Category Archives: Beauty

Beauty Try-It: imPRESS Press-on Manicure

I have been taking my time writing this particular review of my newest beauty try-it (which by now is the oldest) because I had so much fun with it. In fact, I haven’t had this much fun trying out a product in a long time!

Okay, so when Influenster’s VoxBox program sent me this imPRESS press-on manicure by Broadway, I laughed a little. Press-on nails? The last time I tried press-on nails, I was 8 years old. They were hard shiny gold pieces of plastic from the Juvenile toy store, with adhesive tabs you had to apply yourself. I was 8 and less coordinated than I am now … take a moment to think about how this went.

This imPress nails pattern, called TGIF, was decidedly wilder than any nail polish color I typically wear. I mean, if we rewound to my early 20s I’m sure I would be game. But I wasn’t a professional working woman back then. On the other hand, these aren’t THAT crazy – black nail polish is now almost as acceptable as red in the office – and the longer I stared at the design, the more I liked it. Look at it! It’s … strangely hypnotic.

Check out my flashy nails

Dancer/singer Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls fame promotes the nails as a viable alternative to nail polish. Nicole Scherzinger doesn’t have to live a decidedly business professional lifestyle 5 days a week. Would these look good on ME? Would they stay on?

I had to wait for the right time to try these, when there were no board meetings scheduled, just in case I looked crazier than I imagined. In the meantime, I showed the package to the one other person that works in my section of the office, and he guffawed loudly.

The nails come in a plastic container shaped like a nail polish bottle. You pull the cap off, open the plastic, and then get all the nails out and line them up by size. Or that’s what you’re supposed to do. I just kind of fiddled around with mine and found the ones that seemed to be the closest fit to my natural nails, then put those in a pile. I am a rebel.

If you look behind the back insert in the box, you will find an alcohol prep pad. You’re supposed to use this pad to clean your nails before applying the imPress nails. I knew there was a prep pad included ahead of time, but because it wasn’t visible until I pulled out the insert, I forgot all about it and just washed and dried my hands instead. More rebellion.

Next, you peel the backing off of each nail, then carefully smooth it down onto the corresponding real nail, applying a decent amount of force for at least 15 seconds. Once you do this, the nail will be pretty firmly stuck, so don’t screw it up, fool!

This part was kinda fun.

I found that some of the nails were not a close fit to my real nails. In some cases, I went with ones that were slightly larger which was kind of dumb because every now and then I would feel a tiny prick of pain in the skin surrounding my nail beds from where the excess “nail” was poking it. The nail will also come off quicker that way, and it looks far more natural to wear the slightly smaller nail vs. the slightly bigger one.

Once I picked out the nails I wanted to apply, it took no time at all for me to put them on.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about them at first. They took some getting used to. I could tell that they were much larger than my natural nails and feared everyone would notice and point and laugh at me.

The very first day, my right imPRESS thumbnail popped off, probably because I removed it the first time (because I put it on upside down – be quiet), then pressed it back on. After it popped off, I replaced it with a smaller nail which looks much better.

On the third day, I was taking a shower when the imPRESS nail on my right middle finger came off. (The next day, my fiance goes, “By the way, one of your nail things is in the shower drain.”) I was halfway expecting this because that nail is kind of crooked thanks to my writer’s callus on that finger. I replaced it with a slightly smaller nail which, again, was obviously the smarter choice.

By the second day with these nails, I was feeling much better about them. People were complimenting me on them. I went out to dinner in Shirlington with a friend who said, “Ooooh, I love your nails!” She had no idea they were “fakes” until I told her. And my coworker who laughed at them? I showed them to him again, this time on my hands. “Hey, those look nice,” he said.

So I was feeling all fancy with my clever nails. But how would they hold up to 7 days of everyday life?

Patting a cat …

Patting another cat (more like ominously reaching for a cat)

Practicing my Claw dance moves

Opening a package …

Using my laptop …

Eating my lunch …

Playing with my hair … la dee da

For the most part, they held up very well! At times I forgot I was wearing them, then suddenly thought, “Oh no, I bet my nail fell off” (definitely a thought I’m not used to having ;)) only to find it was still right there. The nails that I had applied too close to the cuticle or that were slightly oversized were a little bit uncomfortable at random moments, and they also started to loosen (not noticeably, just during one of my random inspections) after about 3.5 days – underscoring the need to apply these correctly. The material is very firm, but still malleable, so you can use a nail clipper to trim a nail if you don’t like the length once it’s on.

To remove the nails, pull from the sides, not the top or bottom. If you’ve had them on your hands for only a day or two, it’s going to be much harder to remove them, so use a little nail polish remover to help.

The verdict? I dig ’em … a lot. I am imPRESSED by imPress nails. (I had to say it)

The details: imPress Manicure retails at $5.99 for colors and $7.99 for patterns. They come in 36 varieties which includes solid colors as well as prints and crazy patterns like zebra stripes (for real), and really pretty stuff like pale pink with delicate floral patterns. You can find them at CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade, K-mart, Walgreens, and Walmart to name a few. The official website is here – there’s a $1 off coupon, videos, and a cool app to “try” all the varieties!

Disclosure of Material Connections: This product was provided to me at no cost by Influenster in exchange for my honest feedback. The thoughts expressed here are my own and I have not been paid for providing this review.

Advertisements

Beauty Try-It: NYC New York Color Liquid Lipshine

Anyone that knows me is, most likely, well aware of my lip gloss fetish. With ownership of at least a few hundred lip products, and around 12 in my purse at any given time, it’s a little out of control. What can I say? I like to pamper my lips, and I like wearing different colors on them! Well, needless to say, I was very pleased to receive this NYC New York Color Liquid Lip Shine product from Influenster. This is the New York Nude shade.

In the past I have not been a huge fan of lip glosses that are applied with a wand applicator. They tend to be either gloppy, sticky and goopy, and/or they provide very little shine and color coverage, and it doesn’t last. But this stuff is A-1. I have been a fan of NYC New York Color products in the past, so I wasn’t too shocked by the superior quality, really. It feels good on my lips – smooth, not sticky, even kind of moisturizing. It goes on easily and the applicator is nice and flexible as opposed to stiff and unyielding, which of course makes for very sloppy, clowny lips. Best of all, IT LASTS. When it finally fades away, your lips will still feel nice and soft. Sweet!

The color looked a little frosty to me in the bottle, but after application, I saw that it’s a nice natural color with a LOT of gleam to it – enough to look good, not so much that I feel like I just slobbered all over myself. I think this particular shade (again, New York Nude) would look good with a lot of skin tones, from very pale (like me) to very dark. I’ve also found it looks good both on its own and layered over a darker lipcolor. It’s perfect for everyday wear. I wear mine with an SPF lip balm under it during the day; at night I put it over a richer pink shade and blend. I like that it helps your lips look naturally full. AND, just so you know, this shade smells of vanilla buttercream frosting. Mmmmm …

My "daytime" look with NYC Liquid Lipshine!

The particulars: NYC New York Color products retail for $.99 from $4.99. Liquid Lipshine retails for $2.49 and comes in 10 different shades, including much brighter and richer colors like berry tones and fuschias. I have also tried other NYC New York Color products in the past and they have all been very high quality, so I can vouch for the whole line! You can find NYC New York Color at Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Family Dollar, Duane Reade, Kmart, and HEB stores to name a few.

Disclosure of Material Connections: This product was provided to me at no cost by Influenster’s VoxBox program, in exchange for my honest feedback. The thoughts expressed here are my own and I have not been paid or otherwise financially compensated in order to provide this review.

Beauty Try-It: Montagne Jeunesse Fruit Smoothie Mask

The Montagne Jeunesse (official website here) Fruit Smoothie mask is one of those products that’s always in the drugstore or grocery store, hanging on a rack, with eye-catching packaging, begging me to buy it. Yet for some reason, I never have. So when Influenster recently sent me a sample to review through their VoxBox program, I was excited in a “I’m finally going to find out what this is all about!” kind of way.

Definitely eye-popping ...

The cool thing about these masks is that you can buy them one at a time if you want, or just grab a bunch of different varieties and try each one out to find the one that’s best for you. You don’t have to wind up with a big bottle of mask solution that just sits around in your house and eventually gets thrown out because all of the mask solution has started to harden, because you didn’t use it up fast enough! (Or is that just me that does stuff like that?) With these masks you get a fresh mask every time. There are way too many varieties to talk about here: everything from self-heating masks that smell like chocolate (I’d love to try THAT one!) to scrubs to mud masks to peel-off masks, and in a wide-variety of delicious-sounding scents.

I was very excited to try my Raspberry & Mango trial-size mask, probably too excited. Blame it on the girl on the attractive eye-grabbing wrapper as she grins at me, eyes full of mangos and raspberries. Actually the longer I look at it, the creepier it becomes!

As soon as I ripped off the top of the mask wrapper, I was very happy to find that the liquid version of the mask did indeed smell delicious. I would not want to have something on my face for a full minutes that smelled like caulking solution (like some other masks I have tried).

The product hardened on my face very quickly as I applied it. It went on smoothly and soon I was walking around the house looking quite ghostly. My fiance, who by now is about 75 percent used to me, barely batted an eyelash.

As time went on my skin felt tighter and tighter, but not uncomfortably so. At the end of the allotted time I ambled back into the bathroom and splashed warm water over my face until the solution started to come off. (I recommend letting it dissolve quite a bit first before you start rubbing at it.)

I was very happy to find that my skin not only looked better after – pores less visible, shine less evident, but skin still glowing and rosy – but it also felt very smooth. Aaaah! I kept feeling it with the backs of my hands in fact.

The AFTER pic: Skin feels much happier

I was happy enough with this that I plan to get back into the enjoyment of regular facial masks. I do love to pamper myself beauty-wise, but sadly, I don’t do it often enough. This is a really quick and fun thing you can do for yourself while you prepare for bed, make some dinner, or do just about anything else that doesn’t require you to go out in public. It feels great to take that time out for yourself. There are many varieties of this mask to try and I’m most interested in finding out more about this “self-heating” janx next. Especially the one that smells like chocolate! (What happens if I lose control and eat the mask solution?)

Just FYI, these masks are animal-friendly – never tested on animals and “vegetarian approved”. You can find them at ULTA, Walgreens, Claire’s, Walmart, Kroger, CVS, and many other retailers all around the U.S.

Disclosure of Material Connections: This product was provided to me at no cost by Influenster in exchange for my honest feedback. The thoughts expressed here are my own and I have not been paid or otherwise financially compensated for this review.

A World Away at Spa World, Part II

Previously we discussed what the inside of giant Korean day spa Spa World (Centreville, VA) is like and what you can expect to find there. I didn’t get to my favorite part of the spa, however – the big bathing room with the Bade Pool! Once again, I’m going to be very detailed because I find this is the part of Spa World that people have the most questions about.

The men’s and women’s bathing rooms are completely separate and are accessed through the respective locker rooms. The required attire for the bathing room is your birthday suit. Like I said before, the spa is very big on keeping things clean and free of outside dirt, so the only things you will be wearing in there are your electromagnetic key wristband (don’t worry, the water won’t hurt it) and a hair tie. You cannot even bring in your own towel; you are to use the little white towels they provide, which are more like hand towels. Obviously, this makes a lot of people want to skip the Bade Pool. I have seen many reviews of Spa World in which people were afraid to use the pool room for this reason. While I definitely understand the hesitation there, I really believe the Bade Pool is the best part of the whole spa and I would hate for anyone to miss out on it. Whom you visit the spa with probably makes a big difference. It would likely be awkward for me to visit with a friend, but with my sister is fine. And I saw many ladies just chilling out by themselves, towels folded up in a Princess Leia style on the top of their heads. (I wish I could figure out how to do that. My sister kind of got it down.)

Princess Leia's famous hair is hard to replicate with a little towel.

Anyway! Now that this is understood, let’s talk about what you can find in the bathing room. First of all, the bathing room has a medium level of noise. It is mainly there for relaxation and so while you can chat, doing cannonballs into the pool or whatever won’t be tolerated by the attendants. (I saw them order a group of young women who kept horseplaying and shrieking out of the pool.) Since the spa has such strict standards of cleanliness, you are required to take a shower every time you exit and enter the pool. The showers are located inside the bathing area all along one wall. There are no curtains and no privacy here either. If you prefer to bathe semi-privately, you can find rows of sit-down showers to your right with walls separating the rows. These have shelves with shower heads you pull off the wall if you want. There are also big plastic bowls, and plastic stools. Soap and big bottles of shampoo and conditioner are provided.

The Bade Pool itself is pretty big and probably about five feet deep max. It looks like a recreational swimming pool with multiple spa jets all around the walls. The temperature hovers near a regular human body temperature. I’m not sure where the Bade Pool concept originated from, but it seems to be a fairly new idea. I have heard that the Bade Pool has its origins in Germany, but I also see where Bade Pools are popular in spas in Korea and Japan. The only other Bade Pool I’m aware of on the East Coast of the U.S. is at another Korean spa called Spa Castle in New York.

The Bade Pool has different stations; it’s recommended that you follow them in a specific order, but no one’s going to make you. I noted it was common for ladies who seemed to know each other to situate themselves in neighboring stations while catching up on all the latest gossip. Oh, and children are not allowed in the Bade Pool itself unless they are over 4 feet tall and have an adult with them, but there is a neighboring children’s spa bath that adults can take their little ones into.

Station 1 is the fountain in the middle of the pool. If you’ve ever seen those large, mushroom-shaped waterfall fountains at certain kids’ pools, this was the same thing, only made of a gray metal, and with much hotter water. Relaxing against the mushroom’s “stem” while the water pours down is very rejuvenating, as is letting the water hit your back. The fountain comes on and off at certain times.

The next three stations are all stalls against one wall that have various jets. You can use the buttons to turn the jets on. I loved getting a foot massage at one of these. Other stalls were just a bit too strong for my taste. You can sit in some but have to stand in others.

The next wall has two different types of stations that were harder for me to grasp … literally. The wall has very powerful jets, and you’re supposed to hang on to a bar. Good luck with that.

Next, there’s an alcove with some tall showers that are supposed to send water down onto your neck. These were out of order and I was incredibly disappointed! Finally, you have two more stations, each of which has round rails and lots of bubbly jets, one with a foot jet.

If all that wasn’t enough, there are multiple other services around the bathing area. For starters, you can pay extra to get a full body scrub. Yes, you are still unclothed for this also. The scrubs are located behind some walls in the sit-down shower area. You might giggle when you see the scrub ladies’ uniforms are similar to simple black lingerie, but that’s typical attire. You should not feel threatened by any of the attendants. They are friendly, but some do not speak much English. There are various spa scrubs available, and you can sign up with the locker room attendants just outside the bathing area. If you have any questions or concerns, I recommend that you ask these attendants when you sign up. When it is your turn, the scrub ladies will come looking to see whose key matches the number they have. Depending on how long you have been at the Bade Pool, they may request that you soak in a separate hot tub for up to 30 minutes first. My sister and I both purchased a 30 minute spa scrub for $50, which was charged to our keys. Tips are included for this particular service. You lay on a pink cot-like table for your scrub. (Remember the elementary school nurse’s office cots?) The attendant pours hot water over your body and then scrubs you head to toe with these amazing exfoliating gloves. There will not be an inch of dead skin left on your body (except maybe your feet) when she is done. I don’t want to gross anyone out, but you will be stunned to see what has come off of your skin. Ewww. Much like a massage, you will be asked to flip this way and that. You will also receive a quick dousing of soap and a head, neck, and face massage. (When the lady scrubbed my feet, I laughed and accidentally kicked her oil bottle! Oops!) Finally, you’ll be required to go take another shower before you get back in the Bade Pool. You will note your skin is the smoothest and softest it has ever been in your adult life. It will stay this way at least a good week or two with no maintenance on your part.

Aside from the scrubs, you’ll find the following:

Sunflower Shower. This is a single shower stall with a large showerhead that rains cold water down on you. It feels great after coming out of the Bade Pool and hot tubs.

Hot Tubs. There are two which are about the same temperature give or take a few degrees. One has spa jets and one doesn’t.

Ice Bath. A freezing cold bath with no jets and a temperature in the 50s. For me, it was unbearably cold. I could not even put my whole foot in there for more than a couple of seconds without jerking it away in pain. We saw only one lady using this pool to its full extent the entire time! I have no idea how she did it! I tried three times and just couldn’t do it. I even went in up to my knees at one point and felt like I had caught hypothermia!

Infrared Rays Area (not its proper name). It’s an area with block pillows where you lie down and receive the benefits of infrared rays. It is not really hot or cold. I didn’t use it long because I’m too restless.

Wet Sauna. A steamroom with hot mists that blow across your face as you sit on a stone. It is somewhere around 140 degrees. The mists make it more bearable.

Dry Sauna. Self explanatory – bring your towel as the wooden benches are HOT. It is somewhat cooler than the steamroom, but felt even hotter. I couldn’t stand it. I felt like my eyeballs were going to melt.

I came out of Spa World feeling unbelievably relaxed and refreshed. You can see why it was easy for me to spend a full 12 hours there!

Helpful Links:

Spa World User Pictures at Yelp Here is a gallery of pictures from reviewer site Yelp.com that show you the Bade Pools (with no people in them) and other areas of the spa, especially the Amethyst Gem Room and the common areas. Can you spot the Princess Leia towel styles in the first picture?

Spa World Services page This page at Spa World’s site describes some of the services offered, with a price chart and tip explanation.

If you go, have fun. May all your cares melt away in the Bade Pool!

A World Away at Spa World, Part I

My wonderful sister got me a most awesome birthday present this year: a day pass to Spa World (home page here)! Spa World is a huge Korean day spa located off of Braddock Road in Centreville (part of Fairfax County). My sister got the passes at a discount rate through Groupon.

First, I must make two disclaimers. One, there are no pictures for this post, so you’re going to have to rely on my descriptive writing abilities. Um, so that means this post is long. Lucky for you, I divided it into sections. Two, I have no idea what an American day spa is like, as I’ve only had one professional manicure done in my whole life. I mention this because I have read that Korean day spas are way different than typical American spas, and after visiting Spa World, I have no doubt this is true. I spent 12 hours there feeling like I was visiting a different country. It was fabulous!

On with the story! Here’s what you need to know if you are visiting Spa World. I’m being very detailed because in my experience, people are unsure what to expect and want to know everything they can about it!

It is awesome. You will come out super relaxed and wishing you could stay longer. Spa World is open 24 hours a day and you can stay there overnight if you wish. The spa is less full during the earlier parts of the day, but picks up a considerable crowd on weekend evenings and late afternoons.

It is huge. Spa World is located at the end of a shopping center. It doesn’t look as big on the outside as it is on the inside. Take a look at the floor plans on the website (link in opening paragraph of this post.) You’ll see there are in fact two floors with a wide variety of amenities on each one. I’ll go into those in more detail in just a moment.

It has rules. Spa World has some particular rules in place that are there for the purposes of keeping the spa as clean and healthful as possible. These rules will probably take some getting used to – one in particular – but you will indeed get used to them pretty fast. You’ll figure out what these are as you read my posts.

The front entrance is quite beautiful and is a good introduction to the rest of the place. At the front desk, you will be given an electronic key with a number on it, attached to a stretchy band that goes around your wrist. This key goes to your foot locker and to your changing room locker. It also serves as your “charge card” for the remainder of your stay at the spa. Needless to say, you need to keep it on your wrist at all times so you don’t lose it. And if you have any questions about anything, now is a good time to ask. Not everyone you will run into later speaks English well. (The ladies at the juice bar and restaurant do.)

You will notice small cabinets with glass doors surrounding you from floor-to-ceiling in the front entrance room; these are the foot lockers. You are required to leave your shoes in your cabinet and then remain barefoot the rest of the time. The spa is cleaned frequently so you should not have to worry about catching any foot diseases. If you are concerned about this, you may want to call ahead to ask if there are any special slippers they can issue you to wear. (I have no clue if there are or not.) You’ll also be given an ugly uniform that you must change into and wear while using the spa. The uniform is made out of a burlap-like material but is not uncomfortable. It has pockets, and consists of long, loose shorts (ending just above the knee) and a very loose, short sleeved top. The colors: women get washed-out orange and men get washed-out mustard seed. It is like a gym suit, only far more unflattering. Just get over it, because everyone else is wearing one too! Once you have changed, you can move about the spa freely.

Locker rooms are down the hall, and of course there are separate ones for men and women. I can’t speak for the men’s, but the women’s includes a lounging area with comfortable couches, tables, and magazine racks. Televisions are mounted to the wall for your viewing pleasure. The lockers are small but do the job and each contain at least two plastic hangers. Hairdryers, a small assortment of beauty aids, and cold drinks are also available. Attendants are nearby in case you have any questions or need a clean towel. There is also a bin for you to toss your dirty towels and uniforms into before you leave the spa for the day.

The locker rooms attach to the separate men and women’s bathing areas. If you don’t feel like going into the bath area yet, you can head down the hall to the poultice rooms and restaurant area, which I will just call the common room. The common room is very large and co-ed, and here you can see what a large part of the Korean day spa is all about. In the center of the room are straw mats, pillows, and wooden pillow blocks. It seems the tradition is for Korean families to gather on a mat and play board games or cards, read, listen to music, watch one of the three flat screen TVs or the beautiful twin wall-mounted aquariums, or just nap and relax with one another. I think that is a wonderful idea. A bubbling fountain is at one end of this area and comes on periodically to provide some soothing ambience. The floor leading up to the fountain is surrounded by some hard stone bubble-tile looking things. I’m not sure what these are for unless they are supposed to be walked on for foot massage purposes. (That’s what I used them for, anyway!) The room also has free Wi-fi in case you brought your laptop and want to spend your time surfing the ‘net. I sure don’t. But this might be a cool place to work from “home” if your boss will let you swing that.

My sister and I hung out on a mat near the fountain reading for a good while and I also watched a bit of a Korean game show and then a Japanese baseball game. (I love the Japanese game announcers, by the way … very enthusiastic and awesome.) Note that guests do not have control over what is played on the TVs, so don’t come here expecting to watch your favorite show at a certain time.

The common room is not loud, but it is not quiet, either. You might want to bring a pair of noise-canceling headphones if you plan on resting here. You should also bring a towel from the locker room to place on one of the pillows or pillow blocks for comfort and hygiene purposes before putting your head down. There are also separate men and women’s sleeping rooms located upstairs. I didn’t tour the nap room, but it is supposed to be dark and quiet.

There is no smoking allowed in the common room or anywhere else on the premises except in the designated men’s and women’s smoking rooms, which are also upstairs. I don’t smoke so I don’t know anything about either of these. I did pass by the men’s smoking room and I could smell the smoke but just slightly. It did not appear to waft into other rooms.

Children are present at the spa, although restricted to certain areas. The ones I saw were mostly very well-behaved. There is a small children’s room with television and play tables located off the common room area, and there is also a little arcade upstairs with a very small game selection and some desks. So if you bring your child for a family day, you might also bring plenty of things for him or her to do for fun.

The common room offers many comfy chairs and foot rests as well as a wide selection of newspapers and magazines, and some books. There are other books upstairs that you can rent out for the day; most of these are in Korean, however. I recommend bringing your own reading material just in case.

So now let’s talk about the juice bar and restaurant that adjoin the common room. The juice bar serves smoothies, juice, and boba tea. Boba tea is what you might know as bubble tea, that delicious drink with the condensed milk and the tapioca balls in the bottom. Here the bubble tea comes frozen. I had green tea (okay) and mango (much better) flavors of boba tea, and a strawberry smoothie (very sweet). There is a small selection of snacks served at the juice bar, such as ramen and spring rolls. I didn’t sample any. All food and drinks are at a separate cost and are charged to your electronic key. You will pay the total charges on your key when you check out of the spa for the day. The juice bar lady was very friendly and sweet.

Around the corner from the juice bar is the restaurant with another nice lady. Meals are listed on the wall with pictures and numbers for easy ordering, are made pretty fast, and are traditional Korean as far as I can tell. Drinks are not served here (maybe a small canned soda selection) so you’ll need to bring something from the juice bar. You can also use the free water cooler and cups, or get a clean glass and ice water carafe for your table. Meals are separate charges to your key as well, and typically cost between 9 and 12 dollars. You get a lot for your money! I had the pork dumplings for lunch and my sister got a big stone bowl with rice, noodles, veggies, and egg. I tried that same bowl for my dinner with some beef in it and it was positively delicious and a huge serving. No way I could eat all that. We each got a bowl of miso soup with our meals too, and then in addition, we were given a HUGE tray with little dishes full of toppings to add. This included kimchi (pickled Korean vegetable), cabbage, potatoes, and various other veggies, spices and sauces for you to sample at your leisure.

Attached to the common room are several poultice rooms, which are your co-ed steam rooms and saunas and ice room. I’ll just give you a quick rundown of these. Digital thermometers appear above each sauna door with the current temperature, and there’s a plaque with the alleged health benefits of each listed. You just walk in and seat yourself. There is no additional charge added for any of these. Sometimes people crowd around a room they really like and you have to wait, but that is rare. (See: Red Clay Ball Room and Ice Room.)

The Amethyst Gem Room is a big domed hut at one end of the common room. You can’t miss it. It’s the second hottest sauna in the whole room. I believe the temperature was somewhere between 160 and 170 in there. It was so hot it was harder to breathe pretty soon after stepping in and I walked out covered in sweat. The walls and ceiling have designs made out of amethyst and quartz. I made the mistake of touching one and burned my hand slightly. That’s me and my curiosity for you. The room is said to increase your energy and health. Well, if you’ve ever wanted to sit in the Sahara Desert with your amethyst collection, this room is for you.

Right next to the Amethyst hut is the Red Clay Room hut. It’s even hotter with temps up to 188! And the walls and domed ceiling are indeed made of red clay! I only stayed in here a minute or so. The air felt really thick and hot. It was easily the hottest room in the whole place with the Amethyst not far behind. Not my cup of tea, but glad I tried it. The Red Clay Room was for general health.

Next, we have a long line of other poultice rooms that takes up a whole wall of the common room. The Oak Wood Charcoal Room is one of these. The walls were made of wood blocks and charcoal, as the name suggests, and it was a dark and fairly large room. It was said to help you out if you were feeling sick or fatigued. It wasn’t nearly as hot as the other two (but make no mistake, all of the rooms I’m describing are still saunas!) and I felt like I could’ve stayed longer.

The Blue Onyx Room was said to have some cosmetic benefits, so if you want to get rid of wrinkles and freckles, this may be your room. It wasn’t particularly remarkable to me, but the ceiling was very pretty to look at.

I’ve saved my two favorites for last! The Salt Room was aimed at the ladies. Made out of Himalayan salt, it is said to help with female diseases and disorders. The plaque also said that salt is supposed to help open your pores and purify your skin, thus helping with acne. I tried to spend a good five to ten minutes in this room. The heat was not unbearable, but I think I could’ve stayed in there longer than I did. Also, I just like this room because well, it was made out of salt and I love salt. No, I did not lick the walls!

So what’s my absolute favorite? That would be the Red Clay Ball Room! Yes, this room, which is slightly larger than some of the other rooms, is probably a favorite of many guests’. The floor of the room is a ball pit filled with many thousands of little red and purplish-colored spheres. You are supposed to step into the pit and lie in the clay balls, covering yourself with them if you like. If you want more heat, you can go around the corner in the room and lie closer to the heater. This room was more crowded than the others, but I didn’t mind. It was noisier as well because the balls make lots of noise as you roll around in them and get yourself settled, and there are a lot of people rolling around. The little clay balls are the same size and hardness of marbles, so when you step down into them you will want to be careful as it can be both slippery and painful. But once you lie down, it’s pure bliss. (I crawled on hands and knees to my place in the room and my sister laughed at me.) My sister noted that the clay balls smelled like feet, which is true, but you’re only going to notice that if you make a point of smelling them! (The clay balls closer to the wall did not smell like feet!) The little marbles get tracked out of the room sometimes and we got a good laugh out of seeing random ones elsewhere in the spa.

While those are all the sauna rooms in the common area, they aren’t the last of the poultice rooms: there is also a Blue Onyx Ice Room. The Ice Room has its own entryway with bench, and then the actual ice room itself is much smaller than the sauna rooms. There are six stones you can sit on in the room. The walls and ceiling are covered in a thick sheet of ice and you feel like you are in a walk-in freezer. Since the room is so small, the people in this room seem to be more social than in the other rooms; other guests were very chatty with us where they typically just did their own thing elsewhere. Kids also seem to come in this room more than the sauna rooms. (I would guess they aren’t allowed in the saunas.) Although you aren’t supposed to draw or write in the ice, this rule is obviously disregarded as you can see hand-etched graffiti all over the icy walls. The room is chilly (of course 🙂 and while I don’t recall the exact temp, I would put it at slightly above freezing. Make sure you take a towel with you to sit on in case all the stones are taken. The room does a splendid job of shrinking your pores and it feels good after being in the boiling sauna rooms. I was amazed at how my big pores were nearly invisible after coming out of this room!

The gift shop, massage rooms, and salons are all upstairs, as is the fitness room. The fitness room has a whole separate set of rules. It is huge and has plenty of machines, but there’s room for way more machines than are there. There is no additional charge to use the machines that I could tell; I used a few. I didn’t pay for a massage or any typical salon services in this area, so I can’t vouch for those. I didn’t buy anything from the gift shop, but there wasn’t that big of a selection. There was a plastic laundry ball being prominently displayed that looked kind of cool, but when I saw that it cost 40 bucks, I lost interest.

Wow, so there’s a lot to do at this place, right? Well, I’m not even done talking about it! The remainder of our tour will take you through Spa World’s giant Bade Pool room and the fabulous things you can find there. There is a LOT to tell about this area of the spa … so I’m going to save that for another entry. Stay tuned for Part II!

Ramble On

I’m pretty certain I just finished up my Quantitative Analysis class with an A. I had some missteps here and there, but overall, a good run. I can’t recall the last time I made a final grade of A in a math class, but it definitely wasn’t any time within the last 14 years. This time around, I was surprised to find myself having fun with equations that used to scare me in college-level calculus. I mean, math is really just a series of puzzles to figure out (which is why my sister professes enjoyment of it as well). Not how I’d typically choose to spend my evenings, but the ease with which I was able to work through most problems was a relief. My professor was positively delighted when I shared these thoughts with him. Even a three-part equation with a multitude of insane symbols that took me far too long to work through was interesting at worst. I used to hate math. Now I’m guessing I should’ve just applied myself and quit goofing off, and it would’ve been cake in the end.

I’m on my final two courses which have the potential to be brutal. One class alone requires three very expensive textbooks which are going to break my bank. I rented one from Chegg and I suppose I’ll do the same with the others. Once I finish these classes, I will be prepped and ready to go to begin studying for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Now, in one class alone, we have an Excel sheet analysis, a short one-page paper, a charter to prepare with a group, another, larger introductory analysis paper, a one page journal explaining how I would apply all of these principles to my work, and, oh yeah, a 60-minute timed exam. This is all within the FIRST week alone, and for just ONE class, and in addition to working on my overall final research for the degree. I feel like that is kind of a lot. Heh. I am hoping to keep up my current grade average which is a 3.9.

I went ahead and bought into the Glowelle beauty drink mix craze. I did notice big changes in my skin. I almost wish I hadn’t so that I wouldn’t feel the need to continue spending $89 on this remedy each month. I am currently researching the exact amounts of ingredients found in Glowelle and seeing if it’s possible for me to make my own skin smoothie every day instead (or several smoothies). That’s a lot of tomatoes though! Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ve personally discovered with Glowelle:

Pros of Glowelle: Raspberry Jasmine flavor tastes pretty good and is easy to chug down. Provides incentive to drink 16 more fl. oz. of water per day. Noticed VERY smooth and soft skin beginning with day 5. Breakouts noticeably reduced and far less severe when they do occur. Breakouts clear faster and leave fewer and lighter scars. Increased energy. Able to concentrate better. Stick packs are easy to transport and mix easily with water. Valuable source of some vitamins and minerals. (Great work-out drink!) Most ingredients are all things that we have heard of before.
Cons of Glowelle: Pomegranate Lychee flavor tastes like mashed-up potpourri leaves mixed with water — in other words, horrible. (AVOID.) Cheapest price for a box of 30 stick packs is $89 on Amazon.com. Each stick pack contains sugar, and 50 calories. Must remember to drink one every day — on days when I forget and decide to drink the beverage close to bedtime, I have a harder time getting to sleep as it does contain tea.

I went to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History in D.C. yesterday with my boyfriend, sister, and brother-in-law. It happened to be the same day that a very large Immigration Rights rally was being held on the National Mall and I got to witness yet another giant protest in action from a witness perspective (rather than a participant as I’ve typically been) which makes me strangely happy. I love America. Despite a long line, we got into the museum fairly quickly and very much enjoyed the new Human Origins exhibit. We also got to see some of the animal skeletons, much of the ocean hall (including the enormous Right Whale hanging from the ceiling), and all of the mammals exhibit, but there’s much more to walk through. We’ll have to return. I believe it’s the third time I’ve been there, possibly fourth, in my life, but it always seems like a new experience.

We ate lunch at the museum’s Atrium Cafe Eric and I split a gigantic burrito for 7 bucks – and had dinner at a little joint on E. Street called Ollie’s Trolley. Crabcake sandwich was alright but would’ve appreciated more seasoning; the seasoned fries, on the other hand, were bangin’ as was the whimsical, old-timey decor.

Enjoy this extremely short video of Sumo we made back in 2006. This was when Eric was first fooling around with YouTube and learning how to make video shorts. The music is the beginning of one of my favorite Donny Hathaway songs, “Jealous Guy.” And man, Sumo was FAT back then!

The Annoyance of Adult Acne (and How I’m Fixing It)

Now that I’m nearing the end of my 20s, I’m hearing a lot of my friends complain about adult acne. I can relate: While rarely cursed with a zit all through high school, my skin suddenly rebelled in my mid-20s. It was never too horrible, but definitely noticeable and irritating. I could go right on an infomercial with my “I tried everything” list: over-the-counter products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, prescription medication, careful attention to soap and detergent ingredients, keeping my phone away from my face, the Zeno zit zapper, drinking more water, vitamins, expensive microdermabrasion, chemical peels, you name it. The only thing I wouldn’t try was a beauty routine a spa tried to sell me, and that’s because it cost over $400 altogether. Here are the only two things that HAVE worked for me:

1) Tea tree oil – It will dry up acne super fast. I use a roll-on stick called Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil which I buy at my local Giant grocery for 8 bucks. You can apply up to 6 times a day, but be careful if you already have very dry skin. I had never thought to use it before because I didn’t associate the word “oil” with anything acne-fighting. It turns out it’s a natural antiseptic. I have read that it is also useful for dandruff.

2) Eliminating dairy from my diet – This was suggested by a doctor at a medical spa I visited. She took one look at me and said, “You drink a lot of milk?” According to her, the ingredients in milk cause many adult women to experience breakouts. She suggested I stop all dairy consumption immediately. I decided to try her suggestion and was shocked when my breakouts stopped – just like that, with no further changes in my routine. My skin completely smoothed out and was clear. Making this change was easier than I thought at first. I swapped out cow’s milk for soy milk, stopped getting cheese on my Subway sandwiches, and used a non-dairy creamer in my coffee at work. But as time went by, this change has gotten harder. The main problem is cheese and chocolate. I cannot seem to stay away from either one. Sure enough, as I’ve started giving in to my desire for cheese, my skin has shown the consequences. The connection is so unbelievably obvious to me that I figured I had to get the word out. I’ve had a huge bounce in traffic to my blog since I switched to WordPress — close to a hundred hits on some days — so I thought some of my newer readers might appreciate the advice! (Or maybe not, if they love cheese as much as I do … 😦