Sunday, January 31, 2010

Expiration Rule-of-Thumb

Moldy bread. Rotten lettuce. Sour milk. Stale cereal. Gross, right? Food, as we all know, has varying expiration dates. It's fairly easy to recognize when a snack in the fridge or pantry has gone rotten because we can physically see the mold, smell the foul odor, or taste when something has gone rancid. What's hard to remember, though, (and even harder to be disciplined about, but more on that later), is that cosmetics all have their relative expiration dates too. Mascara. Foundation. Lip Gloss. Blush. Eyeliner. Eyeshadow. Concealer. Under-eye-brightening shimmer. You name it, it sadly doesn't last forever. In fact, the cruel truth is that all of those absolutely brilliant beauty products displayed in Sephora and department stores are contaminated the moment they're opened and exposed to air.

Given the precious dollars spent on makeup, (egad, how effective marketing can lure us in), it's a downright painful process to weed out old and expired products from a cosmetics bag. Trust me, I know. Just thinking about tossing a lip gloss that hasn't been squeezed to the very last drop makes me want to cringe. Consequently, I'm guilty-as-charged because my makeup bag is busting at the seams and has, in due time, become slightly out-of-control. It's vital, though, to realize the importance of keeping bacteria at bay and off the skin. Breakouts? Irritations? Eye infections? Nooooo thank you. Time to purge. Out with the old. Now, where's that trashcan and recycling bin?

So, ladies, I invite you to join me in a little mid-winter cleaning! According to an article published by, the shelf lives of some typical beauty products are as follows:
  • Oil-Free Foundation: 1 year
  • Cream or Compact Foundation: 18 months
  • Concealer: 12-18 months
  • Powder: 2 years
  • Blush and Bronzer: 2 years
  • Cream Blush: 12-18 months
  • Powder Eye Shadow: 2 years
  • Cream Eye Shadow: 12-18 months
  • Eyeliner: 2 years
  • Liquid eyeliner: 3-6 months
  • Mascara: 3 months
  • Lipstick: 2 years
  • Lip liner: 2 years
  • Lip gloss: 18-24 months

While U.S. labeling restrictions do not require an expiration date on most cosmetics, some cosmetic companies conveniently do include a Period-After-Opening (PAO) symbol on the back of their packaging. The PAO identifies the useful lifetime of a cosmetics product after the packaging has been opened for the first time. The time period is most often written as a number followed by the letter "M," as in 12M, which indicates the number of recommended months. However, please take note that the lifespan of a product is also related to the environment in which it is stored and used in. Products that have been improperly stored may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date.

Ideally, makeup should be kept in a dry, dark, cool place, (though convenient, a steamy bathroom can encourage bacterial growth). Also, avoid using your fingertips to apply product directly from the container. Brushes, which should be washed about once a month in mild soap, are the preferred and cleanest method. Refrain from sharing makeup - especially eye makeup, and as a general rule-of-thumb, if the product changes at all in color, texture, consistency, or odor, it's time to toss it. Just like you would that expired yogurt, forgotten in the back of the fridge.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ergonomic Importance

Humans, (as far as this human is concerned), were not designed to sit at a desk all day, squinting from the glare of overhead fluorescent lighting, hunched over a tiny laptop, staring numbingly into a computer screen. No, not at all. Our bodies are instinctual machines with the primitive desire to be in constant motion; exercising, stretching, harvesting food, socializing, moving. We like to migrate. Travel. Explore. Yearnings which, more often than not, are suppressed by the confines of the work environment. Yet, it seems as if over the eons, we have adapted to our ever-changing surroundings and slowly, yet surely, have evolved into the Office Hominoid.

Indeed, the neck rolls, the adjusting of the squishy chair, the back cracking, the overhead stretch, the frequent walks to the water cooler, yes - these techniques all help "work out the kinks." But they do not solve the core issue of discomfort as a result of sitting at a desk for hours on end: poor posture.

For almost two years - TWO naïve years - I sat hunched over a work laptop, bewildered why my neck and back called out to me almost every night with a dull ache. Maybe I'd go for a run and the strain would subside, but it always seemed to reappear at the end of each Monday's work day. Until finally, I had a "Eureka!" moment, did a little research, and realized that I drastically needed to reevaluate my sitting posture.

In a nutshell, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the official proper-posture check-list reads as follows:
  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  • Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.

A holiday wish-list, (followed by one very grateful visit from a sympathetic Santa Claus), resulted in a Printed Thought product rave: the laptop stand! It's an affordable and effective solution for combating neck and back strain. My innovative new laptop stand set-up in the office was such a success, this is the one Santa brought me for personal in-apartment use. What a guy (p.s. thank you, Mom and Dad!).

Here you have it: The Printed Thought Blogging Station! The desk in my room has officially metamorphosed into a gorgeous and ergonomically-correct sanctuary of computer creativity. My muscle aches have virtually disappeared. All it took was proper posture. True, I still need to remind myself at times to sit correctly in my chair, but the screen viewing angle, seat position, and keyboard set-up make a world of difference. The mStand by Rain Design, Inc. cradles a MacBook Pro flawlessly, while almost becoming an extension of the computer's silhouette in itself. An external keyboard and wireless mouse complete the healthy and worth-while transformation.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bagged Lunch: Hummus Sandwich

In light of my new year's resolution of toting more homemade lunches to work, I unveil to you my newest creation: the Vegetarian Hummus Sandwich! It's simple, satisfying, dairy-free, and is certainly an excellent way to sneak more of those veggies into your diet.

While I'm becoming more adventurous with different brands and flavors of hummus, in the meantime I'm very satisfied with the exquisite flavor and super creamy texture of Cedar's Original Hommus Tahini. Hmmm. Is it "Hummus" or is it "Hommus"?
In any case, here's the step-by-step process of the building-of-a-hummus sandwich. I whipped up this little tasty lunchtime delight before work this morning in only 5 minutes. Not only did it stand up well to the morning commute, but it was still irresistibly appetizing by noon on the same day. Try it for yourself!

Obtain two pieces of sliced whole-wheat bread.

Spread a healthy amount of hummus on one side (I like to wipe the excess hummus left on the knife onto the other piece).

Thinly slice up some cucumbers and layer them on the hummus.

This part is up to your interpretation, but I love the combination of red onions and thinly sliced carrots.

Tie the entire sandwich together by piling it high with some fresh sprouts. These little guys are packed with vitamins and minerals.

Finally, finish off your hummus sandwich by cutting it diagonally and wrapping in up tinfoil to hold all the ingredients together.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bon Voyage

January is an exceptionally busy business travel month for me - hence the recent lack of Printed Thoughts. While my company shall remain unnamed for anonymity sake, I will say that thus far in the new year, I have been in Florida for one week, and now I'm in Utah for another...well, with a couple personal ski days thrown into the mix to round everything out.

Don't get me wrong - I very much enjoy traveling to a destination, but there's no question that the traveling part in itself is just plain exhausting.

How does one make the hauling of the luggage, the cramped economy cabin, the long lines through security, and the flight itself more bearable? Via trial and error, I've singled out several absolutely essential carry-on items that make a flight of any duration infinitely more enjoyable. Sure, a book is nice to have, a laptop is too, a newspaper perhaps, an orange and a homemade sandwich, but the following select items are my TOP picks. Here they are, fresh out of my carry-on bag:

Pashmina Scarf/Shawl - Stylish AND practical! With airline blankets seemingly becoming more scarce, this helps keep you warm on a chilly plane.

Large Bottle of Water - Unfortunately, bottles must be purchased once past security, but in-flight hydration is key. I also find it reassuring to have water at my disposal in the event I sleep through beverage service.

iPod/Headphones - "Wailing Baby in the Seat in Front of You" scenario? Hellooo, peace and quiet.

Inflatable Neck Pillow - Ridiculous looking? Absolutely. But, I don't care because head-bobbing and neck-cramping can ruin what would have otherwise been a restful nap. I tote this along on longer flights where I'll be attempting to sleep a decent amount. This one is nice because it folds up into a small little bag. No lugging around an over-stuffed u-shaped donut, thank you very much. A little neck support can go a long way.

Lip Balm - Agh! Never travel without one!

Small Moisturizing Lotion (3 oz. or smaller) - Essential in-flight for both hands and face. That re-circulated cabin air is dry stuff.

Translucent Powder Compact with mirror - This one by Lorac is fantastic because it's so portable. A little sweep here and there, and viola! Unwanted oil and shine is concealed, leaving the skin natural-looking and matte.

Now, speaking of travel, I came across this amusing, yet slightly disconcerting sign, positioned at the beginning of the security line at LaGuardia airport. I suppose it was fitting for all those seasonal holiday travelers, but what has this world come to when snow globes of all things are considered prohibited items in carry-on bags? Regardless, I still have no complaints about extra security measures. Better to travel safe...and with a few strategic carry-on items, at least with a little more comfort and sanity.

What are your carry-on essentials?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree

It's a little depressing after the holiday season to walk past "evergreen carnage" piled up on the sidewalk.

You see, Christmas tree vendors pop up all over New York City immediately following Thanksgiving, so the public's purchase of trees is a gradual process that goes by fairly unnoticed. But then factor in approximately 1.7 million people living in Manhattan alone, and just imagine how many trees could have accumulated in all those apartments! January 1st is the day they all start coming out of the woodwork...or more like down the elevators and flights of stairs...only to be piled up with yesterday's trash.

It's a very sad sight to see a dried-up tree, stripped of all its holiday cheer. Why so soon? Only a couple weeks earlier, these magical trees were the center of attention; decked out in fancy lights, showcased in every family photo, their sweet organic aroma filling an entire apartment.

It made me wonder. What happens to all these trees anyway? What becomes their final resting place?

Well I am very happy to report that New York City's Department of Sanitation gets an A+, Gold Star in my book for its evergreen recycling efforts. According to their website, "Clean, non-bagged Christmas trees that are left at the curb between Monday, January 4th and Friday, January 15th will be collected, chipped, and made into compost. The compost will be processed and subsequently spread upon parks, ball fields, and community gardens throughout the city."

Two days left!

The site also reminds residents that in order for their tree to be properly mulched, all tree stands, tinsel, lights, and ornaments MUST be removed.

So, jump on the recycling bandwagon fellow tree-huggers. In January 2009, the Department collected 122,235 discarded Christmas trees. Check out NYC's Department of Sanitation's Website or the one in your area, to do your part in mulchin' that tree. Just please don't let it be taken away with the trash.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Return of the Thoughts!

Where did vacation go? I just can't comprehend how 12 days of relaxation and cookies and bubbly and hot chocolate and snow and adventures melted away with '09. Waaah. I diligently toted my MacBook along with me in my travels throughout the Northeast, but failed to actually remove it from its computer case, let alone take it out of my bag. Whoops. At least I meant well. Though I firmly believe that vacation is all about going off-the-grid for a little bit and disconnecting oneself, if ever so slightly, from technology.

HAPPY NEW YEAR by the way!

I have SO much to fill you in on. Like how I saw AVATAR (awesome - I want to be a Na'vi), cooked/ate lots of deliciousness, went skiing in -1 degree base temps (not awesome), celebrated New Year's Eve in Boston, spent quality time with family and friends, and oh-so-many more exciting adventures in CT, VT, NH, and MA. First, though, I shall vent via blogging and complain about my not-so-glamourous first two days back in the Big Apple because it's only inevitable that a relaxing vacay must give way to some frustrating back-to-reality moments. 1.) I tossed and turned all night last night because of the street lights glaring in through my window. 2.) Was rudely shoved not once, but twice on the subway this morning while stepping aside (like a good citizen) to let other passengers off. 3.) Stepped in dog poop. 4.) Could NOT obtain an open cardio machine at my gym despite my sketchy lingering near the ellipticals. 5.) Staples was sold out of the only essential computer item I specifically trekked in to find and 6.) Purchased an over-priced box of Museli from a Natural Foods market that I ate, then realized - after eating a bowl that tasted slightly off - was infested with squiggling green worms. *Sigh* I know, not the end of the world. But tomorrow is a new day and 2010 an exciting new year!

I shall now direct your attention to the darned most adorable product design there ever was for a Snuggie (as if saying the word "Snuggie" wasn't cute enough). I am convinced Snuggies will take over the world. I came across this in the checkout line at a Walmart in New Hampshire. Trust me - it was cold enough up there that miniature Dauschhunds and Bichon Frise's really do need their own fleece blankets with leg holes and cowl necks. Not that I own a little dog. But if I did for some reason unbeknownst to me, he or she would certainly be wearing one in blue.