Thursday, June 28, 2012

Buying Nail Stuff Off eBay and Foot Spa Shopping

     I mentioned the other day how I purchased nail supplies from sellers on eBay to begin doing my own nails again. If you missed that, just scroll to the bottom and click on "older" posts - I think it's probably best that I don't repeat myself in this blog post. My writing gets long enough as is!

    Anyway, I'm still waiting for a lot of the supplies I ordered so I'm not doing my nails yet. But I received another package today. The mailman brought it to the door because I had to sign for it. This one came from a seller on eBay with a store "buyhair4u" ~ not really sure what that's about but they sell nail art products so that's what I bought.

This is the seller I purchased these nail art decals from.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying from them if you are looking for this type of nail art.
The prices were really cheap and the shipping was free, and the nail art arrived in about a week from Korea to the US.
I left the seller great feedback too! <--This link goes to their eBay page

     I had ordered three packages of these little nail decals in three different styles. I placed my order for all three on June 19th, and they were shipped via Korea Post as Registered Air Mail on June 20th. The package arrived today, June 28th, so about a week if you count the weekend.

   Inside the package was a small clear plastic bag, with the end folded over and sealed using a self-stick glue that was attached to the bag. It's similar to a lot of packaging for flat things, like greeting cards and stickers. Anyway, it would have essentially protected the sticker-style decals from most moisture which was very thoughtful. On top of that, I didn't receive 3 sets of nail decals - I received SEVEN sets of nail decals!

The top three on the right-side of the picture are the three I ordered.
The other 4 were bonuses!

    All sets are equal quality, which is very good quality in my opinion. The outside of the clear plastic baggy had writing that said "3 extra free gift" but it was actually 4 extra that they gave me. I was very happy with this purchase!

    In the meantime... I had the remainder of my En Vogue UV Gel nails fall off, which I knew was only a matter of time. I liked the salon that did them, but I'm just not feeling like the product was as good a match for ME, personally, as they led me to believe. That doesn't mean the UV Gel I purchased off eBay is any better, it's probably not. I will likely purchase ibd gel in clear, pink, and white builder gels or as a kit because I find that the salons that used ibd were the ones that did my nails the best. By "best" I mean the nails didn't lift easily, never broke, and I very rarely had to have a nail replaced. But for now, I'll try out the Sina brand UV Gels I purchased and give them a try.

   Honestly, I would love it if there was a more natural UV Gel product that produced at least comparable results to the mainstream ones! (I just took a break from writing this to Google "organic UV Gel nails" and actually found at least three product lines that claim to be "organic" but I sent questions to the different companies to see if that "organic" is qualified by FDA "organic" standards in the US or if it's just a selling point AND if the products are actually organic, I asked some nail salon owners what their opinion of the products are since they advertise that they use them. We'll see what they say....)

**The links below are affiliate links so I believe I get some sort of miniscule credit or commission if you use those links to purchase the products shown. Not a big deal, either way, I just thought I'd mention it as a "disclaimer" since the majority or links I use are not affiliate links.**

    Since my nails were filed a bit too much last time at the high-price salon I went to... I went twice, giving them the benefit of the doubt when the initial set of UV Gel nails began lifting within a week and 5 had broken off completely when I went in for my first nail fill-in at about 15 days... now that they're off my nails and I have to wait for the rest of my nail products to arrive, I applied Barielle Nail Rebuilding Protein and Barielle Growth Activator to my natural nails to see if that helps. I used both Barielle products during the 6 weeks of my initial recovery from Jaw Surgery and I found my nails were stronger and healthier looking so I figured I'd give it a shot again.


   On a separate note, I am in the market for a foot spa to do my own pedicures and probably pedicures for my husband as well. I don't often get pedicures in salons because I don't want them to "shave" calluses off my feet... ugh, gross! It's also not the best for your feet and it results in calluses growing back firmer and more determined to stay in place. I prefer to use more natural products and soften the skin around the heel and ball of the foot with a pumice stone and other products. I can't decide on a foot spa though!

    I did some Googling, naturally, and I found a lot of negative reviews for the Homedics Foot Spa, which I think there are two styles. It seems, however, that the complaints are that the "water jets" aren't really jets and that the "heat maintenance" doesn't warm the water it simply slows the rate at which the water gets cold. There were some complaints on Amazon that said it didn't promote leg circulation when the consumer had purchased it for a handicapped child and hoped it would help.

This is the one I'm thinking of trying....

    I think they had unrealistic expectations. It's not a full-sized salon-ready spa pedicure chair with built-in massage that you set up and connect to a water supply and drain. It's a portable foot bath with some buttons on it.

    The Footsie foot bath with disposable inserts looked to have good reviews. Apparently it heats the water and maintains temperature, has a wire insert for easily lifting out the water-filled disposable tub and the disposable tubs are available in a set of 100 for about $100. That, to me, is reasonable but probably more than I'm looking to spend. Especially considering the foot spa itself is about $100 or a little more.

The Footsie Foot Bath and Inserts
If I find I'm giving myself pedicures (and/or my husband) frequently, I might invest in one like this...

    Brookstone makes one that had reviews all over the place - good ones, bad ones, disappointed ones, extremely pleased ones.... It's also over $100 though so without knowing someone that owns one, I don't think I'll spend that much.

    The Homedics foot spas are available for less than $50, I believe. I think Bed Bath & Beyond even sells at least one of them, and the company is releasing a new one this year - if it's not out already. I will probably try one of the Homedics Foot Spas since the price is easier to handle. My hair stylist said her sister, a nail tech, bought one from BB&B to use at home with their elderly parents and that her sister loves it. I think, even if it only slows the heat dissipation and doesn't warm the water, I'm really only looking for something to soak my feet in before trimming and filing toe nails, scrubbing off dead skin, then drying and applying polish if I want, or nail art, and lotion. I think that type of foot spa will do.


BUT I'm open to suggestions or recommendations!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tired of Nail Salons

     I am so TIRED of nail salons!  As a military spouse, I'm stuck with the fact that we will move often. We do, however, tend to stay in one place for at least a couple of years, but still. It's inevitable. Every time we move I have to find a nail salon and a hair salon. When we moved to Hawaii, it took me a month of looking before I realized no one did Pink & White Acrylic, which is what I wanted. So for about a year I did my own nails - purchasing products from an online distributor since I lack nail technician training and licensing.
    I eventually gave in, though, and started paying for a nail salon again. I went to about a dozen different nail salons over the course of 2 years. Why so many? Because each time I'd go to a nail salon, they would do a good job the first time, but the second time it wouldn't be as nice. I'd give them one more shot - three strikes, in a sense. Then I'd move on to another salon.

    When we returned to the mainland, we first went to Georgia. The nail salon I went to in Augusta was excellent. I had no issue with them at all, and I stuck with them for the year we were there.

Disappointing Nail Salons in Virginia
    Since moving to Virginia, near Washington D.C., I have been to several nail salons again. The first time, I didn't have a problem with the work that the salon did, but the owner of the salon was a JERK! He would bash his employees in front of customers, he's blame them for everything, and he'd treat them like garbage. I refused to continue paying him money so I went somewhere else.

    The second salon was good, but the owner claimed they opened at 9am and would give me an appointment for 9am but he was NEVER THERE! I'd show up on time and have to wait over 30 minutes for him to show up.... that was not something I was willing to put up with.

    I went to a smaller nail salon after that, and I liked the woman that was doing my nails. She never complained and she was always willing to TRY something if I requested a design. I had to show her how, but she'd do it no problem. Then... I went one day and the owner did my nails instead. They were overbooked and she said it would be fine. He spent the entire time grumbling about how demanding I am, saying I want my nails done "the wrong way" and then complaining about how I wanted my nails polished. They wouldn't paint the french white on, they insisted on airbrushing it. So I asked if he would do the airbrush a certain way to hide the "line" from the nail tip underneath. He did the airbrush CROOKED on every nail, complained when I asked him to adjust at least a couple of them that were unacceptable for the price, and he filed them crooked and too thick as well. I seriously sat there feeling like I had done something wrong and was being punished for it... WTF?!

   So I didn't go back there either. I let my nails grow out and the gel tips and overlay fall off before I had surgery in December since I would need to remove them regardless for the anesthesiologist to have access to my nails. Then after my initial recovery period, I started searching for a new nail salon. I went to a place that had excellent reviews. It was a little more expensive but I decided to give them a chance. The first time, they seemed nice and I really liked the atmosphere, but 5 of the 10 gel nails broke within 2 weeks. All of them had started lifting within the first week. When I went back for my scheduled refill appointment, they didn't charge me to replace the broken nails and said that this time perhaps they will stick better.
    They didn't. All of them were lifting by the end of the first week. I decided not to go back. I just can't waste the money when I don't have confidence in the services provided. I will return to their salon for other services, like eyebrow, etc. I use a different salon for my hair. But I won't go back to them for nails.

Doing My Own UV Gel Nails
    I decided to return to doing my own nails again. In the past, I did my own Pink & White Acrylic with no formal training. I have natural artistic ability and a unique ability to learn from watching and be able to almost perfectly replicate what I see, hear, etc. My acrylic skills are great, but I want to stick with gel nails. There's significantly less smell - and the smell of a warm crayon is a lot less offensive to the senses than the smell of acrylic polymer. So I needed to buy some stuff...

Nail Products from eBay
    I purchased from eBay. A lot of the sellers for gel nails and nail related products are overseas, in parts of China and Korea. It's one of those trial & error situations when buying like that because you don't know if the products are okay, and you don't know if you'll ever even see them. The rating system on eBay is tricky because if a seller has 80,000+ ratings, they could have hundreds of negatives and neutrals but still look like they possess a 99.5% positive rating. I check the most recent feedback and see what people have said. I also try to stick with sellers that have fewer feedback like I'd choose one with 1500 ratings over one with 50,000 ratings even if they both have a 99.5% positive feedback score.

    I also know that shipping is SLOW from China and Korea, and that it's best to order from as few sellers as possible so they combine shipping.

    I ended up ordering from about 6 sellers and the total cost me about as much as two trips to my most recent nail salon. I received one order right away but it was shipped from New Jersey. The seller's feedback showed negative reviews for the UV Lamp, saying it's not shipped "new" and the bulbs are broken on many. I ordered the lamp, which included 4 bulbs, and I ordered a set of 5 extra bulbs just in case. The order, which consisted of multiple eBay "Buy It Now" purchases, included the lamp, extra bulbs, a round wheel of clear rhinestones, a round wheel of pearlized colored bead decorations, 2 round wheels of 1.5mm colored rhinestones, a set of gel brushes and a set of 10 colored striping tape for nail art. I didn't try the extra bulbs but the lamp worked perfectly, in brand new condition, with the 4 included bulbs.

The UV Lamp was in the manufacturer's box, I removed it.
Looks nice, huh?
Those little narrow boxes are the extra bulbs I purchases. Everything was wrapped beautifully, with care, in thick bubble wrap.

This one is actually little rubber-like roses which I ordered from a different seller. It arrived the same day, I think from California.

Clear and colored rhinestones, and the pearlized beads (flat on one side).

UV Lamp - worked perfectly, all bulbs working when arrived. I ordered a set of 5 back-up bulbs just in case, though.

     This was great, but the UV gel I had ordered in a kit from a seller in China. The delivery date was estimated at 11 to 23 business days from the time it was shipped. I completed the purchase on the 18th and it arrived this morning. Let's count together, shall we? June 18th to June 25th .... that's actually 6 business days if you don't count Saturday and Sunday. But seriously... even if you count the weekend, and even if they shipped it ON the 18th, that's a week!!!  

    This shipment was a 36-piece set that included clear, white, and pink UV gel plus a UV gel primer/builder gel. The brush cleanser and the sticker residue remover to polish the nails after setting under the lamp. A 15-piece set of nail art brushes, a thing of colorful rhinestones, the sticker guides for nails, nail files, nail buffer, orange sticks, OPI cuticle oil, brush-on nail glue, white nail tips, UV topcoat, 36 kinds of glitter in individual jars, tweezers, nail clippers, a dappen dish, a container for cotton... it was a real steal, actually, even if the quality was medicore.

Shaped glitter...

More glitter...

And more glitter...

These tiny beads were originally separated by color in that wheel. They were inside a baggy. The beads spilled out, with the wheel CLOSED,
and the baggy had a hole in it so they were sort of EVERYWHERE. 
But they're worth, what? $2? Not even.... 
Not a big deal. I probably wouldn't have used them anyway.

There was a thing of colored rhinestones, all remained in their spots in the wheel.
The baggy has a mixed collection of shaped rhinestones like hearts, stars, and flowers
in different sizes.

A dappen dish, not really necessary but included.

For cotton, but I probably won't use it.

Buffers and files...

UV Topcoat, gel nail cleaner to shine them after setting,
and brush cleaner to remove sticky UV gel.

Orange sticks, tweezers, nail cutter, brush, and OPI cuticle oil in Lavender.

White tips. I ordered clear tips and mosaic tips from another seller which should be hear soon too.
I will likely wait since I prefer to NOT use the white tips.

15-piece nail art brush set.

     In addition to this stuff, I ordered nail art paints, dotting pens, more OPI cuticle oil, metalic roses, crushed shells in different colors, and more rhinestones in different shapes and sizes. I also ordered a nail art display and a set of 12 UV gels in different colors. I will share pictures of anything I do that might be worth seeing :-)

Sina UV Gel (Lina UV Gel)
    The brand is actually SINA but because of the stylized S and poor abilities to recognize script-style letters in this country, a lot of people think it says "Lina"... I know this because I searched for product information and in my searching I decided to try "Lina UV Gel Review" as well as "Sina UV Gel Review" and under "Lina" I saw many more questions, mostly in forums asking if anyone had ever heard of it. In their defense, however, the "S" is a little awkward so it's easy to see where the confusion comes from if you look at it quickly and aren't familiar with a lot of calligraphy styles.

    Recognizing it as an S, however, I was able to not only find the manufacturer's website which I posted a link to above (underneath the picture of the UV Gels), I also was able to contact the company and receive information. They did caution me that some eBay sellers provide the external appearance of Sina brand gels but inside is a different product. I will ask them if they seal their gels like this, but either way I will report what I think of the gels when I use them.

    There was an OPI gel builder system with clear, white, and pink in it, but it was about 3 times the price. I figured I'd start with this since the set came with so much. If I have to switch, I will likely try OPI or EZ Nails, but I will share my experience with the UV gels and my opinion once I try them.

How Much Money Will I Save?
     A fair question!  I would typically go to a salon twice a month, right? And each time it would run me $45 to $65 depending on where I went. The most recent salon would cost $60-65 every time. So let's say I spend $65 twice a month on nails at a salon, that's $130 a month. It cost me about that much to purchase all the nail stuff I didn't have, because again, I had only used acrylic before and wanted to use UV Gels. Plus I purchased some nail art stuff including paints, colored gels, decals, lace, rhinestones, etc.
    The stuff I bought, however, will last me probably 6 to 12 months. I may need to order more gel but things like the decals, paint, and rhinestones will last a long time for one person. So let's say this lasts me a year with the possibility of having to spend another $20 or so on more gel. I will have spent $130-$150 but saved $1560 for the year (minus the costs so saving about $1400 a year).
    This allows me to justify spending money on professionally colored hair haha.... but also gives a bit more freedom for things like adding to my savings account or splurging on a new home fitness program :-)

Jaw Surgery - 6 Month Updates

     Well, it's been over 6 months since I had upper and lower jaw surgery procedures performed to correct an open-bite. I haven't posted many updates over the past 2 months because I really haven't had much new to say, and I've been really REALLY busy with other things. As far as my jaws go, the mentalis muscle(s) (in my lower jaw/chin) are still stiff but getting a bit more relaxed every day. I still have occasional aching, but I do not think it's in the bone or jaws, it's in the muscles around my face and this usually occurs after I've pushed myself to chew a LOT, or if I've talked a lot or really exercised my face muscles.

     My upper teeth have some sensitivity still but it's not anything I notice daily. I occasionally have sensitivity in one molar, but I will see my general dentist soon and ask him about it. I've been asked if I can feel the screws and brackets in my jaws - the answer is no. They ultimately "heal" into your bone so they become flush with the bone in your face and you likely will never feel them. I can, however, still feel the bone callus on the sides of my lower jaw, which is a sign it's still healing. The callus will smooth over time and that will likely be virtually undetectable (by me) within the next 6-12 months.

     I can chew basically whatever I want, but I still have braces and that limits some things. Meaning, I can handle things like pecans and cashews if I chew carefully, but Almonds are too hard. I can bite INTO food using my front teeth BUT if the sandwich or burger is too thick or too "solid" I may not be able to bite it but not because I "can't" simply because the braces restrict capacity. I did, one night, cook steak and it was slightly overdone and too tough for me to chew. 

     As for my braces, my orthodontist is finishing closing gaps. There is one space remaining between my bottom front teeth and once that's closed he'll neaten them up and prepare to finish and fit me for retainers. I don't really mind braces, but if I had a choice, I'd prefer to be without them haha

Atom is not a huge fan of his Mummy studying for the GRE....

     I have been really busy with non-surgery stuff. Work is picking up again, which is always nice. I've been studying to take the GRE so I can apply for a PhD program starting in Fall 2013. I don't know if I'll get into the program, it's pretty competitive, but it's worth a try! If I do get in, it'll provide me with a second Master's Degree (an M.S., I already have an M.A.) and a PhD, probably in Medical Psychology, but possibly in Medical and Clinical Psychology which would give me a lot of options afterward.
     I was sick for a bit with an ovarian cyst, which isn't really "sick" but I had to take some medicine to help my body fight it off. The cyst was over 7cm in size, which is larger than twice the size of the ovary it was stuck to. That medicine, however, made me absolutely miserable and I gained almost 17 lbs on it so.... that sucked. But I'm doing better now and able to workout again so I'm feeling MUCH better.

Acid-Reflux CURE?
     Anyone who follows my blog either by becoming an active follower (right column-->) or by following through email or RSS feeds, may recall me talking about having acid-reflux for over 6 years. I was suffering from a LOT of stomach issues in the early 2000s and in 2006 I was diagnosed as having acid-reflux. The doctor put me on Prilosec which worked for about 3 years. When I started having symptoms flare up again I was switched to Nexium and I continued Nexium at 40mg a day for another 3 years.

    When I was evaluated by my regular doctor after surgery, to help me recover from the anemia, he noticed that I had been on the stomach medicine for a long time. He asked if I had ever been checked for H. Pylori. H. Pylori, or helicobacter pylori, is a stomach bacteria that's is often the culprit when an acid-reflux diagnosis is made. I had never been tested for it.

The Nexium is continued throughout the antibiotics treatment.
I started out with Amoxicillin and Clarithromycin but the Amoxicillin capsules made me so nauseous I had to switch.

The only alternative was a chewable Amoxicillin tablet and in order to get the right dose, I had to chew 4 of them, twice a day. It was rough, but easier than feeling sick to my stomach.

    With a blood test, one of three ways they check for H. Pylori, I showed negative on the acute test but positive on a longer test. After a treatment plan consisting of 2 antibiotics (one for back-up in case the bacteria grew resistant), for about 10 days, I was given the go-ahead to begin weaning off Nexium. You can't just STOP Nexium, you see. You can't just stop any proton-pump inhibitor because what happens is your body goes back to producing NORMAL amounts of stomach acid which can cause symptoms similar to acid-reflux and make you feel just awful. 

    I developed a plan to wean off slowly, by first skipping every other day. One day with Nexium, the next day without, the third day with, and so forth. I have now been at it for 12 weeks. After running a month of every other day, I was able to move up to skipping 2 days. When I initially planned to move on to skipping 3 days, I found the sensation from the increased acid production was too strong so I continued 2 days off-1 day on for another 2 weeks. Then moved on. For the past 2 weeks I have been able to go 4 consecutive days without the Nexium and even though today I was supposed to take it, I decided to try skipping a 5th day just to test things out. So far so good!

Ultimate Reset Detox Plan

     I'm going to do a 21-day Ultimate Reset program with my husband starting July 1st. It's from Beachbody, a company I work with, and it's basically a 3-week program with a menu that becomes completely vegan in week 2 and 3. The supplements are provided in the kit so you take the supplements daily with a set schedule to first prepare you for the detox, then do the detox which releases toxins stored in your body, and then in the third week you replenish good bacteria that was also affected by the toxin release so by the end of the 21 days it's as if you have a completely clean slate to work with. I LOVE the idea, and I've had friends do it already who got great results - include pounds and inches lost - and so Nick and I are going to do it together in July. 
     I will likely post a lot about that as well, so if you're interested, feel free to "stay tuned" or if you're interested in doing the Reset at the same time, follow this link to my Ultimate Reset website, place your order and let me know you have. We can keep each other accountable! (**The orders are only available to ship to the U.S. and Canada, including U.S. territories like Puerto Rico or Guam**)

Other Blogs
     I'm also quite busy trying to keep up with some other blogs I'm running, including one for my Beagle, Jake, who is about 8 1/2 years old and a little overweight so we made a Diet Blog for him. He welcomes any and all support, if you want to follow his blog please visit Jake's Diet.

Jake gets Accountability Pics to help us both keep up with his diet and exercise plan.
Jake's blog is written in "his" voice... and he sometimes ties in some Beagle wisdom!

Atom gets cute pictures for his blog to help him tell cute stories from an Atom POV (point of view).

    Atom's blog is far less serious haha, his is Just Atom and he welcomes visitors, followers, and comments too.

    I have a TON of info to put up on my Japanese website, which has a link at the top of this blog. But it's time consuming, and I'm hesitant to post the info before I move the blog to my hosting account with another company so that might be another month before you see anything of value.

Jaw Recovery Playbook
     I have received SO MANY EMAILS about my Recovery Playbook website and my info from this blog, and I am so happy that the information I'm able to provide is helping other Jaw Surgery patients. I do apologize for the SUPER SLOW PACE by which I'm adding new content to the website, but I do have documents and PDFs to share via email so if you're looking for help, guidance, support for Jaw Surgery and the recovery process, feel free to visit the Jaw Recovery Playbook and send me an email - the email address is on the website's contact page. I'm happy to help any way I can!

    I also welcome appropriate questions about Jaw Surgery, Recovery, Healing, and related topics. By "appropriate" I mean "non-sexual" because I have a ZERO-TOLERANCE policy for deviant sexual behavior include, but not limited to, fetishes that involve braces, teeth, and related concepts.
Basically, if you're a Jaw Surgery patient, or a caregiver for someone who is a Jaw Surgery Patient, then your questions are more than welcome :-) And if it's long or if the questions will require a lengthy reply, please use the email address at the Jaw Recovery Playbook website to email me instead. Thank you!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Updates and Homemade Low-Fat Granola

    Wow! No post in a long time, huh?!  I've been okay. Honestly, I've been busy. I've probably mentioned it, but I'm studying to take the GRE. I have a Master's Degree but I didn't need to take the GRE for that program. Now I want to try to get into a PhD program that will give me a second Master's Degree in the process, but this school requires that I take the GRE first so.... I'm studying.  Mostly reviewing.

Atom isn't too thrilled about studying either...

     The funny thing is, a lot of my English vocabulary has suffered. Even though I'm a writer and I work with WORDS my vocab stinks because my brain is full of Japanese vocab. Like, I look the words up that I don't know as I'm studying and then I look them up in Japanese and sure enough, 9 times out of 10 I knew the Japanese word and meaning but didn't know the word in English. Or rather, I've forgotten the English equivalents.

Jaw Surgery Updates
   I went to see an SLP (speech language pathologist) and she was great! Very young, I think, but obviously qualified or she wouldn't be in that position. I was surprised, though. She said that my teeth are actually in alignment positions for perfect articulation, perfect chewing, and perfect swallowing. After running through some tests and drills she said that she really thinks that what I'm feeling and hearing and experiencing is the awkwardness of finally chewing, swallowing, and speaking properly. She said to give it time, practice with speaking or reading aloud, record myself for review, etc. She thinks I will adapt with time and realize I'm doing things right.

    So that was a relief, although a little frustrating because now I KNOW the problem is perceptual and not physical so I have to get used to it. That's fine though. I had to also adapt the to changes (though, subtle) in my appearance and at almost 6 months I'm still working on that.

Jake's Diet
    My beagle, Jake, is on a diet too. I've gained over 10 lbs from the medicine the doctor is treating my cyst with. But that's almost over. I know that a lot of it is water weight, and it will all "fall off" once I'm able to workout again. But it's frustrating.

This is today's Accountability Pic
(1 June 2012)

    While I was wallowing in self-pity, I realized that Jake has gained a good 25 lbs in the last 4 years. In 2008, while Nick was overseas, Jake got very sick and he almost died. After that, he started gaining weight little by little until now he's having trouble feeling comfortable, lost flexibility, lost range of motion, hip and joint problems which were inevitable because he's getting older, but the fatness isn't helping.

    So he's on a diet and exercise plan. Just because I can't do what I want or need to for my own weight doesn't mean I can't help Jake!  For accountability, I have given him his own blog and we post regular accountability pictures there and on Instagram (@smaggio) and Twitter (@Sasha_Maggio).

Granola Recipes
     Nick is still on the P90X menu plan. He starts Phase 3 next week. This third menu calls for things like Italian focaccia bread (but only 2 slices per person per week) and low-fat granola (1/2 cup per week). That seemed like a lot of spending for stuff I can make myself.

    My issue with store-bought focaccia bread is I have yet to find a whole grain version I liked. And the prices are just not appealing to me.

    When I was at the store yesterday.... I looked at the available granola and I wasn't impressed. I didn't care for the nutrient content, I didn't care for the prices, and I didn't care for the selection. So I decided I'd make it myself. I went home and created two granola recipes and both came out great!!  So I thought I'd share. Normally, I'd prefer to share on my PSM website but I'm in the process of revamping it which is taking FOREVER so I'll share it here instead.

Fruit & Nut Multigrain Granola (top half of the above picture)
  • 4 Cups Multigrain Oatmeal Cereal (uncooked)
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Prunes (I used Plum Amazins)
  • 1/2 Cup Fancy Raisins
  • 1/4 Cup Pecans
  • 1/4 Cup Walnut Halves
  • 1/2 to 2/3 Cup Natural Sugar (depending on sweetness preference)
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 1/4 Cup Joseph's Sugar-Free Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
     In a large bowl combine the oatmeal, raisins, prunes, pecans, and walnuts. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, or two medium baking sheets if you don't have one big enough.

     In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, and syrup. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Try not to get the sugar granules on the sides of the pan; keep them in the water. When the mixture boils and the sugar has dissolved, stir in the cinnamon and vanilla. Remove from heat.

    Spoon the syrup evenly over the granola mixture in the bowl. Stir to combine and moisten the ingredients. Spread in a thin layer on the pan and stir more, if needed, to moisten any dry oats, grains, or other ingredients.

    Bake in the middle or upper-half of the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Gently stir the mixture to help release moisture trapped underneath. Bake for 20 minutes more. The cooked granola will remain slightly moist and soft when finished cooking. Remove the pan from the oven and set someplace to cool. Stir gently throughout the cooling process to allow the granola to get crunchy.

   Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Mocha Granola (bottom half of the above picture)
  • 2 Cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal (uncooked)
  • 1/2 Cup Natural Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Water
  • 1 tsp. Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp. Instant Coffee Granules
  • 2 to 4 TBSP Joseph's Sugar-Free Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Mixed Semi-Sweet Chocolate and White Chocolate Chips
     Preheat oven to 350 and line a pan with non-stick foil. I used a disposable square cake pan, which is also an option. Place the oats in a bowl and set aside.

     In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, coffee, and syrup. Cook, stirring gently and occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Try not to get the sugar granules on the sides of the pan. When the mixture boils and the sugar has dissolved, stir in vanilla and remove from heat.

     Spoon the syrup over the oats in the bowl. Stir to moisten the oats completely then spread in an even layer in the prepared pan. Bake in the middle or upper-half of the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir gently and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the oats rest in the oven for 20 minutes.

    Remove the oats from the oven. Set on the counter and let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the granola and toss gently once or twice. The chocolate chips will melt a little but this allows them to form clusters and combine with the granola. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

    Remove from the freezer, stir gently to loosen. Store in a sealed container. If you store the mocha granola at room temperature, the chocolate may melt slightly depending on your environment. If you store it in the refrigerator, the granola will be slightly chewy but very good.

I tried both granola recipes as cold cereal this morning. The mocha one was excellent!

The fruit & nut granola was a little too crunchy for me still,
but if I didn't have braces it would be perfect!

I also tried this Wallaby Organic Greek Yogurt for the first time.
I thought it was very good... and I like how Whole Foods gives a discount when you buy a "case" :-)
Now that I know I like it, I'll be back for more!!!

And fruit, naturally...
I find that if I do not eat enough fruit with enough variety, I tend to feel miserable, grumpy, sad, almost depressed. I also tend to CRAVE sugar like crazy, but that's a whole different story...
So I try to incorporate a lot of fruits and vegetables in my daily menu.