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Rodan + Fields Review and Giveaway

Oct 29, 2014

I recently got to sample four products from Rodan+Fields, thanks to a C&S reader who introduced me to her friend, Rodan+Fields independent consultant Laura Yates. Laura sent me four products to try, including one brand new one, and they couldn't have come at a better time. Whenever the seasons change, but especially when it gets colder, my skin is at its worst. I get dry patches and cracked lips, and my skin begins looking dull as my freckles fade, revealing just how yellowy pale my face truly is. The bad lighting in my bathroom doesn't help, either.

Rodan+Fields used to be sold in high-end retail stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales, but a few years ago it moved over to direct sellers. With the Rodan+Fields Clinically Proven Products treat four main skin concerns: Anti-Aging, Dark Spots & Melasma, Acne and Sensitive Skin. I tried a mini-facial to help enhance my skin and a wrinkle filler for anti-aging.

The first product I tried was Micro-Dermabrasion Paste ($78), which Laura sent as part of a mini-facial.I've tried other micro-dermabrasion products before, but they were all a bit too harsh for my sensitive skin. I like how this one doesn't make me expect to be bleeding afterwards, and my skin feels significantly softer immediately after using it. I'm definitely going to whip this out when that first dry patch of the season appears!

The next part of the mini-facial was the Night Renewing Serum ($90). I thought the capsule was pretty small,but the serum, packed with retinol for smoothing skin, was so concentrated that it was more than enough. It felt so soothing going on, especially since I'd just done the micro-dermabrasion, and I was surprised at how my skin still felt moisturized and silky when I woke up the next morning. 

My absolute biggest skin issue is probably my lips, although the second I get a breakout that opinion will change. But for now, lips. Dry, cracking, peeling lips. I also have a terrible nervous habit of biting my lips, and they end up bleeding at inopportune times quite frequently. I tried taking up nail biting as a kid but I found it to be unappealing, so chose lip biting. I really should do more yoga. Anywho...let me tell you about this Lip Renewing Serum ($54). I swear it filled in the cracks over night. When I first applied it, the serum soaked in pretty quickly, and I guess because I'm used to waxy lip balm or gloppy lip gloss keeping my lips moisturized, I didn't expect this to have such long-lasting effects. 

A few days after I did the mini-facial, I tried the Redefine Acute Care wrinkle filler, a brand spanking new product that isn't even available yet. 

My wrinkles aren't too bad yet, but I decided to give it a go around my eyes in the crows feet region.

The patches stuck on easily and I soon forgot I was wearing them. However, I didn't notice any huge difference in the morning. To be fair, though, wrinkles are the least of my skin concerns, so I was not the best candidate to try this new product.

I had two extra, so I let my friend G try them out too, since she's constantly complaining about how wrinkly her skin is (it's not). Here's what G had to say:

I was excited to try this since it was unlike any of the cream-based masks or the Asian masks I have tried before. As soon as I put it on, I thought, uh oh, I have to wear this the whole night? It was super uncomfortable, but that may be because I had it covering the wrinkles by my nose where you get lines from smiling. But I decided not to take them off with the promise of noticeably less wrinkles after one night. This was made more uncomfortable by the fact that I am fighting a cold, so my nose and the skin around my nose was already dry and sensitive. Come morning, I couldn't wait to take it off, and I checked out the fine lines. Yup. Still there.  

G had some extenuating circumstances as here's a little promo someone put together for the wrinkle filler that shows successful before & afters:

I think if you truly have a wrinkle problem, as G and I truly do not, this could be worth a try, especially if you're considering botox!  

Overall, I was pleased with the products I tried, and I especially loved the serums. 

If you'd like to try these or other Rodan+Fields products, Laura is offering C&S readers a special deal to join the Preferred Customer Program. Members of the program get 10% off orders and free shipping, and Laura will waive the $19.95 enrollment fee. Just email her at and mention Cupcakes & Shoes

Want to try the mini-facial for free? I've got two of them to give away! Enter below -- winners will be announced Wednesday, November 5, 2014. 


Celebrating Irlen Syndrome Awareness Week by sharing my story

Oct 24, 2014

Today marks the last day of Irlen Syndrome Awareness Week, which I just found out about, and I wanted to participate in spreading the word.

What's that? You've never heard of Irlen Syndrome?

Well Lucy Lawless, aka Xena Warrior Princess aka Diane Swanson has heard of it.

About two months ago I took on a new project that would require me to work onsite with my client. We consultants know that this is a grand opportunity to connect with your clients, really hear what they're saying and assess and capture the whole picture, giving you, the consultant, the most ideal opportunity to do your best work that is directly applicable to your clients' needs.

Being the seasoned communications professional I am, I recognized all of this immediately and was excited to jump right in, building relationships and giving my fresh perspective on the organization's toughest communications challenges. Unfortunately, I didn't expect that one day in I'd be stricken with blurred vision, a monster migraine and vertigo.

My seat was in a narrow room that is floor-to-ceiling white, which immediately caused some visual problems for me. I've been getting migraines since I was 25, about the time I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and I always assumed the migraines were associated with that. I learned to manage my headaches with Excedrin and taking short breaks to go outside in natural light during my work day, to give my eyes a break and recharge. I know fluorescent lighting can sometimes set off my migraines, so I'll often request a glare reducer for my computer screen and bring in a lamp if I have my own office and can turn off the overhead lights. And I always make sure to get my desk ergonomically set up so I don't add strain to my neck throughout the day.

Granted, I was breaking a few of those rules the first day, but something was different. Streams of light surrounded my periphery, especially around light sources, like my computer screen. The room was turning upside down and the words on my screen were blurring. Every cell in my body felt as if it was contracting, squeezing, trying to escape this invisible force that was encroaching on my brain.

By the time I had a vision of myself crawling out of the room, collapsing and awaking on a gurney with my new boss, client and all my teammates gathered around me in shock and concern as the handsome doctor shook his head and said, "Classic case of a phantom brain tumor," I innately knew that A) My brain was still working just fine; and B) I needed to get away from the white room.

I told my boss I wasn't feeling great and I was going to finish the work day in the lobby near a window. Ten minutes later the whole episode had passed and I felt normal again.

During those 10 minutes I googled my symptoms and found an interesting website,, a site dedicated to Irlen Syndrome. And 10 minutes into exploring the site, I was convinced I had Irlen Syndrome. 

(Please note that I do not condone googling symptoms and self-diagnosing major health problems. I have a neurologist that I check in with regularly for my migraines, and if the information on the the website hadn't been so aligned with my specific combination of symptoms and visual issues, I would have called him the next day to get in for an appointment.)

Irlen Syndrome is a visual processing disorder that affects 15% of the general population, 50% of individuals with reading and learning difficulties and 30% of people with ADHD and autism. Irlen Syndrome has also been linked to traumatic brain injury in athletes and others.

According to the website, Irlen Sndrome is caused by a defect in one of the visual pathways that carries messages from the eye to the brain. This defect causes a timing fault in processing visual information. Filtering out specific wave lengths of light helps the pathway to function normally.

For me, black and white patterns like houndstooth and stripes set off the same feeling I had in the office, but on a much smaller scale. I realized, by sitting in a white-saturated room and staring at a screen with black letters, I had essentially been forcing my brain to endure looking at houndstooth for six hours. 

The Irlen website has a test you can take to see if you might have Irlen Syndrome, and you can also change the color of your screen to see if a particular color helps your brain restore the defective pathway. (Mine's purple.) (In fact, when I change my screen color to purple, I instantly have the sensation that cool water is rushing over my face.)

You can also take a look at some examples of how people with Irlen Syndrome see common things. I identify with most of these, especially the "rivers" appearing between words on a page:

After I took the test, tried out the screen colors and watched the video, I realized I've been dealing with these visual problems for most of my life. The migraines may have started when I was 25, but smaller manifestations of Irlen Syndrome have been making me feel dizzy, lethargic and nauseated since I was a child.

Founder Helen Irlen says, "Millions of people worldwide are suffering from Irlen Syndrome and not finding answers because they don't know this issue exists. Simply wearing specialized tinted filters can completely change how a person functions on a day-to-day basis. We have an obligation to educate the public about the problem and this easy solution."

If you think you might have Irlen Syndrome, you can get tested at an Irlen Center. I have not, but I've found that just being aware of it and understanding what's going on with me has helped me improve my working environment. I requested a larger monitor and brought in a lamp to break up the harsh fluorescent light of the overhead lighting, and my boss found me a new place to sit that isn't nearly as stark as the other office.

I think more people than realize it or are even reporting it probably deal with Irlen Syndrome, and it's something that doesn't have to impair you all the time. We need more research and technology to made everyday life easier and more comfortable for those of us afflicted with it. One thing I'd love to see is Microsoft Office and Google offer a screen color option similar to that on the website. What a simple fix to a crippling problem!

Spread the word and let me know what works for you!

Stitch Fix No. 10: Summer to Fall Fashion

Oct 17, 2014

This is a little late, but everyone loves a Stitch Fix so I'm posting it anyway. The sad part is, I already picked what I wanted, but tell me what you like and don't like anyway because it's just plain fun.


I've got that *summertime sadness...because we're nearing the end of this blessed season.

*Editor's note: I don't feel all that sad anymore because I just bought new booties.

*Editor's note No. 2: From here on out I'll just write in the present because that one line about summertime sadness is all I actually wrote last month.

There's something about the 10th anything that feels like it should be memorable. 10th birthday? You made it a decade! 10th date? You officially have a boyfriend! 10th cookie? It's time to rethink your life choices.

In like fashion, my 10th Stitch Fix gave me probably the best piece yet, anchoring my belief that this is the best thing that's happened to fashion since Coco Chanel. 

It started out similarly to my first -- four pretty good things and one bangin' one. 

A-line skirts are not my favorite cut, but I thought this dress was paneled quite well, making the A-line cute and flattering. The panels also made the top fit perfectly and added the right amount of structure for a curvy figure. 

Royal blue is one of the prettiest colors, I think, but oddly enough, it's not a color you find all that often. This blouse was extra special because of the lace detail in the back and along the sleeves. 

This top was an interesting concept -- an abstract print with a zipper on the front instead of the back, which has been the norm the past couple of years. I'm just not sure who this would look good on, though. It billows around the waist and tapers at the hip, which is not a good look for anyone.
I thought this was a really lovely take on a basic blouse. I'm a big fan of short sleeves that cover the top, flabby parts of my arms, and the pleating details on the sleeves, front and back give it a feminine shape. I even spotted Gabrielle Union wearing a similar style on Being Mary Jane

(If you haven't seen it, go on Netflix immediately and watch the movie first, then blast through season 1 get excited for season 2 which airs "soon". Come onnnnn BET! Tell us when it's coming back!!!)

I consider myself to be an accessories junkie, and now that I'm looking at this again, I don't think I styled it well. This would work much better with a maxi dress, but even then, the hammered gold Egyptian look isn't my fave. may have guessed that I kept the green blouse. Even before I saw it on Gabrielle Union, it paid for itself when I got picked up on the street by an actual guy with a job and everything. We had three fantastic dates, but, much like Justin Bieber, he was just too young for me. And also he stopped calling. Actually, he only called one time so really he stopped texting, but whatever, semantics

Want to give Stitch Fix a try? Sign up here and remember your $20 styling fee goes toward your purchase! 

Read about my past fixes here:

Here's to the next 10 fixes!

Good-bye to U

Oct 8, 2014

Things I never thought I'd do:

1) Live in a basement
2) Live with a family
3) Live in Arlington

And yet, I've decided to move into a room in a basement with some friends of mine and their toddler and infant in Clarendon, the land of dudes in brown flip flops.

I alluded to my move in my last post. It wasn't as bad as the Moving Disasters of 20092010 or 2011 -- my bff came to help me move all the heavy stuff and another friend, K, spent one Saturday afternoon helping me divide my worthless crap things into keep, give away and throw out. (We threw out 15 trash bags worth of stuff and another SUV-load of Goodwill stuff.) And, without any pomp or circumstance, I turned over my keys to a friend, L, who loved my apartment so much she decided to purchase it. It was the first apartment in which I lived alone, the longest place I've lived since moving to DC, and it had, by far, the best closet I could ever hope for in 600 square feet. But even sadder, I left my beloved U Street neighborhood which, after five years, I truly considered home.

So, what's most disturbing about my decision to leave it all behind is that I'm not disturbed. To anyone who doesn't know me well, it appears that I should belong in Clarendon, essentially the cool, clean, respectable clique of DC. But that's so not me. I guess you could say I'm more Elphaba than Glinda, misunderstood but the real heroine, at least in the story of Oz that we misfits know to be the superior version.

Jumping off of that analogy...Clarendon is basically the Emerald City of DC, and U Street is more like the creepy forest where even the trees are angry, but at least you can get organic, locally grown apples.

Well, watch out Dorothy, because Elphaba is acomin', and with her little dog too.

Ridiculous outfit care of her Mimi, who loves to dress up her Granddogter.
So how did I arrive at such a decision that clearly conflicts with my values, however twisted they may be?

Cheap rent, friends who love to cook and a house cleaner.

You see, it's time to pay for the sins of my DC youth, and anyone who moved here in her 20s, independent of her parents' financial support, knows that it's impossible to live the life you see other twentysomethings leading unless you let credit cards fund said lifestyle. The really sad news is that they're all doing the same thing, which is racking up credit card debt. Frankly, I think it's a disservice to twentysomethings, and women in particular, to keep financial talk in the "taboo" column -- along with health problems, career dissatisfaction and it being okay to not follow your dreams for a job that pays your bills.

Trust me, twentysomethings -- if your friends are leading an ab-fab lifestyle that resembles a Pinterest board, they're either in debt up to their eyeballs or they have very generous parents. Don't try to keep up or you'll end up living in the Emerald City in a spacious, renovated farmhouse with a housekeeper.

Wait...that sounds better than it should.

The point is, 'tis better to be able to buy the whole farm than just rent a room.

Well anyway, the plan is to get out of the credit card debt that allowed me to live it up when I really wanted to, and then maybe I'll get to own a little piece of U Street in a couple of years. Even if it is just a treehouse.


Finding out my true bra size

Oct 1, 2014

Oh heeeeeeeeeeeey.

You're probably wanting an explanation for my two-month hiatus, huh? Well, I went on vacation right after my last post and decided to take a vacation from everything, including my diet (more on that later), and, obviously, my blog. While on vacation I found out I was being put on a new project, one of the most challenging and exciting opportunities of my career.

And then I moved.

To Clarendon. A neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. Pretty much the opposite of U Street.

I..can't...even get into it right now. As far as moving disasters go, it was not the worst. Still a moving disaster, and I'm in my own personal episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive. But my rent is cheap, and since I'm being all responsible and adultlike with my finances these days -- ish -- a move was necessary to keep that momentum going. More on that later as well.

What I really want to talk about is the follow-up to my last post, where yours truly found out she'd been wearing the wrong bra size for...ever I suppose.

I'll never forget the time when my older sister complained that my boobs were bigger when I blossomed as a teenager, and then my mother noticed my sister's were shmooshed into some tiny Victoria's Secret thang and fitted my sister in one of her Maidenforms and then we all learned that the order of bosoms, from largest to smallest, was mother, eldest daughter, teenage daughter. Universe order restored.

So it should not have come as some big surprise that I'd been ill-fitted for at least my adult life.

I recounted the story over dessert with my sister and her neighbors when I was home in Atlanta for a week-long visit, about a month after I tried True&Co. No I did not randomly bring up an embarrassing boob story. My sister's neighbor happens to be Sherrie of Necessities by Sherrie, bra fitter extraordinaire and, recently, bra fitter to the Georgia reality TV stars. 

"What are you wearing, 34D?" she challenged me as I stuffed chocolate cake in my mouth.

"Oh I don't know. Yes. Apparently I'm not a 34D."

"No, you're not. I'd say you're..." She tilted her head and squinched her eyes. "32E." 

According to Sherrie, 8 in 10 women are wearing a wrong size bra. So it's no wonder she was able to do this entire assessment across a table while I was fully clothed. 

"Interesting!" I exclaimed. "True&Co. pegged me as a 32DD, but the bras they sent were too small. Do you really think I'm 32 and over a D cup?"

"Absolutely," she replied confidently. "What kind of bras did they send you? Calvin Klein?"

"Uh, yeah, as a matter of fact, they did."

"Calvin Klein is for models and teenagers. You need a woman's bra."

Flahsbacks of my mother's hideous Maidenform punched me in the face and I winced. Sherrie, detecting my misconceptions, offered me more cake and invited me to come to her store to get properly fitted.

A few days later I went to Necessities where Sherrie pulled several "mature cup" bras, as she called them. And what is a mature cup? It's one that extends almost to the back of your armpit to catch all that sideboob that spills over in non-mature cup bras, aka just about everything I've ever bought at Victoria's Secret, and displayed again in the True&Co. bras I tried on. 

The very first mature bra I put on made me feel like this:

I was pretty sure I could shoot laser beams out of my bra if I really needed to, and I walked around the store making "ping! ping!" noises and pointing my boobs at my sister and Sherrie until they got uncomfortable. 

Sadly, that meant when I put on the bra I walked in with, I now felt like this:

(Never mind. I couldn't find any images that were even close to safe for work. Just think along the lines of National Geographic. You get the gist.)

I ended up buying three bras and a retro-style bikini, and, while they were a little pricier than what I'm used to spending at Victoria's Secret, they are a much better investment. Plus Sherrie gave me some tips on how to lengthen the life of my new bras:

1. Always wash bras alone with no other laundry.
2. Use a gentle detergent like Woolite.
3. Always hang dry.
4. Never wear the same bra two days in a row.

I highly recommend visiting Sherrie the next time you're in Atlanta. She's so good, Sugar Bear ended up making a trip without Mama June, soooo...:

Breast wishes,