Product Reviews

Best and worst fitness products? Here you go.

Are Rodan + Fields skin care products natural? Here is my experience.

One of the questions I get asked most often about Rodan + Fields products is “Are they natural?”.

Truth be told, it’s a bit of a tricky one to answer. And while I sometimes feel like a bit of a sell-out in admitting it’s not 100% natural, let me explain, and maybe you’ll be able to relate…

 

Through years of skin dramas (I’m talking since the age of 12), I was on the natural train… this was handed down from my mom, who got it from her mom, etc. Tea tree oil was a top contender, as were various creams, scrubs, lotions and potions from the health food store.

Going natural seemed like a smart and logical decision. The products smelled nice, felt great, and were safe to use.

The issue? They didn’t work.

Month after month, and year after year, my acne was just as bad, and as I got into my twenties and beyond, fine lines started appearing on my forehead and around my mouth. Rather cruel that I couldn’t have at least a few “good years” in between being a pimply pre-teen and a wrinkly old lady.

The search for the perfect (and effective) skin care products continued, and I eventually got wind of Rodan + Fields, seeing their dramatic before & after photos. I was curious.

But I also wanted to keep things natural and not spread loads of chemicals on my body. Looking at the ingredients list, I could see that they certainly weren’t “all natural” like lots of other “green products” out there, but I had the inkling to keep digging.

 

In a nutshell, here’s what I found:

The products are developed by dermatologists, are clinically tested to be safe, and are super effective at doing what they say they will do. For example, if they say they’ll diminish your sun spots, and fine lines and wrinkles, or get rid of your acne, etc… that’s what they’ll actually do (as long as you are diligent and consistent with use (twice a day)).

While using natural products is a good idea in general, there are many “natural” products out there that aren’t actually safe for you at all. Think rubbing poison ivy on your skin, using cocaine, or drinking goat urine. 😉

Also, many beauty products that are labeled as “natural” actually aren’t. There isn’t very tight regulation on claims that companies make on being natural, so any company can say their products are “natural,” and pretty much be lying.

Or worse, some companies put natural ingredients into their products that haven’t been tested, and could therefore actually be harmful to you.

That being said, some of the Rodan + Fields products do contain natural ingredients, such as macadamia seed oil, shea butter, lemon peel extract, olive fruit oil, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, yucca glauca root extract, and chamomilla flower extract.

 

This is me, before and after using Rodan + Fields’ Unblemish regimen.

All this being said, I gave the Rodan + Fields Unblemish regimen a whirl, and was amazed by the results. Within a few weeks I started to see my acne go away (and stay away), and over the next several months my skin kept improving. I’m still using it now, since being “acne-prone” is often a life-long condition, which needs to be maintained.

I’m also so won over that I’ve started selling it; I LOVE seeing my clients’ skin transformed, and getting happy messages from them. Brings a smile to my face every time.

As for my initial concerns about it being natural?

Well, I’m willing to compromise a small part of my body (my face) for not-all-natural products in order to achieve an acne-free face and get my confidence back.

 

And in other parts of my life…

Do I still use shea butter and aloe on the rest of my body?  Yes.

Do I use aluminum-free, non-anti-perspirant deodorant?  Absolutely.

Make my own pumpkin-spice drinks and treats instead of buying store-bought ones that have likely never been near a real pumpkin?  Yup.

Chemical-free laundry detergent?  You bet.

Have I tossed my microwave?  No. Way too convenient.

Do I eat organic foods? Mmm-hmmm.  Whenever possible and affordable.

You get the picture… within reason, my life is as healthy and harm-free as reasonably possible, but when it comes to facial skin care products, I’m sticking with the most effective option.

 

 

 

Lululemon Haul & Product Review

It’s a good day when the Hubs releases you from all wifely & motherly duties for an entire day of shopping in the city.

Actually, this was my request for my birthday present.  Or Mother’s Day present.  Not quite sure, since the two events are mere days apart.

Anyways, suffice it to say that I set out with a generous collection of birthday cash from my parents, in-laws, and Oma, and was stoked to go as fast or slow as wanted for the day, and try on as many things as possible.  After all, this isn’t gonna happen again anytime soon, so go big or go home, right?  Or both.

After cruising up 4th Ave (in Vancouver), I wound up at my fav Lululemon store.  After trying on half the store, here’s what I decided on, and a few thoughts on each item:

Align Pant II in black: since I’ve had my one pair of black Wunder Unders for 7 years (yes, SEVEN years), and have worn them almost every day and through two pregnancies, they are getting a tad worn, so it was time for an update.

I would never have gone for the high-waisted Align Pants online, but trying them on in person was a different story. They are buttery-soft, not too thick or thin, and 7/8 length makes for a great experience.  I find that even with regular-length Lulu pants, I still have to get them hemmed as they’re a tiny bit too long.  Although hemming is a free Lulu service, pick-up is tricky as I don’t live anywhere near a Lulu store.

Extra bonus: the high waist pulls in my little bit of leftover mummy tummy.  Gotta love that feature.

Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve Crew in dark forest green:  this was a no-brainer since I already have a few of these in other colours. This season seems to be more block colours, and less heathered shades, like last year.
Fits just right, and is great for a bottom layer, or over a tank.  (The tank pictured below the Swiftly (above) is one that I already owned: the Cool Racerback in “boom juice” from last year, which I love).

Love Tank in dark forest green:  similar to the Cool Racerback both in length and feel.  Three difference are that it’s much looser, made of pima cotton (not Luon), and the racerback part on the back is wider on the Love Tank.  Love it.

And saving the very best for last…

More Than Modal hoodie in black:  this was SO not on my shopping horizon, and I actually didn’t even find this on the floor, but I asked the guest educator to bring me all the nice sweaters she could find (during my 1-hour fitting room time… I’m not even joking), and this was one of the ones she brought me.

I also don’t usually do black on top, but I sort of fell in love at first touch.  It is SO soft.  It’s also nice and lightweight, especially in relation to my much heavier Lulu Scuba Hoodie, which is perfect for winter, but not as much for spring.

Sorry to say, but the More Than Modal is sold out both online and in all stores in Canada.  Here’s hoping there are more in the works.

Thanks again, Lululemon, for a great in-store experience.

Pregnancy Books Not to be Missed

A few people have been asking me what books I’ve been reading to prepare for the baby (which is due in 12 days, by the way- ahhhhhh), and in looking back, I guess it’s been quite a few.  In case it’s helpful to you, here they are:

 

Up The Duff book
Up the Duff: the real guide to pregnancy by Kaz Cooke

This one is just for a bit of a laugh and was lent to me by my neighbor, TJ… it follows a woman’s diary who kinda does it a bit messed up… drinks a little on the side, gains 100 pounds, lazes around, etc.  I think it definitely makes the average woman feel a lot better about herself, plus giving some good tips in a Week 1-42 format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save Our Sleep book
Save Our Sleep: Helping Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night from Birth to Two Years

by Tizzie Hall

This book was recommended to me by our friend Drew, whose wife Jodie just had their first baby.  Drew said that they followed the sleep/feeding schedule in this book to the letter, which had their baby sleeping through the night by 3 weeks old, so of course he totally recommended it.

Turns out it’s pretty popular since I had to wait on the library reserve list for it for ages.  After reading it, I decided this is one of those books you just HAVE to actually own if you’re gonna follow it, since it’s got a bunch of by-the-minute schedules in it for the baby.  Wouldn’t want to be stuck without it.

I ended up buying it online at bookdespository.com which ships for free all over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

What to Expect When You're Expecting book cover What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 4th Edition by Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel

Honestly, I haven’t read this one too thoroughly yet, mainly because it seems like more of a reference book that you looks up things topic-by-topic in, rather than something you’d read cover to cover like a novel.

Lots of great info, though.  Definitely a keeper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (Sears Parenting Library)

by Dr. Sears (I forgot to take a pic of this one before returning it to the library, so click on the above link if you want to see what it looks like)

I’ve already covered this book pretty extensively in my post about baby vaccinations, so go there to check it out if you’re curious and wondering.  Basically this book goes through all the various baby vaccinations and explains what’s in them and what the risks and advantages are.  Super important info to have in order to make informed choices on vaccines.

Reading these kinds of books can be super boring, especially compared to shopping for cute baby stuff which is waaaaay more fun.  I thought it would be an important one to read though, so if you’re in the same boat but short on time, definitely check out the post I did, since I summed up the book chapter by chapter- will save you heaps of time.

 

 

The Natural Way to a Better Pregnancy book cover The Natural Way to a Better Pregnancy (Better Babies) by Francesca Naish & Janette Roberts

The naturopath at Flannerys (the health food store I shop at) highly recommended this one, so I went on a chase to find it… wasn’t easy, but finally found a used copy online.

It pretty much tells you how to have a really natural pregnancy, which is good stuff to know, but a lot of it I’d say, is common sense.

Personally, I think it went a bit overboard in some respects… like advising you not to eat too much fruit, getting your partner to stop drinking during your pregnancy (since you can’t and he should be supporting you in this way), etc.

Definitely one of those books to take a few good nuggets from and not worry excessively about the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

Praying Circles Around your Children book coverPraying Circles around Your Children by Mark Batterson

Got this in the mail from my Oma a few months ago, and would certainly recommend it.  Short and sweet, it makes a lot of solid points, and backs them up with examples from Mark’s own life with kids.  Andrew and I have both read it, and I think we’ll do a re-read of it next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active Birth book coverActive Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally (Non) by Janet Balaskas

If this book about giving birth could be summed up in a few words, it would be: keep upright, and keep moving.  That’s pretty much all I took from it, but it also gave a ton of background information and science on why this birthing method is better than lying on your back in a bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth Skills with Sarah Murdoch book coverJuju Sundin’s Birth Skills: Proven Pain-Management Techniques for Your Labour and Birth   by Juju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch

Like the previous book, this one is a huge advocate of birthing in an upright position, and keeping active during labor.

This book is much better though, as it gives you heaps of examples on things to do during labor to take your mind off the pain.  Basically, if you focus on the non-painful parts of your body and direct stimulus to them, it can nearly override the pain stimulus being sent to your brain from your contracting uterus.

Sounds a bit new-agey in a way, but not really, since scientifically it makes a lot of sense.  I took heaps of notes, and will definitely be trying out all of Juju’s little tricks and suggestions during my own labor and delivery sometime in the next couple weeks.  Anything to avoid that epidural (hopefully… although I’m not 100% opposed to it if I’m in crazy amounts of pain… we’ll see).

 

 

Congratulations Sunshine Coast Hospital booklet cover“Congratulations” booklet from the hospital

… a must-read so I know what time the meals will be brought by and how many maxi pads to pack in my hospital bag 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you have it… hope that helps.

 

Adidas Energy Boost Running Shoes product review

Although I love the look of Nikes, I’ve always been an Adidas kind of girl… they just seem to fit my feet better, so I’ve run in pair after pair for the past 12 years or so.  In the past couple years my Adidas styles of choice have been the softer Response shoes, and the Kanadia trail running shoes because they’re so nice and grippy on the bottom, but since I started teaching PE again, I needed another pair to switch things up a little.

Adidas Energy Boost shoes

Off for a run, complete with my Running Room socks from Vancouver

I started shopping with the intention of buying another pair of Adidas Response shoes to take the pressure off being on my feet all day, but the savvy sales rep at Rebel Sport up-sold me to the brand-new Adidas Energy Boost shoes that had just come in a few days ago.

She made all these sales-pitchy claims like that the white part on the bottom is made of little foam-filled balls that push energy back into your knees with every step you take, yada yada yada, so I decided to leave them at the store, go home, and do a little research before parting with my moola.

After looking them up online and listening to the sales videos on the Adidas website plus other un-biased review sites, I still couldn’t decide if they were worth the cash, or if it was just all marketing hype, so I decided to give them a go, especially since the chick at Rebel Sport had told me I could return them after a 28-day trial, even if I’d totally trashed them while trying them out.  Sold.

Well, I didn’t end up returning them after the 28 days because I really did love them.  I’m still not sure about all their marketing claims, but I do notice quite a difference in cushioning between these and my Kanadias.

Plus it’s nice to have options and not wear the same shoes every single day, which is strange for me since usually I’m a bit of a minimalist and like to make do with one of everything in life until it wears out and then I get a new one.  Boring, I know, but that’s how I roll, and what I believe.

The only thing I’ve found “wrong” with them is that they’re not very waterproof, so if you’re running/walking in the rain, they’ll probably soak through on the top part of your foot.  I read this on another review site before buying them, so I made sure to buy some water-repellent spray when I bought them and gave them a good spray straight out of the box.  They’re still not the greatest in the rain, so I just wear my Kanadias on wet days… problem solved.  Too easy.

Hope that helps shed some light on things if you’re considering buying the Adidas Energy Boost shoes.

 

 

Bamix Blender product review

Does the thought of cleaning a million blender parts put you off using your enormous blender to whip up a healthy smoothie?  It shouldn’t, but it does.

Yup, that’s definitely been me in the past, but luckily that big old blender had a factory defect that made it smell like burned rubber, so I returned it and bought something better.

Next stop was a knock-off magic bullet blender for $30 which lasted a little while and then started spewing bits of black plastic out of the bottom every time I used it.  Game over on that one.  No good.

For the next blender I did some serious research and asking around for advice.  Everyone seemed to tell me the same thing: get a Bamix– they’re amazing and literally last forever.  Sounded perfect until I checked the not-so-perfect price tag on this puppy: $180 (and if you live in Australia like me, you can add another $40 to that since everything has to be imported here which makes it more expensive).

But after realizing that I could spend the $220 once in my lifetime for an fabulous blender OR keep shelling out $75 every couple years for a crappy blender, it was kinda a no-brainer.  The only tricky thing was convincing my husband, Andrew that this was a smart purchase decision.  😉

bamix deluxe blender

Here it sits, on our counter, ready for action

With that obstacle cleared, I bought the Bamix DeLuxe, and it’s truly been amazing, living up to its folklore of awesomeness.

Using it, it feels like you’re holding a giant upside-down electric toothbrush with a super powerful motor.  It doesn’t smell like burned rubber or conk out on you in the middle of blending something… always a bonus.

You can blend up a smoothie within 1-2 minutes, and the BEST part is the clean-up afterwards.  With my old blenders I dreaded taking apart all the blades, plastic rings, and little parts, washing them, and then putting the whole contraption back together again.

With the Bamix, all you do is run it submerged in a container of warm water for ten seconds, and then hang it back up in the stand for next time.  Too easy.  (The only time it was harder to clean was when I was blending peanut butter for a satay sauce, which stuck to the metal parts and needed a bit of scrubbing afterward.  No biggie, though.)

The other great thing about it is that comes with three different blades.  The one I use 95% of the time is for making smoothies and blending stuff.  But then there are the other two: one for beating things like egg whites and whipped cream, etc.

The other is for whisking things like salad dressing, mayonnaise, etc.  It also comes with a little plastic dish with a flat blade inside that you can use for things like grinding up bread crumbs.  Overall, this blender is so incredibly versatile and useful. You can even stick it straight into a pot of soup to blenderize it… no need to pour the boiling liquid into a blender and risk spilling it and burning yourself (I know I would).

The best advice in the little instruction book that comes with it is to store it on your counter… the more you see it and the easier it is to access, the more you’ll end up using it.  I’ve definitely found this to be true.  Pulling some gadget out of the dark recesses of your kitchen cupboard just isn’t as appealing or easy.

Here are some of the recipes I’ve made with my Bamix… and all of them are so healthy and delicious, which totally keeps you on track with your fitness goals:

bamix smoothie

Half-way through the blending the Motion Potion Smoothie

 

 

 

 

This Is Why You’re Fat book review

This is Why You're Fat

The book’s cover

“This is Why You’re Fat” is a pretty offensive book title… which is probably what prompted me to pick it up off the bookstore’s shelf in the first place.  Intrigued after flipping through a few pages, I bought it.

That was in Vancouver in January 2011, right before flying home to Australia where there was one of the worst floods in history, causing us to be flooded in for a week without electricity or internet.  Suddenly I found myself with a heap of extra time on my hands to read the book cover to cover and take notes.

The author, Jackie Warner, is the grand-daughter of Jack Warner, one of the original Warner brothers who made movies.  Take a look at the picture and guess how old she is.  28?  30?  34?  Nope… she’s 42.  Incredible, eh?

Anyone who looks like this has my attention, and can probably give some pretty good fitness and nutrition advice… which is exactly what the book was about.  Overall, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book.

It covers hormones that make you fat and thin, what sugar does to your body (scary stuff), things that destroy your organs, foods to add to your daily intake, what to eat and how much of it, plus a bunch of workouts and recipes and meal plans.

It made such an impact that I right away started keeping a food journal/chart to check that I was getting the right amount of carbs, fats, and proteins.  I only did it for 2 weeks, but this was the kick in the pants I needed to make sure I was on the right track.  Here’s what my chart looked like:

 

food journal chart

Columns for proteins, carbs (different kinds), and fats

 

Again, if you’re at all interested in sticking to a clean and healthy diet, exercising, or looking remotely like Jackie Warner, I highly recommend you get a copy of this book ASAP. Also, I promise you it’ll be a great conversation-starter with everyone who comes over and sees this book on your bookshelf… (I speak from experience) 😉

 

Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones Review

Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth HeadphonesI bought these Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones for when I’m working out at home since I love listening to podcasts, but sadly my husband Andrew doesn’t share this love when he’s busy studying for his masters over in the next room.  We live in a small apartment, so there’s really no place to “get away” for either of us if we want quiet.

So as not to disturb him, I decided that some bluetooth headphones would be the best way to go.  After doing heaps of research, trying on various options at the store, and asking around for suggestions, my friend Ash recommended these Jaybird bluetooth headphones.  So I bought them off Amazon.  Here’s what I think:

 

Pros:

-great sound quality, and the volume is easy to adjust

-you can take calls on them if they’re hooked up to your phone (well, most phones apparently)

-lightweight, sweatproof, and don’t look too dorky like those honkin’ air-traffic-controller-sized headphones

-the cord going connecting the left and right headphones goes behind your neck, so never gets in your way if you’re lifting weights, doing burpees, etc

-they come with 3 sizes of ear attachments for different sized ears (which means if you have 2 differently sized ears, you’re in luck 😉  )

-comfortable to wear- they don’t rub or chaff

 

trying on the Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones

Here’s how they insert into your ear.

Cons:

-the absolute biggest, deal-breaking con for me is that they don’t stay in my ears properly, despite trying every single attachment, and combination of them.  It’s really annoying to have to pause your workout over and over to fiddle around with putting your headphones back in your ear.

-they took ages to arrive, which is probably more Amazon’s fault than Jaybird’s.  After buying them, they didn’t even ship from Amazon for another 9 weeks.  Then by the time they shipped them over to Australia, the return-by date was almost up, which means that I didn’t have enough time to properly try them out and return them once I realized that they don’t stay in my ears.

-they cost about $80, plus $20 shipping.  I don’t mind doling out cash for good quality products, and these do seem to be good quality, but the ear thing can’t be overlooked

-although they charge easily by USB, the charging cable is a bit fiddly to insert and looks exactly like the cable connecting the left and right headphones, so things can get a bit tangled and confusing.  No big deal-breaker, but probably something for Jaybird to improve on in the next model.

 

Would I buy them again or recommend them to you?  No way.  Although they work great for some people (see the reviews on Amazon), don’t waste your money on taking the chance that these might not stay put in your ears, unless you think you can return them quickly and get your money back if they don’t fit.

 

For a more detailed demo, watch this YouTube video that I’ve filmed for you:

ps- watch out for the freaky noise at 3:20… I was getting a text from my friend Bec

 

Super Nudie Breakfast Juice Review

Super Nudie Breakfast Juice

contains apple, banana, chia seeds, and cinnamon

I picked up this Super Nudie Breakfast Juice at the grocery store on my last trip… it wasn’t on my list, but when I first spied it, I thought it’d be good to sip on before early morning bootcamps this week.  Here’s a quick review:

Pros:

-It’s unprocessed, whole, and natural… the only ingredients are pressed apples, mashed bananas, chia seeds, and cinnamon, with no additives, preservatives, colourings, flavourings, or added sugar… exactly what we’re after in clean eating

-It tastes great

-It’s way quicker than making a smoothie, especially if you’re out the door early in the morning and don’t want to wake your tribe with an uber-noisy blender

 

Cons:

-it was expensive… $5 for 750 mL

-the chia seeds make up only 3% of it… I’d like to see more chia seeds in there as they are a fab source of protein, fibre, and omega 3.  However, chia seeds are also very expensive, which makes me think that maybe the Nudie people saved some moola by putting only a very few in there, but were still able to say on the packing that it contains chia seeds.  Sneaky sneaky.

-it has the appearance and consistency of vomit.  Hard to ignore as you’re chugging it down.

 

Would I buy it again?  Nope.  The vomit thing is what pulls me in the no direction.  However, I’d be willing to see if this company makes any other flavors of smoothies and give them a go.