Concussion Resources

If you’ve suffered a concussion, it’s a brain injury.  Nothing will make sense and you’ll be constantly searching for answers.  I’ll list a few links here and you can read them whenever you have time and energy.

  1. A guide for patients.  Symptoms, what to expect so you don’t feel like you’re crazy.  Best to have this printed for you.  Coloured paper like yellow is easier on the eyes than white.
  2. A guide for caregivers.  We’re tired, frustrated and cranky.  We may take your head off.  Nothing personal.
  3. SCAT or this ABI_sruvey are tools that can help a patient and doctor figure out if the symptoms are worse or getting better.  Do them weekly or write in a journal.
    • By not doing anything one week, feeling great, does not mean you should expect the same next week or that the scores should go down drastically.  It is all very subjective.  You can’t keep it all straight in your concussed head.
  4. The most understated term is Neurofatigue. I couldn’t understand why my body felt like a lump of lead.  I felt lazy.  I wish someone had told me to prepare for years where you’re body is hit with the flu.  You’ll never understand it until you’ve experienced it.
  5. If I knew how important it was to Google for “OT planning and pacing” would change my life I would have recovered sooner.  The CogSmart program through the Ottawa ABI program showed me the Parkwood point system used for monitoring and planning based on energy.  It really helped me to accept I couldn’t do everything I use to in one day.  I gradually returned to my regularly scheduled program. What happens is, when you’re feeling good, it makes you feel you can do more and over do it.  You hit a wall and it sets you back by a day or two to recover.  You feel frustrated like you’re starting from square one.  It helps to be able to recognize what activity was added to cause that change.
  6. In ABI, I was told to monitor my heart rate.  I had improved a lot during vestibular rehab exercises and the virtual reality simulator but was still experiencing dizziness.  I use to be an avid runner and had a Garmin Forerunner.  So I was quite surprised to see my heart rate while sitting at my desk for a few hours was 87bpm.  It use to be 54 bpm because I was quite active before the accident.  My elevated heart rate was an indication that my nervous system was overwhelmed by light/sound, stimulus in general.  The dizziness was increased anxiety.
    • Mindfulness and meditation helps regulate the nervous system over time.  Being incredibly type A, sitting still and doing nothing on purpose is incredibly difficult.  I felt like I could never shut my brain off.  I bought a Muse headband so I could have some sort of feedback.
  7. This MTBI workbook was also an eye opener about the physiology of the brain, how it works and has some quizzes to give another measure of what some deficits might be.
  8. A friend of mine is a Health and Safety officer and went to a seminar about concussions and sent me the attached Resources she received.  The more she learned, the more she thought about me and could cross reference it all and it made more sense to her.
  9. Reading other people’s blogs like Shireen’s helps to feel less isolated.
  10. Add your name to the waitlist for Love Your Brain Ottawa.  It’s a FREE 6 week yoga program for brain injury survivors AND their caregivers.
    • LYB was started by Kevin Pearce and his supporting family.  He was an Olympic hopeful and the subject of the documentary “The Crash Reel”.
  11. Of course you’re supposed to be letting your brain heal and you can’t see straight to read long enough.  To relieve boredom I activated the text to speech function on my Kindle.  Then I realized I could cheat on my computer and phone:

Professionals you should seek depending on your symptoms:

  1. Get your family doctor to refer you to the Ottawa Hospital ABI program.  It’s a long wait list of 1-2 years.
  2. A chiropractor that specializes in Cranial Adjustments can help reduce the pressure and headaches.
  3. For on going light sensitivity finding a place that specializes in neuropyschometry like Opticalm to diagnose what parts of the light spectrum you’re sensitive to would be a good place to start .
    • I had been using Gunnar Glasses with a yellow tint for years which helped reduce eye strain and headaches because I work a lot with computers.  I moved to a brighter, open concept building and they didn’t help anymore.  Walking into the sun wearing yellow glasses seemed to make it more intense.
    • Instead of paying Opticalm $250 for the dark purple lenses they tested me for I opted to buy 50% and 80% tints through Zenni Optical and rolled the dice for $40.  The 80% tint looked like the exact match Opticalm had prescribed me.  I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses as well (you can see pics on FB).  They really helped me cope with my new office space.
  4. I think you should look into finding a PT who specializes in vestibular rehab if your having trouble balancing, focusing.
  5. I saw Dr. Lawrence on the news.  I booked him for the $475 assessment.  It’s above the $70/session Sunlife Insurance expects for a chiropractor, so you only get $56 back.  It’s been a few years for me and I needed a qualitative measure of nystagmus I knew was present, but other PTs couldn’t trigger or see these 20ms movements.  Broadview is the only place I know in Ottawa who has the Neuro-Kineticshardware/software.
  6. I did vision treatment with Amped.  They are using Neurotracker software.  Tracking 3D tennis balls was nauseating for me so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone right away.  They also specialize in vestibular rehabilitation.  My insurance covers more PT than Chiro so they are a better financial option for me.
  7. I met quite a few people who have custom ear plugs.  I always carried little 3M ear plugs in my purse and wore them for concerts.  They’re supposed to reduce noise by 23-27dB.  I went to Davidsons.  They offered a custom pair of musician ear plugs with 15dB filters for $200.  For an extra $60 I got 25dB filters as well.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to go do to the 9dB filters and eventually none at all.

Word of advice:  Don’t see more than one professional and undergo multiple treatments at once.  You will be overwhelmed with all the appointments you’re constantly running to.  You can see a PT twice a week.  You’ll be so neurofatigued, you won’t be able to figure out what’s working and what’s not.  Plan and pace.

Other things I’ve spent money on to reduce symptoms are:

  • Icer’s because I loathe freezing rain for fear of a secondary concussion.
  • MIPS bike and ski helmets, more for reducing anxiety about falling.
  • An IKEA Leaf from the Children’s section for my desk at work to reduce light.
  • Bose QC15 headphones, while playing classical piano music to help concentrate at work.  They fit comfortably over my ears while I wear the musician ear plugs which is great!
  • I wear Bluetooth, radio hearing protectors when I use power tools or do things outside and other people are running lawn mowers.  I can say I’m listening to the radio.
  • Cyclo Central Vac through the Vacuum Store.  It has a muffler on the exhaust, plus I had them run the dust exhaust outside to minimize noise.  I would have to wear hearing protectors to run my vacuum.  Even the Roomba was too loud for me.
  • I cut out using a lot of chemical cleaners, dryer sheets, harsh detergents etc.  Reduce eating processed and packaged foods.  You’ll feel the brain fog lift.
  • Taking fish oil, magnesium and multivitamin supplements.
  • I moved from a 3 story townhouse to a 1.5 story home to reduce the number of stairs I had to climb.  This was a personal choice.

Professionals recommended by other people, but I have no personal experience with:

Books Recommended by other people, but I have no personal experience with:


Better believe it’s butter!

I ran out of margarine, and basically kept an empty Becel container in the fridge.  In my head I could probably scrape a teaspoon out of the smears left in the container.  I kept forgetting to buy more every time I went to the grocery store.

I had a 454g/2 Cup brick of butter in the fridge.  I always have some on hand for baking.  Lets face it, nothing tastes like real butter.  It seems like a cruel joke that everything that tastes great, was full of fat, therefore bad for us.  Fat-free versions were dry and tasteless.  Now the internet is full of articles claiming the opposite idea of what most of us grew up with:  Margarine is now bad, and butter is better!  This just seems to make sense … the more natural and less processed something is, the easier it is for your body to process.  There were lessons learned with the “anal leakage” side effects of the synthetic fat, Olestra.


This brings me to the latest post.  I have butter, but it doesn’t spread like margarine.  Trying to spread cold butter on toast, is like trying to spackle drywall compound on a wet, sponge.  So I did some googling and it appears everyone is looking for a similar food hack.  I found this site to be the most useful, but decided to modify it to require less elbow grease.  I chose Avocado oil because I find it has no taste or flavour as Olive oil.  It also happens to have a higher smoking point so I prefer using it for cooking, especially with my cast iron skillet.  You can buy it at Costco so you get a 1L bottle for about $10.50.

IMG_5609Instead of mashing the butter with a fork, I left it to sit on the counter to warm/soften up a bit.  I added 2/3 cup of avocado oil, 1 cup of butter cut into cubes into the 16 ounce Ninja Master Prep Pro container  I pulsed it and blended it till it looked like it liquefied.  I found it looked a little too runny with too much oil.  I blended another 1/4 cup of butter and found that it had that creamy texture I was looking for. IMG_5611 I mixed the rest of the brick of butter, with less than 2/3 cup of oil.  I scraped the butter out of the Ninja with a rubber spatula and spread it out in the old Becel container.  I popped it in the fridge to set and couldn’t wait to see if it would spread like margarine!


Is this “healthier” than margarine?  I think in moderation, it’s about as healthy as all natural ice cream vs frozen yogurt.  Over time it’s a little better for you because it’s more natural and I know the ingredients I used in my blend.  Like everything, if you eat a tub, you will become a tub.


DIY Lactose-free, Probio, Yogurt

I love yogurt!  I found myself spending $10/week eating 1L of it.  I would buy the larger tubs, divide it among my reusable containers, add my own fruit and voila!  Cheaper single servings of yogurt with fresh berries instead of sugary jam caked to the bottom.  I found that a lot of smoothies I wanted to make also called for 1 cup of yogurt.  Why does trying to be healthy have to be so expensive?  I set out to find a way to make my own probiotic yogurt.  Most probiotic yogurt have enough good bacteria in it to help those of us who are lactose-intolerant, to digest the lactose.  To make things a little more easier on the digestive system, I decided to go 100% lactose free, probio!  I was largely inspired by the instructions of this blogger on how to make your own yogurt in a slow cooker.  Why spend the money on a yogurt maker when a slow cooker will do just fine?  What you’ll need:

  • Lactase enzyme drops (Walmart, pharmacy department is usually the cheapest place to get them)
  • 2L of 2% milk (if you like thick yogurt, you need more milk fat)
  • Fresh probiotic, store bought yogurt/Yogurt starter (I have tried a greek yogurt and used Yogourment probiotic bought from a healthfood store with good results)
  • Slow cooker
  • Thermometer (Wireless one works best, you’ll understand why.  You can get one at BB&B with a 20% off coupon)

First thing you need to do, is get the lactose out of your 2L of milk.  Following the directions on the drops, you just pop in about 10-15 drops of lactase enzymes into your 2L and put it back in the fridge over night for 24 hours so the enzymes can break down the milk sugars or lactose. IMG_2155The next day, you pour your milk into a slow cooker and set it on high to kill any existing bacteria in the milk that would compete with the bacteria in your starter.  It would start a war where no one wins and you end up wasting your time and 2L of milk.  I have done this in a 6quart oval crock pot which works well with the lid sitting on the braided, digital thermometer wire.   For the Breville Fast Slow Cooker you have to remove the silicone gasket from the lid in order for the lid to close on the cable without damaging it.  The Breville refuses to cooperate if the lid isn’t closed and twisted shut.  Set the thermometer alarm to 83 degrees C (or 181 degrees F) and walk away with the remote portion so you can continue to do what you want for the next couple of hours without having to check on it incessantly.  You don’t want it to come to a rolling boil and it would suck if it boiled over. Once it has reached the magical, bacteria killing temperature you have to cool it down.  WTF?  Yes, you need to cool it down to a comfortable temperature of around 43 degrees C (110 degrees F) for your new bacIMG_2156teria to thrive.  Tossing them into a hot bath too soon will upset the poor little buggers.  Take the pot out of the cooker and let it sit on the stove so it can cool on all sides.  I usually put the lid back on the cooker and leave it on low to keep it warm.   Luckily you have a wireless thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature, while you go do something else.

IMG_2159Once it has reached the magical,non-bacteria killing temperature, you can skim the dried milk skin off the top.  Take a cup (two soup laddles)  of your 43 degree C milk and mix it in with your  yogurt starter.  Then whisk this mixture in with the rest of your warm milk.  If you are doing this with your Yogourmet for the first time, just whisk the packet in.  Put your pot back in the cooker.  Don’t forget to put  the gasket back on the Breville’s lid.  Twist the lid on, wrap the whole shebang in a beach towel.  For good measure, I put the whole thing in a collapsible cooler to keep it warm and snug for 12 hours

The next day, you’ll open the cooler, unwrap the towel, twist off the lid, and dip a spoon into the pot and uncover the magical world of curdled milk and bacteria that we have grown to know and love as yogurt.  Give it a good stir and put it in the fridge.  So for the cost of 2L of milk, around $4 or less, you get 2L of yogurt!  How great is that?


Love leather, don’t want to BE leather

I LOOOVE leather accessories – handbags, shoes, jackets etc.  I’ve never understood sun worshipers who think they look better with tanned, leathery skin.  Perhaps back in the 80s but it’s 2014 people!  Haven’t people heard of skin cancer?  I was reading an article in this weekend’s paper “Full Exposure to Sunscreen“.  I can’t believe 1,050 Canadians are expected to DIE from melanoma THIS YEAR.

Lately I have been receiving a lot of compliments on my skin.  The RMT yesterday complimented me on having great skin – as he choked it with a gallon of oil.  In the past few months I’ve been asked for my I.D. when I asked to buy a lottery ticket.  They told me they couldn’t sell a lottery ticket to someone under 18 years old.  When they looked at my driver’s license and did the math they were shocked that I’m 37!  It gets a little embarrassing when you hold up a grocery store line, and then people are talking about your looks like you’re not even there.

Everyone keeps asking me what my secret is besides being Asian.  I really don’t think my heritage has much to do with it.  There are a lot of hard looking Asians out there.  It seems as if once they hit 60 – BAM!  Wrinkles come out and they all shrink by a foot.  Perhaps that’s just me.  But even Asians find it remarkable that I look at least 10 years younger than I actually am.  So there!  I would say the biggest contributing factor to my ageless skin is …. are you ready?  SUNSCREEN!  Didn’t see that coming right?  Anyway… Back in the 90s I recall tanning and tanning beds were huge.  Everyone wanted to be brown.  Especially around graduations, or some other event.  People thought it made them look better and they were going to do it at any cost.  I admit, I was one of them.  Only I was much cheaper about it.  Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to lie in a blue capsule, I would climb up on the flat roof of our house, coat myself in baby oil and spread out whenever the sun came out.  I was darker than anyone else at grad.  You couldn’t tell that I was wearing makeup I was so bloody dark.  Perhaps I’ll scan in a picture if I dare to unearth such horror.  Around that time I remember mom telling me about articles about how a young girl wanted to speed up the tanning process.  She didn’t heed the advice of tanning salons to go the maximum number of sessions per week.  She went to multiple salons and doing the maximum per salon, per week.  She was later diagnosed with advanced skin cancer with months to live.  She basically microwaved herself and internal organs.  No one can scare the hell out of you like mom does.

Once graduation was done, I was done with the sun.  I became obsessed with sunscreen.  Turns out sunscreen was not so big on me.  Vaseline lip therapy was one of my first skin irritants.  I thought it was benign, and assumed it was the deadly sun that created the blisters and itchy skin around my mouth.  I would apply more on for “protection”.  It took a while but I smartened up.  I would go into the drug store, try a dab of different sunscreens, and if I didn’t breakout, I would buy it.  You can thank me for why they put safety seals on now.  It turned out the only one I could tolerate was Oil of Olay with SPF 15 because it didn’t contain Oxy Benzone.  Even Coppertone for babies wasn’t baby enough for my skin.  Oil of Olay wasn’t cheap, but hey, it was the only armour I had against cooking myself like a slow rotisserie. So since the age of 18, I never left the house without applying it on my face at the very least. So, the brands that I pick up whenever I see them on sale are:

  • Oil of Olay – Walmart usually has good prices
  • Green Beaver – Health food stores.  Stock up on 20% off customer appreciation day at Kardish.
  • La Roche-Posay Ultra Fluid Lotion for the face is a great sunscreen and primer.  Not cheap, but you are paying for their research.  Wait till it goes on sale at the drug store.
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios lotion is a little thicker and meant for spreading along the body.
  • Dr. Jart Premium BB cream for those looking for a one step process for SPF protection, a primer and coverage.  You can get this at Sephora when they have their 15-20% off days.  I had to get this when I was in the U.S.  I don’t think they stock any Dr. Jart products in Canada.  They’ll certainly ship it to you.

That’s it!  My secrets have been revealed!  Now cover yourselves and drink plenty of water.  You can stop the damage and time!  What’s good for you, is also good enough for your kids.  If you read the ingredients, it’s different packaging.  If I can use it without breaking out in rashes and blisters, your kids will be more than fine.

Cordless Snow Joe can blow!

So I’ve been busy moving into a new house…. or rather a new to me house.  There are plenty of things that need to be done.  The previous owners did a lot of great updates that I would have done like the flooring, high efficiency furnace etc.  However, they didn’t care about cabinet or closet organization, but that’s another gripe for another post.

There are plenty of pros to owning a single, detached house when compared to a home owners association (that’s run like a militant condo).  The only con so far is that I have to take care of my own landscaping.  This means in the dead of winter, I have to dig myself out of snow storms.  Given my larger lot, 2 car wide driveway, a 10′ long walkway, it’s a back ache.  I had bought a wider, multitasking snow shovel.  The shovel is great for pushing snow, but it still requires muscles and physical labour.  Being a petite, female, it’s not what I’m built for.  I noticed neighbours had driveway markers for a snow clearing company.  I called them and received a quote for $190 for January-April 1.  The fine print said they will only come and clear out the driveway if the weather is FORECASTED to dump 5 cm of snow.  I interpreted this to mean, if it calls for 4 cm, and the wind blows more on top and buries you, good luck with that.  So I figured I’d take a gamble and take my chances.  Well the first 5cm snow fall came, blew more into the driveway.  It didn’t “look” like a lot, but it sure did weigh enough.  By the time I finished pushing and lifting the G4 to clear the driveway and walkway, my back was aching, and the rest of my body was soaked in sweat.  I needed a 1 hour nap afterwards.  When I woke up, I had to start researching snow blowers.

Everyone I know has a gas snow blower.  It has more power to clear the wet heavy stuff, the wheels are powered so all you have to do is steer, no cords to deal with.  The downside is they can be loud, environmentally unfriendly, and the engine requires maintenance.  My car is the only engine I want to care for and frankly, I’m not interested in fixing engines.  Electric snow blowers are maintenance free, and cheaper.  The downside is, you have to have a receptacle handy, and a long power cord with the right gauge to support the amps of the snow blower.  These long, thicker, outdoor power cords could be more than half the cost of the electric snow blower.  Just when I thought I was going to pull the trigger on an electric snow blower I noticed that Lowes had a choice of a battery operated snow blower.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  Snow Joe iON is a cordless, electric snow blower!   I decided to go through to order my new snow blower and get my 2% cashback from Lowes at the same time.  If I’m going to buy it anyway why not right?  I picked it up at the store and was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it out of the car since a Lowes employee helped load it in my trunk.  I was surprised at how light it was.  It’s about 40 lbs and the box has handles on the side so it was just bulky and awkward, but manageable.  Most of it was already assembled.  This video shows how easy it was to put together:

IMG_1334Voila!  The cutest little snow blower I have ever

seen!  I think it must have been designed for women in mind because it’s so light weight and compact.


So I shoved the battery in, pressed the button to make sure it was fully charged and gave it a go!  I made one trail out of the garage just to see if it could cut through the fresh snow that fell last night.  I was quite impressed that it was able to blow through 8″ of snow pretty clean.


I started to dig into the right side of the driveway in order to blow all the snow to my yard on the left because I’m sure my neighbour on the right wouldn’t appreciate more than her fair share of snow in her single car driveway.  So I would say that the snow built up over 10″ as I moved towards the left and knew that it was really working hard.  It’s also around the time I noticed I had kicked the led light on by accident so that may have eaten some of the battery.  The battery did start to die as I was clearing the mounds of snow in front of my door and steps.




I finished my front steps and tidied up the driveway with the G4 shovel which was quite manageable since Joe did the lion’s share of the work.  I brushed the snow off the poor little guy and put him away in my garage.  Since he’s so small he fits perfectly on the side of the garage with my car inside.  By tucking the handle forward, it’s easy for passengers to hop out of the back and walk around it.  IMG_1347

I slid the battery out and when I got back inside I put it in the charger where it’ll take 2-3 hours to recharge.  I’m hoping the cost of a replacement battery comes down so that I can pick up another later, probably from Amazon at some point.  I had my doubts but I’m very impressed and happy with this cordless Snow Joe.  It gives you the cordless freedom of gas, but without the maintenance and gas emissions of electric.  Since it’s small and lightweight, it’s really easy to store.

Where has Ebates been all my life?

I just discovered that I could have been MAKING MONEY from all the online shopping I do.  Isn’t that just a kick in the pants?  There are two separate Ebates, one for Canada, and one for the U.S.  I have accounts for both because I tend to shop at and if no one will ship it to me in Canada, I will settle for  There are way more stores listed under that aren’t listed under but the Canadian one is organized a little better.  You can still shop at the Canadian version of stores on but not vice versa.  Then you can get your “big fat cheque” in U.S. dollars instead of Canadian. You may also have to compare the percentage of cash back you’ll get.  You can get 10% back from from Toms Shoes.  You will only get 5% back from for Toms.  You’ll also find more promo codes on  So there are pros and cons on why you should get both.  The bottom line is, at the end of your shopping day, you’ll get a cheque, and you can leave it to the bank to do the conversion.  There seems to be a lot of debate whether this is for real or a scam.  It seems to have been in the U.S. since the late 90’s.  They even have an A+ BBB rating in spite of all the complaints.  I’ll be a personal judge and jury if I ever get over $5 of credit and will update this blog entry.

I realized my rant may have be more than a little confusing.  Probably ’cause I have been kicking myself over the money I could have made by spending it.  So I’ll break it down by listing the stores I could have made money from, and which would provide the most benefit for future reference.'Ebates
UP to 2% Amazon CanadaUP to 8% Amazon
5% Gunnar Optiks5% Gunnar Optiks
12% WaySpa6% WaySpa
8% The Body Shop Canada6% The Body Shop Canada
10% The U.S. Version
10% Toms Shoes Canada5% Toms Shoes Canada
6% Groupon4.6% Groupon
Up to 4% Walmart CanadaUp to 2% Walmart Canada
4% For the U.S. Version
4% Living Social4% Living Social + coupon codes
Up to 5% PricelineUp to 5% Priceline
2% Hotwire2% Hotwire
5% Clearly Contacts5% Coastal
NONE!!!4% Crocs Canada
3% Budget Rent-A-Car3% Budget Rent-A-Car
Up to 8% Chapters IndigoUp to 5% Chapters Indigo
25% McAfee Canada12.5% McAfee Canada
(The U.S. Version does get 70% off Clearance.)
2% Dell Canada + Coupons1% Dell Canada
4% Dell Consumer + coupon codes
4% Old Navy Canada2% Old Navy Canada
8% DSW4% DSW + coupon codes
1% Ebay.caEbay - NONE (WTF?)
5% Sephora8% Sephora + coupon codes
5 % Forever 21 Canada + coupon codes2.5 % Forever 21 Canada + coupon codes
2% for The U.S. Version but more coupon codes

This is not an exhaustive list.  I just realized the limitations of using the Ultimate tables plugin for making pretty tables.  The problem seems to be that I can’t expand my simple 2 column table past 21 rows.  It will clear all my data if I do… I will have to find another solution in order to continue my comparison.  To be continued …

Out with the old …

So I’ve been recovering from a concussion … I’ll explain more on that later.  Part of the recovery process is to avoid watching the TV, using the computer or smart phones.  What’s left?  Well, fortunately my Kindle 3G (third gen, with keyboard) has a text to speech option.  Sure Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t stir up the same emotions when read by Stephen Hawking.  I found out afterwards that you can select a female voice which sounds much smoother than the male voice.  When I was well enough to feel bored, I started cleaning out my closets.  This turned into reorganizing and building up piles of stuff I no longer needed.  Of course I polled friends to see if anyone wanted first dibs.  The stuff that was left had to be dropped off to charities.


  • Dress for Success – Business clothes, jewelry, makeup, products, purses and shoes  for job interviews.
  • Fairy Godmother – Prom or bridesmaid dresses, purses and shoes.
  • Canadian Diabetes – They offer to pick it up from your house and also accepts household items.
  • Value Village – Clothes and household items.


  • Money for Metal – if you have the time and large quantities, some money is better than non.
  • Foxy Recycle – If you just want those old computers, TVs, unwanted electronics gone, make sure they don’t end up in the landfill.


I’m sure it’s rare that anyone would have alcohol lying around going bad.  In my case I had made batches of home made wine that was sitting around for years.  I believe they don’t age well.  I also had bottles of wine that were given out as wedding favours.

I’m sure there are many other deserving charities that take in used items.  These are the ones that I found to donate specific items.

Hello Eyebrows!


People have asked me where I go to get my “eyebrows done”.  I’m like,

“Huh?  My house, where else would I go?”

“What salon do you go to, to shape and wax your eyebrows?”

“I do them myself.  Why would I go out of my way to have someone pour hot wax on my face, then peel skin and hair off of it?”

Women flock to salons to pay for what might be defined as torture in the Geneva convention if it were conducted on men, while prisoners of war.  I would make a horrible advocate for aesthetics because I think it’s faster (include travel/wait time), and cheaper to perform these services myself.  The other benefit would be for you to get to understand your own face, and know what YOU like.  How are women supposed to feel confident about themselves if they rely on othle to make them “beautiful”.  If you can’t accept your own eyebrows, how can you accept the rest of yourself? I struggled with self-confidence for years.  I am my own worst critic when it comes to everything I do.  Part of my self discovery began with looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw.  I never liked my eyebrows.  When I was a teenager, I thought my eyebrows were too bushy.  When I was bored, I would sometimes pinch and pull out a batch of eyebrow hairs with my fingers.  I would pluck every visible hair from my eyelid with tweezers.  Fast forward 20 years and now I feel like my eyebrows are too thin and sparse.  Go figure.  It turns out I should have paid more attention to “shaping” my eyebrows.  If I had my time back, I would have trimmed my brows first, and tweezed second.  I found a great video about shaping your eyebrows by Katie, a makeup artist who I have grown to love.

As usual, I take advise and think of easier ways (for me) to accomplish the task since I do not have the steady hand or practice of a makeup artist.  As a beginner I prefer step-by-step instructions with pictures.  So this blog is more for my own personal preference than anyone else’s.  Things you’ll need:

  • Tape (the not so sticky kind that will pull your skin off
  • Eyeliner/brow pencil for drawing the stencil.
  • Eyelash/eyebrow comb.  I use Tweezerman’s eyelash comb.
  • Tweezers.  I prefer angled tweezers.  Whatever works.
  • If you don’t have all day to tweeze, use an eyebrow razor.
  • Cuticle scissors

IMG_0479   IMG_0481     Cuticle scissors have a curved tip so you can avoid accidentally stabbing and piercing your skin.  I happened to have one in a manicure set, but I never used it for it’s intended purpose.  You can get facial hair scissors if you don’t have cuticle scissors handy.

Step 1: Mark points for the start, arch and end of your brows with the tape as your guide from your nose.  Follow the corner of your nose, the inside corner of your eye, and draw a line with the pencil.  For the arch, trace the tape from the corner of your nose, to the outside of your pupil.  Your eyebrows should end from the corner of your nose, to the outside corner of your eye.  This may already be the case naturally.







Step 2:  Connect the marks to create a stencil that is natural for YOUR face. IMG_0464IMG_0465 IMG_0467IMG_0466










What you’re left with is this sexy looking template that will guide you through the hair removing process.  Don’t worry, you’ll only look like Frieda Kahlo temporarily.  I would advise doing this in private at first.  I use a Q-tip to clean up any smudges.


They do make eyebrow stencils, but they’re more for applying powder.  I don’t see how applying a different glamorous or classy stencil depending on your mood would look good. If you have hair growing beyond the stencil, and what you have drawn in, wouldn’t that make you look like a clown?  We all have different shaped noses, eyes and faces.  By following Katie’s instructions, you will create eyebrows that suit YOUR stencil for YOUR face.

Step 3: Always trim before you pluck!  Take it from me, a real mother-plucker, if I could give my younger self some advise, it would be to put the tweezers down and watch Katie’s video!  With the eyelash comb, I push what’s left of my sparse eyebrows DOWN.  The hairs that fall below my stencil line, I trim to the line.



Step 4: Now you can pluck outside of the lines.  I usually tweeze the rogue hairs above my eyelids, and in between my brows.  The baby hairs on the top of my brow I use the razor, and in between the brows for good measure.



Step 5: Wash off your stencil and comb your hairs to the sides.  Marvel at your handy work.  If you have some pesky hairs that won’t stay put due to their new trim, try an eyebrow gel, or clear mascara.  I picked up Sonia Kashuk’s Brow Gel from Target when I was in the U.S. because it wasn’t expensive, and I also happened to have a coupon so it was a deal I couldn’t pass up.  When Target comes to Canada I have a feeling we won’t benefit from these coupons.  Sonia Kashuk‘s line of cosmetics and brushes are exclusive to Target, so I hope her stuff, along with E.L.F. products are part of the northern migration deal.


Now, if you have been tweezer happy like, me and have sparse eyebrows you definitely need to fill them in.  In the hot sweaty and humid days I use Anastasia’s brow pen in Universal Light for blonde to light brown hair.  You’d think I would go for the Universal Dark for dark brown to black hair, BUT because my eyebrows are so thin and sparse I would have to go lighter to avoid looking like a freaky Frieda.  (Frieda was an artist so it was OK for her to have bold features.)  Sephora has testers giving you the luxury of trying before buying.

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In the drier months I use Anastasia’s brow powder duo in Ebony.  Knowing what I know now, you may as well save a few bucks and use a matte eye shadow that’s a few shades lighter than your natural hair colour.  What I paid for was the pretty, compact.  The mirror is barely big enough for your full eye.  This duo does allow me to customize the shade I need as my tan starts to fade from fall to winter.  I apply this powder after I moisturize my face so that the powder has a base to stick to.  I use the lighter shade at the beginning of my brow, and use the darker one to define the thinner line.  (Picture coming soon …)

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I have had this powder duo for about 2 years now and I have just begun to put a dent in it.  I do spritz it with some Beauty So Clean (cosmetic mist) to keep it clean-“er”.

The reason why I don’t have your typical plastic eyelash comb/eyebrow brush combo is because I ALWAYS manage to break the stupid tines off the eyelash comb.  It looks as dumb as someone who’s missing front teeth.  It looks so out of place with my other pretty brushes – I hate it.  When I found the folding, Tweezerman one with metal tines at Sally’s I HAD to have it.  I always had to keep the brush though cause I found that the stiff bristles helped to smudge and blend the powder in.  On a U.S. trip to the Premium Oulet Mall, I stopped into the Cosmetics Company Store.  It’s a store that I had passed by so many times because I never wore makeup.  I didn’t know how.  This time I went in with a purpose … for the perfect eyebrow brush.  The brow brush that I got from Sephora eyebrow brush was alright for applying the powder, but the bristles were too soft for my liking.  The cashier at the CCS asked me if I was looking for anything in particular.  She recommended Estée Lauder’s 12E Brow brush.


She said she’s had it for a while, and the brushes are so stiff, it’ll last forever.  In my head I’m thinking, “Sure, tell me something I haven’t heard.  I’ll be the judge.”  I can’t remember exactly what I paid for it, but it was definitely under $20.  When she brought me towards the Estée Lauder section I thought she was gonna take me for a ride.  That was over a year ago and I admit that it IS my perfect brush and I have no intention of ever replacing.  It has firm bristles like an eyebrow brush so it does double duty as a power applicator, as well as combs the hair as I go.

Update:  I have tried brushing on some Castor Oil on my brows to try and increase hair production.  Crazy as it sounds, it actually works.  My brows have been filling in nicely, but I’m starting to look like Frieda so I’ll have to take some pics as evidence before I take my own grooming advice.

Note:  I am NOT being sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this entire blog.  The products listed on this page were paid for by myself personally.  It is why I am a valued Sally’s Beauty Club and Sephora VIB member.

Washing my mouth out

Growing up, my mom always threatened to wash my mouth out with soap.  I personally don’t think I was ever a bad kid but I’m a little biased.  Being young and curious, I didn’t understand what the fuss was in this empty threat.  After watching the importance of brushing your teeth on Sesame street, I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I went to the bathroom, rubbed my toothbrush on a bar of Ivory soap … yes, I washed my own mouth out with soap.  I taught myself a valuable lesson.  If you’re gonna wash your mouth out, it should be with something refreshing.

Fast forward 30 years … I have been using Listerine Zero and pretty content with it.  I was running out and wanted to pick up another vat from Costco.  Costco being Costco, stopped stocking items I like.  I checked out natural alternatives.  Tom’s of Maine makes good products but their mouthwash is $10 for a little bottle!  What the hell Tom?

I looked up mouthwash in my Reader’s Digest Homemade book for a recipe.  I wasn’t completely sold on what was in there.  Why would I use peroxide in my mouth?  Is it safe if some of it went down my throat?  Why would I use vodka for an antiseptic mouthwash?  What a waste of vodka or some other good alcohol!

There are a wide range of online recipes.  I decided to mix a combo of RD Homemade and online:

  • 1 cup/250mL of Distilled waterIMG_0149
  • 4 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin
  • 5 drops of tea tree oil
  • 5 drops of peppermint oil

I poured all these ingredients that I already have on hand into an empty Listerine bottle.  It’s a 250mL bottle that fits perfectly in my medicine cabinet so why not reuse?  Put the cap on and shake it up.


Voila!  What I call Zero Listerine!  Again, it’s super salty on the taste buds but who cares?  You’re not swallowing it.  Take it from me, it’s a hell of a lot better than Ivory!  When you swish it around and spit it out, it leaves your mouth feeling quite refreshed.  Depending on where you find your ingredients, this won’t even cost you $0.50!  I can certainly get use to salty swishing for that price.


4L Distilled Water$1.25$0.08
Baking Soda$1.00$0.04
Vegatable Glycerin$10.99$0.12
Tea Tree Oil$8.24$0.05
Peppermint Oil$8.00$0.05

Teeth Aren’t Cheap

No one enjoys going to the dentist.  Yet no one seems to enjoy flossing, brushing  properly, and basically taking good care of them.  For years I was convinced that every checkup would reveal yet another cavity.  Some dental assistants/hygienists would tell me that I had weak enamel.  I was determined to clean up my act – and my teeth of course.  I wanted the satisfaction of having the hygienist say, “Fantastic, I don’t need to scrape today.”

I started flossing more frequently.  Especially after having a steak/meat that would definitely find it’s way in between my teeth.  I also tried using Listerine more, but it felt like tossing acid in my mouth.  It’s clinically proven to be the best antiseptic for your mouth so I reluctantly complied.

I have a book called Reader’s Digest Homemade.  The selling point was that it had recipes for making HUNDREDS of products you use everyday!  That sounds like a money saver to me.  I also wanted to phase out commercial chemicals that are in products we use everyday.  Not just for cleaning, but for our “health”.  I had discovered the Environmental Working Group Cosmetic Database and was shocked to learn a lot of the skin care products I was using may be causing my allergy sensitivities.  I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, save money, save my health.

The first recipe that I tried was making my own toothpaste.  It seemed pretty easy.  All you need is:

  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin
  • 6 drops of tea tree oil
  • 6 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • 4 drops of peppermint oil
  • 7 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


All these ingredients can be found in natural food stores.  After many trials and tribulations I found that trying to get it in a squeezable bottle wasn’t worth the effort.  The ones from the dollar store are practically disposable.  The glycerin and baking soda tends to separate making it challenging to “squeeze”.  So I found a small glass Lock & Lock container, that fits perfectly in my medicine cabinet.  I think it’s the 130mL, but it doesn’t say.

Glycerin, is very viscous.  I tend to mix all the liquids, glycerin, and oils together first.  I add in the salt and stir that in.








Once that has been stirred in, I start adding the baking soda.  I started off with 7 tablespoons, but now I don’t even bother to measure.  I basically keep adding baking soda till I get a nice thick consistency that I prefer.  If you find that it’s too thick for you, you can add some warm water to make it a little thinner.


There you have it!  Home made toothpaste!  It takes a bit of getting use to.  I found it super salty, but it’s not like you have to swallow it.  Adding some more peppermint may help.  The glycerin will always end up separating to the top, and the baking soda on the bottom.  I recommend using these cosmetic spatulas for stirring, and applying on your toothbrush.  It will help avoid contaminating your toothpaste full of bacteria by dipping your toothbrush in twice a day.

I have been doing this for a couple of years now.  Along with flossing every night, brushing with this toothpaste and using Listerine Zero twice a day I haven’t had a cavity since!  My hygienist said she wishes all her clients were like me because she hardly has to scrape any plaque off.  I said, “But you’re still scraping!”  She said that she has to go along, scrape a little in order to check each tooth.  She said the little she does scrape, hardly anything comes off which means I’m a good brusher.  I also found that my teeth are less sensitive from sugar, and chewing hot/cold foods.  My lips are also no longer chapped.  I could never live a day without having a stick of lip balm in my pocket.  I carry a different stick in my car, purse, and my desk at work because they were practically necrotic.  I’m convinced that the plaque fighting, teeth whitening chemicals listed on EWG for toothpaste is directly responsible for the dry skin all these years.  I also like the convenience of being able to refill my own tooth paste whenever without having to panic and run to a store.

If I do have to travel anywhere, I do find it more convenient to use Arm & Hammer or Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.  Green Beaver makes an all natural toothpaste as well, but it feels very chalky, but that just maybe me.  They can be quite expensive.  On average, you’d be looking to pay around $5 for natural toothpaste.

Here is a breakdown of how much it costs to make your own:  

Baking Soda$1$0.21
Sea Salt$7.99$0.05
Eucalyptus Oil$8.99$0.09
Tea Tree Oil$8.00$0.08
Vegetable Glycerin$10.99$1.39

Depending on where you buy your ingredients, it can be made cheaper.