September Empties (Mostly Drugstore/Dollar Tree)

First of all, let me apologize for my absence over the last three weeks! In that space of time, I lost an uncle and my grandmother, attended a memorial service for an uncle who passed earlier this summer, and have been kept busy by a lot of other obligations. It’s amazing how things pile up while you’re attending to family emergencies. But now I’m back and able to give this blog the attention it deserves.

I made a decision earlier this year to get serious about my financial goals. Buying $20 bottles of conditioner is great if you have the disposable income, but I don’t. A couple of setbacks depleted my savings and home ownership seems completely out of reach for me right now. Health and beauty items seem like the easiest way for me to cut costs.

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Dermasil Advanced Treatment Creamy Lotion (Would Buy Again)

Dollar Tree Oatmeal Moisturizing Lotion (Would Not Buy Again)

I picked up both of these lotions at Dollar Tree. Dermasil, pictured above, was the clear winner. Rich and creamy without being greasy, I can’t believe it came from Dollar Tree given my other experiences. The Aveeno knockoff oatmeal lotion wasn’t particularly moisturizing.

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Spa Haus Naturally Therapeutic Keratin Oil Conditioner (Would Not Buy Again)

Tresemmé Color Revitalize Shampoo (Would Buy Again)

None of the photographs shown are mine, as I recycled the packaging days or weeks ago. The Spa Haus keratin conditioner (from Dollar Tree) was in blue and green packaging when I purchased it. But it cannot be compared to any other oil-containing conditioner on the market. I honestly believe that this company just took their regular moisturizing conditioner and slapped the keratin and argan label on it, given the texture of my hair after using it. It wasn’t necessarily a bad product, but it didn’t seem to be as advertised either. The Tresemmé shampoo really seemed to work. A lot of times, color protecting shampoos weigh your hair down, but this felt as good as a clarifying shampoo while seeming to protect my color.

Equate All-Day Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 15 (Would Not Buy Again)

This moisturizer is meant to compare to Olay. The Target knockoff certainly does, but Wal-Mart’s Equate brand misses the mark. It just wasn’t as moisturizing and I feel like I used more product.

Lancome Hypnose Star Mascara in Noir Midnight (Can’t Buy Again)

Clinique Long Last Glosswear in Sunset (Can’t Buy Again)

Sadly, Lancome has decided to do away with this product. I’ve been buying it for several years now because I prefer my mascaras to simply darken the lash without caking on. But I recently learned that they’re discontinuing it. Boo, the one product I was willing to continue buying in department stores! The Clinique Long Last Glosswear was a rediscovery. I have a massive suitcase, too big for airline use, that I needed earlier this year. I discovered that while moving house a few years ago, I stashed a complete Clinique bonus kit in there. Score! Sunset is a pale coppery shimmery hue that looks great layered over a sangria shade. I’m not too heartbroken that it isn’t still available, though–it didn’t quite work for me when it was on its own.

So my foray into super-cheap brands was a mixed bag, but nothing was horrible.

I know I usually finish up with some links and pictures of other things I liked, but I’m short on time today. See you all later!

 

 

 

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We’re Creating Aggressive Wildlife

A few nights ago, I had a raccoon try to break in to the screened porch (I theorize that she was after an unopened bag of cat food). My neighbor watched one terrify a stray cat she had just fed. We both agree that someone in the neighborhood is likely feeding the raccoons, given that they seem more aggressive and show less fear of humans than they did two or three years ago.

A few months ago, Disney made headlines when a toddler was dragged away by an alligator. It later emerged that both guests and Disney employees (including firefighters and first responders) had been feeding the animals. Basic elementary school safety lessons in Florida cover the link between feeding alligators and creating aggressive gators.

This link hurts wildlife as well as humans. Animals have been killed after tangling with humans. Last year, a 740-pound black bear was killed in Longwood, Florida, after it became acclimated to humans. The bear was continually sighted and displayed no fear of humans. It weighed three times more than the average adult male black bear and probably got that fat on unsecured garbage.

Bear-resistant trash cans, securing pet food and bird seed, and never leaving food in your car are ways that people can keep their property undamaged at home. And truthfully, since these tips also keep fire ants at bay (and keep the taste of plastic from seeping into foods left in hot cars), they should already be practiced by Floridians.

The National Park Service has had similar issues. This Orlando Sentinel article outlines some of the many ways visitors are wreaking havoc in park lands. A bison calf was euthanized after a Canadian tourist put it in his SUV. Tourists chased after an elk, forcing it to flee. One woman interviewed for the article even stated that she would like to feed a grizzly a cookie, should one present itself.

Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk theorizes that the rise of social media contributes to problems in the park. People taking selfies next to giant elk might get a lot of likes, but that image also gives stupid people the wrong idea about how dangerous these situations can be.

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: Crayon Waterfall Cake

Long read of the day: How regulation of oil and gas production has decreased seismic activity

Cute pet of the day:

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Via

 

 

Information doesn’t always lead to behavioral change

I read an interesting, if infuriating, opinion piece this morning. Dr. Barron Lerner wrote about physicians discussing sensitive topics such as weight and mental health with their patients. Lerner feels that asking permission before discussing these topics–“Would you like information on how to cut your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure?”–is bringing political correctness into the doctor’s office. To his credit, he does admit that this is a paternalistic attitude.

While I have never been the recipient of a lecture from a physician about my health, I feel as if receiving information in that manner might not lead to behavioral change. At this point, no one is unaware that there is a correlation between obesity (or binge drinking, or untreated mental illness, or unprotected sex, the list goes on) and undesirable health outcomes. The patient might not be ready to hear that message, or might need to feel as if they’re an active participant in a discussion instead of a passive recipient of a lecture.

It is frustrating to have a loved one who engages in risky behavior and cannot be begged or cajoled to stop. And it must be frustrating to be a physician who treats patients who cannot be induced to give up risky behavior. But it is also frustrating to be a patient who feels as if their doctor is not listening to or refusing to treat their health concerns. And sometimes it’s actually dangerous, as in the recent case of a woman who was refused treatment after her IUD dislodged.

A paternalistic doctor-knows-best attitude also seems old-fashioned at a time when patients have resources to empower themselves. A coworker of mine used WebMD to correctly diagnose her gallbladder problem, but was turned away without an ultrasound or CAT scan because her doctor disagreed. It eventually turned into pancreatitis. I had the experience of a doctor thrusting a sheet on 1200 calorie diets when I asked about weight loss. The portly physician told me that I should eat no more than 1200 calories per day. I eventually lost weight using MyFitnessPal, which assigned me several hundred more calories per day based on my young age and high activity level.

Patients do best when they are given some degree of control over a two-way discussion.  It’s disheartening for Lerner’s patients that he doesn’t view it that way.

(Busy day today, so no time to find links for my usual Cozy Things of the Day. See you Monday!)

 

If I run for 20 minutes, I can watch 8 hours of Netflix

 

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The BBC has a series of infographics illustrating the costs and benefits of everyday life choices, based on information provided by a Cambridge statistician who reviewed several studies. Watching TV for two hours a day (or, presumably, the time spent in front of a computer screen) shaves 15 minutes off of your lifespan. But 20 minutes of exercise puts an hour back, meaning that I’m coming out ahead in spite of my many sedentary hours each day.

Personally, I’m desensitized to reading headlines screaming about how my lifestyle choices will send me to an early grave. I can’t stop sitting down in front of a screen, I won’t stop eating meat (even as I mostly eat a plant-based diet), and I won’t trade running for an exercise that’s easier on the heart. Most of us don’t need studies to tell us that drinking to excess or smoking is bad for your health. We’re going to make these choices regardless, if we’re so inclined.

I also think it may be too facile to make blanket statements like “2-3 cups of coffee each day might boost your life by one year.” A genetic variant, PDSS2, may change the way the body processes caffeine. Those with the gene variant have a reduced ability to break caffeine down and it stays in the body longer, meaning that they require fewer cups of coffee to get the same hit of caffeine. And we all have heard stories about people who lead “unhealthy” lifestyles but live past 100 with none of the threatened diseases, or people who do everything right but collapse at 50.

Headlines might scream about risks, but scientific evidence can’t yet accurately predict personal consequences for our daily choices.

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: How to Make Okonomoyaki

Long read of the day: The creator of the Super Soaker on his career and life, from kid using scrap metal to build robots to NASA engineer to ceramic battery maker. Really fascinating.

Sweet pup of the day:

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Regulatory gaps cause female baldness

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Losing your hair can be incredibly traumatic for women. I once cut my calorie intake to about 900 a day (because I was young and dumb and wanted to look hot for an event) and suffered thinning hair as a consequence. Aside from poor nutrition, women can lose their hair because of age, genetics, hormonal changes, and pollution. Recently, the water in Flint has been linked to hair loss.

But there is one culprit for hair loss that should be entirely preventable: your hair products. Until this week, I was under the assumption that the Food and Drug Administration was looking out for us in that department. That was before I read of the class-action lawsuit that Wen Hair Care settled last week. The company had been advertising that their products were free of detergents and sulfates, and it has been speculated that an alternative may be behind the product’s toxicity.

Personal care products aren’t really regulated in the United States. The 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does not require independent testing of products, a full list of ingredients, or the legal authority to require safety information on the label of personal care products. While the food and drug industries have had multiple rules and guidelines written since that time, the cosmetics industry is largely self-regulating.

Last year, a bipartisan bill strengthening the FDA’s authority over the cosmetics industry was proposed by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins. It died in committee. The bill was backed by several major cosmetics companies.

Consumers in the US currently don’t have a choice but to trust that companies are being truthful in their labeling. And given a political environment in which “regulation” has been turned into a dirty word, this may remain the case for some time to come.

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: Kohaku Namasu (Vegetables Marinated in Rice Vinegar)

Long read of the day: Vox has a post about the inequality of the bail system

Interior of the day: Several photos of this neutral space can be found here

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Before You Do Something You Dread, Do This

I love taking walks. I don’t live in the most picturesque neighborhood, but I still love strolling around and seeing the incremental changes several times a week. I am usually in a better mood when I get home. In fact, walking in natural surroundings has been shown to have a positive affect on mood by several studies.

But a new study shows that even walking in dull surroundings lifts the spirit. Walking on a treadmill or through a drab campus building also made study participants feel calmer and more energetic. Even participants who were told they would have to write a two-page essay about their experience had a better mood than they did before the walk. It’s interesting that Dr. Jeff Miller, one of the study’s coauthors, said that “Thinking, ‘I still have to do 2,000 more steps today’ encourages you to do it, and that is beneficial not only for your health, but also for your ability to engage with the environment.” In my experience, I kept competing against my previous day’s “score” and the step counter became an added stress.

I’m always interested in the ways the body influences the mind, and vice versa. I have observed that my minor aches and pains are soothed by both walking and being in a good mood. And dreaded tasks certainly seem easier when you’re in a good place mentally. I have a bit of data entry I need to knock out this afternoon so maybe I’ll get some steps in first.

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: Pho Bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup)

Long read of the day: The Guardian has an article on the conflicts between those who want to exploit national parks commercially and those who want to conserve the wild land

Interior of the day:

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Coastal Australian room found here

RIP Tanning Industry

I have a dirty secret: I like to lay out in the sun a few times a week. I wash off the sunscreen I applied that morning and let the rays hit my face. 15-20 minutes in the late afternoon sun relaxes me after a hectic day. I don’t eat a lot of fish or drink a lot of milk and that time is probably my primary source of Vitamin D.

But I have never visited a tanning salon in my life. And of my friends who have used tanning salons, most don’t go as often anymore. Some have had weird moles biopsied and two have had a form of skin cancer.  I’ve been the recipient of lectures from both of those women, even though I spend less time in the sun than they spent in the tanning bed.

Having someone in your social circle who has survived skin cancer is far from unique. One in five Americans develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. And there seems to be less uniformity in current style icons. Ten years ago it seemed like everyone in the media, from Paris Hilton to the Kardashians to Jennifer Lopez, had the same bronzed skin tone.

However, the current crop of It Girls has a wider range of skin colors. And as the age of skin cancer patients crept down, more young people realized that it was a problem they would have to deal with sooner rather than later. There has also been increased awareness of the harms that come with tanning, and the FDA reclassified the risk category of tanning beds in 2014. So this weekend’s news story about tanning salon owners blaming Obamacare’s 10% tax on their services didn’t ring true for me.

In the past six years, 10,000 of the nation’s 18,000 salons have closed. I have noticed this in my area, with tanning salons either converting to nail salons or closing down completely. Surely a tax that amounts to a mere $7.50 (assuming the customer purchases a monthly package at $75) can’t be blamed for all of those closures. Several years ago, it seemed that salons were popping up within walking distance of one another. A combination of market saturation, increased awareness of risks, and increased self-acceptance by those with pale skin might play a larger role than a tax on services.

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Long read of the day: In Israel in the 1950s, Mizrahi Jewish children were kidnapped and adopted by European Jewish families. Now some of them are trying to find their birth families.

Cooking video of the day: Pizza Mac and Cheese

Cute pet of the day:

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This cat’s name is Fat Ricky

Make Me Over

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A new Sephora catalog showed up this afternoon. Opening it up, my eye wasn’t drawn toward the jewel tone eye shadow palettes or the matte ’90s lips the color of spilled wine. No, I flicked past any look that might justify the purchase of $44 setting spray. I found myself contemplating whether or not I needed some more pinky-bronzy-taupy beige in my collection.

I wasn’t always this risk-averse when it came to bold makeup colors. When I briefly lived in North Carolina, my license showed me with a swipe of chartreuse over my eyes. I would spend a fortune on heavily pigmented colors. I knew what reds would work without trying them on. But today, my idea of being on-trend with bold makeup looks is attempting a cut-crease look with the Naked palette.

When my makeup choices weren’t so humdrum, I was working in fashion retail. I viewed my makeup colors as another accessory. And this was the heart of the eighties revival, in all its neon glory. But as I moved on, I went for a more professional look–even after hours. I stopped receiving compliments on my lip color. I could have done my eye shadow in my sleep. And as it turns out, the cut-crease trend just looks like misapplied makeup when you use muddy neutrals.

I might feel like I’ve outgrown the bright neon tones, but I could certainly stand to do something more interesting than what I’m doing right now. Maybe I will get one of those glittery jewel tones after all.

Image source

Now for some other cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: Smoothie Bowls from Cooking Panda

Long read of the day: The NYT has an article about the future of coal mining towns in Appalachia

Tech story of the day: Uber is going to be testing self-driving cars

 

Goldfish and Lionfish

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Goldfish the size of footballs are clogging Australian rivers and driving down the populations of native fish. The fish, which can grow to five pounds, were released by people who tired of having them as pets. After finding the waterways of Western Australia to be as hospitable as those in their native eastern Asia, they have established a large and mobile population. One fish was found to have migrated 144 miles in a single year.

This is a problem that is very familiar to Floridians. While goldfish haven’t established populations, cichlids, oscars, Asian carp, tilapia, and many other species have made their homes in Florida’s freshwater. Sometimes these species were fugitives from aquaculture, but they have often been released by aquarium owners who tired of their pets. Once a breeding population is established, it is extremely difficult to eradicate the fish.

It is harder for marine fish to form breeding populations. Currently, the only invasive fish species in Florida’s saltwater is the lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific. There are actually two lionfish species found in Florida’s waters, but 97% of those caught and studied to date have been red lionfish (Pterois volitans).

Lionfish establish themselves easily in new environments due to their unique fecundity and lack of effective natural predators. A female can spawn every four days, releasing two egg sacs of 12,000 to 15,000 eggs each. It takes them less than a year to reach maturity. This rate allows them to quickly replace any adults lost to fishing or predation. Predation occurs rarely. Grouper and sharks have been observed eating lionfish, but it is uncertain how frequently this occurs. Parasites are also infrequently observed. Interactions of predators and larvae and juvenile lionfish have not been observed.

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Lionfish eat large amounts of smaller fish, invertebrates, and mollusks. They have the ability to consume prey up to half their own length. Population densities of 200 adults per acre have been observed, crowding out native species such as grouper and snapper.

If you live in the Caribbean or eastern US, there are a few options for helping to eradicate the species. Fishing for your own is an option (follow this link for more information on that front). I have occasionally seen it on offer at Publix. You could also call a dive or bait shop and ask if they know of anyone catching it in your area. The species is safe to eat and is high in Omega-3 acids and low in mercury and other heavy metals. It tastes kind of like mahi mahi. More information on preparing and eating lionfish can be found here.

Here are some cozy things I liked today:

Photographer of the day: Did you see that cool picture of a Caribbean reef shark eating a lionfish? It’s by Mathieu Foulquié and more can be seen here

Cooking video of the day: Galaxy Mirror Cake

Good news of the day: While much of the news about dolphins in central Florida has been grim, they seem to be thriving in New Jersey.

 

Summer Breakfasts

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I spoke to my mother this morning and asked her what she was up to. “Eating the breakfast of champions,” she replied jokingly. It turns out brownie ice cream was on the menu.

Late summer breakfasts can be tricky. Dining on fruit alone can leave you hungry again by 10 am. Heavier foods like oatmeal (wonderful with ripe peaches and cinnamon) seem to turn into a leaden lump in your stomach. It’s no wonder so many people–including me–skip it entirely. But they don’t need to, since summer produce makes a wonderful addition to breakfast.

I have tried all of these ideas and they’re a good way to fill up in the morning without resorting to ice cream.

Microwave Breakfast Burritos

In a microwave-safe mug, push a six-inch tortilla down until it touches the bottom and sides. Crack two eggs and add a few tablespoons of drained pink, pinto, or black beans. Season to taste with salt, pepper, green onions, chopped tomato, shredded cheese, olives, or red pepper flakes, depending on your palate. Stir the egg mixture for about 20 seconds. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir the eggs again. Microwave a further 30 seconds (cooking times are approximate, depending on your microwave). Top with salsa and cilantro if desired. Serves 1.

Note: Eggs continue to cook after they have been removed from the microwave, so allow the burrito to sit for 30 seconds before deciding to give it more time in the microwave.

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini

This one requires a little prep the night before.  Halve 2-3 medium zucchini or yellow squash lengthwise and scoop out pulp. Finely chop pulp and set aside. Place zucchini, cut side up, in a microwave-safe glass dish. Fill dish with 1/2 inch of water and microwave for 10-12 minutes until almost fully cooked, making sure the water does not evaporate. Crumble a 16 oz. tube of Italian breakfast sausage and add it to a pan with the reserved pulp and 1/3 cup of chopped onion. Cook and cool. Fill the zucchini with the sausage mixture and refrigerate until morning.

In the morning, spoon a small amount of spaghetti sauce or salsa over the zucchini and top with shredded cheese. Microwave for 3-5 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Note: This can also be done in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. You can skip the refrigeration step if you have time to prepare the recipe in the morning.

Baby Spinach and Tomato Omelette

In a microwave-safe bowl, place two teaspoons of water, a cup of baby spinach leaves, and 1/3 cup of diced tomatoes. Microwave for 45 seconds to one minute.

Meanwhile, cook two beaten eggs in a pan on your stove top. Flip, and add the spinach, tomatoes, and shredded cheese. Serves 1.

 

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: Pad Thai Zoodle Salad

Long read of the day: National Geographic looks at the way fur is produced now

Cute pet of the day:

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Found here