Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Information about Vitamin D

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

Vitamin D is a hot topic today. The fat-soluble vitamin helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus in its bones. Too much of it can cause problems with your heart, kidneys or lungs, while a deficiency can make your bones weak or lead to other problems. According to a 2008 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic.

Image: U.S. National Library of Medicine

This summer, I learned that I had a vitamin D deficiency after a yearly checkup with my physician. She determined this after seeing the results of a blood test she ordered. My doctor instructed me to take 6,000 international units (IU) of a vitamin D3 supplement for three months, followed by 2,000 to 4,000 IU of the supplement for the rest of my life.

For the rest of my life?! What the... My doctor said that some people don't produce or absorb the vitamin on their own as well as others. While my doctor doesn't know why I have this problem, it may have something to do with my thyroid.

In general, causes of vitamin D deficiency include:
  • Thyroid problems
  • Having darker skin
  • Living in a place that doesn't receive a lot of sunlight (the sun can help the body produce the vitamin naturally)
  • Never going outside
  • Certain medications
  • Some herbal supplements
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Malabsorption-related diseases
  • Obesity
Image: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Vitamin D3 Supplements

When we discussed vitamin D3 supplements, my doctor warned me to make sure they were of good quality. When DSpeed offered the chance to try its Fast-Melt Vitamin D3, I was definitely interested.


The DSpeed supplement is round tablet that melts in your mouth. I like that feature because I don't have to worry about having water to take it. The tablet has a peach flavor. I like the taste, but I'm also not opposed to the taste of sugar substitutes. 

My one gripe about the supplement is that it's only available in 1,000 IU. Since I was taking 6,000 IU a day, I would have been out of supplements in 10 days. Now that I'm taking 3,000 IU a day, I take a Fast-Melt and a 2,000 IU tablet by a different company.

If you need to take a vitamin D supplement (talk to your doctor about this), and you hate swallowing pills, I recommend the Fast-Melt Vitamin D3, which you can find on Amazon.com.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Items for Your Fall Kitchen

The following is an advertorial. I received the following items in exchange for an honest review. 

With the fall and winter holidays just around the corner, the right tools in your kitchen can help make preparing big meals simpler (and fun). A couple of my new favorites include a garlic press and a dual vegetable peeler.

Garlic Press

I recently tried the Propresser Garlic Press.It's made of stainless steel and strong. My old press was an aluminum one from a dollar store. It worked fine, but had a small basket. Propresser's press has a large basket, so I don't have to cut a clove into smaller pieces so it fits. Mincing garlic only takes a few seconds with this press.

A video from Propresser states that you can press the garlic without removing the outside skin. When I tried this, however, it was too tough for me to press. I have large hands and have to use both to start the pressing process when I use larger garlic cloves.

All in all, the Propresser Garlic Press works well and the company backs it with a 200 percent satisfaction guarantee.

Dual Vegetable Peeler

zoodles
The Julienne Peeler - Vegetable Peeler from Priority Chef is a delight. The gadget looks like a regular vegetable peeler, but has two heads. One head peels vegetables like a normal peeler and the other juliennes them so they look like long strips.

I brought the dual peeler to a family event for the cooks to try. They loved it! Everyone commented on how they don't have to use a mandolin and risk cutting their fingers to julienne vegetables.

The fun part of the peeler is that when you leave the julienned vegetables long, they look like pasta. The kids loved this, especially in the salad. The cooks like that the blades on the peeler tool work in both directions, not just in a downward motion.

My only gripe about the peeler is that it can be tricky to clean by hand. 

The people who tried the dual peeler said they wanted one. Now I have a great, affordable gift idea. (When you see the Julienne Peeler - Vegetable Peeler on Amazon, the product may be back-ordered. If so, you have to click on the "Other Sellers on Amazon" section and then find the peeler sold by Priority Chef to reserve one.)

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Natural Pain Relief Cream without the Smell

The following is an advertorial. I received the following product in exchange for an honest review.

Back in July, I wrote a post about an effective pain relief gel that I enjoyed. I recently had the opportunity to try a different product, Thera Relief lotion from Thera Vita.

Thera Vita claims that its lotion helps fight and calm inflammation in the joints and muscles using 27 natural compounds that are free dangerous chemicals, such as parabens. The cream is odorless and doesn't have a menthol-like smell.  

My Review

I recently tried Thera Relief when I pulled a muscle in my leg. The lotion is unscented and non-greasy. I applied the cream as directed, but didn't notice a difference in how I felt or my recovery time.

At this time I do not recommend Thera Relief for muscle or joint pain. If I change my mind, I'll let you know.  


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Best Beauty Products to Try this Fall

The following is an advertorial. I received the following products in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

I love trying new beauty products! I don't need a theme park with roller coasters for a thrill; just give me a bag of makeup. This summer, I tried a few products that I believe are must-haves in any beauty arsenal, regardless of your age: eye cream, skin exfoliator, a hair threader and pure, raw shea butter.

Eye Cream 

The skin around your eyes is thin and sensitive. At any age, you can experience dark circles, bags, dryness and puffiness. Using an eye cream twice a day -- in the morning and at night -- will help keep your eyes looking healthy and bright.

I recently tried the Age Defense Eye Cream by Body Merry. The cream has natural and organic ingredients, as well all peptides like Matrixyl-3000 and Tripeptide-5. In addition to helping prevent fine lines and wrinkles, it helps reduce their appearance.

The eye cream smells like Dr. Pepper. I liked that it contains natural ingredients and the formula was gentle enough that it didn't irritate my eyes. My skin absorbed the cream quickly, too.

Skin Exfoliator

I recently wrote about how and why to exfoliate your skin. Australian company Exfolimate brings you two exfoliators (one for your body and one for your face) that are unlike others offered on the market. Instead of scratchy sponges or lotions, the Exfolimate uses a thin piece of metal with micro-grooves that scrape away dead skin cells, dirt, oil and bacteria away from your skin. I use it in the shower, after I rinse off my soap and face wash.

Of all the exfoliators I've tried, the Exfolimate is the best. I use the larger exfoliator under my arms to remove deoderant and on my legs before shaving. The large exfoliator is also great on my feet!

The smaller exfoliator that comes in the Exfolimate kit is the best I've ever used on my face. It is the only exfoliator that has reduced the size of my pores and eliminated blackheads. The curves on the Exfolimate are small enough to fit along the tight spaces around my nose, making it better than a pore strip.

Hair Threader

Hair threader
One of the fastest ways to remove unwanted facial hair is with a hair threader, like the kind sold in the Facial Hair Remover Kit by Bella and Bear. The kit comes with a hair threader that's a tightly wound, flexible metallic spring and a set of tweezers.

To use the threader, you press the coil lightly against your skin and twist it. If you're not used to using such a contraption, it will hurt the first few time. But, just like your eyebrows and tweezers, your skin will get used to feeling. (You shouldn't try to use the hair threader on your eyebrows...unless you don't want any.)

The threader in the Bella and Bear kit works well, as do the tweezers. I like that the tweezers aren't dull, so they get some of the more stubborn hairs.

The only hesitation I have about the product is the "engrish" on the packaging: "People will stare, make it work [sic] their while." Just ignore it and you'll be fine.

Raw Shea Butter

Raw shea butter
I've always seen shea butter promoted on various products, but never appreciated its benefits until I tried the Raw Shea Butter from Cleopatra's Choice. Women in Ghana, Africa, produce this shea butter from the nuts of a shea tree.

Raw shea butter has similar benefits as coconut oil, but it is less likely to clog your pores. In my opinion, it feels less greasy. Shea butter's melting point is higher than coconut oil, so it stays hard until you rub it between your hands.

Raw Shea Butteris better than any other oil or lotion that I've tried on my feet. It absorbs into my skin quickly and lasts all day. My feet also don't feel slippery after I apply the shea butter, so they don't slide around in my sandals.

Stop buying lotions that have a tiny bit of shea butter. Go for the real thing and save money in the long-run with pure, raw shea butter.


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Resistance Bands: Strength Training without Weights

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

Some of my favorite tools in my workout arsenal (which I don't use often enough), are my resistance bands. While I own a few pairs free weights, resistance bands allow me to weight-train without needing to buy gym equipment or go to the gym. Plus, the bands are great for traveling because they hardly take up any space in my luggage and they only weigh a few ounces.

Until recently, I only owned long resistance bands, the kind that you step on in the center of the band. So, when PhantomFit offered the chance to try its Resistance Loop Bands, I was eager to give them a chance. The bands look like giant rubber bands and come in four different colors, according to resistance level, which range between light and extra-heavy.

The things I like the best about the loop bands include:
  • I can workout while sitting or standing
  • They're fun to use. (I like experimenting to see how I can modify different exercises.)
  • They're simple to use.
  • The latex is strong.
  • I can use multiple bands at once, if needed.
  • You can use the bands to work out different areas of the body, including the back, shoulders, legs, bum and arms.
  • PhantomFit will replace a band if it snaps and breaks.
I have three complaints about the bands:
  • The bands feel uncomfortable when the edges roll.
  • The bands feel uncomfortable at the higher resistance levels. (I think they should be wider.)
  • The bands are difficult to store in the included bag.
If you're looking for an alternative to free weights, I recommend resistance bands -- the long and loop kind.

Resistance Band Exercises

PhantomFit's Resistance Loop Bands are affordable and you can find them on Amazon.com.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Use Tea Tree Oil

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

Photo by Tangopaso; Wikimedia Commons.
I'm a fan of natural remedies. I have a few go-to essential oils in my that I use for various purposes, including tea tree oil. Tea tree oil works as an antiseptic, anti-fungal and infection-reducing remedy. 

As the name implies, tea tree oil comes from tea trees (Melaleuca alternifolia) in Australia. Sailors with Captain Cook saw indigenous Australians using the leaves to make tea, so they drank it to prevent scurvy. I should note, however, that the tea tree leaves are not the same as traditional tea leaves used in most teas.

Uses for Tea Tree Oil

Face 

  • Prevent acne: Use a 5 percent tea tree oil gel twice a day to prevent and reduce acne. The remedy works in about 45 days, according to WebMD.
  • Treat acne: Dip a cotton swab in a bit of tea tree oil and apply it to acne at night. Wash your face in the morning. The oil dries whiteheads, helps eliminate blackheads and disinfects pores.

Feet

  • Treat athlete's foot: Use a 25 to 50 percent tree tea solution (mix it with plain body lotion) to relieve and cure athlete's foot. WebMD states that this solution may work as well as medicated creams.
  • Toe nail fungus: Apply 100 percent tea tree oil to infected toenails twice a day for six months.

Skin

According to the American Cancer Society, tea tree oil kills several germs that are resistant to antibiotics. Add a several drop of tea tree oil to food-grade coconut oil to treat conditions such as:
  • Eczema
  • Wounds
  • Fungal infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Warts
  • Skin tags
  • Insect bites
  • Psoriasis
  • Sunburns
  • Scabies
If you have a tick, place the oil directly onto it. The oil will irritate the bugger so much that it will quick detach itself from your skin. 

Hair

  • Prevent dandruff: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a bottle of shampoo. The oils help moisturize your scalp.
  • Prevent head lice: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a bottle of shampoo. Lice hate the smell.

Coughs and Colds

 Add a couple drops of tea tree oil to a warm bath to help relieve congestion.

Cleaning Agent

  • Natural cleaner: Add two drops of tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle. 
  • Clean mold: Mix tea tree oil with apple cider vinegar, apply it to mold, scrub and let the item air-dry. 

Learn more about tea tree oil in this interesting video:



 



Warnings

  • Tea tree oil is toxic if ingested. Never swallow tea tree oil.
  • Do not use tea tree oil on babies younger than 6 months.
  • Do not use tea tree oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Tea tree oil is strong and may irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction. Test it on a small area first to see how your skin reacts. 
  • Do not use tea tree oil if you are allergic to plants in the myrtle (Myrtaceae) family, such as eucalyptus, clove, allspice or guava.

Recommended Tea Tree Oil

When I purchase tea tree oil, I like to purchase it in its purest form, at the strongest potency (100 percent). I was excited when Apothecary Extracts offered the opportunity to try its Pure Australian Tea Tree Oil because I was running low.

The 4 ounces of oil came in a bottle that was larger than I expected. The label's design is cool with its old-school-style graphics. The bottle has a European-style dropper, so you don't pour out too much or need a pipette (chemical dropper). As a bonus, the company sent a book with recipes to make natural remedies.

Apothecary Extracts states that its oil contains 5 or more cineole and over 35 terpinen-4-ol, making its product pharmaceutical grade, as established by the Australian Tea Tree Oil Industry Association. If you need proof of this, the company will send you a copy of its gas chromatography report.

The Pure Australian Tea Tree Oil works as advertised and expected. I'd recommend this to anyone searching for this essential oil. At the time of publication, you can only find Apothecary Extract's tea tree oil on Amazon.com.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

BBQ Tips for Beginners + Giveaway

The following is an advertorial. I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. 

Photo by Martin Steiger; Wikimedia Commons
One of my favorite things about warm weather is grilled food. Some people shy away from grills and barbeques because they're not sure how to make a successful meal. With the right tools and know-how, you can be a master of the flames. The following BBQ tips will get you on the right track to grilling-up a great meal.

Basic BBQ Tools

  • Long tongs, spatula and meat fork: Regular kitchen tools have handles that are too short to use over open flames. (I speak from experience.) Plus, you can't use them if they're made of plastic. Purchase tongs, a spatula and meat fork made of stainless steel that have long handles. The Flamen 5-Piece Stainless-Steel BBQ Set is affordable and has all the basics you need.
  • Meat thermometer: Nothing is worse than meat that's over- or under-cooked. Instead of cutting into your food to see if it's cooked (and butchering its appearance), use a simple meat thermometer. I like this type of ovenproof meat thermometer because it tells you the appropriate temperatures for different types of red and white meat.
  • Grill brush: Always clean the grate (the surface where you cook the food) after you finish cooking and the grill cools. A grill brush makes this task simple.
  • Chimney: If you have a charcoal grill instead of a gas grill, use a BBQ chimney to quickly and evenly heat the coals. The chimney takes the hard part out of grilling with charcoal and eliminates the need to use lighter fluid.  

BBQ Tips 

  • Prepare the grill: Before you start cooking, preheat a gas grill for at least 10 minutes. If you have a charcoal grill, empty the old ashes and let it heat up for 20 minutes with the new charcoal you prepared in the chimney. 
  • Grease the grate: Use an oil with a high smoking temperature, like canola oil, to grease the grate. To do this, fold a paper towel and dip it in the oil. While holding the paper towel with the long tongs, pass it over the hot grill grate.
  • Adjust the heat: Adjust the flames on a gas grill so your food doesn't burn. If you have a charcoal grill you may need to moves the coals to one side using the tongs or spatula so you cook your meat over indirect heat.
  • Check the temperature: Cook your meat until it has a safe internal temperature. Keep in mind that if you let your food rest after you take it off the grill, it may rise in temperature over the next 10 minutes.
    • Fresh lamb, veal and beef (rare): 145° F
    • Fresh lamb, veal and beef (well-done): 160° F
    • Turkey, chicken and other poultry: 165° F
    • Raw pork or ham: 145° F
    • Precooked ham: 140° F
    • Seafood: 145° F or until the flesh is pearly and opaque 
    • Ground beef, lamb, pork or veal: 160° F
    • Ground chicken or turkey: 165° F
  •  When to leave the grill cover off: If the meat is thinner than the depth of the top and bottom of your hand, don't use the grill cover.
  • Grill clean-up: After you finish grilling, always clean the grate. Then oil the grate so it doesn't rust. Don't leave bits of food on the grate because they can build harmful bacteria, the grate will rust (and won't last as long), and the food you cook is more likely to stick to it.

Grill Accessories

The best accessories for a grill are those that enhance safety, such as a heat-proof pad that you use under the grill to catch hot oil or charcoal. 

A new favorite accessory of mine is the Kuisiware Barbecue Grill Light. The light is heat-resistant, has 10 LEDs and easily clamps onto the grill's handle. It swivels 180° vertically and horizontally and the included batteries last up to 12 hours.

The LED lights are super bright, making the grill light ideal for cooking in the evening or at night. I also like that the light is super simple to turn on and off; you barely have to touch the power button. This is a nice feature when my hands are full. The one thing I found tricky is that it's more difficult to clamp the light onto handles that are square instead of rounded.

If you want to try this grill light, enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of your own. The giveaway ends September 2, 2014.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.