Friday, January 22, 2016

My Secret Skincare Arsenal

I've never believed in hiding my age. I've always thought the entire idea of hiding your age to be laughable and absurd. I refuse to believe that a mere number should serve to shame me into lying or submitting to some ridiculous notion that we get less beautiful with age. Honestly, I feel that my beauty has only just begun. I take care of what I have, however, and I am very selective when it comes to health and hygiene.

This is my very affordable, and effective, skincare routine:
I rarely wash my face with soap or water. Maybe a cold splash or two in the morning to wake up, that is about it.Tap water is usually sterilized and chlorinated, and the harsh chemicals can take a toll on your skin. 

 My Secret Skincare Arsenal:

Tea tree oil cleansing pads - instead of soap and water, I use these makeup removal pads after cleansing with coconut oil to ensure that every trace of makeup has been removed. Not only does it smell nice, tea tree oil is also an amazing antiseptic!

Virgin coconut oil - I use this as a cleansing oil and a makeup remover. I gently massage my face in circular motions and under my eyes before wiping clean with a soft towel. Sometimes I also use a bit more at the end of my nighttime routine if I need extra moisture. Makes a great overall skin conditioning treatment and gives you that glow usually reserved for swimsuit models - shiny!

Beauty balm - I like to have a thick, waxy beauty balm available for those extra dry days, but I also often use this on top of my retinol serum to reduce the risk of any redness or excessive dryness that the serum may cause. Also does wonders for moisturizing tired eyes and lips!

Organic retinol serum - this is still relatively new to me, but if successful, I will write a review at a later date. Although I have no discernible lines at 31, I can still see a slight difference in texture and a few developing lines in a few spots, so I just wanted to act quickly. Even though as a girl I used to get that bronzed glow, I made a conscious effort to stop tanning in my early 20's (in spite of the strange looks I got from my peers living the Laguna Beach lifestyle!), and I can say that I feel very lucky that I don't have any sun spots or premature wrinkles from my reckless romps in the sun!

Olive oil - when anyone asks me what I use on my skin, this is my answer. No expensive creams here. Pricey doesn't necessarily equal effective, remember that! Although I currently keep my complexion pale and in my natural state, at heart I am a Mediterranean girl and I spent much of my childhood bronzed by the ancient Balkan sun. I naturally have the lightest golden-olive skin that bronzes very quickly and I can get quite dark. I used to sneak small amounts  of olive oil from the gigantic metal can in the kitchen to use to moisturize my skin, and to this day I still use it. It is truly liquid gold.

Daytime lotion with SPF - it is imperative that you find a day-time lotion with SPF in it, just to take the proper precautions.

Unsweetened Cranberry Juice - a true glow comes from within! The tartness might make you pucker, but trust me, it works wonders for the skin and your immune system! I can honestly say that I've noticed a change in my skin texture from drinking this 1-2 times a day (in the morning and before bedtime). It is imperative that you get 100% cranberry juice, not from concentrate and NO sugar added! 

A Smart, Sensible Diet - I indulge on the weekends or whilst traveling, but during the week I eat sensibly. Listen to what your body is asking for. I am very lucky that my parents never bought soda and rarely bought junk food, it taught me to crave real food and this is why I maintain a healthy weight. I don't have a sweet-tooth, so sugar is never really a temptation - I love salty and savoury, but I limit indulgence to the weekend. When you wean yourself off of unhealthy eating habits, you will begin to hear your body asking for what it needs. Skip processed foods altogether and make things from scratch. Choose food that is in its natural state. You can prepare good food quickly, you don't need to resort to a frozen or packaged meal. Simple. It just takes knowledge and discipline.

Maintaining a healthy weight - I know that this is going to be different for everyone, however, when I weighed 110 lbs. at age 25, I could definitely tell that my skin was suffering. In high school I weighed anywhere from 110-115 lbs and that was perfectly fine then, but when I developed as a woman, such a slight weight definitely was not ideal for my body. I lost weight due to an extreme amount of stress, so that also contributed to the poor skin condition. Being too skinny will make your skin lose elasticity more quickly and have wrinkles show up sooner (trust me, too skinny isn't pretty!). Being too heavy is also not good - it can contribute to hormonal imbalance and give you a double chin! Everyone has a different ideal weight, listen to your body and not to the "mean girls" or the latest issue of "Cosmo Girl".

The bottom line is this:

I am very particular about what goes into my body and what I put onto my skin, and since you only get one shot at it, you might as well look after it properly!

Comrade Von Pussycat

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bond Villains Are Forever...

My first hat! A 1940's mink and berry velvet tilt hat - it completely makes me feel part Bond villain and part Anna Karenina! Wearing my Besame "Red Velvet", a Christmas gift from my Bear <3
 I don't believe in making New Year resolutions. I believe in the deliberate reinvention of self; the constant and inevitable evolution that we all face. Reinvention and personal evolution have been two of the main themes in my life. I find it thrilling to think of all of the possibilities that are at my fingertips. I relish knowing that I am in control of my image. I know that many people think that style is frivolous and inconsequential; I strongly disagree. The style that you develop can give you a transformative and even a deeply religious experience. There are few things that make a statement about who you are like your style does. Our style is like a window into our own mad little secret worlds. A deeply personal sense of style is incredibly empowering - and there are few things as satisfying. 

I am constantly inspired by women like Valerie Von Sobel, Beatrix Ost, and Carmen Dell'Orefice who reject the notion that being beautiful and stylish is to be enjoyed exclusively during youth; and I am constantly inspired by so-called "unconventional" beauties such as Rossy de Palma, and Catherine Baba for their blatant rejection of the modern beauty standards that perpetuate the myth that a small nose is a pretty nose, that pillowy lips are the sexiest, and that contouring is your best friend.  I'm growing tired and bored of seeing eyebrows on "fleek" (can we just get rid of that word altogether, please?), faces contoured into oblivion, and overdrawn lips. It is boring. I long for flaws and imperfection. I long to meet individuals who are unique, eccentric, and interesting...anyone who challenges the norm and doesn't look like a blow-up doll clone.

A glamorous transformation is at your imaginative are you? Be an original! What do you have to lose?

Channeling my inner Bond villain!
I've been thinking a lot lately about signatures - from vocabulary to nail lacquer. I've long since been inspired by vintage James Bond (Vesper Lynd is my spirit animal, forever!), tales of espionage, pulp fiction, film noir, Russian fairy tales, Italian & French New Wave film (Fellini! Visconti! De Sica!), Neorealism, the sepia-tone photographs by Jacques Henri Lartigue and explicit photographs of Guy Bourdin... and so much more. I long to express these influences through my style - and I often pick a few references on a daily basis. While I know that I could never stick to that "10 Piece French Classic Wardrobe" ( I have way too many fantasies in my head to live out!) - I do see the appeal of having signatures. I like the idea of having a few steady, foolproof tricks. Here is a list of things that have become my personal signatures:


Black pin-curled hair

Cat-eye in the blackest eyeliner possible!

Red nail lacquer - my favorites are NARS "Chinatown" and Estee Lauder "Envious"

Seamed stockings

"Your Beauty Mark" by Dita Von Teese 
Finally, a beauty book that "gets" me. Because I belong to that tribe of glamorous eccentrics, I have long since come to terms with the ridicule and strange glances. I used to be much more concerned with these things in my early adulthood, even though, for the most part, I didn't let other people affect the way that I wanted to present myself to the world. Sometimes, though, after hearing comments like, "Why do you wear so much makeup?" - "Do you use makeup to hide?" -  "It looks like you're trying too hard" - or "Why are so dressed up?" - I let these snarky remarks sink in a little too deeply and, at times, I would even have to question my own motivation for wearing my signature cat eye (I've been using liquid liner since...ever since I can remember! I think age 13?) and dark lipstick. I remember purchasing my very first nail lacquer in a bright cherry red, and along with it, a cherry scented red roller lip-gloss - I was 11. So to allow myself to feel like an impostor is unfortunate. I've worked very hard to cultivate the qualities that I possess today, both the physical and more intangible elements. It's taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to become the woman that I am today. Regardless of how much you try to block out irrelevant comments, however, we will never be completely impervious to them. Dita's book gave me the reassurance of being in good company - and with each turn of the page I was reminded WHY I am the way I am today. Not everyone will understand your journey, but don't let anyone make you question your validity. Some people may think you are insane, other people may thing that you are the most interesting individual on the planet and admire you for your eccentricities. The bottom line is this: never let anyone question your worth. Love yourself. Improve yourself. Invest in yourself. You have a long journey ahead - why not love every moment of it?

George the cat interrupts your regulary scheduled program for cuddles and pets - good night!

Comrade Von Pussycat

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas Proper!

This Christmas was particularly special to me. As the eldest of six children, you can imagine how difficult it is to get everyone together at one time! This year was the first year in about eight years that we were all home, living in our native California. My sister also married a Macedonian man, my brother was in the Marines (thank you for your service, Stu!), I lived abroad for a few years, etc. It was heart-warming to see everyone together, and while Christmas is most definitely not about the gifts, it touched my heart to see that the spirit of giving among my family members and significant others. I love my crazy, beautiful, big family!
My Grandma's traditional recipe, "Buche de Noel" that celebrates our French heritage! She even dips glossy citrus leaves in dark chocolate and peels them off to create the most beautifully realistic chocolate decorations - and some years she makes hand made meringue mushrooms dusted with cocoa powder.
Bulgaria; 1991-ish - the sibs and I carrying our Christmas branch (we couldn't source a proper tree because Bulgaria as Christmas trees are more of a Western European tradition and in those days Bulgaria had just come out of Communism, so celebrating Christian holidays was relatively new). My parents used to smuggle Bibles through Eastern Europe because they were illegal - we moved to Bulgaria to plant an evangelical church. More on that adventure another time!
Christmas proper! I love dressing in festive ways - wearing a vintage 1950's knit sweater in pine green and a 1950's cherry and cream wiggle skirt with matching belt.
Also tried out a new recipe for our weekend brunch - Oeufs de Cocotte aux Girolles. I love eggs with a soft, oozing yolk and this recipe was so luxurious!
"Oeufs Cocotte aux Girolles" with toasted peasant bread
Being married to a Macedonian, we also celebrated Orthodox Christmas or "Bozik" on the 7th of January - on Christmas Eve, called "Badnik" in Macedonia,  I quickly whipped up the traditional bread with a coin in it - the tradition is to break the bread and divide it into God, Home, and for each member of the family. The coin  was found in God's piece of bread this year, which, I believe is fitting!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season filled with much love, joy, and kindness! 

Comrade Von Pussycat