Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Because there's safety in numbers and mob mentality's the way to go

First off, I need to admit that I am not the politically active and aware person that I occasionally like to think I am. Wait. Scratch that. First off, I need to tell you that I've had some wine tonight. The wine is, perhaps, the reason that I thought that opening sentence might actually be an appropriate and sensible lead-in. The only reason I brought it up, actually, was that it is currently 9:17 p.m. Central Standard Time, and it only now occurred to me that I completely forgot to watch the State of the Union address tonight. It wasn't that I realized it was on but decided I couldn't handle listening to our man/ape-hybrid of a world leader give his sixth pointless pep talk to the nation and promptly turned my TV off. No, it was because I honestly forgot it was on and neglected to tune my television to any station with a modicum of reputable news coverage of sorts. Oh well. I'm sure John Stewart's recap will be entirely more fulfilling anyway, so I will just have to watch that in its stead.

Now, for the real reason I am here. Last weekend was apparently "Buy things people on the Internet told me to buy" weekend, as, in one shopping excursion, I unexpectedly purchased the Bare Escentuals "Get Started" kit, a ridiculously expensive tube of deodorant, some Neutrogena lip gloss, Downy Simple Pleasures Vanilla and Lavender fabric softener (in liquid and sheet form because, hell, I had a "buy two, save $1 coupon", plus the Tide-with-Downy combo, because I had a coupon for that too and because apparently I thought it would be amusing in an almost eerie way to have a threesome of purple laundry products simultaneously grace the conveyor belt at the SuperTarget checkout), and three Lean Cuisine Chicken Club Paninis. (GG is right--they are tasty, but everyone else knows about them, too, and therefore they are damn-near impossible to find. They are, it would seem, the Holy Grail of frozen lunches... so much so that the Target lady, while ringing up my purchases, actually said, "These must be good; we sure do sell a lot of them.")

Anyway, so my point is that, as I've mentioned before, the people out there on the Internet seem to be affecting my thoughts and buying patterns in some way, and while it is a bit alarming in a "Come-and-drink-my-Kool-Aid" sense, it is also kind of nice, in a happy, helpful community, "it's a small world" kind of way. People love recommendations from seemingly reputable and objective sources, right? And yet, I think my own "super consumer" posts have been sporadic if at all existent. I have tips to offer, too! Maybe some of you might want to hear them?

So with that, I thought I would share with you some of the products I am currently addicted or not addicted to, as the case may be for each.

Let's start with what I had for dinner last night. If you haven't yet tried Campbell's Select Butternut Squash soup, I assure you, you are missing out. My friend Lisa may disagree, as she was disheartened, during our entire long weekend in New York, to find that the only soup she could find was pumpkin or squash soup of some sort. Apparently I actually like gourd-centric soups, so this was not a drawback in my book. That said, Campbell's Butternut Squash soup is like a perfect fall day in a bowl. It's golden and sweet and delicious, even on its own. My sister likes to float some crispy bagel chips in hers, but I've recently found an even more perfect pairing for this soup. Have you ever bought those frozen pierogies you can find in boxes in the freezer case? They come in a few different flavors, but I typically go for the cheddar and potato ones. These are basically ravioli stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese, and I'd be hard pressed to come up with a more exciting combo than that. Pasta? Check. Mashed potatoes? Check. Cheese? Check. Really, what more do you need? What more you need, it seems, is some butternut squash soup. What I've been doing lately is boiling a few pierogies in the microwave for five minutes, then heating the soup and dropping the pierogies right in. It's comfort food and convenience, all in one bowl of warm and starchy heaven. I heartily recommend you try it yourself one of these cold, harsh winter days.

You can get each of these items at Target (or possibly just SuperTarget), and you know what else you can get there? A whole aisle of deceivingly-healthy-looking Archer Farms snacks, in handy mid-sized, keep-in-your-desk-drawer-type bags. I first became addicted to the Honey Cashew Crunch ("They're nuts!," I thought. "It's protein!" I rationalized. Never mind that it's protein coated in a crunchy glaze of crystallized syrup and sugar that may in fact be more habit-forming than heroin), and I quickly moved on to other varieties from there. I bought the fun-sounding "Zen Party Mix" a few times, before I realized that what I liked best in there was the Asian Rice Crackers, and I could buy a whole bag of just Rice Crackers in the Archer Farms snacks aisle as well. My latest discovery, however, is the Cranberry Nut Trail Mix. It boasts cranberries, white chocolate-flavored drops (i.e., chips), almonds, and pecans, and although I am not traditionally a fan of white chocolate, this stuff was sincerely addictive nonetheless. The label says there are eleven servings in each bag, but people, I did not see eleven servings in there. That is, of course, unless my problem with restaurant math has somehow extended to all food-math as well and in my frail and addled brain, eleven is suddenly now the number that comes after three.

Since I didn't want this to be all about food, I thought perhaps I'd also give you a lip balm recommendation as well, but I think I've mentioned this stuff enough times already that I've recommended it far more than might ever be necessary. So let's consider other things in my bathroom and medicine cabinet, OK? If you are a boy (or a non-makeup-wearing girl), this will be meaningless to you, but if you ever wear mascara, I should tell you that Almay's Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover Gel might actually be worth its label of "#1 eye makeup remover brand." It goes on easily with just your fingers (no cotton balls necessary for this), and with a slide of some tissue, your mascara wipes right off. It does leave a bit of greasy film, but it doesn't burn my eyes thereafter like so many other brands have. And if you wash your face directly afterwards, your mascara (and the greasy film) will all but disappear.

Returning back to food for a moment, I thought I might shift away from the recommendations and close with an item you should not, under any circumstances, buy. Have you ever thought, "Hey, I'll buy some carrots... or maybe some cucumbers or broccoli... but I need something to dip them in, because veggies on their own are just not appealing enough to me"? If so, you have likely encountered the T. Marzetti brand of veggie dips in your grocer's produce section. I do hate to cancel out any health benefits of raw vegetables by dousing them in fats and artificial flavors, so I thought I might try the fat-free variety of T. Marzetti's Ranch-style dip. I am here to help, so I urge you, please don't make this same mistake. I have had the full-fat and the low-fat variety of this dip, and they were tasty and quite palatable, respectively. The fat-free version, however? Stay away from that. I should have known, when I opened it and saw the disturbing color and texture, that it was not something worth investigating further. The gray, cloudy sheen was not unlike swamp water, which is presumably also fat free but which I also would not ever eat by choice. Consider this your public service message for the day. T. Marzetti's Fat-Free dip. Just say no, OK?

And that about wraps up my super-consumer post for this evening. I do enjoy this trend, so feel free to leave your own recommendations in reply. In particular, I'm in the market for a new mascara. Obviously I've already got the goo to remove it, but tell me, what brand and variety should I be removing? (My apologies to my five male readers out there for steering things in this direction. If you want to talk about your favorite video game or the best variety of Ace or Tag deodorant spray, by all means have at that as well.)


3carnations said...

Does anyone really wear deodorant spray? My husband doesn't.

But speaking of things that spray, can I tell you without sounding like a complete flake that one week this morning while getting ready for work I accidentally sprayed hairspray on a pulse point, as though it were perfume? I would like say I was half asleep at the time, but actually I was just very preoccupied in thought.

stefanie said...

I don't know, 3Cs, but I keep seeing ads for that Tag stuff, so presumably someone must be buying it.

As for the hairspray/perfume mixup, I'm not here to judge. I'm sure I've done things just as scattered plenty of times before.

nabbalicious said...

I don't have specific recommendations for mascara, but I'll tell you two I don't like:

1) Great Lash (heresy!). Everyone recommends this shit, and I think it's nothing but goopy and clumpy and I can't figure out why it's so popular or who's buying it, because no one I know does.

2) Whatever mascara it is that claims it won't give you raccoon eyes. This claim is true, but it also means that it's not coming off when you actually want it to, either.

So, um...go forth and don't be clumpy! No really, let me know what you get, because I'm an incredibly disloyal mascara buyer and love to try different brands.

I'm going to have to try that makeup remover! Neutrogena's isn't quite doing it for me. Thanks for the tips!

-R- said...

H's dietician recommended this spray butter stuff that is only 5 calories or something and is ok for you. I was wary, but it is awesome. I will have to look in our fridge tonight to get you the name. I know you are all thinking I am crazy now, but really, the spray butter is good!

I didn't watch the speech on purpose. I hate all the breaks for stupid applause. I prefer to read about it later.

guinness girl said...

Hey, what happened to my comment that I just left? :(

Paisley said...

I'll have to try the Lean Cuisine.

I have recently discovered Fresca - Black Cherry Citrus. No calories, caffeine or sugar. It's so GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and Skinny Cows. Have you had one of those? (ice cream sandwich - yummers!!!!)

L Sass said...

Oh, I feel you on the gourd-soup. I like most gourd confections, actually. At my last job, I ate so much butternut squash soup for lunch that my coworkers began abbreviating it "BNSS"

As for mascara, I have a hard time finding them, too. I like a good brown mascara, not black, because I'm blonde. I usually end up with Great Lash, but it's only "eh." I'll keep an eye on what others recommend!

lizgwiz said...

I purposely didn't watch the speech, because I just bought a new tv and can't afford to buy another after throwing something through it. ;)

I intend to try the soup/pierogie combo at my next opportunity. Sounds wonderful.

I use Avon Extreme Volume mascara. My mother is an Avon lady. I don't have to pay for it, which makes it extra great in my book. Last time she got me their Incredible Lengths instead, as it was on sale, and I most definitely do NOT recommend that.

I keep looking at the Bare Escentuals stuff--is it as good as everyone says?

stefanie said...

Nabb--Yeah, I've tried Great Lash, too, and I agree; it's not worth its reputation.

R--The ridiculous applause breaks are actually why I sort of wanted to watch it this time. I was curious if the applause would be any less frequent and overwhelming now that the Democrats are in control.

GG--I don't know! But Blogger seems to be temperamental this morning, so I suspect it ate your comment just for fun. I do apologize.

Paisley--I am not generally a fan of cherry-flavored things, but maybe the citrus would balance it out for me? Oh, and I second your recommendation for Skinny Cows. I haven't had those in a while, but they definitely are tasty.

L Sass--I think one of my biggest problems with mascara-buying is that I buy it so infrequently (since I generally wear it just on the weekends and on dates) that I forget what I've tried and liked/not liked. That is, if I've ever really even "liked" one. I suspect that I have not.

Liz--I think my expectations were too high because of the way everyone raved about Bare Escentuals. I generally hate foundation, but powder doesn't really have enough coverage. This stuff is light and easily-blendable like a powder but offers more coverage like a foundation. So I do like that. I was expecting magic results, though, I guess. I was promised that my hideous pores would disappear and yet, they are still visible. So that is disappointing, I suppose. As far as foundations go, though, I think it probably is the best that I have tried.

The Other Girl said...

Every time you say "SuperTarget," I go half blind with envy, but I will try to touchtype my way through this comment.

I tried the T. Marzetti caramel dip for apples, and it was fairly disgusting. It managed to taste both metallic and medicinal at the same time.

I've used Bare Escentuals for a while, and I really like it, but to get good coverage, you need a flatter, harder brush than the one that comes in the starter kit. I also tried the new Neutrogena mineral foundation and I like that one too; it has slightly better coverage than BE (and comes with a decent brush), but it's not as light-reflective. It's pretty decent for the price, though.

Anonymous said...

Bare Escentuals is pretty good stuff...

As for mascara, I use Maybelline Unstoppable. It's pretty good stuff. No racoon eyes and comes off OK...and I don't use eye makeup remover. Mostly because I forget! But it comes off OK when just washing my face at night.

metalia said...

Ooh, please let me know if you like the lip gloss!

Re: Mascara--I've said for years that Great Lash is completely overhyped. Instead, I wholeheartedly endorse DiorShow Mascara by Christian Dior. Completely worth every penny.

stefanie said...

Other Girl--You are just full of useful tips... As for the Bare Escentuals brush--you didn't think the thick, squat little kabuki brush was flat and hard enough? Hmm. Thanks for the tip on the Neutrogena stuff. I'm sure it's about half the price, so perhaps I will try that next.

Luck o' the Irish--Really? With no eye makeup remover? I'm guessing you're not using waterproof mascara. For some reason, I think I need waterproof. You know, because I burst into tears all the time or something...

Metalia--That's actually the third Neutrogena lip gloss I've bought. I have the shiny lip balm stuff and the stuff with the wand, too. I actually think I like those other two better, but the stuff you recommended is good, too!

OK, every one of these comments-back-to-comments was makeup related. If I actually DO have more than five male readers, they are never going to come back after this. (Sorry, boys!)

-R- said...

I said I would come back with the name of the butter spray, although no one cares, so here I am. It is I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. If it is good enough for Fabio, it should be good enough for you.

lizgwiz said...

I will second -r-'s endorsement of the butter spray. It's good. Though I can't say the name of it without saying it in Fabio's accent. With a dramatic pause before the word "spray" because that's how he said it in the commercial.

stefanie said...

OK, I hate New Blogger. I can't even comment on my OWN site without it eating my comment for no discernible reason. Grr.

Anyway, I was going to say that what's funny about this butter spray recommendation is that a friend of mine was actually looking for that exact product before a camping trip a couple summers ago, because she swears it is the best way to butter corn-on-the-cob. We couldn't find it, so we figured they weren't making it anymore. Guess we were wrong! I shall keep this in mind for future corn-on-the-cob occasions.

beingmccrary said...

I use Loreal Original Volumous mascara and I love it. I've actually tried other brands and thrown out full tubes to go back to the Loreal. But I think it depends on what your looking for in a mascara. It does give me raccoon eyes but only after a shower, not after swimming so I think it's good in that area.

stefanie said...

BMC--Thanks for the recommendation. I think you and Metalia were the only ones to enthusiastically recommend something, but since Loreal is undoubtedly far cheaper than Dior, I might have to try your suggestion first.

Mainly I'm just looking for something that isn't sticky or clumpy and doesn't leave those black flecks on the skin around my eyes. Know what I mean?