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A five inch recommendation: Kiss N’ Makeup

I’m a big fan of shopping local. One of my favorite places to visit is Hampden; that one street, 36th, the Avenue, has some very Baltimore, very beautiful finds. On my last stroll down the Avenue, I stopped in at Kiss N’ Makeup, a hun-chic salon and accessories shop. At Kiss N’ Makeup, you can get a mani-pedi while people watching the Avenue, get whatever you need waxed, and then enjoy a make-up application featuring NYX cosmetics.

After coming late to the game, and learning the major brands in the States are now once again product testing on animals, to acquiesce to standards in China, I now buy only cruelty-free. NYX is a cruelty-free brand. It is also a quality brand of make-up. Long wear, good variety in color. It’s great to find a local salon with cruelty-free product.

Not only that, but the owner of this salon is fantastically welcoming. Debbie’s style is all over this casually chic space. She spots tendy and classic fashion jewelry and accessories to include in her shop. Debbie is happy to chat with whomever comes into her salon. She’ll point you in the right direction for your cosmetic needs, and chat about her fantastic products or your last break-up. She’s the reason we shop in Hampden!

Grab a latte from Common Ground and spend some quality time treating yourself in Kiss N’ Makeup.


11 inch edition, a short fiction project: Writer’s Block

I bought a typewritter. I bought a typewritter because I decided a typewritter would propel me to write. Push me to literary genius, or at least shake me out of the wordless waste I was in. So I figured out a way to waste time by hunting for the right typewritter on ebay.

I wanted something that would make me feel as if words would just spring to the page once I pulled a piece of paper through the thing. I convinced myself this was what I needed in order to write. So I hunted typewritters on ebay. You know; typerwritters are not all that inexpensive. And shipping, well, that could get up there. After all, it’s this hunk of metal with little moving parts, and it should be shipped carefully. So I wasted time, instead of words. I wasted time hunting down the perfect specimen. Nothing obscenely expensive, within the budget I had, and cute. It had to be cute, of course. Who could type on an ugly machine? Blue typewritters must be the most beloved of typewritters, because they were few and far between. And always a bit more than the others. And then there were the black examples. Large machines that you couldn’t imagine as portable, well, not by today’s standards of portable, anyway. Eventually, I found one. A darling small grey Royal. The Royals seemed to be a brand that held up. I hunted it and successfully won the auction.

Then I realized I would need ribbon. Becauase, you know, words don’t just appear on a screen from your touch with a typewritter. There’s a medium that goes with these hunking pieces of metal. Ribbon. So I had to basically guess at what sort of ribbon this new prize of mine would need, to thrust me into loquaciousness. Which meant, of course, another round of research and hunting. I bought ribbon I still wasn’t even sure about. And in the machine it looked loose to me. But it had appeared to be the best option. So.

I had a typewritter, the typewritter and ribbon in it. What I didn’t have was words. I sat there staring at the damn thing. Willing words to push forth from my fingers into this machine, which dinged at the end of the line, to let you know to manually advance to the next line. All I wanted to hear was a succession of dings. The sound of progression down a page. The sound of a writer. Instead, deafening silence. An overwhelming presence of simply nothing. Not a word, not a whisp of an idea. Deafening absence of anything worthwhile to say. To punch into existence on this perfect little machine I had found, hunted, with its imperfect ribbon. Sitting there, judging me in its lack of propper use. So I put the damn thing away; put the cover on it, put it in a cabinet. I put it away and picked up the latest issue of Vogue.

A five inch recommendation: Birroteca

Hampden is an area with a little for everyone. This feeling culminates in the new restaurant and bar, Birroteca. A smooth place young and old can dig, Birroteca mixes traditional Italian fare with more modern and daring dishes to be paired with their extensive beer list.

A sign of a dedicated chef, the menu is varied but not overwhelming in choices, allowing appropriate attention be paid to each dish from the kitchen. Specialty pizza as well as bruchetta are fantastic to share with friends. The pizza has a nice thin, slightly flaky crust, served crisp. Also great to share are the roasted brussel sprouts, prepared with a bit of spice and served with a balsamic based dressing.

Cocktails, like menu options change with seasonal availability and flavors. The bartenders and wait staff are all very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, including drink options. Micro brews are certainly the highlight, with a list of what’s new on a chalkboard in the bar. Sitting in the bar is a great option for a relaxed evening, though you will find the barstools a tad short for the bar counter.

Pasta dishes are fresh and light. Even the gnocchi is made with an airy texture and the kitchen is amenable to a little customization when it comes to pasta and sauces.

For a celebratory dinner or drinks and apps with friends, Birroteca is the new place to while away some time in Hampden.


Money: it’s not what it used to be

Both presidential campaigns have focused largely on the economy. There is no question we have a serious problem in this country, and throughout the world. The systems on which we could once rely, and in which many trusted, are failing. The reasons for the failures  of different financial systems are varied and complex, but there does seem to be one underlying issue: there is just not enough money to go around. The main failures of the real estate system, investment banks, and more lead back to an attempt to create more funds out of thin air. Simply, there is just not enough.

Debt is at an all time high in the US. Sure, there is the possibility to loan more; both in short and long term loans and in credit and financing, but the need for supplementing an income with borrowed money is more pronounced now than it has been. For young people to live the same quality of life their parents did they need significantly more money (accounting for inflation) than the previous generation. The cost of living across the Nation continues to rise at a pace few salary increases are meeting. Rent increases in most areas about 5% a year while few who are employed get that much increase in their salary, if any, recently. Most salary increases are below that 5% increase, starting the disadvantage, and then you begin to add up everything else which is more expensive: food, utilities, phone and internet plans. Every aspect of a person’s life is costing them more, but their salary is not meeting those increases.

It is very hard for employees to hear that increases in pay can only be so much because of the economy, or before that, because of the time an employee had spent in a job or the state of the organization or any other excuse. It is hard to hear because we witness everything else increasing in cost to us; so someone is making money, because if everything costs more, that must mean businesses are pulling in more money, which should mean a paycheck could increase a measley 50.00 a week. But the bottom line doesn’t seem to take into account the continuation of a buying audience. Organizations are essentially causing their own failure by hobbling the buying public to show their boards and investors as limited costs as possible. If there is just simply not enough paycheck to afford it all, though, there won’t be purchases and it won’t matter how low the salaries of the employees, product won’t be moving, income won’t be coming in. And so the whole broken system propagates itself. People are not buying because they don’t have the money; organizations cut salaries to maintain some arbitrary bottom line.

Where is the profit going? We constantly hear about the earnings of various companies; how much money some people at the top have… The money is out there, somewhere. It cannot have just disappeared. But the distribution has drastically changed in the last 15 years. Following attempts to bring back Reaganomics; the system has relied upon a trickledown promise. The fairy tale being sold is that when those at the top are given the break to take in more money; they will then infuse the economy with their wealth. But the fact is that this infusion, even if it will go into the active economy and not into longterm investments, infuses only the bottom line of the next top dog. Trickledown does not actually trickle through the salaries of the lower classes. It trickles into the pockets of other fat cats and then back to the first one that “infused” the economy. Trickledown is really trickletrade.

There are many examples just in the US of the correlation between the health of the middle and lower classes and the health of the economy. When the middle class is at its healthiest and wealthiest, the whole economy profits. When the vast majority of citizens are fiscally sound; they build a sound economy. They infuse the economy on a scale those at the top cannot; there are simply exponentially more people to do so. But how do you convince those at the top, who have made a lifetime of being at the top, that moving that bottom line is not the demise of their business plan? How do you show them that once people can pay for something, they will, and ultimately, the profits gained will far outweigh that extra 50.00 a week? Until the economic culture changes, there seems to be no good way to convince anyone.

High style: Desperately seeking the perfect trench

When the fall weather begins to roll in a gal needs just the right coat for those days that are a little bit rainy, a little bit cold, and those evenings that need just the right topper. But, when you have that perfect garment in mind, boy is it hard to satisfy your expectations with real life options. One thing most notable are the few coats which are actually made with material treated for rainy weather. I have come to learn the best option is to buy the trench you love and then treat it with a water resistant spray like ReviveX.

The second lesson I learned is customer reviews are highly useful. For some reason outerwear is a popular subject for customers to provide feedback. Definitely take the bounty of customer reviews as a lucky turn in your search. Customers offer great feedback on fit and quality. They can turn you away from a coat that won’t compliment your figure or a coat made of sub-par material.

Trenches come in a number of styles. A classic trench will fall about your knees, be fairly straight shaped from the chest down, and gain its shape from the tie or belt at the waist. This style will compliment those who are curvy or heavier on bottom; you can also look for a coat with broader shoulders to balance your shape in the coat. For a slighter build, or more definition in the waist, there are trenches made with a narrowed waist or a flared skirt to emphasize curves. There are also short jackets made with a trench-style cut for a sporty casual look and long trench coats for a very chic style. Finally, there are deconstructed styles and, specific for this season, styles incorporating a whole lot of metal. Like the latest Jeffrey Campbell creation, these trenches have some edge to them.

Whatever your style, I’d like to present a few options within reach. And, one last piece of advice: don’t move too quickly just to fill that space in your closet, check out the sale sites and even wait out a season to see if you can pick up a cute trench at a hot price.

Your classic style


JCrew (wait for the Factory Store to carry their trench to pick up the piece at a discounted price)

Nipped in at the waist

zara tench

Zara Two-Layer Trench

A long style

dkny trench

DKNY Hooded Long Trench

Studded to perfection

sam trench

Sam Edelman Studded Shoulder Trench

And, sometimes you rely on your sister to find you the perfect trench…

cole trench

Kenneth Cole Double Breasted Skirted Trench

A 5-inch Recommendation: 13.5

You could call it a hipster haven, but then you disregard the actual quality of the place. 13.5 is on the Avenue in Hampden and it’s fabulous! Not the boring Baltimore fare and flare Cafe Hon serves up, but a refreshing East Coast meets Provence texture of small plates, perfected selection of wine and well imagined martini and cocktail menu.

A very swank and hip mid century feel with exposed brick, the restaurant is at once cool and laid back; you will eye up the other patrons who were able to snag the tables with the deep comfy leather chairs or the love seat in the back. Though the austere straight back leather chairs are not uncomfortable. I do lament the bar stools are stools with low backs, very low backs, more like lips, rather than a full back. You never really get to lounge in that sort of bar stool. But, it does offer for better socializing with those around you; and 13.5 is the sort of place that encourages you to socialize with your neighbor. It is a great place to make a complete stranger your next pal.

Certainly go for a cheese selection for your first visit. The wait staff is well trained in the cheeses served, which change on a daily basis; and they pair well with the charcuterie. The margarita pizza is to die for. It’s almost dessert, and you find yourself ordering a second at the first bite! They generally prepare duck exceptionally, but if it’s towards closing, skip it. The menu changes often, so if there is something adventurous on there, go for it. The chef likes to have fun, and is successful with his concoctions. After a day of strolling the Avenue, 13.5 is the perfect place to relax for a moment, before perusing the other side of the street!

From Zagat

From Zagat

Something different: Defending feminism

I have recently encountered some puzzling arguments regarding what feminism is and what it should be and what it is doing wrong, or how men have become villianized by feminists. Being called an old-school feminist, recently, as an insult, I began thinking even more about what sort of feminist I am and what feminism means to me, and what it might mean in the US now.

I love the term old-school feminist, it invites images of the Iron Jawed Angels and Simone deBouvaire. Women who actively opposed the oppression of the male-dominated and misogynist societies in which they lived. Suggesting we still live in such a society seems to bring almost the same moral outrage that once encouraged political leaders to imprison Alice Paul for protesting for suffrage and force feeding her while she was imprisoned. For a woman to suggest this country fails half of its inhabitants, she must be crazy, surely. We now have the vote.

Women are still obscenely absent from our government, holding 20% of Senate seats and 21% of House seats. And accounting for less than 4% of leaders of Fortune 500 companies, our existence in business appears to be regulated to supporting roles. These are hard numbers, not some feeling or anecdotal case. The lack of women business leaders cannot be solely blamed on their role as mothers at home. There is an institutionalized culture of promoting men before women.

Perhaps being a feminist today is about ignoring the societal pressure to accept the position of women in society today; and instead focus on the numbers, which cannot lie. It is important to understand change which promotes the power and independence of a class of people who have been held down by their society must be fought for; those in power are often reluctant, at best, to allow those they have denied power to reclaim it. One of the most unique aspects of feminism is that it acknowledges all people, men and women, as having the same interests and goals in the fight for the rights of women. This is a societal matter. It will take our whole society to make the change necessary to be able to take advantage of all that women have to offer.

Being a feminist is not just about being a woman. Being a feminist is the understanding our society is weakened for hobbling half of its members; this does not require a vagina. Nor does it require a hatred of men or our nation. It is simply the acknowledgement of the reality in which we live, and a drive to change it.

Reject compromise

Compromise is a tricky thing. Sure, you cannot expect everything to go your way. But finding a balance between unreasonable and bending over backwards can often be hard. Women especially seem to fall into over-compromising; perhaps believing it is better to maintain peace in relationships than ask for what they want.

Often, I have been asked why I will not compromise on a list of “must haves” I look for when dating. Some people even go as far to tell me my list is just wrong, and will weed out so many men that I won’t have any left to date. It can be hard to stand up and say, I want this, and I am going to get it, damn it! Personally, I don’t feel looking for a man whom reads books is all that extreme.

I have found that when I do compromise, even a little, telling myself that I can check off other “must haves” and characteristics not on the list make up for those missing, the relationship inevitably comes up short. It’s hard to keep something going when you know in your gut things are amiss or missing. No amount of yoga can teach you to bend your will; bent far enough, and everything breaks at some point. Empathy and care cannot make up for a lack of those things you know will make you happy.

Rather than listening to the crowd tell you that compromise is key in life, hold your convictions fast to your chest, and give your heart when it is truly earned. There’s nothing wrong with deciding you are just not into him; hell, men apparently do this all the time. It is through no failure of yours if he’s not stacking up to what you are looking for. Have the courage to make your “must haves” the non-compromises in your life.

As some of the best advice I have received on dating, proclaimed by male friend, goes: A real man will treat you how you want to be treated, not how he wants to be treated or how he thinks you should be treated, but how you want to be treated. A real man won’t balk when confronted with your “must haves.” He knows he’s either got them or he doesn’t, and it’s no personal affront if he doesn’t. Save your compromising for those hurdles every couple faces; don’t start a relationship from a compromised foundation.

High Style: Beach waves

Summer. Bar-be-ques, baseball, bikinis, beach hair. Cheaper than submitting yourself to the faux glow of a spray tan, adding body and texture to your hair to create that wind surf tossed look is a great way to welcome the season.

Once your only option was Fakkai Summer Hair Beach Waves, or something more bougie. Now there are some great drug store brands to encourage your hair into the subtle waves of summer hair. Giving straight hair at least a volume boost, if not providing wave, and encouraging smooth waves and curls from more textured hair, these beach hair sprays can be used on damp or dry, or blown-out hair. And the best ones have a great beachy aroma to them, giving you a complete air of summer ease.

Some of the sprays will contain actual salt in them, so be sure to use an oil or conditioner, like Moroccan oil, first; but not so much that your hair is weighed down. For curly hair, use a light gel or serum that encourages friz-less curl before. If using on damp hair, spray evenly and sparingly, at least at first go. Too much spray can cause tangling. Use your fingers to create texture, and scrunch a bit, if needed. Continue to pay with your hair as it dries to give more texture and volume. If using after a blow-out, the sprays will provide some nice volume, and a bit of texture, but again, be careful not to over-do and re-wet your hair! Use your fingers to fluff through.

Being a fan of the original Fekkai, I was dubious to try another brand. Nonetheless, I ventured forth. I have found a few alternatives that work just as well, if not better and will keep you feeling beach easy with smaller price tags.

I came across Not Your Mother’s brand a few months ago at CVS, and saw their Beach Babe spray. Indeed, this is a winner at the fabulous price of 6.00! I love the texture the spray creates in blown out or air dried hair, and the light sea salt and perhaps ylang ylang scent immediately puts me in a great mood! Alterna Summer Hair Ocean Waves is a little cheaper than Fekkai at 20.00, and gives you a great sheen in addition to the texture. The aroma reminds you of every summer vacation, Coppertone tan spray, but fortunately, the aroma is more airy than it’s inspiration.

Sprays I have not yet tried, but look promising are: L’oreal Play Ball Beach Fizz, available on Amazon for 21.17; Wella Professionals Ocean Spritz, Amazon 12.00; Marc Anthony Dream Waves, ULTA 8.99.


Kate Hudson, perhaps the icon of beach waves. Complimented nicely with just a touch of sun and light make-up.


And for the shorties, Reese.

Life as a movie

There is a culture of theater in this nation. It is believed we flock to movies for escape, but I think for many of us, we watch movies for catharsis. Something must be said for script writers, because for 90 minutes or so, we are wrapped up in what we so desperately need. The feeling that someone, somewhere understands us, has shared in some way in our story.

One of my favorite things to do is curl up on my chaise and re-watch one of the handful of movies I know by heart. There is just something about a great story. It’s not only about craving that perfect ending, either. For a moment, you can give yourself over to someone else’s heartache, heartbreak, trials, pitfalls, success, masterpiece, adventure. A good story doesn’t wash over you, it runs through you. It captures some part of you that maybe you were hiding. Perhaps this is the great magic of the chick flick.

Us ladies, we love a happy ending. Not every ending is happy, and we know this, but come on, a girl can dream, can’t she? And the best happy ending is the one that feels truly earned, something that has been struggled for. We all love these stories, because we live them. Our heartache, heartbreak, our true love, we eat it up when we get to watch it all played out, neatly wrapped up for us. Our stories are not always as nicely packaged.

Maybe this is the reason we love movies, because of the lie of a nice tidy happy ending… The happily ever after for us grown up little girls. For a moment, we can allow ourselves to feel it all; we know what is coming at the end. No matter how hopeless it may all seem, we do have that comfort that the sad can only last so long- at some point the plot twists and we are making our way towards that happy ending once more. The prince gets the princess. The mice and birdies all sing together, flowers float through the air; and we’re adults, but for that moment, there is this hope we get to have, if only for that fleeting moment in a dim theater or on our couch.

Life is so much more. It’s not wrapped into a tidy little two hour bundle. We can’t know when a plot twist is just around the corner for us. We never know when or if our happy ending is on its way. But, I guess that is the gift of real life, you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell the story, for another to write your happiness; if so much is unknown, maybe the answer is to create as many happy endings as you can out of your own story.