Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Last week my brother graduated with an MBA. Our family was present and it was a very proud moment for us. It made me reminisce about my own  graduation from Grad School about three years ago. Oddly, it wasn't a very memorable occasion. I had felt somewhat happy (we did celebrate with some ice cream), but more than anything else, I had felt relief. Relief to be finally done and to be able to move on with my life.

Having moved from India to a small town in the US for my Masters two years prior, it had taken more than just some adjusting to get used to a new life. Sure it was a beautiful, pristine little town and the University was just perfect and I did have friends of my own, but I missed the crowd and the noise of India. It was required that I have more structure to my life and I really missed the crazy, chaotic college-life that I had enjoyed so much. As a result, while I did enjoy those two years, I had to experience some "growing pains".

So on the day of my Graduation, I was looking forward to moving on, more than anything else. I realized that I had hoped for a lot more from Grad School than what I got. I didn't blame the school for it, I largely blamed myself for not having done more with those two years of my life. Academically, while I had done very well, I felt that I hadnt learnt anything in those two years that I didnt already know. And I had made exactly one new friendship during this period that I cared to hold close to me all my life.  So all in all, I graduated without a sense of great achievement or pride. I focused only on the negatives, and the fact that none of the people who meant anything to me were present at the ceremony didn't help either.

It wasn't until much later that I realized what those two years had meant.  For one thing, I realized that I really "grew up" in those two years. I had moved thousands of miles away from all the people I loved and learnt to survive . I learnt the true value of having a support system and to appreciate all the relationships in my life a lot more. But more than anything else, I learnt one important thing about myself - that I could do it on my own. My Masters was something that I had truly earned on my own. I got into the Programme after four years of hard work and focus, paid for it with money that I earned, supporting myself entirely on my own, and facing all the challenges that came with moving to a new country and starting afresh, pretty much alone. I didn't take any shortcuts or any easy way out and made it happen exactly like I wanted to - on my own. So while I didn't feel particularly proud on the day of my graduation, looking back after all these years, I think that perhaps, I should've...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

Skin care has been one of my hobbies for a very long time. How can skin-care possibly be a hobby? Well, if you spend hours on the net looking for information on skin care, watching youtube videos about how to make face-masks at home, and browsing through stores such as The Body Shop, Sephora or even the beauty aisles in drug-stores every week, then it does qualify as a hobby, I should think. 

Luckily for me, my office is situated in a location where Sephora, Body Shop and Bloomingdales are just steps away. After a long day or week at work, there's nothing I enjoy more than to pamper myself with a new product to try at these places. I don't spend too much on clothes, shoes or jewelry, but skin care products and cosmetics are my only indulgence. Those and tabloid magazines. But I'll do a dedicated post on how tabloids enrich our lives with news about Jen and Brad some other day ;)

As an Indian, I've often had trouble finding the right skin-care and cosmetics products for myself in America. Most products here are obviously geared towards white women and it takes some experimenting before you can find what is right for brown skin. Here are a few of my favorite products after 5 years of , should I say, intensive research? Most of these are not too expensive and can be easily found anywhere in the US. Skin-care for me also means finding good makeup. So I'll mention some of my fav makeup products as well.

1. Neutrogena Visibly Even Foaming Cleanser - It is about 8$ and is available in most drug stores. Having tried a number of other face-washes ranging from Olay, Loreal to more expensive ones from Body Shop, I find that this face wash is the least drying. Also, it has a very gentle exfoliator and it does seem to brighten complexion.

2. Aloe Soothing Day Cream from Body Shop - This is the BEST and most effective moisturizer that I've ever used in my life. My facial skin is hyper sensitive and tends to itch for most products. However this product never irritates my skin. A little goes a long way and just the texture of this product is soo good and smooth that your skin just drinks it up. I've been using this product for almost two years now, and I'm happy to have ended my quest for the perfect moisturizer.

3. Smashbox Foundation Primer (Macy's, Sephora) - Anybody who wears a foundation MUST use this product. It's simply brilliant. The texture is amazing and once applied to your face, even in the driest of winters, your foundation wont turn flaky and will just glide on smoothly all over your face. Apply moisturizer first, followed by the primer. Provides a perfect canvas for applying foundation.

4. Mac Fluidline in Black (Macy's, Bloomingdales) - Anybody who covets beautiful black Kim Kardashian-like eyes must buy this product. This is a "gel-liner" that comes in a tiny jar and lasts a really long time. Must be applied with a brush. It creates a rich, black contour and stays on all day without smudging one little bit. Most other eyeliners I've used fade by mid-day. One can get adventurous and try other colors in this line too. 

5. OLAY in-shower body lotion (drug-store) - If you live in a really cold place like I do, and are almost always late for work, this is perfect for you. This product must be applied after rinsing off your body wash while you're still in the shower. While one may argue that it should take about as much time to apply body lotion AFTER the shower, I beg to differ. For one thing, there's a little less inertia to reach out for a bottle of this product while you're still in the shower and are finding ways to stay in the warm water for just one more minute. Also, goes on a lot more easily than body lotion.

6. Good ol' Lakme Foundation (Indian stores) - Yes, who knew Lakme is really that good? I see brands like Maybelline and Loreal in most big departmental stores in India these days. But believe me, nobody knows India skin like the Lakme guys do. I have tried countless foundations in the USA and I'm disappointed to see that almost none are suited for brown skin. I now stock up on my Lakme foundation every time I visit India.

ALTERNATIVES - For those who don't have access to Lakme products, you can try giving Smashbox foundations a shot. Everyday Minerals may work for you too. Try the everyday minerals sample kit for free ($4 for shipping). They give you upto 6 samples that'll last you for months. Try their product in Olive intensive/medium/sandy if you have brown skin and see if you get lucky! (Everyday minerals are only available for purchase online)

7. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (Sephora) - Have you ever wondered how some women manage to keep their eyeshadow on all day? I always thought they reapplied until I discovered this product. Apply a teeny bit of this on your eyelid before applying the eyeshadow and it'll stay on all day without fading. A must-have really.

There are a few other products I can think of, but then again, I'm sure I'll be doing at least a few other posts on beauty, so will save those for then. Youtube is a great resource for learning more about make up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stressing over vacation

For the past month or so, I've been stressing over vacation plans. Ironic isn't it? I guess until the vacation starts, it's all about getting the visas done, tickets and hotels booked, wrapping up stuff at work and actually getting on to that flight. After which I hope to be surrounded by a sense of adventure and tranquillity.

The truth is, my husband and I got married last August, and it being an Indian wedding and all we didn't have any time after the wedding for a honeymoon. So we've been making plans since... yes ... last August. And after like 9 months of work and no vacation whatsoever, we're quite desperate for one. Getting away for even a short break can be quite refreshing. This Easter, I took a short break and went to California to visit my brother and some friends. It was so relaxing to get away from the same sights and sounds and experience something different. Just waking up in a warmer and sunnier place for example. Or ... having wine in broad daylight in Napa Valley for example.

So, earlier this year, we started off with plans to go to New Zealand for  week in March. Anyone who's watched Lord of the Rings as many times as us would obviously want to see New Zealand. But somehow we kept putting it off and we missed the "good weather window". After which we settled on Spain, but after reading a ton of online blogs and reviews about travel to Spain, I learnt that Spain is way too hot in June. Now we're considering England/Scotland/Amsterdam.

I have always been really bad about planning things. I've never been that person who, in a group of friends, books the rental and the hotel and plans a long weekend trip from start to finish. I've always been happy to let someone else do the hard work :). I wish there were people you could pay to do this for you. Wait, isn't that what travel agents are for? Hmm..

I recently learnt that I could cut out the effort of getting a visa if I were to visit Costa Rica. Funnily when I clicked on the 'Next Blog' link, it took me to www.costarica.blogspot.com. Is that a sign?