Monday, April 27, 2015

**App REVIEW** DocuSign

This is a very cool app. It's not something that everyone can use but, for those who can, it's kind of awesome.

It's called DocuSign

DocuSign - Sign & Send Docs - screenshot

Image result for print fax scanHave you ever had someone use email to send you documents that need to be signed and returned? I have. While I do have use of a printer/fax machine, I share it with others. Sometimes, I am not at home and don't have access to the machine. These are all good reasons for having the DocuSign app.

Even when you have access to a printer or fax, the bothersome part about emailed documents is the, well, bother. You have to print out the doc, fill it out and sign it, and you're still not done. You have to scan it to mail it back, or (and this is a real pain), fax it or snail-mail it back to the other person.

Tiresome.

The DocuSign app saves you time and bother. Once you set it up. And once you get the hang of using it.

'Setting it up' means creating your signature and saving it to the app. That's actually a pretty easy process. 'Getting the hang of it' requires a little bit of patience.

The first time I tried it out, I found that it was simple to attach my signature.  For filling out the other parts of the document, I had to get used to aligning the text boxes correctly. That wasn't awfully hard except when the text box would disappear as I entered information. Of course, I would open a new text box and carry on.

When I completed my first document and saved it, all was fine. Until I reviewed my work and saw that the text boxes that I thought had disappeared, um, hadn't. They were just scattered around the page of the document in random places.

I figured out the problem - that I had somehow misaligned the text boxes out of my view when I was creating them - but I haven't figured out how to fix it. As far as I can tell, there is no way to edit a saved document.

I'm not saying there isn't a way to edit a saved document, but that I haven't figured out how to do that.

Still, this is an awesome app. Now that I have a better grasp of using the text boxes, I won't have as many errors. Even if I do have to scrap a document in the app and start over, that's better than the print/fax/scan option I'd be stuck with otherwise.


Once you complete a document (fill it out and/or sign it), you can then send it back via email. I'm still playing around with the app, so any nitpicking might be premature. It might help if I go and take a closer look at the Demo showing how it works, right?  Any app is subject to user skill...

So, to summarize my experience with DocuSign -

PROS:

  • Saves time (once you get the hang of using it)
  • Saves money (on printing, faxing, or scanning)
  • Allows users to respond more quickly with signing on the go
  • ISO compliant to security standards
  • Complies with the eSign Act (basically, your signature this way is legal)
CONS:
  • Bit of a learning curve in using
  • Can't upload documents to the app via Dropbox
  • Editing feature is either hidden or unavailable
This app is not without flaws and doesn't do everything that everyone might want it to, but it is FREE, so how much can you complain about anything it lacks? 

I gave this one 5 of 5 stars. 

Peace
--Free

Friday, April 24, 2015

**REVIEW** Dr Miller Miracle Tea - OR Cleansing Naturally (part 3 of 3)

This is going to be a long post, but I hope it's useful for anyone looking to switch up their eating habits. (By the way, Amazon has already credited my refund. Love those guys!)


Now that I've experienced the Miracle Tea and found that it just doesn't work for me, I figure this is a good time to resort back to a proven method for cleansing my body (colon and all).  The tea might be fine for most people, but I am going to get back to basics with my situation.

I've gone through many changes and challenges with food. I've done well and not so well. And I am going back over and taking a look at some of those situations. To give myself, some credit, I haven't done so badly with my nutrition in the past few years - at least when I'm actually thinking about what I eat.

For me, right now, back to basics means just eating right. If I do that, I shouldn't have to do any kind of cleanse, right? And I know that changing up my diet actually does work. So, I have changed it up. Or, rather, gotten back to some of the basics.

Pretty basic, right?
 When I was getting back into shape post-prednisone, I indulged in lots of fruits and vegetables. I love almost any kind of fruit, but I'm picky about vegetables. I had to learn to get a good intake of all kinds of veggies in a way that I could enjoy them. Also, eating healthy is stressful unless you do enjoy it.

You might remember my trusty blender. You know, from the first time I was on a detox.  Even after I finished losing most of the weight I wanted to, until a few months ago, I still enjoyed doing what I call a veggie binge on a regular basis.
Still trusty, after all these ye- uh, months
A "veggie binge" is what I do for a few weeks when my body is feeling out of sorts. I will do nothing but a massive amount of vegetables (via smoothies and salads) for three or four days of a week and, for the rest of the week, eat just about anything but bread and other starches.

This binge seems to re-regulate my body and boost my energy levels. If I was smart (or disciplined) enough, I would never go off the binge. That's what I'm going to try to work up to this time: adopting the binge as a lifestyle.

The key to this kind of diet is to shop smart. Here in Alaska, fruits and vegetables can be pricey (especially during the winter months) so you have to always stick to a really defined food budget. You have to cut out those "treats" of cafe-bought coffee and any food bought through a drive-through window. Also, you have to spend a little more time planning food prep.

This is not all as tricky as it might sound. At least not for me. I just have to not be lazy about my food needs. And there are so many benefits to eating better - especially for someone with health problems. Me.

First, let's look at some of those benefits:
  • You can handle a lot of common physical complaints with changing up your diet: fatigue, constipation, mental sluggishness, skin and hair issues, etc.
  • Even with my more serious health issues, I can get some relief from changing my diet. I lost weight which helped SO much as far as my joint pain; eating right cleared out some of the toxic feeling I got from being on different medications; drinking more water and eating certain things certainly helped my kidney function. 
  • In my opinion, eating healthier helped my mental state. Instead of taking anti-depressants, I looked to natural sources of vitamins and minerals to help me. Depression is a big problem when you have a chronic illness - just because of the way a disease affects every other aspect of your life. I still have my moments, but those moments are worse when I'm not eating well.
  • Controlling your weight is easier when you are satisfying your hunger correctly. If I'm going to overeat, I guess it's better to overindulge with foods that are giving me good nutrients instead of empty calories.
Common sense tells you that things like better nutrition, good rest, and less stress equal better overall health. Before I was diagnosed with my sarcoidosis, I was smoking like a house on fire, rarely eating right, not resting very well and, Lord knows, I had a bunch of stress to deal with. I always wonder if the sarc would have remained dormant if I had treated my body better.

My health is still nowhere near where I'd like it to be but, if I hadn't listened to my doctors and changed up my nutrition for several months, there's no telling how much worse off I'd be now. And, trust me, I don't want to get worse.

Anyway, Amazon has agreed to refund my money for the tea, so I was able to hit the stores and stock up for at least a two weeks of a veggie binge. You saw what I've been eating/blending for the past couple days. Here's what I got from the store:
It's actually dark PURPLE
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Red Cabbage
  • Broccoli crowns
  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Raw almonds
  • Soy milk (vanilla flavored)
  • Vine tomatoes
Luckily, I already had on hand some things that I can use:
  • Chaga nectar
  • Green tea powder
  • Raw spinach
  • Raw ginger
By the way, I don't care what anyone says, I don't count tomato as a fruit. I'm going to use the apples and soy as my sweetening agents to mask all those veggies. 

Having just enough fruit to sweeten the blend is my trick for getting all those veggies ingested. Sometimes, I will add a tablespoon of frozen OJ (no water added) into the mix, but I forgot to get some.

I will do a approximately 20-ounce smoothie to get me through the main part of the day. Sometimes, that's enough but, if I'm still hungry for something, I will do salads the rest of the day. By "salad" I mean all veggies, no mixed dressing. My favorite salad is to drizzle extra virgin olive oil over some of the green veggies, add some sliced tomatoes and onion, then hit with a little salt and pepper. The tomatoes and olive oil make a kind of dressing of their own. Since we still have a bunch of eggs around, I might boil one to throw on top.

For the non-binge days, I will eat a really well-seasoned pork chop or piece of chicken that's baked or fried (yes, fried - but in olive oil) or I will snack on summer sausage and cheese. I can do without bread if my meat is good enough. Also, I can be satisfied with a snack of canned smoked clams or fish. By the way, I really have to watch my calcium intake, which is another reason I have to alternate my binge days with non-binge days.

If I do get tempted to snack on something not so nutritious, I just do it and move on. My biggest weakness is if someone comes home with pizza. I love pizza. Luckily, we hardly ever do pizza without a salad, so...

Anyway, I'm attempting to use the app that came with my latest phone. You know - the one I got to replace one went blizto right in the middle of a family crisis. Well, the app is pretty cool and not that hard. Just takes discipline to actually use it and pay attention to it. It's Samsung's S Health. The food tracking part of the app is a little bit annoying. Inputting is tricky and sometimes requires converting things. I hate math.

Looks like a lot of food, doesn't it?

I want to stick with this healthy eating plan - not for months at a time like I've previously done, but for life. For life. Hmmm.

If you are thinking of changing up your nutrition, maybe this will help:

This is what the Mediterranean Diet looks like (according to some sources)




And this is what I imagine most people eat. 

(And for the folks who claim it's how many calories and not where you get those calories, I disagree. That might work for weight loss, but we have to eat healthy food for better health.)

Which one more closely resembles yours?

This is some comparative information -

The bottom line is that there are plenty of ways to eat healthy, every individual has to make the choice. Making good choices when there are so many bad alternatives around takes discipline and commitment.

I'm ready.

Peace
--Free

P.S.: I recently heard about and tried the Smoocing (lite) app. It's for people who do juices & smoothies. My review is the only one up on Google Play as of today, if you care what I think about it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

**REVIEW** Dr Miller Miracle Tea (part 2 of 3) *UPDATED

(Part One of this review is found here.)

UPDATE TO THE REVIEW
WHY I NIXED THE TEA

Final Update (Hah!) *I have been granted a refund by Amazon. I think I have to print a shipping label for return, but I'm not sure because I got 2 separate emails from them. One said that my refund would be processed upon a scan of the return label, and the other indicated that they have already processed my refund. I will be checking with them for clarification. At any rate, it's cool to know that Amazon has a customer's back in cases like this. Thank you, Amazon!

Also, I have to mention that the Seller of the Miracle Tea also reached out to check on my satisfaction with the product. I'm waiting to hear further. I will upgrade my Amazon review by a star just because they at least are making an decent customer service effort.


So, I tried the tea yesterday for the first time and I'm not even going to continue with it. At least not on the 3-day schedule I initially intended.

Like I mentioned, I made the tea as suggested on the label and added it to some regular Lipton Tea. By the way, my niece sent me a comment that this can be made as a tea on its own (instead of adding it to another tea like the Liptons I used), but, oh well.

This is what the tea looks like with the Liptons:


I was going to make up at least a pint of the Miracle Tea with nothing else added and take a photo. But, as I said, I changed my mind about continuing my 3-day use. Once I read up on all the information about the ingredients, I realized that it's safer for me to do a "cleanse" by doing a 3-day all fruit and veggie routine. 

Understand that I'm not implying that the Miracle Tea is dangerous or anything but, for me, it makes more sense to stay away from the blend used in the tea. One of the reasons is that I think it's too powerful for me to drink more than a couple of times a day on an every-now-and-then basis. I realized this after I drank two 8-ounce servings yesterday.

The first serving of tea didn't really affect me. I started drinking it at about 8am and just sipped on it for an hour or so. I didn't want to gulp it down on an empty stomach. I'm not much of a breakfast person, but I did eat half a bagel with some strawberry and cream spread. After I finished the tea, I made sure to drink a 12-ounce bottle of water.

I started on the second serving of the tea sometime around 2pm. This time, I did just drink it in a shorter period of time (maybe 10 minutes), and I didn't eat anything. True to the claims, I did seem to feel very full. That's a good thing, right? I was full enough that I had to force myself to drink more another bottle of water.

By around 4pm, I felt like I had pigged out on a bread buffet. That "very full" feeling had intensified until it was uncomfortable. One of the reasons I rarely overeat is because I hate that stuffed, sickly feeling of a too-full belly.

I never did get to the third serving of the tea.

You know that feeling you get with an upset stomach where you wish you could expel something from one end or the other, just to get some relief? Well, that's the wish I was making before 7pm. It was all I could do not to snag some ipecac syrup.

When feeling full means not being hungry, that's a good thing. When feeling full means feeling sick-full that not a good thing.

Yeah, so...

Happily, when I woke up this morning, I felt much better. I wanted nothing to do with that tea. I drank a couple 16-ounce glasses of water throughout the morning and wasn't even tempted to eat. I didn't notice any unusual urge to use the bathroom either.

I paid too much for this tea to dump it all, but I'm going to save the unused tea bags for later (and for using in smaller amounts) if I can't give them away.  I don't know if it's just me or what but I didn't like the way the tea made me feel.

Since my intention was to clean out my system from some recent bad eating habits, I'm going to revert back to the fruit and veggie routine that I started when I was getting rid of my prednisone weight. Even though I don't have the weight issues anymore, that routine is one that I can maintain and enjoy. It's also one I can afford.

I told my niece about my experience with the tea and she can't understand it. She loves using the tea so far - though she isn't sure that she will be able to get through the whole gallon batch in a month. I did warn her about not letting her body get dependent on the tea and.... Well, just read the rest of this post.

I did promise a review of the Miracle Tea, so I'm going to include in this post what I came up with as far as information. For tomorrow's post, I'm going to detail the fruit and veggie routine I've used off and on.

BEFORE I NIXED THE TEA

Since I am using this mostly for its detoxifying effects, I wanted to see what some benefits of that might be. Of course, I suddenly start finding all kinds of information that suggests "detoxes" and "cleanses" might not be as beneficial as I've been led to believe. 

Oh boy.

Time for a bullet list!
  • Bad news: There are some studies that suggest certain types of "cleanses" might do more harm than good. At best, some cleanses are simply unnecessary. The body, its noted, already does a good job of cleaning itself - colon included. Good news (linked from same article): "Some studies" support that certain remedies might benefit liver function.
  • Bad news: This discussion among doctors seems to factually suggest that cleanses are unnecessary, but part of the discussion seems contradictory - in a way. When one doctor says that a pre-procedure (colonoscopy) purge is sufficient to clean out the stool, I wondered if an occasional "purge" isn't good for people who have never had a colonoscopy. Good news (maybe): The key word for me is "occasional". Of course, doing anything obsessively could be harmful. Most of the worst I'm hearing about these cleanses is for people who do them more often than needed and in lieu of eating a proper diet on a consistent basis.
  • Bad news: Colonics (the kind I always pictured as being kind of, um, invasive, are not something I would ever do. Apparently, high colonics can cause tears and other damage to the intestines. If I ever had wanted to do a colonic, finding out how lightly regulated the industry is sure put that out of my head. Good news: Just like with any laxative, the trick is not to let your body become dependent on them. So, for myself, I'm still sticking with my occasional-is-okay line. (I am going to be warning my nieces about this since one of them uses her Miracle Tea on a regular basis...)
  • Some general information and warnings on colon cleansing. (How I love WebMD!)
Basically, I'm realizing that using any kind of cleansing product should be done only occasionally and that a person must make sure to stay hydrated. 

As for the totally natural alternatives for a a healthy colon:
So... I will finish this review up in a few days but, after that, I'm going to pull my blender out of hibernation and get back on my best nutrition game. My niece and nephew are going to hate me because my niece has been great about preparing full meals every night, but... I have to get this body of mine back into top shape. Losing all that predni-weight was hard, but it's no good being thin if I'm a mess nutritionally.

SUMMARY
Pros:
  • This tea works fine for my one niece, who has been using it for a long time, and for another niece who just started using it. My experiences may be unique to me.
  • The ingredients are noted for some positive benefits when used carefully and occasionally.
  • Some users have given positive reviews of the product.
Cons:
  • The tea made me feel bloated and over-full to the point of discomfort.
  • It's very expensive & this is one of the few times I didn't check beforehand for a seller's return policy... (~slapping my own hand~)
  • Some of the ingredients listed are repetitive and (so it seems) unnecessary.
  • A person can get the same benefits more cheaply and more naturally with a good diet.
Basically, I can neither recommend or discourage use of the product based on what I know. I can just share what my experience was. I should have paid more attention to everything I researched before I even tried this tea. I am waiting now to hear back about the seller's refund policy. If there isn't one, I hope the standard Amazon return policy is satisfactory. I will let you know one way or another.


Stay tuned for Part 3 of this mess. I won't be talking anymore about the tea, but I will be talking about a truly natural cleanse...

Peace
--Free

Monday, April 20, 2015

**REVIEW** Dr. Miller Miracle Tea (part 1 of 3)

This is one of the reviews that I will have to do in parts. First, I will talk about the product claims and general information. The second post will be about my results after some usage. Finally, I will post my overall experience after I've had time to evaluate my personal results.

So what product am I checking out this time? It's this:



That's Dr Miller Miracle Tea (I don't like calling it "Holy Tea", but I think the name comes from the ingredients, which are listed on the packets.

My niece told me about this tea, then another of my nieces decided to give it a try. I initially balked because of the price, then I realized I had a credit saved up that I could apply to my order. Still, it's not cheap at the full price so I'm going to be very interested in seeing if I can recommend it to anyone else.

To start off with, I am going to have to check with my nieces to see which strength tea they are using. When my one niece got hers in the mail the other day, she told me that the package had (her words here) "Stunk up my whole mailbox!" But when she actually brewed the tea, the smell wasn't bad at all and she liked the taste of it. She said that it even smelled good. Okay.

The second thing I did when I got my packets was to smell them. (First thing, I took photos.) The smell wasn't bad at all in my opinion. The scent is similar to black tea (or any other "regular" and unscented tea) so I don't know what my niece meant.

Oh, here are the packets with the ingredients:


From the product description page on Amazon: "A special blend of Malva leaves, Blessed Thistle, Holy Thistle, Milk Thistle, Marshmallow leaves and Persimmon Leaves." (my underline)

Of course, I wanted to know a bit more about each of those ingredients, so let's see...
  • Malva Leaves - This stood out for me: "Malva sp. leaves have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea or externally as baths for treatment of disorders of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract. "
  • Blessed Thistle - WebMD points out that, among other things, people use it for "loss of appetite," but I always like to pay attention to the notes on warnings and interactions too. Wikipedia has some more info on the medicinal uses and the other name for it: Cnicus.
  • Holy Thistle - This is strange because my usual sources show this as being the same as Blessed Thistle so I'm not sure why it's listed twice. At any rate, Wellness Mama cleared up the origin of the name.
  • Milk Thistle - Once again, I see that this thistle (or silymarin) is about the same as the other two. What on earth??? I did notice that I see more mention of this as an aid for liver problems.
  • Marshmallow leaves - Finally something new. The first uses I saw for this was for pain, swelling and inflammation. Also, the herb is supposed to provide a sense of being full.
  • Persimmon Leaves - This one seems to be noted for relieving a strange range of issues, including pollen allergies, bruising and problems with immunity to colds. Okay. 


I suppose mixing the different herbs might have something to do with the benefits, but when I checked on some reviews, I saw that the tea acts basically as a laxative and there are no studies to back up the claims made for the product. On the other hand, my niece did tell me that what she noticed immediately is that she was suddenly very, um... regular. That's a good thing, I guess.

By the way, I was curious about this Dr. Miller. Not to be mean, but his webpage reminds me of the back of a cheap tabloid magazine. From the 70s. (I shouldn't have peeked because now I'm a little skeptical.)

The first niece - who turned us on to the tea - said that she and her husband use the tea every other month or so. They just mix up a gallon and drink it a few times a day until that gallon is gone. She claims that it does help her with the bloating and other effects of lapsing into bad eating habits. Okay.


I made my first batch tonight. I used regular Lipton tea and added the two bags of the Miracle Tea. Maybe it's the after-effects of my last cold, but I don't really smell anything extraordinary. It looks like regular old tea. Of course, it has to sit out overnight, so we'll see what it looks and smells like tomorrow.  I even talked my other niece into agreeing to trying it with me. 

I'm off to bed now. If this tea works the way it's supposed to, I need to rest up for all the exercise I'm going to get from running to the Ladies. LOL

I will post soon as I can (maybe tomorrow) on the taste and what, if any, effects I get with the first cups... So, stay tuned.

Peace
--Free

Thursday, April 16, 2015

**REVIEW** Organic Ceremonial Grade Green Tea Powder by Midori Spring

After my failed first attempt at getting my hands on Matcha powder, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to try this one:



Pop top & then a screw on lid for freshness control
This is Midori Spring's Organic Ceremonial Premium Japanese Green Tea Matcha Powder.  It's actual Matcha powder, no fillers and, judging by the results I got, there's no half-stepping on the quality.


Of course, I had to judge my results against what I get with regular green tea and what I got with this tea powder. Here is what the product claims to do:
  • Increase energy levels
  • Help reduce stress and improve mental alertness
  • Support metabolism and help with weight loss
  • Support immune system and help reduce inflammation
  • Help the body cleanse of harmful elements
Of course, all this is pretty much what regular green tea has been touted as doing. The thing is, a good quality powdered tea leaf is supposed to be more beneficial than regular green tea. This brand claims to have over 7 times the antioxidants found in regular steeped tea.

The first things I noticed about the Midori Spring product was how very talc-fine it is and the vibrantly green color. Let me tell you, this is nothing like that low-grade, filler-pumped product I talked about yesterday...

I received this product at the perfect time to test its energy-boosting claims. My body has been just dragging lately. I've been so fatigued and weighed down by this recurring cold/virus that I could hardly get out of bed for more than a few hours a day over the last couple of weeks. I can tell that the powder is an energy boost, although with the state my body is in, that boost only lasted for a few hours at a time. In spite of this, I was able to judge the results of the powder against the boost I get from my usual dose of caffeine via coffee.

The biggest difference between this powder and my coffee is that the powder didn't jitter me up. I got a nice boost from using just about a teaspoon full of the powder. And that is in spite of the fact that I haven't been following the brewing instructions:



Yeah. I don't own the proper equipment for the traditional brewing method. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a bamboo whisk.

The first time I used the powder, I used a fork as a whisk. The color was amazingly beautiful and I did get the foamy texture, which was pretty cool. The thing is, I think I used too much. The tea was too strong, or at least it tasted too strong for me. Or maybe I'm not used to the powdered version of green tea.

It's upside down (thanks Blogger) but you see the color
and the fine powder

About the taste: it's a very veggie-leafy-green flavor. Think of what regular green tea tastes like and magnify that by 10. Drinking it hot seems to increase that taste, but the tea is made in such small amounts that it's doable even for someone who might not like the flavor. Also, the color is so beautiful. The tea ends up looking very frothy/creamy - even whisking it with a fork.

Whatever the case, because I do want to get the benefits, and I don't always have time to use the suggested traditional brewing method. I was glad to find that there are other ways to use the tea. You can add it to other things (soups, smoothies, etc.), but I found a way to use it more often during the day.

What am doing now is adding the powder to different beverages. I like using apple juice, Ginger Ale or plain seltzer water. The apple juice and ale have calories I don't need, but they have a flavor to mask the powder. The seltzer water is good though because of the fizz. I can add just a little bit of juice or ale to it and get some flavor without all the calories. Adding the powder to meals throughout the day is probably the best way to get a good intake of the powder. I am anxious to try adding it to soups and smoothies.

I've only been using the powder for about a week, so I can't tell anything about most of the claims, but I started the energy boost more and more with each day. I still have this cold and the gloomy weather draining me, but when I replace my coffee with the powder, I feel a bit of a lift. Also, I'm still trying to see if my stress level is evening out. I can say that the powder does not give me the over-hyped feeling of my coffee. It's strange how you can be tired and jittery if you do too much caffeine.

What I like about the Midori Spring brand of Matcha is that their powder seems to be of such high quality. The packaging is made to keep the product fresh. Note that the Midori brand -
  • Is certified Kosher and organic
  • Is gluten-free, GMO-free 
  • Contains no pesticides
  • Is free of fillers (such as soy, etc.)
When I posted about powdered tea yesterday, I noted a few things that make for a quality product. Notice that Midori meets the criteria for being from "first harvest" and grown in the shaded conditions. 

I will keep using the powder to see about the other claims (especially the weight loss), but for now, I will take what can get as far as the energy.

From what I have heard about regular green tea, you need to get at least 8 cups a day for full benefit. For now, I'm adding about a teaspoon of the powder into my beverages 2 or 3 times a day (since day before yesterday) to see if it helps. One benefit is that I'm cutting back on my coffee and other less healthy drinks, so at least I'm cutting out some calories. I can't wait to see how I feel in a couple of weeks.

Remember that Matcha - or at least a good one - is made from the whole tea leaf. Think of the benefits of regular green tea:
Now remember that Matcha is processed differently to boost those benefits to a whole other level. And as far as some of the benefits of the powdered tea:
the way I look at it, if I'm going to ingest something or its health benefits, it's nice to have something I can add to food and drink. 

Midori Spring offers a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee of refunding or product exchange.

Matcha has been used in Asia for centuries, and I'm glad that we are picking up on the benefits of this powder here. Just remember: go for quality.

I want to mention that you might want to check out this link. Midori Spring is having a giveaway. Good chance to try out the product...

Peace
--Free

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

About Matcha Tea (a pre-review post)

You have probably started hearing a lot about something called Matcha. In my opinion, it's in the category of About to Trend. Hard and heavy.

I've had a chance to try a couple types of Matcha - one sponsored and one that I picked up at my local health food store. Since I'm going to be posting a review of the sponsored product very soon, I wanted to go over some of the basics about Matcha in general. First thing to know is, there's nothing really "basic" about Matcha. I feel like I'm having to learn a new language just to understand this product.

Let's start with a little of what I am coming to understand about matcha:
  • Matcha tea is powdered, but not all powdered tea is matcha. 
  • Matcha is also, I believe, grown in the shade.
  • Matcha is prepped for serving (to drink) than regular tea.
  • Matcha tea is from the whole leaf, the tenderest parts of the leaf, and is often used ceremonially.
To make matters  just a little bit more confusing, in addition to the types of green tea, and types of matcha, there are different grades of the teas. Yikes.

I'm determined to kinda, sorta understand this Matcha tea though. If the terminology doesn't trip me up. Here are some of the different types of Matcha:
  • Usucha - or "thin" tea, is from sprouts younger than a certain age. (source)
  • Koicha - "thick" tea, is usually more expensive because it comes from rarer tea plants.
  • Tencha -  In Japan, this is the only tea that qualifies as"true matcha" and it is made from the delicate shade-grown tea leaf trees. (source)
 So... Tencha = Matcha - though in the U.S., the Matcha we get is most likely never Tencha... Yeah, see? Confusing.

Just to take a break, I took a look at a video of Matcha leaves being processed.



When I applied to review the product that I will be posting on soon, I had never tried any kind of Matcha tea, but I picked up some at my local health food store a couple weeks ago. Since I didn't understand that there are different types of Matcha, I was a little bit confused when trying to choose between the few brands available. I ended up with this one, just because of price and convenience. This brand had three different types so I chose the one that sounded most flavorful.



Then I had to look up what "Genmai" means:
Genmaicha is the Japanese name for green tea combined with roasted brown rice. It is sometimes called "popcorn tea". This type of tea was originally drunk by poor Japanese, as the rice served as a filler and reduced the price of the teas; which is why it is also known as the "people's tea".
Okay. So I got a little bit ripped off as the American trying to experiment with a new trend. Let me tell you, at about a dollar per pack - for 12 single-serve packets (0.03 ounces, or 3 grams, per pack), I wasn't getting a "true" (or even near-true) matcha tea.


At least the labelling was honest. The problem was my own ignorance.
















This, by the way, is what the actual tea looks like:


The texture is very grainy and leaves very little film on the plate I had it on. It felt like a fine sand.

And, for comparison, this is what a true matcha powder looks like:


The matcha powder is vibrant green and almost as fine as talcum powder
It's hard to tell from the photo, but you can see some of the texture difference between
the Matcha powder and the Genmaicha (paler) product
To be fair, the Genmai wasn't awful. I think that any kind of powdered (or grainy) tea is an acquired taste. The Genmai had a soil-ish/dirt-ish taste. I was able to cover that with some of the Chaga nectar I used as a sweetener. I also learned that I could just put the Genmai into other flavored teas or beverages.

I will be posting more about the actual Matcha powder when I do my product review. For now, I can tell you that there is a huge  flavor difference between those two products. Huge.

Doing a little research beforehand literally pays (or at lease saves) when trying something new. In the case of the brand of Genmaicha I bought, I couldn't even do much checking on it when I got home. The website printed on the package takes me to a domain that is for sale. After a brief search, I couldn't even find images for the product. I gave up because, for one thing, I won't be buying the brand again and, for another, I want to stick with trying better quality products. Maybe that Matcha Matcha brand has an actual Matcha tea available, but it wasn't one of the choices when I was shopping.

The main thing to know when using Matcha is that you have to read the labels. Make sure that you are getting the best Matcha available.

Next: I will be doing the review for the first organic, powdered green tea I've had the chance to try.

Peace
--Free

**REVIEW** Pure Lavender Oil by aVo Essentials

While I love essentials oils, sometimes I forget what a the "true" scent of something is. I ordered a vanilla essential oil once and, while it was great in a blend of other oils, on it's on, it was not something I was crazy about. Probably that's because my general idea of "vanilla" was so influenced by all the fake scents used in products. The oil I got was exactly like what I remembered from my mother's cooking.

My idea of the lavender scent was influenced mostly by store-bought products. My one memory of "real" lavender was from flowers that a sweetheart used to give me. Good memories.

When I got the chance to try this, I was excited to see if it matched my memories of the lavender flowers I once loved so much.

Notice the dates of the product. Fresh!

This is a Pure Lavender Oil from  āVō Essentials. (I love when the oils come with a stopper.)



Lavender is one of the scents I like for certain moods. I don't want to smell lavender in my coffee or food, but I love having this one.

Of course, like I said, I wasn't sure what to expect of the scent. I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, the best thing about this oil's fragrance is that, even though the scent is very distinct (just like the actual flowers), it's not overpowering at all. I had a fresh head cold when I first received the oil and I couldn't smell it at all. Once my sinuses cleared up, I could  tell that I had a "true" oil. Perfect. It really did match my memories.

Like I said, this is not something that I would use in food, but I understand that some people do use actual lavender in the kitchen (mostly for baked goods) and I find that interesting. Of course, keep in mind that this oil is for external use only!

What I have liked using it for is adding it to my shampoos and bathwater. Also, I like to blend it with some of my sweet orange oil to wear as a fragrance. I tried blending it with the vanilla oil I wasn't crazy about that as a wearable fragrance, but I did like it in the bath. Both scents are very soothing. I'm going to play around some more with the different blends. One way I did like using it is to add a drop to the hand sanitizer I carry in my purse. I did it to make the sanitizer smell better, but I later found out that lavender is a natural anti-bacterial.

Even though I loved the scent of my lavender bouquets, I didn't know at the time that lavender can be used for relaxation and stress relief. I realized it after using the oil in my bath water. Again, I think it's the whole "soothing" thing. I do know that it works well to help you sleep. If you apply a dab on your temples (with another carrier oil), it does ease a tension headache.

I've been using mostly coconut oil for as a carrier for this one. The regular coconut oils smells amazing when mixed with this, but if you want to keep the lavender scent undiluted, a fractionated coconut oil works nicely. The argan oils are heavier and, though they don't really disturb the lavender scent, it's more cost efficient to use an FCO for more body coverage.

 āVō Essentials offers a 100%  money-back guarantee, but the product is really good. The price seems a bit high, but the 4-ounce size makes it worth it. Lavender is a potent enough fragrance that it doesn't take much for most uses. Besides, you will need to use a carrier oil for applying to the skin because the lavender oil is concentrated.

There are a lot of other uses I want to investigate. Here are links to some information and usage suggestions:

If you haven't tried lavender oil before now, this is a good one to start with. Because of the product size/cost, multi-use, quality and the brand guarantee, you should be happy with this one.

Peace
--Free

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

**REVIEW** Organic Rosehip Seed Oil by Aveya Beauty

I just reviewed another oil by Aveya Beauty that I was pretty happy with, so I was anxious to try their Rosehip Seed Oil. It's certified 100%  organic and there's a 30-day, no-risk guarantee attached.



 The Prime price for the 2-oz bottle (which is plenty) is excellent considering the quality and the no-risk guarantee.








This rosehip seed oil is labelled for multiple benefits (as are most good rosehip seed oils), such as for helping with:

  • Anti-aging (I'd think "pro-active" care)
  • Wrinkles and fine lines (maybe if you were not pro-active)
  • Healing acne scars and burns
  • Age spots
  • Brittle hair
I do like to be pro-active when it comes to taking care of my skin because (though I hate to say it), I'm a bit vain, and because I don't want to get damage that could cause serious problems. This oil fights a lot of skin and hair issues because of the fact that it replenishes moisture and prevents skin dehydration. That's the basic key to preventing (or alleviating) common skin problems.

By the way, here is some good info on rosehip seed oil, and more usage info here.

This oil is absorbent, and that's important since any oil that just sits atop the skin or hair does no good. I tested this one by washing my hands and letting them dry completely. I then applied some of the rosehip seed oil to a spot on the back of one hand and used a bit of petroleum jelly (PJ) on the back of the other hand. I waited a few minutes to see which product seemed to do best at moisturizing my skin. Here is what the results looked like at each step:

This is my dry hand

This is with the Rosehip and the petroleum jelly just after applying
Rosehip near my knuckles, PJ near my wrist
This is after about a minute and a half
The rosehip was absorbing with no blotting
The PJ is still as heavy as when applied (no blotting)

 And this after about 10 minutes

The rosehip has pretty much soaked in (still no blotting)
The PJ is still as heavy as when applied (no blotting)

I tried to keep my hand in the same position for each photo so that you could get the best idea of how the different oils worked. Of course, I would rather not use PJ on my face but, even on the body, I don't want something that won't absorb. (By the way, for this post, I used a common brand of store-bought petroleum jelly.)

Petroleum jelly (PJ) will obliterate skin "ash", but the problem I have with it is that I can't use it on my hair and I don't really like using it on other parts of my body if I have a more natural alternative. PJ basically only seals the moisture already present in your skin, but it doesn't actually moisturize it. Also, PJ is made up of something called "hydrocarbons" (thank goodness for Wikipedia!) and I don't even know what that really is.

Once again, quality and price are the main considerations when it comes to choosing good products. This one scores on both counts. I also like that I can stand the smell of this one. Ah! Happy days! Rosehip seed oil has its own very special, um, scent. Some people like the stronger scented ones, but I just don't like the particular odor rosehip seed oil has. I was so glad that this one was scented so mildly that I could stand to use it on my face without holding my breath. By the way, the milder scent doesn't seem to indicate a lesser quality.

So, yeah, this one gets a five-out-of-five star rating in my book. This is one of two Aveya products I've used and I've been happy with both.

Since I've heard that rosehip seed oil is so beneficial to acne scars and burns, I dug around a little to see why that would be. Apparently, the fact that it's high in certain fatty acids plays a key role. I don't claim to understand the science behind it all, but I can tell you that it does wonders for my skin. I don't think that enough people use it on their lips or on their hair. Actually, I don't use it on my hair as much as I do on my scalp when it gets dried out after from washing or product buildup. I do think it would make a moisture sealer for the ends and edges for natural hair wearers. I do know that it's nice good for adding underneath your lipstick to stop the chapping caused by some of the "long-wear" lip colors.

This is another of those oils that makes for a wonderful cuticle treatment. It goes a lot farther than some of the store-bought cuticle oils that are only for use on the nails and cuticles (and is a lot more cost-effective). Also, it lasts longer than those types of products.

Lots of ways to use this one bottle of oil, so that's just the final Plus.

As with the other Aveya product I use, the one gripe I have is about the tiny printing on the label. Other than that, this is another winner from the brand.

If anyone else has found other ways to use rosehip seed oil, do share with me.

Peace
--Free


DISCLOSURE: 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.

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