Monday, January 30, 2012

Skin... Exposed

I get asked about my skin fairly often.  Between us girls, there shouldn't be any secrets to having healthy, happy skin.  Below are my personal skin choices.  Some are free, some are pricey.  Feel free to add your own in the Comments section below.
  • Never wear makeup to bed.  Ever.  Period.  They should have a help line for this, it's so serious.  :)
  • Try to avoid wearing makeup every day.  Let your skin breathe as often as possible.  I only wear makeup about 1-2 times per week.
  • Use a good quality cleanser.  This does not have to mean expensive, although it can.  Here are my favorites: Mary Kay Timewise 3-in-1 Cleanser ($18), Aveeno Positively Radient Brightening Cleanser ($6.50).  I like Arbonne's FC5 Purifying Cleanser ($25) to use every now and then as a mask to raise blackheads (although it is intended as a cleanser).
  • I can't mention cleanser without it's sister product, moisturizer.  I use Clinique Even Better Skin Tone Correcting Moisturizer SPF 20 ($44.50) during the day without or under makeup.  At night, you need a different moisturizer, and it does not need SPF in it.  My all-time favorite is Mary Kay Timewise Age-Fighting Moisturizer ($22).  Unfortunately, I have not found its equal in Wal-Mart or Target, but if I ever do I'll be sure to post it here.
  • Remove blackheads.  Once a week, after cleansing, I examine my nose for blackheads.  To do this, gently squeeze them out and wipe the skin with alcohol.  
  • If I see a pimple, enter Mary Kay Acne Treatment Gel ($7).  Works like a charm, and my hubby even uses it.  If the pimple can be popped, I do so.  Then wipe with alcohol to remove any germs and top with acne gel.  Professionals encourage people not to pop their pimples.  I'll leave this decision to you.  If the surface of the skin is broken, and I am concerned about scarring then I apply Neosporin at night and possibly during the day if necessary.
  • Do not tan your face.  An esthetician will always recommend zero tanning in a tanning bed, regular sunblock, and spray tanning as an alternative.  I agree, but if you can't abstain from the tanning bed, at the very least cover your entire face with a towel when you go.  The sun is your skin's aging enemy.  That said, you still need vitamin D.  The key is balance.  I use Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Liquid Daily Sunblock SPF 70 ($12.50) under my makeup.
  • Wear sunglasses to prevent wrinkles around the eyes.
  • Use good foundation.  Good foundation can fool many people much of the time.  I recommend Almay TLC Truly Lasting Color 16 Hour Liquid Makeup ($13).  You will be shocked at the 100% coverage and how long it lasts.  Another good option is Mary Kay Creme-to-Powder Foundation ($14).  That also yields 100% coverage, but goes on slightly heavier.  If you don't need full coverage, but want a nice finish without a heavy layer, Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Foundation with SPF 15 ($40) will serve you well and a little goes a very long way.  One more that has good coverage, but is best for dry skin is Clinique City Base Compact Foundation ($24).  Clinque has several foundation options that cover to varying degrees, and you will probably be able to find one that fits your specific skin needs.
  • There is no product out there that can do what Botox or Dysport can to the same extent.  If they claim it, they are fibbing. Dysport is traditionally slightly lower or the same in price compared to Botox and covers more area, goes into effect sooner, and is believed to last a little longer.  That's not all -- I lost the "angry" look that I get when my eyebrows pinch together every time I concentrate.  If you don't know where to go for this, please start at Providence Medical Spa in Branson.  They give me freebies for referrals, so please tell them I sent you.
  • My husband bought me a Clarisonic for Mother's Day last year.  Yes, it works like a charm.  However, it only works if you actually use it.  :)  Now that we've established that the Clarisonic is not a "set it and forget it" type of she-tool, if you use it every day you will see amazing results.  They run $200.  
  • I haven't tried microdermabrasion, but I am a fan of chemical peels.  One peel a year works for me.  My choice is the Gloss Peel ($150) at Providence Medical Spa.  My face peeled at least twice and in some areas three times.  This, I believe, was a little more extreme than what the peel usually does.  Even though it is technically considered a superficial peel, it went plenty deep in my opinion.  If you have redness or are middle-aged and up, there is a slightly different peel in the same price range that would be better.  These work very well if you have acne scarring or, in my case, just want to slough off those old skin cells and give your skin a fresh start.  Buyer beware... you will look awful for about 5 days after your peel.  But, if you get the timing right (i.e., not right before your sister's wedding) then it can be an excellent decision.
  • No smoking.  Avoid excessive alcohol.  These are things that will inevitably show up in your skin and amplify the aging process to warp speed rates.
  • What goes in must come out.  Sadly, too many greasy double cheeseburgers can make your face look like it did on your worst teenage day.  Fresh, healthy food makes pretty skin.
  • While I am not currently doing all these, if you have regular skin issues here is the short list of vitamins that revitalize skin: Vitamins C, E, A, K, and B complex.  Fish oil is also recommended.  I was advised by a nurse not to purchase vitamins at Wal-Mart, since some of them have been tested and have fillers making them less effective.  Why spend money and get a product that isn't even effective?  If your budget allows, head to a health food store, if not, NatureMade at Target is a good option.  
Did I miss anything??  If so, just add your tips in the comments section below.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Summer of Promise - Amanda Cabot

"Summer of Promise" is the first in the new series "Westward Winds" by Amanda Cabot.  Amanda is a fairly new writer with three other books under her belt, all published by Revell.
This series begins with Abigail Harding, who journeys from the East coast to Wyoming and falls in love with a soldier with issues of his own.  The plot incorporates a solid mystery and has three different storylines.  The foremost is the blossoming relationship between Abigail and Ethan.  The second is the mystery of the stagecoach robberies and rifle theft at the base.  The third is the situation of a local girl, Leah, who is trapped in an undesirable situation.  I commend the author for drawing out all three stories and winding them together in an intricate way.  I love it with an author pairs romance with mystery in a novel.
The book did leave some unanswered questions.  I thought the ending was strong, and I especially like how it ended between Abigail's sister, Charlotte, and her husband, Jeffrey.  The author could have taken an easier path, but instead chose a more difficult, but much more fulfilling ending to Charlotte and Jeffrey's story.  However, it opens the questions of Charlotte's future, which went unanswered in this book.  Also, while we know how the relationship ends for Abigail and Ethan, it doesn't provide much about their future together or how Ethan will choose to deal with his grandfather's estate.  Another unanswered question was the crooked attorney we met later in the book.  No resolution is provided in regard to him.  I assume that all these questions will be answered in Book #2.
My only criticism of this book is.... the electricity between the two main characters wasn't present enough for me.  I felt like this was a very safe, very conservative read even for the women's Christian fiction genre and the romance was more suited toward juvenile fiction.  My recommendation is to add a little more heat and attraction between the characters.
This author is talented, and I am looking forward to seeing more from her in this series.
This was a complimentary review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chasing Mona Lisa - Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey

"Chasing Mona Lisa" is a novel set in France during the World War.  There are so many well-crafted characters, and this book will engage your mind more than most.  It is full of history and action-packed.  I thought the authors captured the emotion of the citizens of Paris very well.  Many times, I could imagine myself there. 
While I was able to stay with the storyline in Paris, I often got lost when organizing the German characters and their position in the hierachy of Hitler's battalion.  However, the authors did a fantastic job of drawing up each individual character.  Rarely do I have the privilege of reading a book with this many well-developed characters. 
The plot was intense and action-packed.  I enjoyed the multiple facets of the plot.  In truth, this book has a number of plots, and they are expertly woven together.  While multiple storylines can make some books hard to follow, here I believe it added to the quality of the writing and provided a much more developed plot than simply two agents trying to save the Mona Lisa.  This book reflected so much more than that. 
Because this book was set in the middle of the World War in Central Europe, I would think the biggest challenge when writing a book like this would be keeping the reader from becoming depressed.  Unlike many lighter novels, I wouldn't say this is a feel-good, relaxing book.  There was a small amount of romance it in, but the overall tone of the book was somber.  I would recommend it for a more serious reader who appreciates the details of history.  You will certainly walk away with a better understanding of what the World War was about.  It would be especially good for someone who had a grandfather who fought in the World War.
This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an un-biased review.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My take on 2012 resolutions...

I don't usually make resolutions.  Normally I figure that if I don't want to do something of my own free will, then I shouldn't compromise my personal standards by doing something out of obligation, political-correctness, or because someone told me "You have to."  Please.  Even if you hold a gun to my head, I still don't have to do anything (although, after weighing my options I may make the decision to acquiesce).
So you can see how new year's resolutions tend to rub me the wrong way. For several years, I didn't make any at all.  Since I also like to succeed at everything I set my hand to, I refuse to knowingly set myself up for failure.  This year is different, though.  I have a resolution that I am so excited about that I genuinely want to follow through.  Here it is:

Live a healthier lifestyle.

Specifically, this includes:
  • Eat more organic/quality foods.  This means that I will buy more organic beef from the Dolloffs and occasionally organic milk from Lorenae Dairy in Galena, MO.  My mom grows green onions with nothing more than a jar and water.  She had them in her window sill, and I think this would be a good way to "grow" some of my own food (Since I am not an outdoorsy person, gardening is out.).
  • Use better quality body products.  After working at Spa Chateau, I don't think I will ever be able to go back to using cheap lotions and body products.  This year I will read more labels.  If a lotion lists water, alcohol, or mineral oil as being some of the top ingredients I won't even consider it. 
  • Excercise a little.  You heard me.  A little.  Just before my birthday I went running in the morning for the first time ever!  I want to do again that every now and then.  I also have a fantastic work out DVD that does not bore me and challenges me every time.  I want to use it more. 
  • The part of this that I am most excited about is.... taking more vitamins and supplements.  Used to, when I heard the word "vitamin" it conjured up visions of my elderly grandfather with his basket full of a myriad of vitamins.  I thought they were for old people.  (Since I am creeping up on 30, maybe I wasn't wrong.)  Anyway, a couple months ago a friend heard me talking about my energy lag and emotional seesaw.  She recommended B12.  I started taking it under the tongue, and noticed an energy boost immediately.  A couple Saturdays ago, I did a pedicure on a nurse who works for a doctor at a natural health care clinic.  She recommended magnesium for my migraines and D3 for overall health.  I just purchased these and am excited about adding these to my health plan. 
  • Get control of my migraines!  I refuse to continue having migraines as frequently as I do.  I have some form of headache almost every day, and was diagnosed as having migraines a few years ago.  I'm going to make some health changes.  A close friend also has migraines, and she recently saw a doctor and shared some information with me.  The first step is recognizing what brought on the migraine.  Common triggers are: caffeine, white breads, lack of sleep, sunlight, dehydration.  Since then every time I get a migraine I ask myself what triggered it and how can I avoid that in the future.  The magnesium is an exciting step in the right direction.
This is going to work for my personality because the words here are "more," not "always" or "never."  I don't like feeling boxed in, and I want to be proud of myself.  This year, my goal is simply to do more than I did last year.  Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God Gave Us Two by Lisa Tawn Bergren

"God Gave Us Two" is another fantastic book by Lisa Tawn Bergren written for children between ages 3-7.  All my children loved the story and the art.  Lisa worked in several common questions small children have when they are anticipating the arrival of a baby brother or sister.  The book was centered around children being a gift from God and loved by their parents.
The only change I would have made was at the very end of the story when papa polar bear says "God gave us two!" and Little Cub replies, "No, God gave us three!" My suggestion is that it would have been better in reverse.  I felt like in that statement, papa polar bear had unintentionally excluded Little Cub, and Little Cub had caught it.  After such a sweet story, this might have been a much warmer ending.
Having said that, I still loved the book and it is a cherished part of my children's library.  My oldest daughter, who is presently learning to read, enjoyed practicing with the book and was able to pronounce most of the words without help.  I always appreciate a children's book that children can actually read by themselves. Most importantly, "God Gave Us Two" is an excellent way for parents to introduce a coming baby to the family.
This book was a review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a non-biased book review.