Monday, February 2, 2015

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel 2
I’ve written before how hard I am on my nails. Most ‘regular’ polishes make in one, maybe two days if I’m lucky. That lead me to get my first salon gel manicure a couple of years ago (that one lasted around two weeks without chipping) and as a result, I invested in my own curing light and quite a few polishes. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who gets bored easily so two weeks is a long time to keep me satisfied with just one nail color. Anyway, early last year I discovered Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel polish and it has proved to be an affordable way to get an inexpensive, non-boring manicure that lasts a week on my abused mails. Woohoo!!!
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel 1
These babies are great! They are available at most drugstores for right around 8 bucks (or $15 for a bottle of color and the top coat, which is a must have to make the whole thing work). I’ve got five or six colors in my collection and have worn them on fingers and toes. My favorite for my professional life is Bare Dare, a warmish nude that seems to match my skin tone pretty well. The nice thing about Miracle Gel is that there’s no light requirement or fancy nail prep or bottom coat. All you do is brush two thin coats on clean, bare nails and then add a coat of the Miracle Gel top coat. According to Sally Hansen, natural light works with the polish to continuously cure the gel thereby hardening the finish so that the wearer gets up to fourteen days of wear. Now, I generally do not get fourteen days of wear with any polish but anything over two days is a win for me! Miracle Gel definitely fits the bill and I consider it an affordable staple in my nail polish collection.
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel 3
One thing I noticed about Miracle Gel is that the applicator brush seems to be quite a bit wider than all of my other polishes, including other gel polishes. At first, I thought this would be annoying but it really seems to work well. Unlike my experience with some thinner brushes, I do not get any drag or brush marks in my polish with Miracle Gel. Not sure if that’s why the brush is so wide, but it’s OK by me!
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel 4
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel 5
Last week I wore Bare Dare and these pictures were taken on Day 3. Since I traveled all week, the fact that my manicure shows no wear after three days is quite a big deal. Do you know how beaten up you get traveling by air? It’s killer!

Miracle Gel is available in over 45 shades at a drugstore near you. If you’re looking for a good, economical long wearing polish, this is definitely worth checking out!

Ages of Beauty rating: ****

Monday, January 26, 2015

Accomplishing the “Impossible”

This morning I received a message from one of my personal heroes that included a quote from one of his. The quote is “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” said by Nelson Mandela. Sitting at my desk this morning, I started thinking about how that really is true. Every one of us has obstacles to overcome, goals to achieve and dreams that may come true one day, if and only if the stars align in such a way to make them possible.

As women, we are faced with obstacles every day of our lives. Depending on where you grew up, it may have been “women are supposed to…” or “you can’t do that because only BOYS do that” or even “nice girls don’t…” Maybe your messages were less about your gender and more about the color of your skin, your race, you wealth (or lack of) or sexuality. Think about all of the times that you didn’t listen to or heed those words. I know that the times I didn’t do “what I was supposed to do” resulted in success, some failure but overall, incredible learnings. And every single time I took my own path, I gained just a little bit more confidence that I was on the right path and that I could handle just about anything that came my way. Now I definitely benefit from a kind of privilege that not everyone enjoys so I KNOW that my path has been easier than that of many others. But what we all have in common is the doubt that we’ll be successful in the trails we’re blazing. It is only after we have tried that we can turn the “impossible” into the “possible.”  And if that attempt results in failure, we take what we learned and try again and again and again, making adjustments along the way.

So the next time you find yourself at a crossroad, feeling like you should give up or knowing what needs to be done but you are afraid to do it, jump forward--step out and take a leap of faith. Make that emotional investment in yourself and find the courage (even if it’s just a tiny bit) to move forward. One day you’ll look back with confidence and see all the impossible things that YOU have done.

Have a great day!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Butterflies in Winter


It’s not Spring yet but wouldn’t it be great if we could import some signs of Spring into these cold days of Winter? Well, I stumbled upon a way of doing this as I was multitasking the other day---relaxing, doing a hobby that I love, learning a new technique and trying to enter a contest! I’ve written before about how I learned how to make soap last Spring and that I “soaped” as a way of dealing with my grief over losing Dad. Now, I’m taking it to a higher level and learning some advanced techniques.

Along the way, I discovered the Soap Challenge Club, hosted by Great Cakes Soapworks. For the third time, I entered the contest, which is designed to teach new soaping techniques but THIS TIME I actually finished my project in time to blog about it and upload the link for my entry! This month’s challenge is the Butterfly Swirl, an advanced technique that is very tricky and can be quite frustrating. The idea behind it is that the soaper (that would be me) creates a design in a loaf of soap using various colorants, a “hangar tool” which allows the swirling to happen and a technique that is just right. What’s supposed to happen is that once the soap is unmolded and cut into bars, two of the bars will fit together in such a way that the resulting image will be that of a butterfly. Sounds SO EASY right? WRONG!!! I tried this a couple of times before finding a couple of soaps that would give me the design. Here are a some pictures from my final effort.

Butterfly Swirl 4
This is what a (fancy) loaf of soap looks like once it has hardened in the mold and is ready to cut. I started out with all the raw ingredients to make the soap (in this case, coconut oil, shea butter, water, aloe, silk and sodium hydroxide) and then mixed in a gorgeous cherry fragrance oil called Black Cherry Bomb from Nature’s Garden. The swirl on the top is not the Butterfly Swirl but is a nice little decoration for the finished bar. Here are a couple of close ups of the top design:
Butterfly Swirl 5

Butterfly Swirl 6
I know it looks really fancy, but the top design was really easy. The inside design is the problem. Once I got the soap put together with all of the ingredients (not including the fragrance oil and the colors), I blended the soap until it got slightly thick. So far, so good. This is where a lot of things can go awry (and we haven’t even gotten to the design yet!). Normally, I wouldn’t use a fragrance oil that I had not yet tested in soap but I wanted to try something that wouldn’t discolor this particular soap (some fragrances change the soap color) AND that smelled like Spring to me. Since I have a LOT (and I mean A LOT!!!) of fragrance oils on hand, I researched each oil that interested me to see how it performed for others. I finally settled on the Black Cherry Bomb fragrance, which is strong and heavenly! The biggest risk, besides discoloration, is that a fragrance oil will harden the soap before I could get the swirling done. Fortunately, Black Cherry Bomb behaved beautifully!

Next is the color. I decided to do a white base color with four swirling colors. I used three colors from Nurture Soap Supplies (Pink Vibrance, Blue Vibrance and Yellow Vibrance) and then a smidgen of black (Brambleberry’s Black Mica). Once I got the colors mixed and incorporated into the various parts of the soap. I used my hangar tool to swirl away! For this particular recipe, I was able to unmold the soap after about 24 hours and then I cut it into bars. Now the trick of the Butterfly Swirl was to find two bars that I could put together to form a butterfly. Fortunately, I was able to find several combinations. I also took it a step further and put four bars together to form really huge butterflies!  Here are the results!

Two Bar butterfly
Butterfly Swirl 1
Four Bar Butterfly
Butterfly Swirl 3
Four Bar Butterfly

It may have taken me several tries, but I finally did it! Learning this technique was a lot of fun and I will definitely be doing more Butterfly Swirls in an attempt to perfect it. The great thing, though, is that not only do I have tons of soap (as in I have a whole separate batch of attempts that I didn’t even show) to give away within 4-6 weeks but my office smells just like cherries. That’s the way to get into Spring!