Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toy Story 3


Who else saw it today? I'm dying to have someone to chat with about its fabulousness without spoiling it for everyone who hasn't seen it. I was even accosting people in the parking lot afterwards to ask if they'd just come out of Toy Story 3, too (they hadn't... they saw Marmaduke... WTH?) so I could have someone to gush with.

Suffice it to say that I laughed and cried (QUIT JUDGING ME) and all five of us who went together (ages 3 to 63) loved it.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Safe Sunscreens, According to the Environmental Working Group

I can't believe how much effort I'm putting into finding the perfect sunscreen this year. I want it to be chemical-free, easy to put on (I have a very squirmy little girl who hates standing still for sunscreen application, especially when there's a beach in sight!), and fragrance-free or with just a light scent (because I get migraines).

I consulted the Environmental Working Group's 2010 Cosmetics Safety Database for their sunscreen testing results (they tested more than 400 beach and sport sunscreens and recommend only 39 of them). It was hard tracking down each of the sunscreens online to find reviews and purchasing info, though. Then, once I found each of them, I found mixed reviews on all of them. There were very few with overwhelmingly positive reviews, and every one of them had some down-sides (generally that the non-chemical sunscreens are harder to apply, tacky, and leave your skin white).

Now that I've done my homework, I'll pass the links and summaries onto you in an easy-to-click list so you can save some time.

Here are some of the top beach and sport sunscreens rated by EWG:

All Terrain: Bad reviews-- see for yourself. People say it just doesn't work.

Badger: 4 stars on Amazon. Main complaints are that it's greasy and hard to apply. The link takes you to the unscented version, but there are also scented versions if you do an Amazon search for "Badger suncreen."

California Baby: 4 1/2 stars on Amazon. This is the green tea "aromatherapy" one; you can search Amazon for other types.

Caribbean Solutions: 4 1/2 stars on Amazon. Most of the people who mentioned the scent said it was a nice scent, but one said, "It soaks in fast, but has a bit of an artificial flowery smell to it."

Desert Essence Age Reversal: No reviews yet on Amazon, but I found 8 reviews on Viewpoints, where it rates 4.12 out of 5. One reviewer complains that it burned her eyes.

Episencial: 4 1/2 stars on Amazon, but only 3 reviews, so I checked and got confused-- the reviews contradict each other, with some saying it's smooth and easy to rub in, and others saying the opposite; and with some saying it's water-resistant and others saying it's not.

Estion: I had a hard time tracking this one down. It seems to be out of stock most places. The link takes you to the SkinCareRx shop, where it's backordered, but has positive reviews.

Jason Sunbrellas: The two reviews on Amazon are positive, except that one reviewer says it stings if it gets in your eyes. The 10 reviews on are more mixed, repeating the eye-stinging problem, but also saying it's gritty.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios: 3 1/2 stars. Reviewers say it's thick, white, and oily.

Loving Naturals: Very mixed reviews, with many saying it's greasy or oily, and some saying it doesn't work.

Soleo Organics: 3 1/2 stars on Amazon, with the most common complaint being that it's greasy.

ThinkBaby and ThinkSport: They're sold out all over at the moment. Our friends at give this product a hearty thumbs-up, but as you can see in the comments, not everyone agrees.

TruKid Sunny Days: This is the only one on the list with a 5-star rating on Amazon (8 reviews). Reviewers say that, comparatively speaking,it goes on easily and has a light citrus scent.

UV Natural: Mixed reviews, with the most common complaints about poor performance and stickiness.

Vanicream Sunscreen Sport 4 1/2 stars, with the only real complaint about the fact that it goes on thickly.

For the curious, I ordered TruKid.

Edited to add: And I love it. Goes on easily, the whiteness fades quickly, and it works well. The only downside is cost-- the tube is very small and lasted us less than two weeks for just one little girl. I ordered two more tubes.


Why I'm a Ghostwriter

It's funny-- if you had ever told me that I was going to become a nonfiction ghostwriter and actually LIKE it, well, I would have cocked my eyebrow at you something fierce. I probably would have even said, "Pshaw!" at you. In my school days, I thought the only kind of "fun" writing was fiction writing. And when I began nonfiction writing, it was only because I saw that it had better financial prospects; it's tough to make a living as a writer, period, but really tough to make a living as a fiction writer.

But I did wind up liking nonfiction writing. Getting paid to learn stuff that interested me? What a deal! As I gained more experience, I began getting offers to ghostwrite books. Little did I know at the time that I'd find my calling there.

My line of work has put me in touch with some amazing people, both of the celebrity variety and of the regular ol' phenomenal-person-next-door variety. It seems like no accident that I've written the books I have; each person whose book I've ghostwritten or collaborated on has taught me something at just the right moment.

Jamie Blyth inspired me to expand my boundaries after I overcame panic disorder. At the time, I was pretty content just being able to go out to restaurants and stores again, but he had done some really wild things to conquer his own anxiety disorder-- like flying to Sweden to join a basketball team, even though he didn't know anyone there. Thinking about his story every day made me want to try bigger and bigger things in my own life, such as...

Working with Celine Dion. I smile every time I think of her. The editor who offered me this book assignment was really taking a leap of faith-- I didn't have any big book credits on my resume when I submitted it to her, but she liked my writing style and thought I had heart. She thought Celine and I might like each other, and she was so right. Hanging out with Celine night after night until 3 in the morning, I learned some of my most important adult life lessons. I learned, most of all, that I was happy I never achieved the fame I once sought when I wanted to be a Broadway star. She taught me that I really was meant for just the kind of work I was doing. And I will forever admire her for the way she cares so deeply about people.

Tracy Elliott taught me more about the kind of mother I wanted to be someday, and about the idea that you don't have to be a victim of your circumstances. She was orphaned as a little girl when both of her parents died, and was abused by her uncles, and riddled with addictions as a teen and young adult... but you'd never guess that to meet her now. You can write your own happy endings, I thought.

Along those same lines, you don't have to look very deeply to figure out what I learned from Scott Rigsby. The dude has no legs, and yet he did the Hawaiian Ironman triathlon. The HAWAIIAN flippin' IRONMAN. Do you know how insane that is even with two perfectly good legs?

And then Susan Markowitz, who showed up in my life just as my custody battle began. Her 15-year-old son, Nick, was murdered because of bad blood between his half-brother and a drug dealer named Jesse James Hollywood. Nick was just a pawn. Anytime I start feeling sorry for myself, Susan snaps me right out of that. Nick was her only child.

I feel lucky that my job puts me in contact with people like these, and that I get to know them so well. It enables me to ask the personal questions that you just wouldn't ask someone at a party, but you'd always be curious about. I know how Susan felt when detectives knocked on her door at dawn to say they'd found her son's body. I know how Scott cursed God for taking away his legs. I know things I'll write about, and some things I'll never write about, because they were shared just between us.

In some professions, you're taught not to get too "personally involved" with your clients. I'm lucky that ghostwriting is not one of those professions. As a ghostwriter, part of the joy for me is in crossing that line. It's the middle-of-the-night phone calls and the e-mails about nothing in particular. The Christmas presents, the family visits. If you don't want to be your subject's friend, I'm not sure how you can make readers love him or her either. (Of course, there is the case for the antihero... but still.)

I love the fact that I never know who I'm going to meet next, or whose life story will grip me for the next year. I love the appreciation I get when the subject feels I've gotten it just right. This is what I was meant to do, and I hope to keep doing it for a long time to come.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Badger Basket Doll Crib

At a birthday party she recently attended at a play center, Sarina announced to the group of 2- and 3-year-olds, "Everyone be quiet. I just put my baby to bed."

And so she had... a baby doll in a plastic crib. She'd never shown an interest in "mothering" a doll before, but I was happy to encourage it, and the nice folks at Badger Basket sent me an amazing doll crib for her to try out for this review.

The thing that appealed to me most about this crib is that it's not the typical child's toy-- that is, it's not a brightly-colored plastic monstrosity. Instead, it actually looks sweet and delicate, like a real piece of furniture. It's made of wood and MDF (wood composite) board.

It took me about 20 minutes to assemble, which was not a difficult job, just a bit time-consuming. Getting the mobile strings to hang at the right height was the hardest part (the strings should probably be pre-cut shorter). The crib felt very sturdy when I was through, and I know this is the type of toy that can last through multiple children.

The details on this product are just charming-- the tie-on "bumpers" that look just like real bumpers, the lovely gingham baskets that are actually functional, and the working mobile. Even better, the mobile is wind-up, so it never needs batteries, and the song is a totally non-annoying version of Brahms' Lullaby. The loving attention to detail is apparent even down to the fact that the screws are painted white to blend in with the wood.

It's a strikingly beautiful piece that I'm proud to have in Sarina's room, and it draws compliments whenever someone sees it. The single improvement I'd like to see made is in the mobile attachment. The "vice" that's used to screw the mobile to the crib is detachable and can be placed wherever you want-- which is cool, except that (a) it sticks out about 2 inches beyond the crib, so you can't place the crib flush against a wall on that side, and (b) if you reposition the mobile, it can create little scratches in the paint where it connects to the crib. I'm tempted to just remove the mobile, but it's such a sweet feature.

Sarina was thrilled to find the crib in her room when I presented it to her, and has happily tended to her two baby dolls in it for the past week, positioning them on the pillow and pulling up the little sheet and playing their lullaby.

There's another variation of this doll crib that comes with a canopy, too, and another that comes with bottom cabinets instead of the baskets, and the grandest of all: the round doll crib with a canopy. How beautiful is this?