Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to have a Healthy Lung Home

October is National Healthy Lung Month in the US, and I thought it would be the perfect time to share how I make my home a Healthy Lung Home. Your lungs are probably one of the most important organs in our body, and if they are not functioning at their peak, the rest of your health and well being is likely to suffer. Most of the time we don't even think about breathing, even though we do so more than 25,000 a day!  While most of what we breathe is oxygen and nitrogen, we also breathe in bacteria and viruses, pollutants, and allergens from the atmosphere in varying amounts.

Nearly 20 million people in the US, over 5 million in the UK and around 2 million here in Australia have asthma. Both my son and I have it, and while mine is well under control, it has taken us a number of years, more than a few hospital stays, and I don't even like to think about how many doctors' visits to finally bring his to a state where I am not perpetually worried every time he has sport at school or of it is an unusually chilly day.

Obviously, medical supervision and, in Stephen's case, medication, are a vital part of his treatment and maintenance. However, there are a large number of things that we can do ourselves to make our home lung healthy to support his treatment.

Dust, pollen, mould, pet dander and chemicals are just some of the allergens that are found in our homes, and breathing them in can cause all sorts of reactions, from mild hay fever through to life threatening asthma. However, by tweaking just a few things in our at-home routines, our indoor air quality can be improved immeasurably.

  • Take our shoes off before coming inside. We always remove our shoes before coming inside, and yes, we ask our guests to do the same. According to building biologist Raphael Siket, this simple measure can reduce the dust in your home by at least 50 percent. We live in a pretty warm climate, so we are happy to roam around the house in bare feet, but you might prefer having a basket at the front door with slippers for you and your guests to wear.
  • Stop using chemicals to clean your home.  Despite a certain disinfectant's ads claims to the contrary, we don't need our surroundings to be completely sanitized, just clean! I love using Enjo microfibre products around the house for a completely chemical free clean, and I have fallen in love with the Honest Co's range as well for their natural options (review coming soon!!)
  • Hard flooring is the preference as it allows allergens to be vacuumed and mopped away easily. A thorough vacuuming followed by a mop with a microfibre mop head will remove most allergens and over 99% of bacteria. If you feel that you need or want carpet (and we did, despite our asthma) then go for pure wool as it doesn't introduce as much chemical off-gassing. And vacuum them with a specific carpet head at least once a week, more in spring and autumn when pollen is at its max.
  • When you replace your vacuum, make sure to get a vacuum with a HEPA filter of at least 12. These filters pickup microscopic matter (up to 99.995% in the case of a HEPA 14) as you vacuum. And decide whether a bagless or bagged vacuum is best for you. I have a Dyson, who are leaders in HEPA filter technology, but since it is bagless, I have to make sure to empty it outside so I'm not getting the dust back in the air. For some people, a vacuum with disposable bags may make more sense.
  • Minimise dust mites in the bedroom. We've all heard about them, but did you know that it is not the mite themselves that are the problem, but their droppings that we are inhaling?? EWW, right?? We all know about stopping them breeding in our bedding by using pillow and mattress protectors and washing our linen in hot water (over 55C/131F), but it's also important to turn your mattress regularly to help it dry out, as dust mites prefer humid conditions. We also don't make our beds immediately after waking, but push back the covers all the way, to let the bed and doona air out for about half an hour.
  • Choose pure cotton or linen for your sheets. You need hot water to kill the dust mites, and natural fibres can generally take the heat. Also avoid sheets labelled "non-iron"or "wrinkle-free" (that goes for your shirts as well!) as these often treated with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can really affect people with asthma or allergies.
  • Minimise dust mites in the lounge room. So you've taken care of the bedroom, since that is what we all focus on, but dust mites also love living in the crevices of your sofa! So make sure you vacuum often in the crevices, and along the stitching and piping, as these are great dust mite habitats.
  • Think twice about indoor plants. Indoor plants are great at improving indoor air quality. However, and it is a big however, you need to make sure you are dusting them regularly, as their leaves are wonderful dust traps. Also make sure to avoid ones that will be a source of pollen.
  • It goes without saying - don't smoke, it'll kill you! But if you do smoke, then definitely don't do it inside. Secondhand smoke is one of the most carcinogenic pollutants that your children are exposed to, so keep it away from them.
  • Be mindful of asbestos. Anyone who lives here in Perth is well aware of the dangers of asbestos, and the rare cancer Mesothelioma that it causes (a whole town had to be closed permanently because of it), but it turns up in all sorts of places. If you are renovating your house, or drilling into walls for something as simple as putting up a photo frame, it is vital to make sure that any works you are doing will not disturb any asbestos, as it is most dangerous as a fine powder that is inhaled. It is often found in roofing, fencing, insulation and wall cladding. Take adequate precautions like dust masks for little jobs, and call in the professionals for anything larger that hanging a picture.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mask Monday: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Mask

I love using face masks, and they are an integral part of my self care rituals. As I mentioned in my October Empties post, I am using a face mask on an almost daily basis(!) but most of those days it is just a quick express treatment often done in the shower. On a Sunday night, however, once I've done all my prep for the week ahead, I will take 30-40 minutes for myself, and take a bath while relaxing with a DIY facial. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share with you the different face masks I'm trying with the Mask Monday series.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Mask for Intense Hydration

I love sheet masks! Maybe its the Asian in me (they are an Asian invention, after all!), but I just find there is something incredibly satisfying about applying a sheet mask, looking like a monster for 15 minutes, and then peeling it off to reveal (hopefully) amazing looking skin! So, I was thrilled when Neutrogena finally launched their Hydro Boost Masks here in Australia. At $19.99 for a box of 5 (but often available on sale at Priceline), this is an incredibly affordable choice in the range of sheet masks available. And while I am sure that the long term results are not *quite* as comparable to, say, the SKII mask that retails for $28, for just $4.00 a mask I was very happy with the HydroBoost one.

This mask is very easy to apply, as all sheet masks are! Quick and easy, no mess, what more could a busy mum ask for? The mask fit my face very well, with a little bit of stretching to get the mouth to fit in the right place. The way it is designed, I think it would be quite flexible for most face shapes.
According to Neutrogena, it contains Hyaluronic Acid, Olive Extract, and an Ionic Mineral Complex.

After applying, I scared my children (let's just say their comments were not exactly flattering) and then took a nice lie down for 20 minutes, that may have included a little nap.  The fragrance is similar to other products in the HydroBoost range, not overpowering, just a nice clean and fresh smell.

After my little nap, I peeled off the mask, and then massaged in the product that was remaining on my skin. My skin was plump and glowing, and I didn't feel that I needed to apply any of my regular night products, other that my eye cream. The next my morning, my skin looked even better, and I even got a comment from hubby that my skin was looking really good (I think that alone might push this product into miracle territory!).

I have normal/combination skin - I get an oily T-zone, and my cheeks range from normal, to occasionally a bit dehydrated, depending on the weather or what I am doing. I have used this mask on three separate occasions now, and in all cases, my skin looked and felt visibly better not only immediately, but the next day at well. The first time I tried it, my skin was nice and balanced before hand. It didn't send my oily areas into over drive, and seemed to nicely hydrate my skin all over.

The second time, I had caught a little bit too much sun at my daughter's sports carnival; not an actual burn, but I could feel my skin feeling somewhat dehydrated, tight and looking pink. The mask felt so soothing, especially on the sun hit areas, and after the mask was removed, my skin felt smooth and supple, and the tight, slightly pink areas had completely returned to normal. Come the heat of summer, I can imagine this mask would feel great if used after putting it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Finally, I used it last night, which followed a week where I had been so busy and tired that I let my usual night routine slip a little, so my skin was not feeling the best. This time I combined it with my Sanctuary 30 Day Youth Revolution Glycolic mask (reviewed here) just to give my skin a real boost and pick me up after a week of somewhat neglect! The combination really helped rebalance my skin, and bring it back to looking its best.

Linking to these great websites here

Monday, October 12, 2015

October Empties Product Reviews

I love watching the monthly empties videos on YouTube so I thought I would do a post about the products that I finished using this month, since I had a few all finishing up at once! Just a quick disclaimer that I purchased all of these items myself!

Sanctuary Spa 5 Minute Thermal Detox Mask

I have started to really up my use of face masks, and now apply some sort of mask nearly every day! This self-heating mask contains charcoal and kaolin clay to help draw out impurities from deep within the skin.  I use it in the shower and because it works in just five minutes, it doesn't add any time on to my routine, so it's perfect for those of us who don't always have the time for a full facial. The heating part feels great on the skin, especially in winter, but only lasts for a few seconds, so I'm pretty sure it's more of a gimmick than anything really effective. However, the combo of the charcoal and kaolin does a stellar job of cleaning out my pores, leaving my skin smooth, soft and clear. I loved this so much I have already repurchased.

AUD$19.99 from Priceline

Sanctuary Spa Youth Boosting Cleansing Oil

I purchased this when I ran out of my Shu Uemera cleansing oil, and was looking for a cheaper substitute.  It is a lovely and light oil, and is excellent at removing all makeup, including waterproof mascara. The fragrance is relaxing, without being overpowering; a mix of lavender, chamomile and neroli.  Applying two pumps to dry skin, I massage in to dissolve makeup and grime, and then emulsify with a little bit of water, and finally rinse off.  It leaves my skin clean, but feeling supple. I haven't repurchased yet, as I am trying out a Trilogy cream cleanser, but I would definitely buy it again in the future.

AUD$19.99 from Priceline

Sanctuary Spa 30 Day Youth Revolution

I swear I'm not a spokesperson from Sanctuary, I just happened to run out of three of their products at once!! The 30 Day Youth Revolution is an at-home glycolic peel, combine with an activation serum.  By necessity, this is nowhere near as strong as a salon or doctor's office peel, but this a great option to help maintain your skin in between, or if you don't need or want that full on glycolic strength in the first place.

Simply brush on the gel in a very thin layer on clean skin (brush is included, which is nice!), wait until it dries, then peel off. Must be the child in me, but I find peeling it off incredibly satisfying! Follow with the included serum and revel in your radiant, baby soft skin! Despite it saying 30 days on the box, this set lasted me much longer (nearly 3 months) with almost consistent bi-weekly use. I repurchased this at the same time as the detox mask, as they seem to be working together really well.

AUD$39.99 from Priceline

Obagi Professional C Serum 20%

An anti-oxidant serum is probably one of the most important steps in your anti ageing regimen, as they help to neutralise free radicals from the sun, pollution, etc, before they can damage skin cells and accelerate ageing.  Vitamin C has also been show to increase collagen production, which helps to plump the skin.

This particular one was recommended by my previous dermatologist both to help with the pigmentation on my cheeks, and as a general antiager. This is something you need to build up to so it doesn't irritate your skin, so start with a low concentration (10%) and then build from there.  I have been happy with the results, but my new derm has suggested I try the Medik8 Tetra C so I will see how that goes; if I'm not

I purchased mine from the Dr's office, but if you are buying any vitamin c serum, make sure it comes from a reputable place as its efficiency decreases over time. Similarly, make sure it is in a dark glass bottle as both air and light degrade vitamin C.

Philosophy Renewed Hope In A Jar

I had high hopes for this cream (ha ha, no pun intended!!), but unfortunately, they didn't quite eventuate. The brand new entry in Philosophy's best selling Hope in a Jar range, this cream has a lovely whipped texture, and combines three AHAs to help renew and regenerate your skin, helping to reduce pigmentation and minimise wrinkles. Unfortunately, despite also containing hyaluronic acid, a star hydrating ingredient, it just wasn't hydrating enough for me, leaving me cheeks tight, and sending my T Zone into overdrive. Now, I have normal-combination skin, not dry skin, so this really surprised me. I did continue to use the cream, simply because it was quite pricey, but its lack of hydration on my skin meant I had to layer a hyaluronic serum underneath. With the serum, the cream was good, but definitely not good enough to warrant a re buy.  

AUD$55 from David Jones

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spring Summer 15/16 Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

Its been ages since I published a capsule wardrobe post, and since I have just finished my own capsule wardrobe for spring summer, I thought I would share it with you.

This year's capsule is very different from previous years. My style has really changed, and looking at my pinterest inspiration boards, I could see that I was really leaning towards a more minimalist, clean cut style compared to previous years. I've also included some dressier items into my capsule this year, both to elevate my everyday style slightly, and to cater for the rounds of functions that tends to happen over my spring summer season. Again, I have stuck with the concept of the ten item wardrobe from Jennifer L Scott's book Lessons from Madame Chic, and again, I have more than 10 core items! Having said that, my core item count at 16 is two less than last year (t shirts, sweaters, jackets and accessories count as extras) so I'm feeling pretty good.

Spring Summer 15/16 Capsule Wardrobe

These are the items here; all except the black lace dress and the white jacket are the exact items, most of which are currently on sale! As you can see, a lot of grey, black and white, with touches of blue added in.

This season, I focused on quality pieces that had something extra about them. The first three Ann Taylor tops are my nod to the lace trend of this season. They are also great transitional pieces that can be dressed up or down, and when they are worn in more casual outfits, the lace adds that hit of polish that I am looking for. The black and white printed cotton top is from Eileen Fisher, as are the asymmetrical jersey top (bought last year, but still available at a few department stores), the silk jersey tank, the shades of grey and tan silk tunic, and the grey asymmetric silk tunic. I've invested in these pieces over the past couple of years (and lets be honest, they are an investment!) because I really feel that they lift my wardrobe immeasurably.  The silk fabric looks elegant, but is machine washable and so pretty easy to care for. The pieces also swing from casual to dressy very easily, depending on what they are paired back with.

Three of the trousers are also from Eileen Fisher; the black jersey slouchy trousers, the black silk slouchy trousers and the grey denim slouchy trousers. The two black pairs are from last year, but very similar styles are back again this year. Despite being a slow adopter, I've really jumped on to the slouchy trousers bandwagon.  I think they help keep what is mostly a classic wardrobe looking current, they are flattering, and they are incredibly comfortable! The final slouchy pair is a blue and black printed pair from Blue Illusion. These four pants are all ankle length, which I find is the sweet spot for me in summer. They give the appearance of being more summery than a full length pant, but are more flattering on my body type than a true crop.

I do have two full length pants in my capsule, a pair of dark wash jeans and a pair of grey linen tailored trousers. Jeans are a basic for everyone nowadays, and this pair from NYDJ in a dark wash with no distressing can take me from ultra casual to all but the most formal occasions. I purchased the long linen pants as a transition piece. Spring here in Perth can be wildly variable - yesterday was hovering around 22C/71F and raining, while Friday is expected to be 34C/93F and sunny. Layering pieces, and pieces like a long linen pant are crucial in weather like this.

I've only gone for one day dress this year. Last year I had five, and while they do make it super easy to get changed in the morning - one piece and you're done - I did find that I got quite bored of my wardrobe since I was effectively wearing the same outfit over and over and over again. I am hoping mix and match separates will eliminate that problem!

Finally, my extras. I have 4 T shirts (white, navy, black and grey striped), all from Lands End, one light weight longer line cardigan (grey), and one fine knit maxi cardigan, a white blazer, and a black blazer in a metallic thread that looks great in the evening.

And now for just some of the possible outfits!

SS15 Capsule Jersey Pants

Let's start at the ultra casual end, that makes up most of my outfits. Jersey pants by nature are casual, and though they can be dressed up, I am mostly wearing these in casual outfits.  I would wear these outfits running errands, doing the school run, watching the kids play sport. Most of these accessories are old but are still in great condition, so will carry on in this year's rotation. I did update my hat this year (my old one just looked really shabby and has been downgraded to beach hat), the rose gold ear jackets from Mimco are one more nod to a current trend, and the black LV tote was a Mother's Day present this year. I also bought my first pair of Birks, and I can't believe I waited for so long! They are so comfy!!

SS15 Print Harem Pants Outfits

These harem pants from Blue Illusion are just that little step up from the jersey pants. BTW, Blue Illusion calls them harem pants, but really, they are only glimpsing in the direction of harem - they are definitely what I would call a slouch pant. The print is made up of a few different shades of blue as well as black, and they look really good with white, shades of blue and black because of that.  While these outfits are all still fall at the casual, everyday end of the spectrum for my lifestyle, I could quickly swap the Birks for some ballet flats, and I would happily wear these outfits to work (I do not work in a corporate environment, though!).  Through on the white blazer and some heels, and I would be all set for meetings with our customers, or a parent teacher conference.

SS15/16 Smart Casual Outfits

Lastly, here are some examples of how I can use this capsule wardrobe to take me to some dressier occasions. These would be great for an evening out to the ballet with my daughter, or a fun party, and I would even feel comfortable wearing the final outfit, with the silk slouchy pants, to a semi formal event.  In all of these outfits, it is the choice of fabric, be it lace or silk, paired with wise choices in accessories, that take pieces that I will wear on an everyday basis, and elevate them to something special. These little ghillie flats are also a new buy this season, and you will see them everywhere, at all different price points. Since I've had kids, I spend most of my life in flats, and needed a pair of dressier flats to could take me out to cocktail parties, since I honestly can't bear standing in high heels for any length of time anymore!  These flats from Robert Robert fit the bill perfectly since not only do they look great, but they feel great, too.

Just so you can see how versatile this wardrobe is, here are some more outfits for you:

SS 15/16 Minimalist Capsule Outfits

Linking to these great websites here

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