Friday, July 30, 2010

Pump and Lift, Episode 14: At Last, Another Video Review

I really wanted to hate The Firm. Really.

The Firm: Ultimate Fat-Burning CollectionI blame the DVD you see on the left for my angst about The Firm. Yes, it's only one DVD - and the only one that we have in the Hacienda - but I honestly chose the wrong workout, and I ended up with knee pain and a list of complaints.

Too-fast pacing? Check. Annoyingly bland set? Check. (It's not for nothing that the Collage Video catalog always comments on videos with "The Firm-style" sets and workouts.) Inaccurate representation of difficult, higher-impact workouts as "easy"? Definite check.

Unrealistic-looking worker-outer extras in the video? Che-... wait a minute, nobody told me that the other girls in this video were actual Firm instructors themselves! All righty, then. If there's any comfort, though, I think I prefer the leggings-and-shorts aesthetic in The Firm to Kathy Smith's tiny workout leotards, which always distract me.

(Shallow note: As much as I enjoy Kathy Smith, I can't help but wonder if she and Madonna are neck-and-neck in the race to become the most intimidatingly fit cougar of all time.)

That said: This last month, I started noticing that I was losing muscle tone all over. My butt had deflated. My bra cups were not filling up the way they used to. I felt like a skinny person with fatty skin hanging over my bones.

It was about time, I thought, that I shook up my regular workout - but typhoon season had just set in, which meant that power-walking (and, therefore, my opportunity to work on my running) was not in the cards. I needed something that slayed two birds with one deathly efficient stone - something that gave me the stress-busting benefits of cardio with the "damn, that burns" efficiency of strength training.

Long story short, I dug up The Firm again, and found something that caught my attention: The Firm - Cardio Sculpt Fusion.

And I was hooked. 

The things I didn't like about the other Firm workouts were still there, but unlike the other workout I tried, the Cardio Sculpt one was much more fluid, which meant that I was more likely to catch up on the pacing with every workout. There was still a bit of knee pain, too, but it came and went and was more like a tiny pinch than a full hurt. It also helped that I only used weights on the exercises that needed more of a challenge from me, though that's more of my modification than their recommendation.

Does it work? Well, I've only done the workout twice, but I noticed that my butt is significantly less pancake-like, and my chest is showing signs of pectoral muscle development. Plus, my abs always feel the effects right away... and I'm the type of person who thinks that no prescribed core exercise will ever be able to help my floppy ab muscles (not even crunches, which are way too easy for me), so this is saying a lot.

I'm not going to hold The Firm at their word that I'll see results in 10 workouts, because I don't need that guarantee from them. The point is that I'm getting hooked on the burn, and having fun in the process - and that, dear friends, is a sure-fire recipe for Awesome.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Domesticity Mini-Reviews: Hair and Fragrance Edition

DISCLAIMER: All of these products were either purchased by or gifted to yours truly.

- Human Nature Strengthening Shampoo and Body Wash with Aloe Vera, Pearl Powder, and Peppermint. The name is a mouthful, but take my word for it - this shampoo is The Truth for those of us with fine, flat hair. One dime-sized squidge is enough to keep hair bouncy for daily hair-washers; lathering up twice will take care of even the peskiest, most tenacious product residue. This is also the perfect shampoo for people like me who can afford to skip the conditioner every other day, as well. And did I tell you that the peppermint in this shampoo is 1) quite subtle scent wise, 2) locally sourced in the Philippines, and 3) a surprisingly luxurious treat after a hot day? That's how awesome this stuff is. (I'm still in the process of trying Human Nature's Gugo and Kalamansi conditioner - which is also available on the Human Nature USA site - so I'll let you know how this works out.)

SAND & SABLE by Coty - Perfume Spray (unboxed) .375 oz For Women- Sand and Sable by Coty. I admit that I was a little hesitant about this one, because of the cheesy implication that comes with any drugstore fragrance. (Two words: Vanilla Fields. Though that was more the fault of the snotty roommate who spritzed it in our dorm room like Glade.) But I had another impression of this one going in: Cookies! Yep, I was thinking about sable cookies with sand-like texture - and oddly enough, I did find some flour-like notes among all the jasmine and white florals in this one. More like mochi than buttery cookies, actually, but delicious all the same. YMMV if you try this, of course - I've heard people compare it to suntan lotion and cat pee - but as a grown-up fragrance for work days, this was pretty good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Care Package Goodies, Pt. 3: The Best of the Rest

For the hair (THE HAIR):

Arimino's Shining Straight and Fiber Grease (Kuri's review here, since it's out of stock on Amazon; for a similar product, try Cool Grease), sharing vanity space with the Bench Fix Professional Clay Doh. Fiber Grease takes a bit of getting used to, texture-wise, but I'm learning to work my way around it; Kuri recommends using this with a bit of water. The Arimino is creamier, and I'm planning to use that on the days when I've got more time to blow-dry my hair.

In the lip product section:
Arbonne Sheer Shine, in Bare. (Cue the squeeing from my Arbonne-dealer friends!) This shows up more as a clear gloss on me, but it's definitely a moisturizing gloss - perfect for those days when I have to spend a lot of time in air-conditioned rooms - i.e. at work.

And finally:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pump and Lift, Episode 13: Lower Body Exercise-a-Palooza!

WARNING: The author of this blog entry is NOT a professional fitness trainer, and therefore cannot guarantee any results - good OR bad - from the exercises shown here. We highly recommend that you consult with a real professional to develop the exercise program that's right for you. Mahalo!

In exercise terms, this is a basic squat:

And this is the squat's dance-y cousin, the basic plie:

(Take it from me: You don't have to do this position exactly as shown in the video above! Just putting your heels on the floor is fine - and much easier on the rest of your body, if you ask me.)

As a former ballet student, I am quite particular about the distinctions between the two. The plie shown above is based on the second position, which - I think - is especially important for engaging as many leg muscles as possible, which means that this is the position of choice for executing jumps and lifts. In fact, I've seen the second position used as a starting point for powerful moves in jazz and hip-hop.

Squats, on the other hand, are more of a unisex power move; in fact, squats are always paired with barbells in gyms as a means of developing leg muscles. While it does look a tad less graceful than the plie, you can still use squats as a basis for jumps and other moves - this, for example, is what I'm practicing right now as part of my program - and it will definitely do the rest of the job just fine.

In any case - regardless of which moves you execute - remember these tips to injury-proof your reps:
  • Always keep your upper body lifted and your abs engaged. Do not stick your butt out too far; not only will it ruin the line, but you might also risk injuring your lower back as well.
  • Try to imagine that you're sitting in a chair while doing these exercises; this not only keeps your butt in line, but it also prevents your torso from going past your knees, which also creates the risk of injury.
  • As much as possible, make sure to keep your weight distributed evenly throughout your feet. 
  • Finally: Use as much control as possible to execute these moves, and proceed at your own pace. Do not, under any circumstance, rely on momentum alone!
And, as a bonus, a few more videos to see these exercises in action...

Hey, it's Coach Nicole from SparkPeople! (And you don't even have to be an SP member to access these videos, since they already have a YouTube video channel of their own. And you can also get full compilations of them - complete with better music and editing - on DVD.) 

And speaking of DVDs... Collage Video's preview of the New York City Ballet Workout, Volumes 1 and 2. (Also available from

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last Song Syndrome: What Is Wrong With Me?

On the one hand: A song about a blow-up doll.

On the other hand: A catchy song about a blow-up doll. 

"Rubber Lover," from Scotland's Marmaduke Duke.

(Thanks to Jam 88.3 FM for getting this song stuck inside my head.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Care Package Goodies, Pt. 3: My Face is Going to Need This Soon

...Face masks! Great for those days when you could use a moment to just lie still and not be interrupted.

(Wait a minute, that came out weird. Was that the sound of a college lecturer planning for the post-midterm?) 

Going back to the matter at hand, I'm still figuring out which is which - but the package with the berries on it (a Strawberry Yogurt Mask) reminds me of another mask that I have in my arsenal: 

 The Strawberry Yogurt Pack, from The Face Shop. Apparently it's been discontinued, since I can't find it from The Face Shop's main site... but I have at least one tub left, and unlike most foodie-inspired products (um, hello, Lush?) it won't go bad if you don't use it right away.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Care Package Goodies, Pt. 2: Scarlet Starlet

Yet another glimpse of the care package I got from Kuri. (Remember: no bloggers were harmed in the making of this entry, and none of the manufacturers involved have provided any samples to me or Kuri.) 

I did mention that I was a sucker for anything sparkly, and these Japanese nail polishes fit the bill; in fact, I'm planning on getting myself a manicure when I go with my folks to see Cats (with Lea Salonga!) at the end of the month.  Sparkly paws, whee!

Revlon Nail Enamel, Frankly Scarlet 745 .5 fl oz (14.7 ml)I'm also a sucker for reds, too, and Revlon Nail Enamel in Frankly Scarlet fit the bill for me - it reminded me a bit of OPI's I'm Not Really a Waitress. And yet, my Mom got to this nail polish before I did - she needed a nice red color to go with the super-formal outfit that she was going to wear for the wedding party that she and my Dad were going to on Saturday evening. Later on, she told me that the red in the polish looked a bit orange to her, and I mentioned that it could be due to the hints of gold pigment in the polish. Whatever it is, I'll be trying this one out soon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Care Package Goodies, Pt. 1: The Fragrance Challenge

You know, I should challenge myself to start wearing and test-driving fragrances on a regular basis, now that Kuri has sent me all of these decants...

From left to right: Sand and Sable by Coty; Caron Farnesiana (mimosa and almonds? I'm in); an almondy-buttery fragrance that Kuri and I are still trying to track down, but smells really nice on me; YSL Cinema, and Shiseido White Rose, which is exclusive to Japan.

From left to right: 4711, followed by Barbara Bui and Agnes B. Le Petit b.b. (yes, Scribey, agnes b. pour les bebes), plus Body Shop's Indian Gardenia, PanAme Jean Patou, and Estee Lauder's Pure White Linen.

And then there's these...
On the left, a sample of Weekend by Burberry for Women, which Kuri and I are mourning because the bottle broke in the middle of transit (I blame customs in Manila for that one), yet left a gorgeous scent all over the packing material... I'm actually using the stuff to scent my closets, in fact! (Wonder if I should try the other Burberry scents next?) And on the right, without any doubt: my beloved Chanel No. 5.

Do I smell (pun intended) another ongoing series of blog entries here? 

As you can see, this is enough fragrance to last me through the rest of the year...  including the typhoon season, when the air is colder and not as overwhelmingly humid. But it does pose the challenge of comparing these fragrances with one another, seeing what works for my body chemistry (even though I know nothing about sillage and all that jazz) so I can use them as a jump-off point for future purchases in the horizon. This should be a lot of fun!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Randomesticity: Surprises and Packages

First: the news...

  • Edward Norton is getting closer to being reinstated on The List, one step at a time. I have a love-hate relationship with the guy, but it's things like being named as a UN Goodwill Ambassador that make me love him all the more. That, and the chance encounter that Scribey and I had with him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland two years ago. (Has it really been that long?) 
  • And once again: Anna, Anna, Anna. I am so glad that you are a good Catholic girl, and you are sticking to your word on the whole Role Model thing instead of going full-on skank. (Not to mention the ElleGirl gig - good for you, I say!) That said... why, oh, why do you want to tie your career to the fortunes of the Jonas Brothers? As long as you don't show up on JustJared Jr playing JoBro Roulette with Demi Lovato, you should be safe.
    And now, the package...

    See the Yoshitomo Nara-inspired packing tape? That, my friends, is the height of cool.

    What's underneath all that bubble-wrap, you ask? Well, it's the contents of a special package from Tokyo - courtesy of longtime reader Kuri - chock-full of beauty goodies to keep this blogger happy! Stay tuned!

      Tuesday, July 06, 2010

      Pump and Lift, Episode 12: Fit Me Now

      We interrupt this ongoing series of blog entries to bring you this picture...

      OMG, it's the jacket that I used to wear in high school! And I even had this puppy custom-made for me!

      And the most shocking part of it all: IT FITS!!!!!!

      Okay, so it doesn't really fit me perfectly; it still doesn't stay closed when I button it up, and I think that the shoulders have gotten droopier. It's nothing that a good tailor can't fix (hopefully) because it's got that nice tuxedo-esque shawl collar action going for it, and I actually like the length.

      (I was thinking about doing some plastic surgery on it by turning it into a bolero, a la New Dress a Day, but I just love this whole thing way too much!)

      Until then, it's back to cardio, strength-training, and abs for this filly.

      Speaking of cardio, strength training, and abs, I'm planning an exercise-a-palooza on Episode 13 - crunches, push-ups, squats, you name it! Complete with linkage and YouTube videos, too! Stay tuned!

      Monday, July 05, 2010

      The Case for the Basics: Soap and Other Cleansing Bars (Now with 100% More Dingdong!)

      Before I begin this entry, here's one major reason why I can't stand Dingdong Dantes:

      I kid you not - you are looking at a grown man who models underwear and still calls himself DINGDONG. That's all I'm going to say on the matter.

      Anyway, one of the few things that made Mr. Jose Sixto Dantes III less annoying for me came from a recent interview where he said that his biggest pet peeve was going into a public restroom and finding - gack - an empty soap dispenser. As someone for whom restroom soap is a major deal-breaker, I can say that I totally sympathized with him, right then and there.

      But it did get me thinking about my feelings on soap, cleansing bars, and body washes in general.

      Sunday, July 04, 2010

      Pump and Lift, Episode 11: Trimming the Fat, with HTML and JavaScript

      This isn't exactly a weight-loss entry per se, but after looking at some of the trackers and analytics for this blog, I found out that the Pump and Lift series has become quite popular lately; in fact, the P and L entries have been known to attract more readers to this blog since they first started. I wish I knew why - I'm not exactly an authority on these things, mind you - but I think it has to do with the inspirational aspect of it all, watching me ride through the ups and downs of this magical journey. (Or, as those semi-annoying folks from The Biggest Loser: Australia would say, the magical jeeuhhh-neeay.)  I still have about 30 pounds more to go, and yet I still wouldn't be here if it weren't for the love and support that I've been getting from the friends who read this blog. Once again, y'all rock.

      Anyway, I can't believe that I've let so much time pass before I mentioned the new look of this page! It all started when I stumbled upon Blogger's Template Designer - by mistake, I swear - and after experimenting with different skins and banners, I eventually came up with... this. So clean! So crisp! So classic! What could possibly be more fasyon than that?

      After going through the redesign, however, I've decided to look around the rest of the blog to trim out more of the fat that's keeping this site down, figuratively. Dead links and sites I don't read anymore? Gone, replaced by new links. Unclicked buttons? Deleted, replaced, and updated with more relevant ones.

      Then there are the practices that I need to retire, too: not taking enough advantage of the promotional and advertising opportunities (thus the Nuffnang contests and Amazon Associates links), inserting pictures from Google Images without appropriate permission (thus the screencaps... and the inexplicable reason why Kim Kardashian is the #1 keyword search on this blog, even though I've only written about her once), and - no surprise here - taking too much time off between entries, which I am definitely working on at this point. At least I'm also making headway on the backlog of entries that I'm supposed to share with you, which I'm now taking out of the storage area and inserting into the "drafts" section instead to spur me into writing them.

      Mind you, I'm not changing much - yet (I'm still on the fence about Twitter) - but change is constant and inevitable at this point. Welcome to the here and now.