Now Available on Audible.com!

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My Revolutionary War novel, Cadence to Glory, is now available in audiobook format on Audible.com! (Link included below)

Special thanks to Catherine Odom Lewis, my friend and narrator!

https://www.audible.com/pd/Cadence-to-Glory-Audiobook/B07WZQ8RS9?qid=1653163341&sr=1-1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=83218cca-c308-412f-bfcf-90198b687a2f&pf_rd_r=CGFXB8N2SY6ZESBV091A

Our Molar Pregnancy Story

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Our first pregnancy began as most such happy journeys begin.

I vividly remember my heart’s flutterings as the second line slowly emerged on the pregnancy test, in the early Saturday morning hours while my husband still slept.

We had been trying to conceive for 2 months. I had approached our attempt at pregnancy with some apprehension, as my mother had struggled with 10 years of infertility and I had long feared to share her fate.

You can well imagine, therefore, my disbelief and subsequent euphoria to behold the positive pregnancy test on my bathroom vanity.

I screamed, “I’m pregnant!” My husband, roused from sleep by my exclamation, rushed into the bathroom and hugged me; we both wept for joy. This revelation was followed by a flurry of Pinterest-worthy pregnancy announcements to our parents and relatives. This would be the first grandchild on both sides, a longed-for prospect.

Our first ultrasound appointment was met with a small amount of trepidation, but all doubts were silenced by the cheerful ultrasound technician, who exclaimed, “We have a heartbeat!” We paid less attention to her subsequent statement: “The baby is a little on the small side. It’s measuring 6 weeks, when it should measure 8 weeks. You probably ovulated late.” This seemingly innocent remark would later assume ominous overtones in retrospect.

I felt exceedingly well. I counted myself fortunate to have avoided the dreaded morning sickness suffered by so many expectant mothers and deduced that all must be well. We were so confident in the success of this textbook pregnancy that, at 11 weeks, we proceeded to post a social media announcement, featuring our dog standing in front of a sign which read the following: “Mom and Dad are getting me a human for Christmas!” We spent hours coaxing our puppy into the proper position for the perfect shot. We gleefully posted it on Facebook, basking in the subsequent flood of well wishes.

Our 12 week appointment arrived. Given my lack of symptoms, I was so convinced that all was well that I gave my husband permission to miss the appointment. I invited my mother-in-law instead, who wished to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The seminal moment arrived, and we followed the same cheerful technician into the ultrasound suite. I waited with bated breath to hear my angel’s heartbeat once again.

This time, instead of rapid-fire reassurances, an eerie silence cloaked the dark room. The ultrasound technician finally uttered in hoarse tones, “I should see arms and legs by now.” She switched the ultrasound mode from transabdominal to transvaginal. She quietly asked, “Have you had any spotting?” I whispered, “No, I haven’t.”

The silence in the room deepened. My mind began to race as the unthinkable took shape.

The technician ultimately shook her head and bemoaned, “I am so sorry; I cannot find any cardiac activity.”

I was never before – and have never since – been so utterly crushed as in that moment. The ultrasound suite was a tomb, where my dearest dreams – past, present, and future – were buried.

I underwent a D&C, and subsequent test results revealed our baby had been a boy. We also learned that he was the product of a molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is a fluke of nature, 1 in 1000 pregnancies. It most often occurs when 2 sperm fertilize the same egg, leading to a non-viable fetus. It carries more danger than an average miscarriage as there is a small risk of cancer (gestational trophoblastic disease, or choriocarcinoma). In a cruel twist, I not only mourned the loss of my baby but now faced the potential specter of cancer.

As is custom in molar pregnancies, we were instructed to wait a set number of months to conceive again, to ensure that my HCG level dropped to zero – and remained there.

During those months, I wrestled with demons of jealousy. Seeing other young mothers around me was a daily torment. Through tears, I smiled for them. I could hardly bear to see young children, as thoughts of my little lost love were all-consuming. I wondered if this mystical gift of motherhood would ever visit me again. Looking back, I am not proud of my emotions during that bleak period, but they were natural and unavoidable. Even then, I realized that only a second pregnancy had the power to cure this bitterness.

I marked the day on my calendar when this agonizing wait would end and met that day with caution, hardly daring to hope.

Two months later, I had another positive pregnancy test. And yet, this result was received with far greater forbearance and gravity. No Pinterest-worthy announcements this time; in fact, no announcements at all.

Each doctor’s appointment provoked intense anxiety, and I came as close to a panic attack as I ever have at my 8 week visit, when I was again forced to enter the dark room of death, as I saw it then – the ultrasound suite. This time, the technician reassured me that the baby was measuring 7 weeks and 4 days – consistent with expected size.

Each doctor’s appointment allayed my fears by small increments. Only at the anatomy scan, when my baby’s organs were painstakingly examined and pronounced to be free from defect, did I begin to relax and somewhat enjoy the journey.

Our firstborn, a healthy baby boy, arrived on July 27, 2019.

Our second son was born two years later.

Our great trial taught us many lessons. Only in the rain can we begin to appreciate the sunshine that follows. God taught us the value of trusting Him. Particularly inspiring was the song, “By Faith,” by Keith and Kristyn Getty; it was our theme song, our ballad of faith, during those dark days.

We named our molar baby, “Andrew.”

Even though the lyrical laughter of children and the patter of small feet infuse our home with warmth and delight today, we will never forget Andrew.

We know we will meet him again one day.

To all women who have suffered pregnancy loss, and particularly to those who have endured the protracted nightmare that is a molar pregnancy, we hope our story inspires hope for brighter days. You are not alone.

Homecoming/Prom Makeup Look!

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It’s that time of year again!

Below, I have created a sample (universally flattering) homecoming/prom look for high school girls.  Special thanks to my lovely cousin, Madison Pinke, for serving as my model!  🙂

Before (left) and After (right)

 

FACE PRODUCTS USED

Foundation — Covergirl Outlast Stay Fabulous 3-in-1

Powder — Coty Airspun Powder in “Naturally Neutral”

Blush — Bobbi Brown “Pale Pink”

Contouring Powder — Inglot HD Sculpting Powder 504

Highlighter — Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in “Champagne Pop”

Undereye Concealer — Mac Studio Correct and Conceal Duo in “Pale Pink / Pale Yellow”

Lipstick — Sephora Luster Matte Long-Wear Lip Color in “Fig”

EYE PRODUCTS USED

Primer — Mac Paint Pot in “Soft Ochre”

Lid — Makeup Geek foiled eyeshadow in “Grandstand”

Crease — Makeup Geek eyeshadow in “Cupcake”

Outer Corner — Tarte eyeshadow “Power Plum” in the Energy Noir Clay Palette

Inner Corner — Makeup Geek eyeshadow in “Shimma Shimma”

Eyeliner — Bobbi Brown gel liner in “Black Ink”

Mascara — Lancome Hypnose Drama in “Excessive Black”

Brow Gel — Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in “Medium Brown”

Hope you enjoyed this sample look!

Until next time 😉

My Revolutionary War Novel — Free Kindle Giveaway!

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In a brief recess from makeup, I wanted to share news regarding my historical novel, Cadence to Glory!

Cadence to Glory eBook Cover Large

When I was eleven, my parents took me on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, capital of Virginia during the American Revolution.  As I stepped back in time, shadows of the Revolution spoke to me.  Characters began to emerge in my mind, and I began to write after returning home.  Although I cycled through countless drafts since that trip, my childhood spirit is still entranced by that time and place upon which the subsequent history of our nation turned.  The journey to publication, however, was a long one — and took me through seven harrowing years of medical school and residency.

I decided to publish on CreateSpace in November 2014.

Life as a self-published author (and physician on the side!) has not been simple, and I have been introduced to the harsh reality that self-published authors, no matter how talented, must pay ample amounts to publicize their work.

However, last month, my novel received a very positive review (and recommendation!) from the prestigious Kirkus Reviews — and was even featured in the February 2015 issue of Kirkus Reviews magazine!

You can read the full Kirkus Review of my novel on their website here.

For 5 days only, beginning today, the Kindle edition of my novel will be available for free on Amazon!  Please follow this link.

If you decide to download the book (and if you like it!), please post a review on Amazon.com since this helps propel sales.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!  😃

Review: Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara!

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My experience has always favored high-end, as opposed to drugstore, mascaras as the best option for a feminine, flirty fringe. However, I recently tried a $3 mascara — at the drugstore — and would like to share my thoughts!

Hidden in the corner of Walgreen’s is the (rather obscure) Jordana display. While passing by the display, I picked up the Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara along with a few of their Modern Matte lipsticks (that review coming soon, too!).

The packaging is sturdy but standard:

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The formula is not too wet, but not too thick (or gel-like).

And now for the before & after!

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(Top to bottom –> Bare Lashes, 1 Coat, 2 Coats)

The result is thick, voluminous, dramatic lashes — comparable to my Holy Grail mascara, Too Faced “Better than Sex” mascara. These lashes do not flake off throughout the day, as so many drugstore mascaras tend to do. There is a small tendency to clump, but I feel this is always part of the territory with the most volumizing mascaras available. I’ve been reaching for this mascara every single day since purchasing it.

The best part about this mascara? It’s a killer bargain — at $3.

Can’t wait to try out other Jordana products!

Verdict: 4.5/5 Stars

Availability: Walgreen’s & jordanacosmetics.com for $3

Belated Valentine’s / Date Makeup Look!

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Happy Belated Valentine’s Day!

I was planning on uploading this makeup look prior to Valentine’s Day but fell victim to a viral upper respiratory infection at the week’s end!

Featured Look:

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FACE PRODUCTS USED

Foundation — Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation in Shade #3
Undereye Concealer — NYX HD Photogenic Concealer in “Porcelain”
Powder — Physician’s Formula Mineral Airbrushing Pressed Powder in “Translucent”
Highlighter — Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector (Pressed) in “Moonstone”
Blush — Tarte Amazonian Clay blush in “Natural Beauty”
Contouring Powder — Inglot 504
Lipstick — Too Faced Liquified Long Wear Lipstick in “Melted Strawberry”

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EYE PRODUCTS USED

Inner Lid — Makeup Geek Foiled Eyeshadow “In the Spotlight”
Outer V — Mac “Cranberry”
Crease — Makeup Geek “Cupcake”
Eye Primer — Mac Paint Pot “Soft Ochre”
Brow Bone — Mac “Nylon”
Brows — Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow Pomade in “Medium Brown”
Eyeliner — Jordana Cat Eye Liner in “Black Leather”
Mascara — Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara

Hope you enjoyed the look — and had a great Valentine’s Day!  ❤️

Review: CK One Color Airlight Powder Foundation!

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Nothing quite suits traveling like compact makeup, and especially powder compact makeup (which conceals and mattifies in one step!).

I recently tried CK One Color Airlight Powder Foundation (SPF 15) for this purpose, and would like to share my thoughts.

The compact is very handy, and is indeed ideal for travel. In short, the packaging is sleep and ergonomic:

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On first swatch, the foundation itself is very pigmented and finely milled — both signs of high quality. Indeed, it feels silky to the touch upon first application. The shades are all yellow-based, which is usually helpful in canceling redness. For reference, my shade is “Porcelain” (100), which is the fairest shade in the bunch. This product comes in 6 shades.

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Now, for the before and after

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Left to right (bare face, foundation applied, full face of makeup)

The initial application covers beautifully, and my first reaction was one of excitement. Compact powder makeup, small enough to fit in a travel bag, with SPF 15 and a beautiful finish…What more can you ask for?

Alas, the good impression was not to last.

Despite its initial finish, this foundation begins to get patchy and streaky as the day progresses. Unfortunately, it also does nothing to control oil, either; the T-zone definitely shines throughout the day after applying this product. The foundation wears off so badly that, without fail, you have a red nose by mid-day. That is pretty bad.

Despite its promising beginnings, this foundation simply does not make the cut. Don’t waste your money.

Verdict: 1/5 Stars

Availability: ULTA
Price: $26

Makeup Geek Cosmetics! (Part 2–Blush)

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Following on the heels of my Makeup Geek eyeshadow post, I wanted swatch and review several of the company’s blushes, which have received much hype recently in the YouTube beauty world!

Makeup Geek offers 13 blushes — in compact form for $13 and in pan form for $10 — relatively affordable prices which place these products in the “drugstore” price range.

I’ll show swatches first, then examine each blush — one at a time:

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Note: Please excuse the curling iron burns on my arm! ☺️

“HEAD OVER HEELS”

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Website Description: “Light bubblegum pink with slight shimmer”

This blush is a cool-toned baby pink, but with silver shimmer. As you can see in the picture, the silver shimmer even enables the blush to double as a highlight! An absolute dream on fair and medium skin. A sweet girly shade!

Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“SECRET ADMIRER”

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Website Description: “Light Orchid Purple”

This blush is a must-have for porcelain skin tones. I slightly beg to differ with the description; this shade is an even combination between orchid purple and “Barbie” pink. It provides the perfect flush reminiscent of that achieved after coming in from a cold winter’s day. Unlike “Head over Heels,” this blush is matte — no shimmer present.

Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“HONEYMOON”

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Website Description: “Light pink with mauve undertones and silver specks”

This blush is definitely the least pigmented of this very pigmented group of blushes. It is quite shimmery (like “Head over Heels”) but with less pigmentation. It would only work on the fairest of the fair; it would not even show up on medium and dark skin tones. I would probably not re-purchase this one.

Verdict: 3/5 Stars

“ROMANCE”

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Website Description: “Soft rose with gold shimmer”

This shade has been called a dupe for Nars’ iconic “Orgasm” shade, but I disagree — it’s better than Nars’ “Orgasm”! This shade is universally flattering — with its gold shimmer suitable for warm/darker skin tones and its pink/rose base suitable for cool/lighter skin tones. It is like a blush form of Makeup Geek’s gorgeous “Cosmopolitan” shade, which is rose-gold (swatched in my last post). Ladies, it doesn’t get much better than this. (Can I just eat this blush? I love it that much.)

Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“SPELLBOUND”

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Website Description: “Light tan with salmon undertones”

This is another universally flattering color, with its dueling pink (cool) and peach (warm) themes. Since it is matte, this color is very much a functional, “everyday” color. It is reminiscent of Mac’s famous “Melba” blush. If you own the “Melba” blush, you do not need this one as well. However, if you can only purchase one Makeup Geek blush, this is a safe bet. No matter what your skin tone, I guarantee it will look good on you.

Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Overall thoughts

These blushes, with the exception of “Honeymoon”, impress me most in their vibrant pigmentation and finely milled quality, two characteristics most characteristic of high end (far more expensive) blushes. They are somewhat powdery, but this causes no real harm and is not sufficient to cause untidiness at your dressing area. In addition, these blushes last all day, without fading, which is also impressive.

For $10 (pan form) and $13 (compact form), you cannot find blushes anywhere of such superb caliber.

See you next time! 😉

Makeup Geek blushes are available at makeupgeek.com.

Makeup Geek Cosmetics! (Part 1–Eyeshadow)

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Today I would like to offer an overview of Makeup Geek Cosmetics, a new makeup brand with drugstore prices but department store quality — as well as reviews and swatches of the products!

A bit of background…

Marlena (aka “Makeup Geek”) is a California beauty blogger and YouTuber who started her own cosmetics line. Her stated goal was to create products of high-end caliber at reasonable prices, including Mac eyeshadow dupes. And she has absolutely done it! Not only iPads her products a hit with the YouTube beauty gurus, but it is also building a massive fandom among women who are looking for a stellar bargain.

I’m going to start with…

EYESHADOWS
Makeup Geek has over 60 individual Eyeshadows, in both potted and pan form. Of those, she has two shadow formulations — the regular shadows and the *foiled* shadows. See swatches below:

Regular Shadows

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These eyeshadows, available in pan form and suitable for a space-saving Z-palette, are $6 apiece. For more information regarding Z-palettes, please read my post here.

Foiled Shadows

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The foiled eyeshadows, also in pan form, run at $10 apiece.

Now, I will discuss these shadows individually:

“Beaches & Cream”

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The Makeup Geek website describes this shade as a “creamy matte natural beige with just a hint of peach.” This is a great description; it is very creamy. However, it is not one of my favorites in this line since it is skin-tone and produces no color on the eyelid. It is also not shimmery so as to act as a highlight. You can live without this one.
Verdict: 2/5 stars

“Creme Brulee”

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Described on the website as a “medium sand color with a soft matte finish,” this shade is the perfect crease color and a total dupe for Mac’s famous “Soft Brown” shadow. It works with any lid color to create the ideal transition shadow. A must-have which will be a staple in your makeup kit!
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“Cinderella”

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Official description is “pale shimmery pink.” As beautiful, delicate, and feminine as this shadow looks in the pan, its pigmentation is mediocre (at best) when applied without a primer. You can live without this one.
Verdict: 2.5/5 Stars

“Cosmopolitan”

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This is a must-have shade! Described as “rose gold with gold flecks and a shimmer finish,” this is a dupe (but even better!) than Mac’s famous “Expensive Pink” shadow. Extremely pigmented and buttery soft! A winner for everyone, but particularly stunning on blue eyes.
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“Unexpected”

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Official description is “matte pale pink brown.” It is an ideal cool-toned crease/transition shade to contrast with a warm-toned shadow on the lid. Often compared to Mac’s “Quarry” — although I think “Unexpected” is far better.
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Now for the foiled shadows…

“Magic Act”

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“Light gold with yellow undertones and a foiled finish.” This is your basic shimmering gold lid shade — on steroids! The foiled finish is incredibly vibrant and metallic — a definite pick-up!
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“In the Spotlight”

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Described on the website as “soft pink with coral undertones and a foiled finish”, this shade is STUNNING. It is the perfect pink-gold champagne shade, and very striking as a lid shade. The warm tones of this shade make them ideal for blue eyes.
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“Grandstand”

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“Medium rose gold with slight taupe undertones and a foiled finish” is the website description. This shade is also unforgettable — and a total dupe for the gorgeous “Rose Gold” Ardency Inn eyeshadow. The pigmentation is unreal. Another winner!
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“Mesmerized”

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Website description states, “deep medium taupe with strong purple undertones and a foiled finish.” This is a strong silvery pewter shade which is truly striking and universally flattering for all eye colors.
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“Showtime”

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Official description states, “rusty brown with warm undertones and a foiled finish.” I feel like this description is misleading, however; the shade definitely leans burgundy purple. A terrific fall, vampy color! Richly pigmented — and especially suited to green eyes.
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

“Flame Thrower”

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“True brightened warm copper with a foiled finish,” per the website. This shade, like the other foiled shades, applies like liquid metal to the eye. Another stunning shade for blue eyes!
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Last shadow…and it is a regular finish! (Listed here because I forgot to list it with the other regular shadows 😊)

“Prom Night”

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Described as “pale purple with hints of grey and a shimmer finish.” I would describe this more as a silvery purple-toned taupe — and it is glorious! Marlena reportedly designed “Prom Night” as a dupe for Mac’s bestseller “Satin Taupe.” The Makeup Geek version, however, far excels “Satin Taupe” in terms of pigmentation and longevity! Universally flattering for a neutral and sophisticated eye look.
Verdict: 5/5 Stars

I have created two basic eye looks below using a few of these shadows!

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“In the Spotlight” (lid), “Cupcake” (crease)

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“Cosmopolitan” (lid), “Unexpected” (crease)

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“Magic Act” (lid), “Creme Brulee” (crease)

My overall opinion…

On the whole, Makeup Geek is a fantastic bargain for stellar makeup. As noted above, few Makeup Geek products received less than a 5-star rating from me! For this price, you rarely find high quality such as this.

In my next post, I will swatch and review the Makeup Geek blushes! 😃

These products are available at makeupgeek.com.

5 Too Faced “Chocolate Bar” Palette Looks!

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LOOK #1

LOOK #2

LOOK #3

LOOK #4

LOOK #5

Hope you all enjoyed these looks!

One final note about this palette…

The “Salted Caramel” shade in this palette is my Holy Grail transition/crease color — perfect for any eye look. I would probably repurchase the palette for that shade alone! Translation: You need it in your life!

See you next time! 😘