Friday, March 27, 2015

Facts about Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I received the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own.

omega 3 fatty acids
Image source: MedlinePlus
I had always known that omega-3 fatty acids were important for my health. While I try to get the nutrients that I need by eating them, it's hard for me to get the recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids -- a good type of fat. Fatty fish are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but I hate fish. (Actually, I hate all seafood, crustaceans, shellfish or anything else that lives in the water.) I can't stand the taste or the smell. While there are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids -- like flax, walnuts or canola -- some are are high in calories. The best source of omega-3 for me comes in the form of a supplement.

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids, or n-3 fatty acids are healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids. The acids control numerous functions, such as building brain cell membranes and controlling blood clotting. Professor Frank Sacks with the Harvard School of Public Health states that the body does not produce omega-3 fats on its own, so eating foods or taking supplements is the best way to get it.

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: those you get from vegetarian sources and those that come from fatty fish. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is what you find in walnuts, flax, leafy greens and some vegetable oils. Eeicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come from fatty fish. One type of the fatty acid isn't necessarily better than the other. Sacks recommends eating at least one food that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids every day.

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The University of Maryland Medical Research Center says that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent or control:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoperosis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Dermatitis
  • Asthma
  • Some types of cancer
  • Asthma

How Much Omega-3 to Take

According to Sacks, people who do not eat fish or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids should take a 500-miligram supplement daily. The University of Maryland Medical Research Center warns against taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day. Talk to your doctor to learn how much you should take, especially if you have one of the conditions listed in the previous section.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

For years, I was afraid to take fish oil supplements because I thought they'd smell bad and taste horrible. Plus, I didn't want to have "fishy burps." I used a supplement made from flax for a while, but a naturopathic doctor said that fish oil was better. Thankfully, technologies have advanced to the point that I no longer have an excuse to not take fish oil supplements. Here are a couple that I recently tried:

Omega-3 Fish Oil from Earthwell Nutrition- These supplements are lemon-flavored. When I read this, I thought the supplements were chewable. This isn't the case. The outside of the softgel capsule has a sweet lemon flavor. While the capsules are big, they are simple to swallow. The company uses a molecular distillation process to remove heavy metals.

I like that the tablets don't have an enteric coating, as those don't dissolve as well in the stomach, where the emulsification process should begin. It's also free of magnesium sterate, which low-grade manufacturers sometimes use. Each tablet has 1,360 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Supreme from Life & Food- This supplement comes in the form of a smaller capsule that's simple to swallow. Each 1,400-milligram capsule contains 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.

This supplement has an enteric coating, which some manufacturers use to prevent "fish burps." At the time of publication, there is no published scientific research that shows that enteric-coated softgels are better for assimilation or absorption. In regards to "fish burps," I didn't notice a different between the two supplements; neither made me burp.

While both supplements seemed the same to me, I like the one by Earthwell Nutrition better because of the lemon-flavored capsule. I often take the supplement without water, and the softgel goes down smoothly.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Essential Guitar Accessories for Beginners

I received the following products in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own.

 I've recently been writing a lot for a company that sells instruments, primarily guitars. Once you get into playing the guitar, you'll soon find out that there's a lot more to the craft than strumming an acoustic instrument. Yet, the acoustic guitar is where it all begins for most guitar players. To get the most out of your instrument, it's important to have the right gear. Not only do the accessories make playing simpler, they make it more fun. If you're new to guitar playing or are considering gifts for a new guitar player, the following are some essential guitar accessories to add to your musical toolbox:

Guitar Picks 

If you're a beginning guitar player, you may not know what type of pick is the best to use. In addition to picks made from different materials on the market, picks come in a variety of thicknesses. The best type of pick comes down to personal preference and the type of guitar you play. If you have a bass, for example, thicker picks are generally better. Thin picks are flexible and better for acoustic guitars.

guitar picks
Because finding the right pick may seem tricky, Pick Geek helps make the decision process simpler. It offers two sets of picks made from celluloid and tortex. Celluloid picks have a smooth, matte finish that make them simple to grip. Tortex picks have a cool tortoise shell or mother of pearl-like look to them. I personally like the Pick Geek pick that looks like abalone shell.

The picks come in a variety of colors, so they're great for guys and girls. They also come with varying thickness, which are printed on the picks themselves. This is nice because it lets you get a feel for each thickness and choose the one you like best. It's also good for a person who plays different types of guitars.

The picks come in a cool metal case that pops on and off by pushing down on the top or squeezing down on the sides. With the set that I received, one box was simpler to close than the other. I also found that if you put an equal number of thinner picks in one box and thicker picks in the other, it's hard to secure the lid to box with the thicker picks because they stack higher. It's also harder to open because you don't have as much room to depress the top of the lid.

When my family and I tried out the picks, we found that the thicker picks produced a richer, more resonant sound when strummed on an acoustic guitar. The tones sounded brighter when we used the thinner picks. Everyone liked that the picks had the thickness level imprinted on them, as well as the cool colors. 

Guitar Strap

guitar strap

It's hard to play safely and comfortably without a guitar strap. It's important to get a strong strap that will stay in place, especially at the bottom button of the guitar. Strapsnake sent me a black cotton guitar strap with brown leather ends. The adjustable strap is 2 inches wide and the cotton is thick. I like that it accommodates a variety of guitar scale lengths. The strap also feels comfortable, especially on heavier guitars.

The leather seemed strong and sturdy. The tie for the headstock, however, didn't impress me that much because it looks like a shoe lace. While laces are common in acoustic guitar straps, I personally prefer the look of headstock loops.

Music Stand

Every new player does it: puts the book of songs or pages of chord tabs on a bed or couch while playing. Doing this makes it difficult to see the music. A collapsible, inexpensive music stand is an easy solution that is always useful.

Guitar Tuner

Playing out of tune is as bad as singing out of tune. There are a variety of inexpensive tuners available on the market. Guitar tuning whistles are a good choice if the player has a good musical ear. Digital tuners may be a more accurate solution, particularly for new musicians. They have display with a gauge that shows when a string is in tune. The ones that clamp onto the headstock are particularly nice.

What guitar accessories are must-haves for you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Importance of Distraction-Free Driving

I received the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. 

The scenario in the video above is painfully true for too many people. In February 2006, a man in a large commercial van filled with heavy tools looked for a CD on the floor of the vehicle as he drove down a local highway at 55 miles per hour. As he took his eyes off the road "for just a second," the driver didn't notice the line of cars stopped ahead of him. In a split second, the distracted driver totaled the car in front of him and pushed it into another vehicle. The person in the totaled car was my husband. 

My husband is good at paying attention to his surroundings. He saw the van coming toward him and, anticipating the collision, positioned the car in a manner that would cause the least impact. That split second decision saved his life. The accident, however, left him permanently disabled.

The force of the impact threw the driver-side seat off the tracks and broke it
The damage to the work van was minimal
There is no question that I'm a big promoter of distraction-free driving. When I drive, I leave my cell phone in my purse and ignore it if it chimes or rings. I don't even use a headset when I drive to talk on the phone because getting it to answer calls and such is too distracting. Fortunately, I learned this lesson while walking. AAA found that I'm not the only one who is distracted by convenience features meant to help drivers keep their eyes on the road. Researchers call these "cognitive distractions," as they focus your mind away from the task of driving even though your eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel.

Image source: AAA
This short clip explains more about cognitive distractions:


Watch the full video here.

Have Everything  Accessible

When I drive, I like to have everything I need readily accessible. While my husband and I do not talk on our cell phones or text while driving, I was interested in trying the cell phone vent mount holder from Dash Mate, sold by CJ's Savings. The mount clips into a vent in your car and holds it in place, eliminating the need to use a suction cup device on your windshield.

I like the ideas of a vent mount because you should never have anything in your line of sight (on your windshield) as you drive. Plus, I don't trust suction cups. I was skeptical about the mount at first because I have a big phone. The arms on the mount stretched and accommodated its size perfectly. I later read that the mount will even hold Samsung Galaxy Not phablets (phone/tablets). I also thought that the mount would cause the vent to move around because of its weight, but it did not.

We use the phone mount for the music app on the phone. When there's a song that we don't like, the it's simple to push the thumb-down button at a stop light. It's also nice when we need to look at a map. We find the map before heading out and put the phone in the mount. Thanks to the mount, it's easier to hear the turn-by-turn directions. If the driver needs to get a better look at the map while driving, we simply pull-over.

No one ever regrets driving safely. Make distraction-free driving part of your routine today. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Product that I Don't Recommend

I received the following product in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. 

Many companies offer bloggers the chance to review their product because they think a particular item is outstanding and they want bloggers to promote it. The Federal Trade Commission mandates that individuals disclose if they receive an item in exchange for a review, regardless of the platform. Reviewers should follow the ethical standard of being honest about the products received and their opinions.

Not all of the products that I receive are that great...or even good. Once in a while, I receive a major fail. Francois et Mimi sent me their porcelain espresso set to review. This is exactly how it looked when I opened the box:

Packaging fail
The smaller box that the espresso set came in was torn and falling apart. To secure the set, the packaging included two pillow packs. I was so surprised by the poor packaging that I had to take a picture. 

Because of the packaging fail, parts of the espresso set chipped.

Who wants to drink out of this?
I contacted the company about the packaging problem a few weeks ago. I have yet to hear from them. So much for customer service. This espresso set is available through Amazon, but I don't recommend that you purchase it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Easy Wine Pairing Guide

I received the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own.

A few years ago, I went to a grand opening event at a clothing store. The store promoted itself by offering a wine tasting to visitors. When I arrived, a nice person asked if I'd like to try the wine. After she asked what type I'd like, I asked her what types she had. Her answer, "Red and white." I started to laugh out loud; I couldn't help myself.

I am no where close to being a wine-o or claim to have any inside knowledge about wine. But living in the heart of the wine country region of my state, I've learned a thing or two about it. It seems like people have the hardest time knowing how to pair wine with food.

Simple Wine Pairing Rules

  1. When in doubt, match the wine with the food's color. For example, use red wine for red meat. Pair a chicken or fish dish with white wine. The reason for this is because of the how the acids and tannins (a compound in red) wine interact with the acids and fats in foods.  
  2. Champagne goes with anything (for me, anyway).

Wine pairing chart
Click image to enlarge

 Basic Wine Pairing Rules

  • Red wines go well with fatty foods.
  • Pair the flavors. If the food has a delicate flavor, for example, accompany it with a delicate-tasting wine.
  • Show off a great wine with a simple dish.
  • If a food seems as if it would taste great with a splash of vinegar, lemon or lime, go with white wine.
  • Serve sweet white wines with low alcohol levels with spicy food. Stay away from reds because the tannins intensify the heat in foods. 
  • Pair sweet wines with salty snacks. 
  • Serve a dessert wine with dessert. 
  • Some foods sometimes don't seem to go well with any wines, such as: 
    • Artichokes
    •  Asparagus
    • Egg yolks (Who eats just the yolks?)
    • Green beans
    • Brussel sprouts
    • Seafood that's high in iodine, like cod, mackerel, haddock and some shellfish
  • When in doubt, offer red and white wine with a meal.

Wine pairing chart
Click to enlarge

Wine Hacks

  • Chilling wine: One of the lamest things that I've ever seen is a glass of wine with ice cubes in it. Some wines taste better chilled, while others taste better at room temperature (this is a topic for a different blog post). If you don't have a fancy wine refrigerator or didn't have time to chill your wine in the fridge, use a wine chilling rod. The hardest thing about it is remembering to put it in your freezer and then remembering to use it.

    FrescoVino's wine chilling rod comes with a plastic-like chilling rod that you keep in the freezer until you need it, a built-in aerator (some wines need to "breathe" before you drink them), pourer and a stopper. Place the chilling rod in the bottle of wine for at least 5 minutes and then pour yourself a glass of vino. It's just that simple.
  • Storing wine: I don't finish bottles of wine for the sake of finishing them. I'm a person who re-corks the bottle after drinking a glass or two. Unfortunately, an open bottle of  wine does not get better with age. The last thing you want is an expensive bottle of wine turning into vinegar-like nastiness.

    Fabulously Functional's Sip & Save is a wine pump that saves your wine using special stoppers instead of corks. All you need to do is place the stopper in the bottle's opening and remove the air that's inside the bottle using the included pump. I like that the set comes with two stoppers. Because of the vacuum seal, the wine stays good for another four to seven days. If you opened a bottle of sparkling wine, you'll need a different gadget.
What wine pairing tips do you have?

Infographic credit: Wine Folly. Check out their other cool infographics here

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Care for a Beard + DIY Beard Oil

I received the products mentioned in exchange for an honest review on my blog. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. (Well, today they are my husband's.)

Beard care tips
Today, the beard is about 2 inches longer
My husband has a BIG beard and it brings him great pride. Not only is he keeping up with Pacific Northwest Fashion, he never has to shave. (This is a bonus for him because he hates shaving.) People ask him about how he cares for his beard and learn that it's not that hard. Here are some tips that he offers for awesome beard care:

1. Wash It

Like the hair on your head, you have to wash the hair on your face. My husband uses regular shampoo for his beard. If you have sensitive skin, a baby shampoo will be better.

2. Condition It

Beard hair is naturally coarse and wiry. My husband used my hair conditioner until he received Smooth Viking’s Beard Conditioner, which he liked. He said that it’s like a balm or soft wax with a light scent that you can’t even feel when you apply lit. He thinks that it’s a good product to use every day if you’re not using beard oil.

3. Oil It

If you don’t want to use a beard conditioner, beard oil is a good substitute. My husband recently tried and reviewed three different oils:
  • RealMan Company Beard Oil: My husband was surprised by the oil’s scent because it smells like coffee. He likes that it’s an all-natural product and that it comes with a dropper for easy application. He hates pouring beard oil into his hand.
  • CanYou Handlebar Beard Oil: This was my husband’s least favorite of the three oils that he tried. While the oil comes in a cool-looking flask, the container is the product’s flaw. When you pour out the oil, it collects around the flask’s mouth, forming a gum. When this happens, the lid doesn’t close tightly. So, if the flask tips over, the oil spills. He also said the oil’s scent is “interesting” and lingers for most of the day.
  • SmoothViking Beard Oil: My husband thinks this is a good beard oil for everyday use. It does not have a strong scent and it comes with a dropper.

4. Shape It

Most guys don’t use hair gel or mousse in their beards. Instead, they use a balm. My husband used Smooth Viking’s Beard Balm, which is like a slightly stiff wax. He says that it’s “Really nice if you want to keep part or most of your beard from moving around as much as it does normally.”

5. Wax It

If you feel like getting fancy, you may choose to give your mustache a particular shape. My husband likes to have a handlebar mustache sometimes and uses mustache wax for this. He tried Can You Handlebar’s Moustache Wax, which he says has a light tobacco-like scent. While the wax held all day, my husband said that it wasn’t as good as a different brand he tried. 

How to Make Beard Oil

If you’re on a budget, you may have the ingredients necessary to make beard oil at home. Otherwise, a small investment in the items necessary will last you a long time.

What You Need

  • Carrier oil, I like the fractionated coconut oil from goPure Naturals
  • Essential oils in the scents that you like
  • A small glass jar that’s tinted (tinted is best because light exposure degrades some oils)
  • Funnel

What to Do

1. Pour the carrier oil into the small jar until it’s ¾ of the way full. In addition to fractionated coconut oil, rosehip seed oil is another great option because it won’t cause your skin to break-out. 

2. Add two or three drops of essential oil into the jar. Feel free to mix the oils to create a blend that you like. Some ideas for manly smelling oils include:
  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint oil 
  • Lemon oil
  • Orange oil 
  • Anise oil 
  • Bay oil 
  • Cedarwood oil 
  • Cinnamon oil 
  • Frankincense oil 
  • Lavender oil 
  • Eucalyptus oil 
  • Juniper oil 
  • Sandlewood oil 
  • Rosewood oil 
  • Sage oil 
  • Vanilla oil 
  • Rose oil 
  • Lilac oil 
While rose, lilac and vanilla don't seem like manly scents, they smell nice when mixed with other oils. Some ideas for combinations are rosewood oil with rose oil or sandlewood oil with orange. Keep in mind that a drop or two of essential oils go a long way, so you don't need much. 

3. Put the lid on the bottle and shake to blend. If the scent of the oils is too strong, add more of the carrier oil to the bottle.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Make Your Own Bath Salts

I received the product mentioned in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. 

Bath salt recipes
While I'm not a person who soaks in the bathtub for hours, I do enjoy the occasional spa day at home. When I do feel like lounging in the tub, I like to add bath salts to the water because of the nice scents. They also help exfoliate and purify my skin and relax my muscles. Adovia Mineral Skin Care sent me a package of its Adovia Dead Sea Bath Salts that are 100 percent pure.

About Dead Sea Salt

Sea salts are distilled from sea water and contain trace minerals. They also contain no additives. According to Adovia, Dead Sea salts have more minerals in them than Epsom salt. They naturally contain higher levels of magnesium, potassium and sulfates, and only have 8 percent sodium chloride. Unlike other bath salts, Adovia's has a finer grain, so it dissolves faster in the water. (I don't like sitting on rocky bath salts). I like that it doesn't have any additives or scents.

Bath Salt Recipes

Bath salt recipes
I received my package of Dead Sea salts just after I broke my foot, so I haven't had the chance to have a proper, full-body soak. When you have a broken bone, you aren't supposed to soak the affected area because the warm water encourages extra blood flow in the injured area, which results in swelling. I have, however, soaked my healthy foot, as it gets tired from bearing extra weight.

To make the most of the bath salts I received, I made my own scented bath salts. They're simple to make using essential oils. When you make the homemade bath salts, be sure to store them in an air-tight container (like this) so you don't expose them to extra humidity. Here are some of my favorite bath salt recipes:
  • Relaxing bath salts: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a 1/2 cup of Dead Sea salts. For a nice effect, add about three drops of purple food coloring.
  • Vanilla bath salts: Add a drop of vanilla extract and a whole vanilla bean to 1 cup of sea salt.
  • Energizing bath salts: Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to the sea salt. Place a small sprig of fresh rosemary in the jar for a luxurious look. For a boost, as one drop of lemon essential oil to the mix.
  • Soothing bath salts: Add a couple drops of rose essential oil and a drop of lemon essential oil to 1/2 cup of sea salt. Color it however you please. For a special look, add bits of rose petals to the mix.
  • Perk-me-up bath salts: Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a 1/2 cup of sea salt. Use a couple drops of red food coloring to give it a nice look.
  • Mojito bath salts: Add three drops of lemon essential oil and one or two drops of peppermint essential oil to a 1/2 cup of sea salt.
  • Orange dreamcicle bath salt: Add two drops of orange extract to 1/4 cup of bath salts. Use two drops of orange food color, if you wish. In another bowl, add two drops of vanilla extract to a 1/4 cup of bath salts. Layer the different salts in an air-tight jar, alternating between orange and white. If you don't want to add colors, you can make the concoction in one bowl instead of two.
  • Foot soak bath salt: Add two drops of lavender essential oil and tea tree oil, along with one drop of peppermint essential oil to a 1/2 cup of sea salt. 

In place of food coloring, you may use mica powder or liquid soap colors. If you prefer a stronger scent, feel free to add more essential oil or extracts to the salts. For the best results, shake the jar of bath salts before using them.

Photo source: Adovia Mineral Skincare