Blog

Here on my own blog, I write primarily about my favorite topics:

I am interested in the intersection of aesthetic design, human communication, and innovative technology.  I try to define this intersection through my hobbies.  The name of this blog “Our Lady of Self Integration” pokes fun at the wide range of my interests and how I integrate all these parts of myself into one life.

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5 Tips for a Memorable Mardi Gras

You can also read this article on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse.

One item on many Bucket Lists is to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Thanks to the hospitality of my lifelong friend, this year I had the chance to do exactly that.  What I’ve compiled here are my top tips for a first-time Mardi Gras attender to help you have a fun, memorable, and sane experience.

This is a lengthy post, so if you’d like to jump ahead use these links:

  1. Research
  2. Prioritize
  3. Be Strategic
  4. Be Considerate
  5. Take It Easy

Before we jump in, here’s some crucial lingo:

  • Krewe: A purposeful misspelling of “crewe” coined in the mid-1800s as an archaic affectation (fake old-sounding word).  Krewes lead parades throughout the Mardi Gras season.  Some parades consist of multiple small Sub-Krewes (Krewe Delusion, The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus) but most run their own independant parades.
  • Reveler: A person who has paid to gain membership to a Krewe and is therefore required to participate in the parade.  Revelers are all required to wear masks — some resemble those worn by French clergy and some are classic masquerade masks).
  • Royalty: Krewe members who have made particularly large contributions and therefore ride on individual floats at the beginning of the parade.  Some parades have only a King/Queen and some have Dukes, Duchesses, Paiges, Maids, and more.
  • Throw: Items thrown by revelers to parade goers.  Typical throws include classic Mardi Gras beads, Krewe-themed beads, medallions, doubloons, plastic cups, and special hand-decorated throws.
  • Ball: Krewes throw exclusive parties after their parades where attendees are able to see the floats go by in a special location and are sometimes treated to a concert by the parade’s celebrity marshall.  Tickets to these parties are hard to come by and can climb upwards of $500.

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Body Dysmorphia & Social Media

Two nights ago I was in a bit of A Mood™️ and I decided to give a little air time to my frustrations on social media.  The responses to my post got me thinking about how we react to people’s bodies, and feelings about their bodies, on social media.  Fair warning: this is not your typical, predictable post about body image and Instagram models.

Understanding My Face

my profile, showing my retracted chin
Come thru, chin defect!

I was born with what’s clinically diagnosed as a “retracted chin”; instead of my chin extending out to match the shape of my forehead and nose, it retreats back under my lips.  It’s a genetic defect and it’s also a feature I share with my Narcissist-with-a-capital-N father.

For most of my young life I could not figure out what was wrong with my face.  I would stare at photos of myself with other friends with non-defected facial structure and I was absolutely stumped as to why my face looked so wrong.  My own dysmorphia and distorted perception of myself made it hard to view my face as “mine”, let alone to understand its individual features.  Discovering that my retracted chin is an actual, diagnosable, defect made me happy.

I wasn’t crazy.  My face was fixable.

In the years since pinning down my facial defect, I have researched doctors.  I am lucky to have a home base in Massachusetts — a state with some of the best medical facilities in the country, possibly the entire continent.  I came close to saving up the roughly $5k that corrective surgery will cost but unfortunately had to spend my savings when the startup company I was working for in NYC could no longer support my salary.

That setback has been devastatingly frustrating in many ways.

Controlling Perception

For the most part, I have kept my plans to get corrective surgery to myself.  We live in a culture that looks down upon people that choose to alter their bodies in many ways.  People who choose cosmetic surgery are seen as vain, people who pierce and tattoo their bodies are seen as freaks, and people who are born transgender and choose to take hormones and/or pursue surgery face discrimination.

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New Year, New Orleans, New Goals

For many of us, January is a time when we reflect on the accomplishments and un-met goals of the previous year and prioritize new goals for the coming year.

In January of 2016, I set two goals for myself: to get in better shape and to travel more.  It’s possible to say I met both of those goals though perhaps not to the extent I hoped.  I lost roughly 45 pounds (5 pounds less than my original goal), I made it to the second-to-last week of Couch to 5k twice (but have yet to actually finish it), and I visited some favorite cities and old friends.  I moved from New York City back to my hometown in Western Mass, I traveled up to Quebec City for the first time in over a decade, and then I moved down to New Orleans.

This January I have found myself planning not only goals for things I want in 2017, but goals that will set up the things I want for 2018 as well.  I think it’s a sign that my 25-year-old brain finally has a fully developed frontal lobe.

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You’re Not Going to Canada

From the moment it became clear that Donald Trump’s run for presidency was no longer a joke, statements about fleeing the country if he won started popping up all around us.  From celebrities to friends in our newsfeeds, many were letting it be known that the idea of a Trump presidency was so unacceptable to them that they would abandon ship.

This is not new.  Every election cycle people break out the ultimatums and Canada is always the obvious choice for liberals.  But let’s face it — 99% of you are not going to Canada.

I say this as someone who was born and raised in America but whose family on both sides is only one generation removed from Canadian immigrants to the United States.  Every summer vacation I ever went on as a kid was to Canada.  I know all the words to O Canada and I can name all the provinces and territories and their capitals.  My mother proudly holds dual citizenship and God willing, so will I – but don’t think that desire is an election-based whim – it’s been a lifelong plan.

And that’s where my exasperation at those who declare “I’m moving to Canada” originates.  Moving to Canada is not like moving across state lines.  They have immigration laws, and obtaining a visa and later, citizenship, is a process that costs both years of your life and hundreds to thousands of dollars.  It is not something that can or should be done on a whim.

Yet, I do understand the impulse.  We are faced with a frightening consequence of our election — a president who has inspired the ugliest underbelly of our country to step into the light and make their hateful statements heard.  For anyone who is not a straight, white, cisgendered, Christian male, it’s a scary time.  And for anyone with a conscience, it’s just downright embarrassing to be associated with our new orange overlord.

The thing is, you can escape a Trump presidency without abandoning your country.  Living and working abroad does not require you to relinquish US citizenship and you can still vote absentee (and you should because in 2018 all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33/100 seats in the Senate will be contested).

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Getting Fit: Food + Weight

Above: Two of the meals that make up my average 1200 calorie day I describe below.  Ingredients and calorie counts are listed at the bottom of this article.  

I have hesitated to post anything on this topic for awhile now as it is, for many, a highly emotional and touchy subject.  But I don’t believe it needs to be emotionally fraught — it comes down to numbers, and numbers have no feelings.

In my mind, there are two things a person should strive to do for their health:

⤐ Understand and keep track of exactly what they eat.

⤐ Walk or run for more than a mile multiple times a week.

Let’s start with number one.  Many people incorrectly equate documenting your eating habits with compulsive eating disorders.  While food tracking may be part of how an eating disorder presents in some individuals, keeping a food diary does not an anorexic make.  In fact, keeping a food diary is a fantastic way to be sure that you are giving your body all of the protein, fat, and micronutrients it needs to keep going.  Journaling your food intake is just like keeping a monthly spreadsheet to budget your finances or tracking how many miles you can go between filling up your gas tank.  It’s an informative and healthy habit to have.

More than that, a food diary is the only way to hold yourself accountable for bad eating habits.  Like many people, I’ve wondered why it was I could never lose weight — I thought I ate a reasonable amount and that perhaps my body was just stuck like that.  Most of my immediate family was overweight, I thought perhaps it was genetic.  Then I started tracking every single thing I ate in a day, and I learned that I was eating exactly enough to maintain my weight, if not more sometimes.

Poor nutrition and obesity are an epidemic and there is simply no other way to describe it.  Obesity is a disease that is killing us, and yet at a time when information is at all of our fingertips, it’s difficult to find correct information on healthy eating and weight management.  Myths both new and old are hard to shake loose, particularly when social media provides a perfect ground for peddling to the uninformed.

So let’s go over some terms and knock out some myths.  Because one comfort in this is that while it’s not magic or easy, the formula for weight loss is very simple and it works for everyone.

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New York Fashion Week: Favorites & Trends

While New York Fashion Week was just over two weeks ago, it feels like I’m already far behind the times posting this review now.  But such is the world of fashion, especially during fashion month.  It’s an understatement to say things move quickly.

My lateness aside, I wanted to post this to review some pieces and collections that stood out to me, both to highlight clothes I might wear and those few designers that took interesting risks.  I have to agree with the top fashion editors that not enough collections felt risky or new this season.  I can respect that the world of fashion is undergoing significant changes at the moment — in the social media driven world, everyone wants to have the most Instagramable collection and consumers want what they’re seeing photos of now, which is why many designers are choosing to offer see-now buy-now collections.

A collection that is too risky, that introduces a too-new silhouette, that pushes consumers ideas about what beauty can look like too much is likely to sell less than something that meets existing expectations and comfort zones.  And financial risk aside, we’ve seen so much fast change in fashion in the last half-century — from A-lines to miniskirts, from dramatic flares to tight cigarette pants — it can feel like we’ve seen it all already, and that everything new is simply a rehash.  Strictly speaking, that is and isn’t true.  All art is a reference to previous art; it has to be.  In that view, nothing is new and yet, everything is.

This is a very substantial post as New York Fashion Week is an enormous topic.  You can use the following links to jump ahead: Trends (90s70sCelebrityCollectionsCutoutsCulottesFringeGradientsKnitsLurexMarijuanaPatchesRuffles); Favorites (for aesthetic & for wearability).

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Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, & Kiev

During fashion month, many of the cities with smaller fashion weeks get overlooked. While excitement about the rapidly approaching New York Fashion week rises, the collections from Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Kiev have already finished showing.

Below are some of my favorites from each of these four fashion weeks.  I would have to say Stockholm and Kiev tie for overall favorite weeks.  But the collection from Baum and Pferdgarten (Copenhagen) takes first place for my favorite collection.

Berlin Fashion Week

Fall fashion week in Berlin featured lots of black, which is both the chicest of colors and also an archetype of German fashion.  This season in particular designers drew inspiration from the punk styles of the 90s, the new Star Wars film, and fetishwear.

Augustin Teboul

Augustin Teboul Fall 2016 Berlin

The combination of a blazer, bandeau top, and skinny jeans is a fit we have seen on runways and celebrities for seasons.  Even the pairing of socks with pumps, while rare, is not novel.  Despite the popularity of this proportion, Teboul has given us a new way to wear it.

Teboul’s collections are influenced by fetishwear, and this fall features a unique way to style fishnets that I personally cannot get enough of.  Worn under a skirt or skinny pant and yet over socks and with a high enough waist to show under a crop top, the fishnets give a textural element to a look we’ve now seen a thousand times.

While I love the look of the black fishnets over red socks, I would like to see this done with beige-nude fishnets over black socks, still with black pants and shoes.

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Paris Couture Week Favorites & Trends

As anyone with an internet connection knows, Couture Week in Paris was a little over a week ago.  For many years I have followed fashion week after fashion week, experiencing it vicariously through Vogue editors and bloggers reports, occasionally posting exciting looks on twitter and more recently spamming my favorite looks from nearly every collection on tumblr.  I’ve decided to start compiling my favorite looks and writing up trends I am excited to be seeing on this blog, and my first attempt is here.

Some Favorite Looks

spring 2016 couture faves
Top-to-bottom, let-to-right: Alexandre Vauthier École Polytechnique uniform coat; Elie Saab Neru collar top and punjab pant; Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda black and gold cross dress; Maison Valentino sheer gown with gold detail.

Why these four looks?  To start, I am a sucker for École Polytechnique coats, and Vauthier created three spectacular versions in varying sleeve lengths with subtle tailoring differences.  The long sleeved show-opener was my personal favorite, both of the coats and his entire collection.

It was truly challenging to pick only one look from Elie Saab’s collection — the entire thing was nothing short of perfect.  Starting with the concept of a young woman traveling on holiday to India, connecting modern silhouettes and themes with timeless Indian ones.  Perhaps the best thing about Saab’s collection is that the Neru collars and sari sashes do not cross into costume territories.  One of my favorite details are the beige boots and the pants tucked into them, which come as unexpected in such a loose and feminine collection, yet do not feel out of place.

Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda collection received a standing ovation when it debuted in Milan.  One of my longtime favorite themes in D&G’s collections is their use of catholic imagery.  Crosses feature heavily in many of their lines, couture and ready-to-wear alike.  The comparative simplicity of the above look is what I like so much.  The bright contrast of black and gold, the unusual but familiar silhouette, and the dark red lipstick.  It is a vampy look that personally calls to mind what the most fashionable parallel universe version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Drusilla might wear.

As Dolce & Gabbana’s piece reminds me of a vampire princess, Maison Valentino’s is more directly referencing an elvish princess.  Barefoot with a floor length gown and decorated with bold jewelry, from literally head to toe.

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L’Oreal Complexion Products Review

Magic Lumi Light Infusing Primer

Magic Lumi Light I
Magic Lumi Light Infusing Primer

Price & Size: $12.95 for 0.68 oz / 19 ml

As the name suggests, this is a brightening primer.  On a good skin day, I will put this on over my sunscreen, throw on some mascara and lip tint and call it a day.

Packaging: The primer comes with a pump dispenser, which is a hygienic distribution but will lose some product in the bottom of the container.  One or two pumps is sufficient to cover my face.  Pro tip: shake the container for a few seconds before using the pump.  Sometimes if I haven’t used it for a while the product will separate.

Formula: I tend to wear BB creams and light coverage foundation so I still see the “lumi” quality coming through.  Under a medium to full coverage foundation, it loses most of its brightening quality.  While the brightening quality does offer some light diffusion which smoothes skin, it offers little pore filling or long wear properties.  I will tend to wear it over my NYX pore filler silicone based primer and under my BB cream or foundation.

My favorite thing about it is how it looks in your hand.  Living up to the word “magic” in its name, the product looks like liquid mercury or something out of Harry Potter.  I’ve included a true swatch of this product at the bottom next to the swatches from the contour palette.

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H&M x Balmain Launch: What I Experienced

First off: I never intended to pick up the collection’s most coveted items — the beaded blazer and embroidered dress.  While they are both beautiful, I found them more reminiscent of Balmain in 2012 than 2016.  No shade to anyone who picked them up or admired them, but I think H&M and Balmain chose to re-create some pre-existing designs rather than push new ideas, given that people have already been watching celebrities wear nearly identical pieces for years.  Also the target audience of H&M is not as risk-taking as your average runway show attendees, and familiar silhouettes and design concepts are safer.

Doors opened at 8 a.m.  Around 7:30, having just returned from my morning trip to the gym, I headed down to the 86th Street H&M in Manhattan.  The line stretched down the block towards 3rd avenue, but did not reach the next street corner when I arrived at 7:45.  No doubt the people first in line had been there all night.

By 8:30, I had been given a wristband that would allow me to enter at 9:45.  The wristband guaranteed me a spot in line so I did not have to stand around any longer.  I headed up Lexington to Fika Cafe, enjoyed an almond milk latte and a croissant, and casually walked back around 9:30.

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