An Ode to the Perfect Ballet Bun

The Perfect Ballet bun is very tight, very neat, and very controlled. It sits close to the head at the back of the skull, flowing organically from the back of the head in a way that accentuates the line of the neck and the shape of the head. It is pulled tight back, each hair neat and confined within the bun, with no stray hairs marring the line. The bun itself is coiled as flat against the head as possible to avoid unnecessary protrusion. It remains neat. It can withstand eight hours of training and rehearsal and grands battements and grands jetés. Which is to say, it can likely withstand Armageddon and remain polished and perfect.

MY perfect ballet bun is quite another story.

My perfect ballet bun happens at five thirty in the morning, after not enough sleep, no shower, and no breakfast. It happens even before my first cup of tea, which is a feat in itself, as very little happens before my first cup of tea. It walks a delicate tightrope, being tight enough not to fail structurally at a crucial moment, and yet not so tight that it gives me a headache. The subway will take care of that on its own and needs no help from my hair. It does not lie flat against my head, as my hair is too thick to coil flat. Instead, it piles up in a rough coil atop my head, leaving the back of my head unimpeded should I feel the need to lie down on my back on the mat and surrender to muscle fatigue at any time.

It is not neat and controlled, and yet it is not exactly messy, as messiness in my personal appearance just isn’t in my nature. My perfect ballet bun is vast. It contains multitudes. That’s part of why it’s so big, not just because my hair is thick enough to braid ropes and destroy elastic bands.

My ballet bun is held up with handmade, heavy-duty Amish steel. Four three-inch pins give it structural integrity. Sometimes my hair starts to reject them and then have to be nudged back in because my hair does not take kindly to discipline or interlopers. But I am the master of my hair. Sometimes.

My ballet bun withstands a 45-minute subway ride, a short walk, and a 50-minute barre class with only minimal wisping. But by the time I finish class, it shows signs of wear. It releases tendrils at the back of the neck and at my temples. And small pieces start to work their way out of the bun itself. I like to think it looks romantic and chic, but mostly it looks tired and probably a little greasy from the sweat.

But my ballet bun serves. It keeps my hair out of my face during pliés and Pilates, during aerials, and even, when it make it a bit neater, during a day of work at the office. It does accentuate the line of my neck and the grace of a body that still hasn’t completely forgot to be a dancer. And that’s why it’s my perfect ballet bun.

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My Morning Workout: Barre

So, since the last post I made, about skin care when life gets hectic, life got hectic and I very clearly did not prioritize blogging. Sorry, guys. Anyway, today I thought I’d talk a little bit about my current favorite morning workout: Barre fitness. Those of you who look at my Instagram story may have noticed the odd early-morning story about being on my way to the gym at an absurd time of day.

A caveat: I only go to Barre class once a week because it’s not the most convenient or inexpensive way to work out. But it is something I enjoy doing and I’ve definitely noticed some positive improvements in my body. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m sometimes a dancer, and even returned to ballet class as a thirty-year-old several years ago. Sadly, my new job in the city means that I don’t have the schedule flexibility to go to ballet class as often, plus my evenings are often monopolized by rehearsals, so exercise classes fall by the wayside.

So I needed to find something that I could do before work in the morning. Something that was convenient to work and that I found interesting. So when I found a gym near my downtown subway stop that offered Pilates and Barre classes, I thought I’d check it out. I signed up for a five-day unlimited trial and managed to go to three classes in five days. And, despite the general feeling of wobbliness of the legs that resulted, I’m glad I did. I managed to find a Barre teacher who I liked far above the other two, and she teaches at a time where I can go to class, wash up, and get to my desk on time with a bit of breakfast on the way.

Now, every Tuesday morning, I wake up at 5:30 a.m., confuse the cat, upset Fiancé, and irritate my internal clock, pack a large handbag with a change of clothes, and get on a 6-a.m. train downtown. I get there in time to stop for a cuppa with milk and sugar because by this time, my body has realized that I’m about to ask it to do things and it wants calories and caffeine first. Then, I make my way a few blocks down and settle in at the gym. I sip my tea and maybe stretch a bit. Lately the room has been rather warm, which is quite nice for a class that requires a bit of flexibility.

When class starts, the instructor leads us through some warm-ups, arm exercises, and then takes us to the barre for stretching, pliés, degagés, and other exercises. It’s very effective at making my muscles shake and cry out, but lately I’ve noticed that as I continue going to class once a week, I’m seeing an improvement in my alignment and stamina. Plus, I just feel graceful, bendy, and strong when I walk out, rather than bleary and a bit sweaty. As my schedule clears up after my next show, I may find myself committing to more Barre mornings, honestly, despite the fact that it’s a bit expensive.

The main thing I like both about Barre in general and about this teacher in particular is that she grounds the class in dance technique, rather than just making it about the burn. She calls the exercises by their ballet names, and even has us do things like pirouette prep exercises. Other Barre classes I went to treat it more like a Pilates class with a bar in the middle. And while I do appreciate a good Pilates class, when I go to Barre, I’m trying to reconnect with my inner ballerina. And this way, I can.

How I Prioritize Skin Care When Life Gets Hectic

Right now, I’m in rehearsal for a play that rehearses three weeknights per week, plus I work a full-time job with a more-then-one-hour commute each way. It’s basically easier to think about how much time I spend in my house (and awake) than how much time I spend away from home. So even though I don’t have children, my life has gotten pretty hectic for me.

Yet, I’ve been striving to maintain my somewhat-complicated skin care routine because it really gives me results I need to maintain a decent level of positive self-image. Having a giant spot does nothing for my mood. So today I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I’ve planned, designed, and schedule my personal routine to make it possible to maintain, even when life doesn’t allow a leisurely few hours for doing my toilette.

First of all, I try to focus more on inactive steps to see where I can fit skin care in while I do other things. In the morning, I’m making tea, making meals for the day, dressing, and checking emails. I try to make the actual time I spend at my vanity brief and use the time doing other things to let steps sit. So I’ll put on my vitamin C serum, and then go make my lunch, for example. Or I’ll apply sunscreen before I get dressed and do my hair to give it time to settle in before I do my makeup.

In the evening, I do have one serious-active step that needs to sit for at least 20 minutes for optimal effectiveness, but I’ve found that my skin is actually happier if I limit that product to three times a week, so I try to choose nights when I’m not coming home at 10 p.m. from rehearsal. And I generally save special skin treatments like masks for the weekend, particularly Sunday night when I try not to have anything else going on. I once had a director who wanted to have rehearsal Sunday nights and it totally threw me off.

Finally, my secret weapon is that I’ve designed my skin care routine so that I have a minimum acceptable routine. If it’s really late at night and I need to just get to bed, I can cleanse my skin and slap on some cream in a few minutes, so I do that. And if I’m up super-early and don’t need to be somewhere with a full face of makeup, I know I can splash with water and throw on sunscreen. I’ve chosen products that work for that. It’s not something I’d maintain long term. But once in a while, I let myself off the hook. As long as I wash my face before bed. Of course.

Quick Recipe: Apple Porridge for a Chilly Autumn Morning

Well, it’s certainly getting cold around here lately. Yesterday, we had sleet and rain all day. By the time I got home, I was soaked through and chilled to the bone. It was a nice evening for curling up under blankets with hot tea, hot cocoa, and hot food. Fiancé grabbed a heating pad to help with a sore muscle he had and TweedCat discovered that he was extra-cozy because of it, so he got the cat. But I had plenty of warmth with blankets, shawls, and warm things in my belly.

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This morning, the rain had passed, but it was still quite chilly. I always find myself gravitating towards porridge the instant the temperature dips below any semblance of warmth, so I put together one of my favorite quick breakfasts to take to work. I add diced fruit to my porridge before cooking it, which bulks it up, adds a bit of nutrition, and sweetens it lightly. I also added some warming spices, and topped the whole thing with nut butter for protein and fat. It preps in minutes, cooks in minutes, and is a lovely, hearty, warming breakfast for a chilly morning.

Apple Porridge

1/4 cup quick cooking steel cut oats
1/2 apple, diced
scant 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. each of ginger and allspice
3/4 cup of water

Add the ingredients to a tupperware or mason jar in the order given. It’s important to put the oats at the bottom to ensure they’re thoroughly hydrated. Seal up the container and take wherever you are going. When you are ready to cook them, give the container a little shake and empty the mixture into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes on half power, then stir, and then microwave for another 2-1/2 minutes on half power, or until cooked. Top with butter, nut butter, sweetener, or whatever strikes your fancy. Makes one serving.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Recap

Well, it’s December, and NaNoWriMo is over for this year. Once again, I reached my 50,000 word goal, and I managed to actually wrap up the story I was writing. This year was interesting because I found myself floundering early on, got my groove back on my writer’s retreat, and then lost it again toward the end when I got distracted by a new project.

First things first: I did officially win NaNoWriMo. I actually wrote my novel in 26 days because I started a few days late after scrapping my original idea, and then I managed to cross the finish line a couple days early. This year was probably one of the hardest years because I both cared about the story I was writing and yet lost interest in it as the month went on. I also pretty much did the whole thing by the seat of my pants, which wasn’t a new thing for me, but it was a new thing that it mostly worked out.

I’m definitely putting this story away for a while. Probably a few months at least. While there may be something salvageable, I think it’s going to take a bit of distance before I can even consider rewriting or editing. But who knows?

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep that NaNo magic going to continue working on another project that I’ve been trying to get out. Unfortunately, once again, I’m seeing that the motivation just isn’t there. I’ve had a few days in a row of sitting around the house that I haven’t bothered to use for writing. But I’m going to try re-invigorate my writing habit, using the things I learned this month. In the past, the words just came. I could sit and write thousands of words in a sitting. This month’s NaNo novel was not like that. So it meant that I had to learn how to 1.) make myself sit down and write even though the inspiration wasn’t striking me and 2.) make the words come out when I was making myself have a writing session.

This was an important thing to learn, I think, and something I hadn’t really picked up in previous years. Before, when I started floundering, I either quit or just went off on a ridiculous tangent. So now, I hope to use this newfound ability to focus on my work to my advantage beyond November.

Because if I ever hope to be a serious writer (though I will never be a writer of serious topics), I need to maintain that kind of habit. Blogging is a help to this, though my readers know how I lack that discipline as well. But sitting and writing fiction every day would be a good habit, one that I will continue cultivating. And I thank NaNoWriMo for helping me re-invigorate it once a year.

Beauty Review: Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser

Last week, I talked about my complicated feelings towards Glossier. And then I gave a rave review of a product of theirs that most people consider overpriced Vaseline. This week, I’m going to talk about a product of theirs that I consider a staple of their line, despite not being offered originally: Milky Jelly Cleanser.

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Glossier apparently developed this cleanser based on a massive comment thread from a post on their sister site Into the Gloss. People wanted a gentle, non-foaming, oil-free, low-pH cleanser that was easy to use and removed makeup. They came up with this. Milky Jelly Cleanser is another of their products that is recommended for all skin types (remember, your mileage may vary with any and all skin care products). It is described as being like a jellied micellar water: a gentle, water-based cleanser to remove eye makeup and cleanse your skin without stripping it.

And, honestly, it really delivers on this. I’ve been using the product for over a month now, so I thought I’d offer my thoughts. Spoilers: I liked this a lot more than I thought I would.

When I first bought the cleanser, it was after a review from Tracy at Fanserviced-B, and I thought I would use it like she does: as a gentle morning cleanse. It was a splurge, especially for a cleanser I would only use once a day and not for removing makeup, but it sounded nice. Then, Caroline Hirons reviewed it and I was all the more intrigued.

I think first, I should discuss the texture. It does rather have the texture of a slightly more jelly school glue. I find it very soothing, and have no problem using it on wet or dry skin, but others have found it easier to spread on dry skin. Second, the scent: Tracy likened it to rose-scented school glue, which I can kind of see. It has a light rosewater scent to it, but it’s not entirely enough to mask the smell of the other ingredients. But I agree more with Mrs. Hirons’ assessment: it smells like old-fashioned, floral-scented lipstick. Personally, I love it. I actually look forward to cleansing in the morning. I will be the first to admit that I’m weird, but if you like old-fashion rose scents, you may in fact love this. It doesn’t hurt, though, that I’ve always used unscented surfactant cleansers in the past, so I’m pretty used to the slightly plasticky smell they tend to have.

Now, the cleanse. As I said, I started out using it only in the mornings. It’s a lovely quick cleanse that leaves my skin feeling clean but not stripped. It gets off my layer off nighttime occlusive and any sweat. It’s also amazingly gentle on the eyes. I have an old eye injury that acts up in the mornings sometimes, and generally the only thing that helps is letting the warm water stream over it in the shower. But I can wash my face at the sink with Milky Jelly and it seems to feel fine. Since I’ve started using it in the evenings as my second cleanse, I’ve also found that I get more of my eye makeup off because I do not hesitate to really work it into my eye area, unlike my foaming cleansers.

About three weeks ago, I decided that I didn’t like the second cleanser I was using in the evening (it was lovely, but smelled of vanilla, a scent that I hate in cosmetic contexts), so I went ahead and started using Milky Jelly as my evening second cleanse as well. I was fully expecting it to be insufficient and lead to loads of clogged pores. Well, sometimes I like being wrong. I’m rather pleased that I can use this admitted-not-cheap cleanser for both morning and evening, and need only my homemade balm cleanser otherwise. Lovely.

One final note: A lot of people have compared this to a more expensive version of Cetaphil or Cerave Hydrating Cleanser or Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. It is not. Period. End of discussion. The one place where this cleanser is head and shoulders above those is the pH. It is a low pH — advertised as 4.5 and measured as such by several bloggers who I trust. I have only used the Neutrogena cleanser, which has been measure at pH 6.2. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but when I was using it, I found it was giving me moisture-barrier-damage symptoms. Now that my skin is a bit healthier (that was back when I was coming off of using soap to cleanse my skin), I might try it again, but at the very least, I would use a pH-adjusting toner afterwards. Milky Jelly leaves my skin perfectly balanced and in no need of a toner. So if you’re worried that you’re buying something with a super-cheap dupe, please keep in mind that Milky Jelly is a lower pH than the supposed dupes, which does make a difference.

Update: While I wrote this review without any compensation or ulterior motive, and the links in the main body of the review are the same as they were originally, I have since joined the Glossier referral program. If you would like to support this blog and earn 20% off your first order, please access Glossier through this link.