Author: Dana Hinders

Planning Your Maternity Photo Session

Posted on Dec 29, 2014 by No Comments

Even if you’re feeling self conscious about your pregnant body, don’t automatically dismiss the idea of posing for professional maternity photos. Once your child is grown, these photos will be a cherished keepsake of one of the most special times in your life.

Ana Brandt, a mother of three and an Orange County photographer since 1999, recommends scheduling your maternity photos between 28 weeks and 36 weeks. You want to have a readily visible baby bump, but not be so big that you’re crabby and uncomfortable.

You should start looking for a professional photographer in your second trimester, however. You want to have time to look at the portfolios of several local photographers and ask other recently pregnant friends or family members for personal recommendations.

When it comes to choosing your outfit, you have several different wardrobe options. If your style is conservative, try a tight fitting maxi or a long flowing skirt with a tight top that shows your bump while keeping covered.

Wear jeans and a tank top for a casual look. If you’re feeling sexy, check your lingerie drawer for boy shorts and a cute bra. If there’s nothing you like in your own closet, ask your photographer if the studio has a wardrobe for you to choose from.

If desired, you can also add props such as baby shoes or sonogram photos to your session. If this is not your first pregnancy, you may want to get a few photos of your older children with their hands on your belly.

On the day of your photo session, Brandt recommends making sure you eat a full meal and drink plenty of water. Maternity photo sessions can be exhausting, so you want to do whatever is necessary to keep your strength up.

Photo credit: Ana Brandt

Are You Bothered By Prescription Drug Ads on TV?

Posted on Dec 24, 2014 by No Comments

Since we gave up our cable TV about a year ago, I don’t see nearly as many commercials as I used to. However, this means I pay more attention to the ads when I do find myself someplace with cable television.

Prescription drug ads seem to be all over the TV these days, which I find disturbing on several levels.

Presumably, prescription drugs are being used to treat serious medical concerns. Therefore, one must consider the mental state of the people who are being targeted by these advertisements.

People who are in pain or who have found their daily activities severely compromised by an illness are inherently vulnerable. They can’t reasonably be expected to critically evaluate advertising messages.

Even among the general public, it appears that prescription drug ads mislead a large number of people.

One survey found that 50% of people thought prescription drug ads had to be approved by the government. The same survey also found that 43% of people thought that a medication had to be completely safe for it to be advertised and 22% mistakenly believed that a drug which was known to have serious side effects could not be legally advertised to consumers.

There is also the concern that ads encourage otherwise healthy people to believe that they have a medical condition requiring medication. I’ve seen this firsthand with my son, who came home from watching TV at grandma’s house concerned about his prostate health. (My son is nine, but this just goes to show you how persuasive ads can be!)

Healthy people seeking unnecessary medication is problematic on several levels. Prescription drugs often have side effects such as dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, or headaches that can cause quality of life issues and lead to missed days of work or a limited ability to attend to responsibilities such as caring for one’s minor child.

Side effects are often worth the trade off when a patient is genuinely ill, but healthy patients are essentially taking expensive medication to make them sick. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe additional drugs to counteract the side effects, thus leading to a cycle of unnecessary medication.

What do you think about prescription drug ads on TV? Do you think the ads should be eliminated or more tightly regulated?

Photo credit: Michael Chen

Peepers Offers Stylish Yet Affordable Eyewear

Posted on Dec 19, 2014 by No Comments

Playing with your eyewear can be a fun way to update your look. Just like a colorful scarf or a great purse, a stylish pair of reading glasses can add the perfect finishing touch to your outfit.

Peepers has unique designs to suit every sense of style. The rhinestone embellished glasses are my personal favorite, but the handpainted holiday styles are something I could see my mother being thrilled with!

Most reading glasses are offered in strengths from +1.00 to +3.25 and the website explains how to determine what strength of glasses you should order.

If you’re looking for sunglasses, Peepers has regular sunglasses as well as bifocal and non-bifocal reading sunglasses. These look like they would be perfect for a day at the beach!

Peepers is a favorite brand of several celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey. In fact, Oprah recently shared a picture of herself wearing Peepers glasses via her Instagram account.

Peepers prices range from $9.50 to $25, so you can feel free to treat yourself to several pairs to match the various outfits in your closet. And, if you happen to accidentally lose or break a pair, you won’t be out of much.

Visit the Peepers website to see the full selection of eyewear. When you enter your email, you can receive a coupon for 10% off and free shipping with your first order of $50 or more.

Peepers has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy with your purchase, they can be returned for a full refund with no questions asked.

What do you think of the Peepers eyewear selection?

Photo credit: Peepers

Creating a Zero-Waste Kitchen

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re trying to be more eco-friendly, the kitchen is the perfect place to start. The idea of creating a zero-waste kitchen is growing in popularity as more people become aware of the importance of minimizing their environmental impact.

Even if you don’t succeed in totally eliminating kitchen waste, using these strategies will still help keep a significant amount of trash out of our country’s landfills.

The first major step towards a zero-waste kitchen involves getting rid of disposable products. Use cloth napkins instead of disposable napkins, cut up old clothes to use as cleaning rags instead of reaching for a paper towel every time someone spills juice, and ban paper plates all together.

When you’re at the grocery store, pay attention to how much packaging items use. Buy baking supplies in bulk and eliminate pricey single serve snacks in favor of bigger bags repackaged into smaller reusable containers.

Buy refillable glass or stainless steel water bottles instead of single use bottled water. If you can’t kick the soda habit, consider buying a Sodastream to reduce reliance on cans and plastic bottles.

To eliminate food waste, the best thing you can do is to always shop with a list. This ensures that produce won’t go bad before you use it. You may also want to consider making frequent smaller trips for produce, so everything is as fresh as possible. In Europe, where fresh food is highly valued, it’s common for people to shop every day or two.

If you have a garden or know someone who does, starting a compost pile is an excellent way to put food scraps to use. Vegetable waste, fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and eggshells can all be turned into compost that will add nutrients to the soil.

Photo credit: Nancy Hugo

DIY All Natural Face Powder

Posted on Dec 10, 2014 by No Comments

The main reason people try making their own makeup is to reduce exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals in many traditional cosmetics. However, homemade products can also save you quite a bit of money.

One easy makeup item to create at home is a face powder. The base for your homemade face powder should be either cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Arrowroot powder is finer and produces slightly better results, but it is harder to find in some areas. I had to order mine from Amazon.

To tint your powder, you will need to figure out what colorants work best for your skin tone. Cocoa powder is the most commonly suggested, but nutmeg and cinnamon can be added to give you a slight bronzing effect. Add small amounts and blend well to see what works for your skin tone.

I suspect you will have the best results if you’re relatively fair skinned. I used a pinch of cocoa powder and a sprinkle of nutmeg to about two tablespoons of arrowroot powder, but I’m so pale my husband jokingly calls me Casper. I avoided the cinnamon because I’ve heard that cinnamon sometimes causes skin irritation and my skin is definitely on the sensitive side.

Store your powder in a clean glass jar and apply with a kabuki face brush. If you want to make a pressed powder compact, you can add a bit of rubbing alcohol to the powder mixture to make a thick paste. Smooth it out, then let it dry overnight in a small tin or an empty makeup compact.

Rubbing alcohol evaporates, so it doesn’t leave a smell or a residue. But, if you’re not too fond of the idea of using rubbing alcohol to bind the powder together, I’ve heard several people recommend 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil. Lavender oil smells lovely and is a natural antibacterial and antiseptic agent.

For me, this seems moderately comparable to purchased face powders I’ve used in the past. I really like how smooth it feels on my skin and it seems to do a good job of absorbing oil when applied over top of my regular liquid foundation. However, getting an acceptable tint is difficult and the smell of the cocoa powder on your face takes some getting used to.

Have you ever tried making your own face powder? If so, what did you think of the results?

Photo credit: Maria Morri

Simplify Your Life with a Weekly Meal Plan

Posted on Dec 3, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re looking for an easy way to free up some time in your schedule, I highly recommend making a meal plan.

A meal plan is simply a list of what you are going to have for each meal. Most people do a weekly meal plan, but you could do a monthly meal plan if you wanted. I use a weekly plan because I’m not organized enough to schedule everything a month in advance.

I asked my son and my husband for a list of their favorite foods to make my meal plan, then tried to pick meals that were budget-friendly. I also considered our weekly schedule and picked the easiest to cook meals for the times when I knew I’d be least likely to want to spend more than a few minutes in the kitchen. Friday night, for example, is pizza night so we can enjoy watching a movie or doing something together as a family.

I left some flexibility in the meal plan to play with different side dishes, which helps keep us from feeling like we’re eating the same thing all the time and gives me a little room to take advantage of weekly grocery specials.

Sometimes we have baked potatoes and steamed broccoli with our chicken and sometimes I’ll make peas and carrots with homemade mac and cheese. We have a dessert if I’m feeling ambitious or happen to be craving chocolate.

There are four things I really like about this approach to managing meal prep:

  • It eliminates the annoyance of trying to figure out what to cook for every single meal.
  • My husband is more likely to help out with meals if he knows exactly what he needs to do. The list is taped to the refrigerator, so it’s readily available.
  • Grocery shopping is a snap because I’m buying basically the same stuff each week.
  • We waste less food because I’m not overbuying at the store.

Photo credit: Nick Nguyen

How to Make Your Own Veggie Chips

Posted on Nov 28, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re looking for a unique way to turn garden produce into healthy snacks for your family, you can’t go wrong with a food dehydrator. Dehydrators make it easy to turn your favorite veggies into healthy chip alternatives.

Check out the following recipes, courtesy of Excalibur Dehydrators. Excalibur Food Dehydrators are compact enough to fit on your kitchen counter, but incorporate the Parallexx™ Horizontal-Airflow Drying System for performance, speed, temperature control, durability, and versatility.

Sweet Potato Chips

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary flakes
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp paprika
  1. Wash and dry sweet potato. Then thinly slice sweet potato. In a bowl coat sweet potato slices with lemon juice and olive oil. Then add dry ingredients. Place sweet potato slices in a single layer on Excalibur dehydrator tray.
  2. Dry at 125º F for 7 to 11 hours or until sweet potato chips become crisp.
  3. Let chips cool to room temperature and then store in an airtight container.

Barbecue Cucumber Chips

  • 3 large cucumbers
  • 1⅓ tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  1. Wash and dry cucumbers. Then thinly slice cucumbers. In a bowl, mix cucumbers and all seasonings. Place cucumbers in a single layer on Excalibur dehydrator trays.
  2. Dry at 125º F for 4 to 8 hours or until cucumbers become crisp.
  3. Let cucumber chips cool to room temperature and then store in an airtight container.

Tomato Chips

  • 8 heirloom tomatoes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp basil
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Wash, dry and core tomatoes. Then slice tomatoes ¼” thick. Season tomatoes by sprinkling salt, basil, oregano and ground black pepper. Place vegetables in a single layer on Excalibur dehydrator trays.
  2. Dry at 155º F for 8 to 12 hours or until tomatoes become crisp.
  3. Let tomato chips cool to room temperature and then store in an airtight container.

Carrot Chips

  • 1 carrot
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ tbsp melted coconut oil
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  1. Wash and dry carrots. Then thinly slice carrots. In a bowl mix carrots, salt, melted coconut oil and cinnamon. Place carrots in a single layer on Excalibur dehydrator trays.
  2. Dry at 125º F for 6 to 10 hours or until carrots become crisp.
  3. Let carrot chips cool to room temperature and then store in an airtight container.

Photo credit: Excalibur Dehydrators

Stretching to Help Prevent Pregnancy Aches and Pains

Posted on Nov 27, 2014 by 1 Comment

The cute little bundle of joy at the end is well worth the effort, but there’s no denying that the side effects that occur during pregnancy can be unbearable. Carrying a child for nine months means constant body changes. Back pain, leg cramps, and swollen feet are quite common among expectant mothers.

Regular stretching can help relieve many of the discomforts of pregnancy, but stretching can be tricky when your body is changing on daily basis.

Keith Hatfield, a former athletic trainer for the Kansas City Royals, designed the Hatfield Strap to help you get a relaxing stretch from the comfort of your own bed.

The shoulder strap attachment acts as a harness that makes it easier for you to hold a comfortable stretch for an extended period of time. The stretch is dependent upon your own natural body movements and takes no exertion of energy.

The foot strap is 4” wide, which means that it covers the width of your entire foot. This spreads the force of the stretch so you get the same results as stretching while standing without the added exertion or stress on your joints.

While the ease of use makes the Hatfield strap ideal for pregnant women, it’s something that can be used by nearly anyone. It’s recommended for athletes as well as people suffering from Plantar Fasciitis.

Visit the Hatfield Strap website to learn more.

Photo credit: Hatfield Strap

Earthy Bliss Baby Carriers Let You Keep Baby Close at All Times

Posted on Nov 24, 2014 by No Comments

In today’s on-the-go world, moms are busier today than ever before. Babywearing is ideal for keeping your little one close while leaving your hands free, but many baby carriers make wearing your baby difficult and uncomfortable.

Earthy Bliss baby carriers are designed to make babywearing an enjoyable experience for both mother and child. The carriers are one-size-fits-all, so both you and your husband or baby sitter can use the same carrier.

The carriers can also be adjusted to be used with children from birth to preschool. Carriers come in a wide range of styles and colorful fabric options so you can choose a carrier that you’ll be proud to use.

Since babywearing can be a bit confusing for a new mom, Earthy Bliss has a selection of instructional videos that explain how to use each baby carrier style as well as detailing the different methods of carrying newborns and older babies. If you’re not sure what style of baby carrier is best for you, watching the videos may help with your purchasing decision.

“I experienced firsthand how frustrating it can be to find comfortable, functional and fashionable baby carriers,” said founder Johna Bowden. “When I first became a mom, I searched high and low for the right one before I finally gave up and sewed it myself. The result was the first Earthy Bliss baby carrier prototype. Since that very first design, we’ve seen amazing response to our line of baby carriers. We started out hand sewing each individual order, but when the wait-list became overwhelming, we moved to mass manufacturing in Europe — and even now, we still can’t keep up with demand!”

Photo credit: Earthy Bliss