I’m Peeling!

Well, actually, I’m shedding. Which leads to the necessity of an at-home peel. Whenever I’m giving myself different skincare routines or treating skin problems, or even when the weather changes (as it is now, from winter to spring), my skin starts to look like a snake that’s shedding off its scales–not a pretty picture. I’m not trying to scare everyone in my office and lose my job! Therefore, I must get rid of these scales dead layers with a quickness. I ain’t got time for nature! Thank the skin gods for this Korean gel peel called IPKN Pore Essence Peeling Gel, that I came across while at my Chinese spa (why they don’t have Chinese products is a puzzlement to me, but I won’t analyze it–I love Korean beauty products).

Previously, I used a different peel that required me scrubbing my face till it was practically numb (click here to read), but I loved it because it worked. Now I don’t have to use my skincare routine to grow my biceps, so I’m a happy woman for this added bonus. I work out enough as it is. The IPKN gel is affordable, easy to use, smells nice, and it neither irritates the skin nor does it make you irritate/agitate it. One pump of this magic works like a pencil eraser on those scales. It literally makes them roll off like balls of gunk. Don’t believe, just watch!

I hope you saw the “skin balls” that I tried to show in the clip–I moved the camera too quickly. The peel took off the entire layer of dead skin that was just sitting on my face like a mask. I’ve been using IPKN for a couple of months to make sure my initial infatuation with the product didn’t wane. Nope! I’m still loving it and using it regularly. Until I find something that can top this, it’ll stay in my medicine cabinet.

So for now, deuces!
The Vickylicious

Natural Smiles Are the Best!

Anyone who’s known me long enough is very aware of my obsession with teeth. They’re on the top of my list of things I notice first about a person, aesthetically: how healthy, even, white/bright, and clean they are (because hopefully when people meet me they’re smiling, haha!). This also goes for my teeth; a hypocrite, I am not. I dutifully go to the dentist twice yearly, brush, floss, use mouthwash, and I even have a couple of my own dental tools! However, I drink a lot of tea and coffee, so keeping my teeth white and bright is a task that I must deal with carefully. Bleaching products are harsh, expensive, and dangerous, so I’m always looking for natural and inexpensive ways to handle the job. Most people brush with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide–I’ve been doing this for more years than I can count–but I want something that works better and stronger. Besides, using peroxide and baking soda long term can be too abrasive for your teeth and can ruin enamel over time. Well, my wish was some mystery god’s command!
WP Natural RinseThe above pic is all you need to naturally whiten your teeth without having to spend a fortune or subjecting your teeth to harsh chemicals. Unbeknownst to me, this concoction has been used for ages! Bonus: this recipe is also great for removing harmful bacteria from your mouth, which in turn strengthens your teeth and gums. See the recipe and directions for this formula below.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups – distilled water
  • 2 tsp – baking soda
  • 1 tsp – sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp – walnut or sesame oil

Directions:
Heat 2 cups distilled water, remove from heat and add baking soda, sea salt, and oils.

Add 1 cup distilled water and mix together until ingredients are fully dissolved. Transfer mixture using a funnel into a jar with a top and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. Shake well before using and swish around in mouth for about 1 minute, spit out (make sure you don’t swallow any of the mixture), and brush your teeth as you normally would.
***Because this is an all natural concoction, please remember to discard the mixture after two weeks and make a fresh batch.***

Unlike many store bought rinses, this natural method contains no bleach and is perfect for removing tartar and leaves your mouth fresh and clean. Will it whiten your teeth after one treatment? No, it won’t. It will however, gradually whiten and strengthen your teeth and gums over time in a healthy, safe and natural way that won’t harm your gums and tooth enamel. This will save you a lot of money and pain in the future when you realize everyone that’s been bleaching has to buy a whole new mouth, can’t eat or drink foods due to gum erosion and intense gum sensitivity, or worse, finds out they have mouth cancer from all the chemicals and unsafe treatments. Like most things in life: slow and steady wins the race!

Because I’m always looking for home remedies for all things health and beauty related, I will probably be posting more regarding keeping our smiles healthy, happy and pearly!

Stay tuned until then (and feel free to send me pics if you try this remedy and want to share your results)…
The Vickylicious

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

Many people don’t know that I had have a serious addiction; I fight urges on a daily basis and think about it all the time, day and night, sometimes it makes appearances in my dreams. Ice cream. It makes me happy, keeps me company, can be savory, sweet, or both. Ice ream comforts me and punishes me; it can be a happy ending and yet a sad one when the spoon hits the bottom of the carton. It can be smooth, or chunky and rough; soft or hard, cheap or expensive, good in small doses, but bad in large quantities. Ice cream is a metaphor for life. Ice cream is life. Ice cream gives me life.

In order to keep from relapsing, I need healthy substitutes and activities to suppress my urges. Enter the chia seed.

Although I’m not into food trends, and chia seeds are gaining in popularity by the day, I’m a believer in these little suckers. They’re smaller than flax seeds, but even though many people compare them to each other, chia seeds are filled with twice the protein of most grains and contain five times more calcium than milk. On top of that, they are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble fiber, potassium and several antioxidants, nutrients and minerals. Incorporating chia seeds into you diet will provide many benefits, such as:

Increasing Protein Intake
Most people—especially women and vegans/vegetarians—don’t consume enough protein. Chia seeds make a great source of protein for vegetarians and don’t have any cholesterol. One one-ounce serving of these amazing little power seeds has 4.4 grams of protein.

Upping Fiber Consumptions
A one-ounce serving of chia seeds has 11 grams of dietary fiber, which is about a third of the recommended daily intake. Adding some seeds to your diet is a super easy way to make sure you’re getting a proper amount of fiber, which aids in digestive health.

Providing Phosphorus (Something that’s not on anyone’s radar, let’s be honest)
Chia seeds also help you maintain healthy bones and teeth (the calcium benefits bolster this effect). Phosphorus is also used by the body to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.

Improving Heart Health
Chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics, and may also increase healthy cholesterol while lowering total, LDL, and triglyceride cholesterol. Don’t we all want to keep our hearts pumping like well-oiled machines? Yes. Yes we do.

Combatting Diabetes
Chia seeds slow down digestion. The gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids-can also prevent blood sugar spikes.

Fighting Belly Fat
Chia’s stabilizing effect on blood sugar also fights insulin resistance, which has been tied to an increase in belly fat (source: Live Strong). Enough said. No one wants belly fat.

Filling You Up Faster
Tryptophan, the same famous amino acid found in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. Even though tryptophan is notorious its “Itis-inducing” property that makes you want to take a major nap, it also helps to regulate your appetite, sleep and improve your mood. Added benefit to getting full faster: making less room in your belly for bad things.

So after doing the knowledge on this super seed, of course I had to find ways to add this to my diet. Since getting rid of all the ice cream in my apartment, I had to replace it with something. Why not chia seed pudding? I had my first taste of some at a “lunch and learn” session with the office nutritionist and fell in love. It reminded me of many Chinese desserts I’ve eaten from my childhood up till now. One of my co-workers told me she’s been making chia seed pudding at home recently for health reasons and also because she loves how it tastes, (she’s also Chinese). We bonded and she gave me her simple recipe. I tried it right away and made my own little tweaks to tailor it to my taste buds.

I was surprised at all of the positive responses and requests I received from my last post, in which I referred to making the pudding for the first time (click here to read it), all of them calling for the benefits and for the recipe. So, I’ve already detailed several of the awesome ways chia seeds will improve your life, now here’s to make a healthy, quick, easy, and tasty chia seed pudding:

2 cups of coconut milk or other milk (I just tried hemp milk and it’s fantastic!)
3 tablespoons of agave nectar, or sweetener of choice (adjust according to your personal taste)
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1 teaspoon of vanilla (or to taste)
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (optional)

Directions:
In a quart-sized container with a lid, add all ingredients. Place lid on top and shake to mix them all together. Put container in the refrigerator for at least four hours, stirring occasionally. (I left mine in the fridge overnight and it was fine.)

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Since my first attempt, I’ve made a chocolate version as well. All you have to do is add about 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Last night I was feeling adventurous and was in need of a filling, protein-packed dessert, so I did something a little different. I heated the pudding, then added whey protein-infused almond butter and two squares of intense dark (80% cacao) chocolate. I mixed the concoction together so everything could melt and blend, then let it cool slightly. I ate it warm with some hot tea and was in absolute heaven with my chocolate nut butter pudding! There are probably endless variations that can be concocted, like adding a cup of strawberries for a strawberry version, or you can add more spices to the cinnamon and nutmeg for a Chai Chia Pudding.

Even though the gel coating the seeds make when soaked in liquid soften the seeds, if you’re not a fan of the texture, you can put the pudding in a blender and blend until smooth. It will thicken in about 10 minutes in the fridge and will be ready for consumption even sooner.

Next up in chia seed experimentation: savory recipes! Stay tuned…

In the meantime, let me know if you tried the recipe and/or any variations. I’d love to know if you like this as much as I do, or if you’ve come up with your own versions.

My Special Date

Who knew a doctor’s appointment would turn into taking myself on one of the best dates ever? You really never know where the day might take you. Let me explain.

Knowing that I’d be near SoHo, I thought I’d walk around a bit and explore what’s going on in the neighborhood before hopping on the train back home to prepare for tonight’s plans; the weather was improving by the minute, getting warmer with every block, sunnier around each corner. I found myself walking to the Lower East Side, one of my favorite parts of the city, a section that harkens back to the NYC I remember [fondly]. No matter what street you choose, there’s something new/different/interesting to see/eat/buy. Knowing better than to shop and add to my overstuffed closet and dresser, I decided to treat myself to a facial and a massage–ones that cost a lot less than they do in my neck of the woods (maybe not as luxurious, but certainly just as effective and lovely). Refreshed, renewed, relaxed, and with baby soft, bright, clean and clear skin, I left almost two hours later a new woman with a bit more pep in her step. I didn’t realize how much I and my body needed that; between work, everyday life and working out, my body and mind have been taking a major pounding. It’s sad to say, but I’m so accustomed to living this way that today’s spontaneous treat gave me a necessary wake-up call to power down, breathe and show myself some love and affection.

All that love made me quite hungry though, which is never an unsolvable problem on the LES! There are so many restaurants, cafes, food stands, etc., and so many cuisines from which to choose. My feet guided me to a giant bowl of pho, Vietnamese soup for the soul, an inner hug if you will. Sitting at a beat-up little wooden table in a corner, I was so happy eating and smelling my steaming bowl that I couldn’t stop smiling. I started looking around at everyone because I heard soft sound coming from nearby, but realized it was me. Humming! Humming while eating! Now you know I’m happy and the food is good if I’m humming to myself. Whoa.

Belly full and pleased that my meal was guilt-free (healthy), and wallet happy because dinner was super affordable, I decided to continue my journey because I had absolutely no desire to go home. Strolling into parts unknown [by me], I walked farther than I’ve ever been into that area of the city, to the point where nothing was familiar, neither the street names nor the landscape. Headphones on, bumping New York hip-hop, I walked the streets, felt and saw history, from the old tenements to buildings taken over by yuppies and hipsters. I walked through areas that went from Chinese to Dominican and black to Jewish, then back to Chinese to Dominican and black and Puerto Rican to hipster to rich hipster-turned-yuppie; from row houses to co-ops to projects to modern architecture, then back to projects upon projects upon projects; turning a corner and I was back to apartment buildings, new mixed with old. It was ugly, beautiful, chaotic and orderly, diverse and separate all at the same time. I loved it and didn’t want to stop this field trip, but knew I had to because the sun was setting and it was time to get back to the land of the familiar. I will be back, mind you. I always go back.

Walking directly to a train station would seem like the practical thing to do, so of course that’s not what happened. I walked from the LES through Alphabet City then into the East Village. Heading west, I came upon one of my favorite ice cream shops and treated myself to dessert. Continuing my walk with extra virgin olive oil ice cream nestled inside the perfect waffle cone, I made my way back to Sixth Avenue to finally take a train home. (I did however, make a quick detour to a health food store first.)
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(<—- A makeup-free, spa-faced me getting ready to gobble up the last bit of my delicious ice cream cone)

Home at last, I kicked off my shoes and acknowledged to myself that I would not be going out, as originally planned. My inner monologue and I are best friends and have exemplary communication. So what did I do instead, you ask? I went to the kitchen and whipped up my first vanilla chia seed pudding.
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(If you would like the recipe and/or would like to know the health benefits of chia seeds and this dessert, please let me know. I’ll be happy to share it all with you!)

And you thought my detour to the health food store was for what, exactly…? HA! No, just kidding. I didn’t plan on making the pudding tonight, it was just on my list of things to do in the near future and I just happened to remember that there was a health food store near my train station. So it was planned, but not planned. And while it sets in the fridge (anywhere from four hours to overnight), I’ll be doing one of the things I do best: watch back-to-back episodes of something on Netflix.

Today was a day I’ll remember for years to come. I felt truly happy and at peace with my life, where it’s taken me, and ultimately with myself. Too many people place their happiness into other people’s hands, not realizing that one’s happiness is one’s own responsibility. Also, people don’t have to be happy only around others, or by being in all sorts of relationships. As RuPaul always says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?!” So, readers, worry about loving yourself and treating yourself well, instead of loving the idea of other people loving you and finding happiness then and only then. Go on a date with yourself and see how it makes you feel. You might even learn a thing or two.

…Till the Wheels Fall Off!

Today was my Cycle for Survival ride at Equinox, a fundraising event for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose mission is to treat and find cures for rare cancers. This was my third ride of however many it takes until a cure is found. Although our group, “A Team 56,” didn’t reach our goal of US$15,000.00, we did raise US$12,900.00 which is still a large amount.
2015-03-07 23.43.40For four hours straight, we rode, shouted, and danced our hearts out for all of those fighting, for the survivors, and for those who have lost their battles with this terrible disease. Some of you have read my previous posts about this event and know how important it is to me, so I won’t be repetitive–trust and know you will be seeing similar posts exactly one year from now. However I cannot shake the feeling I’ve had all day from hearing the experiences of those who are fighting, of those that have won, and of those that have loved ones they are sending to MSKCC currently; the mother and father that personally thanked all of us for our fundraising efforts because they have a 7 year-old daughter with a brain tumor being treated at Memorial now. The woman whose mother had a better quality of life due to the clinical trial our donations paid for last year. For Lisa Adams who passed away last night, losing her battle at the hospital the day of the first ride.
Knowing that every dollar my team and I raise, along with all of the other riders nationwide, goes directly to research and trials, compels to do everything I can for the millions of people worldwide affected by cancer in all its forms. I will urge each and everyone of you as I do every year, to join the battle with me, either by starting your own team wherever you are, by donating your time, by donating your money. Just as one of the doctors said today, “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes a village to find a cure for cancer.” We all live in the same village.

150307_094940This is why I rode. This was, and is, my battle cry until a cure is found.

Lift. Dead.

I love doing dead lifts in the gym whenever I do weights. I worked my way from 40lbs to start, doing 5 sets of 10 reps; now I’m at 80lbs, 90 on a good day. For the first time ever I was challenged to dead lift a much heavier weight. Challenge accepted! I put 70lbs on each side of the bar–mind you, the bar is 45lbs by itself–meaning I lifted 180lbs! I had to document this feat, win or fail.

You have no idea how proud and accomplished I felt after I finished. Will I do this all of the time? No. However, it’s good to test myself every now and then.

Next up, 200lbs!

*Music credit: “Black Card,” by Pusha T

Kung Hay Fat Choi!

Today was the first day of Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year). 2015 is the year of Sheep. Why February 19th? This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.

A Super Brief History: The Year 2015 is the 4712th Chinese year. The Chinese believe that the first king of China was the Yellow King (although he wasn’t the first emperor). The Yellow King became king in 2697 B.C., therefore China will enter the 4712th year on February 19, 2015. I won’t get into the elements and the Stem-Branch System and how we arrive at the sheep being a green wooden sheep–too technical, so I’ll let you Google it, if you’re so inclined.

Since we’re the only ones in New York from the family, Mom and I took the day off from work and donned our new clothes and shoes before heading out to feast on traditional lucky dishes and some contemporary Chinese cuisine as well–we went to the Upper West Side’s Red Farm; the dishes are below. We were stuffed after eating eight dishes (a lucky number), some of which were Chinese dumplings (treasure because of the meat inside), long noodles (symbolizing long life), and oranges (a sign of completeness).
PhotoGrid_1424402952167We had a great time spending the day together, walking the New York City streets and stamping out the bad with our new shoes, wearing red for good luck and to chase away any evil spirits–even our lipstick was red today (my finger nails too)! And the best part (besides quality time with mom, natch)? LUCKY MONEY! Gotta love those little red envelopes.

I wish you all prosperity, happiness and blessings!
V