IMO

I haven’t talked much about mascara in a while. At the beginning of the summer I had a bout of Pink Eye which required me to throw away all my eye makeup and start from scratch. It takes me a while to get over Pink Eye and I like to wait a few weeks before it’s gone gone before I start wearing eye makeup again to prevent contamination should there still be bacteria in my eyes. So for several weeks everyone I knew gave me a strange look when I’d show up everywhere sans eye makeup. They could tell I looked different and worse; but they couldn’t put their finger on why.

I spent my eye-makeup-free time dreaming of mascara. I got so tired of my beady little eyes.  My old favorite mascara was by Sonia Kashuk. Of course it’s been discontinued, as is the case with all great makeup. I’ve heard rumors that they’re going to bring it back but I haven’t seen it yet.

After doing lots of research, my first mascara purchase was some Japanese stuff called Heroine Make Lash and Curl. This stuff has the greatest reviews and everybody adores it.

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It’s a Japanese cheapo brand so even with shipping (off of ebay) it wasn’t too expensive. My verdict: It was horrible. HORRIBLE!  It was so wet and gooey that my lashes all stuck together in one disgusting clump. And it took forever to dry. Seriously, I put the mascara on, finished my other makeup, put my shoes on and got in my car and the mascara was still goopy. Heaven help you if you sneeze or rub your eyes before it’s dried. I have no idea–none-why people would like this mascara. The positive reviews on Makeup Alley confound me. My lashes certainly didn’t look full or lush. They just looked stubby and gross. I thought maybe some eyelashes had fallen out because of the pink eye, they looked so pitiful.

Next I turned to another positively reviewed mascara, Be Long by Clarins. I saw Clarins makeup all over Europe but it’s not as well-known here in America. I mean, I’ve seen Clarins counters around but it just doesn’t seem to be as popular as Clinique or Lancôme. So I ordered a small tube of Be Long off of ebay because it’s pretty spendy if you buy it retail. (Ebay is such a great resource for trying out makeup without having to pay a fortune.)

Clarins Be Long

My eyelashes that I thought were short and sparse? Oh my goodness! Never before have they looked so long and gorgeous. My lashes curled beautifully and the mascara didn’t clump at all. All I could do is look in the mirror and say, “Wow!”.  Sadly, Be Long is not waterproof. By the end of the day it had smudged and little tiny flakes were dotting my cheeks.  Going out in the bright sun (which is all the time here in Texas) makes my eyes water and after a while I started to look streaky like Tammy Faye talking about Jim’s infidelity.

I was just so, so, so disappointed. I’ve heard that there are products that you can apply to mascara to make it waterproof. But once you factor in expensive mascara plus an expensive waterproofer, it’s quite a lot of money just for eyelashes. While lots of people think that eyelashes are tremendously important, they’re just a row of hair so really they’re not my number one concern. If I were a blondie with pale lashes I might feel differently.

Next I decided to try Clarins waterproof mascara called Wonder Proof. While it’s very nice and one of my top picks, it’s not as great as Be Long. It’s a little clumpier and my lashes don’t look quite as long. The great thing about this mascara, though, is that is doesn’t budge.  No smudging and smearing at all. I wash my face with oil and I still have to rub hard to get this stuff off at the end of the day.

Wonder perfect

Every day when I reach for my mascara I want to grab Be Long. It just looks so fantastic. But I don’t fancy looking like a raccoon by the end of the day so I pick Wonder Perfect instead. It’s a very good mascara but it’s not my Holy Grail. I’d put it on the same level as my old favorite, Lights Camera Lashes by Tarte (which is not waterproof but a little more smudge resistant than Be Long). I’m still on the look-out. Do you have a waterproof mascara that you’re madly in love with? I might need to try it.

This was probably the lamest day of our trip. It started out well, though. Of course we stopped by the Fête du Pain as we did every morning. We ate all our deliciousness on our way to Sainte-Chapelle, the little jewel-box of a church on the same island as Notre Dame. There was a security line that wound around the sidewalk that we had to wait in to get our bags peered into. Thanks to our Museum Passes, though, we walked right into the church after going through security, bypassing the hundreds of people waiting in line to buy tickets. Chumps!

Sainte Chapelle is an interesting church. It’s quite small and is built on two levels. The bottom level is where you enter. It’s pretty but nothing fancy. That’s where the servants and lesser mortals worshipped. Up a tiny winding staircase you’ll find the upper chapel with its gorgeous riot of stained glass. This, as you might have guessed, is where the Kings of France and the noble classes went to church.

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The stained glass windows are in the process of being restored. Some are finished and look bright and beautiful; some have scaffolding and you can’t see much at all and some still have restoration left to go. It’s quite interesting to see the differences.

It’s not a terribly large church, so it doesn’t take much time to visit. But it’s so lovely that it’s certainly worth a trip.

I split up from the rest of the family afterwards for the afternoon. I wanted to do a little shopping for some beauty products at City Pharma (the best and cheapest drugstore in town). French drugstores sell the most wonderful beauty products. None of them are particularly cheap but the quality is superb. Unfortunately a major wrench was thrown into the plans: my period started.  Normally this wouldn’t be worth a mention but it brings up a very important issue. There are no public bathrooms in France. Theoretically there are, but they are so few and far between that I have to believe that French people have bladders the size of watermelons. No store we visited had a public bathroom. Not even Monoprix which is a giant department store. I made sure to ask after I’d spent quite a bit of money there so they wouldn’t think I was just in the store to use the bathroom. Still the clerks claimed there were no toilets. You might, as I do, hate McDonalds. But when you’re in Europe your heart will leap at the idea of a bathroom, a cold drink and free wifi.

Where do people pee in France? It’s a question I still can’t answer. Every museum has a bathroom with lines a mile long. It’s really the only choice for tourists, of which there are a jillion. Occasionally we’d come across one of those automatic public toilets that sits in the middle of the sidewalk. Only once was one of the working; the rest of the time we’d get our hopes up only to waddle away, praying to find another alternative soon.

Of course I had no tampons or anything with me. So instead of shopping for beauty supplies I spent almost two hours shopping for lady supplies. I visited three pharmacies, all of which had entire aisles devoted to weight loss aids, but no tampons (seriously. No tampons. I walked up and down every aisle.) Finally I struck gold at Monoprix (which is very similar to Target). Because there was no bathroom there, I spent another twenty minutes trying to find a toilet. Any toilet. I didn’t care how smelly or dirty. Eventually I stumbled upon a modern-type shopping mall and was so happy to find a public bathroom that I almost started to cry. Naturally I had to pay 1€ to use it, but at that point I would have paid 10.

In my frantic wanderings I came across this charming beehive built into the corner of a building. You know I have such a fondness for beehives. You didn’t know? Well, how do you think I came up with the name for this blog?

Beehive Paris

I also passed by a realtor with the same name as me! (The spelling is a bit different, alas.)  If I hadn’t been doing the potty dance I might have stopped in to introduce myself.

Hilde Realtor Paris

And look at this jaunty little car! It has silhouettes of all the most famous French sites on it. I wonder if they have one in a minivan version.

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While I was have menstrual-related anxiety, Mister took the kids on a ride in a bateau-mouche on the Seine. They had a wonderful time and I am so glad they didn’t have to get dragged on my drug store and toilet wanderings around Paris.

When we finally met up, it was time to go to Versailles. When Mister and I went to Versailles the first time about twenty years ago, we thought it was kind of lame. Don’t get me wrong, Versailles is very grand and impressive and everything you would imagine it to be. But it just really lacked something. A heart, maybe.  It was built to be fancy and ostentatious and that’s pretty much the vibe you get.  But I thought maybe I had the wrong impression when I went last time. Maybe I would like it better since I’m so much older and more mature. And it’s May and wouldn’t the gardens look so mud better now than when we went last time and it was still winter-y and cold?

Here’s what I think about Versailles: it’s good to check off of your bucket list. Is it beautiful? Well, in a very grandiose impersonal way. It’s tremendously big and gaudy. It’s not my style at all. Foreigners, especially all the Chinese we saw there, were absolutely blown away by it. They could not get enough. York was pretty impressed too. It’s cool to see a place like that at least once. I mean, there were up to 10,000 people staying there at the same time. Do you realize how big of a building that is?  And yes, the gardens are amazing. But they’re very formal with miles of hedges and topiaries. It’s not about flowers, it’s about subduing nature. The entire experience of Versailles was built to impress everyone with how the King of France was boss of everything: not just his subjects but nature too.  There aren’t big flowery fields and rolling hills and things that we find so attractive nowadays; Nope, it’s just perfectly manicured trees and bushes that could just as easily be made of plastic and wouldn’t look all that different. Everything is about order and formality. So mostly we went because the kids should see it, but Mister and I swore never to go back.

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Getting to Versailles requires you to take the RER which is the train out to the suburbs. It requires a different ticket than the métro does. Pretty much every person who goes to Versailles is doing so as a day-trip from Paris. Some are on tour busses but most people will be taking the RER. To save yourself a mountain of time, buy your outgoing and return ticket in Paris. There is the most outrageously long line at the  Versailles train station to buy return tickets back to Paris. Here’s the tricky thing, the ticket machines don’t have a return ticket listed. So you select the “Versailles Rive Gauche” station and then . . . what? There is no Versailles-returning-to-Paris option.  I was completely perplexed, especially after my sister-in-law told me that she hadn’t been able to figure it out either, the last time she was here. So I went straight to the ticket counter and asked for four tickets each way.  And here’s what I got: eight tickets that said “Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche”. And guess what! The same ticket works both ways. So just buy two tickets for Paris to Versailles. One will get you there and one will get you back. I know you’re feeling very skeptical of what I’m saying, but the man at the train station assured me that this is how it works. And it did indeed work on the way back from Versailles.

The French train system is quite fickle. Trains quit right in the middle of the route without previous notice. Make sure you find out if the train you want to take to Versailles is, in fact, going all the way out there.

As Versailles is fantastically crowded at all times, we decided to go at the end of the day when the crowds have died down quite a bit. I studied the Versailles website to make sure our plans would work out. I picked a Saturday because the fountains are turned on on Saturdays during the summer.  The largest fountain–the Apollo fountain–only turns on for a short time. Which we somehow missed. The smaller fountains stay on as long as the château is open. The website doesn’t mention this. It only says that the gardens are open two hours later than the château. The website also doesn’t state that the gardens are a separate cost than the palace. The palace admission is included in the Museum Pass. But the gardens and the Petit Trianon are not. If you wait until after the château is closed then you can get in the gardens for free. When all the fountains are shut off.  It’s all very confusing and ended up making me very angry and frustrated.

The thing at Versailles that we didn’t see last time–and I was dying to see–is the Petit Hameau. It’s the place where Marie Antoinette pretended to be a little country shepherdess. I am so entirely jealous.

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Here is the crazy thing: the Petit Hameau is a 45 minute walk from the château. It takes that long to walk through all the fancy gardens. Goodness gracious!  There are also bikes that you can rent. And golf carts. And there is a little baby “train” that goes back and forth. But to my great dismay the Petit Trianon (of which the Petit Hameau is a part) closed earlier than the chateau. Right about the time that we wanted to get in, of course. No amount of cajoling softened the hearts of the employees. Even asking if I could just stand outside and take pictures. Non madame! Ce n’est pas possible! I found most of the people working at Versailles to be smug, cross and utterly unhelpful.

We had to content ourselves with seeing only the palace itself. Which, as I stated before, was gaudy and overblown with eight hundred types of marble and gilt everything and statues and paintings of gods and goddesses everywhere. (OK, we get it Louis XIV, you’re rich and powerful! Jeez!) Despite the crowds having thinned out remarkably, the place was still packed. We literally had to wait at the door of each room for five minutes while the crowds funneled through into the next room. I was so put out and disgusted that I didn’t take a single picture. Even in the Hall of Mirrors. It happened to be wall-to-wall with Chinese people taking photos anyway. Nothing puts me in a foul mood like a huge crowd.

Around the side of Versailles are the apartments of Louis XV’s three old-maid daughters: Adelaide, Victoire and Sophie. These rooms are intimate and pretty and I liked them so much more. Here is Adelaide’s bedroom. I took a picture of it because I have a daughter named Adelaide and I thought she would find it interesting. Also interesting is the fact the the Royal daughters were called Madame, not Princesse. How strange.

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Here’s a sitting room. It had these tiny chairs which I found quite interesting. What were they for? Children? Midgets? (Don’t laugh. Louis XIV’s mother was enchanted by dwarves and had a whole coterie of them.) Dogs?  I don’t know. Maybe they were just foot rests.  (I absolutely need this rug for my family room, by the way.)

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I just loved the walls in one of the rooms. Blue and white is a great love of mine. It’s fresh and timeless.

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We were happy to leave Versailles. We stopped by the Monoprix there to stock up on more French goodies and to buy some baby gifts for my pregnant friends back home (again, no bathroom. Aaaaarrrgh!)

The trains from Versailles pretty much all go to Paris. You just look at the screen above each train platform to figure out which one is leaving next. Some of them just sit there for ages with the doors open for some inexplicable reason. Make sure you’re on a train that actually plans on leaving soon.

If you want to go to Versailles, knock yourself out. But don’t feel the least bit sorry if you omit a trip out there. It’s not a quick jaunt; It’s about an hour each way on the train and a minimum of two hours at the château if it’s empty and you don’t see the gardens or the Petit Trianon. Most people are there for six or eight hours.  I certainly won’t be going out there again, I don’t care how many triangles Rick Steves gives it.

Because today was Sunday we decided to start off at Nôtre Dame. This place is always mobbed with people (and you know I hate crowds) so we made sure we got up nice and early. Of course the bells were ringing. Was it Quasimodo?

There was a mass being performed in the Cathedral. India and York were quite fascinated since they haven’t ever been to Catholic services before.  We were very quiet as we looked at all the chapels and art around the church.

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There is one pitiful bathroom in the basement at Nôtre Dame. In case you were wondering.

Our next stop was the Musée d’Orsay. Nearly all the art here is from the 19th century.

Orsay sign Dar York

Most people like this art museum the best since it’s more user-friendly, popular art. Here is where you’ll find lots of Monets, Renoirs and Van Goghs. As a matter of fact, there was a Van Gogh exhibit which revolved around his mental illness and suicide. Very interesting take on Van Gogh.

Orsay hall

There was a ton of Van Gogh’s artwork from several different museums. He is York’s favorite painter so I was glad he had the chance to see so much artwork up close. Van Gogh’s work is really best appreciated in person. I think he was one of the first painters to use the paint itself as an element in the artwork, making the pieces tactile and not just about the visual. The thick brushstrokes and heavy textures of paint are quite a departure from the precise use of paint that had always been the norm up until then. It drives me super crazy to look and not be able to touch. It was a real thrill to see paintings up close that we’ve looked at a hundred times in books. Like this one, the Bedroom at Arles, which is in one of the picture books I’ve read to my kids over and over.

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And this one, The Ballet Class by Degas. It was in a little book I read to the children quite often called Can You Spot a Dog? Which is exactly what India said to me when she saw it. Moments like that–where you see a painting in real life that you’ve seen so many times in a book–are exactly why I wanted to take the kids to Europe in the first place.

Ballet class degas

 

After visiting so many museums I tend to get a bit silly. Despite all my Art History courses, sometimes art just seems a little ridiculous. Take, for example, this sculpture. I swear the girl is taking a selfie with her iPhone. No really, what is she supposed to be doing?

Statue Selfie

Or this painting. It was a great big huge thing with lots of stuff happening. The artist seems to be a talented fellow but he’s obviously never held a baby in his life. Perhaps he’s not aware that they’re quite heavy and wiggly. And what, pray tell, is holding up her skirt? Oh, artists! They’re so precious!

Lady holding baby weirdly

This relief was my favorite. I don’t know what it’s proper name is but I like to call it Just Breastfeeding My Twins While My Husband Kills an Alligator. No Big Deal.  I especially like that the lady looks very contemporary (and upset!) I get rather tired of everyone having such classical and perfect faces. It’s so generic.

Twins with alligator

The coolest part of the Musée D’Orsay is this giant clock that looks out over Paris. The museum used to be a train station so there are several large clocks around.

Orsay Clock

One of my favorite things is museum shops. They’re just the best. As I was perusing the postcards at the Musée d’Orsay shop I spied a postcard of super close-up painting of a woman’s cootchie. No clothing or anything, just a full-on crotch shot. It was not particularly attractive or nicely done*; just, you know, a crotch. Staring me right in the face. And my teenage son. So I picked up the postcard and turned it around and set it back on the shelf. No sooner had I walked away than a woman came hurrying over to turn the card back so that we would all be lucky enough to see such a lovely picture. No doubt she was cursing the prudish American. Am I repressed for not wanting someone’s pubes in my face? (Apparently so.)

After our time at the Musée d’Orsay we had some lunch at a mediocre resatuarant. The one we’d been planning to go to was closed because it was Sunday. Every shop and many restaurants are closed on Sundays in France. You might be surprised as I was because French people don’t seem all that religious. Quite the opposite, really. But this has nothing to do with going to church or keeping one of the Ten Commandments. It has to do with relaxation. The French are very fond of taking it easy. They’re not necessarily lazy like many Latin countries. But they do like their time off.  It rather reminds me of myself. I can work hard but I do need to relax on a regular basis. The Puritan work ethic is not particularly vibrant in me. Or in France. The law, as it was explained to me by Pepé, states that every shop must be closed one day per week. If it’s not Sunday than it must be Monday instead. They’d all rather take the weekend off, so everything–and I mean EVERYTHING– is locked up tight. The few shops I found open were ones catering strictly to tourists. I have no idea how they skirt the law, but they do. Moral of the story: save your museums for Sunday. That’s the day when they’ll be open but stores won’t.

We took the bus to a museum called the Musée de Nissim Comondo. It is out in the part of Paris where families actually live; not the suburbs but the more residential area. The museum is a gorgeous townhouse built by a very wealthy man in the 1800′s. He was very fond of 17th century stuff and furnished his house entirely in the most wonderful antiques. It is not huge but is so much nicer than Versailles. He left his house to the French government to be preserved as it was on the day of his death. So all of the original furnishings are just as they were when he died after WWI. The audio tour is quite detailed and fascinating.  The family’s existence was quite tragic and it illustrates the idea perfectly not to spend your time amassing a fortune while you’re alive and moth and rust doth corrupt. Life and possessions are both so fleeting.

This was the kitchen which I found just wonderful.

Nissim Comondo kitchen

The museum was staffed entirely by French Asians. I have no idea why this was but they were rather cross and refused to give us the head sets for the audio tour because we only had an hour left before the museum closed. I explained probably three times that I understood that we had an hour left but we would still like to listen to the audio tour as long as we could. The lady at the counter very begrudgingly handed them over.  While we had to skip over quite a lot of the commentary, we finished in an hour. I would say that if you listen to the whole tour, it would take 2-3 hours to get through the whole thing, even though there are maybe a dozen rooms. As I said, it’s very detailed. If you are a fan of decorative arts and antiques, this would be Heaven for you. Not only is there a tour describing each room, but lots of objects in the room have a separate number on the audio guide so you can hear an explanation of each object as well.

The Nissim Commondo house backs up to a lovely park called the Parc Monceau. Many of the parks in Paris are like the gardens at Versailles: very formal. Lots of trimmed hedges, wide gravel paths and very well kept grass. In several of the parks you aren’t even allowed on the grass, you may only sit on the benches.  Parks are always jammed with people. Of course we were there when the weather was absolute perfection; I imagine there aren’t a lot of people out when there’s icy rain.  But really, the parks are just jammed with people lying around on the grass. This seemed a bit odd to me until I thought about how small people’s apartments are. If you live in a tiny flat and want to get together with a bunch of friends and hang out you have very few options: one is restaurants and one is parks.

The Parc Monceau is the kind of Park that English and American people are familiar with: rolling grassy hills, a playground, a few pretty statues here and there and much less formality. There were mobs of families and young people all over the place. Children were having pony rides, there were a couple of games of frisbee and catch but most everyone was interested in talking and basking in the glorious sun. I had a hard time adjusting to the fact that I could sprawl out without worrying about fire ants (Texas, this is your biggest flaw!)

Parc Monceau

We decided we had better get back on our sightseeing schedule so we hopped on a bus. We rarely took the métro in Paris. It’s just not as convenient as taking a bus. And not nearly as scenic. Unlike the busses in London, you can buy tickets on the bus. Which is good because we ran out of tickets. Bus tickets cost 2€ each and you can’t do transfers in between lines, so that stinks. But it’s still way cheaper than a taxi.

We stopped at the Arc du Triomphe. It’s much bigger than I remember. And it was being restored so the top was covered with scaffolding. Not cool, Paris! When I arrive I expect all monuments to be in tip-top shape.

Hildie arc du triomphe

Of course we had to stroll down the Champs Elysées afterwards. There were lots of tourists everywhere but it wasn’t nearly as crowded as lots of other places we’d been. There are several car dealerships on the Champs Elysées which seems strange to me. Who would buy a car in the middle of Paris? Maybe Saudis or Russians. At any rate, we stopped in the Renault dealership (boring, but I suppose I deserved it after all the museums I dragged everyone to). York was enchanted by the Renault Twizy which is an electric car that is resembles a four-wheeled motorcycle with a roof.

*I’m not going to put a picture of it here, obviously. But if you want to google it, be my guest. It’s called the Origin of the World by Courbet who is a very, very well-respected artist (whether he was a decent person or a misogynistic letch as so many artists tend to be is another question for another day). I think it’s interesting to think about whether this counts as pornographic or not. You can’t go to a museum without seeing a million and a half naked people. Excuse me, nude people. Very rarely are they sexual. But I would have to say that this picture is most definitely sexual. There’s nothing else to it. Really, take my word for it. Nothing else is happening. You can’t even see the woman’s face. Is sexuality automatically pornographic? Is it pornographic even if there is no sexuality? Is nudity a must for pornography?  Kind of a large can of worms but it’s the sort of thing one thinks of in European museums. Especially when one has been raised in a religious culture where even the top two inches of a woman’s arm is seen as sexual (wait, it’s not sexual? Then why is it supposed to be covered up?)

 

meaningless friendships

This makes me really angry. Come over to Segullah to find out why.

Hey, it’s date night! I lucked out at the movie theatre this week and saw two really great films. They were both at the artsy fartsy theatre which means  they may not show up near where you live (although I guess it depends on where you are). But they’re so definitely worth seeing. It’s not too late to call a babysitter and scoot on over to the movies!

The Lunchbox. This is an Indian (from India, not Native American) movie about an older widower and a young woman who strike up an interesting correspondence through a lunchbox. If you’ve seen any Bollywood films you know that Indian movies can be crazy over-the-top and unrealistic. The Lunchbox is nothing like that; it’s subtle and realistic; it’s sweet and sad and lovely and ugly all at once. Best of all it gives a realistic portrayal of middle-class life in India. I just adore a movie that helps me experience another culture. The Lunchbox is beautifully acted and very thoughtful. Such a refreshing change from the typical comic-book oeuvre that is everywhere at the megaplex these days. (Also I want a tiffin lunch box like the one in the movie, but one that’s big enough to put sandwiches in. In case you were wondering.)

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Tim’s Vermeer. This is my favorite documentary I’ve seen in years. Tim, the main character, is a cool inventor of lots of technological stuff. He just loves the painter Vermeer and has a hypothesis that Vermeer must have used some kind of magnifying glass/lens system to paint his gorgeous works.  So Tim sets out to recreate Vermeer’s studio and his painting supplies to see if he himself can follow in the Great Master’s footsteps using some old-fangled technology. It’s a fascinating, engaging and thoroughly cool movie about a modern-day genius. Mister loved this movie as much as I did. If you don’t think you like documentaries, you’re a weirdo give this one a try.

Tims-Vermeer

 

I recently bought a new mascara by Tarte. It came highly recommended on Makeup Alley (if you don’t consult Makeup Alley before you buy makeup, then you are really missing out) and it was 40% off at Ulta the day I happened to be there. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to try it on and found this:

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Yeah, it’s fake alligator-ish leather. This isn’t some kind of case to hold the mascara tube, this is the mascara tube. It’s supposed to be swanky, I guess. Really it’s slightly awkward with a seam down the sides.

Mostly, though, I’m just slightly embarrassed because all I can think when I pick it up is that it looks like a fancy tampon case.  Seriously, Tarte, what were you thinking?

P.S. The mascara is excellent, by the way.

I bought Ada an Easter dress a couple of days ago. As I have done for many, many years I cut the bow off the front of the dress.

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I really hate bows. I always have. I don’t mind a bow on a dress that naturally occurs, say on the sash of a dress. But I hate bows that are sewn on to clothing for no other reason than to just make a dress more . . . busy.  I don’t know if this simple act has somehow been passed on to my daughters, none of whom like frilly clothes. Although I don’t want to give you the wrong idea: I love layers of  ruffles. If I see something with ruffles, I must buy it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Same for polka dots. I cannot control myself. But bows? That is another story.

Things are not so bow-covered now but that wasn’t always the case. Back when India was a baby in the mid-90′s there was a movement to encase little girls in more bows and floppy collars and gobs of fabric than should have been allowed. This movement was called Daisy Kingdom. You most likely have blocked these clothes from your memory, either because you bought it for your kids or you are young enough to have been dressed in this hideous stuff yourself. Or maybe you’re in your early 30′s you only saw these monstrous dresses from afar.

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The distinguishing factor of these dresses–besides the sheer volume of fabric and superfluous use of bows–was the cutesy bunnies and bears everywhere. I have always hated cutesy crap. Somebody made us one of these as a wedding gift and we were supposed dress it in baby clothes (different outfit for each season!) and have it sitting around our house. Naturally it found its way to Goodwill within a few month of the wedding. Who gives a grown woman a stuffed animal?

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I was living in Portland during the Daisy Kingdom heyday and we actually had a humungous Daisy Kingdom store downtown. I remember going down there and being simply overwhelmed by the ruffliness of everything. On paper I theoretically liked this stuff. I love little girls in pinafores! But in reality these clothes were much too over-the-top. I don’t remember if you could actually buy these dresses or if everything was just patterns and fabric and it was all do-it-yourself. But you know Mormons and how crafty we are. There was a parade of little girls with crazy curls wearing these dresses week after week at church. And it was just to sickly sweet for my taste.

And there I was picking the bows off of everything. I had to buy expensive socks from a catalog because that were the only place I could find non-ruffly socks (oh yeah, I only hate ruffles when they’re on socks. Or pageant dresses.)  Nowadays you can buy classy kids clothes all over the place but I still find myself picking off bows trying to make my girls look as non-cheesy as possible.

paprika recipe app

A few months ago I bemoaned the fact that I just couldn’t find a recipe app for my iphone that I liked. I got a lot of suggestions from my readers and actually tried most of them. I even went so far as to try apps that were foreign and had zero reviews.  I finally found one that I really love.  (Not one of the foreign ones, alas.) It’s called Paprika. I’ve been using it for a few months and I have to say that I really, really love it.

There are about a jillion recipe apps out there. Most of them, however, are just electronic cookbooks. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted a place to keep and organize all my recipes; not somebody else’s. Here’s the recipe problem I was hoping to solve: I’ll oftentimes be at the store and realize that I’m supposed to bring somebody dinner the next day, or I have to make cookies for a bake sale, etc. But here I am at the store and I can’t remember how many lemons I need for the lemon squares or whether it’s parsnips or rutabagas I put in my beef stew. Some of the recipes I use are online and I can look them up on my phone, although I have to stand there in the middle of the produce section for five minutes trying to locate the recipe.  Most of my recipes are in my cookbook, though. Not so convenient when you’re at the store.

I also wanted to have all my recipes available digitally so when someone asks for a recipe I can just whip out my phone and send it to them immediately.

I’ve been hoping to find an app where I can store my recipes and organize them in my own way. I’m not OCD about very many things, but recipes are one of them. When I stumbled upon Paprika I was very hesitant to try it because it’s $4.99. That’s a lot for an app. And the ipad app is another $4.99, cough choke*. But I’ve been desperate. I’ve had to call up my kids from the store one too many times and have my seven-year-old try to read me a recipe. Talk about frustrating! (You can also get a version of this for your PC. And by PC I mean a Mac. I don’t know if this is available for actual PCs because I turn up my nose at such things. But the computer version is $20! Jeez O Pete, that’s a lot of money for a recipe program. But I can see how it would be super handy to be able to sync all recipes wirelessly between your iphone, ipad and computer.) Oh, by the way you can get this for your Android too.

But then I think how I spend more than $20 going to see a movie with my husband that only lasts for two hours and isn’t $30 for recipe apps that I’ll use every day such a better deal? Yes!  Anyway, here’s why I like Paprika:

–Very clean, easy-to-use interface. You can figure it out in about three minutes. It also has a tutorial. I love an app with a tutorial.

–You can add, rearrange and edit categories. This is the thing that all other recipe apps lack. I like to organize my recipes just so. For example, I like to have a breakfast category. You’d be surprised how many cooking apps don’t have a breakfast category. (I’m sorry, pancakes do not belong in the bread category!) I also like to arrange my categories in order of service, not alphabetically. Therefore breakfast always comes first and dessert comes last. I like salads put together with side dishes because a lot of times I think of salads as a side dish and I like to be able to peruse the whole category for possibilities. But here’s the awesome thing about paprika: I can have a whole category for salads and I can list salads under side dishes too! It’s a lot better than a traditional cookbook that way. You can also create subcategories within each category. Under “desserts” I have subheadings of “cakes”, “cookies” and “pies”.

–It’s super easy to add recipes. You can add them by hand, which is totally straightforward. Or you can add them from your favorite cooking sites with the touch of a button. There’s a browser within the app that lets you go to any site; you simply press “save recipe” when you’ve found the one you want and it automatically adds the picture, and separates and formats the ingredients and directions for you. You can also edit each recipe in case you’ve changed it to alter your tastes. Most cooking websites are supported. If not, you can always cut and paste recipes into Paprika which is still super easy.

–You can scale the ingredients. Next to each recipe is a button that will let you change each recipe size, either making it smaller or larger. If you’re like me and try to double recipes in your head, only to forget to double some of the ingredients, this feature is a life-saver.

–There are several timers within the app. Anytime there are cooking times listed in a recipe, you can just click on those times and a pre-set timer pops up. Each timer has the item listed underneath, so if you’re cooking a couple of different items, you’ll know which one the timer is ringing for. Is that convenient or what?

–There’s a nifty grocery list feature. It arranges items according to the aisle at the grocery store. So cool. And it consolidates items so you don’t get eggs listed three times from three different recipes. You can add and edit super easily to delete things you already have at home or add items extra items that you need from the store.

–You can search for recipes depending on items you have on hand. You can also create menus on a calendar. I kind of fly by the seat of my pants because my schedule has the habit of getting completely out of control at the last minute. But if you are a plan-aheader this is just great.

There are a couple of features that I think are superflouous, like a star rating system. If something doesn’t get five stars it doesn’t make it into my collection. But if you are a chronic saver of new recipes to try, this might be a good thing.

I really can’t think of many things I don’t like about this app. If you cook, I would highly recommend it. And if you don’t cook, what is the matter with you?

 

*I have my iphone and ipad in the kitchen with me to cook quite often. I hate touching my grubby hands all over my electronics but what’s a girl to do when she needs to scroll down to see the rest of the recipe? Use a baby carrot instead! It totally works on a touchscreen and is much cleaner than the hands you just used to squish up raw ground beef into meatballs. Just stay away from the ranch dressing, OK?

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I may or may not have announced on Facebook a couple of weeks ago: “If you post pictures of your Elf on the Shelf I will unfriend you for the month of December.” Partly to be funny, but partly out of spite I felt I needed to issue my warning. Some people like this “tradition” (Nobody was doing it five years ago so it’s not really that much of a tradition), but some people really despise it (me!). There are so many reasons I hate it: using weird bribery to get kids to behave, furthering the “I Believe” cult of people bearing their testimonies of Santa, and it does have such a creepy little face. Mostly, though, I hate this Elf on the Shelf thing because it symbolizes all the crazy stuff we do to ourselves during the holiday season. Somehow Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day have come together to create a completely bizarre tradition: an Elf that gets into crazy mischief every single night. As if buying presents, giving neighbor gifts, attending concerts and/or parties, making travel arrangements, decorating our houses, doing one or more advent calendars, and baking at least a few more times than we usually do isn’t enough. Now we have this Elf to worry about to.

I know that most of the people who do it say it’s a fun and harmless tradition. But it seems to be a bit overboard. It seems to be just one more thing to increase the chance of being in a bad mood come December 25th. I would just ask all the big proponents of the Elf movement how many times they’ve posted pictures of their Elf hijinx on Facebook, blogs or Instagram. Because it seems that the people who are most into the Elf are the ones who are most active in social media. Are they really doing it for their kids or are they doing it to impress everyone else?

Is the Elf on the Shelf really to blame? Or is it just a symptom of our runaway culture? Is everything about Christmas getting out of hand? I have to admit that a few years ago when I had had enough of “all this materialism” and decided to make every single Christmas present by hand for all our relatives that I became a stressed out basket case. That Christmas was sheer misery. I thought that by making everything I would somehow get in touch with the spirit of Christmas, only to find myself knitting and making soap at 3 am on several occasions.

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Ada soccer close

You might not believe this since I’m the mother of six, but it’s is my first year being a soccer mom. I’ve avoided the stigma of soccer mom-dom for many years, for the same reasons that many mothers refuse to drive minivans: you feel like you have lost every bit of cool-ness and are now nothing but a slave to your children. Unlike a minivan, which is pretty much the greatest thing ever invented, soccer is a life-sucking drag. OK, it’s not really that bad. But somehow I ended up sitting on a soccer field three nights per week and for a few hours on Saturday.

Listen, I don’t hate team sports. Well, I kind of do, but my children–Adelaide especially–have been begging to play soccer for years. Yes, years. And when my friend Anna called saying her son and Jasper could carpool, I threw caution to the wind and signed up Ada and Jasper for the local soccer club.

Now I finally get it when people ask me incredulously how I juggle everything. Before we did soccer, life was pretty much a cake-walk, schedule-wise. We really only did piano lessons and those lessons were mostly before school. After school we just all hung out, I helped kids with homework, listened to tattling/fighting children and made dinner.  Once soccer started I was required to drop everything right at Prime Time and head over to practice. That meant that dinner became a pre-made thrown-together affair. If I was on top of things (ever so rare) I’d have some sort of crock pot thing ready. Most of the time, though, it was easy-to-heat up food like Kirkland pulled pork tacos (it is sublime meat, by the way). Better than McDonalds but I think feeding a family is a job that mothers need to take seriously.

Toward the end of the season I just dropped the kids off and went home, picking them up later. The field is only 5 minutes away so it’s not a huge commute. But then they feel bad that I never watch so I’d get sucked into staying. While I’m complaining let me just remind you that September and October are hot here in Texas, even at night, and sitting outside was definitely torture.

And then there were the games on Saturday. Saturday morning is my special time. My laze about time. Not my hustle-up-and-find-team-shirts-and-remember-that-it’s-our-turn-for-snacks-and-then-sit-in-the-hot-sun-for-three-hours time. And if you even suggest that I’m being selfish, pardon me while I laugh in your face. You can accuse me of being lots of things but when you’re a mom of this many kids, selfish is one thing that is simply not possible.

By the end of the season (which was last week) I realized that the whole family was suffering. Yes, two children got to do something fun but ultimately playing soccer wasn’t the biggest deal to them. I felt like it added a whole new layer of craziness to our lives. I wasn’t able to spend as much time helping the older kids with homework (and yes, older kids need help with homework and it’s way harder than learning times tables). I didn’t have that down-time to connect with everybody.

When I stopped to think about it, why were even playing soccer in the first place? Yes, the kids wanted to. But they also want to drink Hershey’s syrup straight from the bottle and stay up tip 11 pm. In other words, who cares what they want? But maybe they were soccer prodigies that would never have a chance to develop their talents? Uhhh, yeah. If they were born to play soccer we would have figured that out years ago.  Maybe so they could learn teamwork? They’re already on a team. Team Hildie and they’re on this team for eternity. Because they’re the only kids who’ve never played soccer and I’m starting to feel like a loser mom? Ahhh, now we have the real reason. It’s just the grown up form of peer pressure. Heaven forbid your kids aren’t the only ones taking dance/soccer/gymnastics. Kids don’t see the benefit of eating a nice dinner as a family every night. But experts have been saying that this is the one thing that determines whether kids take drugs or become successful. Not soccer.

It may make me sound like I should live in Communist China but what is good for the individual is less important to me than what is good for the whole. And soccer hasn’t been good for the whole. So toodle-oo shin guards, may we never meet again!