Saturday, August 10, 2013

More Hair Prognosis: The Short 'Do

Hi Cottage Cheesies,

I owe a big apology for my infrequent postings, so I won't even waste another line with one.  Every summer we often find ourselves itching for something new.  A new body (heck, that's an all year round thing for me), a new wardrobe, a new bright, fun color for your digits...and especially a new 'do!  After trying NUMEROUS styles, I can't seem to ever get the "new 'do" bug out of my skin.

This is what I've learned:

1. No more perms.  At least not in the fashion that was shown viz a viz posting "More Prognosis: Perming".  Strangely, I've had two terrible perms in my life.  The first in Jersey (ok, to be expected), the second in Korea (as shown in More Prognosis: Perming)--which ironically was still Captain Frizzy (but thankfully was smoothed out in take 2, which I proceeded to get done the next day).  And, my third (which as not so bad), in NYC Chinatown and universally, TOO LOOSE.  My mom also confirmed the Chinatown salons do their perms too loose. A word of advice:  medium rod means a big rod everywhere else. It's like they know of the scars we've all endured from bad perms in Asia and elsewhere and are purposefully going out of their way NOT to make your hair too curly...meaning you get nothing at all.  So, no more perms.

(You call that a perm??)  I can get the same look like by, sigh, using velco rollers (and sleeping in them, just scoot them up the neck so you aren't hurting too bad the next morning).

2. I can't grow my hair long.  Unless I want to wear extensions.  (The comb clip on kind, I don't do glue in my hair).  Like so.

If you are serious about these, they are relatively inexpensive and easy to take care of. Ya just wash them like you would your own hair (after all it is real, it's just some Indian chick who cut off most of her hair for you...dang those gorgeous people with their nice hair).  You can get 5-7 pieces for $150+ (price depends on length) at Wigs and Plus either near Penn Station or 14th and 6th.  The Penn Station location people are actually nicer (one guy, Alex, gave me a quick tutorial and put them in for me). The weaves can take a few days to make....I also purchased both a 16" and 10" (medium, shoulder length) set.   I find I didn't dig them anymore (which is too bad cause I can't really resell them) they got itchy and with the thanks of Nioxin and biotin (a little bit of biotin, my hair has been really healthy and thick (these two things just maintain overall health...the actual "growth" of hair is debatable from my experience. My roommate has also tried Viviscal for hair growth but instantly regrets it due to the havoc it wreaks on your skin).

3. If I can't grow my hair long without being too "stringy," I got to keep it above shoulder length.  At the shoulders, is a bit tricky. For some reason my hair (and yours probably too if you have straight, malleable hair), loves to flip out at the ends.  So the key for me, is to keep it above in a long bob (no more Rihanna/Posh Spice do), straight-style.  Which means my last card to play with is...COLOR (and bangs.  If you have a wide, chunky, round face like me, you SHOULD not follow my repeated mistake of blunt bangs.  I tend to just go against all advice sometimes. What I found to be a happy medium if you really want them, is to get 'em long so you CAN sweep them up or to the side. Right above the eyebrows looks nice).

It's also hard to tell in this photo but I am sporting a brown hair look...brownest (NOT RED, hate that Asian Red look) I could go without bleach.  I wanted to go honey/caramel blonde, but that would have required bleach.  And in my opinion, it's not worth it.  You don't want to overly damage your can still achieve significant color change without it. It doesn't appear that way in this photo but give yourself some natural light and after a few washes, you will have a lighter, but natural look.

A couple months later my brown and black faded into a very stylish look (think trendy Kardashian low lights, anyone?)

AND I chopped off some more length to be above the chin, against my hairdresser's will.  I felt I achieved the look I wanted--after Rainie Yang. Except I'm so un-petite I don't come across as charming as she does.


Ms. Rainie (in possibly one of my favorite Marie Claire HK shoots of all time)

I don't think I'll keep this short, short look, nor my brown locks (it's just pricey to upkeep). But I'm glad I HAVE at least tried a few things and know what sticks.

I will say...the short do (constant cutting and refreshing of hair) has been really healthy for me.  Constantly tying your long hair back can create breakage, so it's nice to just be able to get up and go! (And the do hasn't made my hair as flat as you'd think).

Here, here to hair experimentation happiness. If only we all had such beautiful faces we could all look this good sporting a pixie.

  Yeah B! Notice how I said, B not Miley Cyrus.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Swinging Your Way Into Shape: 5 Reasons Why You Should Amplify Your Fitness Routine with a Pole

Whether you’re new to exercise, an elite Varsity athlete, or a busy professional in-between, it can be hard to find an activity that’s suitable for all fitness levels.   Maybe group fitness classes at your local gym, such as spinning, or total body conditioning leaves you sore for days.  Maybe you really detest running, even though everyone’s into it, because you need to find an activity easier on your knees.  Maybe yoga has given you a reason to appreciate meditation, but does nothing for you when you want to get your sweat on.

If you’re bored and looking for a more invigorating, and fun, workout, I challenge you to find a local pole-fitness class.  You heard me—pole dancing. What’s no longer an activity restricted for gentleman’s club has become a total body workout that’s harnessed a strong, worldwide following and even in consideration to become an Olympic Sport.

There are nearly 600 pole dance studios in the United States, so accessibility is no longer an issue.  Neither is acceptance. As the pole has grown in popularity, there are numerous organizations and federations in support of the sport:  putting on various amateur competitions, showcases, and events all celebrating the world’s estimated 180,000 professional pole dancers worldwide.

If you’re still curious or unconvinced about pole dancing, here’s five good reasons why you should take your first swing:

1.     It is a total body workout…with a focus on strengthening the upper body.

An average 90-minute pole dancing class burns 550 calories.  While this does vary depending on your level, you can expect even beginners will perform basic strengthening exercises, based on the pull-up.   Many focus on building upper body strength, which is key for women who may have a hard time trimming our jiggly triceps, or nipping our back fat.  Strong lateral, trapezius, and biceps are required to do any move in pole—from basic spins, climbs, to advanced inversions and graceful holds.   Eventually these holds will involve squeezing your glutes and thighs tightly to hold onto the metal for dear life.  You may find this scary, but you’ll thank yourself for the challenge once you find your stems burgeoning with muscle definition.

2.     Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about toning the body.  It’s an awesome cardio workout as well. 
Have you ever tried doing a vertical crunch, a foundation move in pole dance?  That’s pulling your body half way up the pole and bringing your knees to your chest.  Try three sets of 10 on that one; your heart will be racing.  Try the same move by bringing your legs into your chest and then straightening them.  Finally, follow up with doing it all at once—pulling straight legs outward, and then maybe over your head for a basic inversion, called the “Chopper.”   Your pulse could probably match your doppelganger that just spent the last 30 minutes running on the treadmill.  

Regardless, for anyone who’s actively looking to loose weight, you should know that the recipe for success begins with a whole ton of healthy eating, a lot of strength conditioning, and even less of pure cardio exercise alone. 

3.     It’s good to be upside down. 

Similarly to the benefits of yoga/pilates inversions, hanging upside down on a pole can help with circulation as blood rushes downwards to oxygenate the brain.  Many yogis and pilates students often find comfort in pole-dancing as the three fitness forms are very complementary.  Yogis can enhance their flexibility with advanced pole moves that require a serious flexy back, and the ability to do splits.  Fans of pilates will appreciate that the second most used body group after your upper body in pole is, your core.   Almost everything in pole requires strong abs, especially bottom abs if you want to be able to invert—and you do, because that’s where all the fun is.

4.     It’s a fun, dance-y, workout that builds self-confidence and camaraderie. 

There’s a reason why the dance form has picked up in popularity.  It’s sexy!  There’s nothing to be ashamed about when looking in your mirror and feeling good about burning calories in high, heel stripper shoes.  That’s an extra five pounds to help tone those calves!   Moreover, there’s no reason why exotic dance should be kept to professional dancers alone, now you can learn how to bust a move to impress your man at home (yes you can by a pole to install at home). 

Lastly, you may even make a new friend. I sure did when I first started taking pole classes at Crunch Gym, when I first moved to New York City five years ago.  Pole dancing is very social; requiring fellow classmates to spot you, and share poles with you, especially at bigger gyms and studios.  It’s also a fun adventure to take up with a friend especially if you’re unsure about what to expect.

5.     Studios are popping up everywhere!  Among the country’s near 600 studios, California holds the highest count with over a hundred.  New York’s not far behind, and here’s my top 3 choices for interested gals who span the fitness spectrum. 
New York Pole Dancing-  A studio that’s dedicated to the dance in pole dancing.  NYPD offers fun, routine-based fitness classes that are routed in chorography.  I suggest absolute beginners take the Intro class ($25) which cover the basics, in a clear, easy-to-follow way: how to walk around the pole, how to do a basic spin, and how to do a climb…all with the grace, aplomb and sensuality your inner fox is seeking.

Crunch Gyms- Good for folks who are at a moderate fitness level.  Since Crunch is a gym, busy professionals can pay a monthly rate and get their pole fix more frequently and economically than studio classes.  Varying levels of pole are offered at least 3-4 times a week depending on which location you visit.   Instructors are sure to spot you, and the larger classes invite exercise modifications, and more advanced students often help out newbies.  Not to mention, most instructors offer a dance “freestyle” in the end where you can practice new moves or simply strut your stuff!

Body & Pole-   In my experience, a great studio fit for advanced students because not only do they offer levels 1 through 4 of pole dance, they offer a great deal of pole conditioning (“Pole Power”), contortion (for those interested in getting acrobatic with their pole a la circus), and other aerial apparatuses to learn…namely, aerial fabric, and hoop.  Classes are $40 (except for their intro class, which is $25).

Happy Pole-ing!


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Is that a whitehead, I see? Ughhhhhh.

Hey Cheesies,

I've been having a serious cottage cheese moment the last couple of weeks and it's because of these breakouts on my face that won't go away.

 Don't know where it comes from because my parents both claim they never had any issues (they also benefited from gloriously humid weather in Burma-- yes humid weather helps since it opens your pores and keeps you moisturized!)

My sister had issues with her skin as well, so unfortunately genetics play a hand if you're an acne sufferer.  And skin is so important to women-- it's the body's largest organ, and the best canvas you have to make your face beautiful. If you have beautiful, glowing, clear skin, you don't need a ton of makeup!  So it's heart breaking if you've been experiencing problems, as I have. 

At 13,  I had T-zone pimples (teenage skin), to persistent, stubborn whiteheads on my cheeks and chin at 20  (hormonal female skin), to semi regular cysts/whiteheads today, at 26.  Ughh.  I've tried all of the topical creams and exfoliators (Retin-a-Micro, Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid), birth control (Spironolactone... the nausea, the nausea!), to laser treatments like PDT (which is $$$, if you are doing it, I highly recommend my dermatologist Dr. Foitl at Sutton Place Dermatology), and finally to Accutane (a strong oral drug that essentially stops your body from producing oil), which was the final draw for me.  If your skin looks like mine did at one point, it's time for Accutane (with a dermatologist's consultation, of course).

After nearly 10 years of stubborn acne, I took Accutane halfway through college.  It's definitely NOT something I recommend unless you haven't had success elsewhere because of the serious risks, long term side effects, and constant blood work needed (monthly!), the 110% reassurance you ain't getting preggers (because of the 30%+ chance of birth defects while on the drug).

Fortunately, I didn't have too many side effects--just severe dry lips, and maybe aggravated hair loss (which was already sort of an issue...), but nothing major.

People say that if you go on Accutane too early, you may have to try it again later in life, and you really should try to avoid that since once is bad enough.  It did really work wonders on me and stopped the constant, scarring acne that just wouldn't go away, but I do get really angry when I notice that whiteheads pop up.. in pairs, and in groups, argh!

Somehow over the years my skin got drier (probably partially due to the Accutane), redder, and more sensitive.  I sort of got lazy with my moisturizing routine, and the winters just got crueler in New York.  The breakouts came back, typically a week or so before my period and/or during time of high stress (which is usually, always!), and I just knew I had to be more careful and monitor what was going on with me.

Things I learned about my skincare routine that have somewhat helped:

- Since I now have drier skin, I can toss the medicated cleansers (like the sulfur washes that my dermatologist had me use throughout my teenage years).  A sensitive skin cleanser, simple as Cetaphil works well.

-Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. I actually don't tone- I don't think it's that necessary for me and astringents just wash me out.  Every now and then I'll use a Tea Tree Oil, which will help with spot blemishes every now and then.

-Really go for a deep cleansing tool that can also help exfoliate and let new skin grow.  People have debated big time on the Clarisonic.  I bought the Mia with the sensitive brush head and had all sorts of problems with it at first that I almost gave up.

But then I discovered I was using it to a) remove makeup, see what I mean by lazy (that's a no no, unless you want to rub your makeup into your pores--remove it first by a quick wash or wipe), b) twice a day-- no good for sensitive skin, switch to every other day use and then work yourself into once a day, and do not use it when you have breakouts even though you *think* it's helping... it's just aggravating.  If it helps, there are plenty of YouTube How-Tos on how to use it (as well as product reviews) though I never follow the 10 second cheeks, chin, and forehead rule... I just run it over my face until it stops (there's an auto timer that's automatically turned on)

One other sporadic routine that I try to upkeep to ensure my skin stays clean, and pores stay open, is facials.  I get them Chinese style, from Chinatown beauty experts Top Beauty.  Cathy is usually my facialist, and she takes about 1.5 hours- 2 hours a session.  Each is about $55  (which gets cheaper into the $30 range if you buy a package of 10 and they throw in other kinds of a special mask for your skin type, or this cooling machine that rubs ice cold aloe over your skin to eliminate redness, it's nice but not necessarily worth the extra $85).  If your curious about what happens, or rather, how painful the extractions are, you can read about the entire experience A-Z here.  I guess not going out after a facial for at least 24 hours, and being cautious if it's you're a newbie, because skin can look very sore/red for up to 3 days and it's best to go makeup-free to let the pores heal.

Things I learned about my makeup routine-

-With sensitive skin that tends to get dry, NO powder makeup.  I never really wore powder makeup so I don't know why I thought that Bare Minerals would have been good option for me.  Good marketing ploy I guess.  I'm not sure if I followed the "Tap, Whirl, Buff" rule too well, but all it did was clog my pores, and gave me serious breakouts-- whiteheads AND painful cysts.   Others have complained about it as well, so that's how I knew I just had to stop using it.  Basically, if you change something in your skincare routine and notice problems right away, it's safe to say it's that "new thing."

-Wash your makeup brushes, with another cleanser, not a harsh soap.

-Don't EVER sleep in your makeup.

-If your T zone gets shiny, defer to the blotting cloths, not powder.

-SPF in your foundation?  BB Cream (whatever that means- clearly I didn't jump on this pricey fad), tinted moisturizer?  Go with the tinted moisturizer-- it's the lightest for your skin and doesn't leave it feeling cakey.  I also like the Nude Airform, a Maybelline foam foundation for a lightweight feel. But, be sure to be careful when you're spraying-- the nozzle could be better and get one shade lighter since it darkens throughout the day.

And finally for clear skin:  Lots of water, sleep, stress relievers (whatever they are for you), and taking a few days off from makeup.

Here's to happy skin!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Respect for All the "Mommas Who Profit Dollas"

Hello Cottage Cheesies!

Ok.  For real, I know that I am very behind on posting. (For more blogging activity, be sure to check my food blog, City Fooding ) The once a week posting schedule will happen...someday.  My deep apologies;  work/life has been getting in the way as of late.   How DO women do it all:  personal life activities, family, friends, work, man, exercise, R&R?

What a timely hypothetical question as my older sister just had her first baby, so let's add MOM to that question.  I have the utmost respect for new moms, and WORKING new moms.  Not that I need to worry about this anytime soon (I can barely take care of myself), but it's age-old, undying question.  How do women do it, and have it all?

I don't have the answers. And there's never been a more conflicting question.  Celebrities like new Mom Drew Barrymore (I know, as if their lives are so hard) can even admit that women can't have it all--that they have to choose (a sentiment mirrored by many), and they're privileged with tons of help.  Other Mom experts, like Pajama Mama blogger Leslie Truex think women just need to change what "all" means to them; "all" becomes relative but some things have got to go.

Some moms necessitate the importance of their kids-free, alone time, thinking it actually enhances your skills as a parent, offering a mental and physical safe haven.  Take for instance, Lizzie Heiselt, blogger, who correlates running a marathon to parenthood.  Lungs breathless?  Legs sore?  Feels like the day's never-ending?  Yeah that sounds like motherhood, alright.   Not to talk about the gruesome pain that one someone who winces at a papercut.. I can only imagine.  Men, kiss your wives everyday. Kiss her more than once, everyday after she gives birth.

I guess I can only what you can, one day at a time.  Take time for yourself, it's ok.  Being a Mom is not the end all end all, it's only what society tells us women's main role is in life.   And eventually, peace of mind and confidence that a happy, sane Mom means you're doing the best for your kids. That's   having it all.  I'm sort of dedicating this post to the newest Mom I know, my sister, who brought my new niece Chloe into the world yesterday.

Chloe arrived the day after Mother's Day.  Couldn't have been more perfect timing :).  In my array of crazy work/life things (and given that my family was on standby for Chloe's arrival), I wasn't able to actually do the full blown out Mother's Day brunch for my Mom.  But, I did peruse (and approve) some dedicated Mom Day recipes from my friends at Food & Wine,  in case you need some ideas for Mom Day 2014.. or in case you just want some delicious brunch items to make.

Mama Chin likes to eat for sure, but she's also very crafsty.  So I'm on the hunt for some crafts classes to do with her given we're celebrating surrogate Mother's Day next weekend.  I haven't taken that many classes in NYC, but I did once buy a Groupon deal for a French Macaroon making class at DessertTrucks (which closed its LES location, sadly) which I would have considered taking again with Mom.  After all, most cooking classes are wildly expensive and um, Mama Chin knows how to cook. She'd probably end up teaching the teacher with her southeast Asian tactics. No need for cough up $110 a pop for that.

Mama Chin is also an expert knitter/crocheter so one class I considered for her is Loop of the Loom, which is a weaving class on the UES.  One point for consideration: apparently intro classes are NOT the designated $45 two hour sessions listed on their site, but rather $55 for about seven hours (I sort of think whoever who speaking with me on the phone was making stuff up).  Hmm.  Who has time for that? (Definitely not Moms!)  If you do want to try weaving and have seven hours on hands you can try to buy their Yelp deal if you're a new customer.

In any case, Happy Mother's Day to all dedicated, hard-working Mom's out there.   This one's for you.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More Hair Prognosis: Perming

So, continuing on from my previous post. What can be done with flat, thin, hair?  Well, in the past, I've tried perming it to increase body and volume.  A precautionary word from the wise: if you have an big ole' round face, and flat, fine hair, wait until your hair is PAST THE SHOULDERS to perm because the curliness that ensues post perm will cut off 3 inches at least (preferably down to your boobs)! 

 I've had three perms in my life:

1. One in high school - Jersey Shore salon which ended up making me look like a poodle; never again.  You know when they tell you not to wash your hair for 2 days post perm in an attempt NOT to loosen your curls?  You WANT to loosen your curls here, trust me. 

The pictures are gruesome, I am sparing my readers the ghastly sight.  I wish I could burn the pictures off my memory. 

2. One in Korea where even the men get perms a la Kim Jong Il:   Even in the perm-nation, still way too curly on the first try:

Needed my friend's master stylist to loosen it a la curling iron curls... here I am after (getting a fish pedicure no less.. notice how I, a tourist, am the only person getting it.. ahem. Interesting experience= useless for cleaning feet)   

Loosened perm...success! 

3. A third from my only NYC go-to hairdresser, Chris at J Hair Salon which was not poofy at all.. in fact, sort of died in 2 months and gave barely-there waves.  Hm :( (not your fault, Chris! I was really threatening if I saw a hint of tight curls).  Sadly I have no pictures documenting this.

So, while perms gave me either too-crazy curls, or not-crazy-enough perms, each of them left me with damage (well not take 3). So as much as the id in me loves the IDEA of it, I've put this idea to rest.  Yes, perms DO help save us sufferers of flat hair time in terms of getting volume and body, but it does NOT help with overall styling time. You still need to fix it to straighten it to get that voluminous look....and you'll have to deal with the damage that comes with it.  Plus, if we are considering a guy's opinion (come on let's not lie), I think to think men prefer straight hair (at least my Jewish boyfriend has been vocal about no fro fo' me). 

So alas, I may consider some golden brown/light brown highlights (maybe the whole head if no bleaching is involved), but I'll report back and let you know if I do dye it (it'll be a first).  I know in my heart natural is a better way to go but ehh, my curiosity has always gotten the best of me.... 


Spring is in the Hair - How to Strengthen Your Locks for the Sunshine Season

It's spring-time.  If you're in NYC, you may be reveling in the fact that the weather report is a high of 77 degrees today (it is the second week of April, after all!), a much needed change from the drag of winter we've been experiencing for two months too long.   Ladies are busting our their pastel jeans (never into that trend), their flats, floral dresses, even an espadrille or two (not ready to show toes yet).  All rejoice! 

Every spring I usually itch for something new, especially when it comes to hair.  Everyone hibernates in the winter and drowns themselves in piles of clothing, so we have an excuse to look bad.  But the advent of spring-summer brings vacation time, beach-going, walks in the park... visibility to the world. 

I can kiss the dreadful dry, winter weather goodbye, which has never been good to my hair, and welcome kinder wind-less spring-summer weather that can help hydrate my hair.  A good time for me to flaunt my tresses (or lack of). 

Unfortunately, I know what hairstyle looks good of me but every spring I try to convince myself otherwise.  Unlike most Asian girls (like my sister), I somehow got stuck with coarse, yet fine/barely-there hair that falls flat if I'm not styling it every two seconds. I've even endured massive neck pain sleeping in my velco rollers overnight.... beauty costs! 

Sadly, the longer my hair grows, the finer it gets.  I used to get really freaked out because I used to shed all the time, and my hair would come out in clumps when I washed it, leading me to believe that I seriously had like.... an illness.  

Fortunately, there are some solutions I've tried that have helped holistically with hair strengthening (not growth).  I'm convinced there is nothing you can take that'll make your dread grow like weeds if Mother Natured hasn't bestowed that card on you.  Here's a helpful video I found from HuffPo on supplements for hair growth. 

I haven't taken Viviscal (it's really a bunch of B vitamins in one), but I have started taking Biotene for a month or so. No change, but I'll keep monitoring progress.  I've also purchased the Nioxin starting kit from Amazon (much cheaper than in the salon).  It's basically a solution that deep cleans your scalp to prevent dandruff build-up and other conditions that block the scalp and clouds room for the hair follicle to grow.  These "hair growth" treatments more so allow room for your hair to reach its full potential but like I said, it's not going to work wonders that's not in the cards for you.  On a positive note, I've noticed Nioxin has made my hair shed less.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Welcome to the Woman Cave.

Ahoy Cottage-Cheesers!  Thanks for visiting My Cottage Cheese and welcome to my first post! (Aside from the "About Me".... do check that out for my mission statement). 

This home post is all about the Woman Cave.  If you've read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, (the ultimate, proven authority on the conflict between men and women) you would know that women don't dig caves.  They dig open fields... lots of space to talk, be out in the open!  Most men retreat to their alone time in the face of peril; we women can't help but share as if the more people who know, the more comfort we feel.  

This setup is very accurate between my boyfriend Mike and I.  My extroverted side just lets loose when we're together... even if I know he doesn't want to hear it, I can't help but hammer him with what's on my mind.   We were good friends before we were dating, so I treated him like another girlfriend (a sign I didn't grow up with boys, much). Before a romantic connection was established he heard it all.. about my monthly special friend "my P", my ingrown toenails, the blackheads on my nose, etc.  Admittedly, it is much wiser to put those filters in place when you are unknowingly in a courtship with someone (I was slow to catch on that one).   

I hope each and every one of you find someone who can revel in the imperfections that make you who you are to create the finished, glossy you but I've learned that ignorance is bliss for most of 'em... (I know I'm having a Sex in the City Miranda moment).  

And you should feel comfortable and able to be yourself around your guy but  there are just some things that you should just share- woman to woman.  Girlfriend to girlfriend.   REAL woman to REAL woman.  Cottage Cheeser to Cottage Cheeser- you get it. 

So,  I end this first post with an extension of my Mission Statement.  Love yourself, and on those days when you want to complain about yourself, tell another REAL woman and keep the men out of it.   Feel free to use me as a sounding board, and a provider of REAL tips and stories.  I'm listening. 

Welcome to the Woman Cave.