Sunday, December 18, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Staying well and merry!

Hello ladies,

I spent part of this past week fending off a cold. Thankfully my regimen of oscillococcinum (homeopathic), echinacea (herbal capsules) and Vitamin C (EmergenC brand powder), clementines and many pots of loose leaf, black tea kept sickness from progressing. I felt tired for a few days, but didn't have to endure any other cold symptoms. Since I am vigilant about employing natural therapies at the first sign of illness, it's rare for me to fully succumb to cold or flu. On average, I get sick once or twice a year.

By rearranging the order of the program, I was able to complete all six P90X workout DVDs. I did the yoga routine midweek when I had the least energy. As long as I'm not on bed rest, I think gathering the energy to stretch is possible.

The sunflower stands tall. 

One of the benefits of doing a program that is more weight and resistance training than cardio is the body tones as it slims. While I didn't lose weight this week, I look like I did! I have visible biceps after two weeks of starting P90X and my waist is trimmer. I am happy to be building muscle, gaining strength and for my clothes to fit a little looser.

Behaviors that helped this week:
  • Listening to my body. I took care of myself the second I was starting to feel run down and managed to stave off illness. 
  • Accomplishing what I could. While it would have been easier to skip a day or two, choosing a lighter routine when my body was tired helped me to stay focused and in turn served to energize me.
  •  Grabbing a chair! My friend David changed the seating in his cafe and I was able to claim a simple, sturdy chair for tricep dips and raised leg lunges. 
  • Reading fitness magazines regularly. My favorites include Health, Women's Health, Fitness and Shape. Self Magazine is good for a fashion/fitness combo. Having these on hand is useful for tips and ideas. A stack of fitness magazines can serve as visual reminder of health and exercise goals. 
Goals for next week:
  • Keep portions under control. There's nothing wrong with having a treat during the holiday, but I intend to keep my focus during the week and not indulge leading up to the weekend. 
  • Sticking to my workout routine. I am already scheduling exercise around work and holiday related errands. 
How was your past week? Do you have a game plan for healthy eating and fitness over the holiday? 

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult your doctor before making changes to your health regimen. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Health and Whimsy: The Good, the Bad and the Humbling

Hello ladies,

Beginning this past week with my usual four mile (6.4K) walk, I shifted my routine to utilizing my P90X DVDs due to persistent rain on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was anticipating using P90X as a supplement to my walking regimen; I found the program motivating enough to work through a one hour routine each day over five days.

Because the program rotates through a diverse range of exercises, I was able to easily identify strengths and areas for improvement. I was very pleased with my endurance, especially the cardio segments. I discovered I absolutely love plyometrics (jump training). There were jumping intervals during several of the core conditioning and weight training routines. The workouts do not require a jump rope, for which I am thankful. It would be difficult to battle Mermaid for rights to its use.

My biggest struggle throughout the various programs was completing the push ups. There were many sets and complex variations. At times, I simply fought to hold a plank position with good form and that was the best I could do. I also did some of the push ups on my knees when necessary.

The majority of P90X is boot camp style with added yoga and martial arts training.  The yoga portion was like coming home for me and also humbling. I was able to maintain my equilibrium through the majority of the balance postures, which is challenging even for those who practice regularly. My flexibility has really waned. In forward bends, I once was able to stand on my own hands; I am now using a yoga strap to get a little extra reach.

Mermaid appreciates the benefits of new sneakers. 

Always best to try them on for size. 

These laces seem to measure up. 

The Nike trainers have passed Mermaid's strict quality assurance tests. 

While I didn't lose any weight this week, I feel confident I gained muscle. The size large pants I bought a month ago slid down while I practiced yoga vinyasas. I had to pause the DVD and put on the medium pair I had waiting in my closet. A few of my large tee shirts also became too roomy for proper wear. I'm really impressed with the early results of strength training and I'm looking forward to continuing.

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Maintaining a sense of humor. I was talking with a client about some of her career options and I involuntarily groaned, alarming her. I had to explain I was trying a new workout and it wasn't her career that pained me, it was my abs. 
  • Tenacity. The first few days I was experimenting with new routines, my muscles were aching, which is to be expected. I continued waking up, having breakfast and putting the DVD in the player. A new routine is bound to be challenging at first. The only way to make it easier is through practice. 
  • Acceptance. What I could do with ease a few years ago is not the same as what I can do today. Since I already understand the movements, I should be able to regain strength and flexibility with greater confidence than before. 

Goals for next week:
  • Donate or give away some of my clothes that no longer fit. Since I was able to maintain a lower weight for years, there seems no sense in holding on to things someone else can use and enjoy. 
  • Get some rest! I am continually booking activities into my schedule. Some of this comes as a result of living in a city. There are always friends nearby and something to do. 
  • Pick up a day planner. I think I need the old fashioned paper variety. I want to get a handle on fitting more blogging back into my week because I really do enjoy it! 

How has everyone been doing this week? Are you considering your New Year's Resolutions? 

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your health program. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Breezy days

Hello ladies,

The past week seems to have swept by like an unexpected breeze. I did continue with my walking program, four miles (6.4K) a day, six days this week. I achieved my fastest time to date. On Friday, I walked four miles in one hour and four minutes, 16 minutes per mile. I'm closing in on my goal of walking a 15 minute mile.

Continuing to build upon my home fitness accessories, I discovered a beautiful yoga mat at Whole Foods. The Tree of Life yoga mat from Gaiam has a tonal leaf pattern spreading from curving branches. I find the sage green hue relaxing. I'm excited to try it out this week.

My much anticipated replacement DVD player arrived midweek along with my ill timed monthly cycle. I decided to postpone adding core training until Monday. Unfortunately, the end of this week didn't seem an auspicious time for abdominal exercises. The DVD player kept me entertained with Lord of the Rings. The movies felt like a suitable backdrop as I explored the nether reaches of closets in search of weights and resistance bands.

Hydrangeas, a Spring memory.

I lost two pounds this week, bringing the total to 21 pounds since September 1st. I'm at a comfortable size, between a 10 and a 12. I lost the weight I gained over the past year relatively quickly. It was definitely a stressful year with my sister's illness, a major romantic breakup and financial issues. I am thankful my sister's health has improved dramatically. I am also grateful I have made the time to focus on my own wellness. 

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Attending to the needs of my body while overriding my impatience and desire to stick to a plan. The mind/body issue can be tricky, especially since I have done similar workouts to the ones I have waiting by my DVD player. What looks familiar to my eyes is still going to feel new to my muscles. 
  • Cooking root vegetables and squash. I enjoy eating the fresh foods of the season. I prepared stir fries including beets, sweet potatoes and pumpkin this week. US ladies, check your grocery aisle for freshly cubed pumpkin. It's easy to prepare in a steamer basket and a nice alternative to zucchini. 
  • Trying new healthy foods. I picked up Lentil Sage Field Roast vegan deli slices at Whole Foods and tried Favorit Mango Peach Jam with my 0% Greek yogurt. 

Goals for next week: 

  • Get started with P90X DVDs. My plan is to complete one yoga session and two strength training workouts along with my walking routine. Even though I would love to do the cardio portions of the program as they are outlined, walking is essential for circulation and healing of my nerve damage. 
  • Record the number of reps I am able to do along with the weights I choose for each strength training exercise. It's useful to be able to chart progress as well as to remember which weights were the most appropriate for me at this time. 
How has your week progressed? I'm working on some future Health & Whimsy posts including topics about favorite snacks, body image and self esteem. You will also be seeing some new nail art this week before Sunday. 

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult a doctor before making changes to your health care regimen. 

Happy painting, ladies! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Continuing Success

Hello ladies,

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had an enjoyable holiday. The Schuylkill River path was well travelled Thursday through Saturday. It was inspiring how many Philadelphia residents and tourists were making use of the city's green spaces.

Below is my favorite sculpture in the North Terrace of the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Garden. The exercise path travels through the garden.

Poet: He Shaped Our Dreams

This week, I am down two more pounds, which brings the total to 19 pounds lost since September 1st.  My silhouette looks leaner even than a week ago. On Friday, a man in his late 60s jogged by me and saluted. Such moments are nice, especially from people who have been focused on fitness for a long time.

I decided to purchase P90X for working out at home. The main reason I chose the set was the affordability. With tax, I paid $75, which amounts to $6.25 per DVD. Even if I only enjoy half the DVDs, it still is a good value.

My goals with P90X are to have the opportunity to gain strength and practice exercises I will later be doing in group classes at the gym. I am not swayed by the dramatic before and after pictures or expecting similar results in a short time. A person working out in a test group with trainers and nutritionists monitoring their progress will likely have different results than a person working out at home without the same support. This isn't to say I don't expect to use and benefit from the DVDs. I am just realistic that I won't be ready to appear on the cover of Fitness by March 1st. Thankfully, that's not my goal!

I chose the 12 DVD box set without the nutrition books. Preferring a vegetarian, whole foods approach to diet, I have no interest in their supplements and meal plans. While I'm sure it would be useful to some people, the philosophy is different from what has worked for me in the past. I wish the fitness guide would have been packaged with the DVDs. With a little research, I was able to quickly locate the information for workout schedules, printer friendly worksheets and a breakdown of equipment required for each DVD.

If you are interested in working out with DVDs at home, I recommend perusing The site provides short clips of each DVD for sale, allowing you to preview the workout before buying.  I advise choosing the video by your current skill level (beginner/intermediate/advanced) along with the personality of the instructor.

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Focusing on fresh produce. On Wednesday, I shopped for fruits and veggies at the Korean grocery store so there would be no room in my fridge for any foods not befitting of my goals. 
  • Moving my snack time to within 15-20 minutes before and after my workout. While I didn't consume any additional calories with the change, my body seemed to burn fuel more efficiently. I wasn't hungry for a snack later. 
  • Purchasing a new sports bra. Check out the underwire styles from Champion. These provide much more support than the compression tanks with the elastic band. 
  • Packing a snack for my trip to the mall. Even though I was meeting a friend for lunch first, I stashed a peanut butter granola bar in my purse. I did end up needing it and saved myself the trouble and expense of trying to procure a healthy snack in the Food Court. 
  • Accomplishing what I can. Since I had to order a new DVD player, adding to my program this week wasn't practical. I was still able to walk 5 times, 4 miles (6.4K) on each occasion.  I found a pair of cross training sneakers at the Nike Outlet and tee shirts at Old Navy for 75% off. 
Goals for next week: 
  • Try DVDs from P90X. My new DVD player is due to arrive Tuesday night. I was able to preview several of the DVDs at my friend's house while cat sitting this week. Yoga X looks like a carbon copy of gym classes I have taken in the past. Core Synergistics has unique body rolling moves mixed with classic exercises like jumping jacks and lunges. While both these videos appear challenging, I feel confident I can attempt the modified versions of the exercises. The Chest and Back program looks beyond my skill level at this time, but I can revisit it when I get stronger. If you decide to add a workout DVD to your regimen, I advise taking the time to watch the program first. Having a general familiarity with the routine will help you be ready with whatever equipment you need and will maximize your time when exercising. It can make the transitions from one move to the next more flowing. 
  • Organize my exercise equipment. This has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I am arriving at the point where if I want to workout at home, I need to get set up. 
  • Get an idea of how I want to restructure my routine. While I don't expect to have my regimen set in a single week, paying attention to how my body is feeling will certainly give my clues to when I need to add or subtract activity. 

Do any of you like to keep fit using DVDs at home? Do you have any favorite titles or instructors? For those in the US, how was your holiday?

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult a doctor before making any changes to your health care regimen. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Thinking forward

Hello ladies,

I had a quiet week in fitness as my walking companions, Cate and Sophie, are out of town until after the Thanksgiving holiday. The temperature made a brisk shift from tee shirt weather to requiring dri-fit layering under fleece. The grey skies formed a cold mirror over the Schuylkill  River. Although there was a lovely symmetry between the clouds and the water, I am always grateful for the moments the sunlight ventured to join the scenery. 

I thought much about my health and fitness goals for the future as well as shaping my routine towards achieving those goals. While I feel comfortable with the aerobic activity so far, I can see the opportunity for increased core strength. In the Spring, I would like to join a gym and participate in group classes. I find having an instructor present can help me exercise at a challenging pace. 

While some people sign up for a gym membership the moment they decide to begin a new fitness program, I take a different approach. The difficulty of classes and instructors, I would imagine, can vary by location. In Center City, Philadelphia, it's common for professional athletes to regularly take group classes. I met members of the Pennsylvania Ballet in both yoga and boxing. 

I am wholly willing to be challenged, but I prefer being prepared. I also recognize the hazards of having done the exercises before and putting my mind before my body. This is a recipe for injury. I decided to add strength training and yoga to my regimen by following along with DVDs and videos at home. This will give me the option of pausing and working more slowly through an exercise. Even though I understand proper form, I will need to give my body a chance to perform to that level before increasing speed.  

Not quite a morning glory, but I am awakening a little earlier.

The scale is showing my weight down one pound, but I am noticing a visible increase in muscle. Apparently, so is the postman. I was complimented by the neighborhood mail carrier who said I was "looking good." He also remarked upon my dedication and said he sees me "out in all kinds of weather." I don't think it's possible to get more exalted praise from a mailman. For those who like to keep track, I'm down 17 pounds since September 1st.

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Planning ahead for dining out. My friend Pam and I went to Green Eggs Cafe in Northern Liberties for brunch. It was useful to peruse the on-line menu beforehand and consider healthy options. I ordered the Ultimate Tofu Scramble with veggie sausage and multi-grain toast. Substituting a fresh fruit cup, I find it best to enjoy potatoes at home where I can control the amount of salt and oil in preparation. I saved half my meal for lunch the next day. 
  • Deciding to keep to my routine even when the weather wasn't ideal. I put my hood up when I got caught in a light rain and was happier for the outing.
  • Using the time during my walks to consider future fitness goals.
  • Continuing to work on shifting my sleep schedule. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm several times this week. 

Goals for next week:
  • Walk four miles (6.4 K) five days. 
  • Complete two exercise videos in either yoga or weight training. 
  • Write about experiences in journal. 
  • Winterize my walking wardrobe. I could use a polar tech hoodie and scarf that are easy to toss in the wash. 
  • Look for cross training sneakers. The walking shoes I have aren't stabilized for side to side movement. It's always best to wear shoes that are designed to support your regimen. 
How was your past week in health and fitness? Did you achieve any of your goals or create new ones? 

Health and Whimsy is intended to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult your doctor before making changes to your health and fitness routine. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reviva Labs: Lindenflower Facial Spray

Hello ladies,

I've been having a positive experience with Lindenflower Facial Spray from Reviva Labs. Although it is targeted for normal to oily skin, I believe it would be beneficial for all skin types. As linden flowers are the product of lime trees, the scent of this astringent is fresh and invigorating.

I enjoy using Lindenflower Facial Spray after exercise. Although the astringent can be misted directly on the skin, I prefer to moisten two cotton rounds to cleanse my t-zone, cheeks and neck. This product does a thorough job at quickly removing sunscreen, makeup and impurities. I feel better taking an extra moment to freshen my complexion immediately after a workout. This small effort helps my sensitive skin remain clear. Lindenflower Facial Spray is a useful addition to a gym bag or locker. 

I appreciate how the alcohol free formula balances my skin. Employing an astringent/toner as a regular part of your skin care regimen helps to regulate an oily t-zone and heal dryness on the cheeks. When used after cleansing, Lindenflower Facial Spray can enhance the performance of your regular moisturizer. The hyaluronic acid aids in moisture absorption. 

Lindenflower Facial Spray is refreshing in the midst of housework. A quick mist after doing the dishes, cooking or folding clothes fresh from the dryer can be uplifting. 

A similar offering to the astringent with lindenflower is the Rosewater Facial Spray. I find the rosewater formula to be more of a freshener while the Lindenflower Facial Spray provides a deeper clean.   

Ingredients: Distilled Water, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe, Ginseng Extract, Linden Extract, Carrot Oil, Carrot Extract, Carotene, Fragrance, Tocopherol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Zinc Sulfate.

Along with anti-inflammatory properties, the leaves and flowers of the linden offer the antioxidant benefits of quercetin. Carrot oil contains the potent antioxidants, carotenoids and Vitamin E. The ingredient tocopherol is the natural form of Vitamin E. I'm impressed to find this concentration of antioxidants in an astringent. These components will help fight the damage caused by free radicals and pollution, which show on the skin as pre-mature aging.

If you are looking for a gentle astringent with quality, natural ingredients, I recommend giving Lindenflower Facial Spray a try. I love the versatility of this product!

Lindenflower Facial Spray was sent to me for review. This product is available for purchase from An eight ounce (236 ml) bottle retails for $9.00.

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Fit with Friends

Hello ladies,

This was a social week in fitness as my neighbor Cate and her dog Sophie accompanied me for several walks along the river path. With Sophie in the lead, we were able to extend our walk to the four mile (6.4 K) mark four out of six days. The time certainly goes faster while chatting with a friend as a joyful dog urges us on. Sophie will actually turn her head to check on us as we walk up the hill near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I offered to take Sophie for her mid-afternoon stroll around the neighborhood on Monday, when Cate had afternoon meetings across town. Sophie recognizes me as her companion for long walks. The second we touched foot and paw to pavement, she pulled in the direction of the river path and did not slow down for blocks. She made clear she was going to be my personal trainer for the day.

Meet Sophie, my personal trainer. 

She is modeling the latest in fitness fashion.  

Sophie initiates a lead by example approach. 

She's a trailblazer!

While the scale didn't show any losses this past week, my exercise clothes were loose enough to necessitate a shopping trip. I can wave goodbye to anything in XL unless I am looking to purchase something oversize for layering. Because of the change in how my clothes fit, I feel pretty confident that I increased muscle. 

I also had a companion for clothes shopping. My friend Laura and I met at Old Navy last night and I was able to find two pairs of pants, a graphic tee with a songbird, and a tonal grey, leaf patterned hoodie. With a little searching, there are exercise clothes to be found that are cute and affordable. I definitely recommend bringing a fashion conscious friend along to help build a look. 

Behaviors that helped this week:
  • Involving human and animal companions in fitness. If you don't have a dog, I recommend borrowing one for long walks. 
  • Shopping for exercise attire with a stylish friend. Clothes for fitness can be a little lackluster. A friend with a good eye can help you find things in different departments/stores for a pulled together look.  
  • Maintaining a positive attitude towards body image. Beginning a new health and fitness program can put you in touch with people who are not able to adopt a healthy mindset at this time. I have decided not to engage with such people. 
  • Planning ahead for meals out. I packed a lunch for work on Saturday. Laura and I were meeting to shop in an area with a concentration of fast food places. We decided ahead of time to visit Maoz Vegetarian for falafel. 
  • Picking up a couple of fitness magazines at the bookstore. It's nice to be inspired and also to see that I am already engaging in many recommended behaviors. 
  • Shifting my sleep schedule. I purchased an extra loud alarm clock from Timex. I could sooner sleep through a mallet to the head. 
  • Going to the movies. I have friends at two local theaters. It's 42 blocks round trip. Watching three films this week added incidental exercise. 

Goals for next week: 
  • Walk four miles (6.4 K) on 6 days.
  • Write in a journal a few days this week.
  • Create a positive focus for my walk each day. 
How has your week been? Have your friends (in person or on-line) motivated you this week? 

*Health and Whimsy is designed to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your health plan. 

Happy painting. ladies!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Health and Whimsy: Finding motivation

Hello ladies,

There were a few days this past week wherein my motivation seemed to have been spirited away to that secret place, usually reserved for lost house keys or my misplaced cell phone. I was feeling fatigued from the wrap up of my busiest month of the year work wise and my body decided it was time to cramp my style, so to speak. I really wanted to hide out under my electric blanket with The Princess Bride novel and my owl teapot filled with Irish Breakfast tea.

In response to my feelings, I altered my goals for the week to simply adhere to my hour of walking, six days, and maintain my healthy eating plan and Twitter food diary. I decided not to worry about trying to walk early in the day or focus on speed/distance. All I asked of myself was to get to the path and move as quickly as my body was able that day.

I found once I was on the trail, the enthusiasm and strength of other walkers, joggers and professional athletes helped propel me forward when part of my self was still at home under the blanket. Even on low energy days, I was able to finish my walk within five minutes of my usual time. I felt proud of myself for staying committed when I could have easily abandoned the week to a series of good excuses.

Today, a jogger passed me in full marathon regalia including the printed number pinned on his shirt, front and back. I usually see this type of display with cyclists even weeks after the race has finished. As I approached mid-block, a little boy on his scooter asked his father what the jogger was doing. His dad said, "He's exercising." The boy pondered this for a moment and replied, "Well, I am not exercising!".

His father affirmed that he was even if he didn't realize it. I smiled at both of them as I walked by, doing my best to hold in my laughter. The little boy then inquired, pointing at me: "Is she exercising?".  He received confirmation that, yes, walking is also exercise. The little boy replied: "Okay, if she's exercising, then I can be exercising too."

This moment really made me think from a child's perspective that goals and acheievement have their place, but in the end being in the moment can make exercise fun. The only reason he would associate himself with exercise was because I was smiling.

This week, I lost two pounds. This brings the total to 16 pounds lost since September 1st. More exciting than the weight loss was evidence that my workout clothes are fitting loose enough that I will consider purchasing the next size down soon. I chose the Old Navy slim fit athletic pants because I figured the lycra would offer me added wear time before needing to shop again. My pants look acceptable, but they swish a bit too much for a proper fit.

Behaviors that helped this week:
  • Focusing on maintaining efforts during difficult days. There are times when it is best to keep goals simple.
  • Making exercise a priority. When I was feeling low on energy, I looked at my to do list and put off non-essential tasks in favor of a focus on health. 
  • Incorporating a fiber supplement into my regimen. Changes in diet can tax the digestive system. I feel better providing extra support in clearing toxins out of my body. Each morning, I mix Colonix Fiber powder with fruit juice. A few years ago, I employed this powder as part of a cleanse. It also works well as daily fiber supplement. With an herbal blend including slippery elm bark and licorice along with psyllium and flax, I find the formula gentle and effective. A fiber supplement can help reduce the plateau stage during a weight loss program if it is caused by sluggish digestion. 
  • Adding nuts as a snack. A handful of nuts will offer protein and iron, while staving off hunger. 

Goals for the next week:
  • Extend walking route distance three out of six days. I discovered by the mile marker that the Girard Avenue Bridge is two miles from my starting point on the path. I am covering close to that distance now, but I would like to make my walk on the trail officially four miles. 
  • Formulate a plan for alternate exercise on stormy days. 
  • Focus on positive thinking, an active meditation, during my walk. 
How has your week been going? What do you do on days when you struggle with motivation? 

*Health and Whimsy is designed to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult with your doctor before making changes to your health plan. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

T. TAiO Exfoliating Sponges (great for cellulite)

Hello ladies,

I have recently been enhancing my shower experience with T.TAiO sponges. I enjoy the sponge with oatmeal soap for thoroughly cleansing hands and feet. The body scrubber sponges produce a generous lather while their exfoliating texture stimulates circulation and helps with reducing cellulite.

 Exfoliating Sponge with Oatmeal Soap

The Body Scrubber measures 4.5 x 2.7 inches (11.5 x 7 cm)

The Firm Texture Body Scrubber measures 5.7 x 4.5 inches (14.5 x 11 cm). 

The sponge with oatmeal soap is intended for oily skin. Since my my skin is dry, I kept my use limited to hands and feet, which can require deeper cleansing. I am really impressed with how well the soap and sponge combination worked. It's a useful soap to have for after gardening, housecleaning or athletics.

One side offers a thicker layer of soap and the other has the sponge texture at the surface. If you have children and are concerned they are washing their hands attentively, this soap and sponge combination is good to keep by the sink. It would make washing up fun and thorough. I definitely recommend these soap bars for cold and flu season.

The exfoliating body scrubbers are my new favorite beauty find. The texture of the sponges stimulates circulation and removes dead skin cells. I appreciate that the scrubbing surface is not too rough, even for my sensitive skin.

I was surprised at the positive effect the body scrubbers have on reducing cellulite. After using the body scrubbers every day for a month, I noticed my skin texture was much smoother. If you are looking to reduce cellulite or are wanting to help promote skin elasticity during weight loss, these scrubbers are worth trying.

Another benefit is my shower soap produces such rich lather when paired with these sponges! There are far more bubbles than with a wash cloth or traditional sponge.

I can certainly recommend the T. TAiO oatmeal soap and sponge bar and the body scrubbers. I will be ordering more when mine need replacing.

The T.TAiO sponges were sent to me for review. T. TAiO products are sold at HEB stores in Texas. They are also available in California at Vallarta Supermarkets, Cardenas and Super A Foods. To purchase T. TAiO products on-line, visit or The price points of most sponges are under $1.99.

Happy painting, ladies!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Moonlight Masquerade

Hello ladies,

I hope you are all enjoying the festivities of Halloween! Last weekend, my sister and I read Tarot at a costume ball set in the haunted Mt. Holly Library in New Jersey. The spooky decor helped transform the library into a place fit for spirits of the night. 

Day of the Dead

I adore the crystal skull vase! 

I love these spooky vignettes.

Bemused glitter skeleton and smiling pumpkins.

Doesn't the piano look like it will start playing itself? 

The Medusa Lisa

Behold her snake eyes!

A frightful silhouette!

Probably better she isn't looking. 

A haunting portrait...

Becomes even creepier!

You can take a peek at last year's Moonlight Masquerade as well.

Happy painting, ladies!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Health and Whimsy: The need for speed

Hello ladies,

This Tuesday, I began posting a food diary throughout the day on Twitter. Adding a tweet for three meals plus snacks has been making some ladies reading my timeline crave healthy foods! Consider yourself warned.

For dinner, I tend to make a vegetarian stir fries. If you are an omnivore, it would be simple to replace any of the soy products with chicken, beef or seafood. The majority of the dishes work well over rice or pasta. I'm not advocating an exact meal plan, but rather showcasing what's being prepared in my own kitchen with foods I enjoy.

A fellow veggie lover.

This past weekend, I took a scenic walk in Smithville Park with my friend Judy. She's also doing a health and fitness series on her blog, BeautyJudy.  We had a great time exploring the park and sharing our experiences about diet and fitness. The blue heron on the lake watched us walk across the floating bridge. A murder of crows filled the trees near the creek. They were an incessantly chatty group, filling the air with their caws!

I was struck by the difference in walking through Smithville than my usual route along the Schuylkill River. We saw an elderly couple, alternately using their walking poles and holding hands. There were locals about walking dogs and several people on solitary outings in the woods.

While there are people of varying fitness levels enjoying the Schuylkill River path, there is a concentration of seasoned joggers and cyclists, along with college and professional athletes. While this is often inspiring, it also can foster surprising instances of competition. It can be challenging when other people on the path are not wholly aware or comfortable with their current fitness levels.

Since I have been power walking for almost a month, I've been able to build my strength and increase my pace over time. I had an instance with a woman who must have parked in a nearby lot and ran by me pushing an all terrain stroller. I have total respect for her efforts. It is challenging enough to exercise without involving a baby and the weight/resistance of the stroller.

I caught up to her quickly without any extra effort as her run/walk pace with the stroller was understandably slower than my fast walking. I smiled and politely made an effort to pass her and was going to say something encouraging. She saw me and immediately took off running with her baby. Again, I caught up with her. The third time, she turned around and saw me coming and ran before I could start moving to the left to pass. This absurd dance continued for over a mile until she finally moved off to the side and checked on her infant. Afterwards, she continued on behind me at a growing distance. That is going to be one competitive baby!

I had a similar experience with a big man and a small, fluffy-bottomed dog. On this occasion, the dog was the one who kept turning around. I guess it's hard for a man when a woman walks faster than he can run/walk. I think he would have abandoned all such pretense when he acquired the fluffy bottomed dog, who was quite cute and as white as a marshmallow.

The lesson of these situations is not to let anyone else dictate your pace when you exercise. If someone decides they feel the need for speed over courtesy, they may end up finding you are faster. This isn't to say I am the fastest walker! I am doing well, but I have lots of potential for growth. A grey haired lady in her 50s sped by me in her marathon race walking t-shirt. She was wearing the same sneakers as me. Though I only saw the back of her for about a minute, she's my hero.

For those of you ladies, who like stats: This past week, I lost three pounds. This makes eight pounds for the month of October and 14 total pounds lost since September 1st. 

Behaviors that helped this week:

  • Working out a grocery shopping schedule. I found if I pick up staple items (soy products, tempeh, cheese, yogurt, cereal, nuts and can goods) at Trader Joe's and buy my produce from the Korean grocery, it's the most economical and convenient arrangement available.   
  • Packing an assortment of healthy foods when traveling. I visited with my sister this weekend and her family eats differently than I do. I brought dried fruit, peanut butter granola bars, cheddar soy crisps and barbecue flavored almonds. 
  • Making a plan for fitness with a like minded friend. It's a great way to spend time with people in your life while committing to your goals. 
  • Adding distance to my walking program so that my time each session is a solid hour. 
  • Posting my meal plans on Twitter. It definitely has kept me focused on variety and interest in my eating choices. 
  • Incorporating more fruit into my diet. 

Goals for next week:

  • Organize my kitchen storage. I want my assortment of teas and cooking herbs to be easy to access. 
  • Finish getting all of my home fitness accessories in one place. This was on last week's list, but I didn't have the time I needed to devote to completing the project. 
  • Add a daily fiber supplement. When changing dietary habits, I feel it's healthful to be assisting the digestive system. 
  • Make my walk a meditation. I've reached a comfort level where I can move from attentive focus to a more diffuse awareness of my form and speed. I want to work on using the hour for positive thinking. It may be as simple as thinking about nail art designs or extend to deeper subjects. 
  • Home fragrance. I have a large assortment of herbal incense and scented candles along with an oil burner. I need to make use of these lovely scented products every day. It's great for relaxation and quality of life. 

How has your week been going? Do you have any health related progress, concerns or ideas to share?

*Health and Whimsy is designed to be a journal of my personal experience. Please consult with your doctor before making changes to your health plan. 

Happy painting, ladies! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Health and Whimsy: A new weekly feature

Hello ladies,

Welcome to the new weekly feature at Painted Lady Fingers: Health and Whimsy. I have been working on restructuring my diet and fitness routine since the beginning of September. Pleased with the results, I thought it would be beneficial to check in once a week and share my progress. 

The focus of Health and Whimsy is going to be about presenting ideas for healthy living and sharing my regimen with you. I'll be detailing behaviors that have helped me keep focused over the past week along with goals for the coming week and month. I also welcome feedback and suggestions based on what you would like to see discussed and what works for you. 

While Health and Whimsy is not specifically a weight loss journal, I am happy to disclose when I do lose weight or experience changes in my body based on adopting a more healthy way of life. I want to maintain a positive space where woman of every size and shape can feel open to comment about their health and well being. Science is proving that thinness does not necessarily equal fitness. My purpose in sharing will be primarily behavior based content, not honing in on numbers on the scale. I'm more interested in my strength and energy levels and overall good feeling. 

I'll also be addressing situations many of us face on the path to better health: what to do when people comment on your body, how to politely (or cheekily) shut down those who try to sabotage your efforts, how to deal with unnecessary competition, how to create and maintain a routine and how to connect with your motivation on days of indifference.

My body has ranged from a size four to a size 16 over the past decade. While I am currently at the larger size of that spectrum, I maintain positive self esteem at whatever size I happen to be. I tend to gain weight when I am not exercising even while engaging in healthy eating habits. This past year especially has been challenging while helping my sister back down the road to health and deciding to end a long term romantic relationship. Recent health concerns have led me to make exercise a priority.

What initiated this particular phase of my journey was signals from my body at the end of August. I started developing a burning pain along the calf of my right leg, which was discovered to be a form of nerve damage. The sensation feels a bit like the flash burn of spilling hot tea on the skin. Sometimes the pain felt like the a rush of warmth, other times as hot as a fever. Thankfully, it is a condition that can be easily treated with good nutrition, additional vitamin supplements and regular exercise. The nerves will most likely repair themselves over time. Since adhering to a walking program six days a week, I have had very few occurrences. I feel confident my body is healing itself and I am thankful the solution was something easily within my control to fix.

During the month of September, I worked on refining my eating plan. I am a ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I don't consume animal products other than eggs or dairy. My diet was healthy to start, but I focused on cooking more and having an abundance of fruits and vegetables in my fridge. I also used measuring cups to help make sure I was consuming proper serving sizes. Just by making small changes, I lost six pounds.

I felt it best to devote a month to fine tuning my diet before increasing my exercise levels. For me, it's easier to form a routine and make changes over time. My body seems to adjust better and I feel more encouraged as my energy levels increase. I began power walking at the beginning of October and have been slowly increasing my speed and endurance. The first week was exhausting, but as my body became accustomed to regular cardio, I looked forward to walking almost every day. So far this month, I am down five more pounds.

I will admit that walking along the river can be entertaining. My neighbor, Cate, and her schnauzer have kept me company on a few occasions. Sophie, my personal trainer in canine form, likes to pull forward up the hill by the museum and look back at us with pure insistence. Today, while on my own, I suddenly was surrounded by about 50 shirtless guys from the La Salle Rowing Team, jogging by en masse.

Behaviors that have been helpful:

  • Investing in exercise attire that fits well and coordinates. This doesn't have to be expensive. I went to Franklin Mills, a local outlet mall, with my friends Lisa and Sarada. The Nike Factory Store sells walking sneakers that are priced at $20 less than the website. Sarada quipped that she was looking for comfortable knitting sneakers. The entire Old Navy was promoting an additional 40% all purchases. While I understand the idea of not feeling the need to dress up for athletics, I find value in dressing in a way that helps me feel attractive. 
  • Cooking with fresh produce. I made an omelette yesterday with mushrooms, avocado, extra sharp cheddar and French herbs. Simple to prepare, it tasted like a restaurant brunch offering. 
  • Keeping my fridge stocked with healthy options. I have little interest in take out when everything I need to cook is at hand. 
  • Starting a walking program. I do best when I have an easy to follow exercise plan. For me, that entails power walking six days a week. 
  • Incidental exercise. I live in a city environment, which necessitates a lot of walking. It's not uncommon for me to walk 20 blocks one way to go see a movie. Every grocery bag is carried from the store for three to ten blocks and up two flights of stairs to my apartment. 

Goals over the next month:

  • Adjust sleeping schedule so that I can start exercise earlier in the day. 
  • Continue working up to a 15 minute mile pace. 
  • Put together a routine for daily stretching. I know basic stretches, but I feel it's useful to do some focused stretching based on where my body feels tight. 

Goals for the next week:

  • Eat fruit daily. Bananas are especially helpful because they provide natural pain relief for sore muscles. 
  • Stop by the farmer's market. 
  • Organize exercise videos and fitness accessories (weights, yoga mats) so everything is easily accessible. This will require a bit of wrangling from my four closets and various cabinets. My goal here is to have an easy back up plan if the weather is inclement. 
  • Slightly extend walking route. Because my speed has increased, I am finishing my walk each day in about 55 minutes instead of an hour. I would like to cover more distance and keep my schedule to an hour, six times a week. 
I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Health and Whimsy. Look for this feature once a week on either Thursday or Friday. 

Have any of you ladies started a health and fitness regime lately? Are you feeling like you need to re-focus on health and exercise or have you developed a comfortable routine? What activities do you enjoy?  

Happy painting, ladies!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Festooned with Ribbons: Diamond Cosmetics Head over Teals

Hello ladies,

Today my nails are festooned with ribbons! I thought yellow and blue would be a cheerful pairing for a sun filled day.

Beginning with Head over Teals as the base, I formed a line down the center of each nail with a white Art Club striper. I used nail glue to adhere pale yellow bows from Born Pretty Store. Composed of silica gel, the bows have a soft texture that requires nail glue for secure adhesion. I bejeweled the stripe with assorted golden pearls and topaz gems. 

Head Over Teals is a creme formula with turquoise glitter. In bright sun, this polish appears closer to turquoise, leaning more toward teal in diffuse light. The glitter presents a disco of flash in the bottle, but is more subtle on the nail. While I tend to prefer glitter in a jelly formula, Diamond Cosmetics did a good job mixing a creme polish with a compatible glitter. Using a thick top coat, there is a pretty sparkle and the polish appears smooth on the nail. I am showing two coats. 

I hope my ribbons and jewels brightened your day! 

Products mentioned were sent to me for review. Part of the Fall 2011 Collection, Head Over Teals can be purchased in the US at For international residents, check in with for availability. 

Happy painting, ladies!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Color Club Fractured Shades!

Hello ladies,

Color Club has really been having a tremendous year! I really adore their Fractured line and am looking forward to working with these four new shades. I have to mention that Do You Want A Piece? is one my favorite polish names of all time. So cheeky!  

This past weekend I was shopping in Five Below with my friends Lisa and Sarada. They both purchased the Funky Fingers brand version of The Great Divide. Funky Fingers is also produced by Forsythe. If you have any difficulties finding Color Club locally, there is some crossover between brands. The Great Divide is absolutely gorgeous! I'm most looking forward to that shade of the four. 

Burgundy Burst looks like a lovely shade for autumn. I'm excited to see it layered on the nail. 

What do you ladies think of these colors? Are any beckoning to you? 

Below is the press release information:

New York, NY: October 2011. From New York based veteran nail polish brand, Color Club, are four shades that BREAK the mold. Do You Want A Piece?, Burgundy Burst, Explosion and The Great Divide. 

Look out for these brand new Color Club Fractured shades coming soon on and also in stores at your local retailer. 

About Color Club: A favorite of celebrity manicurists and nail polish fans worldwide, Color Club is renowned for its high performance, rich shades and its exceptionally safe products.  From the brightest neons to glitter and French, all nail colors are vegan, Formaldehyde, Tolulene, DBP and paraben free; and made in New York, NY with the best raw materials. Color Club products are never tested on animals. Color Club is available in over 95 countries worldwide. 

Do You Want A Piece? 

Burgundy Burst


The Great Divide

Happy painting, ladies!