Letters from Gel.

As a woman whose makeup expertise is limited strictly to spot concealer, eyeliner and mascara, I am no beauty blogger.  For the majority of my adult life, I’ve either been too intimidated by makeup counters or too terrified of raging breakouts to get really into putting lots of chemicals in my hair and on my face.  In addition, I tend to be cheap and investing in products I knew I would be too stupid to use correctly always seemed like an unnecessary luxury.  This frugality extended to hair blow outs and manicures, which, much like a clean house and folded laundry, don’t last long enough for me to justify the time and energy (and often, the money) to do them with regularity.

However, I am willing to put all that very reasoned thinking aside and climb right aboard the gel manicure train.  My fingernails are blowing my mind.  Since last Friday when my friend J paid my way, I have done countless dishes, played ball with the dog, picked at and untied innumerable shoelace knots, scrubbed paint off paintbrushes, stacked chairs, wiped tables, and picked up tiny objects from rough concrete floors (I’m aware of the freakish specificity of that last activity – I remembered it simply because as I scraped the sequins off the pavement on Monday, I thought to myself, “Well, there goes the three week manicure,” only to look down at my still-perfect nails afterward in total shock and awe).  My fingernails are still just as shiny and gorgeous as the day they were painted on my body and then set to dry under a UV lamp.

The gel manicure, which cost more than all the food I ate last week, is one of my new favorite things.  I’m even debating making regular appointments (which, to be honest, I’m considering partially because I have no idea how to remove this shellac).  For once in my life, my horror at the cost of something frivolous is being outweighed by my joy at how pretty it is.  Between this and the fact that I cried actual tears of disappointment on Valentine’s Day (which is a story for another time), I’m probably due to hang out with my brothers for a little while.

The nails today, after surviving four full days longer at the school than any other manicure I have ever had:

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While on the subject of personal grooming, yesterday I hung out with the Fiece (who, for the uninitiated, is my “fake niece,” the daughter of Fertile Myrtle, my dear friend since our freshman year of high school), and Fiece did my hair.  It looked spectacular:


She, at barely two years old, has a better mastery of the small round brush than I do.


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Week In Review.

A child’s remarkable self-portrait:


For weeks, I’ve been trying to convince my husband to fly out and meet me in the foreign land where I’ll be doing a field school this summer, and last night over Chinese food, he was finally persuaded:


Fertile Myrtle on my healthy diet:


Over the weekend, I found myself waiting for my husband in his car. I was really impressed with how I had managed to blow dry my hair and wanted to document it (looking presentable is a rare thing for me). Not surprisingly, I wasn’t able to get a good picture. I was, however, able to capture my natural aversion to sunlight:


As a child told me today, “Sarah, you’re embarrassing yourself.” Story of my life, my friend.

100 Days.

Today was the 100th day of school and the kids were encouraged to both bring in collections of 100 objects and to dress up like they were one hundred years old.  Everyone remembered their collections (which ranged from paper clips and crayons to rose petals and gummy bears), but only two children dressed up, one boy and one girl.

The boy wore plaid shorts, house slippers and white socks pulled up to his knees, and insisted that we all call him, “Old Man Jimmy*,” instead of just “Jimmy,” which was amazing.

The girl wore a frilly white shirt under a long black dress and kept calling out, in her best old-lady voice, “I’m a hundred!  I’m a hundred!”

At one point, she looked directly at me and said, “Sarah, I’m an old lady.  I’m one hundred years old!”

Then, her entire body shaking, she bent over at the waist, used her right fist to steady herself on an invisible cane, pointed at me with her left hand, and yelled,


Conclusion: our children are brilliant.

angry old lady


*names have been changed

Side Effects.

This afternoon, I had a fleeting moment of spontaneity and decided on a whim to see a movie with a coworker after school.  (I know – I am soooooo crazy.  Where do I get the energy???)  We settled on Side Effects, the pharmaceutical thriller (a genre that, with the release of this movie, now actually exists) about a woman on anti-depressants who finds herself in hot water.  I will not spoil the movie for you, but suffice to say that it is full of unexpected turns and does not leave the viewer disappointed.  It was both entertaining and horrifying, which is about all I ask from the movies I see.  However, the most impressive thing about it was how incredibly good looking Jude Law is.  As if that is a huge surprise.

Back in November, Mr. Law did an interview with the New York Times that they titled, “Who Are You Calling Pretty Boy,” in which he discusses the benefits of aging out of being a “sex symbol.”  (Hysterical article about our “crumbling Time-Prince” here.)  Having seen his latest theatrical venture, I can safely say: you are a fantasically huge liar, Jude Law.  The NY Times might as well have written about how the sky is green or how it’s a great idea to keep chimpanzees as house pets.  You can’t take one bad picture and call yourself an aged monster.  (Much like I cannot take one good picture of myself from my one good angle and call myself Gisele.)


One terrible face does not a hideous beast make. (Also, I took this photo from the NY Times article. Just for the record.)

You will always and forever be this and I refuse to feel bad for you:


Refuse. To. Pity. You.

Incidentally, Vinessa Shaw, of Hocus Pocus fame, is in the movie too, in case nostalgia is a bigger draw for you than gorgeous, ageless movie stars are.  That, or if your ideal type of gorgeous, ageless movie star is female.

I’d recommend this movie to people who enjoy thrillers, dramas, dead people, drugs, depressives, awesome tailoring, great suits, psychiatrists, New York City, boats, apartments-that-look-like-offices, stepchildren, courtrooms, Channing-Tatum-in-fedoras, and ombre hair.  What’s not to love?

Oscar Predictions.

I have done some pretty awesome things in my life thus far and I have some very interesting, albeit incredibly niche and unmarketable, skills.  For instance, I am qualified to teach five-year-olds, to clean and reconstruct Ice Age animal fossils, to write and distribute press releases concerning newly published books, to create biological profiles (age, sex, ancestry and height) for unknown skeletal remains, and to use my off-the-charts sense of smell (like, actually – I was tested) to track and identify landfill odors (on my to-do list: begin weekly “(Literal) Odd Jobs” feature).  I’m a jill of lots of trades.  However, there are still quite a few things I’m not qualified to do and one of those things is “make predictions about Oscar winners,” considering I’ve only seen half the movies and am making said predictions based solely on my personal feelings.  Those facts almost discouraged me from posting today, but then I realized that previous sentence probably also describes most of the Academy voters.  Therefore, feast your eyes on my Oscar 2013 winner projections (fingers crossed):

Best Picture:
Amour, Life of Pi, Argo, Lincoln, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables

I think Silver Linings Playbook should take this.  It was so good.  So good.  It was funny and tragic and haunting and weird and fabulous and different, all while still being accessible.  Our collection of hundreds of movies grinds to a screeching halt after the late 90s, because we’re pretentious jerks.  I don’t feel the need to own a lot of recent films.  However, I’d made it twenty minutes into Silver Linings Playbook in the theater when I knew I had to buy it as soon as it was released on DVD.  It’s just great.  I can’t wait to see it again and I hope it wins.

That being said, a part of me really hopes it’s Argo, because Ben Affleck deserves to finally live this down:


I mean, really.  Chris Brown got off easier in the court of public opinion and he’s an actual abusive criminal.  Ben Affleck, you have my full support.

Actor in a Leading Role:
Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman

Daniel Day-Lewis will win this.  This will shock no one.  And I don’t think it will be fair.  My father is a veritable Abraham Lincoln scholar and the whole family flocked into the theater together to see the movie.  It was engaging and historically fascinating and gorgeously shot, and Daniel Day-Lewis was indeed an excellent choice.  However, in the end, I found him a tiny bit distracting.  This was Daniel Day-Lewis giving a performance as Lincoln – I could feel the method through the screen.  I adore him and always have – just not so much as Lincoln.

In a perfect world, Bradley Cooper would win.  He imbued a mentally unstable mid-thirties grown man, who at one point beats up his parents while he is still living in their attic, with such tragedy and empathy that you sympathize with him instead of despising him.  No easy task and he did an incredible job.

Actress in a Leading Role:
Jessica Chastain, Quvenzhane Wallis, Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Watts, Emmanuelle Riva

Jennifer Lawrence.  Because she’s hysterical.  And also great in Silver Linings.

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Alan Arkin, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz

Tommy Lee Jones, because he was amazing in Lincoln.

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, Jacki Weaver

Anne Hathaway, as much as it pains me.  She will win and she will cry and it will be predictaBLAY.

Animated Feature Film:
Brave, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Wreck-It Ralph

ParaNorman, for it’s animation and screenplay and gay high school jock (who was the first openly homosexual animated character in history – progress!).

I stopped here because I just could not be bothered to care about any other categories.  I hope Adele wins for “Skyfall,” but I think we all know that ship is headed in the right direction.  I’ve promised myself three shortbread Girl Scout cookies for every category I guess correctly and an entire sleeve of cookies for every category I get wrong.

Come what may, I know who will be the real winner tonight.

Mood Swings and Lunacy. Pimples on Chest.

Today, in trolling my own WordPress Dashboard, I discovered that my teenage (and sometimes current) chest acne has been a huge source of traffic for me.  (If I’m honest, it has been pretty much the only source of traffic for me.  I should shut up about everything else and just talk about my acne scars for the rest of time.)  I am in love with this information.  And am also in tears, because I find it hysterically funny and an absolutely perfect summation of my entire life.  The following list makes me feel like I am doing something right.

And now, a small retrospective on search terms that have led people to this blog:

Picture 7Picture 8

Please note that this is not at all meant to disparage anyone who stumbles across this blog when trying to find more information on “pinocchio donkeys” or “ahrrrrr.”  In fact, it makes me feel less alone and like Google really understands me.  These search terms are the story of my life.  Thanks, guys.  I hope you all come back.

Going To Gel.

Last night, I went to gel.  Unlike Teen Mom‘s Amber Portwood, the “gel” I’m referring to is a type of super fancy Santa Monica manicure and not actual “jail.”  (FYI: I know this is a gag that approximately no one will understand because most, if not all, grown people have no idea that Amber spent three seasons of that show nervous about being sent to “gel.”  However, I think it is a supremely genius play on words and it pleases me.  It stays!)

Gel manicures are supposedly the middle child of the fingernail polish family: they last weeks longer than the regular stuff, but aren’t as harsh or tragic on your fingertips as acrylics.  I literally just learned that on the internet because I had my first professional manicure at age 19 under the peer pressure of a college dorm friend – and I was horrified that I paid $8 for a stranger to paint my nails.  I am not a manicure specialist.  I am, however, blessed with a wonderful, generous, manicure specialist friend who offered to pay for my trip to “gel,” and because I am so not above taking beauty charity, I am now the proud owner of a set of ten chip-resistant talons.  And I love them.  (Thank you, J!  They are gorgeous.)


Cute, no?  Before you get too excited about having your own three-week manicure, I must advise you that there are health risks.  According to Dr. Oz, risks include allergic reactions, infections and even cancer (because they require the use of UV light to set).  I’m sure these are real risks.  I would never suggest you run out, against a doctor’s orders, and do something completely unsafe.  I’ve lived my entire not doing fun stuff in order to avoid the risks.  However, in the interest of full disclosure, in the same episode Dr. Oz tells women of the world to be weary of gel manicures, he also tells them they can use their dreams to lose weight, so you know.  Grain of salt.

Picture 4


According to lore, my father’s family has survived the following (mostly American) historical nightmares: sailing over on the Mayflower, fighting in the Revolutionary War, escaping the Irish Potato Famine, traversing the Rockies in covered wagons, fighting in the Civil War, traveling west during the Dust Bowl and heroically doing it all in 20* weather, while walking five miles to school in the snow with hot potatoes in their pockets and newspaper in their shoes.  We are also apparently related to Daniel Boone, great American pioneer and noted badass.


Can you see the resemblance? (I apologize for the idiot photo of me. I don’t always take self-portraits, but when I do, I am making that stupid face.)


This is a branch of our family tree. Supposedly, this is Daniel Boone’s brother. This is completely unverified and may have even been proven totally false. I guess in my family, all it takes is a common surname and you can claim credit for someone’s accomplishments. (Also, I am naming my firstborn “Enoch Hagan,” and not just because it sounds like a character from The Hunger Games.)

My dad’s ancestors were tough, no-nonsense, hardy people (although, to be fair, my mom’s side survived the Holocaust, so she wins the battle of The Hardiest Ancestors).  It is safe to say that I am made of sturdy stock.  On the inside.  On the outside, however, I am quite literally translucent – I am, in fact, so white that one time last year, my veins were so vibrant and visible that I thought I was rotting from the inside out.  My vampiric paleness, coupled with the fact I spent several summers in the sun trying to burn off my acne and then eventually changed the actual chemistry of my skin with Accutane at age 20, has me terrified now that I will look like this when I am 35:


As far as I know, no one in my family has claimed this woman as our long-lost cousin. What was her last name again?

I am so scared of this that I have recently conquered my nearly decade-long fear of smearing unnecessary lotions on my face (for fear of enticing whiteheads) and am slathering on 70 SPF sunscreen on my face and “decolletage” (read: neck) every morning.  I’ve even added a ridiculously enormous floppy hat to the rotation, for use when outside with the kids in the yard.  Long, long ago, I saw a woman driving in West LA, wearing sun-proof gloves, in order to ward off sun spots and premature aging on her hands.  At the time, I thought she was a craze.  Today, I am wondering where I can get some of those gloves.

As I was describing my new annoying obsession with skin care and sun protection to a fellow teacher and bragging about how responsible I am being with my high SPF, non-comedogenic sunscreen, she said, “Oh, a dermatologist I know told me it doesn’t matter what SPF it has on the bottle.  Nothing protects more than 30 SPF does.  Anything higher than that, they are just charging you more money for the same product.”

To which I responded, “God bless you for thinking I was spending more than $9.99 on it at CVS.”


So cheap that if it doesn’t work, it’ll be no skin off my nose. Or will it?


I’ve spent the last ten minutes googling “Michelle Williams” to find some images of her awesome hair because friend of mine at work is floating the idea of pixie cut and I sometimes like to sit at home by myself and picture my coworkers with different hairstyles.  (It’s a thing I do.  Leave me alone.)


I am nervous for my friend because three years ago, a mere five days after my wedding, I fell victim to a pixie – I cut off all my long, beautiful hair and went from pretty, pretty princess


to Peter Pan:


I may have even cried hysterically when I got home from the salon, throwing myself face-down on my bed and dry heaving, not unlike Anne Hathaway in Les Mis, except I got to keep all my teeth.  (Where’s my Oscar, guys?)  I was devastated because I’d forgotten that while I am a member of the same species as Michelle Williams, I do not have her delicate, gorgeous face (this only makes me sad occasionally).  So, instead of looking like an ethereal transplant from Planet Iconic Beauty, I looked like a five-year-old boy for six months, including when we went on our honeymoon to Scotland:


There I am, standing at an arrow slit in a Scottish castle, looking wistfully out on the incredible landscape, too mortified to show my face.


It is also pretty windy in Scotland.


Winds. Everywhere.

It was not good.  At all.  Which leads me to,

The Only Times I’d Recommend “Trying Out” A Drastic Cut Like This:

1) when you are a beautiful celebrity and/or

2) you are being paid millions of dollars to shear your hair off on camera as part of a career-defining role in the movie adaptation of a hugely popular Broadway musical.  (Basically, not “next Wednesday, because you’re feeling a little bored,” because you’ll spend the next year feeling “a lot horrified.”)