  • This new site I just learned about on Fast Company’s website! Stowaway Cosmetics offers a limited yet carefully selected line of makeup essentials sized perfectly for your purse or carryon. It’s basically the size between “full-size” and “sample.” I can’t believe no one’s thought about it before! Like Exofficio, it’s a bit pricey, especially if you compare it to, say, a full-size product from Target like Neutrogena, Maybelline, or L’Oreal, but then again, what savvy traveler wants to lug around full-sizes of anything if you can help it? I’d rather save that space for any interesting books or chocolate bars or artisan coffee bags I find on the road. I can’t wait to try this stuff out.

I’d love to hear your own tips for traveling light and on a budget! Please share in the comments below!



The Mobile Appetite


I don’t know why I’m nursing a Starbucks at PDX airport when there are local coffee shops just steps away. Oh, habits.

As I write this, I’m nursing a Starbucks coffee (actually, a Grande Dark Nonfat Misto, and I capitalize that because it’s almost my brand. It’s the only drink I order at Starbucks, whether it’s 32˚ F or 100˚ F outside.), hanging out at Gate C9 at PDX (Portland International Airport), waiting for my return flight to DFW. I’ve spent the weekend hanging out with a few of my colleagues and couple of hundred of my new besties, also known as “bloggers” or would-be bloggers in the WordPress community.

My new job has required a lot more travel than I had anticipated, which isn’t altogether a bad thing. Sure, it’s quite stressful on the family — it means dog daycare for our brood of 4 active dogs, plus a greater share of household work falling on B.’s shoulders — but at the same time it really does help me get out of the rut that can come from working at home, day in and day out, my body barely moving from my standing desk for hours on end, my eyes straining to read the ever-shrinking font on my giant monitor. I am absolutely in love with my job and can’t imagine ever working anywhere else, ever again, but sometimes I have to get out from behind the security blanket that is my MacBook and actually meet real, live human beings.

It helps that those real, live human beings love blogging and the software that is the very definition of our company.

One thing I really need to get a handle on, though, is all the food. The company is quite generous with its employees and invests heavily in our well-being and comfort, especially when we travel. I love that. I have nothing to complain on that front. But it also means that when I travel, it’s not unusual to be eating generous, rich portions at each meal of quite scrumptious dishes. Plus snacks. We do live in America, and I in particular hail from Texas — home of 3-4 of the “fattest cities in America,” depending on which survey you happen to be looking at — and even I’m amazed at just how much food my colleagues and I can consume within a very short period of time. Maybe we really believe that meals consumed during business meetings don’t count, calorie-wise? Or maybe the siren call of the expense account is just too tempting to resist? I’m inclined to believe that it’s a combination of both, and I sit here with my grande Starbucks with the steamed milk-infused oatmeal plus a side of dark chocolate covered hazelnuts and feel very self-righteous. If it’s made in Portland, it has to be healthy, right?

My next stop in this whirlwind of a travel itinerary is actually Phoenix in a few weeks (helloooooo, PHX!). Maybe by then I’ll have dropped whatever poundage I’ve gained from the 2 days I’ve been in Portland. Just in time to try out whatever specialties Arizona chefs have in store for us. My appetite can’t wait.