Nine Beauty Must-Haves for Busy Moms

I, like you, juggle day-to-day chaos with grace and ease, effortlessly sauntering about, looking beautiful and feeling the same.

If you actually are a mother, you’ll realize that the previous statement is completely and utterly false.

I, like you, have a hard time cramming everything I want (and need) to do in one day. I, like you, have chipped nails, neglected toes, wayward hairs, and patches of dry skin. But I’m finding a way out of it.

I’d like to present you a few items that are helping me through.

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product

I was introduced to It’s a 10 by my loyal and ever-helpful hair stylist. According to the bottle, the product does ten things. And it probably does. Am I able to rattle off what those ten things are? Of course not, because I’m a…ready? I’m a busy mom. But what I can say is that it leaves my hair soft and manageable, guards against split ends and heat styling, and tames flyaways, ahem, on the fly. It’s also a Godsend for my daughter, who is of the curlier persuasion. I use the It’s a 10 plus Keratin. You can apply it to either damp, clean hair or hair that’s dry, and them comb through. It doesn’t get much more simple than that. Best yet, you can find It’s a 10 practically anywhere, from CVS to Target to your local SuperCuts. Try it. It’s a 10 retails for about $15. 

Fast-Dry Topcoat

Anyone with kids (pets, dishes, plants, hands) understands it’s not always easy to treat yourself to an at-home manicure. The minutes tick away in anticipation of a small person asking you to open a package, remove an item that’s wedged inside another item, or wipe someone’s something. A good manicure requires time. Time. Well, seems I’ve found time in a bottle. INM Out the Door Fast Drying Topcoat is a product I wish I’d found long, long ago. You can go from wet to set in minutes, and not taffy-consistency dry. I mean, dry dry. Go on with your day like nothing ever happened dry. And that’s priceless for someone who doesn’t have the luxury of time to wait for two-plus coats to set. Orly, OPI, and Sally Hansen also make fast-dry products. Fast dry topcoat will truly change your beauty life. You can find INM Out the Door Topcoat at Sally Beauty Supply for around $5.49.


I know. You’ve heard this a zillion times. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Well, moisturize already! And how ’bout this? I don’t care what brand you use, whether it’s fragranced or fancy, cheap or expensive, or made for babies’ bottoms. Just use it. Think of all the times in a day your hands are submerged in a sink, or being assaulted by antibacterial gel or foam, or scrubbing the floor with Clorox wipes (maybe that’s just me). I’m not going to show you my hands right now, though I should. I have not used moisturizer today. There’s nothing that gives you that New Mom Smell (albeit temporarily), or makes you feel as great about body as slathering a truckload of moisturizer all over. Sure, it’s an investment of a few moments, but the rewards last about twenty-four hours. Again, just use it.

Scented Candles

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Anyone who knows me knows I have a cabinet ludicrously full of Yankee Candles. Why? Because the scents make us feel good. They transform us, transport us. They make us happy. Lighting a candle at the end of a day, or over a luxuriously hot bath simply screams Me Time. My favorite scent right now is Meyer Lemon. Do with that what you will, but there’s something about scented candles that make you feel human again, instead of a taxi-driving maid and laundress. Check out Yankee Candle here, or find other brands at your favorite retailer or mall shop.

Jewelry Cleaner

I catch a lot of flack for cleaning my jewelry – my wedding ring, engagement band, watch, and sometimes earrings – pretty frequently. People do not understand why I bother. At first, I cleaned my rings because I was getting formula powder stuck between the prongs, or I made contact with a bowl of spaghetti. But now? Sheer vanity. I enjoy shiny things. And so should you. It is truly a mood lifter to look down at your hand and see your beloved jewels twinkling back at you. My favorite is Conoisseurs, and it will set you back about five bucks. You can find it at most major retailers, drugstores, and online.

Lip Gloss

I will go so far as to say any lip gloss on this one. From the impromptu runs to the store for poster board, or the “right” tortillas, to the pickup line at school and ballet class, lip gloss tells the world, “I finished getting ready today.” At least I think it does… My ultimate favorite brand is Laura Geller. It has a healthy, glossy shine, it’s thick without being gloppy, the shades are extremely versatile, and it wears all day. Other favorites include Burt’s Bees and Clinique. Prices range from about $4 up to $19.

Trendy Sunglasses

Along with the theme of looking “finished”, nothing says ‘I thought about this outfit’ better than sunglasses. Me? I have one pair of really great quality designer sunglasses. I also have a few pair of not-so-designer sunglasses. From eye bags to finishing off a well-composed look, they help. Trust me. And if anyone’s feeling charitable, I’d more than happily take a pair of these.

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure

I know. I talk about nails so damned much. But here’s the thing. If you’re like me, you enjoy manicures that last more than twelve hours. And there are a few brands on the market right now, whose names I dare not speak, that don’t quite live up to those standards. The Sally Hansen Complete Salon manicure can do up to seven days easily. It’s basecoat, polish, and topcoat all in one, and it’s reliable. If you’re doing your nails at home, I’d highly recommend you get some. Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure can be found at all retail drug chains, other discount stores, and online for between $6 and $8 a bottle. 

Freeman Bare Foot Foot Scrub

This is a product I’ve been using for many years. It’s inexpensive, can be found most anywhere, and lasts so long. It’s best when summer creeps in and rears its dehydrated, scaly head. Want to rock sandals? No problem! This stuff sloughs off the unsightlies right in the shower. Plus, its smells great. Freeman Bare Foot Foot Scrub can be found at at all retail drug chains, other discount stores, and online for between $3 and $4 a tube. 

I hope my picks help you streamline in this fast-paced world where it’s so hard to get (and stay!) pretty.

Happy Primping!

AHS Freak Show: Was it Good for You?

When I had originally written about the season premiere of American Horror Story: Freak Show, I had no idea how wrong I would actually be – about the story line, about the characters, basically about the entire season.

What I’d imagined would be a shock-and-awe campaign, brimming with fancy and gore, actually turned out quite the opposite. Of the things I remember most vividly about this season, in fact, gore was probably last on my list.

Sure, the clown(s) at the beginning got me – they got a lot of people. The grotesque, the new-to-the-eyes, the mayhem, all drew us in. What I hadn’t expected, though, was how sharply the season would turn into something packed with more humanity than I’ve perhaps seen nowhere else this winter.

Many have mused throughout Freak Show how co-creator Ryan Murphy could possibly top last season’s Coven, and here we sit, trying to determine whether that goal was achieved. We’ve also mused about whether or not Jessica Lange could outdo every character she’s progressively outdone since the series began. And we marveled at Sarah Paulson’s working overtime, geniusly portraying conjoined twins, Bette and Dot.

Now we’re faced with the question: How did we find this season, and where do we go from here?

My opinion (that’s why you come here, right?) is that this season ruled them all, for quality of acting, story line, complexity of character, and viewers’ overall investment in the season. In the grand scheme of things, many were mutilated, dismembered, and shot at close range, but for some reason, I don’t remember much of that. What I do remember is Dandy Mott’s (Finn Whitrock) evolution from a pandering mama’s boy to a calculated killer, the moment Ethel (Kathy Bates) received her terminal diagnosis, and Elsa Mars’ (Lange) difficult and disheartening journey to her final destination.

Truth be told, I found last season’s Coven a little bit sloppy. There were episodes I felt were hammered out over a writers’ table in a matter of hours. Other episodes seemed to simply be filler. Yet, despite all that, I remained curiously disgusted about and intrigued by much of the story. What I did not have last season, though, was any sort of emotional attachment to the characters. Though Bates was hilarious and Lange played the hell out of Fiona Goode, I still wasn’t loving any of them. If (and when) one of the characters died (then came back, died again, and was maybe burned or buried alive), I wouldn’t have shed as much as a tear.

I liked them, but I didn’t care about them.

And it’s a hard sell, right? Could we love a bunch of freaks? Did we? Does the horror aspect of this show sort of disappear into the vapor when we can see inside the minds and hearts of its characters? And is this good for the business of horror in the first place?

Has the show become a drama? And would it bother you if it were? I think it would be alright with me. After all, in what arena can you successfully shake up complex characters with good old-fashioned horror, the supernatural, and the infinite darkness of the human mind?

I liked Freak Show. In fact, I liked it quite a lot. But I also felt that aspect we crave, that desire to have the wits scared out of us, seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. I paid much less attention to the gore than the characters and story this time around. At this point, I can’t say whether that’s a credit or a detriment to the series. The construct is more high-minded for sure, but is it in line with the rest of the franchise?

Has American Horror Story evolved? And if so, will the series evolve from here? Will it shed its bloody skin to become more of a drama than a horror story? Would you still watch if it did?

I don’t know. I’m thinking I probably would.


American Horror Story Freak Show can be found on FX. The show has been renewed for a fifth season.

Friendship in the ’90’s vs. Friendship Today

Remember having friends? I mean, really having friends? Those people, who came over, maybe ate dinner, or even watched a movie, with you? Or, better yet, people with whom you went out to the movies? Remember sitting around a table, laughing about your misadventures months after they happened?

I remember those people, too. And those times. Ah, how it used to be. In the good old days, if I may.

Please come by Redbook where I break down the major differences between friendship in the ’90’s and today.

And don’t forget your selfie stick.

To the Magic Makers


‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the house

Not a creature was stirring,

Not even a mouse


Unless it’s the cat

Who’s eating the flowers

That he’ll puke on the floor

In a couple of hours


Or your daughter, who just needs

To be tucked in twice

Or three times, or four

But just once would be nice!


Or Daddy just barreling

Up from the basement

With Santa’s great haul

For the children’s amazement


And then there is you

Trying to keep it together

With ten plates of cookies

And checking the weather


And cooking the food

Wondering whether they’ll like it

Stirring some egg nog

But hoping to spike it


And wrapping the things

Wondering when it will end

And majorly question

If Santa’s your friend


You scrub and you sweep

To ensure all is well

And place all the presents

So shit just looks swell


Take a bite of the cookies

And gnaw on the carrot

Then put it back down

So that no one will hear it


Then you climb into bed

With a sigh on your face

Too tired to know

That you’ve won the race


You wake in the morning

To giggles and screams

And facial expressions

You’ve never quite seen


And they smile and wail

And say “Look at that!”

Then you nod like a dummy

And fix the placemat


And they dance and they fiddle

And laugh with delight

And have no damn idea

You were up half the night


And you could be just bitter –

You know that it’s true

Take a drink to your room

And tell everyone to screw.


But there’d be no magic

Did you not bust your rear

To pick up the XMen and

Food for reindeer


And that Snow Glow Elsa,

(She’s been asking since fall)

Or the Spider Man figure

That shoots webs at the wall


Then a calm rushes over

As the magic goes by

And you look at their smiles

And feel you could cry


And it doesn’t much matter

Now all’s said and done

That you’ve broken your ass

Just for them to have fun


And so people could eat

And drink and relax

And share a few moments

That surely won’t last


The love there just gets you

And you cannot be blue

When you realize you’re Santa,

That Santa is YOU

Celebrating Christmas Past

When I think of Christmas, I think of my grandmother’s house – a two-story in the city, crowded and loud, its kitchen filled with ten more people than reasonably fit inside, with wooden and metal folding chairs placed all around (and beyond) the table.

When a guest arrived, four people had to relinquish their seats to clear the door. That cold blast of air brought love in from the outside – neighbors with cookies, friends of my grandfather, or the Avon lady. The scent of their leather coats hung in the chilly air.

The floor was linoleum, probably, and the metal chairs scraped, just as you’d imagine.

Poster-board decorations, dog-eared from years of use, some with faded velvety finishes, hung on the walls. Electric candles that bubbled water sat in each drafty window.

The light was harsh. The stove sat alone on a wall, and the big steel doors of the ‘icebox’ swung open and closed, attempting to satisfy the hungry crowd. Laughter crested and fell between the clanking of plates and glasses. Some would share chairs or sit on laps to secure what little room they could find. Others just stood and ate.

Holidays1There were deviled eggs, inordinately large bowls of salad, weathered baking pans filled with stuffed shells and veal parmigiana, and bread and butter. My grandfather would pour some Budweiser into an hourglass-shaped juice glass and push it towards me.

After dinner, my grandmother would make it a point to seat the kids in the middle of the floor, making everyone ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at each present we opened. It would later become a running joke.

My grandfather would retire to his recliner and turn on the TV -probably a football game – or play music. I’d sit with him, usually, no matter what he’d watch. He’d hand me those Columbia House stamps, the ones you’d used to choose your “10 Free Albums”, and a piece of cardboard on which to stick them. Every so often, he’d get me seven or eight cassettes of my own, which I carried around in a case that may as well have been filled with gold bars.

He’d play Fats Domino, Connie Francis, and Bobby Darin on the eight-track – in the house, in the yard, in the car. Wherever he was, he brought his music (the way I’d later bring mine). And we’d sing. He’d rib me for “knowing all the words all the time”.

My grandmother would eventually coerce everyone into a round of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, complete with hand motions, though Christmas carols already crackled through a radio by the sink.

She would convince you that you needed a second plate of food – or a third – while my mother and aunt scuttled to clean the dirty dishes and clear the table.

My father and uncles would sit in the living room, talking in a frequency only understood by sports fans, or complained about ‘the alternator’, or ‘the radiator’, or the politicians. It was a language I would grow to learn.

And then my cousins and I would retire to an empty room or hallway to comb our Barbies, change their clothes, compare our Cabbage Patch Kids, and, of course, make up a dance to perform, mid-kitchen, for the entire family. We’d cartwheel and split in our footed tights, making the best of our nervous energy as we practiced.

From the kitchen, we’d hear a stray “What the Christ?” or a “Vaffanculo!” from my grandmother, which I won’t translate, because it’s Christmas. And then she’d laugh, with her hand covering her heart, talking fondly of her parents, or the fixes my uncles got into as children, as if she were trying to keep her joy from spilling out. She had the most beautiful laugh. It matched the twinkle in her eyes.

And my grandfather would play his eight-tracks, and snap his fingers, and take his Polaroids. And they’d slip me quarters and candy, even though it was Christmas Day.

Then I’d go home, bleary-eyed, with a bag full of ripped boxes, and sleep. And spend the rest of the week feeling the magic slowly wear off.

They’re all just echoes now – the eight-tracks, the aluminum pans, my grandmother’s laughter. Sometimes I close my eyes and wonder how their voices would sound in my house, whether she’d yell, “Steph, what the Christ?” if I wasn’t serving the soup fast enough, or if my grandfather would provide my kids a steady stream of bread and butter, just like he did with us.

And even though I’d sometimes give my left leg to have them back for a day – even a few hours – I know that they’re here. They’re here whenever I kiss my kids goodnight, when I cook a meal, when I smile at a stranger. They’re here.

So if you’re at all feeling like you may be missing the joy of those passed this season, rest assured that you’re not.

It’s just inside you now, and all around you.




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