Bad Haircuts: Giving A Whole New Meaning to the Term “Muffin Top”

After a whole year of being lazy growing my hair into a horse-like mane, I decided that it was time to head back to the hairdresser’s. I was ready for a drastic change in my look and even stalked a friend’s Facebook page in advance, creating a creepy photo collage of her stylish haircut for my hairdresser’s future reference. I was positive that her (much shorter) cut would look perfect on me, too, even though my research gathering methods reeked ofย  Single White Female stalkery.

I placed a call to my stylist in Victoria and was crestfallen to learn that she was no longer with the salon. Chris had always cut my hair exactly the way I wanted it, creating retro, flipped styles that required minimal upkeep effort on my part. She was a true Hair Wizard in my books. And now she was gone. Poof! Disappeared!

An example of Chris' magic, styled by yours truly. Just 10 minutes with a round brush needed. Zero product involved!

With cautious optimism (and no way to get in contact with Chris again), I did the unthinkable and booked my appointment with the owner of the salon instead. I hoped with all my heart that she could perform even more magic with my hair. (Perhaps she was the True Master and Chris was merely her gifted apprentice?)

On Monday afternoon, I arrived to the salon with a greasy ponytail and shamefully showed my new hair stylist the Superfreak Collage of my friend’s hair. The stylist agreed that the cut was fabulous but felt I was “too tall” for the style and that the winter months were not an appropriate time to hack off gigantic swaths of hair, anyway. Defeated, I folded up my collage and (true to form) later burned it in our wood stove. Let’s never speak of it again. Anyway. The stylist ran her fingers through my flowing locks, gauging the weight and relative waviness of them, and she asked me questions about my personality and style in the hopes of determining My Perfect Cut. Here is a summary of what I told her:

1. I heart retro styles, especially ones that involve outward flips of the hair.

I was picturing this:

... but with less poufiness and blood-sucking lipstick

Or even this:

2. I am a woman, but if you could only use one word to describe me, it would not be “feminine”.

Most people, when pressed, have actually used the word “alternative” to describe me, whatever the eff that means. In my world:

a. Pants > Dresses

b. Low Maintenance > Flat Irons and Hairspray

c. Tall Boots > High Heels ALWAYS

d. Sage, Lavender, Citrus, Cedar, Patchouli > Anything floral

3. Please no Triangle Hair.

Dear New Hairdresser: If you value your life, do not give me anything even closely resembling this:

I will kill you.

Armed with this information and not-so-veiled threats regarding my severe loathing of triangle hair, my stylist embarked on Operation: Long Hair-B-Gone. She told me she would give me a “retro” cut with layers that I could easily style into 40s, 50s, or 60s looks. That sounded great!

So how, pray tell, did I end up with a gigantic muffin top on my head??

Tell me, doth this haircut not reek of femininity?? Thankfully this image is blurred for my own protection.

When I said “No Triangle Hair”, should I also have specified “No Elliptical Hair”, “No Spherical Hair”, and “No Mushroom-Slash-Muffin-Top Hair”? Did I really need to spell out all of the shapes? If so: No Rectangle Or Square Hair either, please.

Sadly, I ended up with the equivalent of a mid-calf-length skirt on my head. It would look much better if it were either a tiny bit shorter or a tiny bit longer, but this in-between length is unflattering and awkward. Yes, the haircut made me look “younger”, but I’m only 30 to begin with and didn’t really need to look 12. I’m afraid my issues with getting carded at liquor stores will only get worse until this cut grows out. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Fortunately, I am an optimist at heart, so I’ve found three ways to look at the bright side of this mortifying situation:

1. Having a muffin top on my head can detract from potential muffin tops around my mid-section.

I’m still in the process of losing 20-some odd pounds and will welcome anything that diverts attention from my waist back up to my face. It’s a decoy muffin top!

2. My new haircut is probably the visual, follicular embodiment of complex mathematical equations.

For those of us who aren’t mathematically or scientifically inclined, be rest assured that my hair is now a perfect, graphical representation of light and sound waves… or the path of motion taken on elliptical machines at the gym. (You will never fail a “graph this” question on a physics exam again– Just think of my hair when you’re under pressure!) My haircut probably also harbors solutions to world hunger. Who knows what other marvels are burrowed in this muffin-shaped nest?

3. Speaking of dieting woes, guess who lost 1 pound by cutting off her flowing locks and having them styled into a muffin top?

Beware the low-carb diet craze– my new hairstyle proves that you can have all of the (figurative) baked goods you like and still lose weight! (Disclaimer: instead of “having your cake and eating it, too”, this 1-pound diet solution involves “having your muffin tops and wearing them shamelessly on your head… not like you have a choice in the matter at this point… too”.)

I’m having a hard time taking myself seriously, dear readers. What say you?

Does the Beauty Detox Solution Work?

I’ve been getting a lot of search terms and hits to do with Kimberly Snyder’s Beauty Detox Solution lately. People want to see before and after shots of others who have undertaken Kimberly’s diet recommendations, and even more people just want to know, plain and simple, if the program works. Should they buy the book? Should they make the Probiotic and Enzyme Salad (aka Countertop Sauerkraut) recipe? Are Glowing Green Smoothies delicious or gross-tasting? Do they really need a Vita-Mix blender?

I started the Beauty Detox Solution program last April (2011), and I even set up a separate page on my blog so I could document my progress and keep all of my posts on that topic in one, easy-to-access hub. I gradually started incorporating Kimberly’s principles into my lifestyle and noticed both subtle and significant changes in my health almost immediately. Weight was lost. Skin was cleared up. Energy levels were boosted. Sleep was sound and restful. Digestion and elimination became efficient to super-heroine levels.

And then I got sidetracked– seriously— when my work took over my existence last summer. (Excuses, excuses– I know.) I abandoned most of the specific principles of the Beauty Detox Solution and many of the foundational tenets of Basic, Commonsense Nutrition as well. Take-out food was consumed every day. Not surprisingly, weight was gained– a lot of it, too: 20-odd pounds! Sleep was sacrificed. Energy levels were in the dumps. Skin still looked okay (because I maintained my no-dairy stance), but everything else related to my body was terrible.

Well. Heroic journeys are all about redemption after descending into darkness, right?

I have ever so slowly started back on my Personal Beauty Detox journey; however, I’m not the most dedicated pupil and still retain a lot of flexibility (cheating?) regarding what I eat. (Diet Vigilantes would call it cheating– I’m calling it “moderation”.)

When we first moved to the cabin in December, I felt very chilly every day, so the thought of consuming Green Smoothies and raw salads was incredibly unappealing. (In the spirit of listening to my body, homemade soups and steamed vegetables over grains became my go-to meals of choice.) Besides, I was still weaning myself off of copious amounts of sugar, salt, and fats from those wretched summer months, so unfortunately, whole foods seemed kind of bland for a while. I needed a serious Palate Cleansing/Overhaul. But lo! Things are getting better and I am feeling much peppier these days, health-wise and energy-wise.

What Principles of the Beauty Detox Solution Am I Following?

1. Zero dairy in my diet.

I started this process a year before the BDS book was released and have reaped incredible rewards (significant weight loss, complete elimination of my acne, better digestion, and way less congestion) because of it. I’m not going to lie– taking dairy out of the diet completely is hard, especially if you buy any pre-packaged foods or restaurant meals whatsoever. (Of if you love cheese, which I did x 1000.) Dairy is in everything! However, it’s not impossible to do and I am a firm believer that the benefits are well worth the challenge. Seriously.

2. Slim-to-none amounts of caffeine and zero meat in my diet.

I have some green tea that I got as a gift, so I drink a cup of it every now and then. Also, I’m still eating local, free-range, organic eggs on occasion. I could take them out of my diet if I really wanted to, but I happen to like eating eggs every once in a while. So there! ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Soaking grains, nuts, and seeds before consuming them.

I confess that I never used to soak anything before eating or cooking it. Now, I’ve gotten into the habit of soaking things overnight (or for 24 hours) before I need them in recipes. Do I notice a difference? In texture, yes, but in terms of digestion, not really. Maybe it’s just me?

4. Taking out as much soy as possible.

I’m not a soy person in general. However, this summer involved a whirlwind rebound relationship with soy milk, facilitated by our matchmaker, Starbucks. The truth is that soy milk makes me feel *almost* as gross as cow milk does– I get super phlegmy, bloated, and congested when I drink it. (Alas, Starbucks was only a skip away from our harbour booth, and I had a summer filled with the sickening convenience of Soy Coffee Fraps. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed and hope that this never happens again!) Soy is mostly out again, save for some dashes of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and miso.

5. Glowing Green Smoothies/Probiotic and Enzyme Salad consumption.

After recovering from the initial shock of the fresh mountain air up here, I’ve started drinking between 3 and 5 Green Smoothies a week, and I also have a 1/2 cup of Probiotic and Enzyme Salad (aka raw sauerkraut) every few days. Both of these recipes make me feel incredibly clean and healthy; however, I still haven’t worked up to consuming either of them on a daily basis. Confession: as much as I love the green smoothies in particular, I find it challenging to drink them and still have enough time left over to eat all of the other meals I want to on a given day! (I’ve been sleeping in like a sloth every day, so by the time I eat breakfast, most people are just about ready for lunch. That doesn’t leave a girl a lot of time to down her soups, salads, and other delectable food items before dark! So much delicious, homemade food– so little time!)

6. Focusing on the process vs. on the end result.

The Beauty Detox Solution isn’t a race or a competition. I don’t feel pressure to incorporate all of Kimberly’s principles right away or even ever. I’m just doing what works for me and feeling thankful for the health I have because of it. I know that I could be “more successful” (read: thinner, toned, famous, and probably rich, too) if I were to stick very closely to the program. Certainly, I could lose more weight, feel super-human amounts of energy, and feel rested on 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. I just don’t feel the need to get there just yet– for once, I’m actually fine with who I am, as I am right now. Go, me!

I'm OK, You're OK!

So Does It Work?

In a word: yes. I believe that any move toward a plant-based, whole foods diet will yield significant health benefits, and The Beauty Detox Solution is one way to get there. If people are just looking for an easy, quick-fix solution to weight issues alone, and are wondering if a diet of 100% Green Smoothies can do the trick, the BDS can still work, but undertaking it specifically to LOSE A MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF WEIGHT, RIGHT NOW! is really missing the point. This is a gradual (and hopefully permanent) shift in lifestyle. Yes, it works, but you do have to be invested in the principles that underpin it first. After reading this book, and now The China Study, I am really beginning to sense the urgency of maintaining a plant-based, whole foods diet for overall health and quality of life. It just makes sense on so many levels (but maybe I’m more receptive to this message, having been a vegetarian for most of my life and having already taken dairy out before the Beauty Detox Solution book came out).

Do You Have Any Before/After Photos?

Hmmm… I looked through our archives and noted with suspicion that I had “lost” or “accidentally deleted” most of the less-than-flattering pics of myself. (Either that, or I’m not exactly jumping in front of the camera when my clothes aren’t fitting properly. Look at my thighs! They’re gigantic!!)

That said, you can get a really good “before” shot of my acne-ridden complexion in this post. (My “after” skin shot is just up above in the current post– that shot was taken a few days ago.) I still consider myself to be in the early phases of the program, especially because I started and then stopped so spectacularly for half a year. Maybe I should take a current, full-length pic and use it as my “before” shot. Fabulous, fashionable “after” shots will come in a few months, then. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hope this information helps! As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments section or e-mail me privately. I’m happy to share my personal experiences and pitfalls in the spirit of making the journey that much easier for somebody else. ๐Ÿ™‚

Dr. Obvious Comes to Town: How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, especially when it comes to knowing things that have actual, real-world applications. I can go on and on about mostly useless trivia (god bless Master of Arts degrees), but I always seem to be learning basic things that other people have knownsince the 1980s… at least.

That said, Dr. Obvious paid a visit to our quiet, lakeside community recently, and I was flabbergasted to discover the following new (to me) facts:

1. It is possible to make vanilla extract at home.

This should not have been news to me, having descended from a woman who insisted on making her own ketchup, curry pastes, bread, and soup stocks. My mom endeavoured to make as much food from scratch as possible when we were growing up, but somehow, the thought that vanilla extract could also be made at home escaped me until very recently. I just assumed it was untouchable.

I use a ton of vanilla in my kitchen. It goes in my oatmeal every morning, flavours my weekly batch of almond milk, and features prominently in any cake or baked good recipe I test out (for scientific purposes only. Obviously.) Each bottle of vanilla extract runs around a hefty $8-$12 from the store, so discovering that I could make a schwack of vanilla extract– easily, by myself, at home, for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought variety– felt like the Secret of Life had been whispered sweetly into my ear. Homemade vanilla extract! Who knew?

Starting the process off by steeping vanilla beans in alcohol

2. Bourbon = Whiskey

The recipe I found online for homemade vanilla extract called for some bourbon. I ventured out to the local liquor store, post-haste, and scanned the aisles for the telltale “Bourbon” sign. None could be found! I saw signs for Wine, B.C. Wine, Beer, Vodka, Liqueurs, and all sorts of other spirits, but the Bourbon sign was conspicuously absent from the lot.

I felt certain that this was not possible– surely liquor stores sell bourbon… and scotch… and beer (at least if that terrible George Thorogood song has any truth to it whatsoever)– so I focused on the shelves more intently, pleading silently with the myriad bottles to point the way to the bourbon without me having to ask a clerk. (A thing you should know about me and liquor stores: I’m not a drinker at all, so I inevitably end up looking like a wide-eyed, probably underage kid whenever I go into one. It doesn’t help that I’m usually wearing a junior high-appropriate backpack. (Blame commuting by foot.) I’m a tad self-conscious about my lack of liquor store savvy, so I usually overcompensate and pretend I know exactly what I’m doing as I stroll regally through the aisles. This air of overconfidence, in turn, tends to make liquor store clerks suspicious– like I’m not of legal drinking age and/or trying to steal something. Guess how often I get ID’d at liquor stores? Almost every single time. Showing my ID isn’t a huge deal, but it’s awkward and embarrassing to know that the only reason I’m getting carded in the first place is because I’ve acted like a total freak.)

Anyway: bourbon. I lingered in certain sections of the liquor store, trying to locate a godforsaken bottle of bourbon. I knew it wasn’t vodka. I knew it wasn’t wine. Finally, I stumbled into the whiskey section and noted with confusion that there were bottles of scotch, rye, and Irish whiskeys there. Another awkward minute passed, and thankfully, I happened to read the blessed words “bourbon” on a bottle of Jim Beam. Yes! Bourbon!! I snatched it up (in retrospect, a little too swiftly) and then was promptly asked to show my ID to the clerk at the till. Next time I’ll know: bourbon IS whiskey. I might even escape the dreaded ID check– Thank you, Dr. Obvious!

Bless you, Mr. Beam

3. Vanilla is a ‘bean’ in the ‘green’, ‘yellow’, or ‘string’ sense of the term, not in the ‘mung’ or ‘kidney’ sense.

I felt so mature bringing home a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon. I win liquor store shopping! I laid it out on the kitchen counter when I got home, along with a clean jar and several vanilla pods.

The recipe calls for a ratio of 4 vanilla beans to 1 cup of bourbon, so I gleefully laid out three long vanilla pods and sliced them open lengthwise, fully expecting tiny “beans”– many more than four of them– to spill forth.


Vanilla pods are not like pea pods. No spherical pearls of sumptuous vanilla roll out of vanilla pods. For future reference: the long black pods are vanilla beans. Inside the pods, there are only sticky, smaller-than-poppy-seed grits. If you decide to make your own vanilla extract, use four long pods in every one cup of bourbon. (And, on that note, try to buy the vanilla pods in bulk. I bought my first few individually from Planet Organic and ended up paying more for 3 measly beans than I did for approximately 10 beans in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs. Lessons learned, Dr. Obvious– lessons learned!)

The difference between beans and seeds is duly noted

4. “Bourbon” Vanilla Extract can actually be made with vodka.

Be honest: you see a bottle of “Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract” at the store and automatically assume it was made with bourbon whiskey. I did, too! Alas, it was only after I purchased a gigantic bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon that I read more about vanilla extract online. Turns out that the “bourbon” part actually refers to the type of vanilla bean that is used, not the alcohol itself. There are “Tahitian” and “Bourbon” types of vanilla beans, and just about any ol’ alcohol can be used as a base to make your own extract. Just don’t use beer. I think that would be nasty.

I saw several people writing online that they’ve found vodka to be the best when making vanilla extract at home. (Apparently it is one of the most tasteless alcohols around and really allows the vanilla flavour to punch through.) I will happily attempt my own extract with vodka after I’ve guzzled down a whole liter of bourbon-based vanilla extract, but that could take a while… In the meantime, I’m waiting for my Jim Beam-based extract to mature and will definitely report back once I finally crack open the jar. ๐Ÿ™‚

One week of sitting, with original Jim Beam bottle on left side for comparison

Two weeks of sitting… only six more weeks to wait!

To Make Your Own Vanilla Extract at Home:

1. Use a ratio of 4 vanilla beans (aka pods, not non-existent pearl-seeds!) to 1 cup of alcohol (bourbon or vodka, though others have reported delicious-tasting vanilla extract with a bottle of Jack Daniels)

2. Slice beans lengthwise and place into clean jar with alcohol.

3. Wait.

4. Gently shake your vanilla brew every couple of days.

5. Use as you would store-bought vanilla extract after 8 weeks of waiting. Patience is a virtue, my friends.

6. Marvel at all the money you saved, simply by putting vanilla beans in a jar with regular ol’ alcohol.

7. Thank Dr. Obvious for coming to town! ๐Ÿ™‚

I started off with a modest 3/4 cup of alcohol and 3 vanilla beans, partly because I wanted to test this recipe out before making a gallon of it, but mostly because I had only purchased 3 vanilla pods in advance from Planet Organic. I assumed that 3 pods would contain 30+ seeds/beans inside, but I was so wrong. I’ve since ordered a giant sack of vanilla beans/pods from Mountain Rose Herbs, and I will be adding them to my mostly-full Jim Beam bottle in the next few days.

Lucky Sevens

I’m taking this opportunity to highlight some of my favourite posts, including ones that might have been missed or overlooked by newer readers:

1. Most Beautiful

“Beautiful” isn’t usually a word I would use to describe my own writing, but if I had to choose my most beautiful-ish post, it would probably be Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me: God. A post about love should never be ugly, right?

2. Most Popular

One would think that my Freshly Pressed Post, Crying (and Cursing) Over Spilled Milk— in which I outlined the trials and tribulations of making almond milk for the first time– would be my most popular. Surprisingly, it is not. Rather, an otherwise nondescript post about ugly Christmas sweaters crushes the entire competition. In Search of the World’s Worst Christmas Sweater has nearly 4 times as many hits as any other post on my blog, including my Freshly Pressed post. Most of the search engine terms that lead people to my blog also have to do with ugly and horrific Christmas sweaters. Go figure.

A bit of sparkle from a gigantic Ugly Christmas Sweater I borrowed from a colleague. Unfortunately, it reeked of Bounce sheets and gave both Marty and I allergies. We couldn’t even wear it as a joke. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

3. Most Controversial

I have two categories of controversial posts– the first category deals with issues of censorship and the boundaries around what we choose to share online. A Visit from the Overshare Fairy chronicles the fallout of posting a little bit too much information about myself on the internet.

The second category of controversy is controversial only because it contains graphic details about a circumstance which many women face, but few women talk about openly: miscarriage. My This Day In History series– parts One, Two, and Three— address the messy range of emotions that Marty and I faced when we lost a pregnancy back in 2006.

Not me– this is my sis when she was pregnant with our niece, Lily

4. Most Helpful

In case you haven’t noticed, my primary objective on this blog is not necessarily to be helpful. I write mostly to entertain (or be entertained), but one of my posts inadvertently became helpful to others and continues to generate a lot of ‘thank you’ e-mails. Chlorella: Superfood, My Ass! was originally written as a flippant, eff-you homage to the nutritional supplement that renders me paralyzed with projectile vomit. It’s not an especially well-written post by any means, but lots of people have since discovered it and written me privately to say thank you– either for naming the substance that was causing them severe GI distress or for simply acknowledging that not everyone does well on so-called superfoods. (So in case you were wondering, helpful posts can have the word “Ass” in the title. Who knew?)

5. Most Surprisingly Successful

The post that continues to garner many surprising hits (although not new comments) was written way back in 2008. Talk to the Hand recounts my experience visiting a palm reader at our local mall. If my site stats and search engine terms are any indication, lots and lots of people take to the internet to learn more about mysterious beauty marks on their palms. Hence, if you need to boost traffic to your blog, might I suggest writing about finding the ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ line on your palms? And vomit– lots and lots of projectile vomit. ๐Ÿ™‚

6. Most Underrated

It must be a Universal Blogging Experience: you write a new post, congratulate yourself for your expert use of prose and scintillating adjectives, and then hit ‘Publish’– fully expecting a tsunami of Online Fandom to come crashing down in your comments section. But it doesn’t. To make matters worse, not only are you not ravaged by a destructive gale-force wind of admiration, but you also don’t even seem to make a ripple in the blogosphere. Maybe one person comments on your post… out of pity. The rest of your readers are already on to the next blogging sensation, and your Fantastic Post dies a quiet death in a lonely corner, all by itself.

The post I would like to offer up for your resurrection consideration is The Most Important Evening of Our Lives, in which I fail miserably as a wife, hairdresser, and a general human being.

At least *my* hair looked good on The Most Important Evening of Our Lives

7. Most Worthy of Pride

It probably seems a little strange, but I’m really proud of a post I wrote about eggs. The Dirty Dozen: My Initiation Into A Life of Crime came together effortlessly and incorporated all three of the essential ingredients in any winning post: hippies, Hollywood, and the Russian mafia. Every time I see this title in my “Your Recent Favourites” sidebar, I foolishly beam with the pride of a mother who has just watched her little Johnny hit a home run in a T-ball game. Other moms might not think my Johnny is a big deal, but I’m proud all the same. ๐Ÿ™‚