October 31, 2012

A Little Baking Tip To Help Cure Your OCD

I'm not a super neat freak, but nothing bothers me more than a messy counter-top. Coffee grinds are my official pet peeve of counter top messiness, but coffee stains, red wine stains, and toast crumbles all really get my blood boiling. Did I mention that I don't even drink coffee? 

I first discovered my adversion to a messy counter while in second year university. I moved into a house with 6 other lovely students, and although we had three bathrooms, we only had one kitchen. No matter how much I pestered my roommates to clean up, the kitchen mess just didn't seem to bother anyone else as much as it bothered me. In the process I was granted the nickname of "Mom". I was soon making phone calls to my own Mother asking her how she managed to keep a kitchen clean with four kids, a husband, and a dog running around. Her advice: clean it yourself. She was right. 

Two years later, I was down to only 5 other roommates, and I feel like I had chilled out a little bit on the whole cleaning front. I just wiped the counter tops myself when crumbs were left behind, tried not to yell at anyone, and therefore had time for more important things. My new obsessions were the t.v. show Lost and watching hours of cooking shows with my roommate Janette. If Ina Garten(aka the Barefoot Contessa) only knew how much we wanted to be invited to have dinner with her and Stephen. It was our dream to devour a meal made from 4 butter sticks. 

During one of these Food Network marathons, I picked up a tip that has stayed with me for life, and allows me not only to keep a clean counter top, but a clean muffin pan as well! Doesn't everyone hate scraping off those little burnt bits on the pan after the muffins come out of the oven? You can soak them, but then they turn soggy and never seem to totally lift off from the pan. Really, they are a waste of delicious muffin batter and have plagued me for years. 

The trick is simple. After you have made the batter, pour it from the bowl into a large measuring cup, or pitcher with a spout. The spout is key!! From there, pour the batter into the individual cups with ease (see picture above). There will be no batter leakage over the edge had you poured right from the bowl, or any splatter from a spoon. The amount of control you have will blow your mind. Your muffin pan will stay clean, your muffins will be fresh and moist, and your roommates will be happy! Just make sure you use LOTS of butter : )

October 29, 2012

The Blow-dryer Diaries: Part 1

When I was a little girl, my hair was washed about once a week and it was a big procedure. My Mom would wash my hair in her shower or while I was leaning my head over the side of the bathtub. We would then go to her bedroom and she would take my hair and piece, by agonizing piece, she would remove the knots from my hair. Once I was washed and de-knotted (a good hour long process) I was sent to bed with wet hair. My mother would lay a towel over my pillow, which would unknowingly result in more friction and the knots would begin their redevelopment. The cycle was perpetual. 

I wore my hair in two styles back in the day: in a ponytail (with or without a ballet bun), and on the rare occasion the front of my hair was pulled into what my brother's loving called my 'beanstalk". It was usually tied off with a sparkly elastic or a ribbon. This was their favorite part of my hair to pull when they wanted to taunt me. All of this pulling on my hair every day caused "wings" to develop on the side of my head, as well as very large knots in the interior sections of my hair. Cream rinse and knot removal were just a fact of life. 

Throughout high school, the cycle remained the same except that I was washing my own hair (which was now curly and therefore more unruly), and my ponytail was replaced by a messy bun. I desperately wanted long, straight hair like my friends and knew there had to be a way to get it. I would wash my hair at night, sleep on it, and it would still be wet in the morning. Really, I had no idea what I was doing!

By the time I went to university, I was desperate to learn how to style my hair. This was a period in my life of true personal-care revolution. I would blowdry my hair all wild and frizzy, then use an actual iron to straighten it. Eventually I convinced my mother to buy me a straightening flat iron, but I still wasn't getting the effect that I wanted. I liked my hair big, with lots of volume, and bouncy curled ends. I wanted to be Jessica Simpson when she was on the Newlyweds. 

When I would get my hair highlighted I would watch the hair dressers very carefully as they blow-dried my hair. I realized that the blow-dry was the important part. Running a flat iron over frizzy hair would never leave my hair shiny and full of body. I needed to start the process right from the beginning. A round brush and a blowdryer became my new best friends. 

One weekend, my friends and I went to a ski lodge for the weekend. The girls divided up hair tools so we wouldn't have ten of everything and so that we would have more personal space to pack cute lodge outfits. I was in charge of the blow-dryer. I can't recall what type I had back then, but when my friend Lindsay went to blow-dry her own hair, and came to see me appalled. She was shocked at how little power my blow-dryer actually had. She asked how long it took to blow-dry my hair and I told her it took about 45 minutes. She told me that this was  a ridiculous amount of time and urged me to buy a stronger, higher wattage blow-dryer as soon as possible. The blow-dryer I was using was drying my hair at a painfully slow rate and I had just accepted it. How did I not know I could do better? I could also say the same thing about the guy I was dating at the time.

When I get a hair tip, I take it seriously. The first thing I did upon our return to Kingston was run to the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart and buy a new Revlon dryer. I was able to reduce the amount of time it took to blow-dry my hair by about 5-8 minutes and I felt good about myself. My technique was still rusty, but I was feeling like I had solved the problem. What I didn't know was that this saga would continue well into my late twenties and that even better blow-dryers would soon enter my life. 

Tune in on Friday for the finale of the Blow-dryer Diaries. 

October 26, 2012

Online Dating Deconstructed: Which Site Is Best?

When I first decided to online date in 2009, I was young, pretty broke and went for  a site I'd heard about on the dance floor at Whisky Bar. It's name was POF, or Plenty of Fish.

1. Plenty of Fish: On POH there are a lot of attractive 20 year old men and a lot of creepy, creepy men, but it is free! Plenty of Fish is not my cup of tea. I've talked to many beautiful woman who were constantly messaged by creepy, creepy men hiding behind their computers looking for an easy hook-up or just to feel better about themselves. If you are looking for a man who will treat you well, and who is serious about dating, then it's a good sign if he has invested a little bit of money in the process. 

Amelia's advice: Stay away from Free dating sites! If a man uses "ur", "x-perienced" or has any spelling mistakes in his profile, stay away!

2. Eharmony. This is the site where I met most solid guys I went on first dates with. The problem is that it is not cheap. A one month's membership costs $60, three months is $120 ($40/mth), and a year's membership is $240. They recommend at least 3 months of surfing around and I completely agree. 

Now here is the awesome part. You never have to pay full price! Search for 'eHarmony promo codes' through Google, and I guarantee you will find a discount. I ended up buying three months for only $20. 

eHarmony uses the guided communication format which is a lot less intimidating than random searching. They will send you a few "matches" each day which comes with a few guy's profiles, Take a look at the whole profile, and if you're AT ALL interested, send them your first 5 pre-selected multiple choice questions. These are questions that you want the men to answer about themselves. Try to select questions based on why you're last relationships didn't work out, or based on what you know you need in a relationship. 

I was matched with a few guys who were interverts and I knew this was an issue for me (as an extreme extrovert). I asked the question, "how much time do you need to yourself", right off the bat. If they needed a lot "personal time" to themselves for quiet reflection, then I knew this was a deal breaker and I would close the match. It's very good to know yourself!

The beauty of eHarmony is that you can meet someone slowly through their 4 steps, or if you really like their profile you can skip everything and email them right away. I always felt that every guy I communicated with on eHarmony was serious about dating, and most likely had a decent job. Their site has some great tips of how to get started. 

The downfall is that after the matches run out in your city, you may not get a match for several days, or even a week. February seems to be their busy season and the summer is quiet. Doesn't everyone want someone warm to cuddle up to in the cold winter months? I had a couple of friends who said they were getting no matches at all during the summer months. 

3. Lavalife: The great thing about Lavalife, or the Lamp, is that woman do not need to pay for communication, but guys do! On this sight you can search for men based on a set of criteria, including height, weight, body type, key words, etc. If someone interests you put them on your hot list, send a smile, then wait for them to respond through a message. Most of the guys will respond unless they're not really using the site anymore. It does tell you when they were last online.

There are different ways for them the men to contact you such as email,and instant messaging, It is worth taking the time to figure out how to respond to both and where a new message is indicated. It confused me for a while. Don't respond if you don't want to. Some of the instant messaging guys can be creepy and sexual.

If you want to have more control you can upgrade to a paid membership, which enables you to send emails and instant messages, customize your online searches, see which members have searched for you, and view member videos. A one month membership costs $35 and a three months cost $60. There are few free communication months throughout the year (definitely February) though, so keep your eyes out. 

The profiles here are harder to create because you get a big space to write in and nothing to guide you. My recommendation is to look at a bunch of guys profiles,  see what appeals to you the most, then this style to write your own profile. I always like the 10 things about me approach. I'll post more about profiles later!

Amelia's advice: Try eHarmony if its your first time on the online scene and supplement with Lavalife. 

October 24, 2012

Tip #3 - Don't Floss Your Teeth

Well, not quite. I have always hated flossing my teeth, and really I think I've only met a couple of odd balls out there who look forward to getting their hands wet in their mouth while they put a thin piece of wax thread through their teeth.

At my annual visit in August, my dental hygienist seem to be fairly certain that I wasn't flossing at all despite my usual lie that I flossed a couple times a week. If you have ever told your dentist, or hygienist that you were flossing or even brushing more than you really were to avoid persecution, then this tip is for you.

My lovely Mother, who had gum surgery a few years ago as a result of bad genes and little flossing has been searching for an easy flossing solution for years. One of her girlfriends, and my godmother, Pam had the solution. G.U.M Soft Picks!!

G.U.M Soft Picks have a, "flexible rubber bristle that slide between the teeth to help safely remove plaque and food particles". They stimulate the gum, help fight gingivitis, fit between your teeth and have a little handle to keep your fingers dry! What else could you ask for?

My Mom immediately went to Costco and bought a case for herself, then gave me a pack of 80 picks (with a travel case for $6.25). I can't stop using them now!! I use the picks in the car, in the shower, while watching t.v., and after drinking a glass (or three ) of merlot.

I shared the tip with my girlfriends, and now they are addicted too!! If you've ever lied, or been afraid to see your dentist, then G.U.M Soft Picks are for you!

October 22, 2012

Online Dating Deconstructed: It's Just A Numbers Game

Back in 2009, I was single and ready to mingle. I was 26 years old and had been single for just over a year. This single year had definitely been the best year of my twenties. I had landed a contract job teaching math (which was a great pick up line at bars), I had just bought my first car, had laser eye surgery, I paid off my OSAP by living with my parents, then had a magical three months living in my Aunt and Uncle's house while they were in Florida. I watched every season of Nip Tuck during this time, and hosted some amazing girls nights.  Life was good, but I was ready to venture back into the awkward world of dating. 

The only problem was I didn't know where to meet any men!! My social circle was mainly limited to other single girls searching for love, and the only single man I even encountered at work was my older brother. My options were limited. I took my good friend Rochelle's advice and went online. I signed up for a profile on Plenty of Fish and I saw a profile of a guy my brother had previously tried to set me up with. I contacted him and we set a time for a first date. I liked him so we dated for over a year, had an exhausting break-up, and a year and a bit later I was right back where I started. 

The second time around I knew a little bit more about the online world and how to navigate. I made a profile on eHarmony, then went to Europe for three weeks. (Side Note: This is not helpful when trying to online date. You should be in the city you want to date in). Upon my return, I met the first guy I started to email then we started dating. He was funny, and we had a couple months together, then you guessed it: OVER!

The third time I around, I did some research and made an account on eHarmony and Lavalife. Going off some amazing advice I went along with the motto, "It's just a number's game". I knew I had to get out there, meet as many guys I could, and not put any pressure on any one guy to become my eventual husband. I had to stop dating the first guy I met just because he looked good on paper. 

After going on more first dates than I care to list (okay, it's only about 6 guys but this was during the month of January and going out in -30C weather while trying to still look presentable seemed like a lifetime), I met my darling boyfriend Erik. I knew I liked him immediately,  and wanted to see him again as soon as possible. We didn't play any games, and were soon, and still are, madly in love. 

Together we compiled some do's and don't of online dating. He had been in and out of the online world since 2008, and together we felt like we had seen it all. I will post a series of Online Dating Deconstructed posts, based on our joint experiences. First up...which site is best?

October 19, 2012

The Bay: How I Love Thee

 My love affair with The Bay has been up and down like any good dysfunctional relationship. As a child I only have a few shopping memories. The first is trying on about 40 bathing suits at Sears around the age of 8. My sway back was causing my Mother and I some trouble with the fitting, so we felt it was important to try on every single size 8 swim suit in the store. We settled on a scandalous side cut-out suit, with four little bows that held the two sides together. You can imagine how great my tan lines were that summer.

My second memory is going to The Bay in grade 4. We purchased a smashing pair of magenta pink shorts with purple trim, then the matching purple and pink layered tank top, and the matching purple t-shirt. Who knew I would be putting together two outfits, with three simple pieces. I wore this outfit until the seams were frayed.

Back in 1995 there was no La Senza girl, Gap Junior, or Old Navy in Ottawa so the Bay and Sears were our only options for respectable children's clothing. I guess I should admit that only a year later I was rocking several sweatsuits from Cotton Ginny and Northern Reflections. This is a part of my past that I am not proud of, but I wasn't the only girl wearing a "Spice Mice" shirt on the playground. I'd still go for a good stirup pant today. 

Fast forward into my high school days, and I wouldn't be caught dead walking through the Bay, let along purchasing anything. My Mom has always been a very strong supporter of The Bay herself and never wavered from the store during this time difficult time. Sure, she would support me buying the exact same semi-formal dress as everyone else at Jacob, but I knew deep down that she wanted to get me into something Jones New York.

By the time I entered university, I started to realize that there were certain things that The Bay just did right. I would drop by on weekends when I lived in Kingston for a pair of tights, an umbrella, or maybe a pair of shoes. I would also buy all of my brother's their Christmas sweaters at this surprisingly diverse store. Once I entered the work world and my taste in clothing was starting to mature, the Bay went through the same transition. Suddenly, I was dropping by to check out a pair of Jessica Simpson jeggings that my roommate Ashley had recommended. I was swinging by after work to grab a Guess bathing suit that actually came in my size. I was bringing friends on weekends to look through their shoe department or to grab some Clinique lipgloss. I don't know exactly when it happened, but all of the sudden I was madly in love with the Bay!

My favourite things about the Bay are Bay Days, weekend sales, and my HBC mastercard. Where else in the mall can you buy designer clothing on sale? It seems like everytime I drop in to pick up a gift from someone's registry, a new set of towels, or a pair of panties, I get them for 15% off! Use my HBC credit card, and its another 15% off!! It's madness really. 

The Bay has really changed their line over the past couple of years, and now a twenty something like myself can find almost everything I need for my wardrobe in one stop. If you haven't been by the Bay recently, what are you waiting for?

October 17, 2012

Tip #2: The warm housecoat

Do you have an air vent in your bathroom? Do you have the heat set to come on when you wake up in the morning?

Throw your bathrobe, or towel over the vent before you get into the shower. 

When you get out, the robe will be nice and warm and will make waking up at 6:30am all that more enjoyable. 

October 15, 2012

Are you wearing the right size?

This story begins in Grade 8. I was a very late developer (if you know what I mean). I don't think I even started wearing a bra until the middle of 8th grade. My best friend at the time was very supportive of my situation and constantly reminded me that I was as flat as a board, and that some day, if I was lucky, I might be able to compete with her blossoming 32A's. 

Fast forward to Grade 12, and I was rocking out in a 36C. I was loving life and she was still wearing a 32A. I wouldn't normally criticize someone for having a small cup size, in fact I am sometimes a little jealous of their ability to wear a low cut top and show off their elegant chest without the sluttiness of huge boobs cracking through the sides. In this case, I was glowing in the fact that I was teased mercilessly by someone who hadn't grown a larger cup since we were 14. My boobs and I felt good. 

With these new found boobs, I was wearing low cut tops, bouncing away on the dance floor and overflowing out of bathing suit tops I bought on the beach in Acapulco (I later gave away that bathing suit to my cousin, which I still regret). I even bought a couple of Air Bras where the padding is a little package of air. I really didn't need this extra lift, but I did know enough not to buy a water bra. Man were those heavy!

The Panache Superbra
As I entered university I was blessed to grown yet another size into a traditional 36D (or so I thought!). My boobs continued to bring me love, and prosperity, and containing them was easy while wearing lululemons and hoodies. 

Enter the work world. Five years ago, I began teaching and started to wearing button up blouses. This is where my padded bras from La Senza started to give me trouble. I just couldn't get that middle button to stay shut and was always adding pins to keep them closed, or with the help of my mother, sewing them shut. 

My cousin was getting married at the end of that September and my Aunt was on the search for a great strapless bra. One of her girlfriends told her about a new store in Westboro called BraChic: a bra fitting boutique. She went, bought a great strapless bra and couldn't be more pleased. What she was surprised about the most was that they had measured her for a completely different size than what she had been wearing for 50 years! My cousin also went for a visit, and came home with several bras also in a size that she had never imagined. I knew that I had to visit this store for myself! What I didn't know, what that my life and how I wore my shirts was about to change forever...

Locked and Loaded in style
I arrived at BraChic and was instantly in awe of all of the lace, silk, and colours before me. Almost all of the bras in the store come from the UK where they clearly understand the needs of woman better than us in North America. I guess Margaret Thatcher did more for her country that we ever imagined! 

The sales ladies were so kind, calming and they really knew their bras. I knew I wanted a strapless bra and a black bra. At the time they only sold two different styles of strapless bras because they knew that these ones were the best. She first measured me and declared me to a smaller band size, and a MUCH larger cup size than I had been wearing. Much to my boyfriends dismay, I don't need to give you my actual size, but it just sounded crazy to me and  is not available in any traditional bra shop. She explained that I had a small rib cage, and that every inch my bosom expanded from my chest was an extra cup size. I was wearing 6 inches of extra bra that I didn't even need!

I bought the two bras, thanked her profusely and went home to try on all of my clothes. My shirts now buttoned, cleavage didn't spill out of dresses, and I felt about 10 pounds thinner. I promptly got rid off all of the other bras and committed myself to a life of well fitting clothes. 

Fantasie's Fabulous Strapless Bra
Since that fateful day, I have purchased more bras from BraChic, but also discovered I can order my rare size on eBay direct from UK stores for around $30/bra. I love the brand Panache and have never found trouble finding exactly what I need. This is also a great site to browse for lots of different style available.

I have recommended BraChic to every large breasted, and even small breasted friend I have ever encountered and not one has been disappointed. I can't express to you how many friends have put finding their perfect bra size on the backburned, then finally took the time to go get properly measured. Every single one of them thanked me, and went on to recommend BraChic to other girlfriends. Fortunately, I discovered my proper size while in my twenties, and I hope you can do the same.

Who would want to burn their bras when they are this comfortable?

October 13, 2012

Try it Dry: Tip #1

The dry shampoo I am currently using is Algemarin in the 
orange bottle (it also comes in a blue bottle). I came about discovering this shampoo after I left my Oscar Blandi at a friends over of the weekend. I've only ever seen Algemarin at pharmacies in Quebec for about $7, but it is well worth the trip! I have a very dry scalp (which is odd considering how little I wash my hair) and I was able to purchase this shampoo that is safe for a sensitive scalp! 

 I throw it on before I jump in the shower, cover my hair in a shower cap, let it emulsify with the oils in my hair, then blowdry my hair to re-style it. Bam! Gorgeous hair ready to go for another day, or 4. 

They also make a slightly cheaper line called Batiste. This is available at every Shoppers for only $5! Their webpage is awesome and give dares you to "try it dry". 

Note: Algemarin is actually a powder in a can and will cover everything in your room with a small film if you apply it with little direction. Obviously the first time you use it you'll be so excited that your glass of red wine on the counter will end up being covered with a white coating. This is a normal response and don't let it discourage you. 

October 11, 2012

Science's Gift to Woman: Dry Shampoo

I have thick brown, curly, dry, frizzy hair. My hair didn't used to be this way. When I was a toddler I had blonde ringlets that strangers used to come up and touch as my Mom carted me around in my stroller. As a little girl I had wavy brown hair, then I hit puberty and BAM! curls. When in high school I had absolutely no idea how to tame my hair or wear it any other way than in a "messy" bun. Anyone who knows me before the age of 20 would best know me this way. It was my look, not because I liked it, but I didn't know what to do!

As I ventured into university I desperately wanted to learn how to style my hair. My first attempt was on route to an interview at Blockbuster video. I put on my favourite hot pink pencil skirt and a black t-shirt with my first name sewed on in sequins (glorious, I know). I then laid my head on my parent's ironing board, and proceeded to literally iron my hair straight. To be honest the results were pretty good, and I only managed a few scalp burns from the hot steam. This was my method of styling for some time and since it took so long to straighten my hair I wanted to preserve it for as long as possible. Hair washing, sudden downpours and swimming became my worst enemy!

I was able to leave my hair for about 3 days before the grease began taking over my roots and I'd be forced to wash my hair. Then it was back to the blow drier for 40 minutes to start the process all over again. 
My friend Lindsay and I at the campus convenience store, Rez express. I am wearing my trademark messy bun, and Linds wears her hair in a rare shade of brown (poorly applied by a lady with massive hands weeks prior to his pic). She is a stellar blonde now. 

Years passed. I was no longer using an iron, or a flat iron to style my hair, and was now proficient enough to use a round brush and a blowdryer. I've kept my in general fairly long for the most part, and even though my styling techniques have improved significantly, it still took me a good 30 minutes to dry my hair. I still wanted to preserve my hair and minimize the number of blow dries as much as possible. 

Enter my friend Lindsay. Lindsay has beautiful blonde, wavy hair and like myself hates blowdrying her hair. She has also been seeking a way of preserving a good blowdry. Upon a visit to Toronto, Lindsay let me use her newest discovery. She led me to the bathroom and gave me a tall, and thin white bottle with a cap like a bottle of mustard. "This", she told me, "is Oscar Blandi dry shampoo". 

I had never even heard of dry shampoo before but I knew I was hooked. Unlike baby powder which a few of the girls were using, Oscar Blandi was a thin, smooth powder that smelt like lemons. When you sprinkle it on your roots it absorbs the oil, and gives your hair a nice amount of volume. I knew my life had just changed. Using this dry shampoo, I was able to wash and blow dry my hair once to twice a week. I know this sound disgusting to some, but I felt that the longer I waited between washes, the better my hair was looking. I was now getting to sleep in more days every week, and I was able to get ready for work in 30 minutes. With results like these, who would ever want to wash their hair again?!

The Shellac: Part 2

My darling boyfriend, Erik is very much a "do-it-yourself" kind of guy. He makes his own beer and wine, cheese, cream cheese, and if we were allowed to have chicken in our backyard we'd have our own eggs too. He knew how much I loved the shellac, and how I was trying to save as much money as I could to pay off my final school debts. He proposed doing the shellac myself at home. This sounded like an incredible plan, until I started researching the price of the materials (eeek!). 

For those of you who do not know how shellac works, it requires a base coat, 2 coats of colour, and a top coat (just like regular polish), but each layer needs to be baked up to 3 minutes under a UV light. The polish is very specific as well, and cannot be purchased at any beauty supply store or drug store. 

 Sina? Lina?
I got online and went to my favourite Chinese webpage DHgate.com. I know I should support the local economy, but their prices and selection are just too good to pass up! I purchased a UV light for around $30, and a base and top coat for $10. In Canada, each colour or coat coats $30 and lights can go as high as $200/each. I didn't have this kind of budget. 

The really cheap stuff I originally bought, called Lina or Sina (the first letter is very hard to decode) was TERRIBLE. It would bake on, but never adhered to the nail. I went back and did a little research and bought some better quality stuff for $20, but five colours of polish for $25. My little home business was up and running for under $100. 

It took many attempts over several months to really get my shellac to last more than a week. As an art teacher, I am constantly getting my hands dirty and wash them about 20 times a day. The shellac on my index fingers and thumbs couldn't handle the rigorous challenges I was putting them through. Finally, on a desperate attempt to really get this stuff working, I went one more time to the salon to watch a professional apply the polish. I knew there was a special way to apply the polish, and since I paint a lot, I knew I could handle it if someone showed me how. 
Problem chips!
The trick I was missing was that I wasn't "wrapping" the nail with every coat. I found the tips of how to do it hereThis was the pivotal part of the puzzle that I was missing!!! Three weeks later I soaked off the polish with acetone, and applied the polish slowly ensuring I was wrapping each coat and not getting anything on my cuticles. So far its been a bad success! I was so excited I went back and ordered 5 more colours. 

Today my nails look great, they don't chip, and 30 minutes every 2 weeks is all of the time I have to spend on my nails. I know Erik is very happy he doesn't have to hear about my nails every day anymore!!

The Shellac: Part 1

As long as I can remember I've been a nail biter (except for the brief period of 1998-2003 when I denied it). My ballet teacher and some friends would tell me it was disgusting and that I was putting my self at risk for germs. Germs have really never been something that have bothered me, so this didn't faze me (good try people). Other people were just grossed out by my knawed off cuticles, or how often I have my fingers in my mouth. I could see how this would be a tad annoying. 

When I started on the dating scene post university, I started to become aware that on a first date guys really didn't want to see me having a pre-dinner snack on my nails. I knew I had to do something!

I had many stints (including my original quitting time in 1998, Grade 9) when I started wearing nail polish to curb my bad habit. The problem with nail polish became that it seemed to chip off the second it was dry. As someone already obsessed with looking at my nails I could not handle looking at chipped polish, and how immediately have to remove polish from the entire nail. Even once I discovered base and top polish, I couldn't see to get the polish to remain chip proof for more than 3 days. I'd wear polish and correct the nails over and over for a month or so then quit and go back to natural nails and biting. 

Enter 2012. My dear friend Lindsay was getting married, and my bestie Sarah was going to be one of the bridesmaids. She was going on and on about having her nails shellaced at the salon and how great the results were. The nails didn't chip or peel and were glossy and shiny for up to 3 weeks. I'd never had a manicure done before and I wasn't really excited about getting addicted to something that was going to empty my pocket book. When I got signed up to be a bridesmaid a few weeks later, I figured I would try it out. 

I only got a clear coat done since they didn't have any colours, but in this salon visit, the history of my nails would change forever. 

My nails suddenly became thick, they didn't bend, they were strong and nothing chipped off. I left that shellac on for about a month just painting my regular polish on over top. When they grow out line became a tad too extreme, I went to the salon and had a bright tangerine shellac applied. Again, I loved it. People were complementing my nails for the first time in my life. The only problem was the price. Shellac is more expensive than regular polish, so each manicure was $35. I knew I needed a way to fuel my addiction at a lower cost...

The Mesh Chignon

When I was a little girl, I had long, thick hair and when I went to ballet class I had a nice, thick bun on the crown of my head. Twenty years later, and although my hair is still fairly thick, it is no longer one length and all of my layers have led to a very small bun. I've tried to make it bigger, but it in evidently always collapses : (

A few weeks ago my girlfriends and I were meeting up on a Friday night for our International Dinner club at a fondue restaurant, then were going to come back to my house to watch Season 1 of Paradise Hotel and have a sleep-over. Really, we had the ultimate Friday night planned. Boy, was I not prepared for how much my life was going to change that night. 

My lovely friend Amy has the most gorgeous, thick, long, shiny, glossy brunette hair. It's really something to be envied. Like myself, she is always in search for great new hair products. I received a text before we met for dinner saying that she had just purchased a new "hair foundation" that day at Sally's Beauty Supplies and that it would blow my mind. After a fabulous dinner we came back to my house and Amy revealed her secret. 

She had purchased a mesh chignon (what Sally calls it), or a hair donut bun (what the Chinese call it). 

In short, by placing it over your ponytail, and wrapping your hair around it, you can create a large bun on the crown of your head that won't collapse or fall out. My dreams of having a great bun were now realized!!

I was heading off the Europe the next week where I knew it was going to be very hot and that I'd have to pull my hair up often. The bun proved to be my "go to" look for the whole trip. I was so excited in fact that I had my boyfriend take pictures of me and my bun in various locations across Rome and Croatia. It got a little obsessive if you can imagine!
In Hvar, Croatia

At the Vatican
In Dubrovnik

Here is a quick video to show how to use the big bun properly. 

You can purchase the mesh chignon from Sally for about $5, or I bought 10 buns from China for $14. Each of my friends will be receiving their own mesh bun. It will be an Oprah moment for me, "you get a bun, you get a bun, you get a bun".

In the hot summer months, or at a glamourous Christmas party, who cares about a free car when everyone will be looking at your huge hair bun!