Florescent lights on the CTA aren’t doing me any favours…

I’m no Holly Golightly, although i’ve always admired her Joie de Vivre. And sometimes, particlarly in the midst of holiday chaos, you just need to take a little break and go to your favourite luxury store and get away for a bit. So, yesterday morning, i took a jaunt downtown to Saks, before i finished up a little last minute (lets be honest – it’s ALWAYS last minute with me) Christmas shopping. I decided that i’d also get myself a wee Christmas gift (or two) as well, so i took a deep breath, threw back my shoulders, and marched up to the Cle de Peau counter.

Cle de Peau is the Beauty brand i hate to love – they are a classic brand, a gorgeous fusion of French and Japanese aesthetics (they are owned by Shiseido) their products are undeniably beautifully made, and teeth-grindingly expensive. Perhaps most renowned for their concealer and foundations, which are like butter on the skin, they were the most coveted product when i was working as a makeup artist in Honolulu, particularly among my Asian clients. All of us, no matter which makeup company we worked for at Neimans, would secretly wear Cle de Peau’s Concealer. They also make exquisite face powders, a liquid eyeliner to rival Tom Ford’s and – as i was about to learn, a fabulous eyebrow pencil in the loveliest ash blonde, as well as a really impressive eye serum that performed some kind of voodoo under my tired, dry, dull eyes. Oh, Cle de Peau – how i love to hate and hate to love you!

When i got to the counter, nobody was around at the moment, and so i fumblingly tried to locate the liquid eyeliner that i had promised myself for Christmas. Mere moments later, though, a beautiful woman with enviably long, thick, wavy chestnut hair and a porcelain complexion came up and asked me if i needed any assistance. Uh, yeah – can i have your hair and skin, please? I asked if i could try the liquid eyeliner – admitting that i was somehow unable to locate it.

“Of course! Did you want brown or black?”

“Black,” i said, probably looking and sounding like Joan Jet after pulling an all-nighter.

I asked if she’d mind terribly putting it on me, because my eyes were special snowflake-sensitive, and i had my contacts in and was therefore myopic as a mole. She cheerily agreed, and had me sit down at the counter.

Now, i love having my makeup done at fancy stores. Even if it’s not done the way i usually do it, i love it. I find it fun and relaxing. So she introduced herself and told me her name was Catharine, and i told her mine was Monday, finding it necessary, as always, to explain that my parents were hippies. She laughed and said it was a neat name. I asked her to just slap on a cat eye and we got to chatting. Catharine is, it turns out, super sweet! Sometimes at department stores, you get these Beauty Specialists that sort of make you want to gauge your eyeballs out, because the sense of saccharine disingenuousness just seeps out of their pores, heavy as their foundation. But Catharine had on a reasonable amount of foundation, and was so easy to talk to! I told her i used to be a makeup artist, and now ran a blog, and she winced and said, “Oh, no! Makeup artists are the worst people to do makeup on, haha! Now i’m nervous!” I laughed and told her i knew what she meant, we’re the pickiest people in the world. “Don’t even worry about it! I just want to see it on, everyone does it differently…”


I love this double-ended liner!

The CPM Intensifying Liquid Eyeliner is right up my alley, because it is double-ended, with one end having my beloved brush-tip, and the other a wee, small felt-tip for detail-work. It’s perfectly constructed for creating the ultimate cat-eye. Even if you’re just a beginner, you’ll find it simple to use. It’s water-resistant, for us leaky-eyed special snowflakes. Also, the packaging is gorgeous. It’s also $55. Le sigh. But, it’s Christmas! Merry Christmas to me…


My new eyeliner, and perhaps a new serum to love – it’s got camellia extract in it! But also alcohol low down on the list…boo.

Then Catharine grabbed something and patted it on under my eyes, and told me to take a look – whatever it was, it felt amazing. I looked, and my eyes looked suddenly hydrated and brighter – even though i had my beloved YSL Touche Eclat on, they looked somehow even better. I cringed inwardly, wondering if my eyes were going to break out in hives now. I prayed not, because this stuff looked good, and felt even better. “It’s our serum,” she told me, “it has brightening agents as well as hyaluronic acid and silk in it. So it isn’t just cosmetic, it smooths the eye area and hydrates, as well”.

Typical. I’m going to fall in love with this stuff – and it probably will actually be good for my eyes, as well (ah, if only it didn’t contain that evil alcohol!). I tell her i’m going to have to walk around with it, as i have this little issue with hives.  “How much is it?”, i ask, clenching for the answer. “It’s $125…” Ugh. “You just use a tiny bit, though. Yeah, i know…i’m going to give you a sample so you can see if it’s right for you!” Catharine and i are going to be Cle de Peau besties, i can tell!


Ivory, the first on the left, is a perfect match for me! And the darker shades can be used for contouring. Which i never do, but that’s pretty cool!

Next she brings out the Concealer, and i know i’m done for. Every time i see this concealer on, i know i have to have it. Thankful that i have to make a lot of purchases today, i tell myself that i’ll have to wait until next week to indulge in this wonderful stuff. Not to be redundant, but this concealer is like butter on the skin. Catharine applies a tiny amount with a brush under my eyes, and i look. So smooth, perfect, and not a trace of dark circles. My skin looks flawless. And it will also be perfect for the little broken blood vessels on the sides of my nose, from a lifetime of allergies. Sigh. Ivory is a perfect match for my skin – it’s not pink-under-toned, like so many pale concealers/foundations. Another plus of Asian-based beauty companies. Catharine also sets aside a sample card of the Concealer for me. Hooray!

We talked about Asian beauty for a bit, and she revealed that she goes on a lot of beauty boards in that arena – and i told her about the new K-Beauty starter kit on the Saks website (it’s got full size products, including the coveted Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Essence in it…drool). Cle de Peau also follows the double-cleanse method, being essentially an Asian beauty company – and Catharine also gave me a little starter-sampler card of the beauty-care regimen that includes the two cleansers, toner, essence, moisturizers, and facial cottons.

On a whim, i asked to see the eyebrow pencil – at this point feeling like a little girl playing with makeup. Turns out, they actually have an ash-brown that is quite light, AND a grey brow pencil! Be still, my beating heart – it’s a platinum blonde’s dream come true! Sadly, they were out of the shade that worked best for me – i dig the #203 which is called light brown but is actually a light ashy blonde that does NOT show up accurately in these photos, due to the florescent lighting for some reason – but i’ll be back for it.


Samples to go with my liner! Plus she tossed in the concealer card, which is pictured above.

So, my eyes gorgeously lined, and feeling super-healthy and looking smooth and bright underneath (no gross reaction, i’m in the clear, 24 hours later), i purchase my eyeliner and walk away with a very generous bag of samples to tide me over until my next visit.

If you’re in the area, please stop in and visit Catharine at Saks on Michigan Avenue! It was one of the most pleasant shopping experiences i’ve had in a long time. You can also shop with her online, at stores.saks.com/catharinet

After my Cle de Peau extravaganza, i had to stop at Chanel, where i have another fully enjoyable experience, to pick up my loose powder – and no, it’s not just your grandma’s powder. Or, yeah, maybe it is – let me explain. Also, i picked up a BRIGHT RED blush. Let me explain that, too.

A little Monday history (and yes, i am about to wildly digress from my Saks trip for a minute, here – but it all figures in). I owe everything i know about beauty – all of my first-formed and therefore deeply ingrained beliefs – to my grandmother. She was an aesthetician in the ’30s, and she was fearless. She dyed her hair platinum and looked like Jean Harlow. I mean, you could hold up a picture of her next to Ms. Harlow, and would be hard pressed to tell the two apart. She moved to Chicago from a coal mining town in Southern Illinois when she was a teenager and never looked back. She was one of the first women to show up on a public beach in the city wearing a risque bathing suit that didn’t cover her legs and left her arms bare. She was, for a time, a gangster’s moll.

She was the one who taught me that the skin should always look as natural as possible – no cakey or glittery or “tan” or orangey foundation or overly matte makeup, or obvious blush. Powder should never sit conspicuously on the skin. Ever. That way, one could get away with gorgeous, bold, bright red (or fuscia, or whatever) lips and a cat-eye without looking like “Clara Bow the clown, or a street-walker”. The secret was all in the skin.  Which meant, of course, having a flawless complexion. She was forever doing masks and patting in creams. She taught me about skincare from a very early age, and gave me facials right alongside her.  And she always wore high-end makeup. Chanel, Lauder, Dior, Givenchy. But she always used a #2 pencil on her eyebrows, because back when i was a kid, they didn’t make brow pencils ashy enough to suit her. You can see where i got it from.


A classic, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a red lip, and, well, Chanel.


Sephora’s #91 brush is great for applying loose or pressed powder for a natural, non-heavy look.

So when i buy my Chanel loose powder, it’s based on tradition, reminding me of seeing the jar on my grandmother’s dresser in her bedroom, right next to her Givenchy lipstick case; and the timeless quality of a powder that is neither too heavy, too matte, nor rife with trendy glitter or sparkles. It’s a classic. And, the lightest shade is perfect for my skin, with a yellow undertone that suits my complexion (too many companies put pink in their fairest shade – which is not appropriate for my skin).


Street Walker or Pennywise the clown, you say? Not so fast, Kumquats!

So – you might be asking – what in the bloody Hell am i doing with a blush that looks like this??

The secret, my little kumquats, is all in the application. Grandma always, always used a bright red blush – and only a bright red blush. So when i pointed to this one on the Chanel display after the nice lady got me my powder, she let out a “Whoo! Now i like THAT! Most people are too scared to try a colour like that – people really should be more adventurous!” She watched carefully as i put it on, and smiled approvingly. “It goes perfectly with that lipstick and hair of yours. I like it!” I smiled and nodded and thanked her. “I’ll take it!”  Grandma would have approved, too.


Whoo! I like that!

As she rings me up, the nice Chanel Lady (which is how i think of all Chanel Beauty Advisors) puts an EXTREMELY generous amount of samples in my bag – including two mascaras and a whole bunch of the Sublimage cream samples (say what you will – and no, i’d never in a million years pay $400 for a cream – but i get a ton of samples of this cream, and my skin just loves it for whatever reason – i’m always happy to get samples of anything Sublimage)!


Use a big blush brush for bold colours!

So,the trick to wearing a bright blush like this is all in the tools, how you apply, and BLENDING the ever-loving hell out of it.  Firstly, i choose a fluffy, mid-to-large-sized blush brush to apply. This soft one from Sephora, the #55, works great. I prefer my beloved Hakuhodo brushes, and am putting in an order soon – but these are perfectly servicable. Just don’t expect them to last forever. I just purchased a powder brush, and the handle is already coming loose. They aren’t super cheap, either. But when it comes to brushes, they just aren’t super well made. The bristles are soft, however,  and they get the job done.


Yes, I look like a deer caught in the headlights – there was a man behind me yelling about dimes and Jesus. But, my makeup looks good!

But the blush. With these excellent Chanel blushes –  in this post i’m wearing “Joue Contraste in So Close” – they are highly, highly pigmented, so you just need to tap your brush ever so slightly into the product – DO NOT swirl it around, or you will get way too much product, and end up looking like Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This blush is SERIOUS, people.  Note, if you are sensitive to fragrances, this has a HEAVY rose scent. I think it’s rose oil, and doesn’t bother me at all for whatever reason – probably because i’ve been using Chanel since i was in braces. To apply, smile as big as you can, then tap the brush lightly to the apples of your cheeks. Then (keep smiling!), start blending that baby in a circular motion, moving outward towards the temples. This will diffuse the intensity, and give you a beautiful, natural flush – super-healthy and pretty! Finish up with a dusting of your loose powder and you’re set.

And there you have it, Kumquats! Here is everything  i am wearing from Saks – and of course, my ubiquitous Pat McGrath Lipstick:

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! I have a whole bunch of fun posts lined up, including a new trip back to Choc Choc with some exciting news, and some new product reviews – including the Cle de Peau skincare product line, and Boscia’s beauty oil!

Have a lovely holiday!

XO, Monday