Neutrogena Hydro Boost Cleansing Gel vs. Winter Dry Skin – A Review

January, with its sense of renewal, is usually a cold month. Alas, with the winter tends to come dry skin. My combination skin doesn’t escape, and winter makes flaky skin in the morning or the pull of a tight and parched face familiar occurrences. I regularly moisturize my face, but in winter, it can feel like playing endless catch up. Moisturizer serves as a remedy, slathered atop those flaky dry patches, accompanied by the hope for better, but you never quite feel on top of it. I recently had the opportunity to try Neutrogena’s new Hydro Boost Cleansing Gel (MSRP $8)  for free, thanks to Pinch Me and, what follows is my review after several weeks of use.

A bottle of Neutrogena Hydro Boost Cleansing Gel

While Hydro Boost gel cleanser does say “gel”, it’s more of a thick liquid with a base of water and glycerin that comes in a pump bottle. Upon applying the cleanser to your face, you’ll notice that it feels soothing and silky. The formula lathers gently and never feels thick or goopy. Many cleansers feel like they strip your skin of moisture and settle for a squeaky clean effect that feels soft, but will subsequently dissipate, leaving your skin feeling tight or even dry again. Along with glycerin, another key ingredient that helps skin keep moisture is hyaluronic acid, which is used throughout the Hydro Boost line.

It has been pleasant to wake up in the morning without having to worry that my face will be dry and in need of some careful moisturizing and time to try and really repair the texture before I go about my day.

Another task the Hydro Boost Cleansing Gel excels at is removing makeup. Even though it states on the bottle that it removes makeup, I was skeptical. I rarely use facial cleanser to take my makeup off, since most of the time it falls short in one or more ways. For one, it will often melt part of my eye makeup, letting it then run down my face in a clear effort at raccoon cosplay. Two, it will do that masterful melting of part of my eye makeup, then leave the rest in uneven quantities, from bits of eyeliner that cling to the skin under my eye to waterproof mascara still partly coating my lashes. Most of the time, face cleanser is inadequate, but I was pleasantly surprised by this product. To test, I wet my face over my eye makeup and applied two pumps of cleanser into my hand, spreading it over one eye while I watched with the other. Surprisingly, it applied smoothly, but didn’t start dripping with residue that usually makes my makeup migrate all over my face when removing it with a standard cleanser. What’s more, I didn’t have to scrub at my lashes, and everything came off quickly and smoothly.

Finding a product that keeps its promises and works is always exciting, and this one is promising in that regard. Using it several times a week makes my skin feel soft and clean, while helping me avoid the usual winter dryness.The formula feels protective and after several weeks of regular use, I think I have found a cleanser to rely on in the winter months.

I Tried It: Blue Hill Farms Butternut Squash Yogurt

Butternut Squash yogurt

Butternut Squash yogurt

Note: I’m starting a new, casual series of reviews on here. These will be grouped under the I Tried It category and tag. Food (and other) reviews are one way to keep in the habit of writing them. All of these will be for items purchased myself, unless noted otherwise.

I’ve become accustomed to eating plain yogurt, enjoying the creamy freshness and sour tang. Years ago, I wouldn’t have touched the stuff without sweetening it up. Now, I can have it either way. Yet the idea of savory yogurts still harbor a certain strangeness, something that doesn’t make much sense given how wonderful yogurt is in savory dishes. It cools the mouth and adds a creamy texture without the heaviness of butter and cream.

On a recent trip to a local grocery store, I noticed Blue Hill Farms’ line of yogurts in flavors such as sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, and beet. I bought the butternut squash out of pure curiosity after reading the label. For 100 calories, the yogurt contained milk, butternut squash, sage, maple sugar, and other spices that all made sense to anyone who has ever eaten butternut squash soup. Butternut squash seemed like one of the easier to like flavors, along with sweet potato, but at $2.50 each 6oz cup, this experiment was going to be done one at a time.

The butternut squash yogurt has a pale orange tone, as might be expected, and after one spoonful, I was unsure if I wanted to proceed. Despite the fact this yogurt was sweetened, it was very sour and definitely savory. The flavors were reminiscent of butternut squash ravioli, which is something I love to eat. Yet, having that flavor come not in a pleasantly thick ravioli filling, but in a lightly sweetened, yet tangy-sour, thinner yogurt felt out of sync in my mouth. It was also reminiscent of butternut squash soup with a sour note.

Butternut Squash yogurt

Orange, tangy butternut squash yogurt.

I didn’t finish this yogurt, though I did continue eating it for a bit to see if my tongue would think of it as less strange over time and simply begin to enjoy it. The yogurt is seasoned well, but the flavor wasn’t balanced and that was a big reason why I won’t be trying more from this line. It just doesn’t work for me, but if you go in expecting a savory treat, something along the lines of a chilled squash soup, you may just love it.

With all of the flavors in this line lending themselves to sweetness so well, it was jarring to encounter something so sour inside. At $2.50 each cup, the cost did not justify further experiments.

Blue Hill yogurt comes in carrot, sweet potato, tomato, parsnip, butternut squash, and beet. More information, as well as full nutritional information is available at

Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade of Hits – a Review

It was at the movies in 1998 that I first discovered Christina Aguilera. The film was, of course, Mulan, and the song was Reflection, a ballad about struggling to remain true to yourself. Now, ten years later, Christina Aguilera has released Keeps Getting’ Better: A Decade of Hits, her first greatest-hits package.

 The debut single, title track Keeps Gettin’ Better is an energetic electropop tale of a Catwomanesque temptress superheroine who just can’t stop straddling the line between good and naughty:

Some days I’m a super bitch
Up to my old tricks
But it won’t last forever.
Next day, I’m your supergirl
out to save the world
And it keeps getting’ better

The track leaked in early September, followed a few days later by a sexy performance (along with a preview of another track on the album, “Genie 2.0”) on the MTV Video Music Awards. The other new song, “Dynamite”, is a light, splashy dance track you’d expect more from the likes of Gwen Stefani. There’s no social commentary in here, no long-stored pain, it’s about feeling free. One can imagine two bodies together in a club enjoying each other and the moment.

“Genie 2.0” is one of two remakes on this hits set. “Genie in a Bottle” is redone with a slow purr as electronic dance beats swirl in the background. The other remake, “You Are What You Are (Beautiful)” takes a song already full of emotional power and makes it damp and moody. It’s faintly reminiscent of some John Lennon with a touch of Radiohead’s occasional weird sonic distortion. While the original version is still best, this is a highlight from an artist who prides herself on reinvention and usually includes new arrangements of older tracks during her concerts. Both “Keeps Gettin’ Better” and “Dynamite”, along with the two remakes are, according to Aguilera, a taste of what’s to come on her new album, scheduled for next summer.

 As for the rest of the album, there are some glaring omissions. The first is “Reflection”, the song that actually started Aguilera’s career and the track that would have officially made this set a complete decade’s worth of hits. As it stands now, all the songs are from 1999-2008. I wonder if it was her choice to leave it off or issues with using the song from Disney. Two other songs that should’ve made the cut are “Lady Marmalade”, which was a worldwide #1 hit, and “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely”, her duet with Ricky Martin that charted in the top 10 in many countries. These tracks are both on the international versions of the album, but “Reflection” is nowhere to be found. Another hit, “The Voice Within”, has been left off all but the British and Japanese editions.


The included tracks on Keeps Gettin’ Better showcase an artist who challenges herself to try different things. The earlier material is often poppier and less personal (“Genie in a Bottle”, “What a Girl Wants”), but songs taken from her albums Stripped (“Fighter”, “Beautiful”) and Back to Basics (“Ain’t No Other Man”, “Hurt”) hint at the growth personally, professionally, and in her ability to successfully tackle many musical genres that is even more blatant in the rest of those albums (on such songs as “Walk Away” and “Save Me From Myself”). Aguilera’s take on reinvention and of challenging herself will be familiar to any fan, but this is a collection that won’t disappoint the casual listener or someone who wants most of her hits in one slick Pop Art-inspired package. Even for a longtime fan with all her albums like myself, songs like Keeps Gettin’ Better and the remakes make this a must-own.

The Little Mermaid: a Review


I'm a huge fan of The Little Mermaid, the 1989 film widely heralded as the beginning of Disney's Second Renaissance in animation. Saying I'm a huge fan is probably an understatement, considering it is my favorite film of all time, and has remained so for nearly 20 years now. I've always felt that the film had some of the most natural songs of all. In other words, the music flowed very organically from the plot and characters. I love Beauty and the Beast, but most townspeople don't run around singing every morning. My excitement when the announcement was made that it would be coming to Broadway as a musical adaptation wasn't at all surprising. So, at first opportunity, I got my ticket.

    The musical begins as the film does, with the song "Fathoms Below," with some new lyrics added and minor changes made. The staging of Prince Eric's ship on the water is incredibly well done. This set piece hangs in the center of the stage, while waves made of some sort of glass or plastic stir about. When the song is done, the ship moves upward on those "waves", and disappears, leaving us with a gentle blue lighting scheme, and our introduction to the undersea world. The song here is "Daughters of Triton," also extended with some new lyrics, and it is the first time we meet King Triton (Norm Lewis), Sebastian, and Ariel's six elder sisters. This is also the scene in which I first felt weird about the production. when coming onto the scene for the number, aside from Lewis, the actors were skating.

    My first thought was that it looked like something out of Disney on Ice. And they continued to skate, to simulate the gliding motion of swimming. In fact, everyone who plays an underwater denizen in this musical, with the exception of Sherie René Scott, who plays Ursula, skates. It's very weird at first, but after a few moments, the fluidity of the whole thing grabs hold. Though sometimes now and then you notice that they're skating again. What ran through my head at the time was that this show would never have been possible if Heelys were not invented.

    Going in, I'd read only that the show had mixed reviews, but I hadn't read up too much on the production design, because I wanted the experience to be as fresh as possible for me. I didn't know about the skating beforehand, and so it was a bit jarring. What I'd expected was more harness work (which the show does include), but as I mentioned, eventually the whole skating thing melts away for the most part.

    The costumes were the first thing I noticed after the skating, and they are delightful. They require one to suspend disbelief to some degree when it comes to tails and Sebastian's crab limbs, but somehow, it all just works beautifully. They are inspired and whimsical. The only costume I had a problem with was Flounder's. They didn't seem to know what to do with him, placing the young actor in a yellow t-shirt with blue spots on it, yellow shorts, bright yellow Heelys, topping it off with his hair sprayed blue.

    Anyhow, after the "Daughters of Triton" scene, we are finally introduced to Ariel (Sierra Boggess) in a new song, "The World Above". And what a perfect Ariel she is, from the look down to the voice, she makes this role all her own. Her acting, gestures, and vocal tone are all flawless. Her signature song, "Part of Your World", is turned into a stripped down, much more subtle affair than its film counterpart. She is alone in this staging, and she carries it beautifully, with sparkling emotion and power. She's really quite the discovery.

    This production makes sure to give every character his or her time to shine. Ursula, who already has "Poor Unfortunate Souls" to belt out deviously, gets a new showstopper, the campy "I Want the Good Times Back", in which Sherie René Scott chews scenery with the best of them. Her characterization and strong voice seize control and she steals every moment she's on the stage. I particularly loved how she brought a real freshness and originality to her role. It would have been an easy path and a big mistake to attempt to imitate Pat Carroll's style. This Ursula is a little bit Noo Yawk, a little bit Vegas showgirl. My only minor quibble with her performance was that it was a bit too brief. The way she meets her end leaves her nowhere near as threatening or evil as she could have been. The Vanessa subplot from the movie was scrapped (unnecessarily), and she never turns into a larger than life scary villain.

    Instead, Scuttle gets several songs. I like that they let him have some extra time (and Eddie Korbich is very good), but the silly song "Positoovity" could have been scrapped for more substantial things, like extended Ursula time. There is also an inexplicable reprise of "Under the Sea" right after the song itself finishes. This feels like a weird type of padding. That song is supposed to end suddenly, and Sebastian is to notice Ariel is gone. Instead, he just remains oblivious while they tread through more song and dance for another minute or two. Pacing fails a bit here, and that time could have been spent in a much better way. The later "Les Poissons (Reprise)" is handled much better and actually serves to move the plot along.

    However, Prince Eric (Sean Palmer) gets two absolutely lovely numbers. "Her Voice", whose melody is partly based on "Part of Your World", and "One Step Closer", whose melody is based upon the film's instrumental track "Jig", originally used in the party ship scene. Little touches like these being included made the film fan in me fall even more in love with this production. Other peripheral characters like Flotsam and Jetsam even get a song, and the happy, Motown-esque "She's in Love" showcases Ariel's sisters and Flounder in a fun extension of a short scene from the film.

    Of the new material, "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" is the highlight for me. It is sung by Sierra Boggess from the point of view of inside Ariel's mind after she's taken to Eric's castle after being rendered silent by Ursula's spell. The sheer childlike excitement of the lyrics, Boggess' performance, and the sweet, flighty vocals are a real form of magic. No wonder I've been listening to it constantly since the other night. "If Only" is a touching quartet, characteristic of classic Broadway, and it made me cry.

    Overall, however, my excitement was not unwarranted. The acts are slightly uneven, but when everything works, it works incredibly well. There are some notable differences from my beloved film, but this is a beautiful one in its own way.