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Adventures in Bridesmaiding

5 Oct

A few years ago, my dear friend Lindsay moved to India.  She’d traveled there before, fallen in love with an Indian man, and decided to just freaking go for it.  I was really, really sad when she left–but had to tip my hat to her.  I mean, talk about balls.  They planned to return to the US to marry, but various bureaucratic BS kept that happening.  Last year, she and Sanjay married in India.  I devoured the photos on Facebook.  I was sad not to be there, but thrilled to see how effing happy she looked.

But it all worked out in the end, because in September Lindsay brought Sanjay to the good ole US of A to meet her family and friends and get themselves hitched in their US wedding.  It was LITERALLY the event we’d all been waiting for.  We’d waited TWO WHOLE YEARS to celebrate this pair in the US. And folks, it did not disappoint!

Lindsay and Sanjay wed at OMSI in a beautiful ceremony that blended Hindu and American traditions.  And I was honored to serve as one of her bridesmaids.

And this was not just a one-day affair.  Oh no, it was a THREE DAY LOVEFEST of JOY.  Here’s how it went down.

Day 1: Henna Party/Bachelor Party

Thursday night the gentlemen vacated the house for the bachelor party (which included the youngest male member of the wedding party, the ring bearer, who got to have as much root beer as he wanted that night), and Linds brought in a henna artist.  Melanie did BEAUTIFUL bridal henna for Lindsay, with fun designs for the rest of the ladies as well.  Oh, and there was food.  There was a lot of food, all three days.

Day 2: Rehearsal/Rehearsal dinner

Friday was the rehearsal, at OMSI.  We met the officiant and went through the whole shebang.  When that was done, we went back to home base for food.  AND CAKE!  The bride’s niece turned 11 that day, and we took a wedding break to celebrate her.  She had gifts, and her mom (bride’s sister) made an amazing cake.  Best part?  The niece wore a tee shirt that said “she may be the bride, but I’m the birthday girl.”

Day 3, Part 1:  WEDDING DAY/Getting ready

The next day, I was up at the crack of freaking dawn (ok, it was 7:30) to get my hair blown out and flat-ironed.  Folks, I’m a loud and proud curly girl, and it has been ALMOST 4 YEARS since my hair has seen a straightening iron.  But I decided it would be a fun look to do for the wedding.  My pal/stylist Jamie did a KILLER job and I had a great time as my straight-haired evil doppelganger.



Then it was time for a quick lunch before heading to the hotel to get ready with the rest of the bridal party and the bride!

Linds has brought all of us beautiful, jewel toned saris and jewelry to wear for the wedding.  Here’s the thing–putting on a sari is a tricky thing if you’re not used to it.  I tried to teach myself via YouTube video, but quickly gave that up.  So before we could dress her, she had to dress all of us.

After we were all set, we got to business and got the bride ready. She looked amazing in a Western white wedding dress paired with jewelry she brought with her from India.  And then we were off to OMSI to get this wedding stuff DONE.


Finally, it was time.  The ceremony was a beautiful fusion of elements from her culture and elements from his.  The couple exchanged vows and kissed at the end, but also incorporated the saptapadi (7 step ritual) as the bridesmaids and groomsmen threw flowers.  The bridesmaids tried to get the flower petals down Lindsay’s top, because we are classy.  After the ceremony, we posed for photos before going inside and partying down.  It was glorious.  There was a ton of dancing, with a special performance by the bride herself.  It should be mentioned that the bride had THREE costumes, because  after waiting 2 years for her stateside wedding, a girl should get to be a little Beyonce.  Oh, and there was more food.  And cake.  And Ashley (maid of honor) made her famous red velvet whoopie pies.

The Aftermath

I got to see Linds and Sanjay one more time before they returned to India.

I’m a little broken hearted, but it’s bittersweet.  They’re so, so happy–which makes me so, so happy.  And I earned a year’s worth of killer memories in those 3 short days.  It was just really effing special.

So congrats, Lindsay and Sanjay.  You are loved, on both sides of the world.

Hardcore Hair

26 Jun

My secret dream is to be a rock star.

But, alas, I can’t be a rock star.  I can’t play any instruments and I sing like a Disney Princess.  Maybe I could at least look like a rockstar?  But no, I’m a socially awkward, bookish theatre dork with doe eyes, Orphan Annie hair and fat cheeks.  Yesterday, I wore a re-purposed square dancing dress.  A SQUARE DANCING DRESS.  I am many things.  But Courtney Love I am not.  And I suppose that’s a good thing.

But if I can’t be a rock star or look like  a rock star, I can at least feel like a rock star.

Because this bitch can rock a fauxhawk.

I went on the hunt for fauxhawk youtube tutorials last winter.  They all featured beautiful, eyelinered, tattooed rocker-style babes teasing and spraying their hair into gorgeous fauxhawks.  But damn it all, it just seemed so hard.  My hair is loooong, and heavy, and hairspray is the devil and teasing my curls makes angels cry.  I had almost given up, when I found this video.

She says it’s quick and easy, and she’s right.  The three-pony-wrap-add-pins-smooth-sides scheme worked like a DREAM on my hair.  And if your hair naturally has some texture to it, as mine does, you can skip the curling and teasing she does in the video.  Just wrap and let your hair be its natural crazy self.

It’s Badass Lite, for those of us who are just too chicken too be badass all the time.

pony hawk


Silky Smooth and Sugary Sweet

19 Jun

Summer is just around the corner (it’s gonna stop raining soon, right?), which means it’s time for some kitchen witchy beauty brewing shit.

And in this season of bikinis, shorts, and sundresses, our skin is front and center.  And this summer, mine is oh-so smooth.  Because I have a secret recipe, and the main ingredients are in my pantry.  I’m talking about homemade sugar scrubs.

The basic ingredients are as follows:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


That’s it, kids.

My skin has always been on the dry side.  I should probably drink more water, but whatever. My skin is clear (thanks, good genes!) but a touch on the rough side.  But Oh, it is rough no more.  Daily use of my homemade sugar scrub has given me the silky, dewy skin of a baby’s behind–minus the diaper rash.

It’s easy to make.  Take a container of your choice and mix your EVOO with white or brown sugar.  I’m not gonna get into “measurements” or “parts,” because that’s way too scientific for me.  Mix the two together until it’s a consistency that you like.  Just make sure you have enough oil so it’s exfoliating but  not too abrasive.

If you’re fancy pants, you can experiment with adding a few drops of the essential oil of your choice for fragrance.  My latest batch includes a few drops of lemon oil, and it’s heaven on earth.  You can also add a touch of aloe vera gel if you want an extra healing touch.

I made a thing!

I made a thing!

Shower as normal.  As your last step before you get out, rub your delicious sugar scrub all over your body from head to toe.  Now, if you have oily skin and are prone to breakouts, you might want to limit your use to rough spots like elbows, knees and feet.  But if you’re on the dry side like I am, just go freaking crazy.  I even use it on my face.  I gently rub it it, and rinse off.  A quick pat dry, and I seal the moisture in with lotion.

It’s so simple.  It’s so beautiful.

My whole body is so soft and smooth, I can’t WAIT to show it off in one of my gazillion sundresses.

As soon as it stops raining.

Braids! Braids! Braids! (plus a mini-review of CATCHING FIRE)

11 Dec

I love The Hunger Games.  I first read the books in 2010–and I read all three in less than a week.  And then couldn’t read anything else for another week, because the books (especially Mockingjay) are so brutal that I couldn’t get them out of my head.  And now there are MOVIES!  Unlike much of the Internet, I really enjoyed the first film, last year’s The Hunger Games.  But Catching Fire?  Holy dark days Batman, I LOVED it.  It’s my favorite novel out of the three, and I think the book is better than the movie–primarily because of the phenomenal Jennifer Lawrence, who makes Katniss a beautifully complex, deep, and flawed character.  And I’m not ashamed to admit that I have already seen the film twice, re-watched the first one, and then re-read all three books…within the last three weeks.

My only real beef with the first film were the scenes in the Capitol.  In my imagination, the clothes, hair and makeup were outlandish and exuberant beyond belief–but in a very couture, avant-garde kind of way.  The Capitol clothes in the first film were tacky and uninspired, for the most part.  A few of Effie’s dresses were delightful but just about everything fell flat.  NOT TRUE in Catching Fire.  The clothes, makeup and hair were everything I dreamed of and more.  In fact, one of the reasons I saw the film a second time was so I had more time to oogle the delicious clothes.

That's what I'm talking about.  Costumes designed by Trish Summerville.

That’s what I’m talking about. Costumes designed by Trish Summerville.

*mini spoiler alert ahead*

But once Katniss enters the arena, it’s buh-bye glam gowns and Cleopatra eye makeup and hello jumpsuits and the Katniss braid.  But how adorable is the Katniss braid?  I love it.  And one of the perks of having long hair (and I’m so close to mermaid hair!) is the fun stuff you can do with it.  The Katniss braid is simple and easy and a great way to deal with bad hair days.  From what I can tell, she does a simple diagonal Dutch braid.  I do a modified version–two Dutch braids, one on either side of my head, that I then braid together over my shoulder.  Easy peasy.

Here would be a great time for a photo, but I forgot to take one before undoing my hair last night.  Sorry.  So here’s the lady herself.

Katniss Braid 1

But the Katniss braid is only a gateway drug, because I’ve gone braid crazy.  Braids are an easy way to give yourself a little something new.  Last week I did a simple half-up, half-down braided headband (again, no photo–sorry!) and today I did another easy Dutch braid half-up, half-down ‘do that makes me feel like an elf princess.  Here I am, looking like a character out of Lord of the Rings:

It's a sELFie.  Get it?

It’s a sELFie. Get it?

And a close up:

Fairy braid close up

Then I went on a youtube tutorial binge, and found some amazing ideas for braids and braided updos.  I haven’t tried them all yet, but I was so excited I couldn’t wait to share.  Unfortunately for the short-haired among you, most of these are for long hair.  But I threw a little something for you in at the end.  Anyway, here are my favorites.

Here’s a super glam take on milkmaid braids.

Here’s an amazing braided-and-knotted boho style that I CAN’T WAIT to try.

And here’s am amazing stacked braid that looks super complicated but is actually quite easy.

Since I spent a huge part of this post blathering on about Katniss braids, here’s a tutorial of one of those!

Finally, for y’all with short hair, here’s a braided updo for you to try.

Just a reminder–be gentle when you braid.  You don’t want your braid to be so tight it pulls on your scalp (loose braids are hotter, anyway!).  You also don’t wan to yank your hair as you braid it.  Be kind to your hair so it will live to be braided another day.

For your next holiday party, work event or visit to District 12, try out a braid!

Caring for Hair (to get it down to There).

9 Oct

Following up on my last post, I’d like to share my haircare routine with y’all.  I wish I could say that this is the PERFECTEST HAIRCARE ROUTINE OF ALL TIME, that will solve all your hair woes forever.  But, alas, there is no magic bullet, no perfect product, no single solution that works for all hair.  There are as many haircare routines as there are heads of hair and more.  Each scalp and each head of hair is different, and it takes experimentation to figure out what’s right for you. Sorry.

But on the bright side, we’re all very special snowflakes!


I only wash my hair about every three weeks.  When I do, I use Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo.  It contains no sulfates or silicones, and it’s safe for color treated hair.  I vigorously massage my scalp but not the length of my hair.  Shea Moisture products are available at Sally’s, Target, and many (but not all, strangely), Walgreens locations.

In between washings, I use a cheap conditioner (V05 or some lines of Suave that have no sulfates or silicones) to massage my scalp vigorously.  This is called “co-washing”–using conditioner to wash the scalp.  This is great for people with hair that’s on the dry side.  If you tend more towards having greasy hair, you might need to wash more frequently.


Every time I wet my hair, I use Sally’s Generic Conditioning Balm (generic for Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm) from Sally’s Beauty.  I work it into wet hair and leave it in.  And I am NOT STINGY.  This product is quite thick and heavy.  If you have dry hair like me, your hair will eat it up and love it.  If your hair is fine, you might like this product as a once-a-week deep treatment, but not as a leave-in.  If you have superfine hair or hair that tends to run flat or greasy, try a lighter conditioner.

Every week or two, I do some kind of treatment on my hair.  I sometimes use the Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque , sometimes I use coconut oil or some other homemade concoction.


When I get out of the shower, I “plop” (plopping is a particular way of wrapping hair to promote curl and enhance curl pattern) using cheap cotton cloths I bought in bulk at Target. There are a gazillion awesome plopping tutorials on youtube.

After that, I use my miracle product on my wet-but-not-dripping hair: Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie.  I get a decent amount in my  hands and work it through tip-to-root.  If it’s a lazy day, this is the only product I use.

For more control, I use Shea Moisture Curling Gel Souffle gel.  I use the TINIEST BIT IMAGINABLE (the gel is really liquidy, so I pretty much dip my fingertips in the jar and call it good).   I cannot stress enough that a little goes a long way with this stuff.  A single jar lasted me almost two years.  This product is also quite heavy and is definitely not for everyone–some of the online reviews are pretty scathing.  But it works for me.

After that, I GENTLY blow dry the roots of my hair using a diffuser and a medium setting.  My hair is long and heavy, so I like to blow dry the top to prevent flat-head.  Only in time emergencies do I blow-dry my hair until it is dry.

My arsenal.

My arsenal.


Finding the perfect second day (or third day) hair routine is like the grail for curlies.  Drying our hair can take forever and be a giant pain in the ass–but sleep can really muss up curls.  Having rockin’ second day hair actually begins the night before.  Lots of sites recommend sleeping on satin pillowcases.  I have yet to buy a satin pillowcase, because I’d rather buy dresses.  Maybe someday.  ANYWAY, I prep my hair by doing a “pineapple.”  Bend upside down and gently tie your hair into a loose ponytail or bun on the tip-top of your head with a scrunchie (yay 90s!).  It must be a scrunchie and not a rubber band–you want it to be as smooth and loose as possible.  The next morning, I wet my hair gently with homemade lavender spray and scrunch in a little tiny bit of Curl Enhancing Smoothie and it bounces right back.

It sounds complicated to explain, and it was complicated during the 8 or so months I was experimenting and trying it all out.  Now it’s the easiest thing in the world.  So go forth and EXPERIMENT!

All pineappled and ready for bed.

All pineappled and ready for bed.

Getting your Hair down to There.

7 Oct

My hair is getting super long and I’m super excited about it.  I’m thisclose from straight-up mermaid hair (hair that covers the boobs).  And I love it.  I love it love it love it.

Long hair is not for everyone, and with good reason.  It can be a giant pain in the ass.  I have to sleep with it wrapped up in a bun on the top of my head or my bedfellow will roll on it.  I have to be really careful when shutting car doors or rolling up car windows–if it’s windy at all, my hair gets caught.  I have to arrange my hair before throwing a purse over my shoulder or else the strap yanks my hair and it hurts.

But it’s worth all the trouble, because it’s super pretty and I love it.  I have a thousand options for updos and half-up-half-down looks and braids and buns and it’s awesome.  I like how it feels down my back.  And because it’s curly (by nature) and red (by careful design), I can pretend to be Merida from Brave.  And when I have a bad hair day, I can throw it up in an easy-but-looks-hard chignon rather than do styling battle with a short, styled cut.  What can I say, it’s the choice for me.

Dream hair.

Dream hair.

If long hair is what you desire, here are some tips for how to achieve it.

1.  First off, are you sure? Is long hair really for you?  Is long hair going to make you look the best you can possibly look?  In my opinion, long hair works best when it’s really thick and with some degree of body, wave or curl.  Those with naturally super-straight or fine hair might find that a shorter, styled do is best for them.  I adore super-blunt A-line bobs, for instance.  But my crazy hair can’t work one of those styles unless I’m willing to straighten it every day (which I’m not), and even then a rainy day is enough to ruin all my efforts.  But if you have naturally straight hair, you can rock a bob like I never could.  Consider whether long hair is really what’s best for your hair.

But if it is…

2.  Prepare yourself.  You might need to chop it all off.  If you have damaged hair from unkind coloring and heat straightening, there may be no way to undo the damage except get rid of it.  When I stopped straightening my hair in Spring 2011, it was loooong.  It was also damaged from 8 years of constant straightening.  I tried to nurse it back to health, but in December it became clear that the dead ends were going to stay dead.  As much as I was loathe to, I chopped it off to just above my shoulders.  BUT HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: because it was so healthy and because I took radically good care of it from then on, it grew back like gangbusters.  It’s prettier, healthier, and it grows like crazy.  And because it’s in such good shape now, I only have to trim it once or twice A YEAR.

3.  You’re gonna want to rock your natural texture as much as possible.  Heat styling is murder on your hair.  If you really wanna grow it as long as it can grow, you need to haul way back on the heat styling–or get rid of it completely.  I haven’t straightened my hair in over two years.  So start experimenting how to make your hair look amazing using it’s natural texture, or with styling tricks that require no heat tools (pin curls, for example).

4.  Take radically good care of it.  Increase your awareness of how you treat your hair on the day-to-day.  Do you wrench a brush through it when it’s tangled?  Does your purse strap constantly pull on the hair on your shoulder?  Do you force your fingers through it when it’s damp and still brittle? Do you tug out elastics and find little hairs wrapped around them?  Do you constantly pull it back into tight ponytails or braids?  Become aware of the ways you harm your hair and start brainstorming ways to fix it.

5.  Watch your products.  So.  Sulfates, which are found in most shampoos, are awful and really drying to your hair.  I really recommend dropping them.  Silicones are found in TONS of conditioners and in almost all “smoothing” products.   They are really awful for some people (me included), although I know some people who have no problem with them.  My trouble with silicones for is that they coat my hair to temporarily make it sleeker and smoother, but after a time they build-up and make my hair either greasy or frizzy.  The only way to get out the build-up is to use a sulfate shampoo, which just wrecks my  hair.  My solution is to go sulfate and silicone free.  I also try to avoid parabens and alcohol whenever I can.  I have my routine pretty  much down by now, but it took some serious experimentation (and time and money) to find the products that were best for me.  But I had FUN experimenting with different things.  Find your online resources (more on that in a mo) and experiment with making your own hair treatments.

6.  Masques and coconut oil treatments are your friends.  Hair treatments are my saving grace.  Every week or two, I take a half hour to do some sweet goodness for my hair.  Coconut oil treatments are essential for me in the winter.  Again, if your hair tends to be oily, use coconut oil VERY sparingly (only on the ends).

7.  Take care of yourself.  Healthy hair comes from a healthy you.  Eat right, drink lots of water, take your vitamins and blah blah blah–I’m sure you’ve heard all this before.

8.  The terminal length thing.  I found an awesome post about terminal length.  Give it a read.

It just grows and grows.

It just grows and grows.


For more information:

Hunt down Lorraine Massey’s book The Curly Girl Handbook.  Even for non-curlies, it contains a lot of info about caring for hair.

Same thing with  The articles are only so-so, but the user forum CurlTalk is super helpful–and there are forums specifically for people growing their hair out.

YouTube is awesome.  Do searches for “plopping” “caring for long hair” and whatever else you can come up with for great tutorials.

I can be Kate.

22 Jul

Grumble.  I woke up this morning to news that Kate Middleton is in labor.  Despite the unfortunate timing of the title of this post, this essay is not about Princesses, Commoners-Turned-Princesses, Royal Babies or babies of any kind.  Although, duh, I totally wish her a safe and easy labor and I’m totally psyched about it.  I now return to your regularly scheduled programming.–Sarahphina

When I was home for the summer after my freshman year of college, I joined a gym.  Because, duh, I was horrible and fat and disgusting and I had two months to “fix” myself before going back to school.  Anyway.  There was a woman who worked at the gym.  I can’t remember her name, but I remember her.  I’ll call her Kate, due to her UNCANNY resemblance to Kate Winslet.

Kate Winslet.

Kate Winslet.

Kate worked the front desk, taught kickboxing and Tae Bo (remember Tae Bo??!!), and subbed for other classes.  I’ve seen a lot of beautiful women in my time.  A lot of women who made me think, “God, I would give anything to look like that.” There have been so many of them that my brain would explode if I tried to remember them all.

But I remember Kate.

I remember her because she was the first woman I found beautiful who wasn’t skinny.

She was fit as shit (I mean, her JOB was to work people out), but she wasn’t thin.  She was tall and big-boned, and her butt was big and her tummy wasn’t flat.  At 18, I was struck dumb by her.  I surreptitiously stared at her all.the.time.  I even took some of her regular classes, which is saying something because I fucking hate kickboxing.  Not only was I mesmerized by her, but I was mesmerized by my own attraction to her.  How could she be beautiful when she wasn’t thin?  How was that even possible?  I was obsessed with being thin, and my life was a binge-and-diet cycle of self-loathing hell.  Kate was stunning and seemed happy and relaxed and–could it be?–comfortable in her non-skinny body.  And she was a babe.  I didn’t understand it, but I couldn’t deny it.

Kate started something, although it didn’t hit me for years.  I found her so beautiful, even though the diet industry/our culture at large didn’t want me to.  I started looking at all non-skinny women–from slightly fleshy women to very fat women–and considered whether they could be beautiful.  And yes, they could be.  This amazed me.  Just walking down the street became a revelation.  I felt like I was seeing people for the first time.

I hadn’t thought about Kate in years.  I mean, duh, I totally forgot her name.  But a few days ago in rehearsal, something happened that pulled my brain back to that summer.  I was casually chatting with a cast member to whom I’d not spoken before.  About shoes.  And she said to me, “I just have to tell you, I look at you all the time.  I find you unbelievably beautiful.  You look like you come from a different century.”

Record scratch–what?

Because here’s the thing.  I think I’m very beautiful.  I know it’s all “not cool” and whatever to say so, but I do.  Sue me.  But I’m always surprised whenever anyone else thinks so.  I’m very aware of all the ways I don’t fit into what society has decreed “beautiful” to be–I’m too pale, my face is too round, my hair is too wild.  And, of course,  I’m not thin. And while I can–and do–find tons of women who don’t fit into the Pretty Package to be gorgeous, I don’t ever think anyone would think it of me.  I always assume that people are attracted to me in spite of my looks, not because of them.  That because I’m smart and clever and wear interesting clothes it outweighs (pun intended and achieved) my not-skinniness.

Society and its bullshit beauty standards have done a real injustice to us all.  By insisting that beauty can only fall within certain parameters, we deny the complexity that governs the laws of attraction.  I would really love it–would really, really love it–if TV and magazines and movies and everything else would start to reflect beauty and attraction the way it exists in the real world–diverse.  Lots of colors, lots of shapes, lots of sizes.  Can’t we do that for ourselves?  Art and pop culture are supposed to reflect who we are.  Why can’t pop culture reflect what we look like?  Why can’t art reflect what we’re really attracted to, which is, really, everything?  Why must fashion and beauty be aspirational when we’re so much more interesting just the way we are?

So, thanks, Kate.  Wherever you are.  For opening my eyes, even though it took some years for me to realize what I’d seen.

Another day, same me.

Another day, same me.