Monday, November 18, 2013

Everything You Wanted to Know About a Colonoscopy But Were Afraid to Ask!

When we all reach the magic age of 50 it becomes time to get the dreaded "C" procedure ... drum roll please... the COLONOSCOPY. Well, I'm here to tell you that you can relax - I've had mine and it really was not a big deal. The anticipation of the procedure is much worse than the procedure itself. In fact, the before and after are worse than the actual procedure. But there are some important tips that I can give you to help make your procedure go as smoothly as possible (yes, pun intended, lol). These tips are the result of extensive research that I did before my own procedure. Some of these are direct instructions received from the endoscopy center and others were things I discovered on my own. So if you're ready to find out everything you ever wanted to know about a colonoscopy but were afraid to ask, I'm happy to share my experience with you. Because of the important information, this is a long post, but if you're one of the inquiring minds that wants to know... read on...

7 Days Before Your Procedure
  • Consultation or Pre-Procedure Appointment. Depending on how your doctor or endoscopy center works, they may schedule you for a preappointment or consultation prior to scheduling your procedure. This is so you can go over the prep and the procedure itself, ask any questions, and get your prescription for the prep solution.  I found this very helpful since I knew a little bit more about what to expect (although they don't tell you everything, interestingly enough).
  • Fill Your Prescription for the Prep Solution. You may have heard horror stories about how awful the prep solution tastes. I know I had heard nothing but horrible things from everyone about how they could barely get the solution down and how horrendous it was to drink. I'm here to report that there is a new prep solution recently approved by the FDA that is very easy to drink and doesn't taste bad at all. It is called Prepopik and to me it tasted like ground-up Sweet Tarts mixed with water - just a little bit sweet & sour, but the taste is quite pleasant compared to other prep solutions used previously. Because it's new, your co-payment could be higher than the older more established prep solutions, but because of the taste and small amount you have to drink, I think it is well worth it to pay more for this prep solution (I have a PPO insurance plan and my co-payment was $30 for this solution - worth every penny). So be sure to ask your doctor to prescribe this for you if possible:

  • Stop taking ALL NSAID medications (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory medications) Examples include: Advil, Aleve, Aspirin, Celebrex, Excedrin, Feldene, Ibuprofen, Indocin, Mobic, Motrin, Naprosyn, Naproxen, Orudis, Relafen, Toradol. This is important because all of these are blood thinners and can cause excessive bleeding if it is necessary for the doctor to remove polyps during your colonoscopy. If you need to take a pain reliever it is okay to take Tylenol/Acetominphen which I did take.
  • Put yourself on a Low Residue Diet. Going on a low residue diet before beginning your colonoscopy preparation can give a better clean out and make the prep less dramatic with less cramping. The more thorough your prep the more clear/accurate your exam will be. A low residue diet means avoiding any foods that are high in roughage or fiber. You will basically go on what I call a "White" diet - you will be eating all things white, bland, and processed - white bread/rolls, white rice, processed refined low fiber cereals, cottage cheese, cream cheese, swiss cheese, eggs, canned fruit, canned vegetables. Avoid high-fiber grains such as whole wheat, oatmeal, bran cereals, brown rice and popcorn, no salads, no raw fruits or vegetables. If you normally eat a very healthy high fiber diet like I do this will DRIVE YOU CRAZY. But just remember, it's only for seven days. And I do think my colon prep was shorter with less cramping because of doing this. For more details on a low residue diet, click here.
  • This includes Eliminating Seeds & Nuts. It's especially important to avoid any foods that have seeds or nuts. I read a blog post from a gastroenterology nurse who ranted about how problematic seeds & nuts are because they often are not successfully removed during the prep and then clog the scope during the colonoscopy. Remember, all of these foods should be avoided: strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, flax seeds, and chia seeds. These foods made from them could contain seeds as well: jam, jelly, tomatoe sauces, whole grain breads, rolls, muffins.
  • Eliminate Caffeine and Alcohol. There are mixed recommendations about whether or not to avoid caffeine  and alcohol - but because I had read some articles that stated caffeine and alcohol can irritate the colon, I chose to eliminate those completely during the seven days prior to be safe. 
  • Purchase all the clear liquids that you will need to drink before your procedure. Don't wait until closer to your procedure to buy them in case you can't find the flavors you want - the clear protein drinks can be hard to find in flavors that are not blue or purple.  NOTHING BLUE OR PURPLE because these can stain the lining of the colon and make the exam more difficult for the doctor to analyze. Besides plain water, examples include: Powerade, Gatorade, Orange Soda, Ginger Ale, Sprite, 7-up, Crystal Light, White Grape, Apple Juice, Decaf Tea / Coffee, Kool-Aid, Tang, Vegetable Broths, Lemonade, Clear Protein Drinks (from Ensure, Isopure or Cytosport).  These are the clear liquids that I chose to drink and it helps to give yourself a good variety so you don't get bored - you will be drinking ONLY clear liquids for a full 24 hours and it's very important to stay hydrated. Personally I recommend Powerade/Gatorade because of the electrolytes, the Ensure Peach Clear Protein drink to make sure you're still getting protein and adequate calories, and peppermint tea because it soothes the stomach.  These are the items I chose to drink:

  • Lastly, purchase a pop-up box of baby wipes and either Desitin, or Tucks hemorroid cream. These will be important after the prep solution begins working. Trust me on this one - you will need these:

The Day Before Your Procedure
  • Stay home from work if you can. I took a sick day and rested all day, laying in bed, watching movies. I recommend doing this because you won't be eating any solid food, and resting will help you limit how many calories you are burning. Resting will also be helpful because depending on how your body responds to the prep solution you may or may not get much sleep that night.
  • Completely Clear Liquids Only. The day before your procedure will be on a completely liquid diet along with whatever prep solution your doctor has prescribed. You will want to follow your doctor's instructions to the letter and when they say ONLY CLEAR LIQUIDS they really mean it. This is to make the prep easier on you and to also ensure that the prep is thorough - your colon needs to be completely cleaned out in order for the doctor to have a clear view of any abnormalities like polyps or other issues. Drinking plenty of clear liquids throughout the day is very important so you don't get dehydrated. Remember, nothing blue or purple!
  • If you get a headache because you are hungry, my doctor did tell me it was okay to take Tylenol/Acetaminphin, but you'll want to confirm that with your doctor. I'm used to eating every 2-3 hours on a normal day, so only having liquids was challenging for me and I did get a headache - being able to take Tylenol definitely helped.
  • You may or may not have to stop taking medications - it depends on what you are taking - your doctor will give you instructions on whether or not to take your regular medications the day before your procedure.
  • Books, magazines, or a Kindle or iPad. Before taking the prep solution, collect some magazines or a book or ebooks on your Kindle/iPad and put them in your bathroom near the toilet. You will appreciate having something to distract you when you are stuck on the toilet. And trust me, you will be. You won't want to be far away when the prep solution starts working.
  • Change into loose comfortable clothing. You'll want to be in your comfortable PJs or sweats before taking the prep solution. I recommend two-piece PJs or sweats as opposed to a night gown or night shirt - you won't want to have to be holding that up when you are experiencing the worst part of the prep.
  • Exercise Mat, Pillow, and Heating Pad. You may want to have a thick padded exercise or yoga mat, pillow, and heating pad right next to your bathroom. More on this under "Effects of the Prep"...
  • The Actual Prep Solution. Okay ladies - this truly is the worst part - the actual colonoscopy is pretty effortless compared to the prep. Your doctor will give you instructions on when and how to take your prep solution, but this is how my doctor had me do mine. My prep process was split into two parts (the first part taken at 6pm the day before and the second part taken the day of the procedure 3-4 hours before). I took the first part of my Prepopik solution at 6pm the night before my procedure. This involved mixing the first packet of Prepopik with 5 oz of cold plain water - cold water makes it taste the best. It's also recommend that you drink it with a straw and so I did.  Then every 10 mins after that I drank an 8oz glass of water until I had consumed five glasses. I drank Propel-lemon flavor because it tastes better than plain water. So Glass One at 6:10pm, Glass Two at 6:20pm, Glass Three at 6:40pm, Glass Four at 6:50pm, and the final Glass Five at 7pm. Drinking ALL of the water is very important. The way the prep solution works is to draw water from your body into your colon to liquefy your bowel movement. If you don't drink the extra water you run the risk of getting dehydrated - so make sure you drink all the water!  Yes, you will feel like you are going to float away, but it is very, very important so don't skimp on the water!
  • Use the Tucks or Desitin cream now.  Using it before the prep solution takes effect will help minimize any uncomfortable burning and irritation. You will also want to reapply it throughout the the next phase when the solution starts working.
  • The Effects of the Prep Solution. Depending on your body and whether or not you chose to go on a low residue diet, the solution may work right away or it may take longer. For me, the solution began working  right away at 7:10pm - 10 mins after drinking the last 8oz glass of water. In my mind I had imagined that the stools would start out getting softer and gradually turn loose - oh boy was I wrong. There was nothing gradual about it. It was instantly loose stools at the beginning which very quickly turned to complete, violent diarrhea. The point of the prep is to clear out your colon, and trust me, they aren't kidding.  Imagine the worst stomach flu you ever had that gave you diarrhea and multiply that by ten. Seriously.  This is no joke.  It will be the worst, most violent diarrhea you've ever experienced. You may or may not have stomach cramping - I did have some during this first round of prep. This is where the padded yoga mat, pillow, and heating pad came in. At the height of the "cleansing" I was literally laying on my side, on the padded mat & pillow, with a heating pad clutched to my stomach to help with the cramping, on the floor right outside my toilet. I also felt nausea and had my husband get me a big pan just in case (fortunately I didn't need it, but it certainly felt like I might). This part for me lasted for 90 mins which was relatively short. So by 10pm I didn't have to go to the bathroom any more, the cramping had diminished, and I was able to collapse into bed and actually sleep. I was definitely exhausted and very weak. My thoughts are that if people do not go on a low residue diet for the seven days prior, this part of the prep could end up lasting much longer - I've heard people say they were up all night going to the bathroom. I was very grateful that the worst of it only lasted 90 mins for me.
The Day Of Your Procedure
  • Nothing to drink. If your appointment is in the afternoon like mine was, after 8am you are not allowed to have anything to drink except the rest of your prep solution and the water that goes with it.  This is why it is so important to drink a TON of clear fluids the day before.
  • Second part of the prep solution. If your prep was divided into two parts like mine was, you will take the second part 3-4 hours before your scheduled procedure. I was scheduled to check-in at 1:30pm so I took the second part of my Prepopik at 9:30am followed by the five 8oz glasses of water every ten minutes. The second part began working at 10:50am but was much less violent then the first part - which makes sense since there shouldn't be much left in your colon at this point. You still will have diarrhea and you will still need to stay close to the bathroom, but you may not have any cramping at all at this point (I didn't have any and wasn't nauseous). However, this second stage was more drawn out for me and I continued to need to use the bathroom over the next 4 hours.
  • Driver. Because you will be heavily sedated during the procedure you will not be allowed to drive yourself home so you will need someone to take you and bring you home.  
  • Comfortable Loose Clothing. Be sure to wear comfortable loose clothing to your procedure. You'll want bottoms that are easy to put on/pull up (elastic waist preferred), a comfortable loose top, and slip on shoes.  The person there with you who is driving you home will also be the person that will be helping you to get dressed after the procedure so they will thank you if your pants and shoes are easy to get on!
The Actual Procedure
  • Getting Checked in and your IV started. Unfortunately due to some unexpected emergencies in the morning, even though I was told to check in at 1:30pm, I wasn't taken back for my procedure until after 3pm. For me this equaled more random time to get anxious about the procedure so by the time they finally took me back I was quite nervous, exhausted, and weak from not eating or drinking. I was allowed to keep my loose top on and only removed my stretch yoga pants. Then I was asked to put on the hospital gown and laid down on the hospital bed. Then they hooked me up to a blood pressure cuff, a variety of electrodes on my chest, and an oxygen monitor on my finger. Lastly, they attempted to start my IV to give me fluids. The standard procedure is to put the IV in a vein in your right hand. If you have any difficulty with needles - ask them upfront to just put the IV into your arm instead (like where they would insert the needle to draw blood). They tried putting the IV in my hand - which hurt like hell by the way - and even though it was in place at first, they lost the vein. At this point, because I was so exhausted and stressed from waiting, I actually had a mini meltdown and began to cry. They called in a senior nurse to do the IV in my right arm instead which was was much easier and almost painless compared to my hand. They gave me fluids intravenously for about 20 mins before wheeling me into the procedure room.
  • In the Procedure Room. After being wheeled into the procedure room and hooking my various vital devices into the monitor, they asked me to roll over onto my left side, facing the monitor showing my heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels etc. Then the nurse explained that she was going to start my IV sedation (which was a cocktail of the narcotic painkiller Demerol and the sedative/hypnotic Versed). This is called Conscious Sedation - and they say the combination of drugs will leave you conscious - i.e. breathing on your own but will cause temporary amnesia. The nurse said that the drugs would probably sting going in and they most definitely did. But this only lasted a few seconds and then I was out. I mean REALLY OUT. The last thing I remember was feeling the sting and looking at the monitor to check my heart rate and that was it.
  • In Recovery & the Results. They explained before the procedure that I would not remember anything about the procedure or the first 30 mins in recovery and they were 100% correct. Right after the procedure, the doctor comes and explains what he found and what was done but you will not remember any of this - your driver will be listening and asking any pertinent questions and you will also be given all the information plus after care instructions in writing. So, I remember absolutely nothing about the procedure or the recovery. Apparently during my recovery, when I was awake but still very much "under the influence" my husband had the nurses completely cracking up. He asked, "She won't remember what I say to her right now, right?" The nurses assured him that I would not. I kept asking, every five minutes, "What did the doctor say?" and my husband, the consummate comedian, kept saying "You have one month to live". And then five minutes later I would ask again and the cycle of laughter would continue. Good thing I don't remember any of that! He had to help me get dressed and I was only allowed to leave once I was able to pass some gas (which is standard protocol). My memory begins with walking out to the car and driving home. The good news was that I did not have any polyps (which can be the beginning of colon cancer) and only some minor internal hemorrhoids which required no treatment. Because I was given a clean bill of colon health I don't need to do another colonoscopy for 10 years (yay!).
  • Post Procedure. So for the next 48 hours I had quite a bit of gas which is normal but uncomfortable (they pump air into your colon during the procedure to make it easier for the doctor to view your colon). Because I had no polyps I was allowed to go back to a high fiber diet right away but I think I was a little too enthusiastic about eating and the gas was quite painful at times - be prepared for that. Looking back I probably would have been more gradual with introducing solid food, starting with soup and a light meal before more complex proteins and carbs. My first meal was a Tomato & Mozzarella Panini with a Mocha Frapp from Starbucks, which probably wasn't the best choice. But hey, it was what I wanted! By the second day I finally took some Gas X which helped. I also did not have a bowl movement until four days after my procedure (which also is normal) so don't be surprised if that happens to you.
So after having just gone through this myself, I can tell you, it really is nothing to be afraid of or worried about - so don't put off having it done. Colon cancer is treatable if caught early so ladies - make that appointment and just get it done! I hope this information was helpful for you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stay Calm & Get Your Mammogram!

Ladies. This is very personal for me, so please listen. This is an important post to draw your attention to getting your annual mammogram. It has been a harrowing past two months leading up to getting my own results - please don't wait as long as I did.  

August 30th began like any other day, ahead of me was a full check-list of things that I needed to get done, not the least of which was my routine appointment for my mammogram.  Even though I hadn't kept up with my mammograms on an annual basis and had in fact gone three years without one, I wasn't the slightest bit worried or nervous about what the results would be. It was just one of those bothersome procedures that I needed to have done and then wouldn't think about again for another twelve months. I was certainly wrong about that.

The first mammogram itself was uneventful, albeit uncomfortable as mammograms always are. I can't really say that it hurts, necessarily, but still, having "the ladies" smashed as flat as a pancake in a modern-day life-size vice isn't on my top ten list of favorite things to do. 

The following week a letter arrived in the mail indicating "abnormal tissue" that needed to "re-evaluated with an ultra sound." At this point I wasn't really alarmed because I have had issues in the past with breast density and numerous cysts that always have to be confirmed via an ultra sound. One year I even had to have a cyst drained (yes, it involved a very large needle and it was exactly as you're probably imagining). So I scheduled my ultrasound for September 11th and tried to not feel superstitious about the actual date.  I proceeded to have the ultrasound, which was completely painless, and of course the technician doing the procedure gave nothing away with her facial expression. I knew not to ask what she thought about what she saw because they aren't allowed to comment. They are sworn to secrecy - it's the ultrasound technician code.

And so then I waited for the result, assuming they would say it was just a cyst as they always had done in the past. But after arriving home from work on September 17th and reading the letter that had arrived that day, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach ... hard. The phrase "it is recommended that you contact your primary physician to schedule a surgical biopsy as soon as possible" was all that registered, the rest of the letter quite frankly was a blur.

So the next morning, I arrived at my doctor's office, and camped out in the waiting room. I explained to the receptionist that I needed to urgently talk to the doctor about my ultrasound results. In a most uninterested tone she stated matter-of-factly "he won't be able to see you today - you'll need to schedule an appointment." "No, you don't I understand," I replied with as much calm as I could muster, "I received this letter yesterday from the Breast Care Center and it seems awfully important." I turned it over to her and as she read it, her eyes widened. "Have a seat," she said. "I'm sure he'll want to talk to you about this."  After about an hour of sitting in the waiting room chatting with a woman who had only learned the week before that she had stage-4 lung cancer, I was finally called back. My doctor talked with me in the hallway and I wasn't sure if that meant I had nothing to worry about or if it was so urgent he couldn't waste time setting me up in an exam room. "You need to have ultrasound-guided core biopsies done and you definitely want to get this taken care of as soon as possible," he explained. "Wait a minute," I said, "biopsies - as in plural?" "Yes, you have abnormal tissue in both breasts that couldn't be diagnosed with the mammogram or ultrasound." I felt my mouth go completely dry and I swallowed hard. "So just how worried should I be about this?" "Well," he said, "Nine times out of ten these things turn out to be nothing. But you don't want to be the tenth person who does nothing about it assuming that it will be nothing." Okay then. He passed me along to his nurse who immediately called and made an appointment for me, in two days. They weren't messing around.

The morning of September 20th, as I ate breakfast and got dressed, I tried to treat it just as another ordinary day. But it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, I believe with absolute conviction in the body-mind connection and the power of positive thinking - but shaking that feeling of dread that kept creeping over me was challenging to say the least. Fortunately I had a few left over Xanax from a previous procedure, and I gladly swallowed one of the little "happy pills" an hour before my biopsies would begin. And boy was I glad I did. My doctor didn't explain exactly what a Core Biopsy was and for some strange reason I didn't research it either - which is quite out of character for me because anyone who knows me knows that I research everything. I won't even buy a TV without researching all the different brands, so why I was okay with having someone extract tissue from "my girls" without knowing absolutely everything about the procedure, to this day totally baffles me. If you or someone you know is needing to have it done and you don't know the details of the procedure - this is what you can expect:

Core Biopsy - Ultrasound Guided
When a nodule is seen on mammogram, and the same nodule can be seen on ultrasound, or when a nodule is only found on ultrasound, an ultrasound guided CORE biopsy is frequently indicated. The physician scans the breast with the hand held ultrasound transducer while the biopsy is being performed. This means that there is direct visualization on the ultrasound screen of the needle as it is inserted into the breast abnormality to confirm that the needle is being inserted into the correct spot.

The patient is positioned on her back on the table, and the nodule or other abnormality is found on ultrasound. A mark is made on the skin with a pen to indicate the spot for insertion of the needle; the skin is cleansed with sterile antiseptic solution, and the area is numbed with local anesthetic. A small nick is made in the skin.

A special needle is used to biopsy the area. A loud click is heard each time the biopsy is performed, which is anywhere from 2-5 times. There should be no pain. Small cores of tissue are removed from the abnormal area and sent to a pathologist for analysis.

At the conclusion of the biopsy, an inert titanium clip is inserted into the breast to mark the site of the biopsy, in the event of the need for subsequent surgery. 2 mammographic views are performed after the biopsy to confirm that the clip is present in the breast.


Did the procedure hurt? I can't say that it did, not really - when you're injected with the numbing agent, that part stings a bit, but nothing a few deep breaths can't handle. After that, the area is completely numb during the procedure so there is no pain involved. But I do have to say, the loud clicking sound that the device makes every time they remove a tissue sample is definitely unnerving. At the conclusion of my procedure, they did insert titanium clips on both sides - and finished with a mammogram to confirm the clips were in place. In spite of my Xanex-induced haze, I was so curious, I just had to see. The technician was kind of enough to let me step around and look at her monitor - and sure enough there they were. I had been micro-chipped like the beloved family pet.

I was only a little sore for about two days afterward and other than the titanium chips on the inside (which I don't even know are there by the way), I was only left with two small little marks as reminders on the outside. And so then the waiting began again.The two weeks that it took to get the results from my doctor felt like two decades. Finally on October 3rd I got the wonderful news that both biopsies were benign.  I know that I am very, very blessed and very, very fortunate. Many woman are not so lucky and get the news that all of us dread to hear. So for me, relief doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to hear my news. And trust me, the irony of getting my results in early October, as women everywhere began to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wasn’t lost on me. My friends, I had waited three years in between mammograms – much too long. So ladies, I implore you – if you’re at the age where you should be having them done each year, please, please don’t wait. Don't put it off. Please schedule your mammogram appointment TODAY.  Breast cancer is curable if caught EARLY!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Simple Ideas to Make Life EASIER - Part 2

As promised my friends, here are a couple more super simple, but crazy-efficient tips for being better organized and as a result - MAKING YOUR LIFE EASIER. These are just so simple you'll be amazed you didn't think of this yourself (I know I was). 

So how often have you had to dig through your linen cabinet to find all the matching pieces of that sheet set (never fails, it always seems like one of the pillow cases has gone missing, doesn't it?). Well this idea is pure genius! Fold your fitted sheet, your flat sheet, and one of the pillow cases and then slide them INSIDE the second pillow case - VIOLA! You'll never have to hunt for matching pieces again!

Now for Idea #2. Let's say you've bought a new DVD player and you want disconnect the old one and connect the new one. But how many of you have faced this dilemma - how do I easily & quickly figure out which cord belongs to the DVD player from that tangle of cords plugged into my surge protector? Well ladies, here is your amazingly simple solution. Just save the little plastic clips from your loaves of bread, get out your Sharpie, and LABEL all your cords - just slip the corresponding plastic clip onto each cord. No more confusion ever again! This works for any area you have a lot of different cords (entertainment center, computer - monitor - printer, etc).

Let me know if you try these ideas and what you think!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Holy Grail of Eye Primers - MAC Paint Pot

Ladies, as many of you may have noticed, our eyelids can darken as we age. And don't even get me started on under eye circles which have been the bane of my existence for my entire life (doesn't matter how much sleep I get or which eye creams I try, nothing seems to make much of a difference). And then there is the issue of our eyelids drooping a bit with age, which means we can't afford to have eye shadow creasing going on - so with all these things we need a super hero when it comes to an eyelid primer, and boy have I found one. 

Let me introduce you to my holy grail of eyelid primers - MAC Paint Pot in Soft Ochre. And if you put a very moisturizing eye cream under your eye, it even can be used as primer before concealer to help give those dark circles the boot. Here are the pics and tips for using:

Important application tips:

  1. Apply with a concealer brush - this is critical. This goes on initially with a creamy consistency, but very quickly dries to a matte finish. Once it dries it is impossible to blend any further - it is like spackle - it is not gonna budge. So trying to blend with your fingers or a sponge just isn't as clean or efficient as using the concealer brush - apply it and blend it with the brush all in one motion.
  2. If you want to use to conceal dark circles - here is what I do. Make sure you've used a very moisturizing eye cream under your eyes. Then apply the Paint Pot with the concealer brush and be sure to blend it well so there are no streaks or uneven areas - don't forget that dark spot in the inside corners of your eyes. Warning, this will settle into any fine lines/wrinkles under your eyes if used by itself. But, the magic happens when you apply your regular creamy concealer over the Paint Pot (like Bobby Brown corrector or concealer). Because of the Paint Pots spackle-like consistency, the concealer on top glides on and doesn't seem to settle into the fine lines & wrinkles like it would by itself. 

To give you an idea of how it covers - I have a fairly dark birth mark on my hand - below are the before & after photos - for the after shot I used the concealer brush in a stippling motion with two coats - pretty decent coverage.

This product gets 4.5 Cheers - the only reason it doesn't get a 5 is because it's a bit pricey at $21 per pot, but the offset is that a little goes a very long way, so I'm guessing this pot will last me at least six months, maybe longer.

If you are already a fan of Paint Pots or you're trying it for the first time - I would love to hear your comments about it!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pilates Reformer - My Exercise Miracle!

For me, the challenge with physical fitness has been finding a type of exercise that is an ideal blend of fat-burning cardio, slenderizing toning, and strength training, but that is also absolutely low impact. As a teenager (which was a million years ago, I know) I ran on the high school varsity track team as a sprinter. And my knees took a beating as a result. So for years I have been unable to do any kind of exercise that is high impact. Jogging, forget about it. Running, no way Jose. Dancing, who are you kidding? Jumping Jacks, impossible. Jumping Rope, out of the question. Plyometrics, are you out of your freakin mind?

So that left all of the low impact forms of exercise that either didn't give enough of a cardio burn, were just plain boring, or required donning a bathing suit and getting into a pool. On a treadmill the only way to get a decent cardio workout was to crank it all the way up to 10 incline like I was walking straight up a hill and even with the best workout music mix on my iPod, it was still monotonous. Then I had to do something else for toning and still something else for strength training. Ugh. I'm not retired yet, so I certainly don't have that much time in the day. I loved Yoga, but many of the moves still put too much pressure on my knees and it was a challenge to get a decent cardio burn. People suggested Bikram yoga, but the thought of doing Down Dog in a room heated to 105 degrees while simultaneously having a hot flash left me with one thought - heck no! I had tried mat Pilates which I also enjoyed, but it still lacked the fat burning cardio that I needed for a well rounded exercise program. Keep in mind - whatever I'm doing, I'm always doing it at home. I have tried gym memberships a few times and I always hate it - I'm too intimidated by trying to figure out all the machines and the times I'm able to go to the gym are the same times everyone else is able to go too - standing around waiting for machines just seems counter-productive, not to mention worrying about what I'm wearing and spending time driving there and driving back. It began to feel like the perfect exercise program was as illusive as the fabled unicorn.

Then I began to do research into Pilates Reformers - particularly those that come with Cardio Rebounders. From all appearance, these machines seemed to be the perfect combination of all the things I was looking for. And then I found a brand on QVC that was being offered at an unbelievable price (under $500 and with Easy Pay). So after fulfilling my promise to my husband that I would sell my treadmill (aka coat rack) before buying any other piece of equipment, I ordered my Stamina AeroPilates Reformer from QVC and anxiously waited for it to arrive. Was I going to be disappointed? Was it going to be too good to be true? After using it every day for almost a month, suffice it to say that it has exceeded all of my expectations. I have my found my exercise miracle! Below are photos of my actual machine, along with two videos that describe the machine and also how the cardio rebounder compares to a treadmill and eliptical in terms of cardio benefits. Don't let how easy it looks on the videos fool you - it is unbelievable what an intense cardio workout, ab workout and leg/glute workout you get LYING DOWN! And no stress on my knees! For reference - at first I could only do 10 mins on the cardio rebounder without being completely winded (I've worked myself up to 20 mins now).

Here is my actual machine the AeroPilates 5-Corded Reformer with Cardio Rebounder - the only item not shown in these shots is the padded foot rest which is also included (along with two beginner workout DVDs).

Here is the video talking about the 5-corded reformer and modifications for various exercises:

Here is a video (featuring an older 3-cord machine) that talks about the benefits of the Pilates Reformer in general and specifically the increased heart rate/cardio benefits of the cardio rebounder as compared to both a treadmill and elliptical (not viewable on mobile devices):

And it's even PET APPROVED!

Improve your strength, endurance, and flexibility - shop QVC for AeroPilates equipment today!

So if you are looking for the perfect, low impact cardio, toning & strength training exercise program, I highly recommend you check out the AeroPilates Corded Reformer with Cardio Rebounder. This absolutely gets 5 Cheers from me especially at the price offered on QVC. If you're thinking of ordering it through QVC, here's a tip - the first time I tried to order it on QVC it was sold out, but I checked back a week later and they had it back in stock, so if you have that problem, keep checking back - I think this is an item that will be offered for a long time to come. You can probably also do equally well with the 4-cord reformer. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Simple Ideas to Make Life EASIER!

I'm always looking for creative, simple ways to make life easier. These first three ideas are so simple you'll be saying "why didn't I think of that?!"

And these all involve food ~ hmmm, I must have been hungry when I wrote this post, lol.

Let me know if you try these ideas and what you think. Especially what kind of cookie dough you used for the cookie bowls!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Scarves Aren't Just for Staying Warm

Scarves aren't just for keeping warm ladies. They make a fantastic, quick, stylish accessory that you can throw on in a hurry as you're dashing out the door to completely change the look of your outfit. Let's say that you're wearing jeans and a simple black tee shirt. Nothing special and a little bit blah, right? But quickly throw on a light-weight black & grey scarf and now your look becomes casual chic!

If you're one of those people who hasn't experimented with how to wear a scarf, here is a very simple (but sophisticated looking) way to tie it. I call it the Figure Eight technique. Make sure you have a nice long scarf - shorter ones won't work for this style. Here is the diagram on exactly how to tie it and then underneath is how it looked when I wore one of my scarves this way.

Try it out - it's so easy!

And here's how it looked on me - dressing up that simple black tee shirt! Send me photos of you wearing a scarf with this technique so I can include them in an update!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Getting Caught in Seaweed - Seaweed Bath Co Wildly Natural Seaweed Bath Powder - Review

If you read my last review where I raved about the Everyday Shea Bubble Bath, well as much as I loved that bath product is equal to how much I dislike the Seaweed Bath Co Wildly Natural Seaweed Bath Powder. It's just yucky. There is no other way to describe it. The instructions on the back of the package read:

"Shake well prior to opening. Empty contents of pouch into running water in the bathtub. Swirl with hand until powder dissolves and water turns light brown color."

Swirl until powder dissolves? Really? I started with swirling ... which then progressed to vigorously stirring the water with my hand ... multiple times mind you ... and there wasn't much dissolving going on. Fortunately I only put a handful into the water to test it (thank god it wasn't the whole pouch). The water literally looked like it had dirt floating in it, even 10 mins later. I finally gave up and drained the tub only to find it left a horrible mess of debris stuck to the bottom of the tub. Personally, I think this is taking the "wildly natural" element a little too far (right up there with the ladies who don't shave their underarms and don't use deodorant - no offense, but that's just not how I roll).

It always saddens me to have to give a product a negative review, but hey, sometimes the truth ain't always sunshine & rainbows, now is it?

This product comes up completely empty for me. No cheers for this one...

Tiny Bubbles - Everyday Shea Moisturizing Shea Butter Bubble Bath - Review

So if you are a "bubble bath girl" then this product review is for you! I take a bubble bath almost every night to de-stress and decompress from the day and the Everyday Shea Moisturizing Shea Butter Bubble Bath is my new favorite. This is a humungus 32oz bottle of bubble bath goodness, I'm telling you! The description from the product site reads:

"This naturally foaming, non-irritating, gentle bubble bath is handmade with moisturizing, Certified Fair Trade shea butter to nourish and soften your skin.™ Infused with fresh herbal extracts - clary sage to uplift the spirits and calm nerves, and African yam to help regulate mood and promote relaxation.™ "

I love the Vanilla Citrus Mint scent and what's really fantastic is how little you need. Just one small capful under running water when you start your bath will fill your tub with an amazing plume of luxurious bubbles that last your entire soak! And I have a really deep tub! I've never had bubbles last so long.

At around $13 per bottle it is an excellent buy because of how little you actually use for each bath, especially given it's packed with such healthy skin-nourishing ingredients and it's a Fair Trade product. You can purchase on Amazon or check your local health food store:

This product absolutely gets 5 CHEERS!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Balm - All About Alex Eyeshadow - Product Review

Ladies, you know how you have those special, favorite products... the ones that you feel would be a devastating loss if they were ever discontinued? Well, this eye shadow falls into that never-to-be-understood-by-men category. Let me introduce you to the shade All About Alex by The Balm. Don't let the greenish color in the package on their site scare you - it actually goes on like a fantastic golden taupe. It's highly pigmented, very blendable, with just the right amount of shimmer (no glitterratzzi here). It's a wonderful shade for your crease and outer corner of the eye. Excuse the tattered look of the case, it just shows how much it's been lovingly used!

The cost at $16 is the only reason it comes in at 4.5 Cheers. Although you may be able to get it on Amazon for less:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tropical Colada Mango Smoothie

I don't know about you ladies, but I love Pina Coladas. And this is my favorite breakfast smoothie right now (without the alcohol of course). This makes one large serving (or 2 small) about 300 calories for the large or 150 calories each for the small.

Tropical Colada Mango Smoothie

- 1 cup Frozen Pineapple Chunks
- 1/2 cup Frozen Mango Chunks
- 1/2 cup Coconut Almond Milk
- 1/2 cup Pineapple Coconut Water
- 1/2 cup Pineapple Juice
- 2 tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
- Scoop of your favorite Protein Powder
- Handful of Shredded Coconut
Mix all ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Something's Fishy (and that's a GOOD thing) Norwegian Gold Super Critical Omega - Fish Oil Product Review

Unless you've been living in a cave with no access to the outside world, you've probably heard that Fish Oil supplements are good for you. Some of the main benefits include:

  1. Adding regular fish oil supplements can help promote better relationship between HDL and LDL cholesterol levels which helps to battle heart disease (we can all benefit from that!)
  2. Improving bone density - as we grow older, especially those of us who are entering the menopausal years (or like me, have been circling there for quite some time) we could begin to experience osteoporosis due to hormonal imbalances that affect our bone density. Studies have shown women who consume long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, along with getting enough calcium, tend to have healthier bones and decreased occurrences of stress fractures or other bone related conditions. (Amen to that - ladies, a cast or crutches does nothing for your outfit!)
  3. Balancing and improving our mood - fish oil consumption helps to increase the levels of serotonin in the body, which is often termed the 'feel good' hormone. (our significant others will certainly appreciate this!).
  4. Joint health - taking Fish Oil also helps lubricate our joints and reduce joint inflammation! (think about that the next time your knees are complaining about going up those stairs...)
So, we know that Fish Oil is good for us - but how to choose? There are so many different brands and types out there it can be quite overwhelming. With all the other supplements I take, it better be a brand that only requires me to take one pill at a time (if I see "serving size equals two" or more, forget it, I move to the next brand). And then, if you're like me, almost every Fish Oil supplement I've taken in the past ends up "revisiting" me via fishy burps throughout the day. Ugh, no thanks! Well all my fish oil worries went away when I discovered Norwegian Gold Super Critical Omega! Here are product images for you so you know what to look for:

This product is AMAZING! Here are my main two reasons why:
  • Special enteric coating that really does make them easier to swallow and burp-free. Hallelujah!
  • Very high potency in only one capsule!

It can be purchased from Amazon with the link below or just check your local health food store - for me it's worth every penny. If you're looking for a high potency, truly burp-free Fish Oil supplement - I highly recommend you try Norwegian Gold Super Critical Omega.

It gets 5 CHEERS from me (the highest rating on this blog).


Bikini Soft Shaving Oil - Review

After reading a few other posts in the blogosphere about Bikini Soft, my curiosity was definitely peaked. So I contacted the folks at Bikini Soft who were kind enough to send me samples of their products for review. Yes, I did receive the products for free, but it in no way affected my impression of the products, and what comes next is my unbiased, honest review. So ladies, let's get to it...

First - product photos:


Now, the review: I didn't want to try the products on a fresh razor blade - the blade would already be delivering a smooth, close shave out of the sheer fact that it was brand new. So when I tested these products, I intentionally used them with a two-week old razor blade that was on the verge of being switched out (I shave every single day without fail; let's just say those little moisture strips were a pale image of their former selves and it was taking multiple passes to get that close shave). 

Directions from Bikini Soft instruct you to:

1. Generously wet the area to be shaved.
2. In a moist palm, massage 8-10 drops of Bikini Soft Smooth Shave Oil.
3. Massage into the area to be shaved and wait 5-10 seconds.
4. Shave as usual (be sure to rinse and clean your razor often)

One thing you need to know about me, I have been using liquid soap that lathers up nicely to shave for over 35 years. To say that I'm engrained in that habit would be the understatement of the century. So I wasn't crazy about shaving just with the oil. I did try it, but I wasn't a fan - it just seemed like I needed a ton of oil that way to get the smooth glide I was used to, and I gotta be honest, I missed my coconut-scented lather. However, in their "helpful hints" section, Bikini Soft suggests to get a really close shave to also put a few drops of the Smooth Shave oil directly on your razer, including on the lubricating strips. So next I tried lathering up with my regular liquid soap by itself and then only putting the oil on my razor before shaving. Wow! Now this I loved! I kid you not, my ready-for-the-trash blade suddenly felt like it was brand new. In fact, I would go so far as to say it actually shaved better than new - let me explain. I use the Schick Quattro women's razor and have for years. I actually prefer the closeness of the Venus razors, but I always (and I mean ALWAYS) cut myself with that razor. When I use the Schick Quattro, the shave isn't as close, but at least my legs aren't covered in dozens of  "tissue bandaids" when I'm finished, so that has always seemed like an acceptable compromise. ENTER Bikini Soft Smooth Shave Oil and viola - my Quattro blade now performs like a Venus blade - but I'm not getting any nicks or cuts. This is a very good thing!

Their other product, the Razor Saver Oil, is used to preserve the life of your blade - after thoroughly rinsing your razor and gently dabbing it dry, you just brush on a thin coat of the Saver Oil and let the razor sit. I haven't been using it long enough to know exactly how long it preserves your blade, so I can't give empirical data on that. However, this is what is stated on their website: "Shaving doesn’t dull your razor, oxidation is the culprit. The combination of water and air on steel causes oxidation (or rust). In fact, the period between shaves does more damage to your razor than the shave itself. Exposure to moist air corrodes blades quickly, leading to a jagged edge resulting in nicks and cuts. Bikini Soft Razor Saver Oil has been shown to slow the effects of oxidation and extend blade life up to 300%." So the science behind it seems to make sense.
Here are the claims from their website and my reactions:

"Bikini Soft Smooth Shave Oil gives you the smoothest, closest shave and leaves your skin silky soft."  Absolutely true, it was pretty amazing.

"You’ll be amazed at how comfortable your shaving experience will become along with the disappearance of nicks, cuts and razor burn." It was definitely comfortable once I switched to applying the oil only to the razor itself - definitely no nicks, cuts, or razor burn.

"Your razor will literally glide over your skin as if it is floating." Definitely true, especially combined with my normal lather.

They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee.

Cost: $14.95 - Kit includes a 1 oz. bottle of Bikini Soft Smooth Shave Oil as well as a ½ oz. bottle of Bikini Soft Razor Saver Oil with applicator brush. Your kit also includes a step by step instruction guide for both oils along with a Bikini Soft Recycling guide.

And I really love how they encourage their customers to recycle by providing the Recycle Return Label - not just for their empty product bottles, but for old razors and cartridges as well. Bravo!

So this product gets 4.5 CHEERS (almost the highest rating available on this blog). The only reason it doesn't get a 5 is because for some the cost may be a factor, although a little goes a long way. Personally, after trying the complimentary sample for 3 weeks, I will definitely be placing an order - I don't think I want to shave without it!

If you're interested in trying Bikini Soft you can learn more on their website at: If you've tried it, I would love to hear what you thought about it, so feel free to leave your comments.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Watermelon - Oh How I Love Thee!

I'm so looking forward to the first bite of this delicious, delectable treat that I'm about to dive into. This beautiful bright red fruit is one of my all-time favorite foods. When it's in season, I eat it every day, typically as a nighttime snack. There's something so wonderful about that crisp, crackly sound the knife makes when it cuts through the green rind that tells you it's a "good one". But this fantastic rotund fruit isn't just tasty, I was surprised to learn all the health benefits it offers:
  • Watermelons are full of nutrition, they hydrate with a high water content, and they're low fat. (Gotta love that!)
  • They are an excellent source of Vitamin A, which helps maintain eye health and is an antioxidant, and
  • Vitamin C, which helps strengthen immunity, heal wounds, prevent cell damage, promote healthy teeth and gums, and
  • Vitamin B6, which helps brain function and helps convert protein to energy. (Who knew?)
  • When you think of Lycopene - a powerful antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and several types of cancer - prostate cancer in particular - tomatoes always come to mind. And while tomatoes have long been touted as a great source for Lycopene - watermelon actually has the highest concentrations of Lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable. (Pretty impressive!)

How fantastic is that? So the next time you're at a summer BBQ don't pass up that slice of watermelon!

Nutritional information taken from Discovery Health "Surprising Health Benefits of Watermelon"

Welcome to the Health Section!

This section is devoted to all things that help us be healthier!

Welcome to the Beauty Section!

This section is devoted to all things that help us be even more beautiful than we already are!

Welcome to the Lifestyle Section!

This section is devoted to anything that can help make our lives easier, help us enjoy life more, help improve our relationships, and just help make us better women!

By the way, if you're dying to know where to get one of these cool purse organizers, visit this Etsy shop: (more to come on Etsy in a future post - if you haven't discovered it yet, you'll be amazed at all you've been missing!)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

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