Monthly Archives: March 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

When I last had my eyes checked, in 2009, I was nervous about being able to hear the doctor without lip reading.  (This was my first checkup after I got my cochlear implants.)  So much of the appointment is spent peering through the big machines at the eye chart, answering questions about which lens looks better or worse.  It really helps to be able to understand what they are saying without having to look at their lips.

This time around, I wasn’t really worried about communicating…I was just hoping to find a solution for my rapidly declining near vision.  Two years ago it was just a cute little thing to complain about:  “Oh ha ha, I need to pull out my reading glasses to read this menu!  How embarrassing!”  or “Yea, I need bifocals…getting old, geez!”  It didn’t take long before I was keeping reading glasses all over the house, in my purse and in my coat pocket.  I was wearing them probably 80% of the time, peering over the top of the reading glasses to look at something in the distance.  I couldn’t even clearly see the food I was cooking, my eyes in the mirror when I put eye liner on, the lines on the measuring cups that we use when we make candles.  Everything was just kind of a blur.

I really dislike wearing glasses – I got contacts as soon as my parents would allow, when I was 11 years old.  I absolutely love my contact lenses.  Bifocal glasses were a bit of an adjustment…kind of disorienting to glance down and have a different prescription, and especially weird if I wore them going down the stairs (I glance down at the stair as I step, but don’t really need my near-distance prescription for that…yet that’s what I got when I looked down through bifocal glasses).  I rarely wear glasses, though – just early in the morning when I first wake up, and late at night when I take my contacts off before bed.  I didn’t want to switch to wearing bifocal glasses all the time, but it never occurred to me that bifocal (or multifocal) contact lenses would be an option.

I have to give credit to my friend Lisa for making me realize bifocal contacts might work.  She mentioned that she was wearing them on a trial basis and really liked them, so I asked her all the questions I had about them.  How do they work?  Can you tell you’re looking through different prescriptions when you wear them?  Do they ever move around, so you’re looking through the wrong prescription?  Her answers were so encouraging that I decided when my current batch of contacts was finished, I would get an updated exam and give bifocal contacts a try.

My contacts finally ran out this month, so I saw the optometrist on Wednesday.  I had a different doctor this time but she was easy to understand and spoke very clearly.  She explained that the contacts she was going to give me would have my near-vision prescription in the center, and my distance prescription in a ring outside.  If I can remember correctly, I believe she said when we look at something far away, our pupils dilate and thus I would be looking through the prescription on the outer ring (for distance).  When we look at something close up, our pupils contract and that is how I will see with my near-vision prescription in the center of the contact lens.  Pretty cool!

She said my prescription didn’t change (not a surprise) and that they like to have people try the bifocal/multifocal contacts for a week to see how they work in a variety of situations.  Some people find that the near vision is not clear enough (I guess monovision contacts with reading glasses give you the best near vision) and some people have trouble with distance, especially while driving at night.  So she gave me a pair to try (I was surprised they had my prescription in stock, since I’m very near-sighted with a -8.5 prescription in each eye).

I sat down, put the contacts in and prepared to be dizzy or disoriented.  Instead, I looked up and it was just like normal, except I could see everything clearly…near and far.  I glanced down and read the literature on the table in front of me.  I looked out the window at the traffic in the distance.  It was like having my 20-year-old eyes again!

I’m wearing Acuvue Oasys (for Presbyopia) and they actually have three rings that I can see when I take them out (I don’t see any difference when I’m actually wearing them).  I believe she said they have near, computer and far distance prescriptions in each lens.  They are really comfortable – I don’t even notice them in my eyes.  Then again, I’m such a long-time contact lens wearer that I didn’t expect to have trouble adjusting to how they feel.  I really never expected to just put them in and basically have normal vision again, though, with no adjustment period.  It’s amazing!

I constantly have to stop myself now from reaching for reading glasses.  I’ve been using them since I hit my late 30s and I’m 46 now, so it’s been a long time since I’ve had this kind of vision without reading glasses.  I’m sitting here typing at the computer with no glasses.  When I finish this entry, I’ll go into the kitchen and start dinner.  I won’t need reading glasses to read the recipe, or the information on the can of tomatoes, or the markings on the stick of butter.  I can see the oven temperature dial again.  I can clearly see the food when I’m cooking.

I took a shower today (the light is kind of dim in the actual shower area, making it even harder to see) and for the first time in many, many years, I could read the words on the various bottles – shampoo, conditioner, shower gel.  Lately, if I’m using a sample of some new shampoo and conditioner, I’ve had to just kind of guess – I couldn’t read the print on the packets (which look the same) to know if I’m grabbing the shampoo or the conditioner!  (And no reading glasses in the shower, ya know.)

I put my eye liner on and could clearly see my eyelid, instead of this general fuzzy area…no more worries that I’m going to stick the eye liner into my eye instead of on my lid!  I can also see the little tiny white dot on my CI processor volume control, the one that tells me if my volume is at the normal twelve o’clock position.  I can pick up a book or magazine and read.  All of this without reading glasses!

It’s only been one day but so far I have no complaints.  I still need to put the night driving vision to the test, but I suspect it’s going to be fine.  I go back in a week and I imagine I’ll be giving these contacts two big thumbs up!!

(BTW, this was not an ad for the Acuvue lenses…I wasn’t paid or compensated or any of that…just a happy consumer.)

How to Make Flax Seed Gel (for curly hair)

If you have curly hair, or have a loved one or friend with curly hair, this might interest you.  If you like making stuff, this might interest you.  If making a slimy, snotty hair gel from flax seeds doesn’t sound like fun, this might not interest you.

I first found out about flax seed gel over on the CurlTalk message boards.  For the past year, I’ve been playing around with different things to try to make my naturally curly hair healthier and less frizzy.  I’ve been learning about my hair type and what ingredients work well in my hair, so that when I pick out hair products (cleanser, conditioner, stylers) I know what to look for and what to avoid.

When I started all of this last year, it was March and we were just entering spring in Illinois.  Temperatures were going up, humidity and dew point were rising…all good things for my hair.  Humidity really makes my curls pop!  So I had a fairly easy time of it, going into summer (which was one of the hottest, most miserable summers I can remember in recent times…ugh) and most of the products I tried worked fairly well.  About the only ingredient that can make my hair look frizzy and unruly in summer weather is aloe, so after trying straight aloe vera gel as a styler, I never tried it again.

But flax seed gel really appealed to me…something I could easily find at the grocery store and make at home.  I already lean towards the ‘make it yourself’ camp and I’ve dabbled in making my own soaps and lotions, so this was right up my alley.

What recently brought me back to flax seed gel after a long hiatus (while I tried various store-bought stylers) was my experience with these stylers during winter.  I learned that my hair doesn’t do well with lots of humectants – if they are high up in the ingredient deck (i.e., in larger quantity than other ingredients) I will end up with frizzy, flat, nasty-looking hair.

This means glycerin, panthenol, honey, propylene glycol…if I see those ingredients listed in the first few ingredients of my gel, curl cream or conditioner (I don’t use shampoo), then I most likely will not like the results if the humidity and dew point are low.  Unfortunately, the majority of curl creams and gels out there use these ingredients.  But flax seed gel is one humectants-free styler I found that works really, really well for me in the winter.  I learned my lesson and will make sure I always have a bottle of this stuff waiting for me in the fridge!

I use this after my leave-in conditioner – I use quite a bit of flax seed gel (I’ve found that I can’t use too much, really) and rake it through or comb it through at first, to make sure all of my hair is saturated.  Then I lean over and scrunch, scrunch, scrunch with both hands…each side and then flip my head to scrunch my hair upside down.  After this I add gel, because I need a little extra hold…even though this is called flax seed gel, the consistency is really more like slime/snot!  I use either LA Looks Sport Gel (very cheap, at most stores), EcoStyler Gel (another cheapy, I get it at Sally Beauty Supply), Biotera Gel (Sally Beauty) or Kiss My Face Upper Management Gel.  I scrunch in the gel, let my hair dry, and once it’s dry I scrunch out any ‘crunch’ from the gel.

So that’s how I style my hair, and this is how I make flax seed gel…it’s really fun!

First, I take ¼ cup of flax seeds.  This is what they look like:

Flax Seeds

Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl that is deep enough so the gel can get through without the strainer touching the bottom.  Also have a small wire whisk handy, and any additives you plan to use.  (I use ½ tsp of vitamin E for preservative, and a few drops of mint essential oil to add a nice scent.)  You’ll also need a container for the final gel – one that will hold 4-5 oz should be fine.

What I use to make flax seed gel

Measure 1 cup of water.  (Note:  this picture is of half a cup, because I was making a half-batch when I took it.)

Water infused with marshmallow root

You can use tap water or distilled, or you can do what I did and use water that has ¼ cup of marshmallow root steeping in it.  You absolutely do not have to use marshmallow root!!  I like it because it adds some slip and I happened to already have it from my lotion-making days.  If you do infuse your water with marshmallow root, make sure to strain all the marshmallow root before you start making your gel.  (This is why my water is not clear, and why my flax seed gel ended up an amber color.)

Water in pan

Add the flax seeds to the water in a small saucepan and turn the heat to high.

Flax seeds and water in pan

Stir every now and then, to keep the seeds moving around so they don’t stick to the pan.

Cooking the flax seeds

When your water starts to boil, start stirring continuously.

Water is boiling

You really need to keep an eye on the gel because the next steps happen pretty quickly.  When you start seeing foam and the consistency of the water turns to a thin jelly, turn the heat down a bit and keep stirring.  When you see the seeds suspended in the liquid instead of sinking down, turn off the heat.  It will still look pretty liquidy, but believe me, you don’t want to cook longer than this or you will never be able to strain your gel!

Seeds suspended in gel

Give your seeds a final stir and immediately pour the gel and seeds through the strainer.

Pouring gel into strainer

I use the spoon to kind of stir and push the gel through (you can also scrape the bottom of the strainer, because gel will collect there).  It won’t look like a huge amount of gel but you can easily double the recipe if this isn’t enough for you.  This recipe gives me enough gel to last for a week or two, using it every other day or every few days.

Flax seeds left in strainer

While your gel and seeds are straining, soak your pot with some water…you don’t want the gel to dry in there because it can be a pain to wash!  You can either dump your seeds into the trash or you can put them into a Ziploc bag and reuse them – I can get one or sometimes even two more uses out of a batch of seeds this way.  Just pop them into the freezer until you need them again.

Getting ready to whisk the gel

At this point, you can add any additives (you don’t need to add anything, but you should keep your gel in the fridge to help it last longer if you don’t use any type of preservative).  Give your gel a good whisk and then pour it into your bottle or container.

The fancy bottle I keep my flax seed gel in :)

And that’s it!  It sounds kind of convoluted but it’s a fast process…definitely less than 10 minutes.

Once you get past the squick factor because of the consistency (it really is kind of slippery and snotty-feeling), you may find that you love flax seed gel as much as I do!

Have fun!!

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