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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ways to Prevent Colon Cancer


Cancer has been on my mind a lot recently. My sister was diagnosed  with leukemia this year and recently received a bone marrow transplant. A friend of mine recently lost her battle with colorectal cancer. I hate cancer.

While leukemia isn't necessarily a cancer that you can prevent, there are things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. The Siteman Cancer Center shares the following tips.

How to Prevent Colon Cancer

  • Regular screening: The first thing my friend said to me when she found out that she had colon cancer was to get screened early and regularly. There are several colon cancer tests that most doctors recommend you undergo if you are 50 or older, or have a family history of colon cancer.

    The following are some tests and their recommended frequency. Talk to your doctor about the best tests for you: 
    • Fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test (stool test): Every year
    • Colonoscopy: Every 10 years 
    • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years
    • Virtual colonoscopy: Every 5 years 
  • Don't smoke.
  • Have an active lifestyle: Exercise regularly. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight: The Siteman Cancer Center states, "Except for smoking, nothing else raises the overall risk of cancer more than being overweight."
  • Avoid alcohol: While red wine may help improve heart health, alcohol in general increases your risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Consume enough vitamins and minerals: About 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 1,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day may help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. It may also be a good idea to take a multivitamin that contains folate. Talk to your doctor about the best supplements for you.
  • Consider low-dose aspirin: The Siteman Cancer Center says there's evidence that long-term use of low-dose aspirin can help prevent a heart attack and reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. Talk to your doctor to learn if this is a good option for your.
  • Eat healthy: Eat a diet that's rich in dark, leafy greens and fiber. Make red meat a "sometimes" food.

Probiotics and Colon Cleansers to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

At the time of publication, there isn't any evidence that products like colon cleansers or probiotic supplements can prevent colon cancer. However, maintaining regularity in regards to your GI tract may help.

I recently had the opportunity to try Pro-15 by Hyperbiotics, the Amazing Miracle Cleanse by Green Tea Life Sciences and Colon Cleanse Detox Plus by HealthyNow Nutritionals.

Probiotics
I did not use any of the products as a cleanse or to lose weight. Instead, I tried them for their main recommended use -- the promotion of digestive regularity. I take medications, so sometimes my gut needs a little help. Here's what I thought:
  • Hyperbiotics PRO-15: Out of the three products I tested, this was my favorite. It provided my gut with healthy bacteria that aids digestion without the need to eat yogurt. The tablets are small and the probiotics didn't make my stomach hurt at all. I took one tablet a day, but you can take up to three. 
  • The Amazing Miracle Cleanse: I'm not sure if there's anything amazing or miraculous about this product, but I can say that it works. I took one tablet at night and about 12 hours later (as the instructions promised), the supplement did its job. The only thing I didn't like was the slight cramping and stomach discomfort.
  • Colon Cleanse Detox Plus: This supplement worked well the first couple of times that I took it, but then it stopped. Like the Amazing Miracle Cleanse, I took one supplement at night. When it did work, I didn't experience any of stomach discomfort that I felt with the other product. Maybe I need to take two tablets at night. 
If you think you need colon cleanse to help your gut, do what the girl in the vitamin section of Whole Foods told me: eat mostly vegetables or consider a juice fast; your body will naturally regulate itself.

Never use colon cleansing products to lose weight or as weigh loss aids.

If you experience digestive problems, it's best to talk to your doctor.

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 7, 2014

Making Laundry Nicer

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

I hate doing laundry. My townhouse doesn't have washer/dryer hookups, so I have to use the provided laundry facility (expensive) or drive to the laundromat (inconvenient). Sometimes I resort to doing the laundry in my tub, which works out pretty well on warm days because the clothes dry quickly. 

To make hand-washing simpler, I made this contraption (see picture below). It's a toilet plunger from a dollar store. I used a box cutter to cut slits out of the rubber part of the plunger. 

To use the laundry plunger, I put the clothes in a tub or bucket, add soap and fill the tub with water. I then put the plunger in the tub, between the clothes, and lift it up and down. At the same time, I slightly rotate the plunger to mimic the agitation of a washing machine. In addition to washing my clothes, I get a good workout.


laundry toilet plunger
Laundry plunger
For soap, you can use regular laundry detergent. I prefer liquid detergent because the powdered stuff doesn't always dissolve well. A soap that I tried recently are liquid soap nuts by Green Virgin Products

soap nuts
Soap nuts are dried berries that come from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree in Asia. You can use soap nuts whole in your washing machine or purchase the liquid form of it. The berry contains natural soap called saponin. If you put one of the dried berries in a jar of water and shake it, suds will form. Saponins are non-toxic, won't harm your local watershed and help clean the grey water in sewers. Plus, they're gentle on sensitive skin. 

I was so skeptical about soap nuts when Green Virgin Products offered the chance to review its Soap Nuts Liquid that I had to try it. The first batch of laundry that I did with the liquid detergent was with the dirtiest clothes I had. And, yes, I washed them in my tub. 

The liquid is brown and doesn't smell like much. The soap didn't produce any suds, so I thought I didn't use enough. After squirting more detergent into the tub, I realized that I probably won't see any suds. 

After agitating the clothes with my laundry plunger, I could see the grime in the clothes coloring the water. When the clothes dried, I did a sniff test. The liquid soap nuts got rid of odors. To boost its stain-fighting power, I'd probably pair the soap nut with an oxy-type cleanser. But, all in all, my clothes were clean...and soft. Sometimes line-dried clothes are stiff, but mine weren't at all. 

I'm no longer a skeptic of soap nuts; I'm a fan.

Have you tried soap nuts? What's your experience with them?

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 3, 2014

How Retinol Helps Your Skin

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

Retinoids, a derivative of vitamin A, are ingredients found in skin care products proven to offer various skin benefits, according to Prevention. Since retinoids can irritate your skin and are only available with a prescription, over-the-counter products offer retinol, which slowly converts into retinoic acid.

The Benefits of Retinol

  • Smooth fine lines
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Fade dark spots
  • Unclogs pores and makes them look smaller
  • Treat psoriasis
Learn more about the benefits of retinol on WebMD.

A Retinol Products for Beginners

If you haven't use retinol or have sensitive skin, it's good to start with a skin care product that has lower amounts of retinol in it. For the last month, I've tried the Azure Naturals ULTIMATE RETINOL Anti Wrinkle Serum. The serum contains a high amount of retinol at 2.5 percent, but is gentle enough for sensitive skin and to use around the eyes.


I've only used Azure Naturals' serum for one month, so I haven't noticed a difference in the appearance of my skin. However, it can take up to 12 weeks to see a difference with over-the-counter products. During the last few weeks, I've had a clear complexion and it seems as if the size of my pores are smaller. With time and regular use, I hope to see ongoing positive results.


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, July 24, 2014

How to Exfoliate and Get Smooth Skin

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

Whether you have sensitive skin or skin that's prone to breakouts, a simple skin care practice can help you achieve and maintain smooth skin and a healthy glow: exfoliating. There are hundreds of products on the market that will exfoliate your skin with ingredients like ground up peach pits, walnut shells, micro beads or salt, and they all serve a similar purpose.

Why You Should Exfoliate Your Skin

Exfoliating:
  • Refines and smooths your skin's texture so it looks and feels soft. 
  • Cleanses your skin while dislodging oil and dirt in your pores, breaks up white- and blackheads, and prevents acne.
  • Increases blood flow to your face so your skin glows. 

How to Exfoliate Your Skin 

  1. Wash your face with your favorite face scrub or cleanser. Washing your face before exfoliating helps get rid of excess bacteria on your face and prepares your skin.
  2. Apply the exfoliating product to your skin. 
  3. Rub the product onto your skin using a gentle, circular motion. You don't have to grind the product into your skin for it to be effective.
  4. Rinse of the exfoliating product with warm water. 
  5. Pat your face dry. 
  6. Apply your favorite moisturizer. 
Since exfoliating can cause your face to have some normal temporary redness, I recommend that you exfoliate at night so you don't have to worry about applying makeup correctly. Plus, your face will look great in the morning.

If you have sensitive skin, exfoliate your skin once a week. Otherwise, exfoliate twice a week or as many times as the manufacturer recommends.

Natural Exfoliating Product

I like to exfoliate my skin. I like how the scratchy ingredients feel as they massage my skin. I swoon over how soft my skin feels afterward.

I recently tried the Adovia Exfoliating Facial Sea Salts. Unlike other exfoliating products, the jar only contains sea salt from the Dead Sea -- no cleanser or lotion to bind the salts together. This type of packaging ensures that the salts don't dissolve, I guess.

To apply the salts to my skin, I pressed my damp hands into the jar of salt and then rubbed the salt on my damp skin. The salts felt good on my skin and their smell reminded me of being at the beach. After I rinsed my skin, I felt (and smelled) like I just got out of the ocean.

You can mix a bit of the salts with a facial cleanser or coconut oil if you're afraid of the salt falling off your face. While I generally exfoliate my skin in the shower, I don't recommend bringing the jar of salt into the shower with you because they may get wet, which will ruin them.

After exfoliating, I moisturized my skin and applied Adovia's Mineral Eye Gel around my eyes. While I'm a big Adovia fan and like its skin care products, I can't say that I appreciate the eye cream. When I used it, the fumes or evaporating moisture from the cream greatly irritate my eyes for a few moments. A few moments is all it takes, however, to make me not use it around my eyes anymore, despite the benefits it offers. I guess my eyes are more sensitive than I thought.

So, I say "Yes"to the Exfoliating Facial Sea Salts and "Pass" to the eye cream. You can find both 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.