LESLEY'S LIST: Four Awesome Things I'm Focusing On Because My January Is Not Going All That Great

I'm bringing you balms for all occasions, SUPERBRIGHT hair streaks for a day, and tea, all with my usual awkward charm.
Publish date:
January 25, 2013
shoppables, crazy hair color, aromatherapy, family heirlooms

So, how has my 2013 been so far? TERRIBLE. Both my home and car have required expensive repairs. I got the flu and as a result will be coughing for the rest of my life. And just this week I had to drive to New Jersey for a very sad and somewhat unexpected funeral.

Fortunately, even in the midst of this I’ve found a few things that are helping to distract me from it all. IT’S LIST TIME!

Badger Balm

I first ran across Badger Balm on a recent trip to Ulta. It’s funny how I say “a recent trip” like I don't in fact go to Ulta -- the cheaper, more suburban Sephora -- pretty much every weekend for nail polish and the comfort that can only come from browsing cosmetics I really don't need for an hour or two.

The Badger Balm was on a bottom shelf, all neglected and sad-looking. I only noticed it because one of the tins said “Stress Soother” on it and I would buy basically anything, including a bottle of poison and/or a Slap Chop, if it were branded as stress-relieving. So naturally I caught up the little tin of de-stress balm in my stressed-out hands and skipped merrily but in a somewhat stressed way to the checkout counter with it.

Badger Balm comes from New Hampshire, which is seriously unsurprising because it definitely seems like something that would be wrought by New Englanders. Started by a carpenter in 1994, the original product was a balm for dry and cracked “hardworking hands.” The company continues to be a family-owned business and is now a USDA-certified organic facility, churning out a variety of skincare products.

Of course my interest lies firmly in their aromatherapy stuffs. I have a weird “I Want to Believe” relationship with aromatherapy, in which I both trust and scoff at its purported effects, but I still keep buying it like a desperate freak. The Stress Soother balm’s main notes are tangerine and rosemary, and, placebo effect or no, I have grown fond of it and its cheery instructions to “Massage a little onto hands, temples, or forehead. Think good thoughts and breathe it in.” THINK GOOD THOUGHTS AND BREATHE IT IN. I swear I paid for that suggestion alone.

Because I’m obsessive, I have since been to the Badger Balm website and added to my Badger Balm collection. The Aromatic Chest Rub (eucalyptus and mint) kept me from smothering myself with a pillow to end my own misery when I was down with the aforementioned flu. The Cheerful Mind Balm (sweet orange and spearmint) is a lovely afternoon pick-me-up. The Sleep Balm (lavender and bergamot) makes me tired just sniffing the tin. The Yoga & Meditation Balm (cedarwood and mandarin) I haven’t used yet but I like that it has a picture of a contented badger chilling out by a waterfall. I am TOTALLY going to be that badger.

Given that all of these balms are olive oil and beeswax based (sorry vegans), they’re also pretty sweet for your skin, and have saved me in recent weeks from simply cutting off my horrifically dry hands in a fit of miserably flaky despair. So even if the aromatherapy part is a load of hokum, at least you get a cute tin of a swell balm for your trouble.

Anastasia Hypercolor Brow and Hair Powder

Those of you of a certain age have a strong association with the word Hypercolor -- it was, of course, a line of clothing popular in the late 80s and early 90s, unique because its fabric changed color with the application of heat. This meant by working out (or just pressing a hand to the fabric) you could create odd and frequently off-putting patterns on your shirt. EVERYBODY wanted a Hypercolor T-shirt in my middle school.

Sadly, our obsession caused us to overlook the fact that this was basically the stupidest product idea ever, because who really wants a shirt that leaves handprints where some dude grabbed your ass, and betrays when your armpits are way hotter than the rest of you?

We can forget about the OLD Hypercolor now because beauty product maker Anastasia Beverly Hills has taken the name and put it on a new thing that is completely awesome: vividly bright temporary powder-based hair color.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Hypercolor Brow and Hair Powder comes in a little cake, kinda like an oversized eye shadow, and is available in pink, blue, purple, a yellow-toned green, and a really lovely teal. Application is HYPOTHETICALLY straightforward and quick -- you prep the hair sections you want to color with styling product, apply the color, and set with hairspray. Done! And it washes out in two shampoos.

You’ll notice I sort of glossed over the “apply the color” step above. The instructions -- which were prominently featured on the product display -- explain, almost offhandedly, “Apply color by sandwiching your hair in between your fingers or a cosmetic sponge and the HYPERCOLOR compact, gliding the color on.” Oh, neat, I like sandwiches! It couldn’t be simpler! This was a huge motivation in my purchase, because I like things that are simple. And which involve sandwiches.

Unfortunately I am sad to report that the instruction sheet is a WEB OF LIES. Yes, you “glide” the color on by smushing your hair into the compact and dragging it down the length of the section, but it is MESSY AS FUCK. Seriously, powder went everywhere -- I can’t imagine attempting this with just my fingers. Even with using a sponge to apply I wished I had put on gloves first, as I had teal hands for quite bit after application.

Having said that, I am still in love with this product. The color was far more vivid than I expected, even on my not-light hair (and probably will turn out brighter still once I master the application learning curve) and with a good coat of hairspray I didn’t experience the fading some other reviews I’ve read online have complained about. An individual compact retails for a reasonable $12.50 and I expect you’d get several applications out of it, depending on how much hair you use it on.

Overall, I love it. WAY better than a color-changing shirt.

Grandma Teacups

I mentioned a recent funeral above. That was for my husband’s grandmother, who finally succumbed to breast cancer -- which she’s been fighting for years -- last week. Having lost all of my own grandparents some time ago, having her in my life was sort of like getting a bonus grandma. Still mentally sharp until the end, and having an admirable commitment to stubbornness (am I the only one who admires extreme stubbornness?), her presence in my life was a gift I didn’t expect.

A few years ago we moved Grandma out of the house in New Jersey where she’d raised two sons and lived for a good five decades, and into an assisted living facility nearer my husband’s family in upstate New York. Like many elderly people who grew up during the Great Depression -- or who simply grew up poor, as Grandma did both -- Grandma was powerfully concerned with where the material goods of her house would wind up.

My own family has some old items important to our history, but generally we’re an in-with-the-new kind of people, so I don’t really have much stuff belonging to prior generations. In contrast, it was a running joke in my husband’s family that even prior to Grandma’s move, you couldn’t visit her house without her literally filling your arms with stuff she wanted you to have. She was emphatic about it; you couldn’t argue with her. The only choice was to take the stuff in question and figure out what to do with it later.

At the funeral, I learned that as a teenager, she had felt embarrassed of her tattered clothing when going to school, because she couldn’t afford the nice clothes the other kids had. So she dropped out in the eleventh grade to go to work in a factory -- and she worked her whole life to have all the nice things other people had.

This really explained for me why Grandma was so passionate about making sure her possessions didn’t go to waste. We have wound up with many of her things over the years, but it was only recently that I remembered I had a box of old teacups and saucers from her sitting in my in-laws’ attic. When we visited over the holidays, I brought the box home, and it sat untouched on the dining room table for weeks. Until Grandma died.

A day or two after she passed, I unpacked the box and found a variety of stunningly gorgeous bone china teacups within. As I am not a big repurposer, but I AM a big tea drinker, I’ve been using them for actual tea (and Instagramming them), and each one makes me smile and feel gratitude for the magic of keeping old family things.

Stars Over Death Valley

Finally, enjoy this gorgeous time-lapse video of the peak of last month’s Geminid meteor shower over Death Valley. And have a lovely weekend, everyone.

DEATH VALLEY DREAMLAPSE from Sunchaser Pictures on Vimeo.