Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Enhance the Flavor of Your Food With Gluten Free Spices

 Written by a contributing writer

Whether you have celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, or need to consume a low-carb diet, you might be wondering if you will be stuck eating bland foods for the rest of your days. Fortunately, there are gluten-free spices available to liven up the dishes that you prepare. These spices work well on fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, and more. Your taste buds will thank you when you try out some of these flavor combinations.

Spices to Try on Fruit

Whether you prefer your fruit fresh, stewed, or baked, you can enliven its taste with some spices. A classic is cinnamon. Stick with Ceylon cinnamon, which is a true cinnamon. It pairs well with apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, bananas, and berries. You can sprinkle it on to freshly sliced fruit, stewed fruit, or baked fruit. It works especially well as a topping on a fruit crisp or a pie with no crust. Some other spices for fruit include nutmeg, tarragon, allspice, and ginger.

Spices for Use on Vegetables

There are many spices without gluten that will taste great on your vegetables. Sprinkle the spices directly onto raw vegetables or add them to vegetables in a stir-fry. Roasted vegetables also pair well with spices. Consider trying spices such as garlic, onion, chili powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, mint, star anise, chives, or sage. Experiment with combinations of spices, such as garlic with basil and oregano for Italian roasted root vegetables.

Spices to Add to Proteins

Whether you consume fish, poultry, meat, or legumes as a source of protein, there are many wonderful spices to add to your dishes. Some gluten free spices that taste great on lentils and legumes include curry, chili powder, garlic, saffron, and cilantro. Add some garlic and tomatoes for a full spectrum of flavor. When seasoning fish, try lemon pepper and garlic. For poultry, curry and garlic are excellent. Basil, oregano, and pepper work well on fish, poultry, and meats of all types.

Busy Being Busy: Making The Most Of Your Time When You're A Mom

Written by a contributing writer 


Mom guilt is something every mom will go through at some stage; having kids is a rewarding, but tough role, and you’ll be left with little to no free time. Stepping back into a working role post-maternity leave, or after time away spent raising your family can be daunting. Many working mothers fear that they are not going to do as well parenting when they go back to work to pursue their career and at the same time, also not do as well as an employee as they did pre-children. However, once you’ve mastered the juggling act of doing both (and don’t worry, you’re totally able), you’ll hopefully feel fulfilled in each aspect of your life, and probably very tired at the end of each week. The following are some ideas and inspirations for busy moms (all moms) who need a helping hand when it comes to a balance between their working life and life with the kids home.


Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/hand-pen-writing-plant-58457/


Your Time Is Your Time

There will be free time in the evenings, weekends and holidays, and if you make the most of it; you’ll begin to notice and appreciate your free time even more. Whether you want to study for that operations management online degree to further your career, or you feel like binge watching some shows on Netflix to unwind; make sure that you’re doing what you want to do. Don’t be dictated by what you feel you should be doing; this will only add to all that mom guilt.

When you’re out of the work or office space, and you and the family have some time together; make plans. You don’t have to spend a fortune dragging everyone around a theme park (this is still an option though). Family walks, adventures, and picnics are all enjoyable ways to hang out together, make memories, and won’t cost a fortune. If you do feel like spending some of your hard-earned salary on treating your loved ones, then planning a vacation together is something everyone can look forward to. On the run up to your getaway, part of your free time in the evenings can be spent with your family, making plans on what you want to do once you get there, and enjoying the countdown.

Enjoy Them More

Whether you’ve just stepped foot in the office, or through the front door at home; you need to be present in that environment and learn to switch from one to the other. Obviously, you never stop being a parent; but worrying all day at work about what your kids are doing, wearing, or eating, isn’t going to help make you a productive member of your work team. It’s then important to be able to switch off from total mom-mode, in order to get on with your workday.

The same goes for when you’ve arrived home after work; make sure your kids don’t feel your stresses from the work day and be in the moment with them for dinner, bath, and bedtimes. Just because you’ve gone back to work, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the everyday special moments together as a family. But, bringing a pile of work home physically or mentally, will have a negative impact on your mood, which will filter down to your kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fighting The Jet Lag Symptoms

Written by a contributing writer


Fall is here! And that means holiday travel is just around the corner. Traveling is a lot of fun, except when you find yourself suffering from a bad case of jet lag. There’s nothing worse than feeling too exhausted to enjoy the adventure. And while it takes only a few days for your body to go back to normal, it also means that you may not be able to enjoy any long-distance trip of a couple of days – as your body can’t adapt quickly enough.

Unfortunately, without medicine to take the edge of your jet lag – aside from sleeping tablets if you’re struggling to sleep at appropriate times –, you are left in an uncomfortable position. Apart from tiredness and difficulties sleeping, jet lag is also associated with digestive problems such as constipation, indigestion or bloating, which can also affect the quality of your trip. Ultimately, as sleeping tablets are not for everyone – and may not solve the underlying issue – you may need to get creative to fight off the jet lag effect for short trips!




Jet lag, the agony of travelers



The dilemma: Sleeping on the plane or not?


One of the most common issues on a long flight is to know whether you should sleep or not, and more importantly how to shift your sleep schedule when flying long distance. Indeed, as travel impacts on your biological clock – ultimately the jet lag is the result of being ‘out of sync’ with your destination – you can adjust your body to new sleeping patterns ahead of your journey. An in-flight plan to help you to relax and take a power nap can make all the difference too!


Your emergency beauty bag


Long flights or flights happening during your usual night time can leave you feeling miserable on arrival. Your face is pale. Your eyes are red. Your hair is all over the place. Ultimately, you don’t really feel confident about the person who’s looking back at you in the mirror of the airport. Never underestimate the power of makeup in the morning. Pack a little bag of essentials you can use to look refreshed and alert once you arrive. Nothing beats a clean foundation and a little lipstick!


A breakfast of champions

You might not feel hungry after a long flight, but picking the right breakfast can fuel you for the rest of the day – and help your body get over the jet lag effect. The classic bowl of oats can work wonders and keep you running all day without crashing! Something as simple as a glass of water can encourage your body to rehydrate and maintain its normal functions.


Do a no jet lag workout


Can sports be the answer? According to experts, you can and should exercise ahead of your flight to reduce your jet lag. An intense workout can help you to sleep on the plane. Make the most of the moments of alertness in-flight to keep your blood flowing with easy leg extensions, and glute squeezes. A moderate intensity workout after your arrival can help reduce jet lag symptoms too – assuming that you don’t push yourself too much.



Pixabay


From preparing your body to adjust to new sleep patterns to fueling it with the best nutrients, there are some tips to reduce your jet lags. You can never eliminate it completely unless you opt for sleeping tablets. But feeling a little tired is better than being unable to function during your holiday!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gastritis Diet Hacks and Update

"So...you're still dealing with this? How long is this going to last?" My dad questioned me as I looked for plain oatmeal in their pantry while explaining that even though my son and I had come over for dinner, I couldn't eat the dinner they were serving. Believe me, pasta, salad, and garlic bread sound a lot more appetizing than oatmeal. But, unfortunately, my stomach still isn't there yet.

But - good news - I am able to eat a larger variety of foods now. And along the way, I've found a few hacks and foods that I can tolerate. Some of these gastritis hacks are also "healthy alternatives" to some not-so-healthy foods. So even if you're not dealing with a damaged stomach, you may want to stick around to learn some healthy food hacks.

Disclaimer before I get into it - These are foods I can tolerate. Everyone with gastritis/stomach issues is different. I'm also about 7 months into treatment.

This first one is something you may already know if you follow me on Instagram. (Shameless plug - follow me @FloridaMommyDiaries.)

(Also, as I insert this post's photos I feel the need to say this post is not sponsored by or affiliated with any brand. I just really love the dairy-free Reddi-Wip!)

Easy Sweet Potato Dessert

It's super simple, quick, and easy to make. Just bake (or nuke) a sweet potato, cut it open, and add some Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Reddi-Wip on top. It tastes almost like a sweet potato casserole or pie. But way fewer calories/sugar. And gastritis friendly.

Oven "Fries"

French fries. I haven't been crazy about them since I had my son (I couldn't stand ANYTHING potato while I was pregnant).  But...of course once I can't have them, I want them. I now make a version I can tolerate at home. I cut up a potato into wedges, toss it in olive oil (an oil I can tolerate) and salt, and bake it in the toaster oven at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. They're so good that my husband even prefers them.


Banana with Coconut Sugar

This is a "dessert," although I like my desserts sugary with chocolate or ice cream...this is something sweet that I can tolerate. And it's a bit healthier than an ice cream sundae. I simply cut a banana lengthwise, sprinkle some coconut sugar over it, and toast it in the toaster oven until the sugar caramelizes.


Avocado 

I use avocado for everything. Mash it up and pretend it's a less flavorful guac. Avocado toast has become a staple. I also mash it up and mix it with salt and olive oil to make a creamy pasta "sauce."


Non-Coffee Coffee

The top three things I miss are the three C's - cheese, chocolate, and coffee. I haven't found an alternative to cheese yet. But I have found alternatives for chocolate (hang in there, I'll get there) and coffee.  Apparently, they make coffee alternatives that are caffeine-free.  Do they really taste like coffee? Eh. Kaffree Roma (I tried several brands, this was the one I liked best) tastes a little bit like airplane coffee (you know, that coffee you get on an airplane that ranges from awful to so-so). But add in some almond milk creamer (they even make a pumpkin spice flavor now!) and top it with either the coconut milk Reddi-Wip or almond milk Reddi-Wip and it's as close as you're going to get to coffee without having...well...coffee.



Carob

This is the chocolate alternative.  I remembered buying a dog we had years ago dog cookies made out of safe-for-dogs people food. They looked like chocolate chip cookies. But the "chocolate chips" were carob chips. So I set out to look for carob treats. Again, it doesn't taste like chocolate on its own. But a local grocery store (shout out to Publix) carries carob covered raisins and carob covered almonds. The carob covered raisins taste most like chocolate covered raisins. The almonds...meh. They're not bad but they definitely don't taste like chocolate covered almonds.



Random tips:

  • When eating out, look at the restaurant's menu online beforehand if you can. It will make it less overwhelming if you plan out what you're going to order ahead of time since, most likely, you will have to ask the server to leave out a few ingredients. (Or ask them to put them on the side - which is what I do.)
  • Breakfast is one of the easiest things to order when eating out. Egg whites are a good option. And if all else fails - pancakes.
  • Grab and go snacks can be hard to find. I can tolerate:
  1. Sunchips
  2. Pistachios
  3. Harvest Snaps Lightly Salted






Sunday, September 16, 2018

7 Ideas To Help Raise Environmentally-Responsible Kids

Written by a contributing writer 



As a parent, it's important to take your job seriously when it comes to raising responsible citizens for the future. It's essential to raise your children to be physically healthy, emotionally strong, and kind. It's also vital to instill strong values related to the environment in your children. Here are 7 tips to help you raise environmentally-responsible children.

1. Choose Eco-Friendly Products

Before you show your children how to appreciate the earth, you'll need to make some changes to your own habits and household usage. Start with your buying habits in your home. Swap out your paper products for eco-friendly items. Switch any old appliances out for energy saving options. Look for natural products produced by companies that are committed to protecting the environment. Some of these products may cost a bit more, but in the end, you could spend less on utilities.

2. Eat a Plant-Based Diet

You can also show your children your commitment to being environmentally responsible in your diet. Eliminate items such as red meat from your diet and focus on foods that are plant-based. Stop buying produce and other items that aren't in season and require excessive shipping and processing. Visit local farmer's markets and choose items that are grown in your area to show your children eco-friendly foods. You can also start your own garden to give them ideas about producing food.

3. Practice Recycling

Recycling is another big part of an eco-friendly household. Set up a system in your house that sorts items from the trash and into the recycling bins. Teach your children about which items are able to be recycled and which ones should be thrown away. Create a composting pile in your backyard and model using it with your kids. This way, you can reduce your garbage over time.

4. Promote Reusing Objects

Next, show your children how effective it is to reuse items instead of throwing them away. Instead of buying brand new clothes, toys, and household objects, visit yard sales, thrift stores, or other spots to buy secondhand items. You can also save money big time by avoiding the sticker shock of a brand new item. When your children outgrow clothing or toys, get them involved in the process of putting them up for sale or donating them to a good cause.

5. Reduce Water Waste

Modeling responsible water usage is another way you can show your children how to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. Explain the problem with water in the world today by showing them news stories and information about ventures like the Cadiz Water Project. Teach them how to take shorter showers and leave off the water when brushing their teeth. Encourage using rainwater collection ideas, such as a rain barrel for watering plants and the grass.

6. Take Field Trips

Field trips are another great idea if you want to expose your kids to all different types of environmental education. One eye-opening experience that could change your kids' perspective is a trip to the local landfill. Show your children the amount of waste that goes into the landfill each day to give them a real sense of what the planet is facing for the future.

7. Explore the Outdoors

Finally, it's also important to teach your kids to appreciate the beauty of the earth each day. You can do this by exploring different parts of your region's outdoor attractions. Check out local parks, forests, hiking trails, and more to give your children a better idea of what is at stake with the environment. When they see the raw beauty of the land, they may be more likely to work harder to protect it.
If you want to help the planet stay healthy for the next generation, you must work hard to teach children what needs to be done. Model these environmentally-friendly practices with your kids to raise children who appreciate the earth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Easy Ways to Change the Look of Your Home

This is a sponsored guest post by Alex from The Berger Bungalow.


Over two years ago, I remember stepping foot in my first home for the first time. It was just a few years after my husband and I got married and I could not believe that we were buying our first home! Hopefully the home that we would eventually bring our future kids home from the hospital to. I was so, so excited.

The home buying process was intense, to say the least. Our rental home that we were currently in was up for sale and we didn’t want to risk getting kicked out due to it selling before we found a home of our own, so we were in a time crunch. We searched and searched for something that was ‘perfect’ and still within our budget and it just seemed like everything didn’t fit us, or our offers were turned down (we even offered full asking price + closing costs and got turned down!). We had no idea why it was happening and we were so frustrated.

But, just one week after our offer was turned down, we were about to leave for a trip to the beach and my sister (who also happened to be our realtor) called me and told me that she thought she found the perfect place for us, but we had to make an offer that very day. So, we delayed our trip by a few hours, saw the house, and made an offer from our car, on the way to Florida.



Although it needed some TLC (I mean, every single room had a different color!), it was perfect and it was just what I imagined: a large kitchen so that Ian and I could cook together, a dining room where our family could get together and share meals and laughs, an office AND a future playroom/current man cave (this was very high on my want list, but I didn’t think it was in our budget), a big back yard for our pups, an open floor plan, high ceilings, and the list goes on. I was just so excited to make the home ours and make it stand out.

But, over the years, as much as I have wanted to really work on our home, we have been spending all of our energy (and money) on travel. We visited wineries in Montalcino, hiked Cinque Terre, explored Sonoma County and even tried a Cedar Bath (which was so cool!), and we have many trips coming up throughout the end of the year which include, New Orleans, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Nassau, Florida (again), and more. Because of this, I haven’t really done much other than our initial renovations with the house and I am now ready to get down to business and really focus on decorating for the seasons, improving our home, and doing a few renovations. Here are some of the things we are planning to do (which will hopefully make our house more homey and also boost the value of the home):

Paint The Kitchen Cabinets

I absolutely love the kitchen, but as you can see, our cabinets have an orange tint to the wood and I really prefer lighter colors, without the warmth. So, I think I am going to paint the wood a lighter, more neutral color and also change out the hardware to look a bit more modern compared to the knobs that we currently have.




Install New Countertops

This is definitely on my top 3 ‘must do’ list. Our countertops are just a plain white laminate right now and I really do not like them. They stain, they are hard to keep clean, and they are a very inexpensive material. I would love to replace these as soon as possible, in order to make our kitchen look better and more upscale, which will in turn, boost our home value and make it more appealing for future purchasers.




Fireplace Surround

Our current fireplace surround is just black wood right now and it’s very dark for me. I have been searching for something to enhance the look of it for a while now, but everything is so pricey! I finally came across Faux Brickwork, which seems like an awesome option. Faux Brickwork is the leading supplier of faux brickwork to the domestic and commercial world. They supply faux brickwork to many luxury homes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, offices and retailers. Located out of Clearwater Florida, Faux Brickwork is able to provide authentic looking brickwork without the high costs of building work. Their high quality panels are made from plaster, which makes them authentic visually and also makes them lightweight, making installation fast and simple. The reason why we are considering Faux Brickwork for our fireplace surround is because of the fact that we can order and install it quickly and it would be much more affordable compared to tradition brick, or even tile. They also offer samples and a custom design service, so we know we will be getting exactly what we want. I mean, look at this picture below. It looks so authentic!



Install New Tile

Again, this is on my top 3 ‘must do’ list. Our current kitchen tile is very, very ugly. In fact, I was chatting with my blog agent the other day and described it as “poop brown,” haha. You can see a picture above. I would absolutely love to replace this! My parents imported their kitchen tile from Italy and it is gorgeous, so I have pretty high standards when it comes to this. Here is to hoping that I can find what I love for a reasonable price!

Decorate For The Seasons!

This is one thing that I am looking so forward to doing this year (and in years to come, as well)! Decorating for the seasons is so much fun to me and I just have not had a chance to really do so with our crazy work and travel schedules in the past. This year, it is happening! Of course, this will do nothing for the value of our home, but it will make it feel a lot more like ‘ours’ and I know it will make it a happier place.

Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Dog

Written by a contributing writer



Considering almost 50% of households have a pet dog, there’s a good chance that you’ll consider taking on one of your own at some point or another. When some people decide that it’s the right time for them to get a canine companion, they choose a breed and automatically start looking up breeders in their local area. But it’s extremely important that you are aware that this isn’t the only option. There are already so many perfect pooches already out there who are in serious need of a loving home, and you could offer them just what they need! This is why you should always consider adopting before shopping. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, here’s everything you need to know about adopting a dog!

Choosing a Breed

Chances are that you already have a good idea of what dog breed you’d like to make a part of your family. But the majority of people come to this decision by merely looking at different dogs’ appearances. It’s so important that you know a lot about the different breeds of dog that you are considering taking into your home, as each has been bred for a specific purpose and will consequently have different characteristics, behavioral traits, and physical traits that you need to take into mind. A Bichon Frise, for example, is bred as a lap dog and companion dog, so will need more attention than other breeds. A Border Collie is bred as a working farm dog, so will have lots of energy and require longer walks. You need to make sure that you can meet your dog’s natural needs before taking them on. Some dogs in shelters may not have an immediately recognizable breed, or may be crossbred, but you can carry out a DNA test to determine what breed they are with www.certapet.com/embark-dna/.

Getting to Know Potential Pup’s Personalities
Every dog will have an individual and unique personality. So, it’s best to get to know the different dogs at the shelter to find out which is best for your home and family. You will need to make a good fit, where you and your pooch can gel well with one another. If you have a calm home, you should look for a calm dog who is more comfortable in quiet and laid back surroundings. A hyperactive, energetic canine companion may prove overwhelming for you, and you may not be able to cater to his or her needs either. If you are energetic yourself and have an extremely busy household, the energetic pooch could prove to be a better fit than a shy and reserved dog who may quickly become overwhelmed.

Bringing Your Dog Home

Once you’ve settled on a dog, the shelter you have taken them on from should give you complete instruction on how to help them settle into your home. Where possible, you should book a little time off work, so that you can help them to feel comfortable and welcomed.

These are just a few steps that you will go through in the process of adopting a dog. Take as long as you need to make the right decision - a dog is a big responsibility and you want to ensure that the pooch you take home will be heading back to their forever home, where they can be happy and healthy!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tips To Buying Baby Safety Products on A Budget

Written by a contributing writer 



Baby safety is of utmost importance. You will not want your baby suffering injuries as a result of falling down from their bed or playing near dangerous places within the house. With babies, anything can happen, and this makes it important to safeguard them at every turn. To safeguard them, you will need good baby safety products like baby gates, barriers, and latches among others. These products can be costly but you can still acquire them even on a budget. Below are tips to help you out.

1. Try the Secondhand Market
If you are on a tight budget, don't worry because you can still get your desired baby safety products on the secondhand market. The good thing is you will find the products at a cheaper price. But first, you need to scout in depth for the best second-hand baby safety products dealers. You will not want to buy an expensive fake product that will not keep your baby out of harm’s way. Baby safety products ought to work properly as they are supposed to offer maximum protection to the baby. You can do a live test with your baby in it to ascertain that the products are working well. Also, you can try to compare prices between the dealers. If you can get the same baby safety products for less at another store or dealer then go purchase it.

2. Scout for Sale Discount Offers
Many at times, stores will have sales discount and free coupons offer for their baby safety products in order to boost the sales. You can take advantage of such offers as you will end up saving a few bucks. For instance, if the store gives a 30% discount on each product, then it will mean you will spend less money and buy more baby safety products for your baby. If that is not the case, you can even request for a discount from the store if you are a regular customer. For the best baby safety products such as baby gates, baby barriers, latches and locks at affordable rates you can see the range here.

3. Exchanging Products
You might be having something you do not want and your friend needs it. What do you do? You exchange with him or her and in return, you pick something that you want from them. It is the same for the baby safety products. This will go a long way in helping you save a lot of cash which you can use to buy other essential baby products. You can also do product exchange with a baby store or even a secondhand dealer if they allow. In the long run, you will find that you have spent less cash.

4. Buy One at a Time
As with many new parents, they will have the urge to buy new products for their babies all at once. But if you are working on a low budget, then this is highly discouraged. You can try buying the baby safety products one at a time. First, start by making a list of all the baby safety products you will want and list in the order of priority. Afterward, you can commit yourself to purchase one or two products each month. You can start by purchasing the protectors, then baby gates then the next time you purchase baby barriers. Start buying early before the baby starts crawling so that by the time the baby is walking, you have all the baby safety products you need.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Makeup Favorites for Summer & Back-To-School With COVERGIRL

Summertime is winding down and back-to-school is starting to take over. Getting back into the swing of things can be difficult. There are usually so many changes! And change is ROUGH. BUT these products are perfectly versatile and can be used now in sweet summertime and also flawlessly transition into that back-to-school, fall-but-not-quite-fall seasonal awkwardness. And they are all affordable, drugstore options by COVERGIRL.

1. Clean Matte BB Cream

This has become my go-to foundation. Medium coverage, smooth, long lasting, and 0 breakouts. What more could you ask for? If it looks great, survives the summer heat, and doesn't anger my difficult skin, I'm sold for life.

2. Vitalist Elixir Lip Oil

I'll admit, I wasn't sure about this at first. I'm much more of a tinted lip balm girl than any other type of lippy. And I definitely am not one for lip gloss (have you seen how long my hair is? What a sticky nightmare!) But this is a smooth, thin, moisturizing tint that isn't gloppy or sticky. My hair doesn't stick to it and it sinks into my lips the way a good moisturizer sinks into skin. The tint also has the staying power of a stain. My favorite shade is Berry Libation. (I think these might already be discontinued - Which makes me so sad! If they are, I hope CG decides to bring them back!)

3.  Mascaras - Full Lash Bloom, Flourish by Lash Blast

Both of these mascaras give a voluminous, 0 clump, beautiful, eye-popping look. The Flourish mascara contains coconut, papaya, and avocado oils that help nourish your lashes. The Bloom has been a favorite of mine for a while. It replaced my much more expensive Mally Beauty Volume mascara because it achieves the same look for a fraction of the price.  Plus, honestly, I receive so many compliments on my eyes when I wear either the Bloom or Flourish mascara.

4. Melting Pout Matte Liquid Lipstick

This is another one I was SURE wasn't going to be my cup of tea. But I was wrong. I usually can't stand matte lipsticks and liquid lipsticks are normally too much for me to handle. But these are a different breed. Especially when it comes to drugstore makeup. These don't settle into the lines of my lips, are easy to apply, don't stick to my hair, and stay put! I like the shade "Coral Chronicles".

5. Vitalist Healthy Elixir Liquid Foundation

If you're looking for more coverage or if you have drier skin, I recommend this foundation. Even with combination skin, it really made my skin look so healthy and smooth. It applies nicely (I use a beauty blender type sponge) and a little goes a long way.

6. Katy Kat Palette

You've probably heard other beauty fanatics raving about these shadows. They are super pigmented and blend out beautifully. The "Hot Kat" palette is my favorite.

7. Vitalist Look Lock Up Spray

A setting spay! YES! I have such a hard time finding a nice setting spray that isn't high-end. And, although this does not completely replace my high-end favorite (Boscia White Charcoal Mattifying Makeup Setting Spray), it is a good, lower cost alternative. It does have a floral scent to it, which I don't really mind. Overall, it does its job and keeps my makeup in place without any stickiness or patchiness.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Don't Let Injuries Bring Your Fitness Plan To A Grinding Halt

Written by a contributing writer 


The last thing you want when you’re working towards fitness goals is an injury. If you’re on a mission to get in shape, here are some simple tips to keep injuries at bay.

Invest in the right equipment

If you plan to take up a new sport, try a different activity, or hit the gym, it’s essential to make sure you have the right equipment. Don’t try and play tennis in flip-flops or go to the gym in baggy trousers that run the risk of getting trapped in the treadmill. You don’t have to spend a fortune on clothes, shoes, rackets, and sticks, but it’s wise to cover the basics. If you haven’t got the right equipment, it can increase the risk of accidents and injuries and prevent you from performing to the best of your ability. If you fancy trying a class or a sport to see if you enjoy it, ask about a free trial, as many gyms, and sports centers offer this option.



Image credit https://pixabay.com/en/running-shoes-run-sneakers-shoes-2661558/


Protect previous injuries

If you’ve had an injury in the past, it’s important to understand how this might impact you going forward. If you still get pain when you run, for example, it may be wise to consult a trainer or ask your doctor for advice before starting a new fitness regime. You may find that using supports or investing in orthotics such as those available at https://biopods.com/ will help to minimize pain and improve your performance. If you’re working out, and you get recurrent aches, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. You may find that an old injury hasn’t healed quite as fast as you expected, and continuing may do more harm than good. Physical therapy is often beneficial for those recovering from injury.


Warm up


If you’re short on time, or you’re excited about getting started on a new fitness plan, you may be tempted to skip the warm-up. The warm-up is actually one of the most important aspects of any workout. When you do a warm-up, your heart rate increases and this means that blood is pumped around your body faster to deliver oxygen to your muscles. If you don’t take time to warm up, you run the risk of pulling muscles and damaging soft tissue. Spend 5-10 minutes doing light cardio exercises combined with stretching. It’s also essential to cool down after exercise. You can find useful warm-up tips here https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/warm-up/5-minute-warm-up-workout/.


Master the technique

If you’re playing sports or using machines at the gym, it’s crucial to master the technique. If you’re throwing, jumping, or lifting with the wrong action, this could lead to significant injuries, as well as affect your performance levels. It’s beneficial to take classes or arrange sessions with experienced trainers if you’re new to a sport.



Image by https://www.dm.af.mil/Media/Features/Display/Article/929593/worth-the-weight/


Are you working towards new fitness goals or are you keen to be more active? Injuries can put a damper on good intentions, so make sure you have the right equipment, always take time to warm up, protect old injuries, and use the right technique. Good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2018

6 Tips All Parents Need For Camping With Kids

Written by a contributing writer



Source


Camping with your children can be an exciting, fun, and adventurous experience. It offers you the chance to get away from the stresses of everyday life, ditch your technology, and really bond with your little ones. That being said, without proper planning and preparation, camping can quickly turn into a cold, damp, muddy, and stressful nightmare. If you’re planning a camping adventure with your children this summer, here are six things you need to know.


Make Sure You Plan Ahead


Throughout the summer, campsites can fill up incredibly quickly, so it’s important that you plan ahead and make a reservation as soon as you can. That being said, you should still ensure that you do plenty of research on your site before you book it. Some campgrounds don’t allow children or don’t have the facilities to accommodate them, so make sure that yours is suitable.


Pack Everything You Might Need


Usually, when you go on vacation, you should try to take as little as possible, but when you’re camping, that’s rarely an option. Instead, you should buy a roof rack and bag, like the ones from this website, and fill it with everything you might need for your trip. Ensure you have clothes for every weather, plenty of entertainment, and all of the camping gear and equipment required.


Set Some Campsite Safety Rules

Your campsite may say that it’s child-friendly, but that doesn’t mean you should let your little ones run off alone the minute you arrive there. Instead, you should pitch your tent and then take them for a walk around the grounds. While you do this, you should explain which areas are out of bounds and set some safety rules. If they are too young to understand this, then they shouldn’t be left alone.



Source

Share Chores With Your Children

From cooking to cleaning to collecting firewood, camping comes with a number of chores that you’re not usually faced with when you go on vacation. Instead of doing all of these chores yourself, ask your children to pitch in now and then. Depending on their ages, there are a number of things they could do. This helps them to learn responsibility and independence.


Stick To Your Usual Routine
When you’re camping with really young children, it’s important that you stick to your usual routine as much as you can. Of course, there will likely be some adjustments that need to be made, but you should avoid skipping nap times or going to bed a lot later than normal. This way, your kids will be less tired and cranky, and you’ll all have a much more enjoyable trip.


Don’t Try To Go Wild

For your first time camping, you should make sure that you go for a campsite that has shower and toilet facilities, as well as other useful and fun amenities, like a shop, playground, and kids club. It can be tempting to go all out and rough it for a week, but this can make your trip incredibly stressful and uncomfortable. You can always go wild when you have a bit more experience.


If you’re planning a camping trip with your little ones, these tips should help make your time a lot more fun and relaxing.

5 Trendy Places to Buy Clothes Online

Written by a contributing writer



In this fast-paced world, everyone tends to be busy all the time. That does not leave a lot of time to shop for new, trendy clothes at the mall or some other brick-and-mortar shop. That’s where online shopping comes in to save us all. It’s fast, convenient, and – if you know the right places to look – full of jaw-dropping deals that are usually harder to find in-store. It allows you to look stylish without completely draining your bank account.

However, online shopping has one major drawback. There are so many online stores available on the interwebs; how do you choose where to spend your money? That’s because, when it comes to online shopping, you have to consider more than just the price tag. You want to be sure that the online shop can guarantee you high-quality items, fast and affordable shipping, reasonable return policies, and privacy protection. Also, you will want to ensure that the store’s style and aesthetic matches with yours. If you’re searching for trendy clothes, here are 5 of the best online stores to shop from:

1. The Black Ravens

If you’re a fan of the alternative look, then TBR is the perfect online shop for you. The brand is all about embracing unique styles, so you can expect lots of Gothic, Rocker, Punk, and Emo items here. And if you like doing cosplay, then you’ll love the wide selection here.

The store is based both in the US and UK, so look forward to fast shipping times all around the world. This is one of the best store options for a truly unique look.

2. Fashion Nova


No roundup of online clothing stores would be complete without including the ever-trendy Fashion Nova. This Instagram is wildly popular with the young and hip, especially because it seems to be a staple for celebrities and trendsetters.

It’s one of the most famous online clothing brands, popular for its inexpensive party wear and sultry aesthetic. If you’re looking for something pretty for a fun night out, Fashion Nova is the best choice for you.

3. ASOS

Do you love the style and glamour of fashion magazines? Then you’ll adore ASOS. This brand built its popularity on providing clothing styles that are exactly “as seen on screen”. The best thing about it is that it also offers a well-rounded experience for the buyer. Browse through the site and you’ll find pages full of beautiful products, featured style and fashion articles, and reams of suggested products and style ideas.

It’s pretty pricey, but you are assured of great quality and excellent customer service. Your best bet is to wait for one of their regular sales to snag any pieces that you have been eyeing.

4. Forever 21

This is probably one of the most well-known online clothing and accessories brands around. It’s popular with the young crowd, especially college students looking for a good deal. It always has the latest styles and trends, plus their clothes are very affordable.

Forever 21 offers clothing in a wide range of sizes, so you can always get what you want in the perfect fit. However, this store distinguishes itself with the extensive selection of petite and plus-size items, which are some of the hardest to get when shopping online.

5. Style for Less

While Style for Less has many storefront locations, the easiest way to shop here is through their online store. You get access to some of the trendiest women’s clothing, accessories, and footwear for incredibly low prices. Furthermore, it’s full of great deals and sales on a regular basis. Not many people know about this store, but it is well worth the look.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Which Specific Hair Extensions Should You Purchase?

Written by a contributing writer




Hair extensions are a very popular product that have helped millions of women around the world glam up and change their hairstyle without having to commit to coloring their hair or waiting for it to grow out. You may think that it is finally time for you to make a change in the way that your hair is styled. If this is the case, you might want to consider using hair extensions to achieve your desired look. But be careful about which extensions you choose! Not all hair extensions are created equally. Here are some tips that will help you choose the hair extensions that are right for you.

1. People who style hair for a living are an invaluable resource when shopping for hair extensions.

There is nobody better to ask about hair extensions than some who has worked with them day after day. Therefore, paying a visit to your local hair salon and talking to some of the professionals who work there may be a good idea. Tell them the specific look you are going for. They should be able to pass along some very useful advice that will send you in the right direction in terms of which hair extensions are right for you. Be sure to ask which brands are the most popular. Which brands are made the best and will last the longest? You also might want to get a few lessons about how to best put in your hair extensions if you have never done it on your own before. This will help the process go much more smoothly when you are on your own at home.

2. Get the advice of people you know who wear hair extensions on a regular basis.

You might have some friends or coworkers who often wear hair extensions. If so, they may be a great resource on price point and quality of hair extensions.  Which type of extensions do they use and recommend? In what situations do they recommend not wearing extensions? Is there any last minute advice they can give you before you start looking in stores and online for hair extensions? Last but not least, you should find out where they do all of their shopping for hair extensions. For example, you can visit Eden Hair Extensions for tape in hair extensions.

3. What sort of return policy does the store or website have?

The reality is that you might not like the hair extensions that you buy once you get them home. They might look very pretty on the model who is pictured on the box. However, what you see in the mirror at home might be completely different. This is why it is always very important to verify the specific return policy of the store or online retailer where the hair extensions were purchased. How long do you have to get your money back? It is very important that you never assume how much time you will have. All stores have different return policies. The specifics of the return policy should be listed on the receipt of any store where your hair extension purchase is made. Websites are required to have a page where their return policy is spelled out very clearly for any potential customers to read.

4. Always shop around to compare prices.

You might find some hair extensions that look really great as soon as you start shopping.  But try not to be in a big hurry to make your purchase. A little looking around could very easily allow you to discover a deal that is even better than the one you found initially. It is in your best interests to shop around.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Mom Hacks to Save Money with the Family Car

Written by a contributing writer  



Source

For most families, having a car is an absolute necessity. They’re usually quicker and more reliable than public transportation. This makes it easier to get to school, work, and everywhere else in between. And, in turn, ends up massively reducing stress for you and your kids. It gives you the chance to go on road trips together (which are often deemed the best type of holiday for families). Unfortunately, as great as family cars can be, they’re not cheap and cost a lot to run each month. Thankfully, there are several ways to cut costs and save some money.


Source

1. Ensure You Drive Sensibly

No one should be driving dangerously, especially with kids in the car, but if you’re looking to save some money, then you have even more reason to reconsider your driving style. If you tend to speed, accelerate rapidly, and brake hard, you will lower your gas mileage, which means that your fuel won’t go as far as you want it to. These behaviours could also lead to a crash, which can result in some pretty costly repairs. It’s just not worth it, so always ensure you drive safely.


2. Turn Off Your Engine

When you pick your kids up from school, do you park and turn the engine off or wait with the car turned on? Unless you get out of the vehicle to meet your children at the gates, I would imagine that you leave your engine turned on. Unfortunately, this can waste up to half a gallon of fuel every single hour. This might not seem like much at first, but it quickly builds up. It’s much more fuel efficient to turn your engine off and then drive slowly for a few minutes when you go again. 


3. Reconsider Your Car Finance

Most families can’t afford to pay for a car outright, and instead put down a deposit and pay in monthly installments. While this is more convenient and budget-friendly, you could end up with a costly deal. Because of this, you should look at your terms and think about applying for a refinance auto loan. This could save you money on your total amount and money each month, as well as lower your interest rate. Just be sure you consider your options before doing this.


Source

4. Turn Your Teen Away

If you have a teenager that wants to start learning to drive, you should think twice before adding them to your insurance policy. Insurance companies tend to view teenagers as a risk, and, as such, charge higher rates than they do for adults and experienced drivers. This means that adding your child to your policy could result in you paying a lot more each month. Because of this, you might want to send your teen to an instructor instead of teaching them to drive yourself.

A family car is a costly, but, often, necessary expense. You can’t avoid paying for it, but that doesn’t mean you have to shell out quite so much cash. With the hacks above, you should be able to cut costs and save yourself a bit of money each month.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Skincare - Acne Skincare Update

It's my FAVORITE part of the entire beauty scene - skincare! I don't know where my genuine love of an involved skincare routine really started. I've had pretty difficult skin since my late teens. So I've become accustomed to doing much more than just washing my face. But somewhere along the way, I began to enjoy the journey of figuring out which ingredients worked for me, which didn't, and why that was.

As the hot, humid, Florida summer crept up, I knew it was time to start changing my skincare routine around. The weather was changing AND I was suddenly having skin problems. The kind of skin problems I had at 19. Yep. Pimples. Zits. Acne. Whatever you want to call it. I suddenly had a major breakout of cystic acne (that I somehow managed to contain and conceal pretty well) and had to figure out how to not only combat this breakou, but also prevent future breakouts.

Now, I'm pretty sure getting off of Yaz (that's a whole different post) is what triggered it. And at 19, the only thing that worked for me was Proactiv. But I'm trying to avoid going back onto that entire system because, while it works, it also is something that took forever to wean my skin off of. In a weird way, my skin gets addicted to it. (Anyone else?) On top of my new/old pimple problem, I still have to continue preventing sun spots and uneven skin tone. Well, this skin care challenge... I accepted.

So here are the products I've been using that have worked to keep acne at bay, heal the breakout I had, protect my skin from the Florida sunshine, and still allow me to have some anti-aging ingredients in my skincare routine.


Face Wash/Scrubs


1. Proactiv Step 1 Acne Wash

Let's get this one out of the way. Yes, I went back to the wash. It's a tried and true. The scent of the wash reminds me of my college years. It's expensive... which is the only thing I don't like about it. I only use it at night after I use the scrub below.

2. ACURE Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub

I've been using this one for awhile and, honestly, it's one of the best scrubs I've ever used. It has enough grit to really exfoliate, but not so much that it's irritating. It doesn't break me out and I love the natural ingredients. It's not bad price wise at full price. But I can usually find it for CHEAP at Marshall's/TJ Maxx.

3. Neutralyze Face Wash

I found this guy on Amazon. I tried the entire system but ended up only really liking the wash. It has mandelic acid (think brightening and skin clearing effects of Glycolic Acid but without the purging) and salicylic acid. It feels and smells like an acne wash from the dermatologist. For some reason, I like that. It feels more legit that way. I noticed a difference in my skin after using this. My skin tone was more even and there were fewer blemishes forming. The price isn't bad (about $15) but I go through it quickly even though I only use it in the morning with my Foreo Luna Mini.

4. Cosrx Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

This is a brand that is completely new to me! And I have Youtuber Gothamista to thank for that.  It's a Korean skincare brand that offers high-quality products at a low price. I use this refreshing face wash on the mornings that my skin feels a little dry from using my acne spot treatments (more on those later). One bottle lasts a while, it feels nice on, and it doesn't leave behind any residue. Plus, it contains tea tree oil to help fight blemishes.

Toners & Serums

1. Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

I LOVE this toner. I started by spraying it onto a cotton ball and using it that way. But now I just mist it onto my face. It has glycolic acid in it and really helps with the overall look of my skin.

2.  Whamisa by Glow Recipe® Green Tea Serum Toner

Yes, I STILL use this serum toner. Still love it. Still love that it makes my skin look and feel so smooth. There are days when I skip this step, but I still use it most days/nights.

3.  HARISU Cosmeceuticals's AHA 15% Gel

Another new addition. Does this gel serum help with acne? I'm not sure. But it does give my skin a glow. It doesn't smell great and does not have a luxurious feel to it. But it is a quality product for under $7.

4.  Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

This is my tried and true! It's about $20 so I've tried to find a less expensive alternative, but I always come back to this one. I just haven't found anything that even compares to this serum.

Day Moisturizers

1. Cosrx Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap

To be honest, I'm still on the fence when it comes to this moisturizer. I like how it feels, I don't think it breaks me out, but I haven't been using it long enough to see any results.

2. Garnier SkinActive SPF 30 Face Moisturizer with Vitamin C

I've used this in the past and went back to it. Once my skin started breaking out I had to stop using most of the more natural based products I was using. Why? Because they all contain several different oils. And oil combats oil. However, my issue stems not so much from being oily, but from having pores that clog easily. And oil clogs my skin up! So I went back to this oil-free SPF moisturizer from my past.

Night Creams

1. Philosophy Renewed Hope In A Jar Overnight Recharging & Refining Moisturizer

This is where things usually take a pricey turn. I have a hard time finding effective drugstore night creams that work for my skin. So I turn to higher-end brands. This one by Philosophy isn't too bad price wise. It doesn't make my skin break out, contains glycolic acid (seeing the trend?), and is moisturizing without being greasy.

2. Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation Cream

If I had to pick a skincare brand that I really trust, I'd pick Ole Henriksen. Yes, their products are pricey but I found this cream at Marshall's for about $6. Yep! It has licorice root extract and vitamin c which both brighten skin. This is another non-greasy option.

Spot Treatment

1. Mario Badescu Drying Mask

Not the drying lotion. The drying mask. It smells awful. I mean, it is probably the worst smelling skincare product I've ever used. But it works. It contains zinc and sulfur. It dries, shrinks, and reduces the redness of blemishes.  I mix this with the product below before applying them to blemishes.

2. Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Spot Treatment Cream

This is a 10% benzoyl peroxide treatment. I honestly think any benzoyl peroxide treatment would work. This just happens to be the one I have.

I also use a couple of LED photon treatment products- but that is another post I will be doing soon!



My Routine (it's a lot)

Morning

1. Foreo Mini with Cosrx face wash OR Neutralyze face wash
2. Cosrx toner
3. Green tea toner serum
4. AHA Gel mixed with Derma E serum
5. Cosrx oil-free moisturizer
6. Garnier SPF moisturizer

Evening (let's be real. Like 10pm)

1. (Sometimes) LED Photon mask
2. Acure scrub
3. Proactiv face wash
4. Cosrx toner
5. Green tea toner serum
6. AHA Gel mixed with Derma E serum
7.  (Sometimes) Ole Henriksen cream
8. Hope in a Jar cream

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Gifts the Moms You Know Really Want

Written by a contributing writer




Motherhood is one of the most beautiful experiences a woman can experience. The ability to bring life into the world and nurture that life into a productive human being is an amazing superpower. Furthermore, it teaches a woman so much about herself and helps her become more selfless. However, motherhood is a challenging experience as well. Motherhood will test you in ways that you never realized it could. Between sleepless nights, tears and tantrums, it can be difficult to deal with the children in those early years. If you know a mother who is in the trenches of the terrible twos or the sleepless newborn stage, consider these ways you can show love and support.

1. Babysitting
If you're great with children, offer to come over and babysit while your friend takes a nap or catches up on other tasks. Sometimes, a mom just needs a few hours to get herself together.

2. Gifts

Think of thoughtful gifts that a mom can currently enjoy. If she has a lot of things to do, don't give her a book to read. An audiobook might be more appropriate. Candy gift baskets, gift cards to her favorite stores and luxurious bath sets are perfect options to bring a busy mom.

3. Cooking
Prepare a few dishes that are easy for a mother to freeze until she's ready to eat them. Make a huge pasta dish like lasagna or macaroni and cheese. Additionally, you can purchase a pre-packaged salad mix and bring a juice carton as well. Depending on how large a woman's family is, this can easily provide dinner for a day or two.

4. Chores
A mother who has a lot on her plate doesn't have much time to do household chores. It's not uncommon for a mother to struggle to manage all the tasks she needs to take care of in one day. In order to change this trajectory, it's nice to offer to come over and take care of a few chores. Laundry is always a big job. Offer to take the laundry to the local dry cleaner and allow them to take care of it. Even a task as simple as cleaning the kitchen will really help a mother out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

5 Tips to Strengthening Your Hair

Written by a contributing writer 


When hair is healthy and well groomed, it tends to have an aesthetically pleasing allure. However, the buck doesn’t stop with just making it look good; there is extra work involved to ensure that you take care of it as well. Neglected hair is easily noticeable, making your mane look weak and dull. This can also lead to massive hair loss which is bound to affect anyone's self-esteem significantly. In some extreme cases, it can even be an indicator that there is an underlying medical issue at hand.

So how do you strengthen your hair and ensure that it looks good at the same time? The hair needs to be strengthened from the roots. While it can be a challenge to keep the hair healthy when factors like dust and heat come into play, there are several measures that you can take to help you keep your tresses strong and undamaged. Some of them include:

1. Taking Supplements

People tend to underestimate the impact that supplements have on strengthening weak hair. We need to understand what the ingredients in the supplements are and what they can do for your hair to appreciate their importance. Supplements that target the strength of the hair should be rich in vitamin C, biotin, zinc and iron among others. Hairlossable supplements contain all these nutrients and more that are great for your hair.

2. Use the Right Products

By using the right kind of products, you are well on your way to getting the strong hair that you desire. When you are out shopping for your hair products, ensure that you only stick to the ones that are free from harmful chemicals like parabens. Some of the best products are made from natural ingredients. They have numerous hair strengthening properties that will help to reinforce your hair’s strength and health.

3. Stay Hydrated

Water is really the universal cure for everything. Well, staying hydrated is a sure fire way to ensure that all bodily functions are running optimally. This includes your hair because moisturizing it from the inside allows it to thrive and grow. Water also helps to flush out the toxins that would otherwise impede your hair’s growth. You can also keep your hair moisturized by having a spritz bottle that contains your favorite hair oils and a large percentage of water. Moisturized hair is happy hair.

4. Eat the Right Food

Eating the right food is possibly one of the easiest ways to strengthen your hair. Food that is rich in minerals, proteins, and vitamins help to nourish your hair right from the scalp to the ends. Keep away from processed, fatty foods and concentrate on meals that are rich in the components mentioned above. These foods can work in tandem with the supplements mentioned above to give your hair the best opportunity to grow while thriving in a healthy environment.

5. Stay Away From Heat

Heat is the biggest adversary to strong hair because it can cause a lot of damage, breakage, split ends and finally, thin hair over a period of time. Stay away from heated styling tools because they tend to damage your hair all the way from the roots down. You can easily replace the use of these tools by getting innovative and enhancing your hair with other products.

If you have to use these thermal tools, ensure that you use a heat protectant on your hair while keeping the heat at very low temperatures. Once you are done with the heat styling tools, finish up with products that include protective and strengthening properties.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gastritis: When Weight Loss Isn't Healthy

Whew. Where do I start? You may have noticed my contributors have somewhat taken the lead when it comes to posting on here. 1. - Thank goodness for them. And, 2., there is, of course, a reason for this. I'm going to share a small piece of my own life here. Something that I don't do very often. But I really think sharing this may help someone.  Because I know when I was in the thick of this journey, I turned to the internet for help. When my doctors couldn't give me answers or advice, other blogs and online forums did. So this post is going to be super informal (not that I'm ever really "formal") and me just "talking" to you all about my experience in hopes of reaching someone who is just as confused as I was during the start of this.

As you can tell from the title, I have gastritis. My years of using aspirin and ibuprofen to treat migraines have finally caught up with me. My stomach lining is damaged and I am now being treated with medication and a very restrictive, bland diet.  It's definitely no fun, but nothing compared to the months (yes, months!) leading up to my diagnosis.

It started mid-December. My husband and I went on one of our rare date nights to see a movie and grab food. During the movie, I ate popcorn and candy (Treat yo'self!) and noticed that I felt a little pain in my abdomen and a bit of nausea. I do have IBS so I initially thought that it was acting up even though I hadn't eaten any trigger foods. I brushed it off. We went out to eat. I got nachos. And, again, nausea and pain. But more intense. I, again, brushed it off.

The next day we were visiting my in-laws, and after drinking a soda and having some chips (real clean diet, you guys) I felt a more intense nausea with pain. Something was wrong. This wasn't my IBS. I could tell. I remember feeling a feeling I felt when I was pregnant with my son.  That baby moving feeling. But it was in my far left, lower abdomen. What? What is that? (No one has been able to explain what that part to me to this day.)

Initially, I thought what most of us ladies think.  Did my birth control fail? Am I pregnant? Took a pregnancy test (I am the only one who does this first before going to the doctor for basically anything?), not pregnant. Ok...Well... I have to go to the doctor.

I go to my primary. He's super confused about the baby moving feeling - "You're not pregnant?" Nope. Orders and gets me into a CT scan that day. The results come back. Mesenteric adenitis. Basically, my lymph nodes in my abdomen are a little swollen and there's a lot of them showing. Ok. So intestinal infection. Antibiotics and I should be good, right?

In theory, except every antibiotic he put me on gave me awful side effects. So I ended up going back to the doctor nearly every day that week to get my prescription changed. I then develop a fever. While on antibiotics. My doctor thinks its a UTI (it wasn't) and switches my antibiotics. The weekend comes, the pain is worse. I still have a fever. I feel much worse. I end up going to the ER.

They do blood tests. Can't find anything. Can't find any sign of infection. Don't know what is going on with me. But switch my antibiotic to a massive, MASSIVE dose of an antibiotic I know my system likes (and it makes my skin glow on top of it).  And I basically hope this is the end of this.

In the meantime, I can't eat anything. I mean, I'm literally living off of water, baby food (literal Gerber baby food -sweet potato and veggies), and bread. It's Christmas. My family is Italian. And I ate baby food and bread during the usual Christmas feast. It was not a good time.

I can also barely finish the baby food without feeling overly full and nauseated. I finish the antibiotics and I am not getting better. The pain is still happening. The nausea is worse. And by now it's the beginning of  January and I've lost 15lbs. 15lbs of unintentional weight loss. I had some lbs I wanted to lose so I'm not super concerned about the weight loss at this time, but I am aware this is not healthy. And this is something I need to address asap. So I make an appointment with a GI.

My GI has retired. So I had to find a new one. I go into the appointment. He basically says I am still recovering from an intestinal infection (which to this day, I don't really know if I ever really had. Remember, blood tests showed no sign of infection) and that it's taking me a long time to recover because I already have a sensitive system (IBS) and it's probably all thrown off. He sees my "very strong" (his words) family history of colon/rectal cancer and orders a colonoscopy.

Ok... so I give it another couple of weeks. I feel worse. Still surviving on baby food and bread. Nope. Go back to the GI. He orders another CT scan. The CT scan still shows mesenteric adenitis. Hasn't changed at all. All of those antibiotics... did nothing. Awesome.

I do the prep for the colonoscopy. I've had one before so I'm not worried. But the prep I've used in the past (basically huge pills that taste like salt) causes kidney damage so it's not used anymore. I have to use the liquid. It tastes like bile. And was way too harsh for my sensitive system. I only kept down half of it. But colonoscopy happens. Comes back normal. So that's good.

Now it's February. I go back for my follow up. I've lost 20lbs total. I'm concerned. I also am having reflux which I've NEVER experienced before. Not even while pregnant. He diagnoses me with GERD. Basically, it's acid reflux disease. Gives me a PPI, tells me to come back.

The PPI works. But I start getting intense pain in my legs. I look online, it's a rare side effect of the medication. I call the doctor. He prescribes me Zantac. And I experience PPI rebound. Basically, because of how PPI medications work, my body is now producing more acid off of the PPI than it did before I ever started the medication. I look up information online and learn all of the awful long-term side effects that come with PPIs. And how difficult they are to quit if you are on them for a long period of time. Rebound can last up to 3 months. Luckily, mine only lasted a few days. I was only on the medication for a week and a half.

While all of this is going on, I started feeling shortness of breath, pain in my chest that radiates to my back, and tightness in my chest (and sometimes in my throat). My husband takes my blood pressure and pulse. My pulse is in the 120s. Resting. Not normal for me at all. My normal resting pulse is in the 60s or 70s. I end up feeling awful one night. Go to the ER. My pulse is in the 140s. EKG has a minor abnormality on it. Lots of blood tests show nothing. Chest x-ray shows nothing. They can't get my pulse down. I'm laying in bed and it's jumping between 100 and the 120s. I'm admitted to the hospital overnight. I do an echocardiogram, stress test, more blood tests, and they can't find anything wrong with my heart. They monitor me the entire time. My heart rate is still in the 100's to 120's resting. But they release me the next evening and tell me to see a cardiologist. So I start seeing a cardiologist.

(Also sometime within this period, my ears hurt all of the time. And I start seeing an ENT- get tests and a ct scan done there- but that's way too much to get into for this post.)

I get side effects from the Zantac. Aching in my joints. No. This time I do my research and decide I want another medication in the same class of Zantac. I do not want another PPI. He gives me a once a day dose. It doesn't work halfway through the day. And I am prescribed another PPI.

This entire time I'm trying to live my life. Take care of my son. And still working from home. I'm still eating bread and baby food. I can now tolerate crackers and a few other things. But I'm losing weight. And the new PPI is now giving me intense headaches that then trigger migraines. Daily.  During a visit to the cardiologist, I realize I've now lost 25lbs. I make an appointment with the GI.

This is the part when I get scared. It's March. And I can't stop losing weight. It's not like I had a ton of weight to lose to begin with. I'm freaked out. I can't control the weight loss. (It seems like a perk - the weight loss- but when you can't STOP it... it gets real scary real fast.) I still feel awful. I can't find a medication that my body will tolerate and I'm seriously doubting my diagnosis of GERD.

I decided to write down all of my symptoms and concerns and give it to the GI. His first reaction "You've lost 25lbs?!" I'm thinking "Yes, this is not a look" referencing my clothes that are now too big on me. He's concerned. Thinks I may have a stomach ulcer. I elect to have an endoscopy.

While waiting for my endoscopy date, I visit the cardiologist. And in this time I have been put on beta blockers and then gone off of them because- SURPRISE - side effects. (The made my ears ring. Less than 1% of people get this side effect. Yay me)  My heart rate is still elevated all of the time. My blood pressure is low-normal (normal for me) and they can't figure out why my heart rate is so high. Those around me are trying to be helpful and ask if it's anxiety. I start feeling a little frustrated because I've had anxiety my entire life (seriously, my first memory of an anxiety attack happened when I was on the playground at preschool), I'm very familiar with the feeling of general anxiety, anxiety attacks, and panic attacks. And because my cardiologist ruled out anxiety in the beginning - "If it was anxiety, your blood pressure would be up too. It definitely would not be low or low-normal like it is."

The people around me are trying to help and I'm in such a bad spot with my health that I'm starting to have very little patience for anything.  And mentally, I'm not in a great place. I'm pretty miserable. And feeling like I'll never get better. I envy the other moms I see at drop-off at my son's school who are able to just go about their day...and feel like they can easily breathe. Or eat. I feel like I can't keep up with daily life and like I'm always in one doctor's office or another. My health is such a large focus at this point, that I feel like it's overtaking the rest of my life. I feel like I'm not getting to live any of the other parts of my life. And I feel like I'm flailing when it comes to taking care of my family, maintaining friendships, and keeping up with work. My entire life has become new medications, going to multiple doctors, and being confused as to why I don't feel better. At this point, I can't even imagine how people who live with serious chronic illness do this. (And I still can't imagine.) Because, putting things in perspective, my GI issues and high heart rate are nothing compared to what some people go through daily.

Somewhere around this point I start to connect that the tightness, pain in my chest and shortness of breath happens an hour after eating and when I'm not on acid reducers. I also start taking my heart rate after eating and realize that's when it's at it's highest.  I wonder if my GI issues are causing my heart rate issue.

 I go on a 24-hour heart monitor.

I do the endoscopy. My stomach lining is damaged and inflamed. I have gastritis. Finally, I know whats going on. By this time he has already switched me to that H2 blocker (Zantac-like medication but not Zantac) that he had me on once a day - to twice a day. It's somewhat working. I still get breakthrough symptoms. But it's bearable. I go to a follow up appointment and basically it's a "this should heal. It will take some time. But for some people it never completely goes away" situation. Also, within this time, I've been given and directed to try a ton of different supplements by family and friends. ("Have you tried to treat it naturally?" is the question I always heard.) But I was always scared to try them because I didn't know exactly what they were. And on top of my gastritis, I also have sensitive intestines. So... I take ALL of the supplements people recommended to my doctor. There were literally 10 to 15 bottles. He goes through them one by one. All of them but 2 were either a fiber or laxative. Fiber and laxatives would've upset my IBS. There was a zinc/ pepsin supplement that he was eh about. And a licorice one that he said I could try but it may give me side effects. At this point, I'm done with side effects so no. He tells me most of his patients swear by apple cider vinegar and though he doesn't understand it, he's heard it enough to start telling patients about it. (I'm still too nervous to try it.)

I end up looking up gastritis diets online to figure out what I can/should eat. I had lost almost 30lbs at this time(I've gained back a little bit of weight since then.) And definitely wasn't getting the nutrition I needed. More on the gastritis diet in a bit.

So end of March. I go back to the cardiologist. Heart monitor shows normal activity minus my heart rate being high. No rhythms. Just tachycardia. He doesn't think it's due to anything with my heart. I ask if it could be related to my gastritis. Possibly. He prescribes me medication to take "just in case" I have a day that's awful (I haven't taken it) and tells me to continue following up so they can monitor it.

And that's basically where I am now. The gastritis diet forces me to eat pretty clean since my stomach literally can't handle anything super processed, spicy, fatty, rich, fried... you know, all of the deliciousness we really shouldn't be putting into our bodies anyway.

I figured out the shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness is my body's version of heartburn. I don't get the typical burning feeling, I get that. I guess my body knows that if I just felt burning, I would continue to eat whatever I wanted.

I can't have dairy, carbonated drinks, garlic, tomatoes, alcohol, caffeine, coffee (decaf or not), chocolate, citrus, or anything acidic. Which as it turns out, is a lot of foods you wouldn't suspect. (Even apples and grapes are too acidic for me.)

So what do I eat? Basically plain grilled or rotisserie chicken, plain grilled salmon, cooked veggies like green beans, corn, carrots, most bread or crackers (unless they have garlic), melons, bananas, oatmeal, egg whites (egg yolk has too much fat for me), fennel tea, shortbread cookies.

Over time I am now able to eat pancakes, some sugar cookies (some are still too "rich" or sugary I guess).

I've found Kaffree with almond milk "creamer" as a substitute for coffee.

Carob as a substitute for chocolate

Almond milk as a sub for milk.

I can also tolerate fruit roll-ups and glazed donuts, strangely enough.

It definitely forces me to not put junk into my body (no more soda, chips, or candy). And also to be more aware of what I'm eating.  I check the ingredients on EVERYTHING now before eating. Whereas I rarely did that before.

I still have breakthrough symptoms. I still have days where the shortness of breath, tightness in my chest and throat happen. And my body will eventually adjust to my medicine to the point where it will no longer work. But right now it's tolerable. And I'm happy to not be where I was a few months ago.

In conclusion, health... Ya don't realize just how lucky you are to have it... until it's threatened.



Your Guide To A Successful Summer Fitness Program

Written by a contributing writer

 

Summer is looming. While many of us can’t wait for the arrival of long, hot days, the thought of baring all on the beach or wearing more revealing clothing can bring anxiety. If you’re keen to lose weight this summer, or you simply want to tone up and feel more confident in your own skin as warmer weather arrives, there’s no better time to get into a training program. You don’t need to be a fitness guru to shape up and reap the rewards of regular exercise. If you’re eager to get started, this guide will point you in the right direction.


Taking the First Step

Many of us think about exercising, and then never actually take that first step and get started. It can be tough to break the mold and change your routine, but the sooner you get used to working out on a regular basis, the faster you’ll adapt. It can be daunting to saunter into a fitness class or walk into a gym for the first time. If you’re nervous because you’ve never really been into exercise before, or it’s been a long time since you trained, start with a beginner’s class and consider taking a friend. If you’re joining the gym for the first time, it’s always beneficial to take advantage of an introduction. During this short session, you can learn how to use every machine safely and effectively, and you can also learn a bit more about the equipment on offer, and how it could benefit you. If you’re apprehensive about that first class or session, you could take a friend or exercise with your partner. Although this is often a lot easier to say than it is to do, try not to worry about what other people think. When you’re faced with a room full of toned, sculpted bodies, this can make you feel anxious, but focus on why you’re there, and remember that everybody has to start somewhere. If you are worried about training in front of other people, visit the gym at quiet times, for example, first thing in the morning, or work out at home. There are numerous online workouts and fitness DVDs you can follow.




Image by https://kaboompics.com/photo/1472/grey-sport-shoes



Setting Realistic Goals


Setting goals are incredibly beneficial when you’re trying to get fit. Targets can propel you in the right direction, keep your motivation levels high and give you something to focus on, but it’s so important to ensure that any goals you set are realistic. If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, don’t expect to drop a kilo a day. If you’ve never run before, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take on a marathon after a month. If your main aim is to lose weight, challenge yourself, but stick to a program that promotes gradual, sustainable results. If you’re training to build your fitness levels or tone up your abs or triceps, work towards end goals, but focus on major milestones along the way. Increase the number of sets each week or try and shave a few seconds off your personal best for a 10-kilometer run.




Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/143842337@N03/32438526540




Getting into a Routine

Do you find exercise a chore? If so, you’re not alone. It can take a long time to get used to being more active and to get to the stage when exercise is part of your daily routine. If you are struggling, hang on in there, and try and make your new routine work for you. Work out in the morning, rather than the evening, so that you can attack the session with energy and enthusiasm, and choose activities that you enjoy. If you don’t love jogging, don’t persist with it and go for a jog every day. You don’t have to fall head over heels in love with every class or sport you try to get fit. Adapt your daily schedule to allow time for physical activity, and find out what works for you. If you’re not a morning person, take some time out at lunch or go to a class, visit the pool, or get your bike out after work.




Picture credit https://pixabay.com/en/photos/health%20run/




Making Exercise Fun

Are you one of those people who starts a new fitness regime with all the motivation in the world, only to find that a few weeks later, you can muster up even a modicum of enthusiasm? The trouble for many of us lies in boredom. We start off with the best intentions, but we grow tired of going for a jog or doing weights sessions. Soon, we’re back to square one. If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s hugely beneficial to try and find activities that are fun and to vary your workouts. It’s no surprise that people find the same exercises tiresome after weeks of training. If you tend to get bored easily, exercise classes like those available at ClubFitness.us are a great idea. With classes, you can socialize, make new friends and try something different. There’s a vast range of options available, from Zumba and dance-themed cardio classes to spinning, barre fitness, abs and core sessions, yoga, Pilates and fusion options that offer a bit of everything. Try different classes, see how you get on, and alternate activities to keep things interesting. In the summer, you can also enjoy exercising in the great outdoors. Swap the treadmill and indoor cardio sessions for running on the beach, hiking in the mountains or fun activities like kayaking, swimming, and climbing. Some people also find exercise more enjoyable with a buddy. Work out with your partner, make friends at classes or take an old friend from work or college with you when you go out for a run or a bike ride.




Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/esthermax/26478105075


Staying Motivated

When you’re having one of those days when you can’t seem to find the energy to get off the sofa, or you’re tempted to hit the snooze button several times, remember why you wanted to start your program in the first place. Were you keen to lose weight? Were you unhappy with the way you looked? Was stress getting the better of you? Did you want to improve your health? Did you want to feel confident for a summer vacation or are you shaping up for a wedding or a landmark birthday? When you’re struggling to carry on, think about the reasons you wanted to be more active, and focus on how you’ll feel after your session, rather than how you feel now. If you miss a class once a month, this isn’t going to be a problem, but if you make excuses on a regular basis, you may end up with regrets. If you can find that tiny drop of motivation and get out there and work up a sweat, you’ll feel even better afterward. If you find it hard to push yourself when you’re at the gym, it may also be a good idea to hire a personal trainer. When you’ve got a trainer, they can give you support and advice, but they also have expertise in getting the best out of their clients. Just when you think you’re running on empty, your trainer will get that extra mile or that final set out of you.




Image by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cycle_Class_at_a_Gym.JPG

Eating Well


If you’re on a mission to lose weight, you may assume that you need to try and exercise as much as possible at the same time as surviving on meager portions. In reality, healthy weight loss is all about finding a balance. If you’re training, whether you’re trying to drop a dress size or you’re hoping to gain muscle mass, you need to fuel your body. If you’re not eating enough or you’re eating the wrong foods, your body won’t have the energy it needs to excel in your training sessions. Keep an eye on your calorie content, increase your intake of protein and cut out processed, fatty, sugary foods to improve your diet and ensure your body has access to the fuel it requires. If you need help, a personal trainer will be able to provide you with nutrition plans. You can also find amazing resources online, including this useful article https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/best-foods-eat-and-after-your-workout.




Picture courtesy of https://kaboompics.com/photo/5724/olives-hummus



Rest and Recovery

When you get into exercise, and you’ve got a goal in sight, it can be tempting to go all-out. While it’s brilliant to push yourself, don’t underestimate the importance of enabling your body to recover. Have a couple of rest days or alternate tougher sessions with light exercise. If you’re doing strength training, for example, have a day off once a week and switch to yoga, swimming or Pilates on another day. Get enough sleep and make sure you warm up and cool down before and after every session. It’s so important to do this to protect against injury and condition your body.




Image taken from https://pixabay.com/en/people-woman-yoga-mat-meditation-2557545/


Are you hoping to get fit this summer? If you’ve got goals, hopefully, this guide will help you achieve them. Have fun with exercise, think about why you want to get fit, eat well, rest up and set yourself targets that are tough but obtainable.