Category Archives: Reviews

Three Things I Like; One Thing I Don’t

Although I’m calling this post “Three Things I Like; One Thing I Don’t”, I have realized there is one more thing I like … I mean, really like, and that is autumn. It’s here in full swing now and I find myself staring out the window and grinning, while I contemplate all the recipes I can make now without turning our kitchen into a sauna. YAY AUTUMN.

And also, I’m not getting paid to write any of this or getting any perks or anything. These are just some things I’ve been very happy with lately and I wanted to talk about them. And also one thing I wanted to complain about, which is something I try not to do very often, but this really deserves some complaining in my opinion.

Thing I Like #1 is on my mind because we just had it for breakfast, so I’ll start there. It’s this biscuit recipe I got from King Arthur Flour. When I started counting calories last year (can’t believe it’s been a year already), I was appalled at how many calories there are in one homemade biscuit. It’s just so little, you know? How can it be around 150 calories?! So we’d make biscuits and gravy (turkey breakfast sausage, 2% milk) and I’d watch sadly as Dave crumbled four biscuits onto his plate while I tried to stick with one and half, maybe two if they were the smallest ones.

This biscuit recipe just uses two ingredients: cream and self-rising flour. The biscuits are one ounce each, and you use equal amounts of flour and cream so it’s easy to adapt. If you want 12 biscuits (you lucky thing, you) then you use six ounces of flour, six ounces of cream. We made eight this morning (two for me, four for Dave, two left over) so it was four ounces flour, four ounces cream. We use water to wet them. They are delicious and only 70 calories each! They make me happy.

Thing #2 is a girly thing (just a warning for the fellas). I think it’s very cliché to assume that menopause begins at 50, and yet that is just what my body seems to have decided. Right around my 50th birthday, my monthly visitor stopped arriving and I had an annoying new friend, Hot Flash, who rang my doorbell every 15 minutes or so and just would not leave. At first it was kind of funny, and I’d announce it to Dave. “Whew!” I’d pant, reaching for my fan (seriously, a little cloth fan, like what Christina Aguilera always used on The Voice, was my lifesaver), “I’ve got another hot flash! Feel my forehead!” I could see the look of pity on his face every time I turned on the fan/changed into a tank top/mopped my brow.

One day I looked up hot flashes online and saw that they could last for, like, five years or more. I was really and truly getting 5-6 hot flashes every hour, and sweating through my nightgown at night, and it was started to become very much not funny. So I started looking for anything that might minimize them.

I had run out of my Costco multivitamins, and since we aren’t Costco members anymore I was looking for a new brand to replace them. Then I thought, hmmm, maybe there’s a menopause multivitamin? Kill two birds with one stone and all that? And yes, there was. And ladies, it WORKS. For me, anyway. I am completely amazed to be saying this, but I might get one hot flash a day now; sometimes I don’t have any. I started noticing a decrease after about a week, week and a half on the vitamin so it must be a cumulative effect. It’s not some weird voodoo stuff either, it’s just One-A-Day Menopause multivitamins. I take mine at lunch to help minimize the chance of any nighttime hot flashes. Good, good stuff.

Finally, I noticed I was getting dry eyes (also, probably, because of menopause). First I had a bit of a cold and my left eye was all gunky and gross one morning. I thought it would clear up in a week or so, and the morning gunk did just last one day. But it persisted, this feeling of grit in my eye later at night (it was fine in the morning) and my eye would water a lot overnight. After over a month of this, I decided to do a search for a contact lens solution that was better for dry eyes, and I came across Clear Care. It’s more of a deep cleaner, like the enzymatic cleanings I used to have to do years ago. You have to use the special case it comes with, leave the contacts in for at least six hours to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide solution, and never, ever use Clear Care in your eyes. But just two days with this stuff and my eye is back to normal. Amazing!

I fill the case with Clear Care, put the Clear Care bottle away, and then leave a bottle of plain saline solution (not multipurpose solution, just plain saline) on the bathroom counter. That way if I’m tempted to rinse my lenses, I’m not going to burn my eyes out by accidentally using Clear Care. That’s my little tip for you all. But if you’re noticing your contacts are really bothering your eyes by the evening, give this stuff a try. It totally makes a difference for me.

The Thing I Don’t Like, and want to complain about, is the VA healthcare system. At least the VA in this part of Michigan. Dave caught some kind of upper respiratory virus the first week of September, and has been coughing ever since. It’s kind of a pattern with him; it usually turns into bronchitis, sometimes pneumonia. He waited a while, figuring it would go away on its own, but finally he’d had enough. He decided it was time to go to urgent care, get an x-ray and whatever medicine he needed. I knew he had to be feeling really bad because Dave is even worse than I am about going to the doctor.

So we started checking out where the nearest VA hospital was. In Illinois, it was a 40 minute drive to Hines VA but they had an emergency room so he was always seen, even if it involved a bit of a wait. It turns out that there really isn’t a VA hospital nearby; Benton Harbor has a clinic with one doctor and no urgent care, according to what they told Dave. There’s a hospital in Battle Creek, which is 1-1/2 hours away by car. There’s a clinic in South Bend, IN which is the closest to us, but they claim they don’t have a walk-in clinic (although they do have a lab, do x-rays and that sort of thing).

So he held off another day or two, and then he decided to make the long drive to Battle Creek because he was really feeling sick. He insisted that I stay home; he wanted to get on the road really early so he left before I was even awake. I hated that he had to make a three hour round-trip drive but, as he said, it’s free healthcare so he did whatever he had to.

He walked back in that afternoon with empty hands; no medicine, no discharge paperwork. Turns out that they have NO emergency room at the hospital, just what they call an Urgent Care center. But you have to have an appointment to be seen. What the hell?! He got there, was seen by an intake nurse who took his blood pressure and temperature, and was then told it might be a while because he didn’t have an appointment. So he sat out in the waiting room for two hours, before finally getting fed up and leaving. Three hours of driving for that!

One thing they did do was make an appointment for him. For three weeks later, on September 29.

So I was livid, and he was all, “It’s fine, I actually think I’m feeling better,” trying to calm me down. And he did seem better for a couple of days, but then he went back to feeling terrible. So this time he called the South Bend Clinic, which is about 20 minutes from us. Turns out they don’t have a walk-in clinic either, gosh, but they had received his records from Hines (he asked for them to be transferred a week or two prior) and they could make an appointment for him! On October 22, just a little over a month away!

So at this point I’m just freaking out, telling him to go to the walk-in clinic at Walgreens and we’ll pay whatever it costs. But no, he swears that he’s feeling better. In the meantime, I’m despairing because where would we take him if he gets another kidney stone, for instance, and needs to be seen immediately?

So Sept. 29 rolls around and even though he hadn’t planned to keep that appointment (he wants to use the South Bend clinic as his primary care place), he decided to go because he was still coughing. This time I went with. He was seen by an older woman doctor, who just pretty much went over the list of medications that he takes and got them switched from Hines to Battle Creek (they mail his routine medications from the hospital pharmacy). Then she listened to his lungs. And in the process, he had one of his coughing jags.

“Hmmm,” she said dourly, “That sounds like a smoker’s cough. Are you sure you quit smoking?” (He had told her he quit in 1985, which he quite definitely did.) I thought she was joking, but she was serious, kind of bitchy. He confirmed that yes, he quit smoking, and she said, “Well, I don’t hear anything. But if you start to feel bad you can always come back.” And then I was PISSED.

“He DID THAT,” I said calmly, through gritted teeth. “He was here over three weeks ago, really sick, and they sent him away without doing anything for him except to make this appointment.” She just kind of shrugged and said again that she didn’t hear anything that suggested bronchitis or pneumonia, but had he ever used an inhaler? After he explained that he had one but it expired long ago, she did at least prescribe a new one for him. And that was it. He’s supposed to go back in nine months but yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

So now we are waiting for his Oct. 22 appointment in South Bend. Maybe the cough will be gone by then, or maybe it will be worse. Who knows. All I know is, if you live in southwestern Michigan and use the VA for healthcare, you better hope you never need medical attention that same day. Lord knows where you’d get it. (Dave does have good things to say about Ann Arbor’s VA hospital, but that’s a 2-1/2 hour drive from here … it would be shorter to drive back to Hines in Illinois!)

And now, to put a smile back on your face after reading all my crabbing, here’s a fun autumn practical joke:


Is anyone mean enough to really do this, I wonder?

(I could not bring myself to do that, but I do think it’s funny. )

Review: I Can Hear You Whisper, by Lydia Denworth

If you’re like me and you like to read books that touch on hearing loss, then I’ve got a book to recommend to you.  If you enjoy books that touch on scientific subjects in layman’s terms, then I’ve really got a book to recommend to you.

It’s called I Can Hear You Whisper:  An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language, and it’s written by Lydia Denworth, a former Newsweek reporter and mom to three young boys – one of whom has a hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant.

The book was described as “an investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture.”  I wasn’t sure if it was going to go over my head, but it sounded really interesting.  I was happy to discover that it was written in a way that made all the scientific information easy to understand for someone like me, who never took more than Intro to Physical Science in 9th grade.

The author deftly weaves her personal experience into the story, describing what it was like to discover her son’s hearing loss and the process she went through as she tried to understand how it was going to impact his ability to acquire language, both spoken and written.  If you have a child with a hearing loss, this would really be a valuable resource.

I learned SO MUCH by reading this book, things I never knew about cochlear implants (and I thought I knew a lot) and how they were developed.  There are chapters on how we process speech, how we learn to read, the plasticity of the brain (which is so cool, and is one of the reasons I hear sounds with my cochlear implant now instead of the weird beeps and warbles I heard when it was first activated).  She touches on Deaf culture, sign language, oral versus ASL – and all of these subjects, which can be so very touchy, are discussed in a calm, thoughtful way, with both sides presented fairly.

I was curious to see if the cochlear implant brand wars would be mentioned, or if she would show a bias toward the company who made her son’s implant (which is not the company that made mine).  I was very happy to see that this did not come up at all.  The book just presented the CI facts in a general way:  How they were developed, the testing involved, what early CIs were like (my goodness!), the challenges of hearing in a noisy environment for CI users, listening to music, etc.

Some of her descriptions of her son Alex’s early testing brought back unexpected, vague memories for me of my own testing as a young child.  When Alex suddenly lost all of his hearing and he told his mom, through cries and screams, “I can’t talk!” (because he can no longer hear himself talk) my heart went out to them both.  That is still the most startling thing for me, not being able to hear myself talk when my CIs are off.

I thought it was awesome that they found a tutor to come in and teach some ASL to the family; when I went deaf, that was one thing I really wished we could have done.  As she illustrates in the book, it’s not very easy to teach everyone ASL at once, especially young children.  I admire their efforts, though, to bring sign language into Alex’s life as a complement to his CI.

I could have kept reading this book for days and days; I was sad when it ended.  It gets five out of five big stars from me – look for it (e-book and hardcover versions) a month from today, April 17.


(I received this book from the publisher for the purposes of an honest review; my views are my own.)

Review: Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask #powerofplants

I’ve added a category for reviews here on my blog; I like to talk about stuff, obviously, and it will also give me topics for those days when I think, “My life is so boring, I have nothing to talk about!”

I’m starting out with the complimentary Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask that I received (for testing purposes) in my Influenster VoxBox.  This was the first thing I grabbed, because I’ve always heard good things about Boots products.  (There is a curl cream that girls rave about on Naturally Curly’s CurlTalk forums, but I’ve never been able to find it in the US.)

I never think to buy face masks nowadays.  I guess I kind of thought of them as something you used as a pimply teenager to try to dry out your skin … not something my slightly-sensitive 49-year-old skin really needs.  The last mask I bought was probably Queen Helene’s Mint Julep mask.

Remembering how hard that was to squeeze out of the tube, I assumed the Boots mask would be the same thick, paste consistency.  I gave the tube a hard squeeze and was surprised to see a thin stream of light greenish gray liquid shoot out.  I’ve since learned that it’s best to shake the tube to thicken it up just a bit.  It comes out in a consistency that’s very easy to spread.

I squeeze about a pea size blob onto a fingertip and quickly spread it onto my face, avoiding the area under my eyes and, obviously, my lips.  (blech!)  It dries really fast, so you’ll have parts of your face that look dark gray and parts that look army green where the mask has already dried … very entertaining!

Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask

Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask

Give it 10 minutes to work its magic.  As I said, my skin is slightly sensitive and I didn’t notice any feeling of dryness, tingling, etc.  The mask dries in a fairly flexible, non-flaky way; you can feel that it’s tightened on your skin, but you can slide your fingers over the dry mask and it doesn’t come off.

Wash it off with water (you can use a facial scrub/sponge if you like, but you don’t have to) and that’s it!  My skin always feels soft and fresh after I use this mask; I try to use it once a week.

It’s affordable and works well for me – I give it an A.

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