At Home Teeth Whitening: Does it really work?

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Hey you! If you’ve been following my Instagram stories over the last several weeks, you may have seen me mention that I’ve started whitening my teeth using Smile Brilliant’s teeth whitening system. I’ve worked with the brand in the past when I tried out their cariPro Ultrasonic toothbrush which I reviewed in a blog post and can be seen here. Vien and I were so happy with our experience with that product that when they reached out asking if I wanted to try their teeth whitening system, I was more than happy to go for it.

First thing to note is that I have never tried any teeth whitening product except for toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth (which of course they don’t). The reason for this are (1) I’ve always seen teeth whitening as frivolous and expensive and (2) I didn’t think I actually needed it. It wasn’t because I thought my teeth were white at all. It was more like I never really looked at my teeth like that. I drink a lot of coffee and tea so I knew I needed it. I just didn’t know how much of a difference it will make.

I was excited but nervous to begin since I didn’t know the first thing about it. I also heard it can hurt both from people who’ve tried both at-home kits and those who’ve tried whitening at the dentist’s office. I already have sensitive teeth to begin with so needless to say I was worried.

When the kit arrived, the instructions were clear enough to follow. I needed to make a mold of my teeth and send it back to them so they can make the customized trays I needed to use for whitening. I took no photos while making my molds since it was explicitly stated that working quickly was important before the paste hardened.

When the trays finally arrived, I started immediately. I was given a few whitening syringes along with some desensitizing gels to be used right after whitening. It’s advised to keep the trays on for 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on teeth sensitivity and I was so eager when I started that I kept it on close to 3 hours. I remember thinking, “It doesn’t really hurt. I should be fine.” I was so sure that I skipped the desensitizing gel afterward. Boy, was I wrong. My teeth became crazy sensitive after. I wouldn’t say that it hurt. It was more in the lines of annoying, really. Lesson learned, follow directions. They’re there for a reason. Also, one of the tips mentioned was to do it at night before going to sleep. Not only does it prevent your teeth from becoming re-stained from eating after, but it does help with the sensitivity since you’ll be sleeping through most of it. I learned this soon after and have been doing at night ever since. It was also recommended to whiten your teeth every other day for best results but I didn’t do this either. My teeth is incredibly sensitive so it was hard for me to do it more often than once a week. I was also advised separately by a hygienist to allow my teeth to heal between whitening so I erred in the side of caution.

After 5 sessions, I decided to take a photo. I took a photo before I started to compare and I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t expecting a noticeable difference because I had done so little, each with a shorter duration due of sensitivity and also because I was only doing it once a week as opposed to every other day as recommended.

These were my results.

As you can see, my teeth were definitely NOT white to begin with. But clearly after a mere 5 sessions, my teeth are noticeably less yellow. I did my best to take both photos around the same time of day at the same spot in the apartment to get as similar lighting as possible. I will continue with a few more sessions since these have been encouraging to say the least.

And now, as some of these reviews go, Smile Brilliant is offering one of you a chance at winning your own Teeth Whitening System!

SIGN UP HERE TO WIN $149 Smile Brilliant Credit - The value of their T3 Sensitive System

Giveaway is open to residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Winner will be contacted via email.

If you can’t wait, feel free to use the code KARILOPEZ15 for 15% off your order. Happy whitening!

Vacation Plant Care

If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you follow me on Instagram and you know how many plants I own. Whenever I go away even just for a weekend, I’m often asked how I care for my plants while I’m gone. What I do with my plants while I’m away depends on two things: How long am I gone and what season it is. During the colder months, most of my plants can survive no more than a week between waterings. During the summer months however, my plants tend to need a bit more help due to the heat. This is where my watering tools come in. I use two things in particular and they are described below. Links to where I bought them are available and full disclosure, they are affiliate links.

Hydro Spikes

I will cheat here and have Summer Rayne Oakes of Homestead Brooklyn explain hydrospikes for you. I found out about them through her and everything I know about them I learned through this episode of Plant One on Me. You can purchase the original Hydrospikes here. I have bought cheaper knock-offs through a variety of sellers and have had generally good success with them.

Terracotta Stakes

If you’ve read my previous post about Basic Plant Care, you will have read that my preferred pot of choice is terra cotta because they are porous. Well terra cotta stakes work just because of that. It is recommended that stakes be soaked in water for a good amount of time, some say 15 minutes to half an hour and some say overnight. The stakes are then buried into your plant pot as deep as you possibly can without getting any of the soil inside it. Be careful not to damage your plant’s roots while doing so. Then you fill any long neck bottle with water and insert it upside down into the stake. it’s better to start with freshly watered plants for this. The water from your bottle keeps the terra cotta moist and because it is porous, the soil outside it will wick away moisture from the terra cotta as it needs it. Some have said this keeps gnats and other bugs away since they’re usually attracted to wet soil. Using stakes keeps your topsoil dry while keeping the soil at root level properly moist without it getting too wet, causing your roots to rot.

Do you still need to occasionally water your plants when you have stakes in them?

There’s no fixed answer for this. It depends on the plant. I once experimented with my Bird of Paradise. I kept a stake in its pot with a full bottle of water and stopped watering it altogether. It was fine and alive but it stopped shooting out new growth. When I restarted watering it normally, it gave out new leaves again. On the other hand, I have another plant whose name I do not know that has has a stake in it for over a year and I may have watered it a few times in that span of time and it’s still alive. It depends on how much water your plant needs, really. The stakes can be sufficient enough for some plants and for some, it merely helps you manage them in between your weekly waterings if you’re unable to water as often, specially in the warmer months. Again, it depends on the environment.

I use these from Amazon and chose them for their price and value per quantity. I’m sure others work just as well. They are made from terra cotta so just be gentle with them when turning your bottles over because they will break if you’re rough with them. Breakage seems to be the most common negative feedback in all of the ones I’ve seen on Amazon.


If all else fails, get a sitter.

If I’m leaving for a week or more in the summer, I usually ask a friend to come over to water plants a few times. In the winter, they can survive a little over a week before I need to have someone come. Plants are still a commitment, not unlike pets. Just a little less needy.

I’ve seen other plant parents on Instagram use pop-up green houses with grow lights and humidifiers set on timers while they’re away and they seem to work well for them. If I’m ever unable to get a friend to come over, then I may possibly try that as well.

Extras

These two aren’t required but have been helpful in getting my plants watered since I have so many. I used to haul and repeatedly refill a large watering can just to get everyone properly watered but since I bought this expanding garden hose, my weekly watering time has been cut down significantly because I no longer have to keep running to and from the faucet. I bought a special attachment that I use to attach it to my kitchen sink. You’ll need to figure out what works for your faucet.

Another thing that has helped a lot is this Moisture Meter that I use to check if plants need watering or not. I used to always stick my finger in the soil to check if its dry or still okay. With the number of plants that I have, that quickly turned into a messy affair. This meter tells me if a plant is dry, moist or wet simple by sticking it in the pot a few inches down. This helps the most with plants that are in high shelves or hanging planters. I no longer need to take them down to see if they’re dry or not. I just stick the meter in and I’ll know.

So there, hopefully you learned something helpful today. Happy plant parenting!


Custom Hair Care with Formulate

A few months ago, I started using a custom shampoo and conditioner by a brand called Formulate. Personalized haircare has recently had a surge in popularity so when Formulate reached out to see if I would be willing to try them out in exchange for an honest review, I was more than happy to oblige. I was not paid for this post but was sent free product to test out.

So what exactly is a custom shampoo/conditioner?

Everyone has issues with their hair. Too thin, frizzy, itchy scalp, lacks volume or hydration and so on. Formulate’s website asks you a series of questions to determine the issues you have and what you want to achieve. It also takes your environment into consideration to see if it needs to adjust its formula to compensate for things like humidity. It is completely customizable including the scent’s level of strength.

My Hair Issues

So the problem I’ve had with my hair was its lack of hydration, curl definition, oily roots and itchy/flaky scalp. If I was going to try a custom formula, then I wanted it to address most, if not all of these issues as much as possible. No other product I’ve used in the past had ever addressed all of these.

What have I used in the past?

I’ve been a long time serial product jumper. Meaning, I’ve tried multiple products directed for wavy/curly gals like myself. From drugstore brands to slightly pricier and specialized ones from brands like Ouidad. I have also tried my best to stick to a no/low poo method with products from DevaCurl and that has been the worst for me because I shed and lost so much hair using it. I was never loyal to just one brand because I was always in search for the perfect one. I deep condition my hair once a week and use a dry shampoo every other day during my no shampoo days to keep my very oil roots at bay. I use a curl cream while my hair is damp and air-dry my hair 95% of the time. I also always shower at night and typically sleep with slightly damp hair.

The Goal

Frizz, oily roots and itchy scalp are my top concerns. Curl definition and hydration were secondary to me since I use a curl cream after I shower and try to deep condition my hair once a week. I wash my hair every other day to prevent shampoo from stripping my hair of moisture. For the most part, my wave/curl is manageable with the use of a texturizing spray used the morning of a no shampoo day but I’ve been needing to use a dry shampoo because my roots tend to get oily and greasy.

Initial Thoughts

Formulate’s products are sulfate and paraben free and if you’re used to regular shampoo, you will notice that these don’t lather as well. I used a scalp brush to help distribute the product and it definitely helped. Formulate also suggests you rinse and repeat and the product should lather better the second time. The conditioner’s consistency was thinner and didn’t feel like typical conditioner which made me wonder if it would be hydrating at all. I stopped using all other products except my curl cream during this time so that any change to my hair can be directly attributed to Formulate. They had a few scent options and I picked one called Burgeon thinking it would smell just like orange blossoms as described but it smelled more like sweet orange creamsicle to me which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not what I expected.

Did it work?

Not immediately and I expected that. Like any new skincare routine, your hair needs time to adjust and for the product to work. I will say the first thing I noticed was how less oilier my roots were which then made me use my dry shampoo less until I stopped needing it altogether. At the two week week mark, Formulate sends you an email requesting feedback about your custom formula. I took advantage of this and was honest in my feedback. I didn’t think the conditioner was hydrating enough. My scalp itched less but I was hoping for it to no longer itch at all. The team at Formulate was responsive and offered to reformulate a new one for me taking my feedback into consideration. I also had them change the scent to one called Verdant which was a floral scent with hints of lilies and eucalyptus.

When I received my new bottle, the first thing I checked was the scent. It was much better than the first. In the shower I noticed the new conditioner was creamier than the first but still less than your typical conditioner. Three weeks into my new formula and my oily scalp is pretty much nonexistent. I wash my hair more often now because of the summer weather since I come home all sweaty and gross. Normally shampooing everyday can be drying for my hair but I haven’t had those issues at all. I will say that my scalp itch has reduced by 80%. Not quite the 100% I was hoping for but not scratching my head until it bleeds is a win for me. No other single shampoo/conditioner combo I’ve used in the past has did this much for me. Please note that these results were through a minimum of 6-8 weeks of continuous use.

Will I continue using it?

Most definitely. I’ll be honest and say I was ready to try the free product then go back to my cheaper shampoo but I can’t imagine going back to my frizzy, greasy and itchy hair. It is slightly more $$ than most shampoo and conditioners but in my opinion very much worth the price. Bad hair days are few and far between. I may not have thought it would work but the results very much speak for themselves.

I’m very happy with my experience using Formulate and they have extended their generosity to one lucky follower. They are giving away one set of custom shampoo and conditioner and you can join by entering through the link below.

Enter to win a Custom Shampoo and Conditioner set from FORMULATE

Giveaway ends on August 5, 2019. Winner will be sent an email with a coupon code to redeem their own custom set. Non winning entries will be sent a $5 off coupon code.

Giveaway open to US residents only.













My Skincare Routine

I’m going to preface this post by saying I am not an expert in skincare and up until recently, all I really did was wash my face at night and occasionally apply moisturizer before bed if I remembered it. I’ve always thought multi-step routines were ridiculous, expensive and only reserved for hardcore skin care junkies.

My previous AM routine basically consisted of cold water rinse, moisturizer with SPF then day makeup and my PM routine was to wash off makeup with a cream cleanser using my Clarisonic followed by a heavier moisturizer. That’s all I’ve ever done since I can remember.

Then last year my sister introduced me to Thayers Witch Hazel toner. She would not stop talking it up and even her husband chimed in saying he uses it too and how it has worked wonders on their skin. So I bought it, and a year later, it has been a staple in my AM/PM routine. The alcohol free formula is hydrating and it has helped significantly lessen my adult acne. I still occasionally get hormonal breakouts in my jawline but it’s not as bad as it used to be. My skin has been oily since I was a teen and occasional acne is a persistent problem. I would get random dry spots on my cheek during winter but in general, excess oil and large pores were my normal.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

So everything new I’ve started doing and products I bought were after I binged on youtube videos by Renee of Gothamista. I discovered Renee after Megan of Undecorated Home mentioned her once on her Instagram Stories. I loved how Renee’s videos were honest in her product reviews and broke down routines and explained how one product worked with another. Sure, she’d mention ingredients with names I can’t pronounce but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t google and look up myself. I watched and rewatched several of her videos trying to determine which of the products she mentioned I would try. It was here that I also discovered The Ordinary. I’m incredibly late to this since this line has been out for a couple of years but what attracted me to their line was the price point. Every single product was under $20, most were under $10. For someone who was new to skincare and wasn’t sure where to begin, I wasn’t about to drop $75 on a miracle serum. The Ordinary’s products and packaging is no fuss with no flowery words like “Radiant Glow” or “Miracle Serum.” The names basically feature the key ingredient in each serum, and if you don’t know what those ingredients do, their website explains each one pretty clearly.

So my new routine is outlined below

AM Routine

  1. Cold Water Rinse

  2. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner

  3. Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1 %

  4. The Ordinary Buffet Peptide

  5. Cerave moisturizer with SPF - I also love Acure Brightening Day Cream

  6. Eye Cream - currently using Volition Helix AM/PM gel but also love Kiehls Avocado Eye Cream

  7. SPF - If using a moisturizer without it.


The concept of double cleansing was new to me but after I tried it, I couldn’t believe much better it was at removing the gunk off my face. I used to avoid any oil products since I thought that’s what I should do because of my oily skin but realized that oil is attracted to oil and is the only thing that can remove it. This discovery has been a game changer for me.

PM Routine

  1. Burts Bees Cleansing Oil

  2. Kiehls Oil-Free Cleanser - Also love the Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Wash

  3. Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner - twice a week, I do the Seven skin Method

  4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  5. The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA OR Lactic Acid 10% + HA (Cannot be combined)

    I alternate these two since the Lactic Acid cannot be combined with a peptide so I use that 2-3 times a week at night and use the Matrixyl on all other nights.

  6. The Ordinary 100% Organic Rosehip Seed Oil mixed with a few drops of the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate (I do this mostly for the smell since the rosehip seed oil has an earthy scent to it)

  7. Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream

  8. Eye Cream

  9. Optional: twice a week I sleep with Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and recently I’ve been using a clay mask once a week. I have read great things about Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay so I got myself some and will try this week.

I built my routine based on this video. I incorporated new products with ones I already use but may switch my old arsenal up after I use them up to try others. I’ve only started this routine a couple weeks ago and it typically takes 8-12 weeks to see visible results but I can already tell the difference with regards to how my skin feels. My products may not be the same as yours since every one has different skin types. Renee also discusses in one of her videos about the difference about skin type and skin condition and how the latter is affected by environmental factors and seasonal changes and should be addressed accordingly.

I now look forward to my routines, specially at night. It’s like a mini spa day when I’m washing off my day. The multi-step routine that once seemed daunting and unrealistic has now become a crucial and relaxing way to end my day.

So that’s me. The few minutes each day that I now dedicate to skin care is like my little daily self care. Hope you find the routine that works for you.

Beginner Houseplants and Basic Plant Care

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am not a plant expert. Everything I’m sharing now and in the future are information I’ve collected through experience and personal research. I find myself looking up information on plant care too once in a while and it would do well for you to do the same when you’re having trouble with your plant babies.

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“I love your apartment and all your plants! I don’t have a green thumb. Can you suggest a few houseplants for new plant parents?”

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked this question or some other version of it. There are countless of articles and blog posts from other plant enthusiasts that have been written about this and yet I still get asked this question all the time. Instead of answering multiple DM’s, typing up the same answer, I decided to do a post about it.

Before I begin, I’d like to share a few basic plant care tips. I figured it would be good to start with this before I start listing plants to buy because without a good working knowledge on plant care, it won’t matter how “easy” a plant is supposed to be, you might just end up killing it anyway. But you won’t, if you follow a few simple rules.

Light

Plants need light. Light is food. We keep hearing about “feeding” plants with fertilizer that there has been a misconception that fertilizer is plant food. Light is the fuel plants need for photosynthesis, the process where plants convert light energy to chemical energy. I’m sure many of you have seen various houseplants being labeled as low light or bright indirect light plants. What do these mean? Lot of newbie plant folks buy low light plants and stick them in the darkest corner of their home, or worse, a windowless room or office cubicle. Again, plants need light. When a plant is labeled “low-light” a better understanding of that would be LOW LIGHT TOLERANT. The amount of light a plant gets will determine how fast it can convert water and carbon dioxide into food that it needs. Got it? Remember this, I’ll go back to that later.

Plant placement is so important because each plant has a certain requirement of how much light they can tolerate. Some don’t need a lot because their leaves will burn. It all depends on the plant. Every plant will have different needs. It would do well to look up plant care tips for your particular plant to know which area in your home it can live in. I attended a plant class once with Summer Rayne-Oakes of Homestead Brooklyn and she said that when it comes to plants, it’s all about THEM, not you. You can’t force a plant to live in a certain area of your home because it looks good there. Where they live needs to be in accordance to their needs and requirements, not yours.

Water

“How often should I water (insert plant here)?” or

“How often do you water your plants?”

The frequency of watering varies depending on a number of factors. How much light is the plant getting? What season is it? Where is the plant located? Which direction is the window facing?

Determining which direction your window faces would help you know what kind of light your plant is getting. Click here to read an article that describes the kind of plants that would do well depending on which direction your plants are facing.

So how often should you water? Again, consider the light. The quality of light (low or high) will determine how quickly the plant can absorb the water through its roots. The higher the light quality, the faster the absorption, and vice versa. Everything depends on the factors that exist in your space. Are your plants getting a lot of sun? In the winter, plants tend to get less light and most go dormant. Since they get less light, they won’t be able to absorb water as fast as they do in the summer. So water less. During the hot summer months, the longer days expose them to a lot more light which makes for faster water absorption which requires you to water more. The location of plants in your home also matters. During winter, plants kept near heating vents tend to dry them out faster too so consider that. You shouldn’t be keeping them near heat vents anyway. Also plants cannot be on YOUR schedule. They cannot be placed on a watering schedule because they determine when they need to be watered, not you. You cannot water them when you think it’s time. I always advice people to stick their fingers in the soil and water only when the top inch or two is dry. If it’s slightly damp, then I would leave it for a couple days and check again before watering.

Watering Method

Whether you water your plants the regular way by pouring water into the pot or use the Bottom Watering method, one thing needs to be stressed here. Water DEEPLY. Shallow watering means watering your pot just enough until the top layer is damp. The problem with this is that plant roots don’t live in the top 1-2 inches of soil, they’re all the way down so shallow watering isn’t doing much for them. My rule of thumb is keep watering until water flows out of the drainage hole then stop. Throw away the water that pools at the bottom of the dish. If it helps you better to water your plants in the tub or sink and wait until they drain, then do that. I personally have figured out how much water my pots can hold so I no longer need to do this. I’ve since bought a Moisture meter on Amazon which tells me which plants need water or not. It’s a good tool if you don’t like getting your hands dirty every time you need to water.

What do you do with pots with no drainage?

Easy answer. Don’t use them. Unless you are past beginner level and know how much water a pot can hold without drowning the plant, I would advice against using pots without drainage holes. This plus non-aerated soil is a sure fire way to drown and kill your plant.

Okay, so everything I’ve mentioned are general rules. Again, look up care requirements for every new plant you get so you’ll have a better understanding what that plant will need. The plant care I’ve mentioned above will work well with the plants I will list below.

Terra Cotta pots are great because they’re porous but watch out for moisture levels.

Terra Cotta pots are great because they’re porous but watch out for moisture levels.

Soil Quality and Aeration

Soil quality is essential for healthy houseplants. No, you don’t need fancy, expensive dirt to pot your houseplants in. I personally use basic potting soil mixed in with 50/50 of Perlite. I make a big batch of it and keep it in a separate bin ready to use anytime I need to repot a plant. I’ve also occasionally used a mix of 1/3 Potting soil, 1/3 Perlite and 1/3 Vermiculite. Don’t ask me why, I read it somewhere years ago and it has never failed me. But the 50/50 perlite mix works fine as well. Perlite keeps your soil aerated, allowing water to flow freely through the soil keeping your root system evenly moist. Non-aerated soil will compact down to a solid brick of dirt over time which will prevent water from flowing through and will create dry pockets in the soil which won’t help your plant no matter how often you say you water it. Aeration is important. Even if you use the potting mix I mentioned you will still need to occasionally aerate by poking holes into the dirt with a chopstick or similar equipment. If you notice that water drains immediately through the drainage hole as soon as you start watering, then it’s time to aerate your soil.

Your plant pot also matters here. A lot of people recommend using terra cotta pots for your plants because it is porous which allows your soil to breath. But because of this, plants in terra cotta pots tend to dry out faster than plants in, say, ceramic pots. I have a few Pilea Peperomioides in different pots and the ones in terra cotta require more frequent watering than the ones in ceramic ones. Same plant, same light quality, different watering needs.

Easy Beginner Houseplants

So now you want to know what plants to start with? Great! Below I will list the plants I personally started with and encouraged me to continue buying more. I advice you to take it slow when it comes to plant shopping. Learn the ropes and see how you do with one or a few of these before you move on to more complicated plants. I learned the hard way in the past when I overbought plants way beyond my ability to care for them. In general I’ve learned through experience that some plants can’t survive in my apartment due to light requirements and humidity levels so I tend to stick with what works.

Snake Plant or Sansevieria

Can tolerate low-light environments but will thrive in medium to moderate light areas. I have a few of these and I notice the patterns on the leaves on those near windows are more prominent and grow faster than those far from the windows.







Devil’s Ivy/Pothos

There are several varieties of pothos but their care generally remains the same. Just like the previous plant, these can tolerate low light areas but will grow faster and develop beautiful leaf variegations when given proper sunlight. If you want your pothos plants to trail and grow bushy, long vines, give it bright indirect light. Pothos leaves with wilt and curl when it needs water but better figure out the soil moisture and don’t let it get to the point that it wilts before you water it.

ZZ plant on the right

ZZ plant on the right

ZZ Plant

I cannot think of a plant easier than a ZZ Plant. I water mine once every 3-4 weeks and they’re kept far away from the windows. I water very deeply every time I do but zz plants have root bulbs that hold water so they don’t need to be watered as often as most leafy plants do. I’ve occasionally forgotten to water them as long as two months and none have died on me. I have two that are almost 3 years old.

Peace Lily

Peace Lily


Peace Lily

Another plant that is advertised as low light. The problem here is, if you want the plant to keep shooting out its white flowers, it needs more light than the far end of your room. The downside is, the more light you give it, the more water it will need. This plant will tell you when you’ve not watered enough because its leaves will droop. Water immediately when it gets to this point before roots dry out and die.


Spider Plants

Similar care as most of the plants I’ve already mentioned and this one shoots out babies when cared for well. Very easily propagated and shared.


Good rule of thumb is to mimic cacti’s natural habitat

Good rule of thumb is to mimic cacti’s natural habitat

Cactus or Succulents

If you’re like me and have heard time and time again that cactus or succulent plants are the easiest yet you have killed several of them. Don’t despair. They are actually very easy if you know what their needs are. Think of the environment these plants normally live in, the Desert right? Deserts are very hot and very dry but occasionally when it rains, it does so for days until it floods and then it stops and dries out again. Mimic that environment in your home. These types of plants do very well in south facing windows because it’s bright for most of the day. Water infrequently, depending on your home environment and the season, around once every 3-4 weeks. But when you do, water very deeply until the soil is soaked and ignore it again for another 3-4 weeks. Allow the soil to completely dry out (not just the top inch) before watering again. These plants are built to hold a lot of water so for as long as it gets plenty of sun, it will be very happy.

Brasil Philodendron

Brasil Philodendron

Philodendrons

There are several varieties of these but in general requires the same care as a pothos, depending on the species. There are few that require high humidity environments so consider that when purchasing one.

In conclusion

I’ve had my pothos since 2009 and I’ve propagated it to multiple plants. There were times when we lived in a cave-like studio apartment that I thought it wouldn’t survive but it still lives to this day and is crawling on the wall above Vien’s aquarium. It wasn’t a variegated one when I bought it but it seems to love the light it’s getting and is giving out beautiful variegated leaves. My point is, I started small and made sure I got the hang of these few easy houseplants before I acquired the more complicated ones that need different soil moisture or humidity levels. I’ve killed a lot more than you think and I’m still still constantly learning. I’ve also realized that not all plants can survive in my home environment or some plants just don’t work for me (Damn you string of pearls!) so I’ve stopped buying them. Having a plant is similar to any kind of relationship. If you’re nice to them, they’ll love you back. If you overparent, then they tend to rebel and self destruct. It’s a learning process so don’t let plant failures deter you from becoming the crazy plant lady you always wanted to be.

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cariPro Ultrasonic Toothbrush Review (Giveaway CLOSED)

I mentioned in my Instagram stories a couple weeks ago about receiving an electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant. They reached out to me about trying out their cariPRO Ultrasonic toothbrush and of course I had to say yes. I was excited to try something different since I had only ever used a cheap electric toothbrush I bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond with one of their 20% coupons. I had no prior experience with an electric toothbrush before that so I had no idea what better felt like. I tried the cariPRO toothbrush as soon as I ripped the box open and I’m not going to tell you words such as “AMAZING! FANTASTIC!” because who really describes a toothbrush like that? Not me. You know how my mouth felt after though? CLEAN. Like different clean. My previous electric toothbrush had a round oscillating head that was fine because I didn’t know any different. Comparing the two brush heads made it seem that the cariPRO brush heads were a tad too big but that would be a quick misconception. The shape of the cariPRO brushes were great for reaching the back of my teeth, an observation shared by my husband which I will share a bit more about later.

CariPRO Brush Modes

The toothbrush has 5 modes, 3 cleaning modes and 2 other modes best paired with the other three. For a description of each mode, see the graphic I grabbed from the guide they sent me.

So the modes have been very helpful for me because I have slightly sensitive teeth. Blame it on aging plus I grind my teeth when I sleep so my teeth are particularly sensitive in the morning. I’ve been wearing a night guard for about three years now but the damage grinding has done for years prior to that isn’t something I can reverse. So my previous toothbrush can cause bleeding some mornings but I haven’t had that issue with the cariPRO brush. I typically use the Clean mode paired with the Gum Care mode every night. I love the four 30-second bursts that remind you to brush a different quadrant of your teeth giving your a total of two minutes which is the amount of time you should be brushing your teeth anyway. The head vibrates at about 40,000 vibrations per minute which is comparable to the leading sonic toothbrushes that cost about twice as much and significantly more than the cheaper electric toothbrushes on the market. I was almost swayed by an ad I saw on the subway for a $25 electric toothbrush that had an automatic brush head subscription until I realized it ran on AAA batteries. The cariPRO is rechargeable and has a waterproof housing that’s safe to use while you’re in the shower or bath.

Smile Brilliant sent over two brush heads so I decided to give the other one to my husband Vien and we switch the heads out whenever we need to use it and it’s worked great for him as well. He’s switched over from using a regular manual toothbrush. He’s not a man of many words but when I asked him how he likes it, he says his mouth feels a lot cleaner and he likes how it reaches parts of his mouth that he normally can’t clean properly with a manual toothbrush. His only gripe? He wishes the tongue scraper on the back of each brush head had a wider textured area.

***GIVEAWAY CLOSED***

So want to own one yourself? Enter through the link below to get a chance to win!

ENTER TO WIN your own Individual Toothbrush Package (worth $119) complete with TWO brush heads and charging dock

Open to all USA, UK, Australia and Canada residents.

Can’t wait to see if you win one? Use the code KARILOPEZ20 to get 20% off your package of choice! Everyone’s a winner!

You can find more information about the cariPRO toothbrush and Smile Brilliant through their website.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on oral hygiene and my review is from the point of view of someone who is looking to improve on my oral hygiene habits. I did my own quick research on the benefits of sonic toothbrushes so feel free to do your own research.

Exploring CBD

The start of the year is when I schedule all my annual doctor’s appointments. I see my primary care physician for my annual physical, my OB-GYN for my PAP and typically see my dentist around this time as well. During my PCP visit, my doctor asked me about any issued I’ve been having lately. I’m generally in decent health except for some chronic neck, shoulder and lower back pains. I always ignored this and just reminded myself that everyone suffers from back pains and it isn’t something special that needs to be addressed. My husband insisted I bring it up so I casually mentioned it to my doc. He asked if I would like muscle relaxers. He said it could help ease the pain temporarily until I find the root of my pain. I’ve never taken them before so I said I’ll try it. He did warn me that it would make me drowsy and having taken medication in the past that caused drowsiness, I said sure. I knew what to expect. I took it before bed and hoped that I’d be good and pain free in the morning. I woke up the next day feeling welded to my bed. I could not move but my alarm was screaming at me to get up and get ready for work. I felt heavily drugged and I initially thought I was just tired and about an hour in it dawned on me that I was experiencing the effects of the muscle relaxers. A feeling I have never felt before. Was I in pain? NO. But was I alive? I wasn’t sure. It was a horrible day and the side effects lasted a full 24 hours, longer than the pain relieving effects did. My husband threw the bottle of pills in the trash as soon as we got home. I was never taking that again. So now I though to myself, how do I deal with the pain now? I’ve had lower back pain since I was a teen and my mom took me a doctor and an x-ray showed that a vertebrae wasn’t sitting right in my lower back was causing the pain but it was not serious enough to merit surgery. I was told that pregnancy would be difficult for me.

So why CBD?

I’ve heard about it but knew little about it. So I went to ask my Instagram community for recommendations. As the brand suggestions flooded in, I read all I can about CBD. As much as Google gave me. If you’re here scratching your head wondering what I’m taking about and what the hell CBD is, CLICK HERE. Everyone else can keep reading. So why CBD? Well why not? I’ve tried prescription strength ibuprofen and we all know what those things do to your liver. I’ve tried turmeric too with absolutely zero effects. Even when I was at the height of my gym rat phase, exercise did nothing for my pain. Don’t tell me to take yoga okay. If someone else mentions yoga, imma lose it. Listen, I gave yoga a real try. I DID. Multiple times I tried it and I JUST CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO LIKE IT. The whole time I’m in there, I keep asking myself WHY?!?

But I digress, I decided to give CBD a try. Marijuana isn’t alien to me. I’ve heard of its benefits for cancer patients and those with epilepsy and other ailments. Recent surge of CBD has it being the cure all for pain and anxiety. And of course, I’ve been smoking that shit on and off since I was 18. Does that shock you? I don’t know who you’ve been following if any of this is surprising to you.

The recommendations poured in and I now had a big task of looking up every single product rec sent to me to see which ones I was going to try.

We couldn’t pass up a dispensary tour during our visit to California

We couldn’t pass up a dispensary tour during our visit to California

How did I pick the brands I tried?

First off, the CBD market is so saturated that if I hadn’t asked my followers for recommendations, I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. There are a ton of choices and no way for me to verify which one was better. So I narrowed it down with the number of recommendations a brand got. Then narrowed it down further with price. Then there was the issue of Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate. A good article I read on the differences between the two can be found by clicking this link. To summarize, both oils are extracted from the hemp plant. Full Spectrum is full of all the terpenes, cannabinoids, etc found in hemp, all of which have therapeutic value and create what is known as the entourage effect. This includes very small trace amounts of THC but not enough to get you high. But I’ve read taking full spectrum can give you a positive result on a drug test which brings us to CBD Isolate. CBD Isolate is just that. It’s pure CBD without all the other cannabinoids. If you read that article that I linked then you will note that CBD contains all the benefits of all the hemp’s cannabinoids combined, without the THC. So it’s great for people who want the benefits of CBD without having to worry about the legality of having THC in your system. This is great for people where marijuana is not legal or athletes who require drug testing. You will hear a lot of talk about Full Spectrum being better at delivering pain relief but there are those who will swear on CBD Isolate’s effectivity too. It’s a matter of choice and one that I will not make for you. I also read this article about what to know before buying CBD. Did I follow it? Not really. But I figured you might want that information anyway. You’re welcome.

Tinctures? Edibles? Vape oil? Balms?

There are a multitude of ways to use CBD. When choosing which kind I was going to try, I also had to decide how I was going to use it. I ended up trying one of each tincture (oils to be taken sublingually or in a beverage) in Full Spectrum and Isolate. I also decided to try a few balms and a vape oil for its convenience. I picked Pure Relief (Full Spectrum) because it was the most recommended and because they offered sample sizes of their tinctures and balms. For those not ready to commit to a full sized bottle, this is a good place to start. CBD Extreme Athlete products was VERY HIGHLY recommended by a very close friend who uses it religiously and has recommended it to his own family. You’ll notice that CBD Extreme Athlete’s marketing is directed towards athletes and is CBD Isolate. They emphasize on their product being THC and drug free. Scrolling through Thoughcloud’s website can be overwhelming given the variety of products they offer but I decided to give their e-liquids a try. I also tried CBD tea from The Brothers Apothecary.

How long does CBD take to kick in and how long do the effects last?

This all depends on a person’s health, weight, pain tolerance and method of delivery. Lots of articles available that explain this but this article explains it pretty well I think. Dosage and strength of the CBD you’re taking matters too. Start small and see how you feel and up the dosage until it gives your the relief you’re asking for. There isn’t a standard dosage for CBD, you will read and hear people saying take 1ml (a full dropper) of tincture to start but consider the strength of CBD you’re taking too. Tincture strength vary by brand and can go from 250mg, 500mg up to 1500mg or more.

How did I start?

I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. I took half a dropper of a 500mg tincture and waited. I was expecting to “get high” as marijuana usually does. The best way I can describe the initial feeling I got was gravity pulling my shoulders down. Like someone wrapping me in a weighted blanket. My head didn’t feel cloudy like being high does but my body felt relaxed like I was high but not. It was a bizarre sensation at first that confused me. It was because I was waiting for the effect that I noticed this. You don’t usually wait for Advil to kick in. This wasn’t a feeling that I felt again in the doses that followed because I wasn’t paying attention to it anymore. But did notice the pain that I usually have in my neck and shoulders has lifted significantly. I did some experiments and tried going off it some days to see how I felt and noticed the difference in how I feel towards the end of the day. Without it, I was exhausted by day’s end. Both balms I tried worked well but it works no differently than applying some Icy Hot or Bengay to your sore muscles. Again, it’s an alternative. It’s up to you if the holistic value is worth the $$.

Does it really relieve pain?

I’m not sure how to answer this since I’m still learning dosage myself. I will say that it mutes down your pain. The best metaphor I can think of is putting on earplugs to dull out your spouse’s loud snoring so you can sleep. Does that make sense? You still hear the snoring but its at a comfortable level that you get to have some sleep. This has been my experience but I’ve gotten feedback from plenty others with much more serious conditions and swear it has relieved them of their issues. So I have more to learn about this.

Why don’t you just smoke weed? Why all this fuss over CBD?

I can’t count the number of times someone sent me this. First off, I live in New York state which is still behind on marijuana legalization. Second, I am not a high functioning stoner and is the reason I went off it. It doesn’t matter which kind I take, you’ll have to peel me off the couch. I’m utterly useless when high and I’d like to be able to function like a normal adult at work so this is not an option for me.

Will I continue using CBD now?

Yes but I don’t think I will use it on a daily basis. Primarily because of cost. CBD is not cheap. I see myself taking it as often as I would if I needed to pop an Advil. I do enjoy the vape though and it’s one that I reach for more often than the rest mostly for its convenience. In the beginning I thought it wasn’t working because I didn’t get that weighted feeling I initially described but soon realized it did aid with my pain specially one a day I forgot to take a tincture and my neck pain was so intense I took a few puffs of the vape pen and relief was almost instant.

I hope this shed just a bit of light on CBD for those who have been curious and/or hesitant to try. It would do well for you to do some further research on your own so you can better decide if CBD is right for you. I am in no means an expert on this matter and can only offer information based on my own experience. Good luck!