Monday, December 21, 2015

**RECIPE** Juice & Smoothie Blends

Since I have been faithful about going to the gym, I'm losing pounds and inches faster than I expected. I think part of the weight loss is due to the better eating habits I'm practicing.

Juicing (or "smuicing" for those who also enjoy smoothies) is a great way to balance out my nutrition while trying to lose or maintain weight. The hardest  part of it all is just like with any kind of diet (or lifestyle  change), and that is variety.

I have no problem eating right for months and months. I do tend to get bored with my healthy choices of nutrition. So... I try not to get bored.

With the new - and very affordable - juicer I've had for a couple of weeks, I can change up from smoothies to juices just by rotating two appliances.


Juices are easier for me than smoothies. Here are my latest recipes:

Tropical Blend

Mandarin Oranges
(Can add a little bit of lemon if you want)

Blood Pressure Blend

Apple (for more sweetening)

Workout Refresher Blends (for after the gym)

Celery + Ginger + Cucumber + Oranges

Beets + Apples

Cucumber + Oranges

Blend for Snacktime


Someone mentioned to me that adding a little bit of cayenne to my juices could help rev the metabolism. I want to try it, but I have no tolerance for even mild heat. I might try adding cinnamon to a blend, but I haven't yet.

Another thing about juices vs smoothies: to help replenish the fiber lost from juicing, I like to add back in to the juice some of the pulp that the juicer discards. This means having to shake the pulp around in the juice so that it doesn't all sink, but it's worth it and doesn't really bother me as far as taste.

If anyone has any suggestions for juices or smoothies, feel free to email me.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

**REVIEW** Extra Large Natural Cotton Laundry Bag from Ohuhu

Since this review is for an item with a specific and basic use, I will keep the post brief and simple.

The product is the Ohuhu® Natural Cotton Laundry Bag (extra large size).

photo from Amazon product page
photo from Amazon product page

That's pretty specific and basic, right? However, I have a feeling that some people will find other uses for this natural cotton laundry bag:

Because the bag is so big (and it's much bigger than it looks when you first see it in the wrapping), it's great for use in a dorm room. On the other hand, if it's filled up, it could be kind of heavy. For laundry use, I think it would be better for storing dirty laundry neatly in a wash area.

Like I said, it's a simple product, made for storing and carrying  (or temporarily hiding) dirty clothes. The standout features:
  • Holds a LOT of clothing (4 to 5 loads)
  • Is machine washable and won't shrink
  • The 100% "natural colored cotton" material is breatheable to prevent mildew
  • Can also be used as a hamper liner
  • Is quite large - 36 inches high & 28 inches wide 
(By the way, I'm not sure if we all consider a load of laundry by the same measures!)

When I was younger, I remember my mother talking about having learned from her mother to multi-purpose everything she bought. If she bought Crisco for cooking, she also used some as a skin moisturizer. I also remember her talking about having used flour sacks to make clothing and curtains.

The material of this laundry bag is so sturdy that I immediately thought, "My mom would probably multi-purpose the heck out of this!" And, of course, I started thinking of other ways the bag could be used for "modern" household use:
  • As a toy sack (for a kid's playroom)
  • To carry around anything that's bulky or in pieces, and...
  • ...My favorite idea - to hide Christmas gifts in.
  • Lining the hamper used for diapers or smelly exercise clothing is a great idea
photo from Amazon product page

Actually, if this were dyed or decorated, it would make a super-cute "Santa" bag. Maybe because it's close to that time of year, that's one of the first things that popped into my head. Since 2 of my nieces are both pregnant, the idea of using this to line a hamper in the baby rooms is nice. I don't know if my girls plan to use cloth diapers or not  (NOT!!!), but infant clothes can have their own special funk once they get stained with formula or poop... I'm just saying.

One last thing I want to mention is that the material of the bag is a bit on the rough-feeling side when you recieve it. I'm hoping that it will soften up some after a run through the machine with some fabric softener.

The price is great for a bag of such a large size, especially the Prime price.


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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

**REVIEW** BLACK+DECKER 400-Watt Fruit & Vegetable Juice Extractor

As you read this review, keep in mind that I just used it for the first time today**. Later on, after more use, I will come and update the review if need be.

This is the Black and Decker 400-watt Fruit & Vegetable Juice Extractor:

When I first saw it at the store, the first thought I had was, "How good can a $35 juicer be?" I also wondered why it was labeled as a "juice extractor" rather than just a "juicer".

Out of the box, this was easy to set up. The only thing I had to do was remove the cup from inside the pulp container.

Let me stop here and explain why I even wanted a juicer.

As you all know by now, I flip flop when it comes to taking care of myself. I go through stages of watching my nutrition and exercising better sometimes than I do other times. I'm going through one of my upswings. Going to the gym and losing weight, yada yada ya.

In addition to eating better, I'm also more conscience of my overall health. High blood pressure runs in my family. I had HBP when I weighed 97 pounds so all the weight loss and exercise isn't going to cut it. However, excersizing does help (mainly because I think it relieves stress) and I recently heard that drinking beet juice helps a bit. Well, I love beet juice. I don't love the price of beet juice, so... I decided that juicing my own would be better.

I still use my blender to do smoothies but I tend to go overboard with smoothies. I can't just do a simple fruit and veggie protein drink. I go all Guy Fieri and start adding something from every food group until I end up with something that looks like a drunken dessert.

Juicing is simpler. I do what I did tonight with the Black and Decker: chop up some beets, carrots and maybe an orange, then store it in a quart container to drink off of for a week. I have to say that the Biotta beet juice that I've bought is slightly sweeter than my homemade. which is why I added carrots and tangelos to the blend. Now mine is not only cheaper but even better than the store bought juice! Ha.

Here is my video of my first use of this:

So. On to the pros and cons of this juicer. By the way, the model number is JE2200B.


  • Easy to assemble (and disassemble for cleaning)
  • Easy to clean (the strainer is only part that I had to use a sponge on)
  • Smaller sized for tighter counter spaces
  • Not too loud. (as you can see/hear for yourself in the video)
  • Juices beets, carrots and oranges without leaving over un-juiced chunks in pulp
  • Pulp comes out really dry (so I assume I got maximum juice extraction)
  • It's just under $35
  • Cup to hold juice doesn't attach to juicer (can get pushed around)
Seriously, that's the worse thing I can come up with as a negative. This wouldn't be a big deal with most fruits and veggies, but for the beets (which stain everything), I put a plastic bag under the cup and juicer just to catch drips and spurts.

I read a bunch of the Amazon reviews (even though I purchased mine at Walmart) and I disagree (so far) with any of the negative ones. Of those complaining, most reviewers focused on the fact that they had to cut up their fruits and veggies or that the machine "clogged", etcetera. In my opinion, for this type of smaller (in size) juicer and with the 400-watt motor, I'd expect to have to do some prep. Matter of fact, some years ago, I had a very expensive juicer that didn't do as good a job as this one. With that one, I could drop in big chunks of stuff but I didn't get the dryer pulp and the cleanup was a nightmare.

Tonight I got a almost a quart of juice from 6 beets, 10 carrots and 2 tangelos (I've been drinking from it already, so...):

Drank about 15 ounces of my fresh juice! Delish!
Like I said, for the price (which equals about 5 of the 16-ounce bottles of Biotta brand beet juice), if this gets me through the rest of winter, I have saved quite a bit of money. Plus, I'm doing something good for myself.


**I wrote this review last night before bed. Posting it today, so... ya know.

Friday, December 11, 2015

**REVIEW** Unilever Dry Spray Anti-perspirant

Just love checking my mail sometimes
I don't often get stuff from Influenster and, when I do, it takes a while for products to reach me way up here in Alaska. This time, I am getting to try out a new anti-perspirant from Unilever:

This is Degree Motionsense Dry the "Fresh Energy" scent. Let's go down the list of what I really like so far:

  • The nozzle is designed nicely. There's a click-to-open and spray function. This means that I won't be randomly spraying the inside of my gym bag because... me
  • The container is shaped in way that makes it easy to hold (even with hands damp from the shower) and is just cool to look at.
  • The spray itself is super-finely misted and it really is very dry. If it weren't for the scent (which is nice enough), I wouldn't have been sure I had actually applied product. This is a big deal for me because I do NOT like damp deodorants. I have been using a stick deodorant that I always blot after applying. Before now, I've never been too crazy about spray products just as a personal preference. 
  • The scent is mild, even though I would prefer no scent. It doesn't linger or interfere with my essential oil fragrances.
  • I tested this by applying a few hours before going to the gym. Probably because I am so freaking out of shape, it only takes about 20 minutes on the treadmill before I'm sweating like a murder suspect. I was sweating alright, but not in my underarm area. (Wish someone would make forehead anti-perspirant!)
  • Since I was testing this product for it's "48-hour" anti-perspirant claims, I didn't shower for about 4 hours after the workout (just that one!). I wanted to see if the deodorant properties were on point. Answer: Yes. Definitely so.
I have to give this product some points for living up to the hype. There were just a couple of things that would make me like it more:
  • While the click-to-open pump is nice, it is tricky to re-close. I was always worried that I might not have locked it back into place. (Kind of a minor point, I know...)
  • The "Fresh Scent" is not my favorite. Since I don't see an un-scented version, I think I would prefer the "Sheer Powder" scent. (Just a very personal preference.)
  • I can't tell yet how long this will last. From what I can tell, the 3.8-oz size is around $5.00 at Walmart (and also on Amazon as an "add-on" item). 
By the way, you can pick this product up at Walmart and here are the different scents available:

Again, there isn't much that I don't like about this anti-perspirant. What I do love is how dry it goes on. I have to agree with the blurb on the Influenster box: "This is a game-changer." It just might be...


DISCLOSURE: I received one or more of the products mentioned in the post compliments of an Influenster campaign in exchange for testing and reviewing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Writing, Anxiety & Inspiration from Odd Sources

Just an update for +Marla Hughes , +Susan Lewis , +Ben Johnson and the others who have been so encouraging about my writing - and who are all getting free and signed copies if I ever publish. (Hey, Ben, I haven't started the story "The Girl in the Video" that I accidentally posted that day!)

The writing project is going well. I haven't posted any more stories on The Millenium Chronicles because I am adding all my new material to the short story collection that I'm working on.

Today I have been crazy with anxiety. The writing is going as well as I just said (or even better), but just thinking of all that it takes to self-publish is driving me batty.

That dang cover!!!
I'm really stressing over all how to and what-if parts of the situation.For some reason, I am fixating on what kind of cover I would like.

How to format for uploading, design a cover, etc. What if I chose the wrong publishing arena? What if everyone hates what I've written?

I've decided that I am bi-polar when it comes to my creative side. There are the amazing highs when I hit my groove with a character or plotline, then there is that stomach-churning drop when I think I only think I sound coherent in my work.

More than ever, I am learning why writing is so lonely. I suppose that writing is meant to be a lonely business (though I have plenty of company from the people and ideas in my head), and the solitude is so necessary for me. Still...

Here's one crazy thing about writers (or maybe just about me as a writer): Because feelings are fuel for my stories, I relish things that hurt and irritate me. On the one hand, it sucks when people annoy me or even go out of their way to otherwise chafe me. On the other hand... All that pain and irritiation and stuff is like old, dry wood on the fire. If the fire is my writing. LOL

At any rate, this post was just to let my 3 supporters (hahaha) know how things are going and why you aren't seeing any new stuff online. Yet.

For the people who feed my writing fires, I leave you this:

(You probably already have... But I will love you for being an inspiration.)


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

**REVIEW** Daydreamer Travel Pillow by AirComfy Travel

I ordered this Daydreamer Travel Pillow by AirComfy Travel just a lit-tle too late to use on my recent travels.

This is pillow in the case
Never fear, I did put it to the test in a couple of unusual ways. I mean, traveling on a plane is not the only time you need to get comfy for a bit of a nap, right?

I have insomnia and use it to my advantage. Since ours is a very noisy household, I do my writing while dawn is only thinking of breaking. I like to sit up in bed with my back against the wall when I am writing. The only problem with that is neck and shoulder fatigue. I end up bunching my bed pillows behind my neck, but they fall down whenever I shift positions. Guess what? It' may not be what the makers had in mind, but this pillow is perfect for my writing in bed habit. It's also great for when I go to my infusion treatments. The pillows the nurses provide are starchy and flat. I need two or three of them to prop into position to read or write for the couple hours I'm stuck hooked to a machine.

I'm fussing and griping, but I bet there are a lot of you who find yourself in similar circumstances. This pillow might have been made with travel in mind, but it's got a lot of uses.

Just imagine how good this would be for actually traveling - on a plane, a train (or even in a car) - or wherever you're in a cramped space for a long period of time. (Speaking of cramped spaces: I think plane seating has shrunk in the past couple of years. Even "First Class" seating is tiny.)

Probably the nicest feature about this pillow is the design. It deflates down to fit into the carry-bag (which has a handy clip for attaching to luggage) and, when you're ready to use it, the button-pump is so easy.

This is fabric-covered pump
The pump and release features make it easy to adjust the firmness (and fit) for every preference and neck size. You actually can adjust the firmness without taking the pillow off your neck.

You can choose from 3 colors: Blue, grey, or purple. The photos don't show how soft the material is. Trust me on this: it is really soft and smooth against my skin.

This is the unfastened zipper
Best of all, the cover is removable for washing. The pillow is so nicely made that I had trouble spotting the zipper at the back of it.

By the way, I saw a lot of travel pillows in the different airports that cost the same or up to $10 more. The ones I saw didn't have the features of the Daydreamer and none of them were as soft.

Like I said, I ordered this too late to take on my trip, but I am not disappointed at all. I'm going to get plenty of use out of this for sure. I know that there are plenty of people (doctors, nurses, students) who put in odd working/study hours. I think this is a good gift for someone like that. Sometimes people have to get their snooze in where it fits in.


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

Saturday, December 05, 2015

**REVIEW** Suja Organic (organic juices)

My weight has gone up. Again. Probably has something to do with the fact that I tried eating way through North Texas...

(None of those photos show my chowdowns at WhatABurger, ChicFilA, Jack in the Box, Sonic or the aisles of Kroger...)

The last week that I was there, I slowed down and tried eating healthier. I discovered a love for sushi (as long as it is cooked) and certain seafood is cheaper there in Costco. I took up walking because of the amazing trail system that is near my niece's house. By the way, I wish that more places had a color-coded system of walking/biking trails. I think that having such an even terrain and safe place to walk would be a huge motivation for people to get in shape.

As part of my diet, I tried to drink a lot more water. Also, I tried out a couple of juices that are new to me. This is the first one I tried out:

 It's "Sweet Beets" by Suja Essentials. I picked it up because I love beet juice and the other ingredients are nice. The one ingredient that I had never tried was tumeric. Because of the other flavors, I can't describe the taste accurately, but it didn't take away from the light and mellow sweetness of the drink. What it did do was, uh... "move" me. After just one bottle (which I sipped out of over about two hours), I was doing 'eliminations' like nobody's business. Really. Nobody needed to be involved with that.

I've been looking around for the same blend of "Sweet Beets" but can only find this one of "Berry Goodness" here in Anchorage.

Of course, I haven't yet been to all the local stores to look for the brand.

The only downer to this product is the price. In Texas, I paid $2.50 each for 2 bottles (because there was a store sale). In Anchorage I paid around $3.50 for the one bottle. Crazy, right?

Since I like the "Sweet Beet" brand, I plan to juice the combination of ingredients myself. As much as I like the brand, if I can't find a better price, I will probably only buy it once in a blue moon. BUT, for anyone who can afford it, the juice is pretty terrific. Both blends taste great and they aren't too thin or thick. I could actually use one as a meal substitute. Also, in the warmer weather, the juice was super refreshing and cooling.

Oh - speaking of meal replacement,  there is one other thing about these juices: the calorie content is up there. For the "Sweet Beets" it's 210 calories for a 12-oz bottle (plus 65 mg of sodium, 40g sugar and 49g in carbs). "Berry Goodness" is 190 calories (0 sodium, 36g sugar and 44g carbs).


Just like with most "healthy" juices, you have to watch the nutrition labels for the real story. I was only looking at the brand's hype label when I purchased the juice. They do have great hype.

I think that a lot of us focus on the 'organic' notice and ignore the breakdown of the content. There is good and not-so-good in the two juices I tried.

Plus side: "Sweet Beets" daily value is 90% Vit A and 4% of calcium (but only 1g dietary fiber and 2g protein).

The "Berry Goodness" values are high in Vit C at 42%, with 5% iron and4% calcium. Fiber is 2g and protein is 1g.

Since my body reacted to the "Sweet Beets" in ways that it never has to the other ingredients, I figured I needed to learn more about turmeric. I've only ever heard of it being used to season food. What I learned is that it does have a laxative effect. Also, I wanted to be aware of any possible cautions and side effects. I don't love that whole "stimulating the appetite" part!

Bottom line: I really enjoy the juice (at least the 2 I've tried), but the cost is up there right along with the calories. This is something that will be a splurge treat - maybe in place of a fatty coffee? - but not one that I can indulge often.

By the way, I have re-joined the gym and am working to be in top shape before the sun warms Anchorage again. That should give me ample time!


NOTE: I was calling the whole brand "Suja Essentials" but, as you can see on their site, "Essentials" is just one of a line of several types of juices. Sorry about that Suja!