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Forks Over Knives

November 22nd, 2010 G Posted in COOKING, DINING, LIVING, SEEING No Comments »

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
- Hippocrates

Forks Over Knives is set to be released March 11, 2011. Click here to see the trailer.

Suspend judgment until you see it.

It’s not about guilt. It’s about hope. And I’m all for that!

Whether you agree or disagree, it’s a conversation worth engaging in.

From the Forks Over Knives website:

What has happened to us? Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.

Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.

Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems? A solution so comprehensive but so utterly straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?

FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

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Compassionately Cool

November 16th, 2010 G Posted in LIVING No Comments »

I randomly came across Alicia Silverstone’s website, The Kind Life today and got totally sucked in for nearly 2 hours. It’s really amazing how much stuff is out there: yummy food, healthy home stuff, fun and funky fashion.

It’s been my long-standing belief that guilt-free decadence shouldn’t be an oxymoron and it’s awesome to see so many sites proving it up by offering practical resources for compassionate coolness. Veganism has given itself a stunning makeover in the last few years: from bearded hippie agitators to beautiful hip athletes and A-listers.

Lately people from all walks of life seem to be “outing” themselves as vegans, transcending former stereotypes to create their own elite (but achievable) form of aspirational living that is more about gratification than deprivation.

Amen to that.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a vegan to benefit from the great information on this site and the huge community forum is super-supportive of anyone who is just getting started and those of us who may just be “flirting” with the idea.

Hey, every little bit helps, right? Baby steps.

So if you’re interested in living more consciously – or even just curious about why anyone cares about this stuff – take a few minutes to poke around a bit. You’ll probably find at least a few cool things you’re dying to try and it will definitely give you something to think about.

“In the end, only kindness matters…”

- Jewel, “Hands”

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Wear Sunscreen

March 6th, 2010 G Posted in LIVING No Comments »

wear organic sunscreen, based on the "wear sunscreen speech" in Mary Schmich's essay and Baz Luhrmann's song  Wear Sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year- olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Mayber you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody’s else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Dont’ be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths. Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

- Reprinted from Mary Schmich’s essay, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.” Published in the Chicago Tribune, 1997.

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Eco-Friendly Laundry

February 26th, 2010 G Posted in LIVING No Comments »

FINALLY!!!! I’ve been looking everywhere for non-toxic, eco-friendly laundry products that actually work – believe me, there’s NOTHING sexy about wearing stinky, unclean clothes.

Had to go all the way to Italy to find people who actually USE these crazy thingies, but they are true believers. And with a 2-year old toddler, they are a great test case.

The terrible name notwithstanding (I mean really, Eco-Balls??? sheesh), these little guys will save you money, save water, save your clothes (and your skin) from harsh chemicals, and of course, won’t pollute the environment. Oh, and if you walk to the store, don’t have a houseboy to help unload your groceries, and/or don’t have cavernous storage space for those monster detergent bottles from Costco, these are far more user-friendly. Win-win-win-win-win.

According to my perfect-parent friends, they are reuseable for about 150 washes – although apparently you can get the super-size kit for up to 1000. In addition to the obvious (no harsh chemicals = less pollution), they also shorten your rinse cycle, thus saving water and electricity. And these days, who doesn’t need to save anywhere we can?? The Eco-Balls also soften clothes in hard water so you can ditch the cost, chemicals and unnecessary plastic of fabric softener too. And fashionistas take note: it’s those nasty chemicals that fade bright colours, damage clothing fibres and turn your wicked black to a lame shade of gray. They are also hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial so they are suitable for sensitive skins so all our expensive skin treatments are not for naught.

The eco dryer balls are also pretty cool. Basically they’re done when the little nubby things wear off, and most are guaranteed for 2 years (though allegedly some last up to 5). Like their eco laundry companions, they have no chemicals – which is obviously good – but they also hold heat so they cut drying time by 25%, which of course saves electricity and, more importantly, time. The only thing that’s a little annoying is that they do bounce around and make some noise but whatever – turn the radio up, dance around in your undies and have your own little laundry party!

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I love my V-8!

May 14th, 2009 G Posted in LIVING 1 Comment »

Wish I could say I was talking about the vegetable juice, but alas…I mean my car.

Can a Porsche learn to be eco-friendly?I know, I know…it couldn’t possibly be more “un-green”.

It’s a totally wicked, triple black, super cute, cabriolet convertible 1997 Porsche C4.

It’s all mine.

And I absolutely LOVE it.

So as I embark down this green brick road, I feel compelled to question whether or not this love affair with my car makes me a raging hypocrite or if there is some way I can justify this vice of mine. After much reflection and the sincere consideration of trading it in for something more “environmentally responsible” (honest!), I elected to cut a deal with myself and trade this indulgence for some other, more palatable – and ultimately more eco-friendly – forms of penance.

Before anyone gets all up in my grill with the judgment, here’s some totally legit math:

My mom has a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. She drives about 12,000 miles a year, which is in line with the national average. According to the carbon footprint calculator, mom and her hybrid contribute the equivalent of 2.56 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is way less than the 7.24 tonnes kicked in by comparable mileage in a 4WD SUV. Now I don’t know exactly what these numbers translate into, but I’m pretty sure in this case, less is more. So what’s a speed freak like me to do?

Well, I try not to drive more than necessary so my bopping around the city is mostly done by walking or taking public transportation. I save my car for major errand days once a month (rather than once a week) and for road trips out to see my family in the burbs. I also keep up the maintenance and try not to drive it so hard – little things like accelerating slower and breaking earlier save both gas and wear-and-tear. And for what I pay for both gas and repairs, that’s a win-win-win! All in, I put less than 3000 miles on my car a year, making me responsible for only 1.54 tonnes.

In all fairness, if I were to drive mom’s car 3000 miles per year, I could reduce my footprint by another .9 tonnes…but I figure if walking and public transport put me at 40% less than what mom contributes and 80% less than the standard SUV brigades, I’m definitely doing more than my share.

Bottom line: if you have a gas guzzler that you just can’t part with, you don’t have to apologize for it. Embrace it, enjoy it and just try to drive it a little easier and a little less – especially if you live in the city where practically everywhere is walkable, parking is ridiculously expensive, and you always have to worry about having your baby dinged up or illegally parked by valets. Besides, it’s no fun to have a sports car in stop-and-go traffic anyway and cruising the Viagra Triangle just makes you look…well, ya just don’t wanna be that guy/girl. TRUST ME.

For all the die-hard eco-saints who are twitching as they read this, take heart: even my miniature footprint makes me feel guilty knowing that I could still be doing more – so I do. Read on for other ways I compensate for my additction…

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Power Trip

April 8th, 2009 G Posted in LIVING No Comments »

I’m turning into my mother.

Fortunately, my mom is super cool so that’s actually not a bad thing. But I didn’t think it was so great when I was younger – and smarter and cooler and, like, totally knew everything.

save energy!I remember her always harping on me and my friends to turn the lights off when we left a room. Unbeknownst to me, we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but I enjoyed my life and my parents always made us feel like we were rich – so I REALLY hated when mom would “act poor”. I mean, my friends’ parents didn’t seem to care whether we left the lights on in every room of their house or left the TV and radio on all day or stood in front of an open fridge for 10 minutes deciding what kind of juice box we wanted. And it was soooo embarrassing to have friends come round the house because mom kept the thermostat at 65 in the winter and 80 in the summer to save on heating and air-conditioning. Honestly, is this not some kind of child abuse??

I couldn’t wait to get out and live on my own. My first apartment was FABULOUS. I loved that I could do whatever I wanted – I could leave the lights on all day so I could come home from a hard day’s work to a bright, happy space. I could leave the radio on all night for soothing music to lullaby me to sleep. And the best part was that I could crank the heat and wear tank tops and booty shorts in the dead of winter, or turn it into an A/C igloo so I could cuddle up under my fluffy down comforter in the height of summer…well all that was great until I got my first utility bill for $387.52!!! More than twice what mom paid, and for an apartment that was 1/5 the size of our house. Suddenly when it was my money on the line, putting on a sweater and turning off the lights didn’t seem terribly inconvenient anymore.

Now I have an apartment that’s three times bigger and my electric bill is still less than $50/month. How?

  1. I turn the lights off when I leave a room and use dimmers or candles every chance I get – it’s a great way to set a mood for company or just to create a quiet space for some much needed downtime.
  2. I don’t leave the TV or radio on unless I’m consciously watching or listening. If I want company, I phone a friend.
  3. I plug TV’s, DVD players, computers, etc into power strips and turn the power strips on/off when I use them.
  4. I only wash full loads of dishes and laundry and air-dry dishes unless I’m doing a massive after-party clean-up.
  5. And alas, I now keep the thermostat at 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer.

Sure it takes a little extra thought, but not really much extra effort. And personally, I can think of a LOT of way better things to spend that extra $337.52 on every month. Thanks Mom! Barney’s anyone?

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Blue Bags: IN or OUT?

March 21st, 2009 G Posted in LIVING No Comments »

The blue bag was one of my favorite all-season accessories. Nope, not the awesome Marc Jacobs – sadly, that one eluded me. I’m talking about blue recycling bags.

As you may or may not know, I LOVE entertaining and my infamous kitchen parties are always well-attended. Lots of parties means lots of fun, but also lots of trash.

reuse your water bottles!On one memorable occasion,  a friend of mine was kind enough to collect some random empties and asked where he should put them. In the midst of my kitchen karaoke performance, I motioned over to the trash bin that was overflowing with cans, bottles, a couple of magnums…damn, this was a great party! He turned back to me and said incredulously, “You don’t recycle?”

I just shot him my “oh puh-leeze” look – I mean really, I was having way too much fun gettin’ my groove on to worry about saving the planet right that minute!

That same night my karma kicked in and I hit it off with a totally cute guy who happened to be my neighbor – did I mention that I LOVE my kitchen parties?? Later that week at his place, I noticed a bunch of empty bottles in his sink and made some witty comment about it rivaling my collection. He said he was just trying to do his part to save the planet since the building did not yet have a recycling program. “Really??” I said, trying to sound convincingly appalled – although I was sincerely surprised, as I just assumed all modern buildings did. Apparently not. So what does he do with his recyclables? HE BRINGS THEM HOME WHEN HE VISITS HIS FAMILY EVERY WEEK. No, I’m not kidding. How freakin cute is that?? I told him I was impressed that he would go to that much effort, but he shrugged it off and said it was simply a personal lifestyle choice – no big deal.

Honestly, I’ve never been more attracted to someone – or more mortified. In that moment, I had flashbacks of all the trash I’d happily hauled out of my apartment in the afterglow of a successful soiree, punctuated by a vision of me in some fabulous party couture perched atop a vile mountain of landfill fending off flocks of buzzards with my Manolos. Not quite the look I was going for…

I’ve been a reformed woman ever since. First of all, I harped on my own building manager to get a recycling program in place. After all, I’m not about to start hauling trash around – no matter how clean – in my cute little car. Oh, and I got us both some blue bags. And ya know what? He was absolutely right. It’s not a big deal at all.

I put a sliding dual trash bin under the sink so one side has trashy trash and the other holds my blue bag stash. I also put a separate bin for recyclables out at my parties. So now when I’m cleaning up the aftermath, I still feel good about how much fun we all had, and even better about how much more made it into the blue bags. Yaaaay!

I know there’s still more I can do to reduce the party carnage and I’m working on it. Baby steps…

PS – Starting in 2009, the Blue Bag Program in Chicago is being replaced by the Blue Cart Program. Although this is even easier, I still use my leftover blue bags at my parties . I just like the symbolism and all things retro – plus it helps my alcoholic party-goers to keep the bins straight! There are also some cities who are still using the blue bags effectively so check your local websites to find out what your city is doing.

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HCFS is a four-letter word!

January 15th, 2009 G Posted in COOKING, DINING, LIVING No Comments »

HFCS - YUCK!Would mercury by any other name taste as sweet?

Mercury contamination is the food scare du jour, the latest attack on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and many name-brand food products that contain it. Perhaps you’re content with the FDA’s lack of concern on the mercury front, but are more disturbed about the links between HFCS and obesity or diabetes. Or maybe you agree that the evidence is inconclusive, but you want to err on the safe side – just in case…

Fortunately, it is possible to avoid the HFCS found in processed foods without resorting to a diet of water and tree bark. It’s easy to find accessible, affordable substitutes that are just as yummy as the stuff that is constantly being called into question:

1) Ditch the soda and juice “cocktails” and opt for 100% juice or other tasty alternatives like mixing 100% juice with seltzer or adding fruit to regular water – cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly than bottles of “natural sodas” or flavored waters.

2) Choose 100% whole grain breads. Or better yet – BAKE YOUR OWN – it’s not as hard you might think and fresh-baked bread is delish! Freeze the bread and defrost what you need to extend its shelf life beyond a couple of days and avoid the need for chemical preservatives.

3) Enjoy your breakfast! Get up a little earlier and make some scrambled eggs instead of loading up on breakfast cereal. For something quick and sweet, use natural preserves made with 100% fruit on toast or grab a piece of fruit instead of a breakfast bar. If you simply can’t start your day without your grain in a bowl of milk, try making your own granola or buy it in bulk.

4) Substitute pre-packaged lunch “meats” with unprocessed meats like lean turkey breast, chicken, or roast beef. If you can find grass-fed meats that would be ideal, and your local butcher or deli are good options too. Anything that someone has to cut for you is better than a package you have to cut open.

5) Canned soups are notoriously high in HFCS. Make and store your own soup!

6) If you already enjoy spending time cooking, take it to the next level and seek out fresh, seasonal ingredients and spices from local farmers markets. Preparing food that is naturally delicious and flavorful will reduce your need for condiments.

7) If you are hard-core condiment collector, try some that are made by your local farmers. In a pinch, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a great selection of HFCS-free condiments. You can also source great artisanal selections online at Foodzie.com and Annie’s Naturals.

The do-it-yourself route may seem more time-consuming, but in reality it’s not much more. And considering it is healthier and tastier – not to mention environmentally and economically friendlier – to maintain a hands-on connection to your food, isn’t all that good taste and good karma worth a few extra minutes of your time?

You know, just in case…

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