Thursday, June 28, 2012

Local Spotlight - Mud Pie Vegan Bakery

Mud Pie Vegan Bakery, located on 39th Street in Kansas City, Missouri, is a shop full of treats that everyone can enjoy. If you're gluten sensitive, then this is your new favorite sweets stop. Also, if you're a coffee connoisseur, a pastry hound, prefer to eat locally-derived foods or are a student looking for a comfy place to relax and catch up on studying, then this is also your new hangout.
As summarized on the shop's website, Mud Pie came to be when owners Sharon Hughes, Michael Valverde and Ashley Valverde realized that Kansas City needed a bakery where folks with dietary restrictions and allergy concerns would be able to snack and imbibe without worrying about their health.

I found Mud Pie as I was driving to Donna's Dress Shop, and I decided to pay a visit after doing a little bit of vintage shopping. Even Donna (of the Dress Shop) recommended that I try the pumpkin muffin at Mud Pie when I mentioned to her that I would paying the bakery a visit. The shop makes it home in a yellow house replete with a white picket fence and patio (with warmers should you choose to sip on some hot choc when it's cold).

The counter faces the entrance, so I was able to take stock of the whole inventory of goodies that was offered that day, from donuts to scones to muffins.

 One thing I noticed immediately - and loved - was how many options for each type of product were available. For instance, a chocolate chip muffin comes in a jumbo size with icing, a regular size with frosting, a tiny size with frosting and a regular size without that everyone is pleased.

When I told Andrew, the baristo, about Donna's recommendation, he said that the bakery will create some pastries for limited, seasonal offerings, but if they become uber-popular, then said pastries will be kept on the menu indefinitely, which is the case with the pumpkin muffin. Other items, he said, change daily.  When I asked Andrew about his favorite item on the menu, suddenly every customer in Mud Pie jumped in to give their suggestions. Andrew recommended the pumpkin-chocolate spice muffins while another guy - didn't catch his name - recommended the spice cake, but without the icing as he thought it was too rich. A guy that was waiting in line said that he liked the coffee chocolate chip muffin because the inside tasted like raw cookie dough and coffee (and I'm sold). Then there was a lighthearted free-for-all as everyone asserted why their preferred muffin/cake/cookie was, in fact, the best. It was great.

I ultimately decided on the coffee chocolate chip muffin, though I was tempted by the donuts as they were tiny and thus, adorable, and because they looked crispy, which is an intriguing concept. I've never had a crispy donut. Ah, next visit I'll grab one. The muffin was moist and fluffy, due in part to the lack of gluten, thus giving it that cookie dough texture. I am a fan.

The menu listed everything from scones to fruit bars to banana bread to cupcakes, muffins, biscottis and more. The drink menu was just as extensive, with teas, coffees and italian sodas making appearances (I was intrigued by The Hammerhead and The Dirty South drinks, but didn't get a chance to ask what was in them).

I bought a plain black coffee, but it wasn't just any cup of coffee. It was an amazing cup of coffee. Mud Pie serves coffee made by Oddly Correct, a small independent roaster that operate in midtown  Kansas City. The tagline, "Coffee to freak our your morning cup", is pretty fitting, as I found it to be very flavorful, but not overpowering. Oddly Correct, located on Main Street, sells Mud Pie's donuts in its small shop, so the two stores definitely help each other out and keep it local.

When I asked for creamer for my coffee, Andrew asked if I would like to have creamer, milk, rice milk, coconut milk or cashew milk. I was taken aback. Cashew milk? Haven't ever been offered that before. Apparently, the bakery makes its own cashew milk. Would I like to try it? asked Andrew. Yes, I freaking would. I replied. And it was great and nutty. There were even some tiny pieces of cashews left in the milk.

And the bakery would be a great place to catch up with friends or to catch up on some homework. To be honest, I've never been able to study at coffee shops. The constant stream of new people coming in and out, the smells of pastries, the awkward moment when the only chair left leaves you without a plug-in...all of these things make me opt out of coffeehouse studying. Mud Pie is different. Everything looks comfy, as though you were at home or at a friend's house.

Mud Pie Vegan Bakery = Love. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, June 25, 2012

At the Vanity - Comparing Perfekt, Laura Mercier and Charlotte Ronson Body Bronzers

The lowdown on daily self tanners from St. Tropez, Lorac and Pacifica came a few weeks ago. Now it's time for Perfekt, Charlotte Ronson and Laura Mercier to go head-to-head in a self tanner throwdown.

First up on the roster is the Perfekt Matte Body Perfection Gel. Unlike the regular Perfekt Body Perfection Gel, which is available in a three-color range designed to suit those with paler skin tones as well as the tan-hued ladies, the Matte version is sold in only one hue, a dark chocolate color. The matte version is formulated with Smart Color Technology, which the brand claims enables the color in the tube to mesh perfectly with the wearer's skin in order to bring out the most natural-looking color, thereby ensuring that nobody's faux tan looks...well, faux.

Second up is Laura Mercier Body Bronzing Makeup, which comes in a single shade and imparts a rosy-colored tan and shimmery gleam to the skin.

Third on the list is Charlotte Ronson's A Summer's Kiss Face and Body Glow which is a glimmering bronzer that uses Light Filter Technology, which claims to adjust in any lighting to give the most flattering glow to the skin.

Here are the swatches of each pictured on my arm. The first photo is taken in the shade and the second photo was taken in direct sunlight. Starting from the top is Perfekt, then Laura Mercier, then Charlotte Ronson.

As you can see, the Laura Mercier and Charlotte Ronson bronzers look exceedingly similar on the skin, as they both cast rosy, pinkish tans - replete with shimmer - to the skin. Perfekt is matte and darker in tone than the other two, and it reminded me of St. Tropez, as both brands contain green undertones to counteract Snooki-esque orange tints that appear in other tanners. The texture of Perfekt was fluffy and mousse-like, and little gobs of product sometimes spewed everywhere when I was trying to squeeze some from the bottle. The product looks a bit garish in the picture, but once I started to rub in what I had squeezed onto my arm, it blended pretty nicely and evenly into the skin. Sometimes I would see uneven, small, dark patches if I tried to blend product over too expansive an area of skin, but otherwise I had no issues. I couldn't detect a scent from Charlotte Ronson or Perfekt, but Laura Mercier gave off the most alluring coconut-beachy fragrance that practically sells the product by itself. As a girl that wears tanning oil just for the scent, I am hooked. And reviews from others that have purchased Laura Mercier Body Bronzing Makeup have all echoed the same sentiment.

Overall, Perfekt gives the most natural color, as it blends in easily and lacks the tell-tale shimmer that indicates a faux-tan. However, the $48 price tag may rebuff some potential customers.

Charlotte Ronson is similar to the color and texture of Laura Mercier, but is $18 for a 3 oz. bottle whereas Laura Mercier is $38 for a 5 oz. bottle. But, Laura Mercier's extremely enticing coconut scent gives her product an extra oomph that the others can't compete with.

Final say: It just depends on what you're looking for. Need something cheap? Go with Charlotte Ronson. Want something to look natural and that is easy to use? Go for Perfekt. Want something to double as a perfume and to last for a long time? Choose Laura Mercier.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Resort 2013 - The best of the shoes

Now that we've all oohed and aahed over the magnificent outfits of  Resort 2013, it's time to take a closer peek at the individual working parts that added to the overall appeal of each look.

Said individual working parts of those rocking outfits that are on the roster today: shoes.
From seafoam green mules to leather, mid-calf, duochromatic (<-- not a real word, but roll with me) booties replete with a line of stacked bows running from top to toe tip, there are quite a few beauties in this roundup.
(all photos via

 Alberta Ferretti
(I love how the ankle strap is thick around the front of the foot and then thins out above the heel.)

Bottega Veneta
(This is sexy footwear. Classy for sure, but with an edge.)

(There is leather. There are bows. There is lilac AND creamsicle. There is a heel. The only thing that's missing is the kitchen sink. And I rather like this look without the kitchen sink.)

 Jenni Kayne
(Normally, I greatly dislike heels without backs - mules, if you will - but these shoes I would solely wear throughout the summer if I had them in my possession. What a color! Seriously though, isn't the word 'mules' such an  unfortunate name for such vibrant footwear?)

Jonathan Saunders
(Nothing is overt on this shoe, and I like that. The blue soles of the heels on the left are just barely visible, as is the nude lower portion of the t-strap, giving the illusion of bare skin.)

Marc by Marc Jacobs
(Bronze elevated loafers. These remind me of something that Louis XIV, aka The Sun King, would wear were he still kicking it today. Photo below for reference.)

(Gilt-edged and delicate, peep-toed and ankle-strapped. My kind of shoe.)

 Oscar de la Renta 
(Heels that look slightly akin to armor. If ever an army needed to look glamorous, I'm sure Mr. de la Renta would be the ideal couturier.)

Ports 1961
(Every lady needs a pair of nude heels in her wardrobe. These right here are the ideal pair. Unobtrusive, and with a flattering curve to the arch, these puppies get an A+.)

Richard Nicoll
(Minimalism at its finest. The lack of fabric groping the sides of the feet gives the illusion there is simply a heel and two straps.)

L'Wren Scott

(Utterly charming. Each pair of shoes from this show matched the fabric of the dress that they were styled with. These remind me of can-can dancer heels. I would wear 'em in a hot minute.)

Yigal Azrouel
(Ankle straps are the accessory of the season. In this case, with delicate straps reinforced by a sheath of a heel.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In this Issue No. 15 - Argan Oil

The American people have a tendency to get bored easily with the tried-and-true, and as such, we are always eagerly scanning the horizon for the next big thing. With the advent of the era of technology, we are all privy to information that is available at our fingertips 24/7. For instance, if I am having trouble  falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning, then I am probably going to scroll through Twitter, check Instagram or browse through the, Huffington Post, Bleacher Report or WSJ apps on my phone to find out new happenings...wherever in the world they're happening. We are impatient for newness, seeking out the latest information as often as possible. We each like to be in-the-know before others,  and we pride ourselves on being curators of the cool and ambassadors of what's au courant. Then add in social media - which has made it all too easy for anyone and everyone to share individual photos, thoughts and preferences with a multitude of eager listeners - and things are becoming new, then old, at breakneck speeds. Therefore, the thrill of finding new products and ideas isn't going to wane anytime soon. It's a game, and it's fun to play. A rat race of sorts. And companies are hearing this message loud and clear, making sure to reinvent themselves and to consistently update their consumer offerings on the regular.

With the green movement came an surge of consumer interest in items created from mostly natural substances that work just as well as synthetically-developed products. Brands such as Ojon, Alterna, Aveda, Ren, Origins, Lush Cosmetics, Boscia, Weleda and more are formualated without many potentially harmful chemicals and ingredients such as sulfates, preservatives, synthetic dyes and parabens that are found in other non-organic fomulas. This lack of potentially dangerous ingredients has created a stalwart legion of devoted fans to some of these brands.

The hot beauty item that captured the public's attention a few years ago and that is still going strong is argan oil. Argan oil is harvested from a tree that is native to Morocco and that has moisturizing properties found to be helpful for skin and hair, though the oil can be used in food products as well.

The first time I'd heard of argan oil was when the line Moroccanoil came out to much acclaim. The brand touted a new, superingredient called argan oil which claimed to counteract ailments that exacerbated limp, lackluster hair. When Moroccanoil first emerged on the market, there were only a few products offered in its line - shampoo, conditioner, and the regular Moroccanoil treatment, which claimed to soothe hair, protect hair from heat styling and the elements and add shine and moisture. I became a fan after being recommended the shampoo and conditioner from a stylist and actually feeling the silky difference in my hair after a shower. Being a noted beauty skeptic, this was a big deal for me as the product did all that it claimed it would. Then a friend of mine who is known for her bouncy, looks-like-she-spent-hours-hot rolling-her-hair-but-really-its-natural curls told me to try the Moroccanoil treatment, saying I would love it.
Buuuut...I was hesitant. My hair, though curly, errs on the side of indecisive curl-waves, not sure if it wants to be curly or wavy, but instead falling somewhere in between. Nevertheless, I tried the product and was pretty happy with the results, as was my hair. Shiny? Check. Buoyant? Yep. Moisturized?
It certainly felt like it.
Yeah, I was pleased.
The brand has since extended its offerings, now including two different types of shampoos, a light version of its treatment, frizz control and scalp treatments serums, hairsprays, curl creams and more.

Recently however, more brands have jumped on the argan oil bandwagon. Redken released its version, called All Soft Argan-6 Oil, which promises to use the heady liquid to moisturize and revitalize hair. Whole Living magazine reported that Josie Maran devoted her natural skincare and cosmetics line to the argan oil when, on a modeling trip, she asked a beautiful, glowing older French woman what her secret was to looking so beautiful and vibrant, to which the lady responded that she used argan oil on her skin every single day. Supposedly, argan oil is lightweight and won't clog pores - unlike mineral oils - and helps to regulate sebum production for those with oily skin. Maran has expanded her line from just pure argan oil to include argan oil-infused moisturizers, argan hair care, bronzing argan oil and an entire  range of cosmetics from blush to eyeshadow to foundation.

Marie Claire's May issue featured a bottle of Josie Maran's argan oil (right side, midway down) which got me to thinking more about the substance as well as the products I'd purchased that included it in the ol' list of ingredients.


I have both the Redken Argan-6 Oil as well as the Josie Maran argan oil, and compared to one another, they don't have severe differences.

(My stash)

The differences:
I like the smell of Redken's product better because it has a coconut-banana-beachy scent reminiscent of tanning oil, whereas the Josie Maran oil doesn't have a discernible smell to it at all. Also, Redken gave my hair a more lustrous sheen than did Josie Maran's argan. However, I like the dropper bottle from Josie Maran, as it gives me some measure of control over how much product I actually want. Another plus for the latter is the fact that it can be used on hair, face,'s multifunctional.

All in all, these products seem like good investments for people looking to add a naturally-based boost to their skincare or haircare regimen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

YouTube Makeup Tutorial Users to Follow

 Me as Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter

And as The Joker

As Gaga

And as a skeleton

Halloween is my favorite, favorite, favorite holiday. I love being able to do a 180 degree transformation and go a bit off-kilter for the night (or the week, as I tend to celebrate the holiday for a couple of days). All of these looks utilize some fun makeup techniques, and a lot of assistance with costume looks can be found via YouTube tutorials.

Costumey looks aside, how many times have you seen a picture in a magazine of a celebrity or model sporting a makeup look, with an article on the side that claims to guide you in recreating said look on yourself? Very seldom are these "helpful guides" helpful at all. I love seeing pictures of celebrities at awards shows, but the how-to of their makeup is always shaky. Sometimes the actual makeup artist that worked with the celebrity will share her "secrets" and give the breakdown of how the look was achieved. Unfortunately, this breakdown usually consists of the artist telling about what inspires her or him (for example, "Imperfections inspire me because true beauty isn't perfect") what products she used and why (for example, "I love this red lipstick by (insert brand here) because of its staying power!) as opposed to giving a thorough play-by-play of how to apply each item, including hints and tips for application that non-makeup artists could use.

These magazine excerpts can be inspirational, but not very informational. How many of us have run out to buy an item that was mentioned in an article only to realize that we have no idea of how to apply it - with what brush, how heavily, at a certain angle, patting or blotting, etc. The day that I see an article where a makeup artist gives step-by-step instructions complete with accompanying photos showing each step in the process, then I will be a happy camper.

There are, however, great alternatives to staid textbook-esque instructions, and they come in the form of YouTube tutorials. Simply type the name of certain makeup trend that you'd like to learn about (for example, 'apply false lashes') - followed by the word 'tutorial' - and you'll get dozens of videos uploaded by regular guys and gals who go into detail about how to create that look using specific products. Some of these Youtube makeup masters have become uber-popular thanks to their videos, such as Michelle Phan who was tapped by Lancome to become the brand's official video makeup artist and Lauren Luke, who recently had her own book on makeup tips published and who has released a line of makeup called 'By Lauren Luke' that has been sold at Sephora and through other online vendors. 

I have found these tutorials to be extremely helpful for a few reasons:
  1. You can actually watch each step of a makeup application be carried out from start to finish. Each step is thoroughly explained. This is much more helpful than a smattering of pictures that can't be explained by a paragraph of text. (Seriously, how many times have you read the term, "Simply swipe the (insert product) across the lips/eyes/cheek for your look!"? No, if it were that easy to "swipe" something across the face and have it look amazing in a hot second,  then we'd all look like supermodels.
  2. Many of these makeup gurus will explain why they are using a product or technique and will describe which type of person will benefit from the tutorial. For instance, if someone is wanting to try a Clarins cleanser that will be more beneficial for those with dry skin, the user will say so. 
  3. Most of the time these videos are uploaded by those that aren't endorsed by a company, and as such, give their true opinions on products and don't pimp out a certain brand. If there is a certain item that I've been considering buying, but want to see other consumers' opinions on it first, I'll hop onto YouTube and search for that product's reviews.
The list of great YouTube makeup artists:

1. Pixiwoo - This channel is manned by two British sisters who upload videos on the regular. These ladies - Nic and Sam -  do everything from giving reviews on products, to makeup tutorials based off of celebrity looks, makeup tutorials based off of looks seen in certain brand campaigns or in movies, tutorials for costume makeup (my favorite), makeup tutorials on how to deal with certain skin issues, etc. These ladies have lovely accents and are hilarious without meaning to be, as they pepper each video with deadpan comments that make them that much more endearing.

My favorite videos:

 *Frank-N-Furter Rocky Horror Picture Show by Sam

*Raquel Welch Feline Makeup by Nic (Of course I would love something 60s-centric)

Should you want to quickly see reviews and not watch videos, though, the duo do have a consistently updated website as well.

2. Wayne Goss - A Wales-based makeup artist that, like the Pixiwoo sisters, is funny without intending to be, and is incredibly informative. He doesn't pull any punches, though, as he makes videos that state which products are worthless and which products are worth their weight in gold. He is great about giving personalized reviews; for instance, he will say which techniques/products/looks are good for certain types of people/skin tones/skin types, etc. He always states his preferences and WHY he believes such, but he asserts that everyone is different and that there is no tried-and-true way to do anything. Overall, I respect and follow his opinions.

My favorite videos:

*Adele Grammy's 2012 (It's a funny one, too)

*Kim Kardashian's Magic Line (Kim is contoured to death, apparently)

3. Promise Phan - Sister-in-Law to Lancome's official video makeup artist Michelle Phan, Promise transforms herself into various celebrities and characters using shades and contouring, and the likenesses are incredible! She is very to-the-point in all of her tutorials, and uses off-screen narratives to guide the viewer so that one can watch without seeing any pauses. She has transformed herself into the Mona Lisa, Princess Peach, Angelina Jolie, and more. I even followed one of her Lady Gaga tutorials and thought the ensuing result was pretty great (especially when I successfully scared a friend with the look).

*Lady Gaga photoshoot makeup (and following are my own attempts at the look)

 I have fun. 

*Michael Jackson (I really wanted to try this look on a friend for Halloween, but she opted not to be Michael at the last moment)

*Johnny Depp