Back to Blonde

So this happened over the weekend…

I’ve been thinking about going bleach blonde again for a few years and since my scalp finally seems healthier since quitting gluten (amazing!) I decided to go for it.

For a few reasons, I decided to DIY it:

  • Hairdressers in Switzerland are $$$. My last trim, only a trim on short hair was $100!
  • Instant gratification: I wanted to do it ASAP one Saturday
  • I enjoy dyeing my hair myself

That said, this did not go so well. Switzerland is kind of strict about professional hair products and they don’t sell them in stores here. Leave it to the professionals and go pay $300 for your dye job!

The best I found in Migros and Coop were box bleach kits, but it looked like I would be able to order my own bleaching ingredients easily off Amazon, so I bit the bullet and did it.

This was a bad idea for a few reasons:

  • Splotchiest bleach job I have ever given myself. I didn’t catch all my roots because I ran out of bleach mix.
  • I didn’t leave the bleach in quite long enough to process
  • I realized in my Amazon checkout that even though the items said they would ship to Switzerland, they would not in fact ship to Switzerland
  • I had no idea what bleach powder or developer were called in German, let alone where to buy them ASAP in Swiss land

I started the timer when I began the application and from start to finish I only left it in for 45 minutes. I took a little longer applying than I usually do, so the top layers especially did not have enough time to process.

It was so patchy that I immediately blow dried my hair (bad, I know!) to survey the damage thinking, “OMG, what have I done to my pretty natural hair?! What have I done? Crap, crap, crap!”

After I blow dried, I immediately opened up the second bleach kit I bought (even worse, I know!) and went for the patchy stuff. I worked quickly and left it on for 30 minutes because I was afraid of frying my hair. The results were still much too buttery, but I deep conditioned and resigned myself that I would have to go to work on Monday like this.

After a lot of searching and some German learning, I found a place where I could order 30v developer, 13v developer, bleach powder and Wella toner. I couldn’t buy the same American brands as I wanted to on Amazon, but they were at least professional salon grade products.

My hair needed toned like WHOA and I had to go to work on Monday and Tuesday looking like a butter head, which didn’t invoke the sort of reactions I was hoping for. I mostly hoped people would ignore my drastic change until I could fix it.

Tuesday afternoon my weapons arrived and that night I did another very small round of bleaching to try and address my patchy spots again, only leaving the bleach in for 28 minutes because I was super afraid of literally melting my hair off.

After that I toned with Wella’s Color Touch Relights 18 and left it on for about 7 minutes after application. It has the tendency to turn grey, which I was reading about while I was applying, so I rushed to the bathroom to wash it out before I started looking like an elderly woman.

It’s SO much better in person with the toning. I am never bleaching my hair without toner at home ever again! Never bleaching with a bleach kit again! I really missed mixing my own developer and powder and lord knows what happens if you run out of your mix while you are working. With developer and powder, you just mix some more!!

I still think I could fix the patchy spots a little bit more, but I will wait and do that later. I might look into bleach shampooing to try and even out the level a little more before re-toning after I do my roots, but overall I am pretty happy.

Not sure how long I will stay blonde, but I now have a big tub of lightening powder and bottles of developer.

Lesson learned: Never bleach your hair with box kits. It turns out poorly whether you are 16 or 27.

Have you ever gone bleach blonde?

World Wednesday: Beijing!

So I’m a little overdue, considering that we visited Beijing just before Christmas. We travelled to Beijing on the way to Sydney, so with my clever flight planning, I managed to get us a direct flight from Zurich to Beijing and from Beijing to Sydney, leaving us almost three whole days in Beijing to explore.

I have to say, Beijing was awesome! We were incredibly lucky with the weather and had a great, jam-packed layover trip. I am starting to love layovers more and more. Also, we had our first private tour guide and I was surprised how happy I was that we booked it! I spent a lot of time researching the tour because I really wanted to maximize our time and make sure I saw my top picks.

See this? This is the sun rising up bright and clear while we arrived from the airport. We were SO excited how clear it was. There was almost no smog, which is apparently really lucky in Beijing.

I’m always happy whenever we travel somewhere with good weather because so often it’s rainy or cold and cloudy, but to have blue skies in Beijing just felt especially lucky. It was like an early Christmas gift!

First up on Sunday was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Mind you, blue skies does not mean that it wasn’t freezing. It was a bit colder than Zurich at the time and super windy!We got the audio guides with Forbidden City and wandered around for a few hours, but after that we got cold and wanted to head back to the hotel.

The architecture is so entirely different than what you see in Europe and some of the buildings had recently been renovated and repainted.

Also, apparently Christmas is becoming a big thing in China. They had Christmas lights and trees everywhere! It really surprised us because we thought they wouldn’t celebrate as much as Western cultures. I got my fill of holiday lights. 🙂

The next day our tour guide from Catherine Lu Tours arrived at the hotel at 8:00am with a driver to pick us up for our Great Wall tour. Our tour guide’s name was Minnie and she was so friendly! The entire way to the Great Wall she spouted out fact after fact about the Wall and the surrounding area. We ended up visiting the Mutianyu section because we heard it was less touristy and it was fairly empty on a Monday morning.

It felt a little bit like being on a school trip again, except that a private guide has your complete attention and you don’t have to fight for attention to have your questions answered. We could point to anything and Minnie would tell us whatever she knew about a certain kind of drawing, stonework, empresses, you name it!

I was like a little kid on the wall. Somehow being in Zurich at work on a Friday and then being on the Great Wall on Monday morning just seemed crazy… and the sun made me all the more ecstatic.

Tour guide bonus: They can take pictures of you whenever you want! Even Kay was humoring me to take as many as I wanted.

I’m sure the wall must be just gorgeous on a clear summer day, however rare those are. It was really warm with all the sun on the stones, but I just imagine what the hills would like like with a little more green on them.

It was also nice to be out of the city and see a bit cleaner part of Beijing. Being in the city and the surrounding area was definitely eye-opening to the reality of Chinese industry impacts.

We even saw someone collecting the famed “sewer sludge” for gutter oil from some sewers in the city. Kay showed me a Youtube video about it a few years ago and it was astonishing and sad to see things like this really happening. It makes me wonder how much of an impact do our Western needs make on countries like China.

We took a break for lunch, where Minnie helpfully ordered some gluten-free food for me with the restaurant and then we were on our way to the Summer Palace with Minnie giving us a history lesson along the way.

The summer palace was gorgeous and we had a wonderful time asking Minnie about the long gallery and how it was when Empress Dowager Cixi lived there.

Next to Kunming Lake, it was pretty cold. You can see how the water was even beginning to freeze on the surface.

Cold, but beautiful. I was impressed by China. 🙂

On the last day we took our time with breakfast and then went to see the Temple of Heaven and its gardens where locals practice Tai Chi, dance, play cards, music and other games.

Even Kay admitted that he was having a good time. Beijing surpassed all our expectations!

It might not be on my top places to live, especially when the smog started coming back on our last day and you could smell the stink of pollution, but I had a blast in Beijing and would think about visiting China again some day if it works out.

I’m also really impressed how luxurious, handy and informative it was to book a private tour and driver. We are more the DIY type of travelers, but it was really worth it to book. I can’t recommend Catherine Lu Tours enough. They were worth the cost and I would book again in a minute !

Is China on your list of countries to visit? Do you ever book private tours?

Gluten free eats: weekend porridge

Kay was hankering for some of my homemade oatmeal the other day, but I still haven’t reintroduced oats into my diet, so I told him I would make it with buckwheat grains. Problem was, we had run out of those!

With all the groceries in Switzerland being closed on a Sunday morning, I had to improvise. My mother sent me cream of rice awhile back for a gluten-free gnocchi recipe that I am supposed to try out, but I’ve found that I can buy gluten-free cream of rice at the health shop, so into the pan it went!

We had some leftover apples that I needed to use up so I diced up one in the food processor and threw it in with the cream of rice when it was done cooking, along with liberal amounts of cinnamon and a little sugar. I arranged the other apple’s slices around the plates and topped with cinnamon.

I try not to over-sugar things for Kay, but when we tasted it, it did need a little more. Kay reminded me that we still had some leftover sickeningly sweet apple syrup in the fridge that needed used up, so we dished that out on top and it was delicious!Are you a fan of a good cinnamon-y porridge?

Fitness Friday: Balancing Act

Kay joined the same gym as me awhile back and took advantage of the complementary wellness checkup. He came home and told me his balance was awful. My balance has always been OK, but while I was buying my official running shoes, the salesmen recommended that I think about buying some balance balls to strengthen my ankles and feet for running because they seemed a little weak after looking at the analysis scans.

Normally I don’t buy into extras like this. I actually went home and didn’t buy the balls for a couple weeks, but eventually I thought it would be a good idea for us to try them out. The balls came in a pack of two. They have a flat side to rest on the floor and spikes to stimulate the blood flow in the feet.

To use them, I stand with one foot on the ball while I brush my teeth. We have electric toothbrushes that buzz four times for the different sides of the mouth, and top and bottom, so after two buzzes I switch feet. The whole thing takes about a minute and a half and I only do it at night because the salesman said once a day should be enough.

I finally had my own wellness checkup this week where they tested my balance and I was pretty darn good! I was almost exactly in the middle of the “green zone” and the trainer said that most often, people are completely in the red zone and that he was really impressed.

Kay is still working on his balance, but he’s a little less consistent about doing it every night, although he did start doing it in the morning as well. Maybe at his next checkup, he’ll have improved a significant amount! It is a small way to improve stability.

Do you make any small efforts to improve your health or multitasking efforts to work exercise into your daily routine?

A Healthy 2015

Hi folks. Pardon the lack of blogging lately! 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year and I haven’t had much time in the evening to write.

It’s been almost a year since I finally joined a gym and started going every weekday morning and almost a year since I had to quit gluten. After I pulled my back during our 2013 move and dealing with some lingering issues sitting in a chair at work all day, I decided to finally prioritize my health in 2014.

To be honest, I started stretching my hamstrings because I could not even bend over my sink while brushing my teeth without pain. I had to lean my arms on the sink itself to support myself while bending over. I was bending all wrong!

For the entire year, I practiced proper bending whenever I had a chance. Every time I bent to load the dishwasher, fold laundry or pick something up off the ground, I really tried to consciously utilize my hamstrings instead of forcing my back to do the work.

At night, I made extra effort to hold a strong stretch for 10-20 seconds while brushing my teeth. Slowly, slowly, I could reach a bit further until I finally touched the ground; First with my fingertips and now with my entire hand.

I have to say… I feel surprised, proud and impressed with my results. I could never touch my toes as a child, even in gym class at the age of 8, so to be able to put my entire palm on the ground really astounds me! I’m not sure if it is the gym, the gluten free-diet or both in addition to the stretching, but I’ll keep it up!

I plan to work more on my flexibility in the next year to improve it even more. Let’s see where I get by 2016!

Can you touch your toes?