Monday, March 30, 2015

March Favorites (Beauty and Otherwise)

This March has felt about twice as long as a normal month, and it's still not over. I can't explain what made it seem so interminable. Maybe it was that we were teased repeatedly with the promise of spring, yet the vernal equinox nine days ago brought us this:


Whatever the reason, this was a long and rather stressful month, and I clung more fiercely than ever to small material delights like lipstick and baking and k-pop music videos. I enjoy reading other bloggers' roundups of their monthly makeup favorites, but since my own beauty routine is pretty consistent and my new purchases are pretty infrequent (though less infrequent than they should be), I've never felt qualified to do my own monthly list of favorite beauty products. I've been thinking, though, that I'd like to start a tradition of listing all my favorites, beauty and otherwise, at the end of each month. I want to acknowledge those small ephemeral pleasures that make day-to-day life more enjoyable but too often fade from memory when new pleasures replace them. In his autobiography, Roland Barthes writes that "the art of living has no history: it does not evolve: the pleasure which vanishes vanishes for good, there is no substitute for it." All the more reason to record it, then. I think Barthes would have liked blogs: they're perfect vehicles for capturing the art of living as it slips away.

So here are my March favorites, in the order in which I encountered them:

1. Homemade Granola

Once you've made your own granola (or, as my dad adorably pronounces it, "grainola"), it's hard to return to the store-bought kind. I use this Alton Brown recipe, with several modifications: I cut the amount of oats in half; use just under 1/4 cup each of oil, brown sugar, and honey (not maple syrup); add vanilla and almond extracts and cinnamon; and bake the granola for about an hour. Of course you can make the full recipe if you want three cups of granola, but giving myself access to that much granola at once is probably a bad idea.


My favorite additions are toasted sliced almonds, toasted coconut shavings, dried cranberries, and those little flour-covered date rolls, but you can get as creative as you like. Just don't add the dried fruit before baking, which I did the first time I made granola. You'd think that six years of cooking for myself would have trained me not to make such dumbass mistakes, but nope.

2. ITG Weekend Workout Videos

Earlier this year, Into the Gloss introduced a series called "Weekend Workout," which petered out after five installments. It's a shame, because they posted some great exercise videos, including two short Pilates workouts for arms and legs and a grueling inner-thigh workout that I've never been able to do all the way through, despite having relatively strong legs. (I use cans of pumpkin and coconut milk instead of handweights for the arm workout, and if that's not #gradcore I don't know what is.) I relied heavily on these videos early in the month, when it was too cold and nasty to venture out to the gym.

3. Derek Jarman's Edward II

I'd been meaning to see this for a long time: there are too few film adaptations of non-Shakespearean Renaissance plays, and Jarman's aesthetic is similar to that of my favorite director, Peter Greenaway. How to describe it? Dark, intensely atmospheric, ornate but seedy, equal parts stylized and visceral. In Edward II, Tilda Swinton, wearing immaculate clothes and makeup that evoke Dior's New Look, kills a man by gnawing through his jugular. That's about the shape of it. 


Jarman's film is a 1991 adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's tragedy of the same name. Set in a dystopian, vaguely fascist England, it follows the downfall of the homosexual Edward II, who alienates the court by neglecting his queen and political duties for his lover Piers Gaveston. Jarman portrays Edward a bit more sympathetically than Marlowe does, though no one comes off particularly well--least of all Edward's spurned queen, played by Swinton. She wears some amazing makeup, though.


4. All Things Peach

No color feels springier to me than peach, and writing a post on Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Streak put me in the mood for other peachy makeup. Left to right: Sleek blush in Life's a Peach, Urban Decay Streak, and Butter London Trout Pout.


The blush looks intimidatingly orange, but it melds with my pink undertones to produce a flattering soft peach. I'm glad I rediscovered Life's a Peach before buying a pinker peach blush, which I was contemplating earlier this month. Very little has happened in my blush-wearing career to disprove my original hypothesis: that all blushes in the same color family look pretty much identical once applied and blended out. (This is not at all true of lipsticks, of course.)

5. Illamasqua Nail Varnish in Speckle 

Not peach, obviously, but still worth a mention.


This lovely lavender with matte black glitter has seen less wear than it deserves over the past two years, because I can't bring myself to wear it in any season but spring. It makes my nails look like speckled eggs, or Easter candies, or Easter candies dyed to look like speckled eggs. I should persuade myself to wear it at other times of the year, though--the formula is perfect, and I'm sure some birds lay eggs in October.

6. Gain's "Paradise Lost" MV

Throughout last year, I told myself that I hadn't really caught the k-pop bug: I liked Spica and Mamamoo and a couple of Orange Caramel songs and that was all, damn it. Of course I was lying to myself, to which the 30-plus k-pop songs currently on my phone can attest. My favorite new music video in March was "Paradise Lost" by Gain, a singer from the four-piece girl group Brown Eyed Girls. I was biased in favor of this song before I even heard it: it was named after Milton's great epic, and everything, k-pop included, needs more Milton allusions. But it doesn't hurt that the song is great, and that some of Gain's makeup looks are almost as epic as the Miltonic imagination:


7. Instagram

I finally got an Instagram account and, of course, promptly became addicted. The less said about that, the better.

8. William Gibson's The Peripheral

One of the deep, dark, painfully ironic secrets of literature PhD programs is that they deprive you of the will and time for pleasure reading. When reading books is your job, you find yourself spending your leisure hours on, say, Instagram. I've been trying to resist this tendency, though, and am now 60-ish pages into William Gibson's newest novel, published last year. (I think I first heard about it from Liz's Instagram, actually.)


It's taken me almost all of those 60 pages, plus some supplementary reading of reviews, to figure out what's actually happening, but I think I'll enjoy the book more now that I'm on a firmer footing plot-wise. The action shifts very rapidly between the perspectives of two characters: a young Appalachian woman in the near future (big-box stores, traumatized war veterans, weakening governmental power, 3-D printing run rampant) and an urbane Londoner in a more distant future in which environmental havoc has destroyed a majority of the world's population. I've overdosed on dystopias in the last few years, but what else is new?

9. Lush Shampoo Bar in Jason and the Argan Oil

I've never spent much money or energy on haircare, since my fine, wavy hair reacts more dramatically to changes in humidity or water hardness than it does to new products. But after a series of bad hair days this month, I couldn't help but wonder if my dirt-cheap Pantene Pro-V shampoo could be improved upon. Believe it or not, it could!


Since moving to England for a postdoc, my boyfriend has become my main supplier of British beauty products (including a new Topshop Matte Lip Bullet, which I'll review in my next post). I mentioned that I wanted to try one of the new Lush shampoo bars, and he chose this one for me, knowing my love for rose scents and groanworthy classicist puns. Lush claims that the bar will last as long as three bottles of shampoo, which seems very dubious to me, but we'll see. It does smell wonderful, and it gives my hair some extra volume and shine, as witness a recent post-shower selfie:


This post felt as long in the writing as March did in the living, which seems appropriate. Happy spring, everyone!

14 comments:

  1. I love those shampoo bars. They are the best thing for travel. You really can usually get away with just a quick swipe across the scalp to build up enough lather. I've been seeing them on blogs so much recently that I'm tempted to pick one up again - the Karma one smells wonderful. But that would mean venturing into a Lush store, and I don't know if I'm up for dealing with their overbearing sales tactics these days.

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    1. I never go into a Lush store when I can help it, precisely because of those sales tactics (and the fact that all the scents blend into an undifferentiated floral mush, so there's no real point in sniffing before buying). I'd highly recommend the rose bar, though! I've never been so excited about a haircare product before.

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  2. Confession time........... I never did end up reading The Peripheral. I instagrammed it, then promptly became distracted by something or another and missed the deadline for submitting a one paragraph review and put it aside. Part of the reason is I detested Gibson's Neuromancer and was hoping to receive a different book, not another Gibson. (This is thanks to our local newspaper's literary book club. They choose a bunch of people each month to receive a new book and provide reading responses.) I'm reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch now and it's much more to my liking.

    And whoa @ THE SWINTON. I've never seen her with so much visible makeup on. God, I love her.

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    1. THE SWINTON! Have you seen her in Orlando, which was made around the same time? That's my favorite role of hers, but she's great in Edward II too.

      Gibson is the sort of writer I *should* love, given my usual preferences, but I just...don't. Neuromancer has never really interested me, though I do want to read the Bridge Trilogy, if only because I grew up in SF (as you know) and he was remarkably prescient about the disappearance of the middle class there.

      I confess, I couldn't get into The Goldfinch. I expected Tartt's style to have matured since The Secret History (which I really enjoyed), but I didn't feel that it had.

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    2. I need to read Orlando first. I think the only major movie I saw her in is I Am Love, another visually stunning movie. Or maybe it's just The Swinton Effect at play.

      Gibson is a freaking prophet because Neuromancer was groundbreaking at the time and uncanny to read now. I was just bored with it because I came to it too late, plus it showed up as mandatory reading in THREE of my English courses within two years. Too many overlaps in curriculum made me furious because I was taking night courses and sacrificing all my free time to pursue the degree.

      The Goldfinch is my introduction to Tartt, so maybe it'll be more enjoyable to go backwards when it comes to her books.

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  3. Homemade granola is truly one of life's pleasures. Which reminds me, it's been far too long since I've made a batch. I like to add the coconut (sweetened because I'm a sugar fiend) to the batch before I roast it, then it gets all toasty with the nuts and oats.

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    1. Ah yes, I should have mentioned that I wasn't counting coconut in the "dried fruit" category! I like toasting it with the rest of the granola, too. Alas, my local health-food store has been out of the big coconut slivers for weeks now, and the tiny shreds just aren't the same.

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  4. "I use cans of pumpkin and coconut milk instead of handweights for the arm workout, and if that's not #gradcore I don't know what is."
    I use dictionaries...

    P.S. Your blog is perfection!

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    1. Why, thank you! <3 I thought about using books, but aren't they hard to maintain a grip on when you're swinging your arms around? Must investigate. The canned pumpkin has a tendency to slosh back and forth while I'm exercising, which really brings home the absurdity of the situation...

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  5. How did I not know there was a film version of Edward II? That is unbearably exciting. I must track this down, goddamnit. Also, I must read the play because somehow I've not despite the fact that I love Edward II as in the kingly dude and I also love Isabella. and TILDA SWINTON. I still need to watch Orlando, damnit.

    Also, never deny the kpop. Ever. I tried and it's ended up taking over my life. The new Mamamoo single is out in about twelve hours, not that I'm counting down or anything.

    And your hair is so gorgeous <3

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    1. Edward II is my favorite Marlowe play! It's certainly his most polished (among what remains to us of his plays, at least), and I think his most affecting, as well. He seems to care about Edward more than he does about his other main characters. And YES, you need to watch Orlando.

      I just heard the Mamamoo single and...eh. I love the first minute and the last 45 seconds, but I think it sort of sags in the middle. The video is perfection, though (Hwasa screaming into the phone <3), and I'll probably end up downloading the song because I'm powerless against the charm of Mamamoo. So it goes.

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  6. Tilda Swinton is glorious.

    I really enjoyed the two Lush shampoo bars that I've tried - Squeaky Green and Godiva, I think. There's something really fun about them!

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    1. They're the first product that has made hair-washing fun for me! I have a soft-spot for Lush's rough DIY aesthetic and rose fragrances. I wonder why conventional shampoos are never rose-scented?

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  7. Ok, I guess I have to pick up one of their shampoo bar(since pretty much all of the drugstore shampoo give me itchy scalp, aveda was ok but it smells like algae/glue) Their store just gave me a headache so during my last visit, I just grabbed the lip tint(and a solid fragrance/emogen rose!) and ran out...

    Ps, totally agree with you blush hypothesis (that's why I don't find them fun to review)but I just convinced myself it's more about the pretty pots and the sight I get when I use them. So the hauling never stopped.

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