Saturday, July 31, 2010

Getting Rid of Upper Back Pain

This is the first installment of what I'm going to call "The Posture Series".  The Posture Series is all about teaching others the basic self-care that I've taught my clients in my practice, so that they can enjoy the awesomeness of reducing their own pain and/or preventing injury.  I've been a massage therapist for about 8 years, trained by some very good, very experienced massage and physical therapists.  That doesn't mean I'm any kind of genius and I'm certainly no kind of doctor.  What I do have to offer are basic ideas that work wonders toward self-care that I've learned from experience and other people.

Most of what I believe in as far as the optimal function of the musculoskeletal system revolves around posture and alignment.  I consider this reasonable given that the skeleton has evolved to a very specific shape, which when aligned properly supports itself in a miracle of biological architecture.  The skeletal muscles create movement and add support to the joints.  Connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments and broad fascia also play key roles in this whole idea of posture, alignment and movement.  I'm not going to get too detailed with any of this.  What I will do is give my personal, specific opinion on how to deal with specific problem areas that are fairly common.  Again, I am not a doctor.  I just have practical knowledge that has been passed down and withstood the test of time.  So, here we go.

Common upper back pain (not from specific injury or other health condition) usually comes from poor posture.  This poor posture is typically a loop or cycle of slouching, muscular imbalance, poor circulation, muscle spasm, and weakness.  So, let's identify these things.

First, what does good posture look like?  It is surprising to me how few people know what good posture should look like.  What does "stand up straight" mean?  Shoulders back?  That's almost it.  The way I was taught in the first week of massage school was that this posture is not focused in the shoulders, but in the drooping of the rib cage.

Good Posture Checklist

1. (Stand up in front of a mirror.)  Place your feet shoulder or hip width apart.  Point your feet forward.  Distribute your weight evenly between from your heels to the balls or your feet and let your toes spread naturally.

2. Your legs should be straight but your knees should not be locked.

3. Your hips should be centered and your pelvis should neither be rotated forward nor backward.  Although a woman's sacrum does tilt backward more than a man's, neither one should look like they're sticking out their bum.  On the other hand, one's pelvis should not stick out further than the rest of the body, giving the effect of leaning backward.

4. Lift your ribcage.  This is key.  Imagine a string attached to the xyphoid process under the sternum that is pulling upward.  This should have the effect of opening up your chest.

5. Engage your latissimus dorsi muscles to pull your shoulders down and slightly back.  Once your ribcage is in the proper position, your shoulders won't need to be "pulled back" so much but should fall back into that position naturally.  Ideally, the collar bones should be visibly parallel to the floor viewing from the front.

6. Lift your head to make you as tall as possible.  This will most likely also retract your head backward a little.  Most people are used to having their head to far forward (think Mr. Burns).  Do not tilt your chin up or down.

Congratulations, you probably feel really awkward in this position.  That is only because you are not used to it.  You were actually built to stand like this.

Back to the point.  For the upper back pain, we are going to focus on steps 4-6.  You should practice this posture as many times daily as you can think of.  If you must set an alarm, do it.  You will probably be sore for a little while before your body starts to get used to it and then you will feel better.

Stretch out your pectoralis major and minor every time you notice your back starting to ache.  Most of the things you do involve having your arms in front of you.  Over time, your pec muscles tend to shorten, since their is little need to elongate, and they antagonist muscles on the back side of the body are put on a stretch.  These muscles begin to lose circulation and go into spasm, which causes upper back pain and the dreaded "knots" that never seem to go away.  By stretching out the pecs, the rhomboids get a chance to relax and the pain should start to go away on its own.  The best way I've found to do this is using a wall, corner, or door frame, which are all conveniently located in places like houses, schools and office buildings.

Pec Stretch:
Keeping your shoulder down (not letting it get closer to your ear) place your forearm against the wall so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor.  Keeping this relative position, using the wall to brace your arm in position, turn away from your arm until you feel the desired stretch.  Hold for ten to twenty seconds or until you feel satisfied.  Repeat this stretch on the same side with your arms placed slightly higher, and again slightly lower than the aforementioned position.  Repeat all three stretches on the other side.

Exercise your back and shoulders now and then.  You do much more pushing than pulling in your life.  You can help balance this out in the gym if you'd like.  A simple pull up bar in your door frame also does the trick, as do those pulling cords.  Any kind of rowing sport is excellent.  Look for creative ways to practice pulling from good posture, like vacuuming.  Position yourself in the proper posture and vacuum your house.  Next time you vacuum, use your other hand.  This is also good for your coordination.

Seated back exercise:
Next time you're sitting at your desk, on the couch, or at a stoplight, take a moment to squeeze your shoulder blades together and down while pushing your chest forward.  Hold for about five seconds.  Increased strength in your back and shoulders should help these poor overworked and under appreciated muscles keep you in the correct posture.  This is especially important for women, as we are naturally less muscular in the upper body and our breast weight exacerbates upper back pain.

No more Mr. Burns.  Bring that head up whenever you can remember it.  That exaggerated hump people get where their neck meets their back can become permanent.  Don't let it be you.

Back/neck stretch:
This last thing is my favorite back /neck stretch.  If you get that chronic, broad tightness in your back that makes you feel tired, this one should cover it.  Sit on the floor against the wall.  Let yourself slouch and let your head gently hang.  If that feels comfortable, lace your fingers behind your head and let your elbows hang, but do not pull.  Slowly turn your head from side to side.  When you feel your back start to loosen, slouch forward a little more, finding a comfortable place and rotating your neck and upper back slowly from side to side, reaching one elbow at a time gently toward the floor.  The goal is to get as close to your bellybutton as possible.  The whole stretch can take one minute or twenty minutes, depending on how tight your back is.  Make sure you do the whole thing slowly and when you are finished, come back up slowly.  You may feel a little light headed due to the sudden change in blood flow immediately afterward.  Take your time.  At no point during any stretch should you ever feel any sudden, sharp pains.  Back off the stretch if this happens.  Discontinue the stretch if it keeps happening as it may be a sign of an unknown injury.

I've been using these methods for eight years now and I feel great most of the time.  Whenever I start to get out of whack, I just remind myself to do these things and I'm back to normal.  These same tips have also reportedly reduced tension headaches in my clients.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Egg Noodle Soup | Recipe

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Today's post is an easy to make, relatively cheap and hearty recipe that I came up with one cold day.

Egg Noodle Soup

Serves 3.  About 25 minutes to prepare and cook.

1 can of chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of water
3 eggs
2 tbsp of chopped onions
1 tsp of minced ginger
1 tsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp of chopped parsley or cilantro
2 tsp of chopped green onions
1/2 tsp of turmeric
Dry Asian noodles
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Pour a small amount of olive oil into a saucepan on low.  Drop in onions, garlic, and ginger to saute.  Pour in chicken broth and water.  Once it starts to steam, add chopped green onions, parsley/cilantro and turmeric.  Now is a good time for the salt if you want that, and the noodles.  Let that heat up to a simmer while you beat the eggs with a fork in a separate container.  Once it's hot enough, stir the pot in a circular motion and pour the egg in slowly over one spot so that it forms little strands or swirls in the pot.  This will keep you from having egg clumps.  Let it sit for a few seconds and then stir again.  Add dry noodles.  Cover.  Stir.  Taste.  Add more salt if needed.  Eat hot.

Powdered ginger, garlic, and onions work fine if that's all you have.

*Alternate Version*

Lately, I've been eating this soup prepared with the following ingredients:

1 can of chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 tsp of powdered garlic
1/2 tsp of cumin
A few drops of olive or coconut oil
A handful of sliced mushrooms
And handful of spinach/mixed greens
3 eggs
Rice noodles
Salt to taste

Cook this soup exactly the same way. You don't need to sauté the mushrooms and greens first. They boil just fine with the soup. Start to finish this takes about 15 min.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

~Story Time~

I would just like to share a little episode of Saturday night, because I thought it was mildly creative and definitely fun.  This story should be called, "How to Get Awesome for Free."

I went out with my typical girls' night pal, who is long time single.  When things started to warm up at our usual night club, I noticed there were two pretty attractive guys who were well built and fun dancers.  It seems their goal was to give attention to and get attention from every girl in the place that night.  You know the type.  Anyway, they came up to us, at which point I deflected the one trying to dance with me with my wedding ring and they ran off.  Usually, such self-interested guys would be more or less useless to me, but I'm a team player and my friend is single.  It dawned on me, "Wait, what am I thinking?"  So within about five minutes or so, I managed to casually re-encounter the same guy and explain...

Me:  Sorry, I meant to tell you.  I'm married and behaving, but it's my friend's birthday.  She's 25.
Guy:  (guy lights up) Oh really?  So you want me to...
Me:  Yeah, show her a good time! which point he proceeded to walk right up to her and pick her up with a nice, "Happy birthday!"  For a moment, she panicked, but I said, "(friend's name), go with it!"  Never mind the protests like, "Wait, it's not my birthday..."  (Yes it is. Don't believe her, she's just shy.)  It was funny to hear the guy say, "It is your birthday..."  Ha!  So she had quite a fun experience with this guy really making it a point to show her a good time, and then moving right along.  It was perfect.  She had fun but he wasn't around long enough to intrude upon our girls' night.  He came back later a couple of times just to put a smile on her face.  She danced with his friend, too, but he was a bit more stuck up.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  Never dance with a guy like that (that type of guy) for more than one song in a row.  He will start looking for the next girl during the second song.  He will also manage to inflate his ego to the point of near explosion, thus thinking he's doing you some kind of favor by dancing with you.  Cut him off after the first dance and he will probably come back once he's made his rounds.  Also, if you dance with him at the end of the night, he will think he's taking you home.

I didn't feel bad about that little white lie because I'm quite sure that the guy was looking for any excuse to do that kind of thing anyway.  She had fun, I had fun, he got more attention, win win win.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen that big of a happy kitty grin on her face before.  She said she felt like she went to Chip N Dale.  Both awesome and free.

The End.

Unstable Restaurant Table Solution

This came up Sunday so I thought I'd throw it out there for those of you who run into this.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  Next time you get stuck with a restaurant table that is threatening to spill your drink or food, fold up a paper napkin or two (better yet, dirty ones because it doesn't matter) into about one square inch.  Place the folded napkin(s) under the inadequate table leg for added security.  The table should more or less finally stand still.

Bonus, it's a good way to reuse that dirty napkin.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tips on Kissing Well

Kissing well (and doing any intimate thing well) is really only about knowing how to touch another person.  It is important to be attentive to how the other person wants to be touched.  The biggest kissing mistake that most people make is forgetting that kissing starts with the lips.  I don't care if you are a doctor, this is not the time to check the other person's tonsils with your tongue.  Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for aggressive kissing, but it is probably not your first kiss.

When dealing with a person's personal, physical boundaries, it is always better to knock before trying to barge through a door.  Really, any time you're touching another person in any kind of intimate way, it is a kind of seduction.  You are enticing them with touch, and the promise of more touch.  It had better be appealing.  If the type of touch is too aggressive, clumsy, or just unwanted, the person will naturally retract whatever it is you're touching.  If the touch is too passive, it will likely be ignored or cause disinterest.

Okay, so you knocked and they let you in.  Focus.  Often, people get a little too excited, especially if it's their first time kissing this person.  Stop thinking about what's going to happen next.  Focus on what you're doing, right now.  Assuming you have senses, use them.  Focus on what their lips feel like against your lips.  Explore.  If they seem interested in deeper kissing, do not thrust your tongue into their mouth.  They will likely regret letting you in.  Simply continue your respectful, yet passionate exploration of how it feels to be kissing that person.  Notice how they respond to your touch.  If they shy away from something, calm down.  You want them to want you to touch them.  Feel for them feeling for you.

Here's an exercise:  Fondling another person's hands (consensually, thank you) is remarkably similar to to the use of tongues and lips.  Try caressing your lover's hand, slowly and sensually.  As you move across their skin, they should almost reach for you as you move away.  In a different context, it's really not too different from the way a cat reacts to petting.  This is an unconscious reaction for the most part, and it tells you that they are enjoying what you're doing, and want more.  Remember how that touch feels when you are doing it.  Chances are, that way of touching is exactly what this person likes.  Kiss them the same way.

Once you master the art of touching, you will likely get big compliments on your kissing, and hopefully become a better, more attentive lover for it.  The same principles apply across the board.

Things going well?  Problem getting that bra off?  I'm not joking, look no further...

How to Unhook a Bra Quickly with One Hand

This tip really is awesome.  So how do you undo the bra?  I'm serious.  The kissing worked.  She wants to move forward.  Ah, but you can't seem to figure out the dreaded bra with anything that resembles grace. Why?!  If it's your own bra, see the bottom of this post.

Here's the trick to bras:
The average bra is held together buy two to three tiny hooks in the back. Usually, it is the right side that has the actual hooks and the left side that has little metal loops. These are quite easily removed by one hand using one of two methods. The main idea is that you want to pinch both sides together and slide the hook side across the loops/away from the bra.

Assuming you're facing the girl, reaching behind her with your right hand, find the middle of the bra. Pinch the loop side with your thumb and the hook side with your middle or index finger together and slide the hook side toward the palm of your hand. It should just pop off. You can also slide your middle finger under the spot where it hooks in and use your index finger and thumb to pinch it together if it's easier or if you're worried about pinching her skin. If you're using your left hand, do the same process with your thumb on the hook side and slide that toward the palm of your hand. No more interruptive fumbling about.

If it's your bra, well, I usually use my right hand.  Reach up your back with the back of your hand touching your back until you find the middle of your bra band.  Slide your index finger under the spot where it hooks together.  Pinch both sides together, using your middle finger and thumb.  Slide your thumb across your middle finger.  It should pop right off.

Squeezing More Life out of Old Bras

Speaking of bras, don't throw them away until you really have to.  Personally, I hate having to throw away a good bra simply because the elastic has stretched out too much.  The cups still fit and the fabric and stitching are still in general good condition, so it's not dead yet.  First of all, never buy a bra unless it fits snugly on the loosest hook so you have a margin for worn out elastic.  See the post about bra fitting.  Second, any bra that hooks in the back can be easily taken in by anyone with minimal sewing skills, thus extending the life of your bra for at least another six months.  If the cups are still good, the bra is allowed to cheat death at least once.  Here's how:

The bra hooks on the back of your bra are two pieces, sewn into the band.  Typically, these bra extender pieces fit together with the bra band so that one forms a kind of pocket for the other to slide into and are sewn together in this position.  Remove the stitching that holds the bra extenders and the bra band together.  Cut about a half inch of the bra band from each side.  Place the new ends back inside of the aforementioned pocket.  Re-stitch.  Problem solved.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  Always use a lingerie bag.  Do not waste your time washing lingerie by hand.  Get a lingerie bag for a few dollars and throw your nice things into the wash with everything else.  Do not use bleach or hot water.  Do not ever stick these things in the dryer.  Do not ever wash nice lingerie in the same load as anything that produces a lot of lint, like towels.   This causes the pilling of nice fabrics.

Bras That Actually Fit

If you are a woman, you know how remarkably un-awesome it is to have to go bra shopping.  It's even worse to come home empty-handed.  Fortunately, a little know-how will help you find one that fits within a reasonable price range.  If you happen to have a bra that used to fit, but has stretched out, see the post on Squeezing More Life our of Old Bras.

First, I would like to say that I have never come across a bra fitting guide that gives consistent, accurate results.  They tend to measure the difference between the band size and the measurement around or over your bust.  This does not take into account that some women have a wider or narrower breast circumference or upper back.  The only part of any bra fitting guide that comes close is the band measurement.  Before we go there, let's talk about bra design in general.  From what I understand, most women are looking for a bra that has a more or less natural shape (round, not pointy) that is supportive yet comfortable.  This may sound like a simple a man.  However, bras are quite uncommonly shaped in such a way, and very few bra sizes are available in most stores.  The good news is that certain brands or styles are likely to consistently fit your specific shape, once you find one that does.

Here's the rundown on how bra sizes really work.  The number on the bra size is the band measurement.  If you wear a 34, it means that the measurement around your rib cage, just under your bust, parallel to the floor, is about 34-35 inches.  The loosest hooks on a new bra should be nice and snug so that it could pretty much hold you if the straps were off your shoulders.  As the elastic stretches out with normal wear, you just use a tighter hook.  The cup size, which is represented by letters from AA to K (that I've heard of) has to do with the actual size or volume of the breasts themselves.  This measurement is relative to the band size, so the volume of the cups on a 34C and a 36B should be about the same.  So what's the difference?  The cups on the 36B will be narrower and pointier, while the 34C will be flatter and wider.  That said, if the cup size on a 36B is more or less correct, but the band size is too loose, you go up a cup size and down a band size to a 34C.  Note:  The C cup on a 34C is much smaller than the C cup on a 36C.  Someone who wears a 30F is really not that large-breasted, just small-bodied.  Someone who wears a 36F is pretty top-heavy.

Underwires are important for proper support.  I know a lot of people find them uncomfortable, which is probably because they're wearing the wrong size.  If the cups/wires are too narrow, they dig into the breast tissue.  This is uncomfortable, unsupportive, and overall unhealthy for your breast tissue.  It's important to find the correct cup size for proper comfort and support.  If the wire is wide enough to surround your breast tissue (all of it) without pinching or leaving a space, the band will be able to properly anchor the bra into place.  This also keeps you from bouncing.  Awesome.  Shoulder straps should not carry much weight.  If the straps are doing all of the work, it's probably because the cups are not the correct size.

So, how does one find the correct bra?  If you have something to measure with, measure your band size and round to the nearest even size, like 32, 34, 36...  It may be better to round down.  If you do not, estimate by trying on a bra and seeing how it fits.  After you have your band size, it is most likely trial and error.  I suggest going to an expensive boutique or Nordstrom or somewhere that carries a wider range of bra sizes.  (Bring a paper and pen.)  Many people's sizes simply are not carried by most stores, so they never know what their real size is.  Also, most bra fitting experts are useless.  They will most likely use a bra fitting guide, and then sell you on the closest size they carry.  Take a ballpark guess at what your cup size is.  If you are on the smaller side, start with a B.  A C-D is a good mid range and a DD and up is good if you are on the large side.  Honestly, most people judge themselves as a smaller cup size than they are.  A snug fitting band will probably require a larger cup size.  Just go with it.  If you've been wearing a B cup and find out you're really a D, the sudden comfort should be enough to make you happy.  Cut off the tags if you don't want to think about it.  Choose a few bras with the same band size and different cup sizes in the same style.  I thought I wore a 34C for years.  A little extra weight and some late hormonal growth put me a little large for that.  I wear a 32DD-DDD now, depending on the bra.  Looking back, I probably should have been wearing a 30DD-32D all those years.  These sizes to not exist in most stores.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  The bra is your size when it is snug at the band with the band parallel to the floor (not riding up your back).  All of your breast tissue should fit within the cup, not spilling over the top, out the sides or under the wire.  Adjust the straps last until they're tight enough to feel secure but not digging into your shoulders.  Put on a form-fitting shirt to see if you're bulging out over the top or not quite filling the bra.

So, you found your perfect bra but it's $50 or more?  Take out your paper and pen (you see, there was a reason).  Write down the brand, style number, and size.  Go home.  Check Ebay.  Chances are, you will find that same bra for $30.  Frederick's of Hollywood also tends to carry a wider range of sizes for a pretty good price and sexy styles.  I've gotten bras from them for $14.  Don't under-estimate Ross, either.  You can find great buys for $10.  Macy's also tends to have a clearance rack of really good bras, often in strange sizes.  There are a couple of UK brands (Panache is one) that sell D-K bras for a lot of money.  Check their sizing charts as they are a little off the US sizes.  Find one you like, then check for them on Ebay.  Victoria's Secret has some good quality bras if you do wear their sizes.  Check their clearance section online.  They have a good return/exchange policy if what you buy doesn't fit.  Le Mystere no. 9 carries bras specifically designed for women with implants.  Many naturally larger breasted women find that they fit better than other bras.

Bra shopping is pretty easy once you know your real size.  Some styles or brands may require a size up or down.  If you find a brand that fits you well (carries your shape and size), be sure to check out their other styles.  Also, see if they carry bra-sized sports bras or swimwear, as many do.  I've been known to wear matching lingerie on the beach.  It looks close enough and most people don't notice or care.  I like the supportive feel of the underwire cups.  Plus, it looks good.  Bonus.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

No More Mosquito Bites

Awesome Tip of the Day: Mosquito problem? Taking vitamin B1 (thiamine) supplements is widely reported to ward off mosquitoes. No bug spray or pesticides. They just don't like it. I tried it in Brazil. It works great.

Campfire Ashes

If there's one thing that camping gives you an abundance of (other than mosquito bites) it's campfire ashes.  Campfire ashes are a wonderful alternative for dish soap when camping.  (Just don't bring any non-stick cookware or the ashes will ruin it.)  The ashes are soft, yet mildly abrasive and do a great getting your pots, pans, plates and hands nice and clean.  Bonus, they're environmentally friendly and good for the soil.  Next time you forget to bring soap, just make a light paste out of clean water and campfire ashes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Help! I'm Hungover. Make it stop.

Think French fries.  No really, someone told me this and I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.  The greasier, the better.  You would think it would make you more sick, but the grease actually helps deal with all that alcohol.  The inherent saltiness probably helps you with the nausea, too.  Next time you have too much, order some greasy food to help get rid of the hangover the next day.  You should be able to get some greasy fries for about $1, but it will be the best dollar you ever spent.  Next thing, hydrate.

Awesome Tip:  Want to fight that hangover preemptively?  Drink water between each drink.  Alcohol dehydrates you, which worsens your hangover symptoms a lot.  Also, it will help you pace your drinking.  A little food while you drink also makes a difference.

If you feel up for it, a little exercise will help you sweat it out, followed by a shower and a nap if you have the time.  Don't go crazy and try to work out hard.  You just need to get your lymphatic system going.  A nice walk would be fine.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vinegar, More Uses

Aside from saving your moldy clothes, there are many great household uses for vinegar.  It's cheap, easy to find, and environmentally friendly.

Glass cleaner- A little vinegar helps get mineral buildup off of glass.

Dishes- In relation to the previous idea, a little vinegar added to your dishsoap helps get your dishes squeaky clean.  Your glassware should look nice again.

Hair- A solution of water and vinegar makes an excellent final rinse for your hair, especially if you have bad water (seeing a pattern here?).  The scent should leave your hair once it's dry.  If it doesn't, more water, less vinegar.  You should have shiny, beautiful hair once it's dry.

Wood cleaner- A solution of water and vinegar makes a great cleaner and shiner for your wood floor or furniture.  Do not use too much liquid on wood, ever.  Just wipe your sufaces with a damp cloth.

Mildew remover- That same solution is good for removing mildew from bathrooms and windows.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  As I'm sure you have gathered, vinegar is good for all kinds of things related to mold/mildew or hard water buildup.  Keep your eyes open for any other household chores for your new favorite solution.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cooking Black Beans and Rice, winning combination

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Both black beans and rice are easily found and cooked in bulk.  They are healthy and tasty, freeze well, and are easy to cook.  During times of heavy training, I find I perform best when getting a steady flow of black beans and rice.

Crock pot cooking is a wonderful thing.  I have this one.  It is my preferred method of cooking black beans.  I set it for six hours and it more or less takes care of itself.  It is the perfect option for those of you who squeeze all of your household chores into one day because you can start the beans in the morning and do all of your other chores while they cook.  Invest in some freezer and microwave safe food containers.  I'm going to give only the basic "water and salt" recipes because you don't need anything else.  You can add whatever spices or flavors you like.

How to cook black beans:

There are three steps to cooking beans: sorting, soaking, and cooking.

Sorting.  Pour the beans bit at a time onto a clean counter or flat container.  Sort through them for rocks or other things that don't belong there.  You can also pick out the bad-looking beans.

Soaking.  Pour the sorted beans into a large bowl (the beans will expand a lot) and fill it with enough hot water to cover the beans.  Make sure the bowl you use is not stainable because anything you use to soak the beans in will be a bluish purple color probably forever.  Let the beans soak in hot water for about 10-15 minutes and then drain the water.  Repeat twice.  Cold water is fine if you plan to soak them overnight.

Cooking.  Pour the drained beans into the crock pot and fill it with water up to about an inch over the beans.  Throw in a little salt and mix gently.  Set the timer to six hours on high.  You may have to add some water again about half way through.  The beans should be soft when they're ready.  You should be able to squish one between the tip of your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

Awesome Tip:  Beans get you gassy?  There are three reasons why this would happen.  1. You didn't soak them long enough.  2. You didn't cook them long enough.  3.  You're simply not used to eating them.  Tough it out for a week.

How to cook rice.

Check the package to see if it should be rinsed.  Some should and some shouldn't.  Pour the rice into an appropriate saucepan or pot, assuming that the rice will double in size at least.  Pour the water twice as high as the rice.  Less water and the rice will be dry.  More water and the rice will be sticky.  Add a little salt.  Boil on medium to low for about twenty minutes or a little more, covered.  The rice is ready when there is no water left in the bottom of the pot and the rice is at the appropriate texture.  Just use a spatula to part the rice.  Some people like to fluff the rice once it's just about ready.  It's up to you.

Awesome Tip:  Do not *completely* cover the rice.  Always leave the lid a little skewed so some steam can escape.  If you don't, the pressure will build up and the water will boil over the side of the pot and all over your stove, leaving you a hot, starchy mess.  If you notice it starting to bubble over, remove the lid immediately and replace it a little more skewed.  Turn the fire down slightly if need be.

There is no reason to cook every day. A crock pot of black beans should last the whole week for a couple even if you eat them every day and you eat a lot. Cook rice in large amounts. Use medium containers for freezing to ensure they never go spoiled. One goes in the fridge and the rest go in the freezer. When the one in the fridge is getting low, pull one from the freezer and put it in the fridge. It should be thawed out by the time you need it.

Important:  Do not ruin your cookware with metal utensils or scouring pads.  Plastic and wood work just fine.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sugar (Wax) Your Own Bikini

I think the going rate for a professional bikini wax is between $30-$80, depending on where you live and how much (surface area) you're waxing.  Obviously, it will cost more to wax everything than to just clean up the sides and top.  I see no reason to pay that unless you're pregnant and can't reach.  With a little know how and a little discipline, you should be able to do it yourself for what figures to about $1.  The first time I waxed (yes, with wax, horrible stuff) my own bikini area years ago, I just reasoned it out until I got it right.  I could find no information about it online.  That needs to change.  This post should cover everything you need to know about sugaring your own bikini.  (see also, Sugaring)

First, if you are not already getting your bikini waxed, and your goal is to wax everything, don't.  Just clean up the sides and top for your first time.  You will be happy with it and the next time you do it you can take it a little further.  If you are new to sugaring, read the bottom of the post linked above before getting started.  Look for the red section.  For instructions specific to sugaring your own armpits, click here.

You will need sugar paste, talc or cornstarch, and a hand mirror that's big enough to see well in.  I think mine is about 7x8 inches.  The bathroom floor is a great place to sugar your bikini area.  It cleans easily and is conveniently located near water and a towel, while also being somewhat private.  This may take you a lot longer than you think, so set some time aside.  Remember that you will be using small balls of sugar paste and removing lots of hair.  When you get too much hair in the paste, just throw it away and grab another ball. 

Important:  Keep the area dry.  There is an inherent moisture issue because of where you're working, which could make the paste too gummy and difficult to remove, which can lead to unnecessary pain and possibly bruising.  The pain may also cause you to sweat.  Reapply powder if you must.  If this becomes a problem, you may need to rinse yourself with cold water, dry off, reapply powder and then move to a colder room.

Determine how much hair you would like to remove and exactly from where before you start.

The bikini triangle.  If you are just cleaning up the sides, you can do this from a reclining position.  Dust with powder first.  Start with a ball of sugar paste just larger than a nickel.  You will be working from the outside toward the center.  The bikini hair that reaches your upper/inner thigh most likely grows downward.  Apply the paste upward slowly and firmly.  Do a section no larger than your pinky finger for the first pull.  Pet it once downward.  Let it sit for a few seconds.  Hold the skin just above the area with one hand to keep it taught, and pull in one swift motion downward, parallel and close to the skin.  Most or all of the hair should have come with it.  You may do a second pull if need be.  Not so bad?  Move to the next section a little closer to the center.  If it gets to be too much for you, work in smaller sections.  It might be nice to switch sides now and then to give one side a break if you're having a hard time with it.  That also keeps it even, so if you need to call it a day, you're at least symmetrical.  If you have succeeded in completing both sides, congratulations.  You might stick around for a couple of more pulls to clean up the top and complete your triangle.  The hair most likely grows downward or inward in this area.  Just apply the paste horizontally from the center line toward the edge.  Rinse everything with warm water and pat dry.

The bottom of things.  You ready?  Now that you're comfortable with your bikini triangle, perhaps you would like to also clean up the bottom/back.  You must be able to squat for an extended period of time.  You will be working from as far back as you decide toward the front.  Start by dusting.  Place your mirror on the floor.  Squat over your mirror.  Surprise!  You can see everything.  The hair in the area is probably going to grow toward the front, toward the center line, or some combination.  Apply paste accordingly.  Interestingly enough, this area is not as sensitive as you would expect.  This is probably because there is a little less hair and some extra fatty tissue.  This pattern ranges from about the vaginal opening to the surrounding area of the outer labia.  If you made it through that, maybe next time you will be able to brave the whole shebang.

Awesome Tip:  Being hairless in this area increases sensation for many women.

I'm going bald.  If you feel you're ready to handle sugaring everything, be advised that this last step is really the worst part.  There is a high concentration of nerve ending surrounding the area of the clitoral glans.  Everything around it and above it is very sensitive to pain.  Also, the area just above probably has the highest density of hair per square inch.  You may find it more bearable to work in sections no larger than 1/4x1 inch.  However, once you've completed this area, assuming you've already completed the previous two sections, you will officially be hair free.  From here on out, it's all about maintenance.  When your hair grows back it will be less dense, and therefore a lot less painful.  Do not let months go by before your next sugaring or you will have to start over.  This whole section is best done from a reclining position.

Troubleshooting:  Please see also the troubleshooting section in the post about sugaring in general (linked above).

1.  I finished sugaring and now everything is red and irritated.

You just ripped thick hair out of thin skin, it's normal.  It's going to be fine.  After rinsing the area with warm water, a little cold water should help.  The area might be a little sensitive, but it should look better by tomorrow and completely gone by the next day.

2.  Is bleeding normal?

Yes, a *little* bleeding is likely.  The next time you sugar there should be little or no blood.  Don't worry about it, just try to keep the area clean for 24 hours.  The cold water thing helps this, too.

3.  I'm getting tired squatting.

Take rests.  Get on your hands and knees for a minute or stand up and the circulation should all come back.  Don't stand up too quickly.  This is only taking a long time because there is a lot of hair the first time you sugar.  You should be able to do it very quickly from here on out.

Sugaring your bikini area is well worth it.  Once it's over, it's over, but you will enjoy a smoothness of skin in the area without razor burn that you've never had before, and for weeks to come.  It's awesome.

Parrot Playground Solution

In addition to one of these,
I have one of these.

They each present their own difficulties.  Notice the paper bag?  It took me awhile to figure this out.  Here's the problem, parrots climb.  They also destroy everything within reach.  Anything you hang a parrot toy or playground from is fair game.  In fact, they are more likely to eat the thing it's hanging from than the toy itself, because it's higher up.  It took her beak about two seconds to break through the wood on the umbrella in the picture.  So, what is safe?  The answer is, nothing.
Solution:  You have to put something above their toy or playground that is flat and wide.  The shape is too awkward to climb around and any time they starts to get a handle on the edge of the bag, it tilts, making them further from the thing they're climbing after.  Genius.  It's kind of funny, but the flat side of a paper bag is pretty safe from their beaks because there's nothing to grab, so it lasts awhile.  Meanwhile, they wear themselves out trying to problem solve it in the back yard in the fresh air.  I suppose I could have used a flat piece of wood, but I didn't have one.  If I did, I would have to drill a hole in it and I don't have anything to do that with easily.  Plus, paper bags are free.  Bonus!  Reuse first, then recycle.

Awesome tip of the day:  Expensive toys?  No.  I started hanging an upside-down paper bag in her regular cage for her to play with.  I just stuff it through the bars and leave the flat side sticking out to keep it from falling through.  She loves to hang from the handles and chew on it.  Honestly, she likes the paper bag better than she likes most of her toys and it keeps her from chewing holes in her blanket.

Need other low budget parrot toy ideas?  I used a shoelace to tie an old potholder to the side of her cage.  From the same shoelace, I hung and old toothbrush (just wash it with hot water or put it in the dishwasher).  This is her other favorite toy.  She regularly shows the toothbrush who's boss, then goes to the other side of the cage to keep that paper bag in line.  Hours of fun.  Try it.  For a few bucks, you can also get those baby key rings or other baby teething toys.  See how smart your bird is.  Mine used to love to untie knots.  I would tie all kinds of complicated knots into a string, rope, or shoelaces and she would get them all out within 20 minutes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pointless Red Bumps on Arms/Legs? Keratosis Pilaris and what to do about it

Just in time for summer.  According to Wikipedia, about 40% of you know all too well what I'm talking about.  Those red bumps on your arms and maybe legs (barring other skin conditions or allergies) are probably the effect of keratosis pilaris.  This pointless skin condition is caused by the overproduction of keratin, which ends up plugging hair follicles, which form hard/red bumps on your skin.  If this sounds like you, worry not, it's treatable.  Many of you can clear it right up by simply changing the way you shower.  I put minimal effort into mine and it is usually barely noticeable.

To my knowledge, there is no cure for keratosis pilaris.  This is not terrible because it's purely cosmetic and few people get even so much as an itch out of it.  But why let it run rampant?  Get it cleared up and enjoy your awesome new skin.  The first thing to do about it is exfoliate while in the shower.  You should be doing this anyway, but...  An abrasive cloth, loofah, or bath mitt does wonders.  I use one of these because they are cheap and last seemingly forever, while loofahs and abrasive sponges tend to fall apart on me.  It was less than $5 and I've been using it for months.  Heavy use of things like shea butter or other rich creams, butters, or oils may help.  The use of supplements like fish oil may also clear it up for you.  Stop treating it and it will start to come back.

For more information on this subject, a support forum is conveniently located for you here.

Layering Your Own Hair

I will make a video of this or at least take pictures at some point.  Until then, read carefully.

Layering your own hair is actually very easy to do.  You will need the same tools as described in Trim Your Own Hair.  The layering process is essentially making a ponytail at the top of your head, pulling the hair tie up to the desired length as described in Method One (see above link) and cutting it past the hair tie.  This is all done in sections, creating a chunky, layered effect.

Personally, I like the bottom, or longest layer to be thicker than the rest to avoid the awful, stringy look I get if I let someone else cut my hair (because if you want something done right...yeah, I know).  I get this the easy way by simply only layering the top half of my hair, and leaving the rest alone.  If you have exceptionally thick hair, you probably don't have to worry about this.  Here's how it's done:

1.  Starting with wet hair, gather your hair into a ponytail on top of your head.  If you are only layering half your hair, separate the top half of your hair (about the level of your temples) by drawing a line with your fingers or a hair pick around your head, parallel to the floor, and gathering only the hair above that line.  Use your mirrors to make sure the lines are drawn straight.  You can use a second hair tie to keep the rest of your hair out of the way.

2.  Determine your hemline.  If your hair has been cut straight across, you will want to want to be cutting your hair directly above the middle of your head.  If you have a U or V shaped hemline, you will need to cut your hair just above your forehead or *slightly* in front (think unicorn).

3.  Pull the hair tie straight up with both hands in the direction determined in step 2.  If you pull with one hand, it will be crooked.  Hold the hair tie firmly in one hand and bring it down to where you can cut it comfortably.

4.  Cut just past your hair tie with the scissors.  Do not chop it off in one cut.  It won't work anyway, but it will not cut straight.  Snip it off in digestible pieces for your poor scissors.

5.  Let down your hair and check out your first layer.  That was awesome!

6.  Draw another line around your head further up, still parallel to the floor.  Repeat from step 3, being sure to cut off the same amount as was cut from your previous layer so that your layers will be even.

7.  Use your mirrors to see how it all turned out.

Awesome Tip: Not sure how it's going to look? Start with dry hair and do everything before the cutting step. Wet your hair from the ends to the hair tie and then let your hair loose. Now you can imagine what your hair would look like if you only had the dry part.

(End result?  Mine looked like this when it was almost dry.  It looks much different when it's wavier from either buns or braids.)


1. I don't know how much to cut.

Maybe two inches?  If you have really short hair or would like less layering, cut one inch.  If you have really long hair and you would like longer layers, cut three inches.  I would suggest using the awesome tip above to see how it will look before you do it.

2. My layers are not spaced evenly.

Go back and read the thing in red.

How to Break Up With Someone You Just Can't Get Rid Of

If you find yourself having a hard time breaking it off with someone you know you should have already broken it off with, follow these steps. I learned this trick from a very good friend of mine, who is well known for being awesome, and who knows how to create strength when you're at your weakest. This method works for anyone that isn't living/working together.

1. Think about the bad times. I know you were taught to let things go and think about the good times, but that's why you're still with this person when you clearly should not be. Thinking about the bad times gets you (rightfully) upset and that makes you strong. Get those emotions all pumped up, and then...

2. Pick up the phone. Yes, you will do this by phone, because if you meet up with this person, you will feel obligated to hear them out and they will find a way to convince you to stay with them because they deserve another chance or because you were just overreacting or whatever the excuse is. Here are the words you will use. "(name), this isn't working for me. I'm not happy being with you. I don't want to see you again. Please do not call me anymore." You can add a "you don't respect me" if you want but that's just call for protest, which I'm sure you will already be getting, along with stupid questions like "are you breaking up with me?" Yes!

Awesome Tip: Avoid getting into detail and having a conversation, it's a trap. You've already been through it a thousand times. They may be acting surprised, but it's just that, an act. If they're at all surprised, it's because they thought you would never grow a pair and get rid of them. Stick to the script and ignore everything else.

At this point they may be trying to give you the performance of a lifetime, like crying, getting mad, pleading, threatening. If any threatening does occur, write down the exact words and the time and date and give it to your most trusted friend, in case (s)he turns out to be crazier than you thought. If the threats continue, report that person to the police.

3. Erase everything. This is a very important step. Remember, you are using this method in the first place because you're having a hard time committing to breaking up. You've already done it so don't blow it now! First thing you do is go back to your phone and erase their number, followed by any text messages and especially pictures, as these will likely make you miss them. Erase call log? Check. Email? Erase. Pictures on your computer? Delete all. Do not hang on to a single keepsake that will make you want to go back and apologize or something ridiculous like that. Pretty soon, the nice person in you is going to start to feel bad about breaking up with the person who was treating you poorly. Fortunately, you cannot call them back because you already erased their contact information. Do not go to their house or job ever again. Enlist the help a friend to intervene if you feel you might do this. Do not answer their phone calls and erase your missed calls if they try to contact you. Consider it a sign of disrespect, since you told that person not to call you anymore. If you feel like you might falter on this step, do it before step 2.

Congratulations! You're free!

By the way, if you left anything at their house that you forgot about, let it go. Say to yourself, "I would happily give up my favorite shirt or a couple of dvds just to see that person gone."

The Opposite of Awesome: If you get back together with this person after this, they will OWN YOU in the relationship, armed with the knowledge that you will put up with absolutely anything and that whatever happens, they can easily get you back. You will have admitted through action that you lack self respect and that you are willing to be a doormat.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trim Your Own Hair

There is no reason to pay a hair dresser $40 to trim your hair unless it is really short and layered. People who do it cheap usually do it lopsided. Needless to say, I cut my own. There are two methods I use to cut my hair. Method One cuts it more or less straight across but a little longer in the front. This is great for people who wear their hair up most of the time because it is even when you pull it back. Method Two makes more of a V or U shape that looks great when it's down. (see also Layering Your Own Hair)

To cut your own hair, you will need hair scissors (no more than $15 for a good pair) that are really sharp and used exclusively for cutting hair. Dull scissors cause split ends by crushing the ends of your hair instead of cutting them cleanly. You will need one hair tie/elastic and a comb. Do not ever use elastics with metal on them for any reason. You also need a wall mirror and a hand mirror. That's it.

Method One is the ponytail method. Wet your hair and comb it all straight back into a ponytail at the nape. Use the mirrors to check and make sure that it's right in the middle. Tuck your chin and pull the hair tie with both hands down toward your desired length. If you pull with one hand it will end up crooked. You can reach behind your back and pull it the rest of the way down your back if your hair is long. Grab the hair tie firmly in one hand and pull it to the front or at least to where you can reach it. Do not attempt to cut it all in one chop. Cut it in layers below the hair tie. Remove the hair tie and check it in the mirror to make sure it's straight.

Awesome Tip for Method One: Not sure how it's going to look? Start with dry hair and do everything before the cutting step. Wet your hair from the elastic down and then let your hair loose. Now you can imagine what your hair would look like if you only had the dry part.

Method Two involves parting your hair down the middle and cutting both sides evenly. Wet your hair and part it down the middle, checking with the mirrors to make sure it's straight. Tie off one side to keep it out of the way. Look straight forward and tuck your chin. The angle that you're looking down will effect the angle of your V shaped hemline. Comb your hair straight down toward the floor. Starting from the hair closest to your neck, cut parallel to the floor, being careful to not tilt your head to the side or change your angle in any way. Comb down the other side of your hair. Pull down a piece of hair closest to your neck and measure it to the piece closest to your neck on the side you already cut. Snip it there so you know what length you're working with. Do the same thing in the front. Cut a straight line between those two points. Check it all to make sure it's the same length with the mirrors. Done.

Awesome Tip for Method Two: Squeegie your wet hair between two flat palms to make it stick together in a straight line for easy cutting.


1. I used method one and I got an inverted U.

You didn't tuck your chin far enough.

2. I used method two and it came uneven.

Measure twice, cut once.

Increase Your Push-Ups from Any Level to Awesome, without getting too Sore

I know some people like to max out their push-ups on a regular basis, but I don't. I prefer steady improvement without too much effort. Why not? This is an alternate program for those who want to increase the number of push-ups they can do well, in a row, be it for personal reasons or for those who are entering the service and are worried that they will not survive boot camp.

*See the bottom of this post for tips for those with poor discipline.

Here's what you do. Take a moment and warm up your arms doing stretches, circles, or whatever you want. Get down on the floor and do as many push-ups as you feel comfortable doing without losing good form. (If you cannot do one, skip to the next paragraph.) Keep that number because that's how many you will be doing all week. Don't worry if your number is embarassingly low. Ten awful push-ups is more embarassing than one good one. No one will know your number but you and it will be a number to brag about pretty soon. You must do them *at least* 4-5 days per week to continue your improvement. You're better off doing them morning and night as many days as you can. By the end of the week, you should be able to do them pretty easily. Next week, you will do the exact same thing, but add three. Just three. It is the perfect number from what I've experienced. Repeat week by week. If you started with 10 good push-ups week one, you will be doing 31 week eight, which is just two short months away.

If you cannot do one push-up, there is hope for you. Start on your knees, but keep your back straight anyway. Do as many push-ups as you can without cheating. (If you still cannot do one, skip to the next paragraph.) You will do that many for the rest of the week, at least 4-5 days of the week and preferably in the morning and at night. At the end of the week you will check to see if you can do one push-up on your feet. If you cannot, you will add three to your number and do that for week two. If you can, you will do one push up all week and the next week you will retest yourself as described in the above paragraph.

If you cannot do one push-up on your knees, there is hope for you, too. You will start on your knees in push-up position and slowly lower yourself to the floor in a controlled manner 3 times every day. At the end of the week, you will test yourself to see if you can do one push-up on your knees. If so, you will spend the next week following instructions of the above paragraph.

*Get some kind of chart or calendar to track your progress. It's encouraging to see yourself improve. It's also embarassing to see a lot of zeros or unchecked boxes, which motivates people like me to get on the floor and just do them before the day is over. Personally, I know if I slack off for more than two or three days, I will probably slack of indefinately and waste all of my hard work.

Consistency is the key. Doing them twice tomorrow does not make up for doing nothing today. You must continue to give your muscles a reason to adapt and get stronger. Doing too much exercise at once is more likely to hurt you than help you. Also, for the sake of balance, if you plan to start doing a lot of push-ups, it's probably a good idea to start doing some kind of pulling exercise, too, before too long.

The Solution to Wet, Moldy Clothes

Okay, we've all left a wet towel laying around too long or forgotten that our clothes were still wet in the washer overnight, but now what? Don't you dare just wear them like that and punish everyone at work. Bleaching is a bad idea, especially if the clothes are not white. Washing them over and over doesn't work and is a huge waste of water, time, and effort (if it even works). Instead, put them back through the wash cycle with a gallon of cheap white vinegar, which should be less than $2. Don't overpay. Your clothes should come out smelling normal again.

Making Stainless Steel Cookware Like New Again.

If your stainless steel cookware is looking dull, or if you have food stuck on that has gotten out of hand, look no further. Wet a paper towel. Pour a little baking soda (maybe a 1/2 teaspoon) onto the paper towel. The baking soda should absorb some of the water, making it into a slight paste. Use the paper towel with the baking soda paste to wipe away the old residue from your once-was beautiful cookware in a polishing motion. If it starts to get dry before you finish, add a little more water. Rinse away the baking soda. Viola! New again!

Never again waste your time trying to scrub away things that don't want to scrub off.

Sugaring, the Best way to Remove Unwanted Body Hair

It's summer time and let's face it, shaving sucks. Waxing is expensive, even if you know how to do it yourself. The products go into landfills and typically have weird ingredients that you can't pronounce. I shudder to think of where all my old razor heads are now. I learned how to sugar a few months ago via Google, YouTube, and experimentation and thought to myself, "Sugar paste, where have you been all my life?!"

So, what is this "sugaring"? Sugaring is similar to waxing, only it is a thick, sticky paste that does not require cloth strips for removal. It is also less painful because you pull out the hair in the same direction as hair growth. If you know anything about waxing, you pull against it. That not only hurts more, but is more likely to break the hair instead of pulling it out by the roots. Sugar paste is made by cooking the right proportions of water, sugar, and lemon juice together for what comes out be be less than $2. So why do people pay upwards of $70 to be waxed? Why indeed. Enough said, here is the recipe.

2 cups of the granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (no pulp)
1/4 cup water

I suggest a metal saucepan. You will boil it over a medium heat until it is a dark honey color. If you live in a particularly cold climate, you will want to cook it just a minute less.  Overcook it by a couple of minutes if your waxing room is warm.  Hot weather revision (about 75 degrees and up), click here.

What you get is an interesting substance that is malleable with light pressure and hard with firm pressure. If left to sit, it will slowly melt, which helps you because this melting in grabs the hair better. Start with clean, dry skin. You just grab a handful, make it into a ball, apply it slowly and firmly to your skin in the opposite direction as hair growth, pet it a couple of times or let it sit for a few seconds, and pull it off (parallel to your skin) in the same direction as hair growth. (See quick demo video.)  What you are left with is smooth skin. Fold up the paste and use the same ball to do your whole leg, chest, armpit, whatever or until the paste becomes too hairy or too gummy. Throw it in the trash outside in case the ants like it.

If you are working in a sensitive area, dust your skin with corn starch or talc lightly before sugaring. This makes a huge difference in areas like the bikini or armpits. Sugar paste rinses off with just water. Avoid getting the area dirty after waxing for 24 hours. No deodorant if you wax or sugar your armpits either. (Awesome tip of the day, your armpits don't stink when you sugar. You don't have to use deodorant until it starts to grow back, even if you work out!)

This recipe is enough paste for at least two full sugarings. Store the rest in the fridge in a microwave safe, glass container and stick it the microwave for no more than 20-30 seconds when you want to use it again.

Some people wax/sugar every four to eight weeks, depending on their individual regrowth cycle. I like to touch up every week or two. I don't mind this because it's really fast once you get the hang of it. Also, you can shave until a week before you plan to sugar again so you can save up more hair to remove at one time. Yes, you can use it on eyebrows, too. Please don't wax them too thin, it looks creepy.

I have made a separate post on specifically sugaring your own bikini area. It's a bit tiring and you need a mirror and moderate flexibility but it's totally doable. I sugar *everything* myself. You can too.

I have also made a separate post on sugaring your own armpits.  You will need moderate shoulder flexibility.
I will also make a video on how to make the sugar paste. For the time being, just YouTube it.

*If this is your first time waxing or sugaring, scroll to the bottom of the post.


1. The paste is too hard.

Unless you completely burnt it, you just need to work it in your hands for a minute or less. As you use it, it will become softer, stickier, and gummier.

2. The paste is too soft.

Okay, if you've already let it cool completely and it's too soft/gummy and it stretches when you pull it instead of coming off clean, you can either put it back on the fire for a few minutes or you can stick it in the microwave for a few minutes so it finishes cooking.

3. It's not coming off my skin.

Don't panic. Your paste is too soft. This could be because you didn't cook it long enough, you've used it too long, it's too hot out, or you're sweating. You can try to cool it off by stepping into a cool room and fanning it, then it should pull off. Throw it away and get more. If you're working in a sensitive area, you may be better off just rinsing it off with warm water, drying the area, and starting again with fresh stuff. If you are sweating a lot, you need to do this in a cold room. If you're using really bright lights, they may be causing the room to heat up too much. Some people have had success with using a cold, metal butter knife to pull off paste that has become too sticky. It will stick to the butter knife and should then come off your skin. I've never tried it. What I did try was spreading it and applying piece of an old T-shirt or other sturdy cloth, rubbing it in, and removing as usual.  This gets the paste off your sking and takes the hair with it.  If it doesn't work, stick to warm water removal.

4. I bruised.

This happens if you pull straight up instead of parallel to the skin in a sensitive area. It also happens if it's stuck to your skin and you keep trying to pull it off anyway. See above. The bruising will go away in about a week. I know, it looks incriminating on your bikini line (ask me how I know...).

5. The hair isn't coming out.

Make sure your hair is at least 1/8 - 1/4 inch long before you try to sugar. If it is, you may not be rubbing it in or letting it sit long enough before you pull. Sometimes you will get some stubborn hairs that don't come out on the first try. That's okay. A second pull is fine and it's perfectly safe.

*So, this is your first time sugaring/waxing. There are some things you should know. Does it hurt? Yes, but really only the first time you do it. Start with an area that is less sensitive/less hairy like your lower legs or knuckles. You will see that the next time you sugar there will be a lot less hair and it won't hurt nearly as much. If you are interested in doing your bikini, just do the very edge today. You can do more tomorrow if you want. DO NOT work in large sections. If you are trying to get through your bikini line, chest, or any area with thick hair and/or thin skin, get a smaller ball of paste and work on sections half of a finger width at a time. It's worth the extra time it takes. Next time you will be able to work in larger sections and it won't really hurt. Use the cornstarch/talc dusting before you start.

Set aside twice as much time as you think you will need. You will want to take your time and you probably won't be very good at getting all the hair in one shot. Also, sugar paste can be tricky to use when you first start. However, after a few months you will be an expert. Good luck on your quest for awesomeness and feel free to comment if you have any questions.

The Basics of Being Awesome

First of all, you can learn almost anything pertaining to your daily life by searching online. (You probably know that or are just figuring that out because you're reading my blog.) If you don't know someone who can teach you what you want to learn in real life, google knows. Furthermore, if you're interested in something, chances are that other people are as well. A percentage of those people have probably already figured out. The best part about that is that at least one of those people has probably done it in front of a camera and put it on YouTube. People are awesome in the information age. They share things now so that other people can be awesome, too. Yes, I have a YouTube channel. I will post links to the occasional video so that I can demonstrate awesome things. Here's to being awesome...!