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It’s been a looooong time since I did a manicure post, but I couldn’t resist sharing this latest one. I’m a little bit obsessed with it! I can’t stop looking at my fingers.

I’m still really into Calgel manicures, but custom designs can get pretty expensive. Lately I’ve been getting solid-color Calgel (expect to pay ~$40 and for it to last about four weeks) and painting my own designs on top with regular nail polish. Last month I added white dots to a black base, and yesterday I took a little more time to paint black triangles on top of the palest, prettiest pink.

I wish I had process photos to share, but I did this at 1AM and I honestly wasn’t expecting it to look so nice! It’s easy to explain how to do it, though. You really just need two things: a bottle of nail polish and regular old Scotch tape! Use the Scotch tape to mask off the area you want to paint, carefully brush on the polish, immediately remove the tape (remove the tape strips in the reverse order of which you applied them so you don’t make a mess), et voilà!

A few things:
1. Painter’s tape doesn’t work well for this. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t. Stick with regular Scotch tape.
2. You can definitely do this on top of a regular nail polish base, but it needs to be really dry first. I’d suggest waiting at least 4–6 hours.
3. If you have a little smudge to clean up, just carefully use a clean orange stick dipped in non-acetone nail polish remover. Yes, even if the smudge is on the actual nail.

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Yes, my little obsession with Calgel nails is still in effect! First there was orangey-red, then super-shiny black…and now I’ve gotten a little bit flashier with black ombré tips and with my current set, a glittery gold gradation over black. I form loyalties to businesses very quickly if they do good work and have happy employees, so I’m still going to Sakura on the Lower East Side.

The ombré tips are the work of Selina. I think I spent close to three hours (!!!) having them done, which I can’t really see ever doing again no matter how cool my nails looked when I was done. After applying the nude gel, Selina carefully mixed black and clear gel in various ratios, then meticulously applied the range of black/gray shades with a tiny brush, layering as she went. I was mesmerized. That manicure stayed intact for close to a month, but by the time it was removed the new nail growth was crazy. It feels weird to have (natural) nails this long for the first time in my life.

Because of bad planning on my part, Daniel actually wound up sitting in the salon through the entire glitter manicure. I’d gone in intending to just go back to simple, solid black, but the stylist, Sandy, managed to convince me that what I really wanted was a whole bunch of glitter. And who am I to argue? After the gold micro-glitter went on, Sandy applied the larger, holographic pieces of glitter one at a time. I’m not sure how long the whole thing took, but I’ll bet Daniel could tell you.

This is one SPARKLY manicure, guys. It’s like having a disco ball on each finger. After I was finished, we went out to dinner at Milon—a.k.a. The Most Sparkly Restaurant in New York/”upper left”—and the Indian disco music pretty much kicked in as soon as I walked in the door. Truth be told, after almost three weeks I’m kind of tired of having this much glitter on me at all times. I’m thinking next time I’ll go for something nice and subtle

p.s. Several people have asked on Instagram about how I keep my cuticles looking decent. I guess the biggest contributor is always wearing rubber gloves when I do dishes and clean. I don’t understand how anyone can stand to wash dishes without gloves on! I always push my cuticles back a little bit with the towel when I dry my hands after washing them. If my hands are really feeling dried out and scaly (which is often this time of year) I use Weleda Skin Food—Evan swears by it as well. It seems expensive, but you only need a tiny dab so a small tube lasts a long time. At night, I do my best to remember to rub some oil into my cuticles. I just use sweet almond oil mixed with jojoba oil. It’s easy to make your own and store it in a little dropper bottle on your bedside table.

I sound like a girl.

I’m pretty unfancy when it comes to jewelry. Aside from a few things that were gifts, the only jewelry I wear (if I wear any at all) is cheap stuff—really cheap stuff. Last weekend I found this neat “diamond” ring at H&M for $5, and even though I didn’t like the weird faux-antique finish of the metal, I decided to buy it anyway and try giving it a little makeover.

I’ve never tried spray-painting jewelry before, but I figured that since matte black Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer has proven itself to be incredibly durable on my door hinges, window locks and other hardware around the house for the past six years, it would probably hold up pretty well on a ring, too.

I washed the ring with soapy water, dipped it in rubbing alcohol (this might’ve been unnecessary, but I figured it couldn’t hurt), let it air-dry completely, and then applied two light coats of Rust Reformer. After letting it dry overnight, the ring looks PERFECT. The black finish is flawless, and and the ring looks a million times cooler now. It’s my new favorite piece of jewelry! (Side note: Doesn’t it remind you of AM Radio’s himmeli mobiles?)

OK, so before my mother has a heart attack: That’s not a real tattoo. It’s a Tattly. I’m kind of obsessed with temporary tattoos right now—I have a huge stash, and they’re perfect for non-committal types like me. I love what Tina has managed to do with Tattly—she’s having fun with a medium that was previously relegated to children’s novelty items, and using it as a means to promote artists and designers. (My Scribble Tattly was created by James Victore.)

And yes, that’s a new Calgel manicure, this time in black. The orange-red Calgel lasted for exactly two full weeks before the new growth started to make me crazy (which I knew would happen, since my nails were very short and the color was very bright!), but it stayed shiny and completely chip-free the entire time. This is what it looked like an hour before I had it removed. I have no doubt I could have gone at least 3–4 weeks if it weren’t for the new growth! Oh, and for those of you were wondering, the removal process at Sakura was simple and painless. A tiny acetone pad was held in place with aluminum foil over each nail for about 5 minutes (exactly the same method you’d use for removing glitter polish at home), and then the gel basically fell off of my fingernail with a gentle push from an orange stick. There was no damage to my nails whatsoever, but from what I gather, the outcome really depends on the technique used by the salon you go to. I’m going to keep the black on for three weeks, and then I want to try a fancy gradient manicure

It’s no secret that I love having fancy fingers and toes. There’s just something about having nicely painted nails that makes me feel complete. I like looking down at my hands and feet and seeing shiny little jellybeans of color. It’s fun. I don’t wear much jewelry, so colored polish functions as an accessory I can’t lose. It makes me feel pretty and done.

I very seldom pay for manicures or pedicures—maybe once every couple of years, tops. I’m good at doing my own nails. It’s one of those things that seems really tricky and messy at first, but with practice it gets easier and the results are very satisfying. Doing your nails is an easy way to FINISH a project, and that can have a pretty profound effect on my state of mind. (And yes, I do realize we’re talking about nail polish here.) Also, I’m loathe to pay someone else to do what I can do myself, especially when even the best manicure tends to chip within a few days.

Lately, though, I’ve been really busy working on freelance work at night, and I’ve been defaulting to bare or clear-coated nails most of the time. I decided to pay someone to give me a special manicure that will last longer than one done with regular polish. (Funny—exactly one year ago, I was experimenting with another long-lasting manicure option! There’s just something about late August, I guess.) After doing some research into the various options, I decided to go with a Calgel manicure. If you’re curious about what Calgel is, exactly, this site has a detailed description.

One salon name comes up over and over again once you start looking into Calgel-certified salons in NYC: Sakura. After reading a bunch of reviews on Yelp, looking through their impressive gallery of wacky-cool nails on Facebook and, of course, soliciting feedback on Twitter (Gala actually replied to me from the salon, which is a pretty good endorsement!), I went ahead and booked an appointment.

My nail stylist was Selina, and she did a great job. I usually wear my nails short, which sometimes prompts a pitch for extensions of some sort (if you haven’t seen comedian Anjelah Johnson’s routine about nail salons, watch it right now—it’s dead on), but Selina was fine just giving me a natural, rounded shape to go with my bright orange-red color selection (it’s #59). The whole process from start to finish took less than an hour, and considering my nails were totally DRY at the end of that hour, that’s pretty impressive. Calgel needs to cure in layers under a UV light, so there was a lot of switching hands and rotating of thumbs…and then it was all done!

My nails look really nice. The finish is so smooth and shiny, and the edges around my nail bed are flawless. I’m very happy with the outcome! The total cost was $40 for a solid color (stuff like gems, glitter and gradations obviously cost more), and I was given a customer card for a discount after I earn a certain number of points from repeat visits. I like stuff like that.

Calgel manicures can last as long as month (!!) without chipping, but since I have such short nails and chose a solid, bright color, new growth will be really noticeable—so I’ll probably go back in two weeks for a color fill-in at the base. Once my nails are longer, I’ll try something fancier like a black-to-sheer gradation (amazing, right?) that won’t show regrowth as much. Knowing I’ll get an entire month out of a pricey manicure makes the cost sting a little less!

It’s only day one with my Calgel manicure, but I’ll let you know how things are looking after a couple of weeks. I have high hopes…

I thought about titling this post “ME ME ME ME ME ME (and a little more ME),” because let’s face it—this is a whole bunch of ME. I don’t post a lot of photos of myself on the blog, I guess because it just always feels awkward. I hate having my picture taken by other people, and I don’t like taking a photo of myself unless the camera/phone is visible in the picture as well. Having the camera visible makes the resulting photo less about documenting the subject and more of a marker of that specific moment—which is the act of taking the photo.

Am I over-thinking it? Maybe, but all of that over-thinking made me realize something: I am my own design project. Here are some Instagram snaps from over the past few weeks.

So yeah. I mean…I pretty much look like my house. I don’t really draw any distinction between designing myself and designing anything else. I have a set of limitations that I need to work with, and a knowledge of how to use certain tools and materials in order to achieve the results I want. I never think about what would be perceived as “sexy” or whatever, that’s just not something I’m concerned with. I do like to look attractive, of course, but for me physical attractiveness (in anyone) is determined not by a specific set of features, but by a series of proportions, contrasts, textures and colors—exactly the same things that make a room or a book cover or a garden appealing to me.

OH, AND: Here’s me matching my dorm room 18 years ago.

I’m curious: How about you? Do you “match” your home? If you’re an artist or designer, do you feel like there’s a correlation between your professional work and, say, your hair?

There are certain things that come up over and over again in my (very small) wardrobe: Geometric shapes, black, white, grey, saturated colors, heavily textured knits, furry stuff, golds…and, of course, scarves. I have a lot of scarves. It can be 95° out, and I’m in a scarf.

My Bookhou bag and I continue to be best buddies. I’m also wearing my most favorite scarf of all here—it comes from the amazing Martha McQuade at the aptly-named Scarf Shop (GIANT size; mustard). I’ve had this scarf for a little more than a year now, and I’ve definitely worn it in every season!

And yeah, that’s a new watch I’ve got on. It’s from the Issey Miyake men’s GO line (I always wear men’s watches), and it’s the first non-Swatch watch I’ve owned. I still think Swatches are the best watches around (I have about a dozen of them that I’ve acquired over the past 25 or so years—and they all still work!), but it’s fun to have another option that’s a little bit more elegant. I’ve very very brand loyal when I like something a lot, though, so my heart will always belong to Swatch in the end.

(Is it weird that it never occurs to me to check my phone for the time? I always wear a watch.)

Oh, and? NEON PINK NAIL POLISH. I’ve had a bottle of this stuff for ages (it’s some weird generic brand), but I’d never tried it until last week. I wasn’t sure if it would look too garish or weird, but I wound up loving it. I don’t think I’d feel the same way if my nails were really long, but on stubby talons like mine, it’s pretty nice.

1. That totally incredible cape/poncho was a birthday present from Jen, and it’s from Pendleton’s Portland collection. It’s kind of the greatest thing in the world—thick and warm and beautifully made. I’ve worn it at least three times a week since October, and it’s one of those things I’m sure I’ll have forever.

2. My favorite favorite favorite earrings! They were a Hanukkah present from Evan a couple of years ago, and I’ve worn them almost every day since receiving them. They’re made by Lila Rice in Brooklyn.

3. Those rad superhero lightning bolt socks were also a present from Jen (clearly the girl knows how to give a gift), and they come from Sock It to Me. She got a red pair for Evan!

4. Ahhhh, yes, the Wookie coat. This thing is totally ridiculous but I also completely awesome. It’s basically like going out in a Chewbacca costume. (It’s surprisingly warm, too! Too warm for this Global Warming Winter™ we’re having in New York this year.)

OK, this is just silliness, but when I was thinking about the textures I love most, I realized that I’ve been a fan of superfake fur for a while now. The photo on the left is on my Wookie coat (earrings by Fay Andrada—Brooklyn ladies make nice jewelry!), and the photo on the right was taken almost exactly ten years ago. I was modeling my “nylon squirrel” muffler, which I still have and wear. And I had no bags under my eyes.

So…I’m totally addicted to those Sally Hansen Nail Effects strips I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. After wearing the fishnet-y “Misbehaving” style for about 12 days, the new growth at the base of my nails was bugging me, so I removed the strips (nail polish remover works just fine!). There was a little wear around the tips, but NO chips whatsoever. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten 12 days out of a manicure before—at least not one that didn’t involve wraps or gel.

This time around, I went with “Glitz Blitz”, which is GOLD and SHIMMERY and GLITTERY and SPARKLY all over and I love love love it. I’d heard that the glittery strips are harder to apply, but I actually found it a little easier since I was able to stretch them to fit perfectly without worrying about distorting a pattern.

I can’t stop looking at my fingers. Here I am relaxing on the sofa this weekend, vegan white Russian in hand (Kahlúa, vodka and soy creamer…YUM)—and see that? I have one gold toe, too. I had a large strip left over after doing my fingernails, and this just seemed like the right place for it.

p.s. If you want to learn how to make glitter texture in Photoshop, Katrina gets into it on Pugly Pixel!

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: My nails look adorable. After eying those Sally Hansen Nail Effects strips at Duane Reade at least once a week for the past few months, I finally went ahead and coughed up nine bucks and bought a box. I’d read a ton of reviews, so I knew they probably wouldn’t suck, but I didn’t expect them to be quite so awesome.

For my first attempt, I went with “Misbehaving”, a champagne-gold with a fishnet overlay. I’d read that the glittery styles are harder to apply, so even though “Glitz Blitz” was calling my name LOUD + SPARKLY, I opted for something easier the first time around.

The strips are kind of like really thin stickers, but they’re actually made of nail polish. They don’t add dimension to your nails or anything like that. They apply kind of like model airplane decals (sans water) in terms of fragility and placement techniques, but they go on really nicely. The amazing thing is that there’s no drying time, so if you’re like me and tend to decide to do your nails at midnight, you can hop right into bed after and not worry about dreaded sheet-prints screwing up your manicure.

Up close, you can definitely tell that I messed up the placement on a couple of stickers—mostly from fear of getting too close to the cuticle. From a normal distance, though, they look perfect. Oh! And they supposedly last for at least ten days with no chipping. I’m only on day three, so we’ll see how it goes. So far, so good, which is more than I can say for regular manicures. Kind of spendy, yeah, but if you have short nails like me, you can get two full manicures out of a box. Not too bad.

Now onto the other stuff: Hurricane Irene. Yeah. Well, we really don’t know what to expect. We’re staying in the city this weekend because the traffic heading out is bound to be brutal, so things could get exciting. Luckily, our neighborhood (Washington Heights) isn’t in an evacuation zone, so hopefully we’ll be okay. Unsurprisingly, tomorrow’s planned festivities have been postponed (Spike actually wanted to go ahead with it, but once the governor announced that ALL mass transit will cease operation at noon tomorrow, cancellation was kind of a done deal), so we’ll be holed up in the apartment—hopefully with electricity, cell and internet service!

There’s still a giant hole on our kitchen ceiling (grumble, grumble), but the roof seems to have been repaired, so hopefully we won’t get any water coming in—touch wood. I truly hope Irene takes it easy on us all! Everyone please be safe out there.

I was supposed to take this entire week off from work, but things didn’t really pan out that way…so I’m just off for one day instead. I’m spending today with Fritz and Bruno, eating popcorn with malt salt, getting some freelance work* taken care of, and hopefully going for a long walk in Fort Tryon park, provided I can convince F&B that it’s not all that cold outside.

Following a tip from Nubby Twiglet, I picked up a bottle of Sally Hansen Insta-Dri nail polish in Mint Sprint. It’s a little more blue-green than it looks in the photo—very springy and bright! I did my fingernails, too, but my hands are bad models.

*Yes, it still counts as a “day off” if I’m doing freelance work. At least for now it does. And yes, I’m actively looking for more freelance work, so if you need your blog redesigned or a snappy cover for your book, I’m your girl.

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If you follow me on Twitter and you, like me, are generally home alone on Friday nights pretending to have a social life, then you may have read my pleas for advice on how best to color-match the amazing lipstick and nail polish colors in the November 2010 J.Crew catalog.

red orange inspiration

It immediately reminded me of the photo on the left, an incredible living room featured in LivingEtc that I’ve been obsessed with for ages. Hot-orange-red! Paired with neutrals! Love!

I’d read an snippet of an interview with Jenna Lyons a while back where she mentioned that they used NARS lip pencils in Red Square on their shoots, but after seeing said color in person, I ruled it out as a possibility for the lipstick. After noting that J.Crew sells Essie nail polish in Lollipop on their website, I figured that had to be the nail color.

After a serious misfire with MAC lipstick in Ruby Woo (a lovely color, but far too blue for my complexion and miles away from the inspiration photos), @ClaraJudgypants chimed in to say that she had contacted J.Crew (why didn’t I think of that?) to ask about the colors, and that the nail polish is actually Essie Clambake and the lipstick is MAC Lady Danger. Now, I have a bottle of Clambake, and while it’s definitely an orange-red, it’s also semi-sheer. I love it during the summer, but it’s not right for fall. To my eyes, Essie Lollipop is perfect—it’s basically an opaque version of Clambake.

On to the lipstick! I’m not usually one to wear opaque colors (I almost always wear a sheer gloss, sometimes with a stain underneath), but I’ve really been trying to make Lady Danger work for me. I like the way it looks, but I feel really, really weird wearing it. I kind of feel like I’m in drag, to be honest, and as much as I love drag, I have a hard time pulling off this kind of look in a way that makes me feel comfortable. I’m trying, though! In these photos I’ve sheered it out just a bit with some gloss, because MAC isn’t joking around with their matte lipsticks. They are Serious Business for Super-Ladies, and I am…not that.

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I can’t resist throwing in a couple of “outtakes”. I always feel like a super-loser when I take photos of myself, which is why I don’t even bother trying to hide the camera. And now you know why I don’t show my teeth when I smile. I’ve never learned how to do it right! I always wind up pulling a face like a 2nd-grader on picture day.