Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eggs-ited for the Weekend

Earlier this week a friend and I were talking about facial masks and blackhead peels. She tried a facial peel involving gelatin that she found on Pinterest (it was supposed to be a homemade blackhead peel). It seemed to work well for her.  Neither of us are quite sure if it is an effective blackhead peel, but at the very least it did peel off some fine facial hair for a super smooth face! (Downside: it was super painful coming off!) Our little conversation got me thinking...

It's been awhile since I've done a mask.

Normally Saturday is Beautiday. (Meaning I lounge around in my pajamas and pamper myself without going anywhere but on a date with my Anatomy & Physiology textbook.) Today, I'm piled high-and-deep in studying for a lab practical tomorrow, stressed to the max, so I consider: let's ring in the weekend early. With no gelatin lying around, I opted to not give my friend's mask a try. Additionally, the painful peel sounds a bit unfriendly to the delicate connective tissues in your face, under your skin. I took to Pinterest myself in search for a homemade facial remedy. Because I am a busy college student, I took the first one that came my way. It was simple, cheap, and I had all of the ingredients at home. (Woot, woot!)

The recipe came from Fastmaza. It is supposed to be a face mask that removes blackheads. Like many young adults I suffer from blackheads, so the mask sounded tantalizing. My face is in desperate need of a mask treatment to begin with; whatever it did to my face, blackhead removal or not, I was game for. Anything was better than nothing! I made a few minor modifications, but over all, it is very similar.

And, not going to lie: I secretly hoped it'd remove some blackheads or at the very least tighten some pours.

Consider this a "mask review."

The necessities:
  • 2 eggs (we had organic ones lying around)
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice (for me it was from a fresh lemon)
  • A small mixing bowl (I simply used a regular kitchen bowl)
  • Additional: some paper towels on hand for any messes and a whisk or fork to mix with.
The necessities listed on Fastmaza's recipe.

Some of my steps differ from theirs, so I'll be clear as to whose-is-whose.

Step 1 (me): Life's about to get very messy. If you have long hair, I suggest pulling it back. At least move it back away from the face. With long hair this can be done easily with a few clips (as I've modeled below). You can also use a hair tie and pull the hair back into a pony tail for further security. (I apparently opted out of this solution. Crazy me!)  Another great idea is a headband.

Step 1, part b (me): Put on a little old something-something.
Grab an article of clothing you don't care too much about and aren't
devastated about getting some egg on. The other
fashionable option is to drape a towel around your shoulders
barber-shop style and pin it shut with a hair clip.
Separate the eggs. Break open two eggs and separate them, keeping only the whites. Beat the whites with a whisk for a few seconds to ensure consistency. Egg whites make a great mask due to their tendency to harden over a short period of time. - See more at:
Separate the eggs. Break open two eggs and separate them, keeping only the whites. Beat the whites with a whisk for a few seconds to ensure consistency. Egg whites make a great mask due to their tendency to harden over a short period of time. - See more at:
Step 2 (their step 1): Messiness is officially your reality.  Eggs must be separated so that you ditch the yolk and harvest the whites. This can be done with a fancy egg separator or the old-fashioned way, by hand and using the separated shell to sift out the whites. (Not having a fancy egg separator to do the dirty work for me, I was forced to do the latter.) Next, beat the egg whites. If you don't have a whisk, tilt the bowl slightly and use a fork.  You kind of have to finagle that way more, by keeping the fork horizontal and using quick, small circular movements of the wrist.
The recipe says to “ensure consistency” which is a bit vague for me. I’m not really sure what consistency this mask is supposed to be, since there was no description or picture. For me, I tried to make sure the whites were well blended and “gooey.” There was also a heavy layer of tiny, tiny bubbles across the top. Here's a picture two pictures:

Up-close shot. You can vaguely see the mixture sticking
to the whisk as I pull away.

Far away shot. It kind of looks like bubbly orange juice.

Step 3 (their step 2): Add in the lemon! Here I want to add a bit more detail than they do the website. This will only apply if you choose a fresh lemon rather than the lemon juice bottle from the produce section. If you are using a fresh lemon: roll it! Before cutting it, press your palm to the peel and roll it several times, with pressure. This makes the juice yield much higher.

If you are like me and didn’t have an awesome lemon squeezer on hand (dishwasher woes), another tip is to squeeze the lemon with the cut side facing your palm. This gets the juice out but reduces the risk of seeds. Though, I do highly recommend investing in a hand-held lemon squeezer if you plan on juicing lemons on frequent. Here is an example from target.

(Using a whole lemon means there is going to be a lot of extra juice left over after your 1 tsp. for the mask. A really easy way to make sure it doesn’t go bad is to pour the juice, with a little bit of water, into an ice cube tray. Little lemon cubes are great to drop into your water in the morning. It’s super healthy for you and very refreshing – just be prepared for tart!)

Fastmaza is great and tells you exactly why lemon juice is great for this mask, or any mask! Make sure to hop on over and read about the magical health properties of lemon juice that make it scientifically awesome for blackhead busting.  If you’re someone with super sensitive skin, be cautious here. Overuse of lemon on the skin could be too harsh and lead to irritation. I have sensitive skin and could feel a warning tingle on my skin. I had no problems with the mask, but I know my skin well enough to know the “don’t use too much of a good thing” sign. This is definitely not a mask to use multiple times a week or with a harsh acne cleanser if your skin is sensitive. Be gentle and listen to your skin.

Step 4 (their step 3): Face washing! The website suggests a mild cleanser, which I concur with. Definitely don’t use anything too harsh. I used a very gentle, Burt’s Bees Sensitive-Skin Facial Cleanser. (Sorry, there's no picture of that one, I'm so low that I've had to put it in another container to use it. Time to go buy more!) It did the job just fine. The point is to get off any topical residue to give the mask a clean slate to work from.

Step 5 (their 4):
Application. There are probably more civilized ways of applying a mask, such as using a special brush, but my hands were messy already…Holding the bowl close to my face to catch any drips, I scoped the mask onto my face. The website is right when it says that it is not thick. It is very, very thin. I used multiple layers of the mixture to give the mask a little bit of “bulk.” Avoid “thin skinned” areas, like under the eyes. Having to rub or peel the mask off there would be harsh on those areas.

They are right! For such a messy mask, it had a short drying time. I was afraid I was going to be dripping all over the place. I had nothing to worry about! Those egg whites hardened on my face like rock

Thank goodness for webcams.

Step 6 (their 5): The waiting game. Let the mask dry until it is no longer wet or tacky and is stiff. They suggest 15-20 minutes, but the actual time will be dependent on a lot of factors (such as the thickness/number of layers applied, humidity, how dry your face was before application). For me it was easier to go by looks and feel. It needs to be hard to the touch. And you won't be able to move your face. At all. It will be cement upon your face.

From here, the website and I differ significantly in our ending. If you want to use it as a peel, follow Fastmaza's instructions' steps 6 and 7.

As I mentioned before, I was less interested in the idea of a facial peel and more interested in a mask. So, I rebelled. (I’d love to hear anyone’s success stories about using this mask as a peel, though! And I’m sure the original source would appreciate a little lovin’ itself.)

Step 7 (me): Rinse the mask off with lukewarm water. I splashed the water onto my face to loosen the mask, then continued to try and wash it away. When it presented stubbornness I turned to a facial cleanser a Liquid Neutrogena facial cleanser. It is fairly gentle on my face, but more aggressive than my Burt’s Bee’s Sensitive Facial Cleanser. It was just the touch to remove the mask.

Love that this lil' guy is fragrance free!

Step 8 (me): Once the mask is off gently pat dry. Don’t wipe dry. That’s not good for the skin or the connective tissue underneath. While I might not have made it into a peel, the mask sure left my face feeling nice and taught.

 Instead of immediately applying a moisturizer, I kept my hair up and applied Vitamin E oil. My skin is normally oily and dry, so I do not use the oil often; however, it is very good for your skin. I have some scaring that it helps fade away and it always leaves my face feeling supple.

I got this Vitamin E oil from Hannaford. It’s not very expensive at all. Pour a little into your palm and apply as gently as possible to your face. It is sticky and oily and does not like to spread. Try the patting technique as much as you can. Pat it all over your face. Pat to “rub it in.” Only actually rub if you absolutely have to.

I left the oil on for a few hours while it absorbed and then put my moisturizer on. Voila! Clean-feeling, happy -face time.

Honesty corner:
If someone has managed to make this into an effective peel, let me know? Because I need a tutorial for this tutorial! Mine was less peel and more second-skin. When my peel dried there was no hope that I could see of even considering peeling it off. (For the heck of it, I tried a small section. It flaked in tiny, tiny pieces. No peel.) Despite discovering it was not an effective peel, it did leave my face feeling very taught and refreshed. So I'd say it makes a fantastic tightening and toning mask. (Edit: a friend just informed me that I may have been supposed to use all the egg whites and that the reason it wouldn't peel, even if I wanted to, was because it was too thin. I did not use all of the egg whites. I had a ton left over, even with my multiple layers. I'll have to try that next time, just to see if it works! You know, for the heck of it.)

If just making this mask for yourself, I'd stick with one egg white. (You might want to cut back on the lemon juice if you do that, in case your skin is sensitive to the concentration. Try halving it and see how that feels, work up next time if you need.) Two eggs was way more than I needed. (Edit: good news, we have a solution to the extra eggs whites! Mom and dad did couple facials! Talk about a date night! There was more giggling than effective masking. Edit's Edit: If you're aiming for a traditional blackhead peel and not just a firming mask, you might want to use all of the two egg whites on your face, to make it thick enough to peel. Special thanks to my friend for making the suggestion. Let me know if that works?) Also, when this site says that the mask hardens it HARDENS. I could not move my face to smile or even speak by the end of it. Seriously. My mom made me laugh at the very end and it hurt. So do not laugh. Do. Not. Laugh.

I cannot stress this one enough: be gentle taking it off if you make a mask like I did and not a peel. Splash your face with warm water. Use a facial cleanser. Avoid rubbing the mask off with a damp cloth or being too aggressive with your skin. Putting this on before jumping in the shower is probably a great way to wash it off. (I have a tendency of doing that. I slap on my "face," let it dry, hop in the shower and wash it away.) I'll have to try that sometime with this mask. 

Also, I have to stress this one again, too: the mask is SUPER MESSY. Don't be afraid to get down and dirty. Let that inner child out!

Next I think I want to give a honey mask a try.  Anyone try any other successful homemade masks? Discuss in the comments! I would love to hear about them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Divine Timing? Serendipity? Synchronicity? Coincidence?

Call it what you may; I won’t judge. Personally, I tend to believe there are larger forces at work. No such thing as coincidence! It’s probably all in perspective. It’s probably all dependent on what your belief system is (which is totally okay!). But today’s blog is all about divine timing’s impact on my life this week and my interpretation of the events because, well, I’m feeling vulnerable enough to get spiritual here. I encourage you to do the same, my friends. We can all benefit from little vulnerability.

(Forewarning: today’s post is going to be a bit more, journal-style than most.)

This week I was on school vacation. I’m blessed to have a school that chooses to break up its Spring Break into “Winter Break” and “Spring Break.” The double break is just what a busy college student needs to get through a hectic spring semester. So, it was a blessing when the beginning of my break came two days early through consecutive snow-days. (Albeit, it was a mixed blessing: a tough anatomy & physiology exam has been put off and the further time away from models dulls the material.) With all the stress and exhaustion I had been struggling with lately, I welcomed Break like an old friend.

Recently, I did a brief dive into my health struggles through the Honesty Corner. Well, the start of this break was one of those “this sucks pond water” moments. From Saturday to Wednesday, my life consisted of lying in bed and doing nothing. I’m a bit of a control freak – I know my flaws! – so the fact this put me so far behind in homework irritated me beyond compare. I’d started off this break with glorious ideals of getting ahead in classes. After suffering with that irritation and those lost hopes, I finally gave in to my fate. Let me tell you: surrender never felt so good. I reveled in the bliss of nothingness. How often do we get time to do nothing – to just be? No obligations. No pressing deadlines. Just us, our relaxation, and whatever passes the time.

For instance, I finally finished BBC’s Merlin! It has been something I have wanted to do but time always got away from me. (I highly recommend the series, to anyone who is curious. Just be prepared to cry buckets at the series finale. It rips your heart out but is worth every second.)

Sunday, I left the house briefly with my dad on a father-daughter excursion to a friend’s house. She is a successful Herbalist I work with during the summer and this year dad is training under her. (He is trying to find another supplemental form of income that is dear to his heart.) I am so grateful for the few moments of good-health to enjoy the visit. It was great to see her in a different environment and learn about her business, her passions, and her homelife. The more we talked, the more synchronicities appeared: she once worked the same job my dad worked, she shared several of his interests, and her reasons for becoming an Herbalist were the same. It was abundantly clear – we were being shown the mirror image of what dad’s future could be!

On the way home Dad and I both caught sight of something in a field. Immediately we scrambled to find a place to turn around, overcome with awe. In the field were nearly thirty deer. A large portion of them had wandered into the woods when dad and I made it back to the spot, but I still managed to snag a few photos of some of them. I cannot tell you how happy I was that I brought my small camera with me! Something told me to bring my mini back-up with me. And I am so glad I followed that intuition!

There were so many, these are just a few!
The sight of all of the deer eating in and wandering around the field was breathtaking. My mother has always had a thing for deer; they are her good-luck charm. Seeing so many of them, especially after the synchronicities of the visit we’d just come from was like a neon sign flashing: “YOU’RE GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.”

Sunday through Thursday brought a rough patch that snuck up like a snake. I never saw it coming. Last week, our eldest pup, Peaches, Her Royal Queen of Fluffdom, suffered what I was convinced was a seizure. Sunday, a week later, mom and I witnessed her have another. That was it! Done deal. To the vets we went. There were several indicators in her health that left me weary, things that I had let slide because I attributed them to her love of food and hatred of exercise. She’s more tired. Her stomach distended. Now, in light of this recent health scare, they all seemed vitally important.

Peaches, letting her playful side show

We learned that her eyesight is deteriorating and that she has a risk of blood clots. More pressing, though, they found she has a very good sized mass in her abdomen. The prognosis was poor. After giving us the “good news” of her having a wonderful blood work, the vet brought us out back to see her x-ray. In a matter of seconds, the world stopped.

If it’s attached to the spleen she’s at risk of rupture, he told us.

I sunk.

There is the difficult choice, he continued, between getting it removed, if it’s worth it because of her age (as she could die in surgery), or euthanasia. Death by burst spleen is horrific; it wasn't even an option in our minds.

She has not been featured in any posts yet on this blog, so her disposition might be difficult to imagine. Let me put it in perspective:
she may be going on 11, but when Peaches sees me first thing in the morning, she is as excited, sprite and playful as she was when she was smaller than the length of my forearm. Jumping all over the place, tail wagging, wiggling like crazy. She's got this "puppy at heart" thing down to a science.

The mere thought of euthanasia – I couldn’t wrap my head around it. She has too much life.

My little white fluffball looks cream when she's surrounded by powdery white snow!

At home, after the appointment, I found myself on the floor in my bedroom. I pulled Peaches onto my lap. And I just broke down. She’s my baby – the last thing I want is for her to suffer, ever. Knowing she’s had this thing growing in her, without our knowing, made me feel like I had failed her; I’m supposed to care for her and yet we let her get this. “We try so hard to take great care of our dogs! How could this happen?”  I was terrified for her. I was mad at us.

Peaches was a good sport for a few moments. She let me hold her and sob. Then she walked down to the end of the hall way, as if telling me it was time for bed. Hearing that I wasn’t following, she turned and watched me, wagging her tail in encouragement. "You comin', Katie?" I didn’t budge; I let out another sob.

When I looked up, she had pranced down the hallway to me and planted herself before me. Her white tail moved so fast she wiggled her whole body. She leapt to my face, licking only my cheeks and eyes. Every time I sobbed, she licked me until I was dry.  (Some might argue coincidence, particularly where my pups lick so much to begin with. But I know her too well. She’s always been my shadow. She’s always been my other half. We have this soul-buddy bond.) When she usually licks it is all over, without discrimination. But that night, she only focused on the tears.

Nothing beats puppy love.
Proof that nothing beats puppy love.
And proof we're born to be best friends.
 The rest of the week was a blur until the ultrasound appointment, which would give us more detail. I was emotional distraught and drained. The numb, empty feeling that comes with depression reared its nasty, unwelcome head.

And then the most remarkable thing happened: it was beaten down. Depression was forced back into the netherworld by the most powerful of forces – love. The outpouring of support from friends and family breathed warmth and life back into us all. Prayers, love, emotional support flocked in from every angle. A few dear friends I’ve never met offered to help raise funds if we couldn’t afford pricy treatments or surgeries. The Herbalist my dad is training through heard of our plight and told us of another who specializes in animals so we can go to her for treatment. All of this kindness, without a single demand in return. I never expected any of it. From an awful tragedy, I discovered a tremendous blessing: how much love my friends, family and I share. I had no idea that, when push came to shove, I had so many people who had my back.

The day before Peaches’ ultrasound, an unexpected card came in the mail. Another dear friend had sent me a Valentine to express how much she cherished our friendship, but with all of the winter storms last week, it got here late. She was so worried about it not getting here, particularly not on time. But her card arrived precisely when I needed it most. I arrived right one time as far as I'm concerned. Had I received it on Valentine’s Day, I’d have been touched. I’d not have loved it any less. Receiving it the day before Peaches’ ultrasound, though, gave me the extra boost of love I needed to get through. It made it 10x more special. Heck, it brought me to tears! (I’m one serious softie.) I am so grateful for friends like her. (And for divine timing!)

(Before I continue, I’ll dish off the good news. It’s not great, but it’s good: the growth isn't spleen cancer. Thank goodness! It won't burst and she won't have a miserable death because of that. She does, however, have an enlarged liver and a growth on it. He's 85% sure it isn't cancerous, but he's told us a test we can have done so we can be definite. Regardless of if it is or isn't, we'll still have to have her checked every so many months via x-ray to know if it is growing. Her treatment isn’t over, we still have tests to do and doctors to see – and her seizures to address – but our largest fear is now nothing to worry about.)
Then came Friday. I’m jokingly calling Friday the culmination of synchronicity.

After a simple question from a friend - "Do you have a long dress I could borrow?" - I finished up the schoolwork I was doing, packed up a few long dresses I had left over from my high school dance days and dashed over to her house. Wh
at ensued from there was an impromptu fashion show; we pulled back her hair and dolled her up in all of my glitzy, sparkly jewelry. She twirled, modeled and posed for paparazzi-style pictures. With both of us having had a long week, it was great to have a little bit of girl fun in between homework and life insanity and to just LAUGH. Two of the dresses fit perfectly and she's bringing them to someone to see if they can be temporarily altered to fit her even better for her upcoming dances. Each of them looked stunning on her. She's going to be so beautiful!

Then we sat and sipped on tea. I caught up with her mother, her little sister, planned on a possible "make-up party" for her prom, where her older sister (also a dear friend of mine) and I do her make up together. There'll probably be more giggles than make-up getting done if that happens!

I thought I was going to miss my Mushroom, her older sister, so I wrote a little note on an index card and placed it on her bed. No sooner had I done that, though, then a car pulled in their driveway. Mushroom! We only visited for a short while, but it was enough for both of us. We talked about tea, life, her crazy work schedule, my crazy course schedule, make-up, clothes, good television shows. I also snuggled, played with and got loved on and kissed by her littlest sister's bunny, Pepper.
He gives kisses!
I was holding him and he kissed my neck. Bunnies can kiss?!
Nothing beats bunny love!

The universe conspired to have us see each other for sure. My Mushroom hadn't known I was coming, yet she'd made sure to get of work exactly on time. She'd even had it in her mind to come drop by my house on her way home - unannounced - (which would have meant we'd have missed each other!) but decided to go to her house first and call me from there. I had been planning to leave by the exact time she'd pulled in the drive way. I love when the Universe works in special, little ways like that.

She’d had a rough week at work with intense training. I’d had a stressful week. At the end of both, we got a surprise reward – a few moments with a good friend. I live for synchronicities like that.

Now, if only Mother Nature can bring a snow-day for Wednesday and make last night’s dream about a postponed paper come true. ;)