How hard water wrecks your hair and what you can do about it

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Do you have hard water and hate what it’s doing to your hair? Welcome to the club!  Even though we have a water softener, half the time – make that most of the time – it doesn’t work properly. It may be due to a high concentration of minerals, sediment, etc. from our well. Who knows? As a result, I have more bad than good hair days.

If your hair is blonde or highlighted (like mine), the effects of all that iron and other metals in your water are even more noticeable. After a few weeks, my soft caramel strands look brittle and brassy!  Plus, because I can’t get the grime, soap scum, and gunk from styling products completely out of my hair, my tresses are limp and lifeless. At this point I’m tempted to shave my head and wear a wig!

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Hard water is especially hard on chemically-treated hair! Photo: mavrichi.com

Sound familiar? You’ll be glad to know I’ve found some ways to combat hard water issues and restore body and luster to your locks.

Let’s start with a few homemade solutions:

Vinegar & Cream of Tartar Paste
1. Combine two parts cream of tartar with one part vinegar in a bowl to form a thick paste. The amount of cream of tartar and vinegar you use depends on the thickness and length of your hair.
2. Let the paste sit in your hair for 15-20 minutes.
3. Rinse paste out of your hair. Once half of it is rinsed out, shampoo your hair as usual to  remove remaining paste.
4. After shampooing, rinse hair with cool water.

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Rinse with vinegar for sleek and shiny locks. Photo: hairmakeupandbeauty.com

Vinegar & Water Rinse
Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 3 cups of water. After shampooing, massage vinegar mixture into your hair, leave it in for 10-15 minutes, and rinse it out. Vinegar helps remove residue, making your hair squeaky clean and shiny.

Lemon Juice
Make a lemon rinse with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 cups of water. Mix well and massage into your scalp and hair after shampooing. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes before rinsing it off. The acidity in lemons helps remove mineral and product buildup from your hair, creating a sleek finish. It’s also good for treating dandruff!

Another idea I came across is to add bluish-purple food coloring (a combination of blue, red, and green) to your shampoo and/or conditioner to counteract the brassiness in your hair. Sounds crazy I know, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! See what it’s all about at theperfumeexpert.com.

If you’re a bit skeptical about this DIY remedy, try using a purple or blue tinted shampoo and conditioner for blonde/highlighted hair. Here are a few suggestions:

Biosilk Color Therapy Cool Blonde Shampoo – on sale now for $7.35 at jcpenney.com

JOICO Color Balance Purple Shampoo/Conditioner – $15.99-$17.99 at Ulta.com

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Color Renew Tone Correcting Shampoo – $6.99 at Walgreens.com

Other excellent products for treating hard water hair:

Redken Hair Cleansing Cream Shampoo – $15.50 at ulta.com
Conditions and purifies hair by removing hard water minerals and product buildup.

Ion Hard Water Conditioner – less than $8.00 at sallybeauty.com
Helps prevent buildup of minerals, reduces dryness and discoloration, and makes your hair softer and easier to style. Safe for daily use and color-treated hair.

Leven Rose Organic 100% Pure Cold Pressed Natural Jojoba Oil – around $13 at amazon.com.
Rub a small amount in your hair before styling to nourish and repair dry, frizzy ends. It’s also good for your skin and nails.

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This Malibu Hard Water Hair Treatment works miracles on distressed tresses!

I’ve saved the best for last… Malibu Hard Water Hair Wellness Treatment.
The all-natural product removes mineral deposits and impurities as it moisturizes, leaving hair silky, shiny, and more manageable after just one or two applications. I’m not kidding, the results are amazing! Don’t just take my word for it, look at these glowing reviews on Amazon.com!

Packets are sold individually or in a box of 12. Get a dozen packets now for $24.98 at Amazon.com

PLEASE NOTE: most of these treatments and products should only be used once or twice a month as they can dry out your hair.

One more recommendation:
Add a shower head filter. If you don’t have a water softener (or if it’s faulty like mine), install a filter on your shower head. It will help remove rust, residue, chlorine, and impurities in your water and improve the overall condition of your hair and skin. You can buy them at home improvement stores or online at bedbathandbeyond.com.

Find all kinds of solutions for hard water hair on Pinterest!

Sources: Reader’s Digest, everydaycheapskate.com, theperfumeexpert.com, and allwomenstalk.com.

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Yeah, I wish! Photo of Jennifer Lopez from hairstylezz.com.

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. wishes she had thick, gorgeous hair like J.Lo, but since that’ll never happen she’ll settle for softer water. 

How to Choose the Perfect Athletic Shoes

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Walking is my favorite form of exercise. It doesn’t require a certain skill, you can do it almost anywhere, and all you need are a good pair of comfortable shoes. Yeah, about that… I’ve discovered over the years that finding suitable athletic shoes that are stylish, fit well, and don’t cost an arm and a leg isn’t always easy. For example, I’ll see a style I like but unfortunately it’s made for running instead of walking. Or, I’ll love the way the shoes feel on my feet, but they look like those ugly orthopedic clodhoppers my great aunt wore!

I know some of you can relate to my dilemma. I mean, there are so many brands and types of footwear to choose from nowadays, where do you begin? It’s a bit overwhelming to say the least.

My objective today is to cut through all the confusion and help women like me find athletic shoes that fit their needs, lifestyle, and budget.

Athletic shoes are usually grouped into three main categories: Running (or Jogging), Walking, and Cross-Training.  Here’s a little info on each, plus recommended brands/styles in various price ranges (to make it simple, I’m sending you to Amazon.com).

Running/Jogging 
You’ll want extra cushioning, maximum shock absorption, and good heel support, as well as decent traction for optimum performance on pavement or dirt. Visit Runner’s World for advice on buying the right running shoes.

Good Picks:
Asics Women’s Gel-Nimbus              $$$$
Nike Women’s Air Zoom Pegasus    $$$$
Saucony Women’s Cohesion                  $$

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The Asics Gel-Nimbus Running Shoe is a big contender in this category!

 

Walking
The soles on walking shoes are slightly rounded and flexible so the foot can roll easily from heel to toe. The best ones are lightweight and breathable, and also have some shock absorption in the heel. Go to verywell.com for help picking the perfect walking shoes.

Good Picks:
Asics Women’s GEL-Tech Neo
        $$$
New Balance Women’s WW1065     $$
Ryka Women’s Devotion                     $$

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This cool-looking Ryka Walking Shoe is a winner in every way!

 

Cross-Training
Cross-trainers are great for people who do a variety of workouts, like weight lifting, yoga, kickboxing, and aerobics. You can also use them for light jogging on the treadmill or hiking. Look for ones with a firm heel, ample support, and some flexibility to accommodate a range of activities. Go to crosstrainingshoe.net for tips on selecting quality cross-trainers.

Good Picks
Nike Women’s Flex Supreme TR 3
        $$$
Asics Women’s GEL-Blur33 TR                   $$
New Balance Women’s WX608V3               $

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Women are raving about this Nike Flex Trainer!

 

NOTE:  If you participate in a particular activity on a regular basis (e.g., you’re an avid golfer, tennis player, runner, or cyclist), you’re better off going with shoes that are designed specifically for that sport.

Some things to consider when shopping for athletic shoes:

  • Go to a specialty store where the staff can offer expert advice and assistance. Nothing’s worse than shopping at a department store and having someone who is completely clueless wait on you!
  • Have your feet measured at the store – don’t just go by size as it can vary by brand and style.
  • Try them on at the end of the day or after a workout when your feet are larger.
  • Wear socks you usually wear when working out.
  • Walk around, jump up and down, and run in place to make sure there’s enough wiggle room in the toe area and also that your heels don’t slip out of the shoes.
  • Make sure they fit and feel comfortable right away. You shouldn’t have to break them in.
  • Bring an old pair of shoes with you so the salesperson can check the wear and determine your gait.
  • Don’t go by looks alone. Focus on fit, comfort, and performance first.
  • Mention if you have high arches, flat feet, bunions, weak ankles, or conditions like plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendonitis as these things will determine the types of shoes you can wear. In some cases, you may need to get special insoles.

Once you settle on a brand, style, and size that’s right for you, see if you can get those shoes online for less! Check out these online specialty stores:
Sportshoes.com
Footlocker.com
Finishline.com

Finally, if you want your nice new athletic shoes to last longer, try to use them solely for exercising or a specific sport. In other words, don’t wear them for knocking around. Have a pair or two of fun sneakers on hand for shopping, running errands, and other everyday activities.

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Happy Feet, Warner Bros. Pictures

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. finally got a decent pair of walking shoes after wearing the wrong ones for years, and her feet are very happy she did!

 

Needle-felting Basics: Felted Acorns

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What is needle-felting? It’s the process of taking clean, carded wool roving, basically a big fuzzy lump of hand-dyed fiber, and using a long barbed needle to repeatedly poke and shape the wool into a tightly compacted 3-D shape. The compacted wool is much denser and is now what we commonly refer to as felt.

Creating needle-felted acorns is a simple jumping-off point for your introduction to the craft. Now is the perfect time to learn, as fallen acorn caps are at their most plentiful, and felted acorns are a wonderful addition to your fall and holiday table-settings and displays.

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Gathering Acorns – Look out, squirrels. You’ve got some competition.  Hunting for acorns is a great excuse to get outside and enjoy nature and fall sunshine. It’s also an opportunity to pick up some of Mother Nature’s other craft supplies: pine cones for holiday decorating, colored leaves for pressing, and fallen branches of birch or red dogwood for spruce pots in December.

Drying Acorns – Once you’ve gathered your acorns, drying them is an important step.  There are many crafts that involve using the whole acorn. But for needle-felted acorns, you will only use the caps. I throw the meaty nut part out in the yard for the squirrels. I will defer to my friends at wikiHow for a simple explanation of the washing, and oven-drying process.

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Supplies – There are many places to find needle-felting supplies. I purchase my supplies from Dream Felt on Etsy. I prefer to felt with Norwegian Wool, as it’s coarse and easier to work with. The super fine Merino wool, is so incredibly soft and perfect for fine details, but it’s not recommended for making acorns.  Dream Felt has a wide variety of Norwegian wool in gorgeous hand-dyed colors. The owner sells her wool in complementary color packs or individually.  There is also an autumn collection, which gives you a nice selection of autumn colors: burnt umber, deep orange, rich yellow, forest green,  and chestnut brown in a bundle.

Acorn caps

Wool –  .5 – 1 ounce each of 3-5 colors of wool for fall colors

Needles –  38-gauge is a medium, all-purpose needle and 40-gauge is for finishing

Foam Pad – provides a surface to felt on so you won’t stab yourself

Clear Tacky Glue

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, you’re ready to start.

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Felting  – The amount of fiber you pull from your roving (pull, don’t cut) will depend on the size of your acorn cap. I generally don’t use the fuzzy variety, as they make a mess. But otherwise, acorn caps come in sizes varying anywhere from a pinky nail to larger than a quarter. I’ve created a video on YouTube, which will demonstrate the process of creating an acorn from beginning to end. The video will give you a good visual of the ratio of wool to use in relation to the size of the acorn cap. I create both a medium and micro acorn, but you’ll also see an example of the large cap as well.

Once you have the loose wool, you roll it between your thumb and forefinger into a small cylindrical shape. Keeping it pinched between your thumb and finger, set it on the foam and hold it there.

Use the 38-gauge needle in your right hand (assuming you’re right-handed) and start poking. You will want to poke about ¼ to ½ of the way down into your wool. Not all the way through. Go slowly at first, until you get the hang of it. This will reduce the likelihood of overzealously poking yourself with these sharp needles. It happens. I speak from experience. They do sell leather thumb protectors, but I find them awkward, and like more control over the wool. If you’re worried about poking, you can use Band-Aids on your thumb and forefinger on your left hand. But just starting slow should do the trick.

As you’re poking, you’re also gradually poking and turning the wool into a chubby cylinder shape. It should be loosely packed at this point. Start to round off one end of the cylinder and flatten the opposite end. Keep placing the chubby little acorn nub into the cap until it’s slightly bigger than the inside of the cap.

Squeeze a dollop of clear glue inside the cap. Then squeeze the flat part of the acorn into the cap, pushing it flush with the inside. Now you poke, poke, and poke some more. It’s probably over 200 pokes. I’ve never counted. Trust me. It’s a lot of poking.  The video will give you a good idea, but once you feel more confident, you will achieve a nice steady rhythm and it will go much more quickly. Your poking now is to refine your acorn’s shape and tightly compact the fibers. You’ll notice the acorn becomes lighter the more you felt. Finally, when the acorn feels solid, you’ll use the 40-gauge needle to make shallower pokes all around the acorn to create a uniform smooth felt surface, and tame any stray “hairs.” And  you’re done. On to the next one!

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Given the repetitive, rhythmic nature of the poking and forming of the wool into the felted shape needle-felting is incredibly relaxing.  It’s the perfect craft for multi-tasking, so you can feel less guilty about spending an entire rainy day binge-watching The Affair or season six of The Big Bang Theory for the third time. At the end of the day, you’ll actually have something to show for all the couch-surfing you did.

Be sure to watch the instructional video that accompanies this blog to see the fall acorns come to life!

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Smart Perks Blogger, Melanie Bisson, loves multi-tasking. On Sundays, she is watching football, her fantasy football match-up and needle-felting.

 

Four Fun Ways to Celebrate Fall

happy little child, baby girl laughing and playing in autumnWhoohoo! Fall is finally here! I may have said this before, but autumn is without a doubt my favorite time of year, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Why we look forward to fall:

√ The weather. Blue skies, cool crisp air – I’ll take “sweater weather” over hot and humid any day! Plus, we finally get to enjoy the outdoors without the mosquitoes pestering us!

√ The spectacular scenery. Nature transforms into a vibrant kaleidoscope of colors that take your breath away, for a few weeks anyway.

√ Football games. You can’t beat the roar of the crowd and cheering on your home team from the bleachers. Watching the pros in action on the big screen is pretty awesome too! (Go Vikings!)

√ Apples and pumpkins. All ripe and ready for eating, baking, or decorating.

√ Campfires. There’s something comforting about a crackling fire on a chilly autumn night and you gotta love that heavenly wood-smoke smell!

There are so many reasons why we love this beautiful season and so many different ways to enjoy it. Here’s just a sample:
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Go Apple & Pumpkin Picking

A visit to the apple orchard should be on everyone’s must-do list. Picking your own apples is just part of the whole experience. Most places offer tractor-drawn hayrides and some also have petting zoos, corn mazes, and other family-friendly attractions. The one our company visited on a recent outing had all of these things, plus a mountain of hay to jump in, a giant corn crib slide, a play wooden train, walking paths, grape vines, and more!

Wondering what to do with all those apples? See my Sept. 2015 blog post for tasty apple recipes.

While you’re out and about, make a point to stop at a pumpkin patch nearby. Whether you’re setting them out for decorations, carving them for Halloween, or using them in a delicious dessert, it helps to know how to select the best pumpkins for your needs. Find out how at pumpkinnook.com!

If you prefer to make your pie from fresh pumpkin instead of canned, check out this recipe for Scratch Pumpkin Pie!

Beautiful alBeautiful alley in colorful autumn timeley in colorful autumn time
View Fall Colors

Each autumn, the leaves change to brilliant hues of gold, yellow, orange and scarlet. Whether it’s in your area or a neighboring state, you’ll definitely want to set aside a day this month to see the gorgeous fall foliage at its peak. Make it a day trip and have a picnic, or go biking or hiking on scenic trails to see Mother Nature at her finest. Here’s a guide to the best fall color displays by state.

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Make Merry at Oktoberfest  

You don’t have to be German to party like one! Indulge in beer, brats, and jumbo pretzels at Oktoberfest, an annual Bavarian festival and funfair observed all over the world. There’s usually a few bands playing oompah music on hand too (I’m not really into that, but I can’t help singing along to “The Beer Barrel Polka” or toasting to “zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi hoi hoi!”). The biggest one is in Munich, Germany, but you’ll find hundreds of Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States alone. Find one near you at funtober.com

We’ve been to quite a few with friends over the years, mostly in New Ulm Minnesota  (the home of Schell’s Brewery) and a couple in Wisconsin, and they’re always entertaining – where else can you mingle with happy revelers dressed in dirndls, lederhosen, and Alpine hats?

Explore other fall festivals in your state at topeventsusa.com!

Tailgating: Group Of Friends Cheering While Listening To Footbal
Tailgate with Fellow Football Fans.

Gather the gang together and enjoy some beverages, food and good conversation before the game. Pack a cooler with beer, soda, etc. and plenty of ice, bring a few snacks to share (and your own meat if you’re grilling – don’t forget the grills!) and portable chairs. Put on your team jerseys and you’re set to go. If you plan to tailgate in the stadium parking lot, be sure to pick a designated spot to meet beforehand. NOTE: you may have to purchase a reserved parking pass if you want to be closer to the venue. Also, make sure you’re aware of any stadium restrictions (e.g., alcohol, grills, tents) in advance.

Get tailgating tips, recipes, and more at tailgating.com!

Discover more great ways to celebrate fall at realsimple.com!

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. loves everything about this season, especially the colorful leaves, football, Halloween, and comfy sweaters that hide figure flaws.