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Wednesday Advice Smackdown


(Except for this one part real quick.)

As I was walking from my car to the office this morning, another woman started talking to me about The Heat.

(Good Lord, The Heat. It's all anyone in the D.C. area can talk about now, honestly. With humidity at four frillion percent and temps in the upper 90s and power generators up and dying under the strain of all the air conditioners running at full blast, we're all kind of obsessed with The Heat.)

(We're also kind of glassy-eyed and panty.)

Anyway. So we're talking about The Heat and The Humidity and The Agony, and she made some sympathetic noises about how horrible it must be to be pregnant right now, which YES YES YES! My favorite topic! Let me tell you just how horrible it is!

She mentioned that both of her children were born in the winter. Which, okay, I'm not going to get annoyed with that, unless you make it clear that you were just so super-fertile you were able to schedule a pregnancy at Optimal Seasonal Effectiveness or something.

But then she started in with the "Oh, enjoy it, it goes so fast, it's such a special time, you'll miss it when it's over, these last few weeks are just so magical, blah blah take time to relax and bond with him because of the magic and the specialness."

And then I killed her. The End.

Time for your questions.

Dearest Queen of Accessorizing,

This spring I bought a beautiful new bag (heretofore referred to as The Purse).The Purse is large, as bags are this season. It is also suede. And camel colored. Have I mentioned how pretty it is? When I first got The Purse, it was a well known fact that if you expected me to leave the house you had better check the weather and tell me that it was NOT GOING TO RAIN. Or I would delay our departure by switching purses. But now? Meh...The lazy has set in, and the cost of the purse had erased itself from my memory. So if it's raining? I just try to walk fast.

My very own laziness has caused The Purse to grow a layer of dinge. Which, ew. But am not ready to part ways with The Purse. I have been a vegetarian for almost ten years now, and for many of those years I did not purchase leather products. But over time the beautiful things wore me down, LIKE SHOES AND PURSES! So you see, I am clueless about how I can take care of The Purse. Whatever can I do to clean up the suede (short of dating the lawn boy for a measly $1,000)?

Cindy Mancini

I own several suede purses, and I am kind of lazy too. I never waterproof them because I had one bad experience with some water-repelling-suede-spray that totally changed the color and feel of a pair of suede shoes, which in and of itself, is probably pretty lazy. I'm sure there are suede-protectant sprays and products out there that are fabulous, but seriously, my vintage Coach Hobos are NOT GOING TO BE THE GUINEA PIGS IN THIS EQUATION.

Plus, in your case, it sounds like the damage is done and we should really be focusing on what you do NOW, not what you should have done and whether it involved Scotchguarding or simply buying a bigger, cheaper purse in which to shield The Expensive Purse in case of rain.

If you've got major stains and water damage going on, you have to take it to a professional. Someplace with a Big Sign that claims to specialize in leather or suede goods is a good start. Or visit a store that sells a lot of leather and suede and ask where they recommend customers take their products. Or, if you bought it at a really nice department or specialty store, you can always go back and look sad and pouty and ask them for help.

Places to avoid: random drycleaners, cobblers, that guy on the corner who always pees in the bus shelter.

After it comes back to you all clean and nappy again, you need to buy yourself a nice little suede care kit. I have an awesome Coach one that came with one of my bags, but it doesn't look like it's available for individual sale.

(Much like those boxes of individually-wrapped snack cakes. Or gum.)

A good suede care kit should contain at least a suede stone and a suede brush. The stone is used to buff out stains and kind of works like a pencil eraser. (DRY STAINS, by the way. Never attempt to clean suede while it's wet. Blot out [don't rub] as much moisture as you can with a paper towel, and then leave the bag to dry completely.) A suede brush restores the nap of your suede and makes it all soft and nice again.

(You can also use a nail file to buff off stuff like mud and raise the nap, and I'm typing this in parentheses just for the hell of it, because I'm using parentheses within parentheses today and CANNOT STOP.)

If your significant other owns any suede or nubuck shoes, you might want to dig around and see if he owns any suede-care instruments. I found that Jason had ALL KINDS of super-neat shoe-care gadgets. I appropriated most of them to care for my handbags instead. He's never noticed, but then again, he's all stylish and stuff and enjoys having a reason to justify buying a new pair of shoes whenever he wants. ("Look! Scuffed! I need these new awesome ones! As seen in this month's GQ!")



Two years ago, my hubby bought me a Coach bag as a gift.  I was surprised (it was way beyond our budget).  And I was unsure if I would keep it (after all, I had never been very into purses before).

Well thank fucking Fred Savage I kept it because it is the best damned bag ever.  Every time I use it I feel like I can hold my own against all other women in the world:      You have a bigger car than I?  No matter, I have a kick-ass bag.      You're going to Hawaii for your anniversary?  Doesn't bother me...have you seen my bag? Et cetera.

Which leads me to my problem: I use the bag, much every day. It is a great black/white signature bag, so it matches everything I wear (which is almost always black or gray slacks paired with a gray or black top...occasionally I throw a colored top in there).

Which leads me to my question:  my black/white signature bag has served me well for two years, coordinated with almost every outfit I have worn, and become a little beacon of happiness that sits on the passenger seat of my car, under my desk at work, in my lap at the doctor's office, etc.

But I must buy another Coach bag.  I have to begin the process of setting up a "bag rotation" plan. So I ask you:  what bag should I buy? What will fit into my life as well as my current little friend, without being too similar to the current bag?  What can stand up to the daily stress (or hopefully every-other-day-stress) that I will put on the bag?  What will be new and different, but still fit in to my current happy wardrobe/bag family? Thanks for any advice.


Ah yes, the First Coach Bag. I remember it well. Jason bought it for me for Christmas, and I probably made him take an entire roll of film's worth of pictures of Me With My Brand New Bag. It was a wine-and-black signature with dark brown leather trim, which gave it the amazing bonus power of coordinating with both black AND brown outfits. I carried it everywhere. I bought the matching rain hat. I own it to this day and still use it more than some of my newer, flashier acquisitions -- so deep is my love for that little purse.

(Reaches over, pets bag lovingly, smiles.)

Anyway. Now is an excellent time to shop for an all-purpose, goes-with-everything utilitarian-yet-luxurious purse, as the fall bags are coming out. Spring and summer bags tend to be bright and colorful and cheery, but they look stupid in the winter when you're bundled up like crazy and carrying a lime-green purse with a twee little butterfly on it, or something. And winter bags can be really, really boring.

But fall bags! So fun. Yet classic. Like the absolutely orgasmic houndstooth and suede satchel  I bought last fall (WITH A COUPON, HATEMAILERS, AND ALSO AS A CONSOLATION FOR BEING CRAZY AND DEPRESSED AND NOT PREGNANT SO KNOCK IT THE FUCK OFF ABOUT MY SICK, SELFISH HANDBAG HABIT).

Man, I can't wait for The Heat to go away so I can carry that satchel around again. Although I should probably zap it with some kind of baby-vomit repelling spray or something. Or just wrap it in Saran Wrap. That wouldn't be weird, would it?

ANY. WAY. If you can stand it, I'd advise you to wait a few more weeks for Coach to release their full fall line -- I'm seeing some gorgeous wine and black and suede-type bags, but a lot of the summery pinky yellowy bags are still available, which means there are More New Styles Coming Soon. (The fabric collections, in particular, still look very summery. And since these are usually the cheaper options, I'd adopt and wait-and-see approach for now.)

(Did any of you have any idea how overcomplicated I can make a simple handbag purchase? Honestly. I have a friend who has a friend who works for Coach and I seriously bribe her for market information and release dates and WHEN IS THE EMPLOYEE SAMPLE SALE AND HOW MUCH CASH CAN YOUR FRIEND CARRY IN ON MY BEHALF?)

If I had to buy a bag today, and wouldn't THAT just be a shame, I'd go with one of the lovely bordeaux-colored Soho totes, since they look so nice with black clothing without actually, you know, being black. And you can just tell that the leather is like buttah on those babies.

(Parentheses! And these have a purpose! Which is ANOTHER disclaimer to hateful emailers or commenters. Everytime I write about purses I get yelled at. And I'm tired of getting yelled at. I. Don't. Care if you don't like Coach bags or think that any expensive purse is a big fucking waste. Don't fucking buy one. But I collect them, and I collect them very carefully and with as much frugality as the brand allows. [Coupons! Scrap sales!] And they make me very, very happy. And you are free to think that this makes me a shallow, shallow person but since it's my site, I would appreciate it very much if you just shut your goddamn cakehole about it.)

Dear Queen of Everything,

First things first - congratulations on the baby. I'm sorry you're freaking out, and I can't really relate because well, I've never been pregnant, but I'm sure it's normal and very understandable.  I'm also sure you'll be a great mommy. Just by reading your blog, I can tell you love your little boy more than any mother loves any other child out there. (Okay, I"m sure the other moms out there will be jumping my ass, but really.. you can tell you love that little boy a whole, whole bunch.)

Anyway - on to my question.  I recently came into a bit of free makeup. Yes, free makeup. I also have spent tons and tons on other makeup, thanks to my friend having a Mary Kay party a few months ago. I don't know what your thoughts on Mary Kay are, but well, I think it's okay stuff. It makes me feel pretty. But I only own one makeup brush. It's a Maybelline eye shadow brush that I bought a zillion and a half years ago. I wash it, but well, it's THE ONLY ONE I OWN.  What makeup brushes (and/or brush sets) would you recommend? I can't spend a billion dollars, but I'd like something decent. Your help is greatly appreciated.


PS: I apologize if this question was already asked & answered. I started going through the archives only to get sucked in by every entry I've already read and forgot what it was I was trying to find.

Firstly and thusly, I have no problem with Mary Kay. There's certainly better stuff out there, but for the price and the convenience (if you have a good rep, that is), Mary Kay is quite excellent.

(Random plug: Mary Kay's Satin Hands set. My mother-in-law bought me this set a couple years ago and I STILL have it and I STILL love treating myself to a whole hand-moisturizing-production about once a month and yes, it STILL works. Heavenly.)

As for brushes, the only brush I feel strongly about is the foundation brush. (I'm too lazy to look up the infamous foundation brush how-to entry. I need a freaking macro for it, or something, because I swear, I link to it EVERY WEDNESDAY.) If you use foundation, you should own one, and you should not completely cheap out on it. I love this one. So much.

Otherwise, I think this set from Sonia Kashuk provides pretty much everything else you need. Powder brush (for loose and/or bronzing powder), blush brush (for...duh), that essential little eyebrow-brush-slash-eyelash-comb thing, and then medium, small and angled eyeshadow brushes (essential for shadow AND for blending eyeliner). All for $30! Hooray for Target!

I own probably a dozen extra brushes that I never use (one set, I believe, was a promotional gift from my mom's Mary Kay rep), but I keep them around because one day I might discover what the hell they're all for.

(Seven parathetical references in five paragraphs. Not bad!)

Dear Amalah,

I'm such a big fan of your hilarious, snarky, touching blog.  I desperately need your advice on makeup and the DC summer.

This is my second summer here and I'm not adapting well.  I'm a northern girl and oy, this heat, this humidity!  I get so sweaty just on the 2-block walk from the Metro to work that lately I've just abandoned makeup.  Not a good look because my skin tone needs to be evened and oh lord, the size of my pores.

My normal powder foundation comes off easily and looks too matte and fake in this weather.  But it seems like a liquid one would slide off right away.  What to do?  My skin is combo - dry cheeks, oily forehead.  I use a light moisturizer with SPF.  Should I use primer?  Tinted moisturizer?  Mattifying SPF and tinted moisturizer?  I'm so bewildered!  Please help! Thanks for any and all advice!

Sweaty in DC

See, people? I am not making shit up about The Heat. It is Oppressive, and even worse, it is making us all Look Bad And Not Pretty.

This is my...let me count...SEVENTH summer in D.C. Good Lord. I'm not sure how well I've adapted either, although this particular summer is particularly hellish and will be forever known as The Summer Of My Discontent And Non-Stop Bitching.

But! I have learned how to take care of my skin in this accursed climate, and I will now share my tips with you in list form, because it's easier and I'm all tired and stuff.

1. Consider changing your cleanser. I stay away from creamy cleansers in the summer and use a complexion bar instead -- like Burt's Bees Garden Tomato or Aveeno. I'd rather deal with a little dryness than oil, so I treat my combination skin like it's all oily (which, after a few weeks in This Heat, is usually what happens).

2. Use a clay or mud mask twice a week on your t-zone (or wherever your pores are big and scary and clogged). I use Ahava's mud mask and DAMN, that shit yanks everything out of your pores. EVERYTHING. So I don't recommend it for people with sensitive skin. Your skin may get red and angry, especially if you venture beyond the t-zone. I use the mask for oily skin, but it's available for dry-to-normal skin as well. That might be gentler, but I cannot testify to its pore-sucking power. Jason used this mask for the first time over the weekend (seriously, y'all, The Heat is THAT BAD. It's driving MEN to MASKS, for chrissakes), and he was extremely impressed with all the crap it cleared off his sweaty, manly face.

3. Use an oil-free, matifying moisturizer. I like Shiseido Pureness or Ahava. I have heard such high praise for the tinted moisturizers, but have not tried them myself, for reasons mostly related to laziness. If the makeup regimen I describe doesn't sound like it will provide enough coverage for you, then by all means, buy a tinted moisturizer instead and have years of happiness with it. Then send me some to play with.

4. NO LIQUID FOUNDATION. Or cream foundation. Or liquid power foundation or any of the million other options like that. You will just sweat more, and your pores will become big, foundation-sucking potholes.

5. OIL-ABSORBING SHEETS. Yes, the little Clean & Clear thingies. They are your new best friend. Carry them everywhere. Use one before you put your makeup on. After you get on the Metro. When you get to work. They stop the shine dead and that means you won't be tempted to keep dusting on the powder over and over, which just makes your skin feel worse.

4. Use the sheerest powder you can find. Oil-free, of course. (Neutrogena makes one, as do several of the higher-end lines.) If you can bear appearing in public without makeup, wait until you're on the Metro to apply it. Buy a new sponge-thing for your compact regularly, or wash the existing one out with soap at least once a week.

5. Use bronzing powder instead of blush. Your face is going to get all red and huffy anyway, so go for a casual, sun-kissed look instead of a perfectly-matte complexion and rosy cheeks. Because that? Is just not happening.

6. Drink lots and lots of water. It makes your skin happy.

7. And remember, we're all in This Heat together, so no one's judging you for looking all sweaty or waiting until you're in the office elevator to apply makeup.

It's just too damn hot to judge.

I have nine weeks until my due date. I currently have enough Smackdown questions to last about five more weeks. You do the math. And then send questions to (It's too hot for math over here. Or for being alive, frankly.)



Yo, Haters of Fancy Handbags: You Don't Know. You really, really don't. I held off for years, buying cheap purses every few months that we never quite right. 18 months ago, I bought my first Coach bag, and I can never go back. It's truly *majestic* in quality! If you haven't spent the time with a high quality bag, then you just can't know what you're missing. It's just that much better, and it was totally worth saving my pennies to have one bag I could be happy with forever (except I would like more, please!)


Miss Amy,

White not currently being in The Heat, I cannot attest to how miserable and how quickly the humidity destroys foundation, but in my experience, this product is unbelievably brilliant, lying somewhere in the nether regions of liquid and power foundations. It's like silk!

Mmmmm. Handbags.


er. While, not white.


Ahh, the Coach bags... I bought my first one for myself as a gift for graduating college. My husband got me this awesome fall-ish one for our 1st anniversary last October. I seriously love them so much, I go into every Coach store I see. Hmmmm. FALL FASHIONS and BAGS. I want to get a bag in every color. Right now I'm still dying for a bright turquoise bag. Anyway, 9 weeks and counting - I'll count quickly! xox


Hokay - You can totally get the Coach Suede Kit seperately (I think I spelled that wrong) from Coach outlets nationwide - otherwise email me and I will find you one - they are priceless. xxx p.s. Love this site - I am from Baltimore (live in UK - sorry about the heat. . . xx)


Amalah, if I ship some people I know to you, will you kill them for me too?

I promise they will yammer on about the magic specialness of some thing or another.

I also promise that even if they don't, you will still want to kill them.

God knows I want to.

(And I have to tell you that you and your site is the only thing that has made me laugh today. Thanks!)

Real Girl

Forgive me if this is awful commenting etiquette, but I recently did a Real Girl Beauty post on Tinted Moisturizer (for the last ques), and I *love* it for summer--definitely with at least SPF 15. Here's a link; scroll down for a list of SPF tinted moisturizers.

And as for blotting papers: I'm in love with Boscia Fresh Blotting Linens, which are more expensive than Clean & Clear (I get mine for $6 at Sephora), but just feel so much better on facial skin.


De-lurking to comment on the heat, because GOOD LORD, 105 degrees today!

This is my first summer in DC. My friends warned me that moving here would mean I would have permanently ugly hair. But I did not believe them! I was armed with a $120 straightener and an armful of Matrix products! I was ready to straighten!

But alas, now I am here. And I see that my products are powerless and I am damned to ugly-hair eternity.

Here's hoping your last 9 weeks fly by.


If it makes you feel any better, my first child was born in freaking July in Southeast Texas, which is hotter than hell 9 out of 12 months. I thought I was going to die.

So when I got pregnant with my second child who had a due date of JANUARY, I squealed with happiness. I'd be pregnant in the FALL and the WINTER!!! Yay me!

It was the hottest winter ever on record, I swear. There were actually stories in the newspaper about how hot it was and how it had never been that hot in December EVER.

And the day after my daughter was born? It freaking snowed. My husband was dispatched home to try to find some winter clothing that would fit me, since all I had brought to the hospital was SHORTS.

Liz (Sweaty)

Yaaaaay! Thanks for answering my question. I'm a big fan of the Clean and Clear strips, and now I'm going to try the Ahava mask and some bronzer too.

And yes, Real Girl, I saw your piece on tinted moisturizers, which inspired my smackdown question. Guess it's a trip to Sephora this weekend.


I am a couple of hours south of you in VA and I can empathize with you on The Heat. That's all they've been talking about on every radio station for the past two days. But yay for us, we got a cold front and it's only going to be 90 today instead of 101. Thank God for AC because I would be dead now without it.

And I am going to order some of that Ahava Mud Mask stuff as soon as I get home cause I've been looking for something to help my disgusting pores. I hope it works.


I'm from Michigan, which is also one giant swamp, and I definitely do the tinted moisturizer/bronzer/oil absorbing sheets makeup routine. Good advice! I also advise using waterproof mascara for hot days because it tends not to run as much as the non-waterproof type.

The Muse

Let me just say how excited I am that you suggested the Sonia Kashuk brush set in your column, because honestly, if you didn't, I was going to. I bought this set for my younger sister, as she is venturing into her makeup fun days. I ended up buying my own set shortly thereafter, because I feared that I was going to steal hers after using it once. Thank goodness she had me to pass along my makeup knowledge to - my mom does. not. get. it. She's still using makeup brushes that are about 10 years old and look like the a matted lion's mane. I keep trying to slip a few new brushes into her bag and she just gets all upset like she's abandoning her babies. Or something like that.
Oh, and Sonia's line also has a decent foundation brush - I used it in doing my friend's makeup for her wedding, and it was flawless.

And the heat? Totally feel you. I grew up in sweltering heat of Vegas, but that dryness was nothing compared to the horrid heat/humidity of Atlanta that I now suffer through daily. I've limited my makeup to moisturizer w/ SPF 30, bronzer, a little bit of peach blush, and the best mascara ever (Benefit's Bad Gal).

Gah! Enough babbling. Sorry. Too much coffee.


Just delurking to let you know 1) you've dispensed some great advice as usual and 2) I, too, am a lover of Coach. And to be honest, I think Coach bags are a great value for the quality of their products, or, at least, compared to some of the other brands out there. I know you've already heard this but don't pay these haters no mind. They be hatin' cuz they don't know any better.

And congrats on your prenancy!


I love the new Coach soho leather mini wallet in bordeaux. Too cute for words!


I second Drea's comment on the Almay. Doesn't slide off.

And I don't know if this link will work, but a friend sent this to me a few weeks ago. I love her and it actually does control the oil somewhat (and smells good, too):


That Mary Kay Satin Hands set? Also excellent to make feet look pretty and smooth for sandal season.

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