Beauty Review: Battle of the Deciem Brands, The Ordinary Buffet vs. Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age Serum

So I’ve been procrastinating writing a review of The Ordinary’s Buffet serum for a while now. Originally, I was just lazy. But then, I decided to try switching to the Hylamide’s SubQ Anti-Age serum. When I started using it, I thought maybe I’d hold my review of Buffet until I had an opinion of SubQ, since Deciem holds up SubQ as a more potent version of Buffet.

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I’ve only tried two other products from each range: Hylamide’s C25 Booster serum and Hydra-Density Mist, and The Ordinary’s Niacinamide + Zinc serum and Hyaluronic Acid + B5 serum. Of the serums, I find that Hylamide’s serums have a more sophisticated texture, in general, though I like The Ordinary’s focus on simple, one- or two-main-ingredient products so you can mix and match exactly what you want. I’ve had a problem in the past with some serums just offering too much, leading me to skip a serum that looks interesting because one of the other ingredients is unwanted. But “Buffet” is a different beast for The Ordinary. As per the company’s description, the name implies a comparison to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. But even this many-in-one formula remains relatively uncomplicated. It’s peptides and hyaluronic acid in several weights. In essence, this is what SubQ Anti-Age is as well.

The main difference in description is that SubQ Anti-Age is marketed specifically as an alternative to retinol products for anti-aging. This intrigued me, as I’ve been striving to avoid retinols and retinoids in my skin care routine as something I would have to give up if Fiancé and I decide to have a child. Why find something that works a miracle with my skin if I’m going to have to give it up for a year in the future? No, there’s plenty of time for me to experiment with non-retinol products now and save the retinoids for when I’m older.

So on to my own experiences. Buffet was the first serum I tried. As I’ve mentioned before, I have one relatively pronounced forehead line that serves as my yardstick for the efficacy of my skin care routine. I’m reasonably sure that nothing short of fillers or Botox would remove it entirely, but levels of hydration and effective chemical exfoliation will reduce its prominence. I found Buffet to be a perfectly adequate hydrator. It reduced the prominence of my forehead line enough that I felt like it was doing something. But I find find the texture a bit uncomfortably sticky. This is not a serum I would use during the day.

Enter SubQ. At first drop, the texture is much more pleasant. It sinks in quickly with much less stickiness. I actually find it absorbs so quickly that I had to play a bit with how I apply it. At first my skin drank it up so quickly, that I had to apply six drops directly to my face and pat it in in zones to get it spread out before it was sucked in. As I’ve used it over the last several weeks, I’ve found my skin a little less desperate to absorb it. That alone suggests that it’s doing something.

But then, this happened: I was sitting at our Sunday morning coffee date with fiancé and he stopped looking at his phone and started studying my face. I grew increasingly self-conscious and mildly annoyed and asked him what he was doing. “I was noticing how you have no lines on your forehead when I have a lot of lines on my forehead,” he said. Hmmm, I thought. I looked in my hand mirror and noticed that, indeed, my forehead line had faded to near obscurity. Given that I am nearly three years older than he is, it’s likely that any difference in our skin is down to genetics and good skin care. After that I started looking and noticed that I was regularly seeing less and less of my line. So I definitely find SubQ more effective than Buffet and to me it is worth the extra price.

So there is my comparison. I like the Deciem brands because their products seem to be well-formulated and price seems to correlate with activity, but even the lower-priced products are a good quality, well-thought-out product.

NB: I purchased both of these products with my own money and have been given no incentive to review them. None of the links are affiliate links.

Unexpected Vintage Inspiration: Love for a Thousand More

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about vintage fashion, and I realize it’s been some time since I’ve talked about what I’ve been watching when I have the spare time. Part of the reason for this is that 1.) I’ve been less focused on vintage fashion right now and more focused on using what I have so I can spend my money on wedding stuff and 2.) I’ve been reading a lot and spending most of my screen time sharing shows with Fiancé, whose tastes are decidedly different. But the other day, I happened upon a Korean drama online that I’ve never encountered before and it reminded me of something important: Vintage style is not just about the West.

Most of the vintage bloggers I follow take their inspiration from Americana or the vintage styles of European countries, and a large part of that is because they themselves are American or of European decent. The problem of diversity in vintage blogging has been talked about by better bloggers than I, so I won’t get into that too much. But what I do want to talk about is the main character of the Korean drama Love for a Thousand More.

The premise of the show is that Mijo is an woman who was made immortal sometime during the Koryo Dynasty and is currently 999 years old. In that time, she has had many lovers, and all relationships have ended sadly for her. So she has decided to give up on love. But of course, she’s a love counselor by profession (who could have more experience?). From there, in typical Korean drama fashion, the demands of love cannot be denied and our heroine finds herself with a choice between two men who represent different worlds or philosophies.

But the costumes she wears! Mijo is a woman who, from the outside, looks like a young woman who is very into vintage fashion. While Westerners often think of “Asian fashion” as being the traditional styles that are not widely worn anymore, especially by the younger generation, this drama puts Mijo’s dated attire in start contrast with the other character’s more modern sense of fashion. Indeed, not only does Mijo dress like a granny and wear old-fashioned, sensible pumps, she also knits, drinks tea traditionally, and does old-fashioned exercises with the older people in the park.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

And her specific flavor of vintage fashion is drawn from the traditional hanbok clothing of Korea. Her skirts are shorter and she doesn’t wear sandals, but the styling is unmistakably hanbok. Her uniform of a crisp, wrap blouse with a full skirt, her hair tied into a demure bun at the nape of her neck is utterly relatable to someone who has found their own Western-style vintage uniform.

Meanwhile, her makeup would not be out of place on Empress Ki. She wears minimal eye makeup and occasionally has her lips stained a slightly brighter shade of pink, but always within the bounds of tradition. And all of this happens in contrast to the other characters, who present a modern, trendy picture of Korean fashion.

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’ve found myself drawn to Korean-style beauty routines over the last year, and anyone who reads this blog knows that my tea appreciation spans the globe, but this drama has now reopened my eyes to the beauty of Korean-inspired vintage fashion. Watching true period dramas is fun and beautiful, but not terribly practical. Love for a Thousand More takes the beauty of period Korean clothing and fits it nicely into a more modern world. Perhaps I shall consider adding some of that inspiration to my own wardrobe in the future.

[Image Source]

Weekend Meal Prep, plus Navy Bean and Potato Soup Recipe

As you may know, I’ve undertaken to eat healthier lately. To this end, since my latest show closed and I’ve found myself with more free time on the weekends, I’ve started prepping food for the week. I’ve found that it’s much easier to eat healthfully if I have easy, delicious, healthy options at hand, rather than having to wake up and spend time prepping a lunch in the morning. Bentos are adorable and delicious, but my patience with spending 20 minutes in the morning wears thin rapidly, particularly in the dead of winter, where we are now.

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Because the aforementioned winter has continued to be cold enough, I find that hot lunches are preferable, and what is more comforting than soup? The past few weeks, I’ve been prepping a big batch of a hearty soup and freezing it in jars. Then, I need only remember to take a jar out of the freezer the night before and pop it into my bag before heading to work.

I’ve also found that breakfasts happen more regularly, and with fewer croissants guiltily acquired from the cafe near the train station, if I prep a little ahead of time. This weekend, I made two berry-yogurt smoothies (I can make another two on my work-from-home day mid-week) and a batch of pumpkin muffins. The muffin will defrost quickly to eat as I get ready, and the smoothie will thaw slowly in my bag as I go to work, making an ideal second breakfast at my desk.

But back to the soup. This navy bean and potato soup was designed particularly to push iron and potassium into my diet, nutrients that I apparently lack, as I’ve discovered by charting some of my intake. Over the last week, I’ve made a concerted effort to increase both and have found a positive effect on my mood and energy levels. Of course, not being out until all hours at tech rehearsals and performances may also help. Whatever the case, the soup is delicious, filling, and relatively cheap to make.

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Navy Bean and Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 thick strips of bacon, chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp smoked hot paprika
1 can of navy beans, drained
3 cups of chicken broth (I used a long-simmered bone broth)
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 10-oz package of frozen cut-leaf spinach
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute the bacon until the fat starts to render out. Add the onion, and saute until translucent and starting to brown.
  2. Add the spices, beans, and broth. Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Add the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and cook through. Season to taste.
  5. To freeze, spoon into 16-oz jars or containers and seal tightly. Chill in the fridge and then freeze.

Beauty Review: Herbivore Phoenix Regenerating Facial Oil

…or “Several Hundred Words about a Completely Frivolous and yet Marvelous Skin Care Purchase.”

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Hello, lovelies! It’s Monday and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about this beautiful facial oil, which I love. But I would like to start out this review by admitting that this was a completely frivolous purchase and even though I love it, I will probably not be repurchasing it, as I have a new skin care love (which will get its own review possibly next week). Also, as this isn’t a beauty blog, per se, this will not be a terribly useful review of the product as an anti-aging product.

So. This oil. Look at it. It’s just so beautiful, from the color to the simple-yet-elegant packaging, to the whole experience. I have to say, my favorite thing about it is the scent. It smells absolutely gorgeous. Like a garden boudoir full of flowers, which is absurd because a garden boudoir would not be very private, now would it? Perhaps if you had very tall fences…

But I digress. I bought this facial oil while in the market for something a bit fancier than my standard rose hip seed oil. Something with a bit of scent to it, but without artificial fragrance. Something with a blend of oils. And, because I am a bit silly, something in a beautiful bottle that would grace the top of my vanity with its loveliness.

I had a Sephora account and an embarrassing level of spending in 2016 already, so this was one of the things I bought to push me over the edge once more into premium membership territory. My spending will have to calm down eventually, but last December was not that time. And I did buy my mother Estee Lauder for Christmas, so I’m not entirely selfish.

Anyway, the label appeal of this oil is the blend of exotic oils, including my beloved rose hip oil, with very, very little in the way of filler (the closest to a “filler oil” would be the jojoba that is second on the ingredient list), plus CoQ10 (a rather expensive antioxidant) and some floral essential oils. The scent is a blend of rose and neroli oils, which lends it that sexy floral experience. And because the oils are mostly high-linoleic oils, they absorb quickly and are less likely to exacerbate any breakouts I might be dealing with.

I have to say, I find the experience of this oil lovely. My preferred way of using it was to apply 6-8 drops in the palm of my hand, warm it briefly, and then press and massage it into my skin before applying my night cream. It doesn’t lend itself much to massage, as it does absorb very, very quickly, but it is just a lovely texture. And I did notice that I had a much more pronounced “glow” the next morning after using this than from rose hip oil alone.

My other favorite use for this (and likely the continuing use, as I’ve replaced it in my evening routine) is to apply it before taking the train downtown for my early-morning barre class. Before barre, I like to wash my face, apply vitamin C serum, but then I don’t use sunscreen, as it is still dark outside until after I’ve left the gym. So I apply 3-5 drops to steel my face against the cold. Plus, I tend to tent my hands over my nose before applying it to inhale the beautiful fragrance.

And I suppose that is all that can reasonably be said about this oil. It is lovely, but if you’re not in the market for a splurge, there are other ways to get your oily glow on. But if you are in the market, it is a lovely floral experience.

NB: I purchased this with my own funds and was not provided any incentive to review it, favorably or otherwise.

My Go-To Hair Care Routine

For those of you who read my review of Deciem’s Hair is Fabric line last week, check back to see an update. The short version is that I’m probably not going to keep using them. But I thought I’d share a bit of what I have been using for a while and does work well for my hair.

So, to briefly recap my hair background: I have very long, thick, straight hair. My scalp hates conditioner, but my length needs nourishment and moisture. So I’m pretty well stuck with a 2-step process of wash+condition. But then, that’s what many of us do anyway, so it’s not terribly tedious. I have learned some tricks from my years on long hair care forums, as well as by trial and error (so much error).

First of all, I’ve said my scalp hates conditioner. It also hates sulfates (my entire body does), castor oil, and anything with a high pH. I used to try to wash my hair with soap. That did not go well. My length loves deeply moisturizing oils and doesn’t need much in the way of silicones to keep it tangle-free. But my skin doesn’t get along with coconut oil, shea butter, or olive oil, so I try to avoid these in my conditioners in order to prevent body breakouts.

I tend to wear my hair up or back every day. I try to alternate between a bun and a braid so that I don’t end up with tension spots, but also because sometimes putting my hair up in a bun is enough to start a headache, which will invariably turn into a migraine for me. My hair is about down to my mid-back and bothers me when I wear it down. It also likes to get caught in things and occasionally attacks passers-by.

So on to the products. For the past few months, I have been using and loving the Skylake Herbal Cool Shampoo and the Skylake Silk Cocoon Conditioner, both from a Korean brand, and both available at Mishibox, which is practically in my backyard, so shipping is quick. I’m not thrilled by the scent of the conditioner, as the jasmine is augmented with much ylang ylang, which isn’t my favorite. But for now, it leaves my hair gorgeous and doesn’t irritate my scalp.

I wash by first washing my scalp with shampoo, rinsing, and then putting conditioner just on the length of my hair (about from the ears down). Then, I put my hair up with an acrylic hair fork and do the rest of my shower. Maybe on the weekend, I’ll give it extra time while I shave my legs. Then, rinse, give it a quick blot with a towel, and twist up in my Aquis Lisse turban towel. I’ve started washing my hair at night, usually either right before or right after dinner, so I can leave my hair up while I do skin care, and then let my hair loose to dry for an hour or so before bed. Then, I either put it up in a loose scrunchie bun or a braid before bed.

I do sometimes oil my hair, though lately I’ve been lazy about that. I love my NightBlooming custom oil blend (which became the Frostfall Flowers monthly oil blend). It’s a blend of nourishing base oils, plus fragrant floral oils, and a little vetiver and frankincense to keep things interesting. But more often than not, I just use a bit of Japanese camellia oil. Three drops of oil worked through the ends is all I need. And on barre class days, I’ll use a little Klorane dry shampoo to soak up sweat before going to work.

And that’s it. Lately, I’ve been getting the itch to cut my hair shorter, and I’ve also been considering going fragrance-free in my hair products, as I’ve developed a bit of a patch of eczema on one ear. So far, the Skylake products don’t seem to irritate it, but I don’t rightly remember when it popped up, so who knows? But that’s my basic hair care routine.

NB: I have not been offered any freebies or incentives to discuss any of the products mentioned, nor are any of the links affiliate.

On Wedding Brain and Bridal Solidarity

Last week, I made more progress towards planning my wedding. I met with our caterer and his assistants at our venue and went through the logistics. And we got our license (less than six months away!). It was exciting to see things start coming together, and it gave me an excuse to take an entire day off work and think about nothing but wedding, which is important for a bride planning an event.

Then, I also learned that a coworker had gotten engaged, so of course, I went by her desk to congratulate her. But I also offered her the support of a sympathetic ear if she ever wants to obsess about wedding planning and it seems like everyone else around her is sick of it. Because this struggle is real.

I really never thought I would be *that* bride, the one who was obsessed with swatches and decorations and everything. But here we are. I’ve even planned a wedding before, but it was a much smaller event and took place rather quickly (four months from proposal to wedding). Plus, I was in school at the time, so I didn’t have as much mental free energy to waste.

This time around, I have all the mental energy to waste on it. And I’m planning a more elaborate event. And, of course, second-guessing every choice I make. For example: I recently decided what would actually be my “dream” wedding and it’s pretty far from what we’re planning.

My Dream: We wake up in the morning, put on nice clothes, and drive out to a little vintage chapel near our house, where we can have a simple, humanist ceremony, with whoever is up to join us. Then, we come back to the house and host a big luncheon/open house for friends and family, mostly in our back yard, with the option of squeezing inside if it rains. Simple, classic, and very old-fashioned.

Instead: The only concrete input Fiancé has given in terms of what he wants (it’s his first marriage) is that he wants to have a dance party for his friends. So dancing is a must. Given that, we have to rent a hall. And, honestly, we first met and became close going to dance lessons together, so it makes sense. We dance at everyone else’s weddings; of course we’re going to dance at our own.

So there I go again. Before I devolve into discussing caterers and music equipment, I’m going to stop myself. Wedding brain is real. It occupies prime mental real estate. And I know I’ve annoyed even the most wedding-obsessed of my non-planning friends.

So I’ve extended the branch of wedding brain acceptance to another woman going through it, in the hope that we can support each other. Forming a grand sisterhood of the wedding brain. And isn’t that what support is all about?

Beauty First Impression: Deciem’s Hair is Fabric (HIF) one-step hair cleansing conditioners

This is going to be a bit of an odd beauty review post, as I usually test a beauty product for a bit longer before writing a review, but hair products fall in a bit of a grey area with that. Personally, I tend to know if I’m going to like a hair product or not within the first couple of times I use it. Sometimes something happens and I realize I don’t actually like something so much, or I won’t pay attention and not realize I like it for a while, but the first impression is generally where my opinion stays. So. First impressions.

Deciem’s HIF brand is a line of one-step cleansing conditioners intended to mimic the gentle treatment of dry cleaning, but for your hair. Now, as a person with very long hair, I’ve completely absorbed the advice to “treat your hair like an antique lace table cloth.” I mean, the ends of my hair are around 3-4 years old and cannot be repaired if damaged. So I went into this intrigued and appreciative of the idea. But still apprehensive because my scalp loathes having conditioner on it and traditional co-washing has never been a success for me. But HIF products actually use foaming agents to cleanse, so I was curious if they would work.

So first a bit about my hair. I have very thick, very dark, pretty long hair. It’s about to my mid-back right now, with mostly blunt ends. It has a very slight wave to it naturally, but it goes stick straight if I blow dry it (without even brushing) and it will hold a wave if I keep it in a bun or braid for a while. My scalp is pretty balanced, but does get greasy a couple days after washing, and my ends will get a bit dry solely because they are so long and natural oils don’t tend to travel down that far. My typical hair routine is a very cleansing shampoo applied just to the scalp and a nourishing condition applied just to the lengths and ends, followed with a few drops of oil on the very end after I’ve towel-dried it. I tend to lose a fair amount of hair when I wash, which is about three times per week. I use handmade, seamless combs from an Etsy vendor as my primary method of detangling.

Okay, so on to the conditioners. I started by purchasing two of the formulas — Intensive Detox and Straight Hair Support –but later purchased two more — Hydration Support and Growth Support. I have varying opinions of the individual formulas, but my primary general impression is that the line is probably aimed more towards people with shorter hair than I have. But since I’m considering cutting my hair after I get married, that’s not a dealbreaker. And of course, there are exceptions.

Intensive Detox: First, I tried the Intensive Detox formula because it was Sunday and I hadn’t washed my hair all weekend. It’s an interesting formula. It’s a very thick gel that goes milky when mixed with water and lathers up nicely. It’s quite concentrated so I found the best way to apply it was to put little blobs in my hands, lather them with added water, and apply to a section of my scalp. It took maybe 3 sections to get my whole scalp, and then another blob lathered and applied to the length. I wound it into a bun with an acrylic fork and let it do its thing while I did the rest of my shower. Then, rinse and see what we have. First of all, the scent is decidedly invigorating. I found when it dripped, it stung my eyes a bit. But it’s not a bad scent, just kind of minty-herbal. Second, I definitely lost quite a bit less hair than usual. I wonder if it’s because I only applied and rinsed once, though. Finally, in the shower, I noticed that after rinsing my hair actually did feel conditioned, which was surprising. That said, after my hair dried, I’m not sure it looked as smooth as when I condition it separately. But it wasn’t bad, and it looked just as nice as usual when kept in a braid or bun.

Straight Hair Support: This one is definitely the stinker of the bunch. And I mean that literally. In the tube, it had a light “clean” scent, but as soon as I applied it (using the same technique as above), it blossomed into a heavy, Axe-body-spray-like scent that I do not enjoy. It persists as long as your hair is the least bit damp, which made it all the worse that I used it to wash my hair in the morning and didn’t have a chance to dry it completely before putting it up. Ugh. It’s a creamy consistency, but I don’t find it much more conditioning than the Detox formula. At least the scent faded to the generic “clean” scent once I let my hair dry completely. But, no, I will not be repurchasing this one.

Hydration Support: This one has my favorite scent. It’s a very light, unisex, clean scent that lingers in an enjoyable way without getting stronger when mixed with water. While this formula isn’t supposed to foam at all, I found I got a bit of lather from it while applying it. My hair felt the most conditioned after using this one and I didn’t see any scalp irritation or increased hair fall from it. Indeed, like with the others, I seem to lose less hair when using this. I would probably be a perfectly happy camper to alternate between this one and the Detox formula, which is particularly fortuitous because they are the least expensive of the line. That said…

Growth Support: It irritates me to no end that this formula has left my hair the nicest of any of the four I tried because it is also the most expensive. Like the Detox, this is a gel formula, and I applied it much the same way. I actually gave this plenty of time to sit on my hair because I shaved my legs while it was “activating.” It smells a bit like chai and TweedCat decided that my wet hair smelled like something she should try to eat. It’s not terrible, but not my preferred hair scent. But it fades pretty quickly in dry hair. But oh my goodness, my hair is shiny and soft this morning. I woke up and was so entranced by the softness of my braid tassel that I made Fiancé feel it. So nice.

So there you have my first impressions of the Deciem HIF cleansing conditioners. I will definitely be repurchasing the Intensive Detox and the Hydration Support, and I will consider repurchasing the Growth Support if I continue to like it so much after using it for a few weeks. Have any of you tried this line? I’d be curious to hear your experiences.

Update: I have since realized that these cleansing conditioners do not condition my long hair sufficiently, and may actually be exacerbating a small patch of eczema on one ear, so I’m definitely not going to repurchase. I may use them once in a while between my normal hair care routine, though, particularly the Hydration Support, but for now, I’m encouraging Fiancé to help me use them up.

Beauty Review: Hylamide Hydra-Density Mist

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Disclaimer: I generally don’t get sent products for review, but I feel the need to disclose that this was provided to me free of charge by Deciem. Not for a review, but because I literally placed an order the day before it was released and was annoyed because they don’t ever give any estimate as to when they’re going to release things. I complained on Instagram and they contacted me for the order number and threw this in with my order. When it got to me, I realized they hadn’t charged me for it. Thanks, Deciem!

Alright, so this is another Deciem product, from their mid-range skincare brand Hylamide. I got this Hydra Density Mist on a whim (and for free, as per the story above) because Caroline Hirons always talks about spray-hydrating and I thought a nice moderately-priced hydrating mist would be a good addition to my morning skin care. And I started using it and basically just felt very “meh” about it.

So I resolved not to repurchase when I ran out. And then I started getting lazy about using it. And then I realized that it was actually doing something.

It’s really subtle, but I find this mist really brings a little burst of hydration to my relatively-uncomplicated morning routine. In the morning, I wash in the shower, Glow Tonic, Vitamin C serum, and sunscreen. This fits in between Vitamin C and sunscreen, and it gives a nice refresh to my skin after I’ve let my vitamin C serum sit for a bit.

This is not an exciting product. It’s not scented at all, nor does it really make a huge difference in my overall skin. But I just feel like my skin looks a bit better when I use it versus when I don’t. And that was enough that I actually bought a new bottle of it in my last Hylamide order. So that’s my endorsement: got to try it for free, but shelled out to replace it. It’s not going to do any miracles, but it will hydrate your face. Make sure and put something over it, though, to keep the hydration in.

And that’s really all I have to say about it.

[image source]

The “Butter on My Bread, Cream in My Coffee” Diet

It’s the new year and once again people are talking about dieting. In particular, I’ve realized that I’ve let my health go a bit, and would like to remedy that before my wedding. That said, I have a long, tumultuous relationship with dieting.

I suppose it begins in childhood, when I was very sick and actually had trouble keeping weight on. My mother used to make me a milkshake every afternoon when I came home from school to help me gain some weight. I got to choose the flavor (I like chocolate best, and it’s how I discovered that I’m not a big fan of strawberry ice cream). But at the same time, I watched my mother struggle with her own weight.

When I was older, my natural perfectionism and detail-oriented nature, which would later be diagnosed as OCD, led me to try to help her in her efforts to lose weight. I poured over Weight Watchers cookbooks and made her recipes so she could have treats within the strictures of her diet. I even made a batch of cookies that I marked in 1/4″ intervals so she could slice and bake them herself and have cookies that were only 1 “point” each. Soon, I found myself hitting puberty and “filling out,” as it is so distastefully called. I realized that I was no longer “the skinny girl” necessarily. It was strange; I had spent my life reveling in how much I could eat without gaining weight, and insisting to myself that I wasn’t worried about dieting or my weight. But now, I was terrified of not being skinny anymore.

So I started to diet. I started to count calories and make up the same special restricted recipes for myself. I’ve since come to realize that part of it was about trying to maintain a sense of control over something in my life during a time when I felt like I was losing control. I had changed schools and had no friends in my new school, plus the changes of puberty can be a bit off-putting, to say the least.

I will skip over the middle, where I drift in and out of disordered eating for 20 years, and instead come to now. I’ve tried a lot of different diets and detoxes and elimination diets and things, and my number one lesson learned is that I cannot restrict what I eat. The healthiest thing for me is to allow myself my indulgences, but try to focus on eating the healthy stuff. So that means looking at it as adding a salad to my lunch instead of removing a fried chicken sandwich. I still have butter on my bread and cream in my coffee. And I try to move around and do things more often than not. I eat and do things that make me feel good. And that is now my “diet” philosophy.

And, yeah, I’m not skinny anymore. I’m on the low end of the size spectrum, and plenty of people still consider me thin, but in a group of women, I’m rarely “the skinny one.” And that’s okay. I have so much more to my identity by now that I don’t need to be identified by what I weigh or what I eat or what I do for exercise. Instead, I can identify with my love of fiber arts or theater or skin care. I can be “the one with the good skin” (maybe not this week, though), or “the theatrical one.” And that’s pretty good, I think.

In My Queue: The Crown

NB: There is one small spoiler at the end of this review, though it should come as no surprise, given the subject of this series.

There is nothing more we Americans like than a dramatized peek into the lives of royals. Never having had a royal family of our own or even a real aristocracy, there is something romantic about the idea of a hereditary class that persisted even into the 20th (and 21st) century, particularly when there are British accents involved. To this end, the new Netflix original series The Crown does not disappoint. The first season is a look into the ascension and early reign of Queen Elizabeth II, with a good mix of political plotting and salacious personal detail.

First of all, the series is written by Peter Morgan, who also wrote the screen play for the film The Queen, in which Helen Mirren played Elizabeth dealing with the public fallout from the death of Princess Diana. And this makes sense, as the series has a very similar feeling. In particular, the sense of pathos he is able to evoke is unparalleled, particularly surrounding older characters. In The Queen, his portrayal of the Queen Mother prompted me to call my grandmother; in The Crown, his portrayal of Winston Churchill prompted me to reevaluate my own feelings towards my (now-deceased) father and (dementia-stricken) grandfather. Morgan is particularly gifted at writing scenes that show the little indignities of age.

But the focal point of the show is the new queen herself, and her relationships, both political and personal. Of note is the relationship between her and her husband, Prince Phillip. This series really helped cement how much I dislike the characters I’ve seen Matt Smith play, which doesn’t sound like a recommendation, except that Phillip is just so deliciously sullen. Despite his wish to be the dominant head of a marriage to the actual Queen of England, he comes of as a spoiled brat, rather than an angry man. And I think this distinction makes it easier to accept him as a troubled consort, rather than a threat. In contrast, Claire Foy has a perfect mix of quiet poise and demure strength when going up against a government system that should be no stranger to a ruling queen, and yet seems to continually fall victim to the sexist zeitgeist while dealing with her. She is able to, for the most part, gently overcome her opposition, showing her fire only when necessary, and otherwise remaining the perfect lady of the times.

Two last notes: I was absolutely floored by John Lithgow’s performance as Churchill. Apart from the impressive physical transformation, I thought he brought gravitas and honesty to Morgan’s aforementioned deftly written scenes of a man coming to terms with the end of his own reign of sorts. And Jared Harris played King George VI with such sympathy that it was almost a shame the show did not start a season earlier. I found his George more believable than Colin Firth’s in The King’s Speech, because there is always something too self-possessed about Firth’s portrayal of awkward characters. Harris played the perfect tragic king, and seemed like he brought a vulnerability to the character of the unlikely monarch that I would have liked to see from his beginnings. It truly is a shame that he tends to die so early in his small-screen roles.

All in all, The Crown serves as another wonderful dramatization of British royalty, and is a welcome respite from the Tudor era, truth be told.