Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas de los Muertos

I don't like to have the same Christmas decorations year in and year out. I like to change things up each year. I also like my holiday decor to have some sort of unifying theme, and I make my own decorations.

Years past, I've done 
  • Winter Forest, which was gold pine cones dusted with iridescent glitter snow and hand made glass beaded snowflakes
  • Purple and Pearls, which was purple balls with DIY glitter patterns, and clusters of pearls gathered with purple ribbons.
  • Christmas Story, which is all the keepsake ornaments that each family member has accumulated over the years (this is my least favorite because it is not hand crafted, and seems too... run of the mill. But my family likes it, and they get to pick the theme some times too)
This year, the kids and I decided on a Dia de los Muertos theme. We happened upon this decision quite by accident. Earlier this year, I took the kids to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. They had a fantastic exhibit on Dia de los Muertos, which the kids really enjoyed. When we went through the museum store, we bought molds to make our own sugar skulls. I fully intended on making the skulls for the actual Day of the Dead, but as you can see by my prior posts, my schedule got away from me.

The kids still wanted to do the skulls, and they decided why not make ornaments out of them. Naturally, I thought this was a fantastic idea and ran it past my wonderful husband who's response was: "Do I have to do anything? No? Then do whatever you want!"

We started making ornaments last month, and I posted some pictures on Facebook. I had several people ask me how we made them, so, here's the how to:

What you'll need:
  • Sugar skull molds (we used the Posada molds)
  • Crayola Model Magic (white)
  • Poster paints and brushes
  • Craft foam sheets (black and white)
  • Craft glue
  • Glitter glue
  • Foam markers
  • Hole punch
  • Toothpick
  • Pipe cleaners
We made the molded skulls with Crayola Model Magic. This stuff is fantastic! It is super light weight and when left to dry will harden nicely. Press the Model Magic into the molds using enough so it significantly overflows the mold then pull out. Cut the molded skull from the excess with either scissors or an exacto knife.  Poke a hole in the top of the skull with a tooth pick, making sure it is wide enough to get a pipe cleaner or hook through so it can be hung. Set the newly molded and pierced skulls on a wire rack to dry for at least 36 hours (yes, the packaging says 24, but we found that wasn't quite enough)

Once the skulls are dry, you can begin decorating with paint, glitter glue or any other accessories.

We also made larger flat skulls. First, find a good skull that you like and make a stencil of it on heavy paper (you can do a Google image search and print your favorite skull). Trace the stencil on to the heavy paper again, and measure points around the skull about 1/4 inch around the image then cut it out. This larger skull stencil will be your background piece.

Trace the larger stencil on the black foam and count how many fit, then make the same amount of the detailed skull on the white foam.  

Use a black sharpie to trace the skulls on the white foam and fill in the facial details. Do not let your hand smudge the marker on the foam. You will need to let this dry for an hour or two as marker stays wet on foam for quite some time, even sharpie.

Rather than waste the extra foam, I traced circles on the additional foam for little accent ornaments.

Once all the skulls have been cut out of the foam, glue the white skulls to the black backing with craft glue and let dry over night.

When the glue has dried, punch a hole in the top of the skull with a hole punch. Then have fun decorating with paint, marker, glitter glue, etc.

When all of the skulls (both kind) have dried, clip some pipe cleaners and thread them through the holes to make loops for hanging the ornaments. Then hang on your tree (or anywhere).

We were included fake flowers on our tree (we will be making some tissue paper flowers soon to add to the tree) and a hand made Victorian bow on the top. The kids found a random fake dove in our ornament boxes and decided it should be on the top of the tree as well. I figured it was oddly fitting, so why not.

Swallowed by November

 My Internet silence stretched through November. This time, however, it wasn't family obligations or holidays stealing my time. No, this month I was dedicated to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write (or at least begin) a novel. You "win" by writing 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes to about 1,667 words a day if you don't take any days off.

I was persuaded, by my friend Carmilla Voiez, to give NaNo last year for the first time. I didn't win, but it did give me the belief in myself that I could do it. This year, I was fully prepared and when November 1 rolled around, I began writing almost every night after my kids went to bed. I started off strong this year and was ahead of the word count for the first ten days; then I hit a lull. By Thanksgiving, I was behind by about 8,000 words. But, I knew what I wanted to say, and I had gotten good at getting into my writing zone, so I wasn't worried. I knew I could win this year.

By the end of the day on November 30, I hit 50,025 words for the monthly total! At this point, I'm up to 59,559 words, but I am no where near done with my story.

Speaking of my story, it is a supernatural tale of a woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship, but manages to escape with the help of a ghost.

I'm going to take a break from the story for the rest of December and come back to it with a fresh mind in the new year.

The Houston Press ran an article, National Novel Writing Month Goes Gothic, by Jef With One F, about Carmilla and I participating in NaNo.

Eaten by October

Once again, I disappeared into the vast wilderness that is life away from the internet.

October was busy for me.

Early in the month, my children and I went to visit my family in Pennsylvania. My mom is in the midst of chemo therapy (now finally past the half way point), so we try to visit often. Seeing the kids keeps her spirits up, and my children love running amok with their aunts and uncles and grandparents. Especially since it means going out for ice cream late in the evening with their grandpap.

This particular trip was planned so the kids could have a Halloween party with their "Pretend Cousins." They have no first cousins on either side of the family, so they have decided that my sisters nieces and nephew and my cousin's daughter can be their honorary cousins.

My sister planned a fantastic party for the kids at our parents' house. There were crafts, a scavenger hunt, games, glow sticks, a bon-fire and smores. The kids all had a fantastic time.

The middle of my month was consumed by work and family drama. Not terribly exciting, but definitely stressful.

Then came Halloween weekend. We had a freak snow storm the Saturday before Halloween. That was the day for Air and Scare at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. This was fun, as usual, and the children were happy that we went.

Monday was Trick or Treating. my daughter had a whole strategy planned for maximizing her candy take this year. By the time they finished, neither child could easily carry their treat bag.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Halloween is a week away, why not spread the good spirit of the season?

Things have been less than pleasant at home lately, and the tension has been high. The kids and I were trying to settle from the hard weekend while the husband was at the grocery store. Everyone was on edge and unhappy, then there was a knock at the door. I opened the door but no one was there - then I noticed a lovely black and white stripped gift bag sitting on the welcome mat. The bag was filled with yummy organic treats, pencils and cute eco-friendly water bottles for the kids. Attached to the bag was this:

Suddenly the negative feelings in the house evaporated. The children were smiling and so thrilled with their little treats; and I was so pleased by the perfect timing of this random act of kindness that I had happy tears in my eyes.

The kids and I will be making special boo bags to pass on the cheer tonight. They are so excited about making others smile with random kindness.

Whoever came up with this wonderful plan should be showered with good karma.

To participate and spread the spooky love around your neighborhood, go to to print out the poem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 23 (part 2)

Day 23 – Your favourite artist or photographer.

Ophelia by Hughes
I've decided to split this into two separate posts - favorite artist/photographer (more  modern) and favorite artist/art movement (classical). I've already written about my favorite contemporary photographer/artist in Goth Challenge, Day 23 (part 1).

My favorite art movement is the Pre-Raphaelite movement. This is considered by many art historians to be the first avant-garde movement. It began in either 1848 or 1849 when a group of English painters, poets and critics founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). The founding members were  William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later additions to the Brotherhood included William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. Other artists, though not part of the PRB, were also associated with the movement, including: Ford Madox Brown and Charles Collins, the poet Christina Rossetti, the artist and social critic John Ruskin, the painter-poet William Bell Scott, and the sculptor poet John Lucas Tupper. Later additions to the Pre-Raphaelite circle include J. W. Inchnold, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and even J. M. Whistler.

Ophelia by Millais
They rebeled against the standards of art being taught at the time. They wanted to make their art more detailed, with intense colors and complex compositions with a more realistic represenatation of life and nature. They also believed all arts were closely related and encouraged artists and writers to practice both art forms - though the only one successful at both was Dante Gabriel Rosetti. And because of this interrelation of the arts, they drew much of their subject matter from literature, such as Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson, and the Bible.

The Lady of Shallot by Waterhouse
I think it is this intermingling of literature and visual arts that is part of what drew me in at a young age. The first Pre-Rahpaelite images I saw were in my mother's college art books, and the subject matter came from Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Hamlet. These pictures were stunning illustrations of the Arthurian legends and Shakespear's and characters that I already knew well.

The first to really catch my eye were various renditions of Ophelia, and The Lady of Shallot. But my favorite was Dante's Dream, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

Dante's Dream by Rosetti
I truly love almost every Pre-Raphaelite painting I see; but I seem to gravitate most to Waterhouse. I love his Shakespeare paintings, those based on Tennyson and mythological characters. It is as if he plucked images straight from my mind.

There is, however, one particular Pre-Raphaelite painting that I hate - The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt. I saw this one in my mom's art books as a child, and had an instant negative feeling toward it. Something about this image has always made me feel ill.

The Scapegoat by Hunt
As I mentioned earlier, the Pre-Raphaelites also embraced the literary arts. My favorite poet is Christina Rosetti, and my favorite of her poems is The Goblin Market. I also particularly love her Monna Innominata: a Sonnet of Sonnets - in fact, I used parts of this poem in my wedding vows.

Goblin Market - poem by Christina Rosetti,
illustration by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spooky Kids' Movies that Have Better Messages than Disney Movies

These days, Disney has a choke-hold on children's movies. All little girls get sucked into the Plastic Pink Princess Phase. And the little boys are all Buzz, Woody or Lightening McQueen.

I personally think the Princesses are evil. For the most part they are all beautiful teens who can't seem to cope with life unless the handsome prince comes to save them. Everything revolves around finding the right boy who will make your life happy - and to do so, you need to be beautiful. Not a message I want my daughter growing up believing.

The boy characters aren't that much better.

Disney movies are the gateway to a yuppie, Stepford existence. Everyone is mostly white, rich, and tends to get what they want. And the bad guys are the ones who dare not to conform to society.

I have always been a fan of horror/monster movies. My mother tells me that when I was two, I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time and though the Wicked Witch of the West scared me, I would not let her turn it off. And so it began...

As a child my aunt used to take me to see Godzilla films, and watched many of the Harryhausen and other creature features with me. I also used to watch Hitchcock and the Twilight Zone with my grandmother. By the time I was in 4th grade, I was sneaking and watching slasher movies, like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Naturally, growing up in a home filled with bats, skulls, spider webs and Living Dead Dolls - and a sizeable collection of horror movies - my children wish to watch scary things as well. Obviously, most horror films are not appropriate for the younger children, so here is a list of those I feel are appropriate for younger audiences and won't upset my children too badly.

Better still, these spooky movies have a much better message than the Disney movies. The characters come from the fringes, they are smart, resourceful and believe in themselves. And often, it is the girl saving the day.

*Note: I am a bit lenient when it comes to ratings. I have no problem letting my little ones watch some PG-13 films.

When my children were approximately one, I began showing them Nightmare Before Christmas. Needless to say, it became an instant favorite. They have both grown up with a love for Jack Skellington. In fact, my son's first year of trick or treating, he dressed as Jack, and my daughter as Sally.

In this film, Jack nearly allows his arrogance to destroy life as we know it. It is Sally, one of the average village citizens, who saves the day. She summons up the courage to face Oogy Boogy and rescue Santa. Sally's resourcefulness and bravery save Jack from himself.

Keeping with the Tim Burton stop-motion animation theme, they soon discovered - and loved - The Corpse Bride. While not as amazing as Nightmare, this movie is a lot of fun and has many loveable dead characters, as well as some wonderful Danny Elfman music.

In this film, it is the seemingly rich aristocracy who causes the problems. Victoria's family is greedy and schemes to have her marry Victor for his family's money. Lord Barkis is also motivated by greed. Victor is rather spineless and does what he's told by mostly everyone; and when he decides not to listen, he's sneaky. It's Emily, the Corpse Bride, who overcomes all the awfulness that's happened to her - being killed, having Victor run out on her - to show true compassion and to save everyone with selfless sacrifice.

A bit scarier is Neil Gaiman's Coraline, another stop-motion animation film, done in a dark style like the two previous movies. Coraline is not for children who scare easily or are prone to nightmares from things they've watched. Children of some friends have had issues with this movie until they were closer to 8.

Coraline is a unique girl who moves to a new home and is left to her own resources while her parents are consumed by their work. She is lured into a trap by the Other Mother, but rather than succumb to her will, Coraline fights back. Her bravery in the face of mortal peril and her ability to outwit the Other Mother not only saves her life, but also sets free the spirits of the Other Mother's previous victims.

Another Neil Gaiman story made movie (by the Jim Henson Company) that we love is Mirrormask. Helena Campbell is sucked into a creepy world of light and shadows, where everyone wears masks, and fantastical creatures roam. She is mistaken for the Shadow Queen's daughter who has stolen the magical charm of the Queen of Light to take Helena's place in the real world. Helena must find the charm, escape the Queen of Shadows and restore life to the Queen of Light. Like the three previous heroines, Helena uses her brains and bravery to save the day. She doesn't need her male companion, Valentine, to save her; in fact, she saves him.

The Jim Henson Company also made two other magically creepy children's movies: Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

In Labyrinth, Sarah starts off as a self-important, angsty teen who throws a tantrum and wishes her baby brother into the hands of the Goblin King. She must go "through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered"  and  fight her way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child. This adventure helps her find herself and grow up when she realizes that she controls her own destiny.

The females are not the protagonist(s) in The Dark Crystal, but without them, Jen would never compete his mission of healing the Dark Crystal and bringing peace to the land. Kira is a loving, kind and generous spirit; and Aughra is wise and brave. The combination of these two females and their strengths are what guide Jen through the perils thrown at him by the Skeksis and enable him to fulfill the prophecy.

These movies are very imaginative, artistic and somewhat scary. They all have strong female characters and a better message for children than those simpering twit Disney Princesses.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 23 (part 1)

Day 23 – Your favourite artist or photographer.

I've decided to split this into two separate posts - favorite artist/photographer (more  modern) and favorite artist/art movement (classical).

My favorite contemporary photographer/artist is Darla Teagarden. The lovely and talented Ms. Teagarden has lived an interesting and eccentric life, and her experiences combined with her natural talent have created an outstanding mixed media artist.

Darla Teagarden

A bit about Darla Teagarden (from her official bio):
  • Darla began as stylist in San Francisco in the 1990s and then for FAD Magazine in Île-de-France.
  • She became a historical cabaret dancer for the Goethe Institute of San Francisco portraying a Wiemar dancer named, Anita Berber. These series of productions, Staring German singer Nina Hagen, were choreographed by Martha Graham, Marni Wood, and directed by Voluptuous Panic author, Mel Gordan.
  • Darla was also a part-time production designer, vintage clothing buyer , published writer, a part-time model in both the United States and Germany.
  • In 2003 she delved into mixed media on canvas showing in New Orleans' French Quarter, New York's Woodstock Art Fest and Austin, Texas Continental Gallery, Gallery Lombardi and Guadalupe Gallery. 
  • By March 2007, she was lead to photography and began mixing her trades and interests into one medium. 
Doll Maker, Christy Kane by Darla Teagarden
    • Each image tells a personal dream - story but also leaves the viewer room to impart their own experience and ideas...a cross between perceptual and conceptual.
    • Her images hark back to souvenir portraiture, theatrical vignettes and even the art of window display.  
    • These scenes are accomplished largely by hand: drawn backgrounds, painted mythical body, and paper clothing or up-cycled materials 
    • Her images are primarily inspired by children's literature, her work in theatre arts, pop surrealism, and in part, the Southern Gothic genre. 
    Liz McGrath, Artist and
    Singer for Miss Derringer
    by Darla Teagarden
    I have had the pleasure of knowing Darla Teagarden for the better part of the past decade. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. She is also a caring and supportive friend.

    It was an exciting time when she began mixing photography with her other artistic skills. Those of us who knew her got to see her talent blossoming and we all knew it wouldn't be long before she'd become a well-known name in the art world. Sure enough, she's been appearing in art galleries, magazines and Web sites with more frequency and each time with a higher profile.

    In the fall of 2007, I visited Darla in Austin with some mutual friends and was fortunate enough to have some pictures done by her.

    Take some time and peruse the beauty on her Web site: - you won't regret it!

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Goth Children's Books

      As Halloween approaches, many bookstores stock up on the more spooky children's books. This is a great time to augment the bookshelves of your baby bats at home.

      My children are 6 1/2 and 4 1/2, so we don't have many past the 4th grade level yet (aside from my large personal collection of books). This post contains books good for up to a first grade level (at least in our house) to read on their own.

      I've ordered the books from easiest reading to more advanced.

      My youngest loves reading Monster Town by Ryan Heska. This book follow a young vampire boy on a tour through his home, Monster Town. The colorful illustrations depict the inhabitants, like the Ghost Writers at the news paper, Dr. Mummy the vetrinarian, and the Giant Squid, proprietor of the local cafe.

      "In the cold gray tomb, there was a gravestone and a black lagoon, and a picture of ...." Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex is a playful parody on the chidren's classic, Goodnight Moon, in which a young werewolf is getting ready for bed surrounded by classic horror icons. The illustrations are make what may initially seem scary to children something fun.

      Another playfully dark Michael Rex book is his parody of Runaway Bunny, called Runaway Mummy. It shows that even scary monsters like mummies can be a loving and good family.

      The Spider and the Fly illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (author of the Spidewick Chronicles). The book is made to look like silent black and white film set in a Victorian doll house. The tale by Mary Howitt is timeless and teaches a good lesson, but the illustrations are what really make it engaging. My children have spent hours just looking at the pictures in this book.

      Step right up and enter the Creature Carnival by Marilyn Singer and Gris Grimly. This trip through the traveling side show introduces children to fantastic mythological and fabled creatures, such as the Lochness Monster, Sirens, the Minotaur and Anansi. The story and pictures have a playful yet macabre air about them. There are more Gris Grimly books in my children's future.

      Hipira the Little Vampire by Katsuhiro Otomo is a lot of fun. This book is presented in comic book style and contains several stories in which Hipira, a  little vampire boy and his best friend, a sprite named Soul get into all sorts of harmless mischief. While there is no real message in this book, it is pure fun, and a great way to introduce your little ones to vampires.

      Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci takes the classic tale of Cinderella casts it with the undead and transports it to a graveyard setting. The story is presented in a collection of sonnets and shows the skeletons can be as wonderful as you and me.

      Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake, both by Adam Rex. These whimsical books are filled with short stories, poems and songs all with classic monster themes and accompanied by original artwork. When we first got this, we had to read it to Lily every night for months. Even now, three years later, she still frequently reads this book before bed.

      Friday, September 30, 2011

      Goth Challenge, Day 22

      Day 22 – If you could attend any Goth event what would it be?

      Wave Gotik Treffen

      First and foremost, is the music. Over a hundred bands from the various Goth sub-genres and the opportunity to see more than a few. This in itself is exciting enough for me to want to go.

      But there is so much more! There are the fashion events, the litterarty events, alternative markets, DJs... Leipzig turns into one giant Goth community for a few days. Just thinking about going to this makes drool... I was so excited for and envious of my friend Carmilla Voiez when she got to attend WGT this year.

      One day, when I have money to get a new goth wardrobe, and can afford travel to and accomodations is Leipzig and tickets to WGT, I will go. Unless I miraculously come into some windfall of money, I don't see this happening any time soon. Until then, I will just have to dream of it and live vicarously through friends lucky enough to go.

      Tuesday, September 27, 2011

      Our Brush with Unemployment

      Finally, I have the time and the ability to update my blog!

      The past few weeks have been a challenge. My husband lost his job, and it took longer than anticipated for him to find a new job. And the asshats at his old company keep contesting the unemployment claim - not because he isn't entitled to the money, but because it's their general practice to always contest every single claim, as a way to save themselves a buck, regardless of how badly it hurts people and their families. But this is the general climate in America - let's make everything fit the financial needs of the almighty corporation, and fuck the people.

      While he was out of work, we had to make some lifestyle changes. At first, the kids didn't understand why we couldn't go out for dinner as often, or why we kept saying no to little things like ice cream or something from the dollar area in Target. And it really took some getting used to when we had to shut off the cable and Internet (thank goodness for Internet on my mobile!). While none of us enjoy the changes we've had to make, I do think this was a good way for the kids to really understand why mommy and daddy have to work, and get a concept of the value of money.

      Luckily for us, I make a fairly decent wage, and with some help from my very generous family, and some from his, we were able to make ends meet, and not have to lose our babysitter either.  Sure, things have been a bit tough and stressful financially, but I am so grateful we weren't in a position to lose our home or car or file bankruptcy like so many other families are having to do these days.

      Now he's found a job at a place that really fits him, and even though it's only been a couple weeks, he seems much happier there than at the old place. The future is starting to look brighter.

      Tuesday, September 13, 2011

      Goth Challenge, Day 21

      Day 21 – What body mod do you have or have you considered?

      For some reason, people are often surprised to find out that other than normal pierced ears, I have no body modifications.

      I have considered several, but for various reasons, never got them done.

      I would like to get some tattoos. I just never seem to have the money for one. Yes, I probably should have gotten my ink before having kids, but I wasn't ready. As a teen, I worked in a nursing home. I saw many World War II veterans with their old India blue tattoos that have since turned into disfigured blue blobs on their flaccid skin. I just couldn't wrap my mind around getting a tattoo for fear of what it would look like when I'm old. Now, I'm not so concerned with that - especially since removal techniques keep improving. I'm sure that if I got a tattoo now, and in 30 years decide I don't like how it's aging, there will be improved technology to remove it.

      My little girl wanted to get me a tattoo of bats and the moon for my birthday last year. She knew that's what I wanted. It was such a sweet gesture. Yes, I want a moon with bats tattooed on my back. And one day, I will have this done. Just not any time soon. Perhaps after we are done paying for child care.

      I've also considered several piercings. I first thought of a small nose piercing. But I decided that would be too much with my glasses (I will not switch to contacts - I tried, and hated it). And I've considered nipple piercings. I think they are lovely, and they could be lots of fun. But I'm concerned about healing and whether they will be obvious under work clothes... I still may do this, but haven't fully decided.

      Other than those, I am not really interested in other body modifications. Stretched ears look nice on some people, but it's not for me. Same with other piercings. I'm not into the more extreme modifications. I just don't find them appealing in any way.

      Monday, September 12, 2011

      Goth Challenge, Day 20

      Day 20 – If you could dye your hair any colour what would it be?

      If I could? Huh? I do. All the time. I haven't seen my natural colour in oh... 18 years.

      I've been various shades of blonde (I am blonde, but an ashy blonde).

      I've been various shades of red.

      I had platinum blonde with a red streak.

      I've had temporary blue streaks.

      I've been red with orange, and red with blonde.

      I'm currently black with white.

      I sometimes wish I could have some bright blue in my hair, but that would be pushing it too far in the office.

      I also have a collection of wigs in fun colors for club going - not that I get to the club much these days.

      I even let my kids (ages 4 1/2 and 6 1/2) have color streaks in their hair. My son has only had blue. My daughter has had pink, red, blue and purple.

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      Goth Challenge, Day 19

      Day 19 – Share beauty advise and take a photo of your make up.

      Beauty advice? I don't know that I should be advising anyone, but I will tell you what I do.

      Quick note: I really try hard to use natural and cruelty free products.

      First and foremost: STAY THE HELL OUT OF THE SUN! I try to avoid the sun like the plague. I'm a blond with pale skin. I don't tan, I fry. When I do have to be outside, I use very high SPF sunscreen, and I carry it with me to reapply later (I really like the Burt's Bees Sunscreen). I also try to stay in the shade whenever possible - and sometimes carry an umbrella for shade. (One of these days I will find the parasol of my dreams and get it).

      The second most important thing for me is moisturizer. I have very dry skin, so moisturizing is essential. I used to use the Burt's Bees Marshmallow Vanishing  Creme, but it was discontinued. I couldn't find any other moisturizer of theirs that worked as well and was gentle to my sensitive skin. Now, I use the Yes to Blueberries Daily Repairing Moisturizer with SPF 30.

      Now that I've mentioned the two most important things, I'll walk through my daily routine.

      In the morning, I wash my face with either the Burt's Bees Radiance Facial Cleanser, or the Yes to Blueberries Brightening Facial Towelettes. Then I moisturize.

      I typically wait a while before putting on any makeup. There are two reasons for this: 1. I like to let the moisturizer and/or sunscreen have time to really sink in, and 2. the DC area is rather humid and nasty in the summer, and I prefer to wait until I'm at work before putting on makeup so it doesn't melt off of my face before I get  there.

      I use different foundation for work and play. I have yet to find a decent, natural toned foundation that is natural and cruelty free that works with my skin and doesn't make me break out horribly. I tried the Bare Essential stuff, and it was terrible for me. So, in this area, I have sacrificed my principles and use L'Oreal Magic Smooth Souffle in Light Ivory. When I'm going out and want to look extra pale, I use the Medusa's Makeup Geisha foundation.

      Eye makeup is my favorite part. I absolutely love the Medusa's Makeup eye makeup. I use their eye dusts. My favorite colors are: Full Moon (an iridescent purplish whitish color), Blow (white), Helter Skelter (a metallic bluish black) and Black Sabbath.

      Once I have my eye shadow on, I apply the black liquid eyeliner. Oh how I love black eye liner! I have tried pencils, but they never go on as smoothly nor are as black as the liquid liner. I've been experimenting with various brands lately to find the right combination of applicator and eyeliner. Sadly, I have not found any black liquid eyeliner that is natural or cruelty free (if you know one, please post about it in the comments).

      Next comes mascara. I'm fortunate that I have very long lashes, so all I really need is just some very black mascara.

      Last is the lip colour. I really love the Medusa's Makeup lip glosses.

      Now that it's all applied, I need a place to go...