10 Things About Mascara

I’m not a makeup artist. Truthfully, I’m still learning what works for me. But one thing I love is mascara. Putting on mascara for me is like putting on armor. It gets me ready to face the outside world. I can be in yoga pants and a t-shirt, but mascara makes me feel “put together”.

Based on the proliferation of the product throughout the cosmetic market, I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in this. Walk down the cosmetic aisle at your local grocery store, pharmacy, or supermarket and see how many different options there are and then tell me I’m wrong.

And it’s not like mascara just appeared on the market yesterday, some form of eyelash cosmetic treatment has existed for millennia. So if you’re writing a romance, a historical fiction, or just have characters who like to look good, here a few things you might not know about mascara.

  1. The first use of eyelash cosmetics is widely credited to ancient Egypt. Kohl was used on eyelashes, eyebrows, and eyelids. Among other ingredients, it often consisted of honey, soot, and–wait for it–crocodile dung.
  2. The use of cosmetics like kohl for the Egyptians was for more than just decoration. It was used as a religious practice and was also believed to have magical properties. While it did serve a purpose, it was less magic and more chemistry.
  3. The use of kohl spread through the Babylonian, Greek, and Roman empires from Egypt as well. But after the fall of Rome, it fell widely into disuse throughout Europe. It remained popular in Egypt and the Middle East as part of cosmetic, medicinal, and religious practices.
  4. Mascara made a roaring comeback in Europe during the Victorian era. Women sometimes made their own at home using lampblack and elderberry juice. The mixture would be heated and then applied to eyelashes in an effort to make them appear longer and darker.
  5. A more modern version of mascara was invented in 1913 by chemist Eugene Rimmel. In fact, “rimmel” is still synonymous with mascara in multiple languages.
  6. A similar product was invented by Thomas Lyle Williams in 1915 for his sister Maybel. By 1917 he was selling the substance through a mail-order company he dubbed Maybelline.
  7. Both the original Rimmel and Maybelline products were petroleum jelly based, but that was messy. The products also went through a “hard cake” phase during which a brush was rubbed against the hard, dark substance until it flaked off and then was rubbed on the eyelashes.
  8. Lash Lure was another competing product. It became available in 1933 and was an eyelash dye. However, it was highly toxic and was eventually banned by several states after multiple people went blind after using it.
  9. Mascara went largely unchanged between the 1910s and the 1950s when Helena Rubinstein made a lotion-based version of the product. Rubinstein, who was soon joined by Elizabeth Arden, promoted her mascara product by getting the Hollywood starlets of the day to wear it during filming so that the average woman would want to emulate the look.
  10. In 2016, consumers in the United States alone spent over $335 million on just the top ten selling mascara brands on the market.

So maybe your character is mixing elderberry juice in Victorian London or applying it for medicinal purposes in Babylon. Perhaps they are a modern Goth and have a meet-cute in the cosmetic aisle as they search for the perfect shade of black. No matter the scenario, knowing a little about your character’s daily routine, including their favorite mascara, might just help you connect with them a bit.

It’s also possible that this is all just a good excuse for me to go down the research rabbit hole. Either way. Win-win.

Book Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

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The Big Water came. The world changed. The monsters returned. This is the Sixth World.

Maggie Hoskie is a Diné, or Navajo, monster hunter. And the reservation where she grew up is now Dinétah, a land surrounded by walls on each side to keep out those would try to colonize the land all over again. But sometimes what’s inside the walls is enough to give you nightmares.

Her mentor, a living legend who broke Maggie’s heart, abandoned her almost two years ago without another thought. She’s been hiding out, trying to put the pieces of her life back together. Unfortunately, the monsters don’t care that she’s experiencing emotional turmoil and when one of them abducts a little girl, Maggie knows what she has to do.

What Maggie finds when she tracks the little girl down is a lot of scary questions that need answers. The kind of monster she is tracking is one she has seen before–the kind that took her family from her. But this type of monster is made and someone is controlling it, and she needs to know who.

With the help of a handsome and charismatic medicine man named Kai, Maggie sets off to find the one responsible and do what she does best–kill them. But she’s up against more than just monsters. Witches, legends, and a meddling Coyote could mean she’s finally found a fight she can’t win. And if she doesn’t, the world will end. Again.

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It was hard to write that summary because no matter what I said I couldn’t do the story justice. It’s also really difficult to write coherently when I’m this excited. I’m going to take a deep breath and try not to oversell this one for you.

Deep breath. Okay. I’m ready.

This is the best thing I’ve read this year.

Let’s start with some of the things I liked. I say “some” because if I listed them all, this post would be encyclopedic in length.

I like Fantasy novels that incorporate mythology into the storyline. The trouble is, so many of the stories have been done to death. This is the first Fantasy I’ve read that uses Navajo, or more accurately Diné, mythology as its base and it was awesome. It was new (to me), it was gripping, and it sucked me in so much that now I’m counting down to April of 2019 so I can read the sequel.

Maggie is both strong and vulnerable in all the best ways. And by best I mean relatable. She knows she can kick butt, but she’s not great with people. She’s been burned and is afraid of letting people in because they might break her heart, or she might break them. But she doesn’t let that fear hold her back from her calling. With a custom grip shotgun that uses corn pollen bullets and a Böker hunting knife, she lays waste to the things that go bump in the night. I also love her sense of humor.

The supporting cast is lovable, flawed, and full of depth. It wouldn’t shock me at all if fanfiction involving Tah or Clive starting popping up in the near future. And Maggie isn’t the only woman who can hold her own. Grace and her daughter Rissa are smart, capable women who nobody would ever dare call damsels.

Clan powers. They’re super cool.

Okay, now that it’s getting harder and harder to rein in the gushing, let me talk about a couple of things I didn’t like.

When Maggie first begins to track the monster, she has flashbacks to when another monster hurt her. She has already mentioned that sometimes humans are the worst monsters of all. For a moment, I was afraid the flashback was going to allude to some sort of sexual assault. The kind that makes me put a book down. Luckily, I was so determined to read this book that I’d been excited about since I first saw the blurb go up on Goodreads that I kept going and discovered it was a flashback of a trauma, but not one of a sexual nature. However, if this easily triggers you, please be careful in the first couple of chapters while she hunts for the little girl and her captor.

The relationship that Maggie has with her mentor is understandable based on her backstory, but when you finally meet him he bears the stench of an abuser. Emotionally and in at least one specific instance physically, though they were in a fighting ring at the time. I concede that this may be because of who he is in Diné mythology, and since I know so little about him I didn’t know to expect it. In any case, be aware that there is an emotionally abusive relationship on the page. It is not a romanticized one, but it is there.

Those were my sticking points.

Part of me really wants to see this one made into a movie if for nothing else than to watch the scene where Clive helps Maggie get ready for The Shalimar. Also, I now solidly believe that mocassins are superior footwear for monster slayers. I want to see more of that.

If you’ve been seeing this book mentioned on social media or on Goodreads, but weren’t really sure if you should give it a shot, I encourage you to go for it.

Saying Farewell to a Friend

My MMA instructor has been more than my teacher. He’s been a mentor and a friend for the last few years. He has a great life story that I’ll share with you someday, with his permission of course. He’s a great guy. He retired recently, and I’m happy for him, but I’m also sad to see him go.

I met Don several years ago when I first attended a community group for moms. I was a new mother and feeling a lot like I had lost control of life. He came to give us all a few quick pointers in self-defense, and in general talk about how to be safer as we cart our kids all over town. I was skeptical at first. After all, I knew the basic rules of self-defense already, what could he really add to that in the span of the ninety minutes he was given? It turned out, a lot.

At the end of that meeting, I was amazed at some of the things he taught me. I could do it. I could throw a grown man to the ground without breaking a sweat. It was empowering. It was also a little embarrassing because during the demonstration he had me demonstrate a strike and I ended up punching him square in the chest. He ended up smiling at me and talking to me about joining his class. I’m glad I did. Even back then, his particular brand of catharsis broke through even my post-partum new baby haze.

Over the next few years, Don taught me concepts and moves from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, Kung Fu, and several others. But it wasn’t just the moves I loved, it was what they meant to me.

My biological mother was killed when I was a small child. Murder. When I was only eleven years old, a stranger propositioned me outside of my local grocery store and I had to retreat into the store where I found a friend’s mother in order to escape him. It was not the last time it happened. It was also not the worst. I learned at a very young age that safety is an illusion.

But in Don’s class, I learned something new. I’m powerful. My short and admittedly stocky body can take down men twice my size. I have the sparring record to prove it. He empowered me with his teachings. I grew more confident in myself because I became aware of what I could do–what I was capable of.

Eventually, Don began inviting me to assistant teach his all-female youth classes. He wanted an adult female present in the class for obvious reasons, but he also wanted them to see that strength and power comes in all shapes and sizes. I helped him finish up a class less than a week before my second child was born. He was sure to be careful with what he had me doing and teaching, but it was great to be able to show the students that even at nine months pregnant, I could kick butt.

He also often had his daughter come to classes to help out. She’s a teenager and has been training with him since she was four. Believe me when I say that girl has a future as a superhero. She is legit. The two of them have also helped get my oldest child started training.

I’m happy for Don, that he is taking a step back and spending more time with his family. He has worked hard all his life. He still has two other jobs, actually. The man doesn’t know how to sit still. I’m glad he is able, though, to take more time to be at home. I will still miss him.

Oh, I have his number and he has invited me to call him up to arrange gym days now and again. But it won’t be our constant schedule anymore. It won’t be the same.

I haven’t found a new instructor or class yet. I have trouble believing I will find one that I’ll relish quite as much. And it won’t be the same. But time marches on, and so must I. I suppose after the holiday, I’ll begin checking out new options. It’s time to start fresh and bid the old adieu.

It is a bittersweet farewell.

 

Book Review: Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

I read a book (not this one) last week that I should have DNF’d. I didn’t. I had nightmares. A lot of them. I was not okay. This is why some of us who review books provide trigger warnings if we can.

To be honest, I cannot review that book. I could tell you about the well-developed characters and the way trauma was handled in the book, but I can’t bring myself to think that hard about certain plot elements right now. Maybe soon. Maybe never. I’m sorry.

After I finished that book, I needed a palate cleanser. Actually, I needed three, but I started with this one.

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Meredith Hayes knows that people trespass on Archer land at their own peril. The Archer men have secluded themselves for over a decade, ever since their father died, and do not take kindly to strangers. But Meredith also knows that Travis Archer, the eldest, has a kind and compassionate side because he helped her when she most needed it. So when she overhears a plot to burn them off their ranch, forcing them to sell the land, she feels she owes it to Travis to warn him.

Meredith arrives in time to warn the boys, but not without consequence. Suffering from a kick to the head by a fire-frightened mule, she is cared for by the Archers while she recovers. The only problem is that society doesn’t care why she was without a chaperone in a house full of men, her reputation is shattered and her guardian will not allow her to come home because of it. There is only one thing to restore her good name–she must marry an Archer.

Travis is the eldest and the only one who has known Meredith more than the three days it has been since she arrived with her warning. When he and his brothers draw straws to see who will marry her, he makes sure he’s the one who ends up with the short straw. It’s his responsibility, that’s all–or so he tells himself.

But the Archers aren’t in the clear yet. Someone still wants their land and will go to great lengths to get it. Travis and Meredith both want to protect the Archer ranch, but their desire to protect each other scares them far more than any villain ever could. Meredith knows that Travis feels responsible for her, but what she wants is to be more than just a short-straw bride.

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This book was pretty cute on the whole. It was a clean, Christian Romance. If any of those words make you cringe, move on. For me, it was a good book to follow the One That Shall Not Be Reviewed. I enjoyed it, but it isn’t perfect, so I’ll still give you my usual breakdown.

First, the things I liked.

It was a clean read. After the “other book”, I needed that. Romance needed to be sweet and good again.

It’s a period piece set in post Civil War Texas, but it doesn’t pretend that the population of Texas was monochromatic or fair. There is a counterpoint to this coming, so don’t do a happy dance just yet.

Meredith has a disability that stems from a physical trauma in her childhood. While there are characters (never her love interest) who call her names, she is not written as a weaker character or one who laments her injury. It’s not a lot, and there are times that I don’t like the way it’s addressed, but there are so few main characters with any sort of physical disability that I have to appreciate this one.

The dog doesn’t die. The horses don’t die. I know it’s a stupid thing, but I needed this book to be a happy one. And any book that has an animal companion bite the dust is not a happy book. Where the Red Fern Grows almost undid me as a child.

Now, for the other side of the coin.

The non-white characters are few and all serve the same trope-y purpose. They are the hardworking mentor types with very little presence apart from that. So while I’m glad that there is no “white savior”-ness to the story, the old stereotypes are still present.

Also, there is only one type of non-white character. There is a settlement of Black “freedmen”, but there is no evidence in this Texas town of a Latinx population or a Native one. I find that improbable at best and erasure at worst. I don’t think it was intentional on part of the author to do so, but I think by pointing it out in books like this, perhaps more authors will be more intentional about inclusivity.

Meredith is treated as weaker by some of the characters because of her disability. It grated on my nerves, but I think that was intentional. Still, I point it out because if that is going to be upsetting to anyone, I’d like for you to know going in.

It is not at all thematic in the book, but there are a couple of lines in different chapters that had the echo of fat-shaming. It annoyed me more than offended me and it was fleeting, but it was there.

All in all, I still thought it was cute. And it was a good palate cleanser. Though, to be honest, I followed it up with two more for which reviews are coming. Seriously, that one book messed me up and I needed a chance to recover from it. Especially since I needed to be ready for the debut of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse that came out this week. You’ll be happy to know that I’m all through with my palate cleansing and was able to dive into ToL on the day of its debut. I’ll be reviewing that in a future post as well.

Book Review: Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne

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Atticus O’Sullivan leads a simple life. He runs an occult bookshop in Arizona where he sells specialty teas and is mostly sought out by local college kids who want to know if any of his special herbs are actually weed. At home, he is kept company by his Irish Wolfhound and an aging Irish widow from down the street. It’s a quiet existence for someone who still looks young enough to be in college alongside his clientele, but it’s all a deception.

Atticus is an anglicized name he took long ago. He’s actually twenty-one centuries old, and the last living Druid in existence. A fact that still irks one particular Irish deity to no end. And that deity, Aenghus Og, is about to catch up to him. Aenghus wants a mystical sword that Atticus is hiding, one that would give him untold power and a chance to take over his entire pantheon. Atticus has no choice but to protect the sword. But he can’t do it alone.

The druid must call upon his friends–his werewolf and vampire attorney team, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and the Chooser of the Slain–to help him face his nemesis. Their two millennia dance has been fun, but enough is enough. Atticus knows that this time it’s him or Aenghus Og, and he’s not ready to die just yet.

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I had a fabulous time reading this book. It was such a fun read that in an effort not to oversell it, I’m going to have to start with the things I didn’t like.

Most of the characters are of Irish, Polish, or Scandinavian origin, so even though they’re hanging out in Arizona, there is an overabundance of European white people. Even the Hindu witch has possessed a red-headed white girl. The cast is mostly monochromatic.

I’m sure that in over 2,000 years, Atticus has learned to work it, but over half the women he meets want to bed him. It started to be more comical than sexy. To be clear, I wasn’t upset about this, I just gave it an eye roll here and there. It was still worth the laughter.

There is more than one possession in the book, and I’ll have to be vague here to keep from spoiling anything, but one of them made me feel terrible for the possessee (is that a word?). The situation tried to be smoothed out, but there was only so much that Atticus could do. I didn’t like it, but it added a depth of character for Atticus. He’s not an altruistic hero. He’s more of a gray area type of main character, and it makes him more interesting.

So there were upsides to a few of the things I wasn’t crazy about. Now to the things I enjoyed.

The humor in this book is sprinkled through in such a way, that I never really stopped giggling. Even though heavy stuff was discussed, I never felt weighed down by it. I don’t need a palate cleanser book to help me recover from the gravity of it all. It was funny in all the right ways.

Oberon. The Irish Wolfhound is more than a companion animal, he’s a great character. He might actually be my favorite character. If someone bought me the stuffed Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s website, I wouldn’t complain.

The widow. She’s amazing. I hope there is more of her in books to come. If she dies at some point in the series, don’t tell me yet. I don’t think my heart could take it. Seriously, if it happens I will straight up ugly cry.

The battle scenes are not drawn out in ridiculous ways. The majority of fights in books and film are way too long compared to the average length of a fight in real life. But in Hounded, I never felt that the battles were unrealistic in length. Also, there is more mental maneuvering at play here. I loved that. Some of the battles are those of wit. My favorite kind.

Also, since I’ve been pretty open on my blog before that I’m a Christian, I’d like to add one more. I appreciate the way my religion is acknowledged by Atticus. It is not my deity that he doesn’t care for, it’s the people (we, the followers) who are the problem. I actually couldn’t agree more on that point.

There are other things I could gush over, but spoilers. I loved this book. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series. Beyond that, I’m signing up for Kevin Hearne’s newsletter and will eagerly look for more of his work to devour.

Highly recommend.

 

Things I Learned From My Father

I lost my biological mother at a young age. My father remarried when I was a teenager, but in the interim, he was a single parent. My oldest sister was already married when my mother passed, but the other three of us were still in school, ranging from elementary (me) to late high school. After my brother and sister graduated and moved out, it was just me and my father for a few years before he married my mom (yes, I refer to my stepmother as my mom).

Growing up he drove me crazy, as parents are wont to do. He was exacting, he had high expectations, he was embarrassing, and worst of all he was a morning person–the kind that wants you to be up and active with him by dawn. Despite and perhaps because of all this, I love him dearly. He’s my father, and he always did his best to prepare me for my independence. While I may complain on occasion about things he says or does, the truth is that when I need him, I know he’ll be there.

So, in honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I would share with you some of the things I’ve learned from my dad over the years.

  1. Like and love are two completely different emotions. They are not always mutually inclusive and they are not always mutually exclusive. In other words, you can like someone and not be in love with them, but you can also love somebody and not like them very much. On the other hand, when you find somebody who you like and love, it’s a big deal.

  2. You have to earn trust. You have to earn respect. And once earned, it is still possible to lose both.
  3. A wood file is called a rasp.
  1. You shouldn’t go all winter without washing your car. The salt they put down on the roads isn’t great for your car.
  2. There is a big difference between “I want” and “I need” and you should learn it early.

  3. Asking for help isn’t always easy, but there is no shame in it.

  4. It is important to say things like “I love you” and “I’m proud of you”, but only say it when you mean it.

  5. You are never too old to dream.

  6. You don’t have to learn everything the hard way. It’s just as easy to learn from somebody else’s mistakes as it is to make those same mistakes on your own, but far less painful.

  7. Life is not fair. Anybody who says differently is either selling something or too stupid for you to be associated with.

  8. Never underestimate the value of a good education.

  9. If you would be ashamed to tell your parents, your spouse, your kids, etc. about it, you probably shouldn’t do it in the first place.

  10. There is a big difference between a friend and an acquaintance. Don’t confuse the two. A friend is far more valuable.

  11. Prejudice is another word for ignorance.

  12. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

And so much more. 

Happy Father’s Day to my dad. And to all the rest out there who are doing the best they can.

 

10 Things About the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (Pt. 2)

And I’m back to give you part 2! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. I’ll just jump right in.

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Palace of Mechanic Arts – wikipedia
  1. I told you before that two buildings still stand in their original position from the fair. At least three more buildings survived after the Fair, but they have been moved to other locations, such as museums or privately owned land.
  2. It’s a little ironic that the Fair was supposed to show how Chicago had rebuilt itself after the Great Fire of 1871, since the year after the Fair much of the fairgrounds were destroyed during a fire. This second fire occurred during the Pullman Strike.
  3. One of the attractions was called the “Street in Cairo” and was designed to look like an Egyptian marketplace. It featured a belly dancer who was nicknamed “Little Egypt.” She performed what was, at the time, considered a “provocative” and “suggestive” belly dance (I do not know this dance and therefore cannot comment on whether or not it is actually suggestive or provocative) that was called the (I kid you not) “hootchy-kootchy.” It was performed to a tune that is now commonly associated with snake charmers. I’m betting the whole exhibit was just as offensive as it sounds and not at all representative of Cairo or a real Egyptian marketplace.

  4. The Chicago World’s Fair had the first moving sidewalk that was opened to the public. It was the Great Wharf Moving Sidewalk and carried people to the nearby casino.
  5. “Buffalo Bill” was denied a spot at the Fair, so he set up next to it so that attendees of the Fair would also stop by his show. He earned a great amount of money and didn’t have to pay any of it to the Fair developers.

  6. The Fair almost went bankrupt due to the cost of building and maintaining the exhibits (and paying the laborers). However, the Ferris Wheel saved the Fair by being an extremely popular attraction that drew many new attendees. The Chicago laborers employed by the Fair (those who survived it, anyway) were certainly glad for the work, since the Fair took place amid the Panic of 1893, a time of great economic depression.

  7. It is estimated that more than 27 million people attended the Fair during the six months that it was open.

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    Tesla Polyphase Exhibit – wikipedia

  8. People who visited the Louisiana pavilion were gifted with the seedlings of Cypress trees. According to some rumors, this actually helped spread the growth of Cypress trees to areas to which it was not native and it now thrives in places such as West Virginia.

  9. The Fair introduced attendees to a new breakfast food: shredded wheat. It also saw the debut of Juicy Fruit Gum.

  10. Milton Hershey purchased chocolate manufacturing equipment from a European exhibitor at the Fair so he could add chocolate products to his caramel manufacturing business.

So there you have it. The Chicago World’s Fair, or The World’s Columbian Exposition, gave us the current home of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Science and Industry, it introduced shredded wheat and Juicy Fruit gum (but not together – yuck!), and is partially responsible for Hershey’s chocolate. Interesting stuff. It also most likely had some outrageously problematic representation of non-U.S. cultures. Whose not shocked?