Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Security Blanket: Huggaroo Weighted Blanket

Linus (from Peanuts) was on to something... 


Heavy Makes You Happy. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about weighted blankets. It’s believed that weighted blankets help reduce anxiety and stress and can improve one’s sleep. Though there still needs to be more scientific studies, these blankets may also be useful for relieving chronic pain and depression, and help those with autism and ADHD. In fact, these therapeutic blankets have been used for several years to help patients with mental and physical trauma and have actually been used during certain surgeries, to lower stress in patients.

Weighted blankets are said to have calming and relaxing effects by providing pressure that activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Called “deep pressure stimulation” or "deep pressure touch," it is similar to the benefits of massage. Users have described their experiences with using weighted blankets as being nestled in a cocoon or being swaddled. Some even liken it to being hugged.

A weighted blanket should weigh between 7 - 12 percent of your body weight. It shouldn’t be so heavy that it restricts movement.

I tested the 15-pound Huggaroo Weighted Blanket ($129.99). It has a soft, removable, machine-washable duvet cover. The duvet is secured to the inner weighted quilt with fourteen double ties and loops to prevent shifting or settling of the food-grade polypropylene pellets inside that give the blanket its weight. 

The first time I used it, it felt a little heavy, like a luxurious X-ray apron, and I had to take it off. Subsequently I got used to it and fell asleep pretty easily. My issue is more with tossing and turning, and getting an overactive mind to shut off. I noticed that I am less likely to toss and turn, because of the weight. It's not always as great at helping me stay asleep, however. Sometimes when using the blanket, I'll get too warm, and it’s not easily tossed off. I have to make an effort to roll it off of me. Fortunately, at those times I was able to quickly get back to sleep (something that I often have trouble doing).

People with certain conditions should talk to a doctor before using a weighted blanket. It might not be good for those with sleep apnea, asthma or other breathing issues, since it might put too much pressure on the chest and could disrupt breathing, or for those who have claustrophobia (I suspect the snugness could actually feel too tight, giving them the feeling of being confined.)

I also avoid using the blanket when I have neck and shoulder pain because (in my case) it makes it worse.

All that being said, I love the feel of the ultra-plush Minky duvet cover, which is machine washable. I love snuggling up in the blanket on the bed to watch television (yes, I know, bad habit), although with this blanket, the TV ends up watching me. On cool days during the spring and summer, I will probably use it without the weighted quilt. 

For information, visit huggaroo.com.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Eye SEE You: Sexy Specs from SEE Eyewear

Oh, say can you SEE…


Photo: Gerrie Summers

A Must: SEE. My favorite thing to wear in 2019 (which started in 2017) was bold eyewear — following the lead of Oprah, Gayle King and Al Roker — matching fashionable eye glasses to clothing (only they can afford it!) It’s a funny thing actually, considering the fact that I hated them so much when I was in grade school. Of course eyewear has changed a lot since then. 

I decided to start wearing statement eye glasses as a treat for myself after losing my dreadlocks to chemotherapy. [You can read more about it in my personal essay, Changing the Frame, in the Sisters from AARP newsletter.]  

I needed a new look and a boost in mood and confidence. One day I spotted blue octagon-shaped sunglasses in the window of SEE Eyewear in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn and I was hooked.

Favorite eye glasses with my favorite activity (spa-ing)
Photo: Brandon Harrington/Courtesy of Wellness Month

Then SEE Eyewear opened a store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and I was treated to a brand new pair to review in my New York Lifestyles Magazine Style section. SEE stands for Selective Eyewear Elements and features eyewear selections that are the closest one can get to custom eyeglasses. The company produces a limited number of each frame, only two per color, per city or store, or limited edition frames. It’s addicting.

Photo: Gerrie Summers

SEE has over 45 stores nationwide. For more information, visit seeeyewear.com

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Smart Scents

I like this because I love aromatherapy … and I’m lazy…


Alexa turn on aromatherapy, please. I have a couple of aromatherapy diffusers. They don’t get used that much. When I think about using them, I’m usually stressed out or tired and frankly too lazy to mix the oils and blend them with water. Then I was sent information on a diffuser with bluetooth capability. Does that mean I can turn it on and off and schedule fragrance to fill the room right when I need it, from my smartphone or even by voice control? Yes.

The Aera Smart Aromatherapy Diffuser can be operated via the Aerodome mobile app (available in the Apple Store and Google Play). You can set times and intensity levels and have the Aera “play” automatically at certain times throughout the day. The Smart Diffuser ($200) is controlled via WiFi using the app or through Amazon Alexa. You just plug it in and pop in a fragrance capsule. The fragrance capsules are $55 per blend, to which I thought “Ouch!” but the aromatherapy capsules don’t require mixing and there’s no residue from flame, smoke or oils. Plus you get 500 hours of diffusing. 

The Aera fragrances and essential oils are sustainably sourced and are hypoallergenic, making them safe for children and pets. Aera also has a partnership with Aromatherapy Associates London for a wellness line collection of essential oil blends. I’m currently using De-Stress Mind, a focusing and calming blend of frankincense, petitgrain and wild chamomile that is perfect for work or during yoga and meditation. 

So how does it work? Microdroplet technology converts liquid fragrance compounds into tiny droplets, which burst into billions of fragrance molecules to blend with ambient air. Fragrance ingredients are released so that the scent is experienced in its entirely—i.e. base, middle and top notes all at once. You experience a scent free of alcohol, propellants and other harmful VOCs. Fragrance strength is adjustable and you can also control the Smart Diffuser manually. If you don’t want to use WiFi at all, you can save money by buying the Touch Diffuser ($150). 

Aera For Home currently has a special collection available featuring Snowfall, Sugar & Spice and Hot Toddy scents for the holidays. 

For further information visit aeraforhome.com

Saturday, December 28, 2019

PediPocket: A Blanket with a Pocket for Your Feet

My ten favorite things of 2019 continues with a warm and cozy treat for the feet…


So Neat for Feet. PediPocket is a plush, velvety soft fleece throw blanket with a foot pocket to keep feet warm. It’s perfect to use to keep warm while on the couch or a recliner, watching TV or movies. It’s great for cold winter nights and not too hot for cool summer evenings. I can picture using one while relaxing on a porch rocking chair, on a chilly fall or spring day or evening.

PediPocket is six feet long, with a 20-inch deep conically-shaped foot pocket, so you don't have to keep pulling the blanket over exposed feet. It’s machine-washable and dryer friendly. 

The PediPocket ($59.99) comes in several colors and prints like Luscious Leopard (my pick), Chevron Chic (pictured above) and Marvelous Midnight (pictured below). It’s also available in a smaller size for kids ($49.99) and there’s also a larger seven foot PediPocket XXL (so far only available in Gorgeous Gunmetal) for $89.99. 

For information visit pedipocketblanket.com

Friday, December 27, 2019

At Last a Comfortable Ballet Style Shoe

If heels make your nose bleed...


Don't Take a Gamble on Your Feet! Slippers, sneakers and ballet-style shoes  — my closets are filled with them.  Nothing can ruin your mood at the end of the day like aching feet from uncomfortable shoes. Since I no longer feel comfortable in most heels and I can’t wear sneakers or slippers to events and outside luncheons and dinners, I tend to favor flats, specifically ballet-style shoes.

Enter Arcopedico, a company that sells comfortable shoes in a variety of styles, fabrics and colors. Like the little black dress, I always need a little black shoe and my choice from the company is the Vegas. It’s made of a lightweight leather that is typically used in apparel, and molds to your foot’s natural shape. What that means is you almost feel like you’re not wearing a shoe at all, yet along with a cushiony feel, the Vegas is durable. Another bonus: If you love to travel, these are easy to pack and take up very little space. 

Arcopedico’s Vegas shoe is $145. For more information visit arcopedicousa.com

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Byoot of a Suit

Here's another favorite find of the year, that I wish I was wearing and enjoying at a hot destination right now!


What a Relief! One of the most ingenious finds of the year happened to be a one-piece swimsuit. Due to what I call a battle scar from surgery (and a little bit of vanity), I’ve abandoned two-piece swimsuits and bikinis. But one-pieces do pose a minor problem. During a trip of sun, fun and rum punch, while lounging at the pool I kept taking bathroom breaks. If you wear one-pieces, you know how frustrating it can be to remove a coverup, pull down a wet bathing suit, then pull it back up. It’s a pain! 

So fellow one-piece swimsuit wearers, do I have a swimsuit for you! I was sent a Byoót suit for review in my style column and I was relieved (in more ways than one). 

Byoót swimsuits have buttons at the sides for easy bathroom-break access. At first I was nervous about the buttons falling off, as buttons often do, but so far so good. I just make sure to test the tightness of the buttons when I wear it, but they’re pretty secure.

The swimsuits run small, so if you’re on the border of two sizes, they suggest that you choose the larger of the two. The Byoót suit comes in various styles. The Classic Black Suit above is $99.

For information visit byootcompany.com

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

How to Harness a Positive Mindset by Using Intention Scenting

As the year draws to an end, I often start reflecting on the past twelve months and then set new intentions for the year ahead. I usually set daily intentions, but it was especially important to do so during the winter solstice, as well as during the new moon and partial solar eclipse later this evening. 

This year I discovered a new way of setting intentions:


Intention Scenting: I started using the Intention Gifting Set from Pinrose, which was a special gift set offered for St. Valentine’s Day. It included Pinrose’s Rollerball Kit (nine rollerballs of each Pinrose scent), a deck of intention cards and a rose quartz (a bonus for V-Day since rose quartz crystals help open the heart chakra and promote unconditional love), and a step-by-step guide to Intention Scenting. Intention scenting is pairing a fragrance with an intention (mindful commitment to yourself). It is meant to add a moment of self-care during your beauty routine by helping you “harness the power of a positive mindset throughout your day.” There are nine positive intentions (such as Gratitude, Strength, Optimism, Intuition) with each fragrance based on the mood and feeling each scent evokes.

As instructed I shuffled the nine intention cards face down and thought about something I needed clarity and guidance on in my life. I then fanned the cards out face down in front of me and let my “energy” guide me to a card. I picked Secret Genius — the guardian of Intuition. Secret Genius encourages you to tap into your intuitive inner-voice. 

The kit guides you through a moment of self-reflection and I mindfully applied the fragrance while setting an intention to start my day with a positive mindset. (As you smell the fragrance on you throughout your day, it serves as a gentle reminder of your intention.)

Today I chose the Tambourine Dreamer card. Tambourine Dreamer is the spirit of gratitude, who helps remind us of the abundance of the universe. It says she is also supportive during high days of celebration (like Christmas) and moments of pure love between friends and family. Very fitting. Tambourine Dreamer helps you appreciate the bounty of your life. The fragrance is lovely and uplifting. 

Pinrose currently offers a similar kit, the Good Intentions Kit ($25), which comes with eight Good Intention Cards and eight 0.5 fl oz, eau de parfum sprays.

For information visit Pinrose.com

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

How to Be Comfy on Christmas

Continuing on with my second favorite thing from 2019…


Have a Comfy Christmas. The Comfy is a perfect thing to post on Christmas Eve because (in red or burgundy) it reminds me of a Santa costume, especially when worn with the matching Comfy Feet slippers. I’m sure it would keep Santa warm at the North Pole. Oh, and crazy enough, there are, or perhaps I should say were special holiday Comfys in Santa, Reindeer and Elf designs for both kids and adults. At this time, most are sold-out. 

The original Comfy (in one size fits all for adults and teens), has a huge hood, giant front pocket (big enough to hold your smartphone, but don’t, just don’t!), and is made of velvety soft fleece, with a fluffy sherpa fleece lining (100% polyester—so it can be machine washed and tumble dried on a low setting). Wearing The Comfy is much better than my trying to write while snuggled up in flannel sheets on my bed, which is what I was doing when the cold weather set in, before the heat was on. At least now I can be warm in this comfortable combination blanket and sweatshirt, working at a desk like a normal person, without getting carpal tunnel, neck and shoulder pains, or falling asleep. Plus, it’s hard to get up and move around draped in a blanket! 

The Comfy ($44.99) and Comfy Feet ($14.99) are sold at several stores and online sites.

For more information visit the comfy.com

Monday, December 23, 2019

My Infinite Agenda

To get an earlier start on one of the intentions I set for 2020 (get my Summers Retreat blog back up and running), I am presenting a countdown of ten of my favorite things from 2019. 


“Imagine the life you want and build it.” First up is My Infinite Agenda, a combination daily/monthly planner, gratitude/intentions journal and vision board. My Infinite Agenda has several features to help you set your goals and dreams, and track your progress. It has a 12-month calendar, two-year calendar overview, section trackers for gratitude, short-term goals, long-term goals and wildest dreams, weekly layout pages where you can write down your plans for the day, along with daily goal setting and daily gratitude lined prompts, end of the month pages to track your successes, plus motivational stickers and inspirational quotes. 

My Infinite Agenda is available in dated planners ($58), undated (6-month) planners, ($29) and midyear planners (August start) $39.  There are also planners you can purchase with proceeds going to charities such as charity: water, an organization dedicated to making water to clean and safe worldwide.

For more information visit Myinfiniteagenda.com

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Can a Sunscreen Really Be Reef Safe?

All through the month of April, I’ve been getting emails about products that are “eco-friendly” and “environmentally friendly” in preparation for Earth Day (April 22) coverage. With summer approaching, I’ve also been seeing a lot of sunscreens labeled “reef safe.” Is this just another buzz word like “natural” and “organic” that, because of loopholes, can easily be manipulated just to sell a product? Can a sunscreen really be reef safe?

The bad news is, no sunscreen is going to be 100% safe for reefs, oceans and marine life. I’m not even confident that the sunscreens deemed safe for human use are actually safe. But there are things that can be done to lessen the environmental impact of sunscreens on the marine ecosystem. 

Photo: Alicia 3690 from Pixabay

Not Tons of Fun

An estimated 6,000 - 14,000 tons of sunscreen per year washes off the skin of swimmers and water sports enthusiasts and winds up in the oceans and reefs. So using reef safe products is definitely a must. 

Being called reef safe doesn’t guarantee that all ingredients are completely safe. Even “natural” sunscreen and skincare products have ingredients that overtime can cause problems. But there are things we can do to lessen their environmental impact.

1. Pick sunscreens that are formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate. Studies have shown that these particular chemical sunscreen ingredients are detrimental to marine life. Studies have also shown that oxybenzone contributes to coral bleaching,  damage to coral DNA and to zooxanthellae, photosynthetic algae that lives inside coral tissues. (More on this later.)

2. Choose a mineral sunscreen.  Chemical sunscreens tend to be more irritating to the skin, in addition to having more potentially harmful ingredients. Chemical sunscreens, however, tend to give more protection from UV rays and some individuals may feel they need more protection than mineral sunscreens provide. If possible, save the mineral sunscreen for when you will be in the ocean and waterways and use chemical sunscreens to protect against sun exposure during outdoor/non-water activities. 

3. Look for non nano ingredients. If you do choose a mineral sunscreen, it should contain non nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Nano particles lesser than 100 nanometers can clog coral pores. Coral provides a protective environment for the zooxanthellae living inside. Once the pores are blocked from sunlight, the algae can’t grow. All of this causes a chain reaction. Algae provides oxygen and essential nutrients to coral. When coral become stressed, they expel the algal cells, becoming white (known as coral bleaching). This can eventually result in the corals’ death.

4. Choose sunscreens without parabens, such as butylparaben — better for you and the ocean.

5. Other ingredients to avoid — homosaltate, octocrylene, 4-methybenzylidene camphor, retinyl palmitate.

6. Look for biodegradable ingredients often found in the more natural sunscreens — plant-based ingredients like aloe vera and green tea that help provide protection and will take less time to disintegrate than regular sunscreen ingredients. The longer chemicals take to disintegrate, the further damage to the environment.

7. A water-resistant sunscreen is better, since less of the ingredients will wash off into the ocean.

8. Use UPF-rated clothing. It's not always an option, but whenever possible, cover more of your body with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing. You'll have less skin exposed and therefore will need less sunscreen.

Love Sun Body sunscreens have non-nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (depending on the SPF level) and natural, food-grade ingredients — no parabens, synthetic perfumes, dyes, GMO, animal-derived ingredients. The sunscreens also meet both U.S. and European regulatory requirements and are the first and only sunscreens in the U.S. certified by Ecocert Cosmos Natural (the international standard for organic and natural cosmetics and skincare products.) Love Sun Body also received a best score of 1 (out of 10) rating by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The formulas are also water and sweat-resistant up to 80 minutes.  

MyChelle sunscreens, including Sun Shield Clear Spray SPF 30 and Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 (Non-Tinted) provide broad spectrum protection (non nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) with reef friendly ingredients. The sunscreen is formulated without phthalates, parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrances and colors, and GMOs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Toni Braxton Breaks Hearts at the Borgata

Over the weekend, I traveled to Atlantic City to see Toni Braxton at the Borgata Event Center. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an actual concert. I also hadn’t been to Atlantic City or the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in more than a decade. In a former life I reviewed concerts and nightclub performances, so it was fun to sit in the audience without a notepad and a penlight, and just enjoy the show.

LeLee, Taj & Coko of SWV.
Photo: Courtesy of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

These Sisters Have Voices!

I was surprised how entertained I was by opening act SWV. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to expect after seeing the SWV Reunited reality show that aired back in 2014. That show didn't put them in the best light. I’ve always been impressed with Coko’s chops, but Taj was on fire that night. LeLee was playing the role of emcee and doing a great job. The trio was working it like their lives depended on it. It was also amusing to hear people in the audience making comments like: “I didn’t know that was their song!” “Oh, I know that song. I love that song.” "I remember that song. I never knew who sang it." Yep. They had a lot of jams. Remember “Weak” and “Right Here”? 

Toni Braxton performs at the Borgata Event Center
Photo: Courtesy of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Did Toni Really Break Down?

Toni’s repertoire is mostly ballads, so you don’t expect to be dancing in the aisles. (Although that didn't stop her fans from standing up and blocking my view. Sigh.) Her show involves a lot of audience interaction and participation. At one point she invited a 16-year-old onstage who was celebrating her birthday, and a couple of audience members to sing a few lyrics from a song. (The man was a fail, the woman was actually very good.) Later on in the show, Toni “broke down” during “Un-Break My Heart,” a song she apparently now dedicates to her late aunt. I have no doubt that she gets emotional thinking about her when she performs her aunt’s favorite TB song, but she really milked it. It was sort of like her Please Please Please (James Brown) moment. Her fans loved it.

Mase performs at the Premier Nightclub at the Borgata.
Photo: Gerrie Summers

Welcome Back Mase

Later on we stopped by the Premier Nightclub where Mase was going to perform. He took forever to come on and only did three songs at that. The DJ had to coax him back on for the third one. Mase said he couldn’t remember the words.  Now, I don’t know if he was just not prepared to do it or actually didn’t remember the words, but I’m not gonna say nuthin’ about someone forgetting anything! Or course the crowd could have done the song for him, because they knew every single word to the hits he did. 

Flip Like Wilson

I also enjoyed the Gypsy Bar,  a rock n’ roll tequila bar with live music. On Saturday night the music was by Flip Like Wilson, a cover band that has an eclectic list of songs and had me dancing in the VIP section. (Either that or I was very drunk.) Kidding folks. They were good.

If you’re interested in upcoming shows at the Borgata Event Center or Gypsy Bar, or other things to do at the Borgata, visit the website Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa