Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hacks To Make Instant Ramen Noodles Healthy/Healthier

It's a great day for some noodles my lovely Sparklers!

As many of my friends and family know, I LOVE noodles.  While I love all types of noodles, one of my #1 comfort foods is instant ramen.  The type when you boil a block of dried noodles and add in a foil packet of powder.  These noodles are very familiar to those on a budget or who generally are not great at cooking.  Cooking wise, my blog tends to focus on healthy recipes.  So I thought I would share with you my favorite healthier instant noodle hacks.  They add a lot more nutrition and fiber.  Admittedly, these take a little longer than just whipping up the noodles per the directions, however they take under 15 minutes I promise!

I'm eating this healthier bowl of chicken flavored styrofoam-cup noodles as I type this post...for breakfast.  It has fish-cake, sprouted tofu, frozen peas, and frozen chopped spinach added.  Mmmm...    

Lets start with the basics.  There are 2 primary formats for instant noodles, the traditional kind where you cook it in boiling water on the stove and the type where you just add water to the styrofoam cup.  I have listed my favorite health hacks for each one:

1) Traditional Boil-In-Pot:

  • Boil 2 pots of water or 1 pot for cooking and a kettle of extra hot water.
  • In 1st pot, cook the block of noodles 1 minute LESS than the instructions.  Drain out the unhealthy the starchy and oily water (did you know instant noodles are deep fried to make them dry?).
  • Rinse the noodles in cold water to remove excess oil and to stop the cooking process.
  • In the 2nd pot (or rinse and reuse the first pot), add the seasoning packet(s) and however much boiling water you like to achieve the saltyness of broth you like.  This is usually about 1-1.5 cups of water.  
  • Heat up healthy add-ins in the broth (or sautee in the pot before adding hot water/broth). My favorite add ins to heat up include:

    • Proteins- (Chicken, Beef, Fish Cake, Shrimp, Tofu...)  Any leftover proteins from another meal can be added.  If the flavor on the leftovers doesn't work with the noodles you want to make, you can rinse or boil the protein back to being more neutral in flavor.  It's a great way not to waste food!
    • Eggs- I love eggs in my ramen.  You can either scramble or fry them then add on top, add to beaten egg slowly while stirring to boiling pot to get egg-drop soup, or carefully drop a whole egg into the boiling broth without stirring to get a poached egg.  
    • Veggies- I tend to go for frozen veggies because they are quick and easy (and that is what we are going for with ramen right?  My favorites include--Spinach, peas, corn, carrots, and broccoli.  If you feel like adding fresh veggies, be my guest!
    • Fiber Powder- While adding protein and veggies is great, a little extra fiber never hurt to add to the very refined carbohydrates of the noodles.  It also blends seamlessly with this dish.  You wont even notice that it is there if you get the flavorless dissolving kind.   
  • Add back in your noodles to the hot broth and add-in and cook for the remaining minute of cook time.
  • Put in a bowl and enjoy your (less) guilty pleasure meal!

2) Just Add Water To Styrofoam Cup:

  • Start by boiling water to hydrate the noodles.
  • Heat up healthy add-ins in a separate pot.  Saute them in a little coconut or olive oil.   
    • Egg-Tip: because you do not have a boiling pot of broth, if you will have to poach eggs separately if you really want a poached egg.  I suggest dropping a whole egg into a mug of water and microwaving it between 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes for different stages of runny yolk.  2 minutes gets you a perfectly hard yolk.
  • Add the boiling water to the cup of noodles, after your add-ins are sufficiently heated through.  Let it sit for 1 minute LESS than the instructions, then pour it into your hot pot of add-ins.  Let it heat for the remaining minute with your add-ins. 
  • Put in a bowl.  Eat instant ramen noodles because they are so tasty now!
3) Extra Health-ifying Ramen Hacks:
  • Don't Drink The Soup- Since you cannot control the amount of seasoning in this format of instant noodles, I suggest limiting the amount of soup you drink.  I find that I'm perfectly satisfied just eating the contents of my noodle soup without drinking too much or the actual broth.  The extra consumption of salt and preservatives isn't worth it to me and I still get the flavor when I eat the best part...the noodles!  I understand if this isn't acceptable to you, in which case I suggest drinking a lot of water before and after to try and flush out some of the salt. 
  • Don't Be Afraid- Creativity with instant noodles is a must, and since the base of the dish is so inexpensive, why not try something new?  Some other fun things I have seen done include topping it with cheese, stir-frying the cooked noodles with the seasoning or extra sauces, even turning the noodles into burger buns!  Whatever you decide, be mindful of the salt content of the seasoning packets and try to add some healthy proteins and veggies.

I hope you enjoyed this post on one of my favorite foods.  Be healthy and as always,

Shine & Sparkle!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

4 Quick Tips on Wearing False/Fake Lashes

Hi Sparklers!

This week I have a very quick post with some of my quick tips about wearing falselashes.  If you want to know how to apply false/fake lashes, video is a much better platform that a blog post and I encourage you to look it up on YouTube *wink*.

P.S. Does Fake or False sound better when talking about lashes that are not your own? Humm...

Without wasting a lot of time, below are my top 4 Tips on Wearing False Lashes!

*see below

1. Trim the lashes. Don't be afraid to trim them to fit your eye size.  I have little eyes and have to take off at least 1/4 an inch from any false lashes.  If you do this, cut from the outer end of the lash.  You want to make sure the shortest lashes are at the inner corner of your eye.

2. Use a good lash glue. My favorite lash glue is Kiss Ever EZ Lashes Strip Lash Adhesive*.  Many people like the Duo Eyelash Glues, but I find they hold almost too well and can rip out what little lash I have naturally, even when removed properly. The trick with the Kiss glue is to let it set for a a full 30 seconds to 1 minute before applying to make sure the glue is tacky.  Apply the lash, then use some powder eyeshadow or transparent powder to set the glue after waiting for it dry.  Don't open your eye before you set the glue with powder or it wont stick.

3. Remove lashes carefully. Always remove false eyelashes gently by applying an oil based make-up remover (or coconut or oilve oil) to a cottton pad.  Leave it on the eye for 30 seconds then gently remove.  Ripping them off can be painful, or pull out real lashes.

4. Reuse your lashes. Use false lashes more than once!  Place them on a tissue, pour some isopropyl alcohol over the lashes, gently pat the lashes with alcohol soaked tissue to sterilize and gently remove extra mascara or eyelash glue.  Wait until it is completely dry to reuse! Alcohol in the eye=bad news.

I hope you enjoyed this quick tip,

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions.  Like all my images not generated by myself, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reducing Dangers of Gel Manicures

It's another sparkly and shiny day my lovely Sparklers!  Feels good to be posting regularly again!

As you may have gleaned from my SSR Instagram (image above) or SSR Facebook or SSR Twitter, I have been going to get my nails done professionally lately.  I have been getting acrylic false nails with gel nail polish on top.  I love gel because it lasts so much longer and is very durable on my nails.  They really look perfect up until the 2 week mark when I get them redone.  I'm loving my fancy nails right now for sure!  However, I have been doing some research and have learned that there is some health reasons to take precautions when getting gel nail polish done frequently.  I wanted to share what I have learned with you and tell you how you can stay safe and healthy while still getting fun gel manicures!

"The downside with gel manicures stems from the crucial UV-curing step. A recent study found that the cumulative damage from the light frequencies the nail lamps emit can cause DNA damage to the skin that can result in premature aging and possibly cancer" (according to WebMD).

If you think about it, you are putting your hands in essentially a UV tanning bed for a few minutes every 2 weeks.  Most people know by now that tanning in general greatly increases your risk of skin cancer.  This is just another way that you can be exposed to dangerous UV waves.  If you want more information on the risks of tanning in general, here is the link to the FDA "Risks of Tanning" page.  Even if you do not care about your health, exposure to UV rays leads to premature aging and winkles, and who wants their hands to look old faster than they need to?

So, we love our gel manicures and don't want to give them up.  So what can you do to minimize the risks associated with those UV curing lights?


1. Apply Sunscreen.

Apply sunscreen to your hands before they go under the light!  I recommend the highest SPF sunscreen you can find.  If you are getting a full manicure, let your manicurist know you want to put on sunscreen before the nails go under the light, and they can let you know the best time to apply it without ruining your manicure.  If you are just getting an acrylic fill, you should be able to apply the sunscreen before you get to the salon as long as you are not washing your hands before they go under the UV light.

2. Buy Gloves.  
People a becoming more and more aware of the UV risks associated with gel manicures and there are gloves available on the market that cover almost your whole hand except your nail.  These gloves are inexpensive and are probably worth it if you are considering getting gel manicures often.  I would still use sunscreen on your whole hands just for added protection and to protect your finger tips that stick out of the gloves.  Also, the gloves only protect from 98% of UV rays, I feel like maybe the sunscreen will help with the last 2%.  The gloves I bought are on Amazon are called "USpicy® Highly UV Protective Gloves"* and only cost $6.99.  I like these because the fabric on the fingers reaches all the way up your finger to the nail and leaves as little exposed as possible.  If the fingers are too long, you can fold or bunch up the fabric to make them the perfect length.  These also extend up your arm just in case some light reaches your arm/wrist.  I think they are well worth the money.

3. Minimize Exposure.
What do I mean by this?  Simply, only your nail needs to be exposed to the light, so there is no need to jam your whole hand under the light.  This is just adds to the exposure with no actual benefit.

I hope this post was helpful and made you aware of potential dangers of the curing lights used for gel manicures.  Stay safe and as always,

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions.  Also, the image of  USpicy® Gloves is owned by them I assume. I'll gladly take it down if someone contacts me about it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Review

Beauty Product Review Time!

I hope all my sparklers are doing well and enjoying the return of my regularly scheduled blogging again!  Today, I wanted to review something I have been totally obsessed with lately:  NARS's Velvet Matte Lip Pencils*.  They are totally a splurge product but it really delivers.

The NARS website claims that: The application of a lipstick combined with the convenience of a pencil in a jumbo crayon design. Lips are instantly saturated with rich pigments and a velvety matte finish. The long lasting, non-drying formula is enriched with emollients for a creamy texture, while a combination of unique silicones ensures long-lasting, seamless color for hours. Use for lining, all-over lip color, or pairing with another lip product.

  • Rich, vivid shades
  • Enriched with Vitamin E
  • Convenient, easy application

Retail Price: $26 USD

Ms. Sparkles think that these are sent from heaven.  I have the shade and "Cruella" (a sultry red) in the Matte format. I have included a swatch of "Rikugien" (a brownish nude) which is a NARS Satin Lip Pencil.  The satin formula of Rikugien is more sheer in color and does not have the same staying power as the matte so I think the bold colors of the NARS velvet matte lip pencils shine and sparkle the most!  I did want to throw in a quick comparison for the curious Sparkler since I have both formulas.

Overall, I love the pencil format because it is great for precise application of bright colors.  These are such a great and hassle free way of wearing bright and bold lip colors.  Much easier than a regular bold color lipstick, however, if you want to know how to keep a bold regular lipstick looking fab, check on my Make-Up 101 post on How To Wear a Dark Lipstick.

These pencils glide on ridiculously smooth.  They also dry completely matte and feel like you are wearing nothing on your lips--even though they are bright with whatever color you choose!  Did I also mention the staying power?  I wear my bright red one through eating and drinking and only need minimal touch ups.  If you are no eating and drinking, expect your lips to stay looking perfect!

I hope you enjoyed this product review.  Let me know if there is a product you are curious about me reviewing.  I would be more than happy to!

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ms. Sparkles Chats about New York Times: "The Price Of Nice Nails"

It is still Wednesday right Sparklers?  I made my deadline? Hooray!

As you know, I'm very passionate about bringing you original content from my brain to yours.  However, recent events mean that I've been really busy and I also think I'm getting sick (sad face). Rather than leave you all without a dose of Ms. Sparkles this week, I want to do a quick "Ms. Sparkles Chats" post to point you towards this amazing 2 part piece in the New York Times called "The Price of Nice Nails" and "Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers". If you have not heard of it, it was an expose by 

Picture taken by Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times.  This image is property of the the New York Times and/or Nicle Bengiveno.  I'll gladly take it down if someone contacts me about it.  

As part of the collective world of beauty, I think it is important to make sure we do our best to be as ethical as possible.  I think it is our job as humans to try and be aware and conscious of social issues in general.  The conditions described in this article were horrible and really brought awareness to the issues with some nail salon businesses.  I get cranky when I see people not treating those preforming salon services (or any service industry job) like machines/non-humans.  A simple smile or "hello, how are you" goes a long way guys.  That person helping you is someones child/parent/sibling/friend.  That was before becoming very aware of the horrible conditions some nail salon workers face every day!  I'm quite determined to make sure I do not support unethical nail salons in the future.  Hopefully after reading this article, you will take it into consideration in your decision making process.  End Rant.

I do not want to go into too much detail about the article because I really think you should read the real thing.  It is expertly written and very interesting.  I could not do it justice in trying to summarize the article for you.  I will, however, provide you with copious links to the article, so that you have no excuse not to know where to click to read the article.  Do you know where the article is yet?  If you were wondering, there is a link at the bottom right of the article to go part 2!  Do so please!

After learning about this article initially through KQED's May 12, 2015 episode of Forum, I was made aware of this great organization for my fellow California-NailSalon-Goers  called "California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative".  I'm not sure if they have such an organization that can guide you to voluntarily more ethical nail salons, but on the Forum episode, the representative noted that they are willing to work with other cities and citizens to get this type of program established.  If you feel passionately about getting such a program started in your area, you should try and contact them!  Maybe you can google to find a similar thing in your area already!

Overall, I thought that this article, podcast, and collaborative organization were really informative and needed to be shared.  I felt it was my duty to offer the opportunity to learn to my lovely Sparklers too.  This way Sparklers can make as informed decisions as possible before getting their nails done!  Hooray!

Hope you enjoyed this chat!

As Always,
Shine & Sparkle

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How To Get Rid Of Dark Under-Arms

Sup Super Spiffy Sparklers?

I know I have been neglectful.  So I'm here to make up for it with a full report post!  Summer is coming, so is the season for sleeveless tops.  This week's topic might be a little bit TMI, but really, this is a thing.  Many girls with more pigment in their skin worry about the skin under their arms being darker than the rest of their skin.  Yes, I know, this sounds insane to some but it is a major source of insecurity of others.  As someone who didn't even know this was an issue, I didn't even realize I had darker under arms until I read about it on another blog (lets not talk about the "thigh-gap" thing...I'll rant your head off about how silly that one is...)

This other blog had a ton of crazy DIY tips like "put baking soda paste under your arms every other day", and "rub lemons on them every day" and a gamut of other steps to get the skin color under your arms to match that of the rest of your skin.

While I personally believe that I have other more important things to worry about (like a huge zit in the middle of my face), I did become interested if I could make my underarms lighter if I tried.  And low and behold, it is possible!  Who knew?!  And it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.  What are the 3 magic steps that I take to achieve matching under-arm skin color?  Things I would do for hygiene purposes anyway.  Having nice healthy skin under your arms is good for not only your skin, but also helps you not smell bad. Win-win.

#1: Epilate My Under Arm Hair-  Yes, this is the number one thing that changed the appearance of my under arms.  Basically, when I used to shave my under-arms, it would leave a little black dot of hair below the surface of the skin.  This is mainly what gave the look of darker under arms.  I bought an Emoji Soft Caress Corded Epilator ($60USD), and this had 2 major benefits.  A) It quickly pulled the hair out at the root; B) I only have to remove my underarm hair with it once every 2 weeks or so.  This can also be used on legs and they say face, but honestly, I feel it works best for me on my under arms.  Other areas will depend on the thickness of your hair and pain tolerance.

For those who do not know what an epilator is, it is many electricity powered tweezers that quickly pull out hairs.  I went with the corded one because it was the least expensive and I don't use it enough or long enough to care about cordless charging or bothering with batteries.

I'm not going to lie to you, the first couple of times I did it, it was a little painful, but after that, it doesn't really hurt at all.  I will say that if you are very sensitive to pain, it might not be for you.  Also, if you are more tolerant than I am, you might be able to use it to remove every hair on your body.  But not I--said the Susan Sparkles, not I.

Mini-Tip:  I like epilating because it is much more affordable than getting my underarms waxed at a salon.  However, if you would like to wax your under-arms, it should give the same results.  If you want a totally pain free method of getting rid of hair below the surface of your skin, you can try chemical hair removers such as Nair.

#2: Exfoliate-  Nothing crazy, no weird products.  Just make sure you take some sort of abrasive bath object (body brush, exfoliating loofa, even an old tooth brush) and use your regular body soap to exfoliate any dead skin cells from your under arms 1-2 times a week.  You could also try using a mega batch of my DIY Lip Scrub, it will work on your body too!  No biggie, but it keeps the area nice and clean, free of dead skin cells. Hooray!  Really, no need to use steal wool or sand paper guys, just exfoliate.

#3: Tone/Moisturize- If you have a toner for your face (which I highly recommend as part of your skin care routine-I talk about mine in my dealing with oily skin post) use it on your under arms as needed.  If you don't have a toner or you want a cheaper option, drugstore isopropyl alcohol can also work.  Do this after exfoliating to remove any dirt/impurities/leftover deodorant in the skin.  It will also help with body odor.  Hooray!  After this, take your favorite lotion and put some under your arms as well.

So there you have it, basically, take good care of the skin under your arms and it will most likely be lighter in color.  If this does not work, it is possible, that genetically, your skin is just darker under your arms.  My tip if this is the case is to be comfortable and confident.  Do not let something small like the color of your under-arms dictate your life. Wear sleeveless shirts and reach for the peanut butter on the top shelf.  Wear a swimsuit and play volley ball on the beach!  I'm sure that if you carry yourself with pride and are living life to the fullest, nobody will be worried about the color of the skin under your arms.  While in the beauty world we try and alter and enhance ourselves so that we are the most confident in ourselves, I think it is important to embrace what we have and try not to be too critical of ourselves.

As Always,

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Top 5 Healthy Nail Tips

Hi Sparklers!

I know I've been MIA Sparklers.  I'm so so sorry!  Life has been...well life.  Sometimes you have to put something you love on the back burner to make sure other parts of  your life shine and sparkle too!  However, lets just jump right back into it.  Over Chinese New Year dinner (I realize this was ages ago...), my Aunt mentioned that she liked my Wet n' Wild Mega Last Nail Polish* Review and Comparison post. We got on to talking about how we both have weak nails that like to peel and break.  I learned a tip form her which is also included!   Thus, I have amassed a quick list of tips that will keep you nail tips looking in tip-top shape! (See what I did there?).  Without a long intro, lets get into the tips (in no particular order).


#1: Don't Use Bar Soaps-
This is the wonderful tip that I learned from my Aunt.  In order to create all bar soaps, the soap makers have to use lye.  Lye is a very harsh chemical that can really affect the quality of your nails.  Am I torn because I think bar soap is way more economic than liquid soap? Yes. but if you are battling naturally weak nails, switching to liquid soaps might just help maximize your chances for strong nails.

#2:  Use A Base Coat-
Nail polish colors are drying to your nails no matter if it is free of the 3-5 worst chemicals (This post by* does a good job talking about the chemicals in nail polish).  Using a base coat protects the nail from all these chemicals and has beneficial ingredients that can help with strengthening, moisturizing, or growing your nails (see my how to get salon perfect nails at home post to learn more).  Over time I have tried lots of brands of base coats.  Most preform pretty well, how ever, one base coat is BY FAR the best I have ever used.  It's a little pricey at $30 for 0.6oz, but Pink Gel Coat  rocks my socks.  It dries fast and my nails have never been as nice as when I started using this over a year ago.  One bottle lasts a long time, so I feel like it is totally worth it.  You can also use this as a top coat, which cuts down on the number of nail products you have to buy!

#3: Do Not Pick Off Polish-
I know this is super hard.  Your polish is peeling up and it's so tempting just to pick it off.  But you inevitably will take off some of the surface of your nail and damage it.  I know, the OCD in you might not be able to stop, but try and think about which is worth more to you:  strong healthy nails, or picking off polish leaving a trail of a little colored flakes.

#4: Properly Remove Your Polish-
In keeping with tip #3, please try not to use pure acetone to remove your polish.  Yes it works really fast (which is why salons use it) but it is by far the most damaging to your nails.  I prefer using soy nail polish remover which is actually quite good for your nails.  I wrote a review of soy nail polish remover if you are interested in trying it. It's the only remover I have used for over a year and I've been very satisfied with the long term results!  Always remember to wash your hands after using nail polish removers and apply a moisturizer or oil to your nails/cuticles for a few minutes before painting your nails again.  This will help restore some suppleness to your nails. You'll have to use rubbing alcohol or wash your hands again before painting (since the oil/lotion will drastically reduce the life of you manicure, but even a few minutes without polish and adding moisture will help the condition of your nails a lot.

#5: Nourish From the Inside-
Your body appearance reflects your overall health.  If you are not eating healthy and getting enough water, your hair, skin, and nails will be some of the first places you will show this.  Make sure you are drinking enough water, and eat enough vegetables, protein, and nutrient rich foods.  You might be surprised how much this improves the condition of your hair skin and nails.  I'm not a huge supplement taker, but I do think a high quality daily multi-vitamin can be a good place to start.

I hope you found this post helpful, and I promise to start posting regularly again every Wednesday!

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image used in this post or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.