Shreddin' With Jillian

Alrighty, so this is a follow-up to my whine and moan session in my previous post about the weight gain.  Make a little time for a pity party and then DO SOMETHING, right?  At least that's the motto I try to live by.  I'm human and sometimes stumble and sputter when I am trying to deal with things that bring me down, but deep at the core there is a never-ending drive, hunger and fire to DO, improve - whatever it is.  Fire in the belly!  OK, well, there's a little more of my belly than there used to be so I assume the fire's still deep in there somewhere, ha ha.

Everyone out there familiar with The Biggest Loser?  The reality TV series where really obese people diet and exercise like crazy and compete to see who can lose the largest percentage of their starting body weight?

Well, call ME a loser I suppose, as I've never watched one entire episode in all the 5 or 6 years this show has been around.  I've seen highlights of it at the end of a season where they crown a new winner, but haven't watched an episode all the way through.

But one name pops through for sure as the show gets woven into our seemingly never-ending hunger for a good, competitive reality show - Jillian Michaels.

Jillian is one of the personal trainers on the show, and she has a few books out, cookbooks, a nutritional or weight loss supplement she's endorsing (or developed?  Not sure).  And...a few workout DVDs.

It's been a long time since I've purchased a workout video.  In fact, the other two I had were on VCR so there ya go.  Remember Buns of Steel?  I admit I plowed through that one a few times.  It was in 2 parts - some low impact aerobics (admittedly very cheezy) and then the intense booty workout.  And I also had Cindy Crawford's Shape Your Body workout video from I'm guessing c. 1992ish?  Yep - just checked Amazon.com - 1992 - and now it's been reissued?  It got MAJORLY panned as being full of poorly-performed and risky moves.  Very 1990s...the music was mostly Seal and Primal Scream.  And they did a lot of alternative settings rather than a traditional exercise studio.  The beach, a rooftop in an urban setting, you name it.  My copy went to Goodwill years ago but I do remember that workout quite well.  I think partly because I did it in my first apartment I had on my own.  1 bedroom, 1 bath.  Killer, kickass water and mountain view, killer neighborhood but a tad dumpy otherwise.  But it was home for nearly 5 years.  And I was on the top (3rd) floor, yet for some reason my neighbor below me never complained when I was walking around or jumping up and down doing those workouts.

I like being around people.  When I work out I'd rather be at the gym where other people are doing their thing, on a walk with a good friend, or mixing it up on the ice in hockey.  But I do enjoy walks alone with the iPod as well - good to recharge and just veg out a bit.  And workout videos can get boring after awhile even though they usually have more than one routine in them.

So fast forward 15+ years or so and I recently got the Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred DVD.  I've heard a ton of great feedback about it and as I might have mentioned in another post it was only $8.99 on Amazon.com so it's definitely in line with my Money Diet.  Yes, I'm trying to stick with newly-learned frugal habits even though I've been back at work now for about 5 weeks.

Oh. My. God.  After the first workout I could hardly get out of bed the next day or two!  My abs!  My pecs!  On the other hand...this is a good thing.  The muscles are rumbling back to life!

There are 3 workouts on the DVD - 3 levels of difficulty.  There are so many things I love about this.  First of all, you're DONE in about 25 minutes.  Yep, there is a brief warmup before each workout, 18 minutes of circuit training and then a 2 minute stretch/cooldown.  All you need is a mat and some hand weights (dumbells).

Another thing I like is the variety...the circuits are broken down like this:
  • 3 minutes strength
  • 2 minutes cardio
  • 1 minute abs
...repeat that cycle 2 times and voila!  She has a few basic moves for each circuit and varies how they are rotated in each.  Again, I like this variety.  And if you are worried about complicated dance moves for the cardio portion, fear not.  All the cardio is very basic stuff like jump roping in place, jumping jacks, squatting in place while boxing - things like that.  I don't mind a little fun choreography but on the other hand it's nice that part is just 2 minutes a pop.

There are also two other women in the background doing modified versions of the exercises - one more beginner and one advanced.

So far I'm having a blast.  I've done the Level 1 workout 4 times and I feel GREAT.  Remember, it's a 20 minute workout so there is NO resting.  You have to push and push and push the entire time without stopping.  And it's hard!  But that's the idea.

The 2 minute cardio sessions are no brainers for me.  I'm used to that with hockey, plus my natural inclination to be a sprinter rather than a distance runner (I'm trying to 'fight' that by training for 5Ks).  But holy shitballs, the strength sections are killer.  Movements that seem pretty harmless "suddenly" creep up and kick you in the ass (or the triceps, pecs) after a few reps pretty quickly.  And I guess that's the idea!  There are a lot of combo type moves, such as anterior shoulder raises combined with side lunges.  Or squats combined with presses upwards.  Again, with the idea to make the most of those intense 20 minutes. 

I SUCK at pushups.  How much muscle tone has vacated my upper body here??  UGH.  I can barely do 5 or 6 in a row right now even in the modified version on your knees.  Old school exercise but still tried and true I suppose.  I really do love the 'squat and row' exercise with the hand weights too.  I tend to carry the weight of the world in my neck and shoulders, especially after being on a computer all day, so anything that helps loosen up and tone that area is HUGE for me.  I find I feel better and "sit" taller after a good upper body workout.  Those pecs are in there somewhere.  Again, I'm amazed how much muscle tone I've lost.  Anything I can do to fight looking middle-aged, I'm there!

So...I'm hoping this is a workout I can stick with for awhile along with the other choices I'm making in a renewed committment to fitness and peeling off some poundage.  An intense workout in just 20-25 minutes?  I'VE got the time for sure!

And like Jillian says..."NO excuses."


Age, Weight...What IS It?

I need to vent a little.  For the first time in my life (OK, mayyybe the second but this time it's a little worse) I am noticing mild aches in my knees when I go up and down stairs.  Keep in mind I live in a 3-story townhouse and also work on a 2nd floor at my new job so I'm all about the stairs, baby.  And yep, I feel it.  Sometimes I even "hear" my knees making very faint, grinding sounds, like really fast Rice Krispies crackles.  Hmmm, one of these days I'll likely be too noisy to sneak up on people.  And my back starts to tire out more quickly now when I play hockey...I truly "know" when it's the end of my shift as my lower back screams it to me.  I suppose I should feel blessed that I've never had knee or back problems as a kid, teen or young adult.  None of these are sharp, alarming pains...just things I've never really felt before...and I'm wondering WHY.

And why now?

I just turned 43 last month and you know, I remember how I was soooo ready and excited to turn 40...I was all BRING IT OWHNNN and thrilled to punch through into a new decade.  But I admit the big 4-0 kicked me in the ass.  A few weeks after my birthday I ended a relationship with the man I thought I was going to marry.  I am not going to drone on about the details other than say here that it was extremely painful as we were really, truly, deeply in love but there were some very unhealthy things going on that we could not work through no matter how hard we tried.  Then, just a couple of weeks after that breakup my work contract ended abruptly.  Abruptly as in I was driving home one night after work to meet up with a friend for a drink and got a call from my agency that I literally did NOT need to go back in the office the next day.  So...I turned 40 and within weeks two HUGE elements of my life SHUT DOWN.  Hard.  It was brutal and there were days I didn't want to get out of bed.  But I pulled through and survived thanks to the incredible support of my family and friends.

Oh, and here are a few things people may not tell you about that happen when you hit your 40s:
- Knee/back pain (at least for me...perhaps it's weight gain too?)
- Weight redistributes...where are my teeny little waist and flat tummy?  Yoo hoooo...
- Thinning hair...not in a major baldspot way but in general.  Thankfully I have thick, wavy hair and have some to spare.  But if you look at pictures of me 20 years ago you CAN see a difference.
- Ass drops about 3 or 4 inches.  Boooo gravity.
- Random, rogue chin hairs.  Yep, my tweezers are my new BFF.  Every other day I gotta check out the jawline.  What the F already??
- Peach fuzz...thankfully my facial hair is pretty much colorless but it makes makeup look bad and frankly is very aging in general.  I get it waxed periodically at my favorite spa; while I've been out of work and on a major Money Diet I've actually found a drugstore waxing kit that works GREAT as a cheap alternative and doesn't irritate my skin.
- Zits!  Yep, zits AND wrinkles here...bonus.
- Changes in eating/diet:  I have totally lost my tolerance for red wine.  One tiny glass maybe with a huge steak dinner is OK, but other than that I have no desire to drink it and when I have a glass I feel like a train hit me the next morning.  I suppose there could be worse things to give up, however!
- Occasional loss of balance...I actually know of 3 women who shortly after turning 40 have lost their balance and taken bad falls either at work or at home.  A missed last step or a stumble that turns into a major embarrassment or even some surgery to fix broken bones.  I admit I have sometimes "caught" myself about to miss a last step either indoors or outdoors and it's scary.  And I HAVE fallen once in my townhouse, but I blamed it on the high heeled clogs I was wearing. A couple of years ago I was heading down to my garage to meet up with my boyfriend K at the time and I went SPLAT down the stairs and smacked head first into the wall at the bottom.  Luckily no twists or sprains...just a bruised ego and a good laugh that no one was watching.

They also say your metabolism slows and it's harder to lose weight as you get older. Honestly, my weight has always been an achilles heel for me so I don't see a real change there, other than my weight has re-distributed within my body.  Grrr.

So let's talk about the weight gain here.  This is probably a reason why my knees/back are feeling the burn more than they used to.  A few of you know that in the summer of 2003 I walked about 5-7 miles a day outside every single day for about 5-6 months and dropped 35 lbs.  After that I took up hockey.  I am trying to think back all those years to remember if I noticed less aching in my knees and back, but I can only remember how great it felt having my lung strength increase.  No more wheezy, tight-chested feelings going up steep hills.  Once I started slimming down and getting in better shape it was a breeze.  And thank goodness I got my cardio in good condition before starting hockey.

Oh, and one other thing - The Pill.  Yes, in early fall 2007 I started a new job and started dating K around the very same time.  I also found a new doctor and after a complete physical, bloodwork, some meds for high blood pressure and all we made the mutual decision to put me on the Pill.  And this was probably one of the dumbest things I've ever done.  Within a couple months I blew up like a balloon.  And the only good thing about that was that I suddenly went from a small B to a full C cup so I now have decent boobs, ha ha.  I quit the Pill after a little under a year and will never, ever do that again.  Even that low dosage prescription plumped me up pronto and I've had a devil of a time fighting off the weight ever since.  Kinda weird how none of those 3 things (job, man, Pill) ended up working out.  My entire business unit got RIF'd from that company, I broke up with K because we just never had time to grow our relationship (another long story) and the Pill was a big ol' mistake.  Oh well - sometimes you take a path at a fork in the road and it's not the right choice after all.  Regroup!

Stress has also played a big role with the weight gain too.  As a lot of you know, I was unemployed from late July through late October last year, worked very briefly 8 weeks at very low pay through the end of December, and then was unemployed all into 2010 until just about a month ago.  It hurt.  It hurt financially and emotionally, big time.  There were days I'd drink coffee all morning, have popcorn for lunch and mac and cheese for dinner.  And, oh, maybe pop a few vitamins.  All while barely showered and in my ripped up leggings and an old flannel shirt.  Yeah, I'm not proud of all of that but it's the truth.  That was my M.O. on days I didn't have interviews or other things to get me out and about.  I felt very lost, stressed and alone on the bad days.

Now that I'm back to work and getting acclimated (and enjoying decent paychecks again, woo hoo!) I'm trying to re-assess my diet and fitness goals.  I guess it's a self-esteem issue for me; when I'm working I feel I have "purpose," and through that it fuels me to make other improvements in my life.  Right or wrong, that's my reality.

So, here are a few things in the works:
- Exercise:  I've signed up for a 5K in late July and have started the Couch to 5K Program yet again.  I did two 5Ks last year but this time around it's tougher to train with the extra pudge.
- More exercise:  I am now the proud owner of the Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred DVD.  I've never watched The Biggest Loser but I hear this workout is kickass.  And for just $8.99 thanks to the nice people at Amazon.com it fits my Money Diet.  I did my first workout tonight and I might be too sore in my pecs to get out of bed or even type tomorrow, ha ha.  We'll see!  It's a very intense, 20-minute workout of cardio, weights and abs in small circuits.  Kind of nice having it done quickly, rather than a long, brisk walk outside which might take an hour or more and doesn't really do anything for the upper body.
- Diet changes:  I still don't have any Diet Coke cravings after stopping it cold turkey in early January!  But I now work again at a company where beverages are complimentary, sodas, juice, the whole works.  And while I love bubbles, I find that sparkling sodas and diet root beer make me bloat up like no one's business.  So I stick with plain water from the water cooler and a couple cups of coffee in the morning.
- Nutrition:  the cafeterias here are kick butt and subsidized, so I hope having more nutritious (and cheap!) choices at lunch will inspire me to blow the dust off my cookbooks yet again. The salad bar and brown rice sushi are two of my favorites.
- Healthy snacks:  string cheese and plain, unsalted almonds are great low-cal snacks to keep the blood sugar stable between meals.  I try to avoid snacking but if I'm stuck with having to take a later lunch either of these really help.

So, I'm excited for this journey to get back to a healthy weight, ease the strain on the knees and back...and getting back to where I recognize myself in pictures again!

Oh and PS:  what GETS better in your 40s?  Wisdom, confidence, less and less tolerance for bullshit and...sex.


Some of my Favorite Things – Part 6…Eyeliner

Mascara is my #1 "can't live without it" makeup product, and eyeliner is probably #2, save for some good lip balm.  I love focusing on my eyes when doing makeup...probably one of my better features I'd say.  I learned very early on (probably reading Seventeen magazine or other rags) that since I have close-set eyes it's best to put liner/shadow on the outer half of my eyes to make them look farther apart.  Fast forward 25+ years and I still do pretty much the same thing.  Darker shadows go on the outer half of the lids and crease area and lighter shadows go in the inner corners. 

My obsession (joy! love affair!) with makeup probably goes back to my childhood...remembering when my Mom would let me play around with her makeup as a kid of 4 or 5.  Probably just normal girl growing up stuff.  Sometimes she'd put a little lipstick on me before a ballet recital - awwww, I felt so, well, grown up I guess!

Aiiight!!  So I went with a pick-up-sticks pic just for something different.  As with any other makeup, my eyeliner journey is a joyful trial and error.  And I love it.  There are a ton of great products out there, a few clunkers and always the thrill of trying something new.

I've hardly ever met a black eyeliner I didn't like so about 90% of what I have is some sort of black.  Browns are no good on me unless they are a deep chocolate brown and if they need to be that dark then it might as well just be black.  BLACK ROCKS.  I've got some charcoal grey, deep plum and deep pine green in for a little variety - and even a white liner but we'll get to that later.  And yes, as with mascara I used to have tons of cobalt blue, bright purple and lime green pencil (and liquid) liners in the 80s.  No more. 

A good liner goes on the way you want it with minimal dragging, stays put and comes off easily when you want it. This is one reason I'm so into liquid liner, as it stays in place and washes off easily...often I don't need that additional step of an eye makeup remover on a cotton ball.  Yes, like I've said before, I try to avoid any extra tugging/pulling around the eye area.  Liquid liner can take some practice applying it just right to control the thickness of the line but it's so worth it.

I usually just line my upper lids and leave the lower ones bare.  This is partly because I can be prone to smudging/smearing over the course of the day (no one likes that "racoon eye" look, right? And also because it can be a little too dramatic for everyday, daytime makeup, at least on me.  I work in a very casual environment (jeans/t-shirts are pretty much standard) so there's no need to go all out to impress anyone, heh.  I save lining the lower lashes for nights out or just goofing around on a weekend.

Other things I've learned?  Keep 'em sharpened.  Not only does this ensure a "fresh" pencil line but it keeps the line going on clean and thin.  You can always make it thicker later.

So let's dig into the ol' pile o' pencils...

Makeup For Ever Aqua Eyes:  these are the ones with the clear caps if you can see them in the picture.  I have this in 3 colors - black (duh), black with a little shimmer, and a deep plum.  These are "waterproof" so they glide on very nice but are a bitch to remove so they are not my first choice.  You know how I feel about waterproof eyemakeup by now, right?  At Sephora.

MAC Eye Kohl:  Once again I give a shout out to MAC for rockstar makeup!  LOVE these liners.  These go on smoothly and don't smudge much during the day.  They're not waterproof but they do need some makeup remover as a final step after you're done cleansing to get every last bit off (as you should!)  I've got these in several shades...black, deep grey, plum, pine green (do we detect a pattern here?), deep bronze...and...WHITE! 

Why the hell would anyone want white liner?  Listen up: it's a GREAT eye brightener along the lower waterline.  No, I'm not talking about tides or boats - I'm talking about that small area between your lashes and your eye itself.  That's called a "waterline" my friends, and a little bit of white liner in there does wonders on those mornings you're not feeling/looking so alert.  Ideally you should be able to line your waterlines without needing to pull or tug your lower eye area.  It's a little weird pointing a liner pencil there so close to your actual eye...the first time I did it was in 7th grade so I guess I conquered that squeamishness early on.  Department stores or maccosmetics.com.

MAC Greasepaint Stick:  Yup, the MAC ho marches on with more...I've got 3 of these and love, love love.  They're the cynlindrical, larger ones in the pic.  MAC launched their first Greasepaint stick last year as part of their Style Black collection, when everyone was into black lipstick and all that goth stuff.  A little theatrical rockin the black lips, but the greasepaint eyeliner is incredible.  This goes on in a thick, smeary line but if you want a lighter, thinner look you can do it with a delicate touch.  It's thick but you can still keep the point relatively sharp with the sharpener which is very cleverly disguised in the other end of the pencil.  A tiny, plastic sharpener pops out and you can whittle away.  I have to admit I had NO idea about the little hidden sharpener until it came time to sharpen one of mine and I actually posted the question on a makeup forum I actively participate in.  Too funny!  And also a good idea, as these pencils are too big for a standard sharpener.  I've got these in the original black as well as a deep grey and a dark greyish-brown taupe.  Department stores or maccocsmetics.com.

MAC Penultimate Liquid Liner:  a glorious hit from the Chill collection (winter 2008 I think).  This is a liquid liner which goes on with a sharp, pointed felt tip pen-like applicator.  So it can either look very thin like a sharp pencil or you can make it as thick as you want.  Stays put and washes off like a breeze!  YES!  This one goes with me on business travel for sure. I'm on my 2nd or 3rd refill. Black only. Department stores or maccocsmetics.com.

MAC Liquid Liner:  this is the cone-shaped one at bottom right center.  It has a little wider tip on the felt pen applicator than the Penultimate but still, truly outstanding.  And a steal at around $14 I think.  Comes in black only.  Why mess with a great thing?  Department stores or maccocsmetics.com.

Urban Decay 24/7 Eye Pencil:  I've got two of these and really like them.  They've got the silver caps in the picture.  Of all the pencil-type liners I've tried, these glide on the easiest - you hardly need to apply any pressure at all.  LOVE that.  And if you wanna take a shot at lining your waterline, start with one of these as they are really creamy and gentle.  At Sephora.

Clunkers?  Well, I gotta say Chanel's Le Crayon Yeux was a disappointment.  For $28 the only saving grace was the built-in smudger on the other side of the pencil.  A very cool, dense and slanted tiny sponge.  And Chanel's Ecriture Liquid Liner was nice but overpriced at $34.  For that amount of cash I'd expect it to last longer than it did.  And I found the thin brush applicator tip a bit too floppy and the liner itself came out uneven - either too little or in thick globs.  No thanks.  This is why I prefer felt pen type applicators.  [MAC's Penultimate, in comparison, is only $16.50.] 

And...I've heard really great things about Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner.  Great liner at a kickbutt drugstore price (about $10).  I haven't yet tried it but it's on my wishlist.  I'll probably check it out when one of my MAC liquid liners run out.

For now, as you can see, I've got plenty to keep me busy!


Some of my Favorite Things – Part 5…Mascara

Hi, everyone.  I'm a major, major mascara junkie.  If you told me I could only have one makeup product this would be it.  I lucked out with thick and naturally curly lashes but they are pale.  So a little mascara is great to open up my eyes and get them defined.  Score!

I love wearing makeup but also love it when I can remove it easily too.  Gotta avoid any excess tugging or pulling, especially around the eyes as the skin is so thin and delicate.  Why accelerate the aging process?  Gentle, my friends...be gentle with that skin around your eyes.

These mascaras in the picture are all pretty traditional - meaning none have that new vibration/oscillation motor thing in them.  Honestly, I think that whole thing is a stupid gimmick.  Yes, I have no opinions.  The thought of putting anything that vibrates near my eyes kind of scares me.  And I've never, ever used one of those eyelash curler devices either.  An eyelash curler looks like a strange mini medieval contraption torture thingy and...it scares me.  So, I won't be talking about either of those things in here.

There's something for everyone...there are endless types of brush shapes - some are curved to mimic the arc shape of your eyes and lashline, some are pretty cylindrical and others are flat.  And some have more of a comb-type applicator.  Really, it all boils down to what works best for your lashes and eye shape. So have fun out there and experiment!  No matter what type you use or how much or how little you spend, people are either going to notice really great lashes or (horrors) really crappy clumped up, spidery lashes.  Try to avoid the Tammy Faye Bakker look please.

Colors?  I stay with black, black and more black - with a few rare exceptions.  Long gone are the days of cobalt blue, bright purple and emerald green mascara.  Yep, I shamelessly admit I did all of these.  Hey, it was the 80s so it was pretty much the Law.  There are probably a few incriminating pictures of me floating around to prove this too. 

I've tried 987498735 kinds of mascara and never get tired of the ongoing search for a junkie fix.  I suppose there are worse (and more expensive) bad habits to have - shoes, handbags, cocaine - KIDDING! 

Here's what's currently in my stash (left to right):

Cover Girl LashBlast: this mascara kicks ASS and is under $10.  Ding ding...bonus time!  Truly an all-time winner both in how it looks and the price.  Yep, this qualified as a legit Money Diet purchase.  [note: there is a LashBlast Length variation of this in a yellow tube and it blows chunks.  It just made my lashes look thin and stringy and did nothing.  What a waste.]  So...look for the orange tube, not the yellow.  At drugstores.

Artistry:  never heard of this brand?  Artistry is actually Amway's makeup line, and I found out about it at a friend's spa party. When I think of Amway I think of laundry detergent, not makeup.  Color me surprised!  The brush is long and thin and the bristles are in a tiny spiral pattern - something I've never seen before.  This mascara is waterproof so it's not something I generally would purchase.  Meaning, I don't need mascara to stay on through a swim or shower, plus waterproof mascara is pretty hard to remove and results in excess tugging and pulling - a big no-no as y'all know in my book.  But this one comes off pretty easily with an eye makeup remover so it doesn't seem hardcore waterproof to me at all.  Find your Amway rep and place your order - about $15.

Paula's Choice Lush mascara:  Ah...once again Paula Begoun cranks out another great product that does what it's supposed to do - no more, no less, no bullshit hype in advertising.  I love this woman!  It has a traditional, symmetrical brush and it goes on (and comes off) fabulously.  And I also love how it closes with a final, satsifying 'click'.  Have you ever had a mascara dry out too fast because you didn't close it completely?  With this one, you know.  Paulaschoice.com.

Makeup For Ever Smoky Lash:  I'm on my 3rd or 4th tube of this stuff and actually treated myself recently after starting my new job (yep, I went on a Sephora bender).  Just a really great, thickening mascara and I love it!  This is the one I take with me on business travel too.  It's a little pricier (low $20s) but very much worth it.  At Sephora.

Yves St. Laurent (YSL) Faux Cils:  Oh so sleek and elegant in the shiny gold tube.  And oh so stinky inside.  Eeesh, this stuff has a pungent chemical type of smell - never ever experienced this before in a mascara!  Kind of like new car smell with a dash of burnt rubber?  Hard to describe.  Anyway, this mascara is touted to give you a look like you're wearing false lashes as its name suggests. It DOES have a nice thickening and curling effect but that darn old smell can be a deal breaker.  I stomach'd it up and opened my wallet...$30.  This stuff better last a long time at that price.  I picked up the "Sublime Grey" shade for a little variety from all the black.  At Sephora.

Lancome Hypnose:  a fun, undulating tube shape with a traditional long, thin brush inside (not curved).  It also has a very nice thickening and curling effect and I'd put it up toward the top of my favorites along with the Make Up For Ever one.  You might know that Lancome is the "department store" version of L'Oreal, so if you like L'Oreal (drugstore) products you'll probably like Lancome and vice versa.  About $25 and very much worth it.  Department stores or Sephora.

MAC Zoom Fast Black Lash:  once again, MAC knocks it out of the park with great products at great prices (well, except for foundations but I already covered that in another post).  Literally half the price of the YSL and Lancome brands - a steal at $13.  This one goes on a bit "wetter" than others, so use very light, thin coats and let it dry thoroughly before doing other makeup (trust me on this one...no one likes those awful 'globs' of smeared mascara around the eyes and they're a bitch to fix).  Department stores or maccosmetics.com.

MAC Plushlash:  another great buy at $13.  The brush is short, fat and somewhat flat and rectangular so you can rotate it to get just where you need to.  I have pretty big eyes but some with smaller eyes might find it too wide.  Department stores or maccosmetics.com.

And I'll add a few more from my personal Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame not currently in my collection:

Hall of Shame:
Urban Decay Big Fatty mascara - I LOVE the names Urban Decay drums up for their products.  But the Big Fatty is a big F-up.  Huge brush with zero oomph on the lashes.  Astonishing, really! 

Benefit BADgal - I really wanted to love this as I've used and adored the BADgal black liner pencil for years and years.  But the mascara was a big disappointment.  I actually had to use a separate, thickening base (from another mascara with a wand on each end) for this to look decent, otherwise it just went on thin and stringy no matter how many coats I applied.  Huge pain in the butt and not worth it.

Cover Girl LashBlast Length - avoid the yellow tube, people.

Hall of Fame:
L'Oreal Voluminous - so many people sing its praises and I'm right there chiming in.  Maybe I'm due for a refill?  This is truly a kickbutt drugstore mascara.  Goes on evenly, lasts a long time...just simply elegant.

Buxom Lash - Buxom is the sister line of Bare Escentuals, one of the heavy-hitters in the mineral makeup craze.  The wand resembles a medieval weapon as it's biggest at the top and bottom while smaller in the middle with long bristles.  A little oddly-shaped but it works.  If you have smaller eyes this might be too big.

Stila MAJOR Major Lash - I really like Stila's eyeshadows and decided to try a mascara on a whim.  Good Lord how much cash have I dropped at Sephora over the years, ha ha.  This one has a majorly big brush and goes on majorly gooey if you're not careful.  Not my favorite but not a disappointment either, so I'll give it a "straight line face" with a slight Mona Lisa smile.  At Sephora.

Chanel Exceptionnel - exceptionally priced at $30 but this is worth a splurge, my friends.  I LOVE the comb-like brush and the curling effect.  I've gobbled this one up over time in some of the other colors too - along with black it comes in navy and violet.  But the colors are very subtle - meaning they're mostly black with a small touch of color - so you won't look like an 80s throwback.  The price is steep but it does last a long time, and has that nice 'click' when you twist the tube closed.

Any mascara experts out there notice what's missing?  Yep, Maybelline Great Lash mascara.  What was that statistic Maybelline was promoting awhile back...something like every 10 seconds a tube of this stuff is sold?  Hmmm, I can't remember.  Anyway, this is supposed to be the alltime die-hard favorite, in the famous pink tube with the green cap.  Everyone loves it, right?  Well, I've used a few tubes over the years but I haven't bought it since probably college or so.  Too wet and the brush is too small.  So, I guess that's more for everyone else out there to love!

Well, I hope this was helpful and maybe even a bit entertaining.  Get out there and rock those lashes!!