Manicures For Stubby Nails

If you found this, then you probably have the same problem I do- short, stubby nails (and in my case hands, too).

I was blessed with terrible hand genes. My hands are tiny and my nail beds are wider than they are short (think “squatty”).

This makes my nails look short and unattractive. I also pick my nails and cuticles due to stress.

Lately I decided that, unless by some miracle of cosmetic science they discover a way to completely replace your fingernails (or even give me robot fingernails- that would be cool), then I’m stuck with these stubs.

I started googling it and discovered that, to my dismay, I’m pretty much out of luck. I’ve tried the hair and nail vitamins, I’ve tried acrylic nails (they destroy my real nails), and I’ve tried the Sally Hansen pink nail growth polish (I’m allergic to it).

Nothing seems to help. My nails are brittle, snag easily, and grow out strangely- they’re still wider than they are long and the nailtip is very flimsy.

Yesterday I decided that I was going to try to do something about it. I was going to try to embrace my nails since I’m stuck with them.

If you also have short, stubby nails, fear not. Think like an artist and use illusion to add length while you try to grow your nails out.

Here’s the steps:

1. Apply a basecoat

2. Find a design

3. Draw!

4. Spray your nails with hairspray from several inches away- too close and the Sharpie will smear.

5. Wait until the hairspray is completely try, then apply a thick topcoat. A thinner topcoat made my Sharpie design smear.

6. Do not clip your nails, file them. Clipping damages nails like ours.

 

1. I opted to buy a light nude color as a basecoat. I found Covergirl’s Outlast in “Forever Frosted” # 115. I’m very fair, so this color matches my skin tone.

At this point I have to say that I am incredibly inexperienced with painting my nails, considering I have never cared about them before. My paint jobs are always uneven, so I usually opt for a glittery or frosted polish because they seem to be forgiving.

Protip: if you don’t paint all the way to the edge of your nails and nail bed it will make your nails look a little longer. It won’t magically give you longer nails, but hopefully the results will be better than what you expected.

Use a small paintbrush dipped in nail polish remover to “cut in” around the edge of your nails. I also read drawing around the edges with Elmer’s white glue works, but I haven’t tried it yet.

I didn’t even even have nail polish remover (I told you I never cared about my nails before!) so I just tried to leave that gap around each nail by hand.

2. I started thinking about art and illusion. Vertical lines help lengthen the body, and patterns help hide imperfections.

I’m too cheap to go to the nail salon and I’m too embarrassed of my stubs to go if I wasn’t cheap, so I started researching something I had seen on Pinterest- Sharpie manicures. Here’s another great site for ideas.

I LOVE Sharpies. For our first Valentine’s day as a married couple I asked for Sharpies- and I still have most of them. That was 9 years ago, so they last a while.

Then I picked a color I liked- I’m really into teal and turquoise. image (1)

3. I just started dotting. Heavy dots, and light dots, in quick movements. The best part is that the Sharpie comes off with rubbing alcohol, so if you mess up or if you’re a perfectionist like me you can just take it off and try again.

I’m happy with it and I hope that it will encourage me to let me nails grow, stop picking my cuticles, and embrace what nature gave me.

4. Spray your nails with hairspray from several inches away and let them dry completely.

I discovered step 4 after trial and error. If you apply the topcoat without this step the Sharpie will smear (or at least it did for me)

5.  Add your topcoat. Also discovered through trial and error- if you use a thin layer of topcoat you risk more smearing. I used a thick layer and even then a few of the dots smeared to streaks. The picture above was taken before I added the topcoat.

6. Never clip your nails, file them instead. I read several articles that talked about how clipping short nails like ours causes more damage to our already delicate nails. File them lightly to shape them.

Tokyo Sakura (Cherry) Blossom Season 2014

We just experienced our first Sakura (cherry) blossom season here in Tokyo and it was more beautiful than we expected.

While we didn’t get to see every hanami (Sakura viewing) spot we wanted to see because of our very limited free time (David now works 12 hour shifts overnight), were still able to enjoy Hanami at a few places.

Sakura at Yokota AB

Sakura at Yokota AB

The Sakura near where we live on the base in Fussa are already bare from the high winds we’ve gotten lately, but I have enjoyed riding my bike through the falling petals as I run errands around the local area.

I work at an English cafe in Hamura on the weekends David works and the owner has become a good friend to us. He is a widower and has tried to go on local bus tours by himself, but going alone just isn’t the same as going with friends or loved ones, so when he asked if we would be interested in going with him we were very excited.

The bus tour Ken-San booked for us was a Sakura tour around Tokyo that included all-you-can-eat tempura and sushi for lunch.

The locations we stopped at were:

  • Tokyo National Museum
  • Yasukuni Shrine and (matsuri) festival in the area before the shrine
  • Shiratama Inari Shrine and Hotel Chinzanso (a popular outdoor wedding area with a waterfall and hidden restaurants and shrines along the paths on the hillside behind the hotel

Ken-San did an excellent job of telling us about the places we visited because the entire tour was in Japanese. We learned many new things and visited places we wouldn’t have discovered on our own. The tour was rushed, though, because traffic caused us to get behind, which meant our time at the locations was cut short.

Yasukuni Shrine

The standard Sakura at Yasukuni Shrine

Hotel Chinzanso

Hotel Chinzanso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think my favorite Hanami was when we actually had the time to take a picnic lunch and relax under the Sakura by the Tama river in Hamura. We stumbled upon a small matsuri (festival) and I tried some fried uncooked spaghetti that was covered in sugar. I don’t know the name of it, but the booth was very popular so I decided to try some. It was good, but very messy. There was powered sugar everywhere!

Lanterns lined the path around this section of the Tama river, and this particular spot felt very dreamlike to us.

Hamura Sakura Festival

Hamura Sakura Festival

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Humura Sakura Festival at Sunset

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Hamura Sakura Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went back to Ueno Park to see the nighttime Hanami, and we were delighted to see so many Japanese people relaxing, drinking, and having a great time with their friends and co-workers.

Next year David plans to take leave so he will be able to enjoy the Sakura during the day.  I certainly look forward to next year’s Sakura blossoms!

Do you have a favorite Sakura viewing spot?

10 Handy Products From The 100 Yen Store

Recently I read another blogger’s roundup of his 10 favorite handy items from the 100 yen store, so I thought I would do my own.

There are a few different 100 yen store chains, but all of these gems are from the Daiso.

Think of the Daiso as a Dollar General that has higher quality items that you can actually use for a long time.

For the most part I agreed with the author, but I found 10 more must-haves.

1. Melamine Sponges (aka Magic Erasers)

Here you can buy a bag full of melamine sponges in a variety of shapes and sizes. I’ll never buy an overpriced Magic Eraser again!

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2. Wood scratch filler markerIMG_5713

Not only did I finally find a marker to match my espresso-finished furniture, it works like a dream and was dirt cheap compared to American home stores. This came in handy for both the scratches that our furniture endured during its journey here to Japan, and for scratches that had been there for years.

3. Rice washer and rice paddle holder

Washing rice is a breeze now that we found this washer/strainer, and our rice paddle is easy to reach.

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4. Hard Boiled Egg Punch

Use this tool to punch holes in the bottom of hard boiled eggs before boiling to make them easier to peel. It’s magnetic so you can stick it to the fridge when you’re not using it.

5. Sweater Fuzz Remover Tool

This handheld battery operated sweater fuzz remover is powerful and effective. I have never bought one before simply because they’re too expensive for me- I’m super thrify. For 100 yen this was definitely a must-have!

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6. Spray bottles and pump bottlesIMG_5903

This is the most effective spray bottle I’ve ever bought anywhere- it has a strong sprayer and  trigger. The pump bottles come in many sizes and are great for dish soap and shampoo.

7. Pantry and closet lights

I found both wired and wireless setups. Start a video recording on your phone, put it in the closet, and shut the door to make sure you’ve got the positive and negative magnets positioned correctly.

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8. Gifts for those back homeIMG_5717

The 100 yen stores are perfect for gifts to send loved ones back home. This is just 1 of the aisles full of Hello Kitty products.

9. Counter Top Storage

These glass counter canisters work great for holding tea.

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10. Bathroom storageIMG_5904

Most homes are small here, so making best use of your space is critical. We found these dish soap holders and use them for toiletries, instead. This suction cup office pencil holder doubles as a toothbrush holder.

We were also able to use these same items to mount our WiMax adapter to the sliding glass window for better reception. No fiber- I know. It’s terrible, and the internet options on the military base are equally awful-trust me.

So, what are your favorite 100 yen store products?

Tokyo Ume (Plum) Blossom Season 2014

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Ume at Koganei Park

It is early March, which means that the white and pink Ume (Japanese plum) blossoms are opening up and that spring is on its way.

Here in Japan people wait all year long for this display. Ume blossoms come first, then tulips, then sakura (cherry) blossoms.

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Ume at Koganei Park

Some of my Japanese friends told me that Japanese people enjoy the blossom season for a few reasons: the blooms are pretty to look at, fragrant, and the event brings people together…but also that the blooming period is so short, which reminds us of our mortality.

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Ume at Koganei Park

One man I know likened the ume and sakura seasons to loving a gorgeous woman, only she passes away quickly and at the prime of her life. You enjoy the blooms while they are here, but you also know they do not last long so you must make the most of the time you have with them.

Recently I learned that, similarly to how many Americans are divided by sports teams, that many Japanese prefer viewing ume blossoms over sakura, and vice versa. Being that I’m a foreigner I’m crazy for both types of blossoms; I want to see them all!

I made a list of popular ume viewing locations that I found online at websites like Time Out Tokyo and created pins on our collaborative Google map to make our adventures easier to plan; David’s schedule is very difficult to adventure with, so we have to plan wisely.

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Ume at Hamura Zoo

Last weekend David and I were able to get away from Fussa to visit  Koganei park to view the ume blossoms since they typically appear late February.

However, last month Tokyo got the biggest snow storm its had in over 16 years, so the ume blossoms seem to be delayed due to the bad weather. 

Koganei park did have a few dozen trees that had some blossoms showing, but you could see that many buds were still closed.

We probably should have waited another week, but I was going crazy knowing there were blooms out there that I needed to see. Always the hipster, I had to be among the first to ume blossoms. 

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Ume at Hamura Zoo

I think I’m also getting “spring fever,” or what some may call “cabin fever” due to David’s taxing work schedule. I keep feeling the nagging urge to get out and explore!

It isn’t as fun to go experience Japan alone, but today was my breaking point and I was determined to cross off some of my “must-see” blossom viewing points on our Google map, even if I had to go by myself.

I helped at the local English speaking coffee shop and afterwards opted to go to Hamura zoo. I thought that there might be some ume trees, and I was right!

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Ume at Hamura Zoo

I felt a little strange going to a zoo by myself at first, but then I saw other people who were there alone, so I didn’t feel too weird after awhile. Though, I did notice that the other solo viewers were older men with giant cameras.

Not only did the zoo have a great array of local and exotic animals, there was also a dozen or so ume trees in bloom that were very nice. Many people, local and foreign, will tell you that the Hamura zoo isn’t that great, but if you are looking for the standard fare of zoo animals with a nice park area you should visit.

I found it to be clean, quiet, and while some animals had small cages the cages were clean and the animals looked to be in healthy condition and in good spirits. Plus it only cost 300 yen for each adult and 300 yen for parking. I was able to spend almost 2 hours there watching the animals and looking at the the mini-bamboo forest and ume trees.

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Ume at Hamura Zoo

I saw a few  families having picnics on the grass, a father and son playing catch, and older Japanese people sitting at park benches in this area- all were enjoying the beautiful weather and lovely ume.

I wished I had brought thought to bring a blanket and lunch so I could sit under the trees and relax, too.

I noticed that while other people were enjoying the blooms that I was only person taking pictures. My guess is because the main focus here is the zoo, but I didn’t mind that I looked like the crazy foreigner who has never seen ume because it’s true! I have never seen Japanese ume before now, and I want to enjoy every moment I can.

Tomorrow  morning after I work at the cafe I want to go to a larger park where I can relax on the grass and read or write for a little while. There are just so many ume viewing locations to visit, and so little time!

DIY Fix-Snowboard Jacket Waterproof Lining Flaking Off

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Does your snowboarding jacket look like it has dandruff? If so, the waterproofing/waterproof liner is flaking or falling out because of it was put in the dryer, because of age of the jacket, or both.

You’re sick of having white flakes everywhere when you put it on or take it off, so how do you fix it? The good news is that (in most cases) your jacket is still perfectly usable.

I spent a lot of time researching how to fix this issue on my husband’s snowboarding jacket. He is new to the sport and bought a jacket at a thrift store for a decent price, but once we got it home we saw why it was there. We actually thought that the flaking lining was the pattern on the inside of the jacket.

Upon closer inspection jacket looked like it had dandruff- we had to vacuum the floor just from taking it out of the shopping bag. So it stayed in the closet until I found a solution.

The fix I found online was for a tent, but waterproofing is waterproofing and the jacket is fine. He even used it on the mountain and it worked great.

How to remove the waterproofing from your snowboard jacket:

1. You’ll fill the washer with just enough HOT water to cover the jacket.

2. Start the washer put in 1 cup Parson’s ammonia. This kind has suds.

3. Let the machine agitate a few minutes before putting the jacket in.

4. Let the jacket soak overnight. I checked it a few times to make sure the jacket itself wasn’t getting discolored or falling apart (since I found no specific how-to for snowboard gear)

5. Rinse the next morning

6. Line or air dry.

You may have to do this process a few times depending on how much lining is left in your jacket to begin with.

7. *Optional* Spray the inside with CampDry if you want to, but my husband skipped this step and said the outside lining was intact and that he had no waterproofing problems on his snowboard trip.

I hope this works for you!

A Foreigner’s First Haircut In Japan

As I sit here watching Japanese infomercials I thought that I should write about my first (unaccompanied) haircut in Japan.

We have lived here almost 3 months and I needed my hair cut in January. The on base salon was booked and I didn’t know where else to go. My friend Itsuka took me to DOT, the place where she gets her hair cut in Fussa. She translated for me and got me a temporary membership card.

I had a picture of a past haircut on my phone so I showed the stylist and let her go to work.

Be prepared- razor/thinning is popular here and there was much more hair on the floor than I expected. The rest is kind of fuzzy because I was so nervous.

The stylist seemed excited about my natural curls and wanted to style it that way so I didn’t see it straight until the next day when I straightened it myself.

My nape hair was longer than I liked so I took office scissors to it. You would think I knew better since this summer I played hairstylist when I got frustrated with my sideswept bangs and cut them off, making them blunt. Not my best idea, but I had them shaped up by my stylist in Oklahoma and they eventually grew back out.

It’s mid-February now and it was time to get my hair cut since it was growing out strangely because of my most recent scissor attack.

Itsuka couldn’t go with me because she had prior obligations for the next few weekends, but she was kind enough to make me an appointment online and added a note to blow my hair straight.

I took a printed picture this time of a Japanese cut and went to my appointment.

While I do know some Japanese I don’t know any hair salon vocabulary so I was just as nervous as I was the first time I went. Doki doki!

I handed my paper membership card to the person behind the counter and was given a key for a locker to hang my jacket and purse. I was the first person that morning so I was seen right away.

We discussed the picture in simple Japanese and he began. First he sprayed my hair with water and then started cutting. He then blew my hair dry and I told him I liked it. He said in English that he wasn’t finished, so I felt pretty silly.

Then he got down on his knees and focused intently on making my nape hair even (did I mention that I can’t cut a straight line?)

He cut, and cut, and cut, then he blew it dry (again). I said I liked it (again) and almost put my scarf on. He took my scarf from my hands and gestured to the sinks. Apparently I wasn’t finished.

He put a towel in my lap and a young lady put a gauze-like fabric on my face and began washing my hair with water only. I was guided back to the chair and both she and the male stylist started co-drying my hair with their fingers.

If you have never had 2 different people finger dry your hair at the same time you are missing out. It was relaxing and I tried to enjoy the feeling rather than think about how it compared to the service we get in the states.

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The picture I took with me to the salon

He blew my hair dry a third time, which surprised me. In America you get it styled once and that’s it.

He took such care to re-shape and razor out the remaining bulk as he styled my hair. I even felt confident enough to ask for the nape hair to be a little shorter, and he complied.

In the end it was a bit shorter than I orginally wanted, but it ended up being the perfect hair cut experience overall.

The best part? It cost 1890 yen (roughly less than $20 USD) without tip because tipping is not customary here.

Try to be brave and go to a Japanese stylist, even if you don’t know much or any of the language.

Take a picture of the style you want, point to it and say “kore kudasi,” or you can even show with your finger how much you want cut off.

*A kind Japanese reader pointed out something I should have. I was taught that “kore kudasi” is not grammatically correct, but that if you’re foreign the Japanese people usually know what you mean. However, the correct phrase is “kore ni shite kudasi.” Thank you for reminding me to say that my previous phrase wasn’t grammatically correct, and for telling me the correct phrase, Marshall!

Cleaning Pillows With The Miracle Laundry Whitening Solution

With the 3 feet of snow around here I got a little obsessed with trying out cleaning recipes so the next day I tried the mattress cleaning recipe on our even-more-sweat-stained pillows.

I wish I had a before and after to show you, but the before was pretty nasty so at the same time I’m kind of relieved that I forgot to take one. Just know that these pillows were a few years old and my husband sweats at night.

I spread towels on the kitchen floor, mixed up my little potion, and went to work. I mixed it up 3 more times and tried again. Very little impact. I was confused because this had worked just yesterday on the mattress.

Then I felt the pillows. They had this weird non-normal texture. It wasn’t quite sticky, or oily, but it was something that felt organic and that shouldn’t be there.

I assumed it was sweat and body oil so I decided to try out this pillow cleaning method that I had pinned for a while but never had the time to try.

The process is basically:

  • Fill the washer 1/3 of the way, then add solution and agitate to mix it together
  • Add pillows
  • Agitate for 5-10 minutes
  • Flip pillows
  • Agitate the rest of the cycle
  • Let washer finish the cycle
  • Dry

Before that I knew I had to do something about the weird organic layer on the pillows.

I followed a similar process. I filled the washer 1/3 full with hot water and added 1 cup Parson’s ammonia and let it agitate.

Then I added the pillows, one on each side of the washer. I let it fill up all the way and poured another 1/2 cup ammonia on top of the pillows.

I let it agitate about 10 minutes and turned the pillows over and let it agitate the rest of the cycle.

The pillows sat for about an hour and I turned them one more time at the 30 minute mark.

After the cycle finished I started the Miracle Laundry Whitening Solution.

I had no powdered dishwasher detergent on hand so I thought I would bite the bullet and try it without that ingredient (spoiler alert- it works just fine without it.)

I filled the washer 1/3 of the way and added 1 cup detergent, 1 cup bleach, and 1 cup borax instead and let it agitate.

Then I added the pillows then let the washer fill the rest of the way.

I let the washer agitate for 5-10 minutes, turned the pillows over, and let it finish. I did not let it soak because the directions didn’t call for it.

The directions did say to run a second rinse but I skipped it because they didn’t feel soapy and I felt bad enough for using so much water.

I put the pillows in the dryer and I’ll be darned if they didn’t come out so white that they were blinding, and that is no exaggeration. My husband couldn’t even tell which pillow was his anymore. He told me that he always knew by the sweat stains. Nice, right?

If you get a chance, try this and see if your pillows come out brighter than your eyes can handle!