Her beauty essentials, part 2

Featuring my sister Branda


I’m guessing my sister took this selfie after putting the kids to bed. Nice fuzzy robe!

So a week or so ago, Bran divulged her skin care faves in Part 1. I finally got her to share her make-up essentials, below…


Being a make-up artist, Bran tends toward brands like MAC, Urban Decay, Stila, Tarte and Clinique. But for her foundation, she has long sworn by Revlon ColorStay in Sand Beige.  She applies it with a damp beauty sponge.


And L’Oreal Magic Skin Beautifier BB cream in Light – for minimal coverage days.


Branda’s eyes always look fantastic – her eye makeup always striking. When it comes to eye primer, Branda is for it — and I think that’s her secret. Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Eden is her pick.


I’ve found that make-up artists are like beauty chemists – they like to mix different stuff together. For powder, Branda mixes Clinique Loose Powder in Transparency Neutral with Transparency 3.


She also likes MAC Skinfinish in Light Plus.


For under-eye concealer, she uses Clinique Airbrush in Neutral Fair. Hey, I use this too! She says it’s similar to Yves Saint Laurent’s cult favorite Touché Eclat, but for a fraction of the cost.


For concealing other areas, she uses Makeup Forever full cover concealer.


For eyes, she uses a slanted MAC 266 brush with the LORAC pro eyeshadow palette in Espresso. She likes that it doesn’t look so precise and “done.”


Another for eyes: MAC Powerpoint eye pencil in Engraved, which is blackish. She uses it to do a “kitten flick” — the little flip at the end of the lash line — and to “tight line,” which is when you pull your lid away from your eyeball and line the insides of your eye. Sometimes she’ll soften the pencil line by going over it with the shadow above.


MAC makes her favorite blush. Her go-to shades: Dainty, Sincere, and Fleur Power.


She recently discovered a new mascara that she’s digging a lot: Boots No. 7 Exceptional Definition in Black. Bran added that “no one should use brown mascara unless they’re under 14.”


For zee lips, she’s loving Revlon’s Colorburst Lip Butters, shown here in Creme Brûlée and Wild Watermelon.

Thanks for letting us peek in your make-up bag, Bran!


Chicken & dumplings with mushrooms

{Same recipe but our dinner looked nothing like the Bon Appetit cover}

First, you saute bacon. I just read that you should never heat the pot beforehand when cooking bacon; you don’t get as much rendered fat. So I dutifully threw the chopped bacon in first, then turned up the heat. It was Sunday morning and soon the smell of sizzling bacon filled the kitchen. I removed the pieces with a slotted spoon and let them rest on a plate of paper towels.

Next, with the rendered bacon fat still in the Le Creuset pot, I browned 4 chicken legs that had been salted, peppered and floured. Those also got removed to a plate. Now the kitchen smelled really good.

With bacon fat and browned chicken bits still warm on the bottom of the pot, I threw in a couple handfuls of shiitake and baby portobello mushrooms. They quickly soaked up all that delicious fat. Around this time, Barrak returned home from working on the trail. “Something smells good!” he said, plodding in from the laundry room. Mushrooms get removed to a bowl.

Next, a handful of chopped yellow onion and 6 smashed garlic cloves. Now to me, nothing compares to the smell of sautéing onions. Forget apple pie. This is the smell of Thanksgiving morning and football and mom.

A quarter-cup of dry white wine helps you scape the brown bits off the bottom of the Dutch oven. Then all those separates that you’ve exiled to their own plates all get to come back into the pot together, along with thyme, bay leaf and chicken broth, and it all bubbles away on the stove for 2 1/2 hours so that when you come home, the house smells amazing and the chicken is falling off the bone.

Dumplings made of flour, milk, eggs and nutmeg start as a teaspoon full of sticky dough and come out of boiling water just a few minutes later twice their size. They get spooned on top of the chicken and mushroom stew on the burner next door.

Then you all sit down to eat this amazing smelling stew you’ve been tending for more than 24 hours and it tastes like…. nothing. Chicken and dumplings at Perkins. Chickeny blandness. Bland chicken. How could something that smelled so luxurious and homey taste so blah?

Magnus got way more enjoyment out of the bowl of Cheetos he’d had earlier in the day.

“I WUV Cheetos!” he swooned. “They are so de-WISH-iss!”

Sometimes it just does not pay.

Guest post by Barrak Green

Harold Ramis died. I know a lot of people were really torn up when John Hughes died. Harold Ramis is my John Hughes. I feel like part of my childhood just died. Meatballs, Caddyshack, Vacation, Ghostbusters, Stripes, Back to School, Groundhog Day. That is what my childhood is comprised of. Me, staying up late and sneaking viewings of Meatballs. Seeing Ghostbusters in the theater with my parents. Watching Caddyshack and Vacation no less than 10 million times. I’m a 37 year old father of two and Vacation feels more relevant than ever.

Her beauty essentials, part 1

Featuring my sister Branda


I got my sister — a trained aesthetician, professional make-up artist and all-around beauty connoisseur — to take stock of her bathroom counter and reveal the products she swears by. After a little hounding, she gave up the goods on her skin care routine. In part 2, I’ll share her make-up faves.



{Clarisonic Mia 2}

I usually use my Clarisonic at night. Bran, however, is a morning scrubber. Interesting. These are the fascinating beauty revelations you will only find here, people!


{CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser}


{Obagi Professional Vitamin C Serum – 20%}


{Boots No. 7 Lift & Luminate Day Cream from Target}


{Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 30 – even when in the dead of winter, which is now. I am impressed.}



{Proactiv Renewing Cleanser}


{Proactiv Revitalizing Toner}


{Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10, which Bran swears by to prevent breakouts}

Thanks for sharing, Bran.

Four things

1. California turkey chili



Here’s my bowl, topped with sharp white cheddar, chopped avocado & sour cream.

The recipe is from Giada’s new cookbook, Giada’s Feel Good Food, a Valentine’s Day present from Barrak. What drew me to it: poblano peppers and warming spices like cinnamon and clove. The brown sugar made it slightly too sweet for Barrak. Once you add savory toppings like cheese and avocado, though, it offsets the sweetness.

Click here for the recipe on Food Network’s website.

2. Marc Jacobs wallet


My sister and I went to dinner together last night. It was so nice. She was a great dinner date. And when it was time to pay, we realized we have nearly identical wallets: gray Marc Jacobs.

3. Clinique Moisture Surge Trio


I bought this set, which includes a jar of Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief, a face spray and an eye rollerball, at the duty-free shop in the Cancun airport. My face was so dry and tight from sunburn and that damn Milk of Magnesia mask — it was a moisturizing emergency. Barrak and I ripped open the box and took turns scooping the pink gel out of the jar and slathering it on our faces while rushing through U.S. Customs.

4. Aquaphor


This stuff was not on my radar until we had kids. It is a healing balm for whatever ails your skin: red, burning nose when you have a cold; chapped lips; red, peeling skin. It’s kind of a miracle. Definitely a desert island must-have.

Mexican getaway


We just got back from the Riveria Maya, a Mexican getaway Barrak qualified for as a key contributor to his company’s success in 2013. There were about 15 couples staying at El Dorado, an all-inclusive resort near Playa del Carmen.

We (or maybe I) put a lot of pressure on this trip. We were looking forward to hanging out, just the two of us. Sleeping in, taking morning runs together, drinking margaritas and eating guacamole all day long, then doing it all over again the next day. Having time to be a couple again. Holding hands. Being able to read a book at the pool. Being able to tell a story without a kid interrupting. We did all that. But it wasn’t the picture-perfect movie montage of happy couple moments.

Here’s the report card Barrak gave:

The resort grounds: A
The weather: A
The beach: C
The food: D
Our room: a [expletive] F

Barrak had two Heinekens at lunch the afternoon we arrived. They turned out to be the last two Heinekens in Mexico. After that, it was Dos Equis in a can, my friend. And if you think Dos Equis taste ‘like cat piss,’ as Barrak eloquently put it, then you’re SOL.

When I asked our server whether there was agave nectar in my extremely sweet margarita, he told me he probably needed to tell the bartender to shake up the box.

The freshly squeezed OJ tasted like Tang. I think they cut everything with water. The coffee was weak and sour (we finally wised up and started ordering cappuccinos).

Except for one sushi dinner in a serene, dimly lit Asian tiki hut called Kampai, the food was kind of awful. Mexican food is high on our lists of food favorites but our meals were so disappointing. Twice, my huevos rancheros were so undercooked that not only was the yolk pure liquid gold, but the white part was still clear. The menus were eerily similar in every restaurant at the resort, and leaving the premises wasn’t recommended for safety reasons. I can only conclude that the food at all-inclusives is bad. Is that, like, the world’s worst kept secret that I was the last to learn?

And then there was our room. Our room’s air-conditioning unit, controlled by a remote, blasted cold air right on the bed all night long. But if you ask Barrak, it was blasting warm, humid air. You know how your sheets feel when you take them out of the dryer and they’re still kind of damp? That’s how our sheets were all the time from the humidity in the room. Our tile floor was always slick with condensation. That A/C remote was a weapon of marital warring. Our water went out completely one afternoon, and no one came for hours. Finally Barrak flagged down a worker with a drill who happened to be walking by. The hammock we requested never came. The wake-up call we canceled did.

We spent at least $70 in sunscreen and aloe vera in the gift shop. I burned my chin using some “Leche de Magnesia” from the gift shop as a homemade beauty mask, and my lip blew up either from a sunburn or the ill-advised milk mask. For our final group dinner with Barrak’s colleagues, I looked like a pissed off pout fish. And Barrak had developed a burning chest cough. And we missed the kids terribly.

In a way, the experience was good for us. We both aired a few grievances. We also had more than a few laughs. We got to hold hands a few times. We had gorgeous weather and got to feel the hot sun on our skin and take dips in cold, blue pools. Personally speaking, I read a good book, got to watch The Bodyguard in Spanish and Kill Bill Vol. 2 in English, and met a new friend, a stylish, interesting mom and the wife of one of Barrak’s co-workers. It’s always a nice surprise to make new friends when you’re 40.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful. The place was really beautiful, the people lovely. See for yourself…


Our ground-floor patio was the one obscured by the baby Palm.


The resort was so sprawling, guests hailed golf carts to get around.


This is how I pictured the outside of the Three’s Company apartments where Jack, Janet and Chrissy lived. The bougainvillea climbing up the wall is so Southern California.


There were cabanas everywhere.


He didn’t know then that those were the last two Heinekens in the resort.








Iguanas were everywhere at the resort. The squirrels of Mexico.20140213-200330.jpg


I saw ‘divorced eggs’ on a number of breakfast menus. Too sad to order!



After this breakfast on a balcony overlooking mangroves, our golf cart driver took us over to see a crocodile that was out sunning itself beyond the chain-link fence.

Even when a vacation doesn’t live up to the big expectations you had for it, it’s still pretty good when you look back. But damn are we happy to be home.