Momma Told Me: May 2012

Blog Archive

Etymotic: mc3 Verus hf3 Noise Isolating Headphones Giveaway and Review~ 6/11

Momma Told Me: If you keep listening to that so loud, you'll go deaf!

I still recall my very first Walkman cassette player. It had the most impractical, and uncomfortable, wire framed headphones with hideous orange earpads. And, because the purpose of the Walkman was to be portable, it ironically failed on it's execution of portable sound. Sure, I could crank the volume all the way up to drown out the rumble of our family's mini van, or the chatter on the bus- but that also meant everyone around me was forced to listen as well. Then, with my first compact CD player, in the 90s, came a new DJ inspired headset. Now that the advances in portable audio had vastly improved the quality of output, consumers sought a more intimate and all consuming experience. In some cases larger than the actual CD player device, audiophiles everywhere strapped on highly padded 'noise cancelling' headsets. Not only were these headsets quite heavy, but extremely uncomfortable for any period of time. That seemed to bother me least, in exchange for listening to my favorite tunes, on loop, as I'd find creative ways to strap and hang them with the least discomfort.

It goes without saying that technological advancements in my lifetime, thus far, have been nothing short of astounding. That which was only intended for professional precision just a decade back is now sold in increasingly smaller devices, at lower costs to consumers worldwide. And, as media conversion and transport has evolved from bulky vinyl discs to intangible digital formats, the methods through which we consume this entertainment has progressed as well. One such pioneer in the audio industry is famed research and technical company Etymotic. With an engineering approach to research and a namesake that literally means 'true to the ear', Etymotic was founded by a Phd in 1983 to accurately asses the audio limits of the human ear. What better, accidental, development for precision audio technology than through the meticulous research and understanding of the human ear? Dr Killion's advancements for the medically deaf and hearing impaired broke barriers of previous audio conceptions, and in turn enhanced the listening experience of music lovers worldwide.

Based on the same principles of targeted audio delivery as many current hearing aids, in 1984, Etymotic developed and marketed their first pair of precision insert earphones. Their introduction of balanced armature receivers, the customization of audio delivery to meet the individual target, was revolutionary in the non-medical audio world. Then, in 1991, Etymotic devised the world's first Noise Isolating High Fidelity In-Ear Earphone; the basis for nearly all subsequent in ear monitors and recording devices since. If all of this technical jargon is confusing you it boils down to this; Etymotic is one of the industry's leaders in audio delivery advancement, with product development based on proven studies and even medical information. Not only do their consumer based headsets demand the highest quality of audio output, but the safest delivery, for increased listening and enjoyment.

I'll admit, it's often hard for me to consider coughing up more than $75 for a good pair of ear buds. They get lost so easily, and the cords tend to pinch or break in storage and wrapping- rendering them useless. But I was not surprised to learn that high end personal audio output can easily dip into the multi-hundreds, and often exceed $250. for those passionate about their music, and in tune to the infinite acoustics of high fidelity sound, a pair of Skull Candies simply will not do. My other half is one who falls into this category, turning his nose up at even some of the high end contenders, rambling on about finities I'd never pick up on. As a sensible woman, with Momma's words ringing in her ear, my attraction to Etymotic's low-cost (under $100) mc3's was the 2 year limited warranty and ear healthy noise delivery. At the core of Etymotic's personal audio technology is the simple concept of targeted audio delivery. Rather than drowning out the world around us with a harsh barrage of audio waves, Etymotic has harnessed the finite frequencies of audio and delivered them directly, in ear. Small sound with big impact, on a personal level.

We received a pair of Etymotic's mc3 (youth targeted and economy model, SRV $99) In Ear Headset and Earphones for review here on Momma Told Me. I quickly picked up on the quality standards that the brand evidently held throughout their collection. These headphones were packaged with the same educational presentation, safe storage pouch, and varied earbud caps as any other model. They were certainly the oddest looking 'in ear' bud I'd ever seen, with their tri cone tips. Compatible with nearly all modern personal audio output devices (iPAd, iPhone, MP3, etc) the mc3's include access to a very unique APP which enables the user to modify the level of noise isolation when listening. This is a big plus for safety, as many rely on audio enjoyment while performing potentially dangerous tasks such as biking near open traffic, or driving. The AWARENESS Programmable Noise Isolation APP enables the user to alter the intensity of audio output, without compromising quality, to foster a dual awareness of the surrounding environment. This alone is a great selling point for parents of teen music fans!

Some additional bragging points of the mc3 include a highly sturdy Kevlar reinforced cable, close proximity high sensitivity microphone (for hands free communication), and the additional options for in ear tips and comfort. Speaking of those tips... I'll admit, the layered cone adapters reminded me of some sci-fi technology at first. Oddly enough, these were the ones I found most comfortable, with a very soothing 'umbrella' effect that efficiently distributes sound and isolates outside noise during use. The ultra soft material molds to one's ear canal without scratching or irritating in long term use. And, because the sound is being delivered in such close proximity to the ear drum, and at such highly attune frequencies, the output is much safer and natural to our hearing. I hardly profess to be an audio snob, but even I could clearly tell the difference in depth and clarity compared to my old $30 earbuds. In fact, I was astounded the way new instrumentals and faint backtracks came to life. It was as though I were discovering my favorite songs for the first time again!

UPDATE: I recently had a chance to further investigate the Etymotic brand, when I was sent their Best In Class (under $200) hf3 Noise Isolating Headset + Microphone. While almost identical to the previously reviewed hf3's in appearance, there is a notable difference in specialized performance. Featuring high performance balanced armature ACCU Drivers, the hf3 system offers 35-45 dB of noise isolation and an advanced 105 dB sensitivity rating, with built in microphone. This means I can efficiently use my hf3's for audio consumption and digital communication through my iPad and iPhone devices. Unfortunately, with 4' of cord to tether the user, Etymotic's technology is a bit of a compromise between convenience and precision function. many users will find this a more than fair exchange, however, when paired with the brand's one of a kind AWARENESS! Mobile App, which allows users to adjust the audio output to filter various background or external noises for safety and practicality- without compromising the output audio's integrity.

While the numbers, on paper, may not seem like they hold a wide enough gap to justify the leap in cost from the mc3's to the hf3's, these high fidelity earphones hold the documented highest noise isolation of any on the market today. Including a generous 2 year warranty, and kevlar reinforced cable, the hf3's unique ACCU filter features the brand's one of a kind exchangeable sheild, which protect the armature from ear wax, and maintain optimal performance. To my, untrained, ears, the side by side comparison of mc3 to hf3 is still tangible. Audio quality has more depth, and noise isolation is impressively specialized. Some of the more finite background noises (fans in the next room over, birds chirping, etc) can be ultimately eliminated, versus muffled. On the alternate end, I can clearly discern multiple levels of sound output (bass, vocals, treble, etc), while altering the filters to permit external audio. This is particularly useful when jogging, waiting for a visitor (I can hear knocking through my audio, without forgoing clarity), or even watching the kids. The hf3's are an exemplary model of the Etymotic experience!

While Etymotic, and their varied models, offers a sea of research and audio distribution graphs to tantalize the truly discerning audio consumer- the mc3's are perhaps the best option for the everyday shopper. Their 2 year warranty help justify the initial sticker shock, and the impressive performance will surely have the technology addicted returning for the more advanced models.

What Daughter Says: Don't compromise your hearing for clarity. Listen the safe, and precise, way with Etymotic!

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Shopper Profiling: Discriminiation Based On Assumed Sales

Recently, the other half and I, began a determined search for the perfect bed.

We'd been saving up for quite a while and, over any possible vacation or splurge, I had my heart set in the indulgence of a proper night's sleep. Our current mattress is a hand me-down Queen in which we promptly meet (sink) into the middle of each night. It's safe to say there is little to no support, and my often aching back and sleepless nights can by attributed. Now, as funny as it may sound; I have purchased cars, computers, large appliances, and even leased my own home- but I have never known the pride of a bed I particularly purchased for my own. (It's no wonder I've often been so restless at night!)

Those who loyally read my blog already know my stance on the issue of cost/money. While Momma was/still is a fierce couponer, she taught me a fiscal method much more valuable than any free can of soup; "Just because it is free, does not mean it is the best value." But everyone loves a good deal, right? Well, it is my earnest belief that a 'good deal' or 'value' is not measured by the bottom line, but the execution of the product's function, and overall life. However, This does not mean that all expensive things are consistently better. As a golden rule, when making any large purchase, I will often set a budget cap. When researching I will limit the items considered by that cap, but consider every choice between the lowest and even just over- never weighing out the prices until the end. Instead, I will (either physically or mentally) list each of the pros and cons of the various options until I have a 1, 2, and 3 choice. Only then will I bring price into consideration. At that point, it is simply a matter of the most, overall, benefits for the price. It goes without saying that this especially applies to my bed, which I will spend approximately 30% of the next 10-15 years of my life in.

Now, many of you also know I am an avid Fashionista; following all things beauty and vintage chic. But you also know I enjoy lounging in PJs and heading out to thrift stores for vintage finds. Well, the other half and I recently decided to hit the local thrift stores on Main St, and enjoy a casual meal at our local Chilis. The day's wardrobe? Well worn Flip Flops (we live on the beach, what else?), a pair of comfy jeans, and a Pink Floyd Tee. The other half was decked out in Metallica and jeans of his own, with Oofos Sandals. We weren't a mess, we simply weren't dressed up- it was a typical Southern California, lazy beach day. As it turns out, pulling out of the restaurant in the next town over, I happened to recall there was a nearby (major) Mattress Store. Unwilling to retire so early, we decided to head on in and browse the selection, as we had only previously shopped brand exclusive storefronts (Serta, Sleep Number, etc). I was curious to see what a Mattress store, offering multiple brands, and sales reps, would offer.

Well, we entered the establishment and were immediately off to a bad start. From behind a desk, about 25ft away in the center of the warehouse sized showroom, was the only visible employee. This gray haired gentleman, whom would seem to have years of industry experience and knowledge I might find particularly valuable, was listlessly browsing on a laptop. I visually scanned the perimeter to see if any other salesmen were on duty, or if he was perhaps assisting a customer. We were the only ones there. As the door was quite loud, and I had heard chimes upon entrance, I proceeded to make my way to the right hand side of the showroom, quite lost. Remember, I have never purchased a mattress before, and when you are willing to pay multiple thousands for the best fit, you could potentially be a star customer/sale. Unfortunately for me, on this particular day, it seems to have labeled me as in-genuine and unworthy of this individual's time.

Not only did we visually appear out young age (mid-twenties), but we were dressed casually- something I assume the salesman read as 'not worth his time'. We browsed some higher end mattresses for a few moments, before I became anxious and moved closer towards that solitary desk to engage the salesman, myself. "Hello?" I hesitantly called out, making eye contact. I was met with a cold glare, and a sigh, "Hi". Biting my lip, I turned back around to browse by myself, the salesman eventually making his way over. Once in the area he stood without remark, until I, again, engaged him; "Hi, I recently visited the Sleep Number Store, and have my heart set on an Eastern King. I was quoted $3,500, and I thought I'd see what else that might buy me, in another brand, before I make the commitment," I explained.

This was met with aggravation, "All I ever hear from customers is how they get rid of their Sleep Numbers after 4-5 years. It's not a mattress, it's an air mattress- you're still sleeping on an air bed." I pursed my lips, waiting for more information. I'd expected a salesman to immediately trash whatever pre-conceived notion I'd had about the only brand not sold there, but I'd also expect a counter sales pitch. Nothing. I watched as he fidgeted, glancing towards the back of the showroom, his eyes wandering. There was absolutely no sense of customer service, or even pursuing a potential commission from a sale. I had now told this gentleman my potential budget (which included over 70% of the showroom's options), and given him a blank canvas. I was a first time mattress buyer; I'd practically told him to SELL me a bed. Growing frustrated, I continued down the wall of Cooling Gel Top and Memory Foam beds. I was lost, and the customer service (or lack there of) was making me increasingly aware of my ignorance in this category.

Spotting a mention of 'cooling gel layers', I turned back towards the salesman and inquired, "I didn't know mattresses were using cooling technology- is this exclusive to this brand?" I received an agitated expression, as he drew closer towards where I had ventured. "Only SERTA makes bed with Cooling Gel layers." (A fact I later found out to be incorrect, in their own showroom). Still no offer of information, no leading me as a customer, no questions about my wants or needs, no 'Lay down and tell me what you think'. I felt my stomach tie in knots, and now began to consider that this man simply felt we were not worth his time. Even the thought of sliding out of my flip flops to try out a mattress made me nervous and embarrassed. Did he think we were not good enough for a premium bed? I half expected him to open his mouth and have the audacity to suggest we take a look at the opposite of the showroom from something more in our 'range'.

Perhaps I was being ridiculous, making something out of nothing, I was determined to give it one more chance. Having found a mattress we both showed interest in, I inquired about sizing. I had clearly mentioned, upon introduction, we were shopping for an Eastern King. All display size charts topped off at Standard King. "Do all of these mattresses come in Eastern King options?" I inquired, expecting that this would have been something the salesperson would have already narrowed down if not. "No, but we can order this in Eastern King." Again, this was the end of the conversation. I'd never been in a less pleasant, more disjointedly painful sales scenario- especially one pertaining to such a big ticket item. There I was, ready to spend my hard earned cash; simply asking for the gentleman (who would assuredly be pocketing a commission from it) to help me decide how to spend it. One would have thought I was asking him to hold my dog, or wash my feet- the disdain was evident.

The interactions continued as such for another 10 minutes, until the salesman eventually wandered back to his desk (and laptop), with no closing or salutation. We were left in the middle of the sales floor, lost. On our own, we managed to find a few viable options, but the only information we could deduce from various models was the generic card tied to each bedpost. I didn't dare approach the salesman for help. In the end, it simply came down to my stubborn desire to not let that particular individual profit from what would have been a certain, and easy sale. After all, I felt as though I'd been severely profiled, and (with no other customers in the showroom) without any cause! As an individual who worked furniture sales, and moonlighted as a waitress, for many years- I understand customer profiling. When your time is strapped, and you can only be in so many places at once, you tend to prioritize, based on potential commission. It's an awful truth, but when dealing with limited hours and endless bills, a reality.

Now, an individual who feels that they are secure enough in life to profile their sole customers to the point of insulting and inevitably turning them away- well that is either one lucky (rich) salesman, or an individual who should not be working with the public at all. I work hard for my money, as I am sure all of my readers do- it doesn't grow on trees. When I see such a lack of hunger for the sale, I can only assume I am not being taken seriously. Unfortunately, in this case, I feel that is precisely the case. Should I put on heels and a skirt to go bed shopping? Is it my fault, as the consumer, for not presenting myself as their target client? In my short life (so far) I have seen generosity come from those least expected, men in suits on corners begging for change, and been bought a 'round of drinks' by a little old woman in a straw hat at a club.

For me, next to lying, judging someone based on appearance is one of the ugliest human traits. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most natural. For whatever reason, we are conditioned to expect certain behaviors based on an individual's presentation. Whether it's for self preservation (like a cat learning not to swat a bug with a stinger) or self narcissism, it holds no place in an empty showroom, on the clock.

Have you ever been profiled before? How do you handle customer profiling?

As Required by the FTC: This post was in no way associated with any of the above mentioned companies. I was not compensated for my opinion, nor and mentions. It is simply a piece of good, old fashioned, blogging.

A Reminder of Life and Love To Honor an Amazing Woman

I love to blog about everything, from recipes and opinions, to simply sharing stories of my childhood; and I know all of my readers love to read the witty and colorful accounts. However, there has been something I have been working up the courage to write about for a while now; loss.

I suppose I should start by explaining that I was raised feeling as though I should take pride in my independence and always keep my chin up. Showing emotions simply isn't something I often feel comfortable doing. Sure, I can write paragraphs about purses and league bowling, or my adorable ball of fluff, Truffles. But feeling like a failure, or scared about the future, or simply sad about missing someone- it's just not the way my Momma raised me. Don't get me wrong, my Momma's one tough cookie, but I have never for a second doubted her love. We're just not the sort who would end every conversation with 'I love you', or a bear hug. In a very real sense, I have molded myself to believe the further I distance myself from people, the less it will hurt when they are no longer there.

I am writing to say; it is not true.

I love those in my life no less, yet the distance I tend to create only serves to rob me of the undetermined amount of time that I have; the time that I will never get back.

At 25, I have ALWAYS considered myself a very lucky individual; something I have said time and again. Though my parents remain divorced, both pairs of my grandparents were alive and in my life. Believe me, this is not something I took for granted. I know how rare this is. In fact, with the exception of distant (to me) great aunt's, I have never had to face a familial loss. Something I dared not try to comprehend while holding countless friends in their times of sorrow.

When my grandmother passed, this past month, it was hard to digest. Outwardly, I felt as though I had to appear strong- it's what people would expect from me. At the same time, many forms of distance had kept me one of her furthest grandchildren- how could I dare grieve the way those so close to her were? I felt almost guilty over such sorrow, when there was her husband (of over 50 years) and her daughter (who lived across the street), left behind?

The simple truth remains; outside of my mother's relationship- or ANYONE's relationship with her- I hold my own memories, and those are none less as powerful. They may not be as plenty as those who has the privilege and blessings to cultivate more, but mine are just as vivid and real in my heart. She was my Oma too, and my memories are of a loving woman, with a house full of loved animals, and a heart for giving. I know I did not always make decisions of her approval, as children of any kind rarely do- that's how we learn, but I also knew I was always loved. You can ask for little more from your family, than to take you as you are, and I am infinitely grateful for that. I could go on- about how many people came out to say goodbye to this woman, they all so clearly loved; touched by someone who was once a stranger, but so quickly became a treasured friend. I could tell you how she loved to sing along to The King (Elvis), or the rooms in her home covered in Winnie The Pooh- or how many animals I watched her take in and nurse, when they had no homes. I could write for days of memories, of which I am certain there are not enough.

But I am a firm believer that we are all operating on borrowed time- and just because you are no longer here, grandma, I am sure your impact will be felt for many lifetimes. How I can contribute, how I can honor you- there are so many ways. But, for today, I will start with a simple reminder.

Hug the ones you love.

Call your mom. Call your dad. Call that best friend you had in high school, that you always seem to lose touch with.

Love everyone you can, and especially those who love you.

Live every day, thankful, yet never afraid- every breath is a gift. Every moment an opportunity.

Take a moment today, in honor of an amazing woman, and cherish those you hold close.

The book of life is brief
And once the page is read
All but love is dead

This is my belief

And yes, I know how lonely life can be
The shadows follow me and the night won't set me free

But I don't let the evening get me down

Now that you're around me

"And I Love You So" Elvis Presley, Don McLean

Spring Fling: BH Cosmetics 3PC Giveaway and 5th Edition 120 Palette Review~ 5/21

Momma Told Me: Blue eye-shadow went out of style in the 60's.

I love color. There's something about seeing a palette full of shimmering colors that screams 'play with me'! Whether you're a little girl foraging through mom's cosmetics drawer, a teenager getting gussied up for prom, or a hard working mother in search of a romantic date with dad. Color expresses emotions, entices desire, and encourages creativity, no matter the age- or era. Makeup, there for, is not meant to make the girl pretty, but to enhance the beauty that is already there. My favorite thing about Spring and Summer is, of course, the So Cal styles and vibrant colors. It's the only time of year a gal can match her eyeshadow with her Pink Flamingo Flip Flops and get away with it!

Every woman should know their key colors. The palette of hues which bring out the color of their eyes and play off the shade of their hair. For me, with my hazel eyes and auburn hair it's often shades of purple or emerald. But I don't let my features determine what makeup I can wear. From time to time I love a good red sweater or robin's blue blouse, and purple simply isn't practical. And on especially experimental and innovative days I search out warm colors that remind me of the sweet California sun. This, and my love for color, has led me to accumulate quite the collection of cosmetics throughout the years. While I have my favorites, many shades only come out once or so a year. Believe me, my cosmetics case (and it's quite the elaborate, professional style, case) is chocked full with designer brands and high end mineral cosmetics. However, even with my sensitive skin, I trust one brand to be my go-to for a pop of color to match any occasion.

When I first discovered BH Cosmetics I was immediately drawn to it's professional appearance, with bold and colorful palettes for the lips, eyes, and face. The quantity and variety previously only coveted by cosmetic professionals, without the high prices. Their tag line, 'Discover Your New Look Everyday' really made me feel like they knew me. I have a collection of nail polish to put any manicurist to shame, and will often spend time recreating by playing with various colors and styles. I'm certainly not one to wear the same makeup every day. I love coordinating with outfits and moods, or just playing around for a dramatic, yet smokey and sexy look. If I don't like it, I can always wash it off!

Several years back, now, I had the opportunity to select an item for review, and I instantly knew I had to select one of the 120 Color Eye Palettes. (I've since acquired the entire collection from Edition 1-5). After much debate, I selected BH Cosmetics' top selling collection, Edition #1, and eagerly awaited it's arrival. In the mean time I enjoyed playing with my own collection through use of their wonderfully comprehensive instructional videos on the brand's website. There are tips and styles for beginners and professionals, as well as dramatically bold or simply demure looks. Even the least experienced at home 'cosmetologist' can easily create a dramatic smokey eye for their big date!

My 120 Color Eye Palette arrived in a smooth black box simply marked with the BH Cosmetics label. Inside, bubble wrapped, was a slender plastic case that looked sleek, yet collected my fingerprints. The case and palette combined was heavier than I anticipated, and at first glance I was thrilled with the quantity of product inside. With two interlocking, overlapping, palettes of 60 vibrant colors, each individual shadow pot was substantial. Measuring 9"x6", the color pots were about the diameter of a quarter, and slightly bowed. I'd like to note each pot easily removes for inclusion in custom (magnetic) palette cases, such as my beauty product crush, the UNII. No applicators were included in the 120 Palette, as this is mainly intended for serious make-up artists and professionals. Of course I had a fresh set of brushes and applicators on hand!

The plethora of colors ranged pleasingly like a rainbow, sprawled out for my taking. I appreciated the inclusion of shimmer and matte shades, with some unique multi-blends such as my favorite yellow speckled tangerine, and teal speckled fuchsia. The color grouping makes it a breeze for even intermediate users to create wild and professional finishes. When it came time for my first use I found myself longing for additional eyes, yearning to play with new and classic color combination and finishes. The shadow itself consisted of a fine solid powder that spread easily at application, blended flawlessly, and wore perfectly all day! There was no heavy buildup from layering, and no messy streaks where my lids creased. It was easy to create a sensational and flawless eye popping look within minutes, with absolutely no irritation. I fell in love with BH Cosmetics then and there, resolving to integrate the wide range of hues into my existing favorites.

I've since used the satiny shadows every day to create wonderful, long lasting, looks that catch compliments everywhere I go. I'm constantly asked, 'What shade are you wearing?' and I happily explain it's not a shade, it's a rainbow! My eye palette even doubles as eye liner; I simply dip my brush in a little bit of water, and viola! A flawless liner in every shade, the perfect compliment to complete my look. I've since acquired the collection of palettes. The 88 Cool Shimmer Palette features a compact mirror and 2 applicators with a smaller footprint that is also great for traveling, or to grab just before a night out. The Cool Shimmer palette doesn't pop as much as the 120 Collection 1, because it features more elegant colors for a complete, yet still dramatic look. You'll find several metallic tones, such as copper and silver, with shades of gray and black for that popping smokey eye. The colors are less graduated, as well, which is great for more advanced looks with 3-4 colors and shadowing. Use the deep browns or dark gray for a liner, and underlight with mellow mauve or turquoise.

Newest to the BH Cosmetics Palette Line is the 120 Eyeshadow Palette 5th Edition, retailing for $34.95, on sale for just $19.95 online. This dual layered palette features the brand's usual violet pull tag, for easy lifting and switching of layers. Edition 5 is defined as having a scintillating workplace to night on the town collection of Warm and Natural Hues. You're sure to find dozens of shades along one color, and many tones of smokey finishes and demure shimmer. The inclusion of bolder copper and gold hues with softer, feminine, pinks and purples compliment a wide range of skin tones and eye colors. I've begun using this as a great base to blend more romantic and even sexy looks, like the Fall style I featured, above. Remember, you can always consult the brand's online directory of easy to follow videos and How-To tips, to create everything from a simple sweep to an elaborate layer. While the 5th Edition is not as visually stunning as the Tropical Collections, it is easily the biggest must have for any beauty fan looking to build a base of regularly used hues and shadow staples.

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What Daughter Says: I may still want to bust the blue eyeshadow out every now and then, but with BH Cosmetics, I can supplement my favorite beauty products with brilliant colors!

One Momma Told Me follower will win a Beauty Prize Bundle from BH Cosmetics including their 88 Color Shimmer Palette, BH Liquid Eyeliner, and BH Lip Gloss in Classy Gal! (The 88 Color Palette is what I used to create this much talked about look, from above!)