I watched some of the 2014 Academy Award, but admit I skipped a good portion of it. I like to catch the biggies, like best picture, actor, etc. I wondered if Gravity might capture the coveted Best Picture title, but in the end 12 Years a Slave won the most coveted Oscar.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but plan to. However, I have read the book and I highly recommend it. It offers the real words and thoughts of Solomon Northrup, a black man born free in the North. He marries, has a family, but is torn from that life when he is kidnapped by slave traders, beaten severely for claiming to be free and transported against his will to the South where he is forced to work on a number of plantations plantations.
For the 12 years he’s enslaved, his only bedding is one horse blanket. He’s not allowed to read or write. His memoir was a bestseller during his time in the mid-1800s, but across the years it fell out of the public eye. Now the movie has resurrected the story, and the film has won several awards in the UK as well as the Oscar for best film.
This story is a jewel preserved from the past and now I’ve also found a second titled “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” written by Linda Brent. It was published back in 1861. In this case, it is a story of a girl born and reared in slavery. It was the only life she knew until she was 27.
She wrote the book to help people of the Free States to understand the reality of slavery. It is another eye-opener.
These books offer history in the form of personal voices with stories and insights that won’t make it to the pages of academic books and may not even make into a movie based on the story. The accounts shared cannot leave a person unchanged. Take time to read them.
Photo credits: Wolf Gang
Back when I was a kid, I bet we ate peanut butter and jelly at least a couple times a week. I liked peanut butter on toast, peanut butter on apples, and peanut butter on celery, too.
I just liked the taste — especially chunky style — and didn’t realize it was a good source of fiber and protein that helped me stay satisfied for longer. It’s also a source of good fat and one serving has 3 mg of vitamin E plus magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6. Now a new study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment shows that girls who eat more peanut butter could improve their breast health later in life.
The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Harvard Medical School study shows girls ages 9 to 15 who regularly ate peanut butter (or nuts) were 39% less likely to develop benign breast disease by the age of 30. While benign breast disease sounds harmless, it actually increases the risk of breast cancer later in life.
According to Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine,
“These findings suggest that peanut butter could help reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.”
The findings are based on health histories of 9,039 U.S. girls enrolled in The Growing Up Today Study from 1996 through 2001. Follow up when participants were 18 to 30 years old looked at how many girls had been diagnosed with benign breast disease which had been confirmed by breast biopsy.
The researchers concluded that participants who ate peanut butter or nuts two times each week were 39 percent less likely to have developed benign breast disease than those who never ate them. The study also suggests that the consumption of other foods like beans, lentils, soybeans, and corn may also help prevent benign breast disease.
This isn’t the first study to link peanut butter (and vegetable fat) consumption with breast health, but this is the first study to use reports that were actually recorded during adolescence. Colditz recommends girls replace high-calorie junk food and sugary beverages with peanut butter or nuts.
Photo credits: Elizabeth/Table4Five
Earlier in February, I read about how Subway was removing a chemical called azodicarbonamide (ADA) from the bread used to make their sandwiches.
If you hadn’t heard, ADA is an industrial plastics chemical, but before you go ballistic on Subway it’s worth noting that they aren’t the only ones who used it. It’s in many commercial baked goods as a “dough conditioner” because it makes large batches of dough easier to handle.
In fact according to the Environmental Working Groups Food Database there are almost 500 items that have ADA in more than 130 brands, including some big names like Marie Callendar’s, Nature’s Own, Little Debbie, Kroger, and others!
When I hear stuff like this, I often wonder who thought of adding this chemical to food in the first place!
Concerns have also raised flags about coming into contact with the chemical. According to the World Health Organization, reports have shown some workers who come in contact with the product on a regular basis have developed health issues including asthma, respiratory symptoms, and skin problems.
Now take that information and combine it with the fact that ADA is used with polymer plastic to create a strong, light, spongy and malleable product. It is used in items like yoga mats, slip-on flip-flops, foam insulation and more.
While it is a no-brainer that this synthetic additive should not be in our food, in my mind it raises a flag in general, even though there are no tests telling me that my yoga mat could be toxic. Our skin can absorb the chemical Bisphenol A by handling receipts, so I wonder about those of us who use our yoga mats several days a week. I mean every part of me touches that mat!
Who would have thought we need to read so many ingredients lists just to stay safe? But on the other hand, I guess we can be thankful ingredients have to be listed!
Photo credits: U.S. Army
As far back as I can remember I’ve been one to sleep less when I know I have more to do. I also have enough sense to know that getting only 3-4 hours of sleep days in a row is bad for my health. My problem is that my multi-tasking brain has a hard time shutting off because there aren’t enough hours in a day.
I’ve taken steps to get more sleep. To start with, I started going to bed each night about the same time, instead of staying up a little later to get something more accomplished. This seemed to help some nights but not others, and I may have found the culprit.
As a freelance writer and editor, I’m on the computer a lot. It’s so easy to think I can get one more thing done before bed or catch up on Facebook or emails before I call it a night. I feel sleepy when I turn off the light, but my brain doesn’t switch off as easily.
Experts recommend using the bedroom for sleep only. For those who have a problem making the bedroom a tech-free zone, they say we should at least shut everything down an hour or more before lights out. I can understand it, too. Even if I’m not working, each little bleep announcing a new message, or catching up on social media stimulates my mind.
Instead of bringing technology into the bedroom, I’ve gone back to reading a book…a paper book. The nights I read before falling asleep, I tend to get a better quality of sleep.
Though I do admit, if I get to a really good part in the book I have a tendency to stay awake later than I should. However, when I fall asleep I tend to sleep more soundly. If you’re struggling for a good night’s sleep, set a bedtime and ban technology from the bedroom. It might be the trick to flip the off switch for your mind.
Photo credits: Betsssssy
I started seeing my first gray hairs at age 28 and ten years later I decided enough was enough. My grandparents went gray early and I wasn’t ready to embrace those genes. At first I colored my own hair, but the color faded and within a month between the faded color and roots that needed to be touched up I turned to a professional.
I liked the extra pampering and the color choice when I went to the salon, but it got quite expensive and I eventually went back to box color.
It started out dark…looked unnatural and made me look older than if I hadn’t colored my hair. The end result was I finally stopped coloring my hair and went natural. Yes, I’m more white-headed than I’d prefer in my ideal world, but I don’t miss trying to make my hair something it isn’t.
When I saw Paul McCartney on the Grammys, I couldn’t help but think about how his hair color choice made him look older than he needed to look. Here he was performing with Ringo Starr for the first time in years, and I couldn’t help but think about how Ringo now looked younger than Paul, when in reality Ringo is older.
I guess I wasn’t alone. The salon that use to do his hair, Guy Thomas Salon, has made it clear that they are no longer responsible for his color or cut. The star had started going to the salon back in 2004, but they parted ways in 2012 amid rumors that the music giant didn’t tip and didn’t want to pay extra for them to come to his home.
According to the Daily News, he thought it was too expensive and he’s gone back to coloring his own hair.
Who would ever think I’d have something in common with someone as famous as Paul McCartney! It’s just my opinion, but I think he looks better with shorter hair and a lighter color, though maybe he was counting on his color lightening up and it didn’t.
Unlike him, if I had the money to do it right, I’d probably still be coloring my hair professionally.
Photo credits: SteamPunkMonk
Which is more important, diet or exercise, when it comes to losing weight and maintaining that weight loss? This may sound like the chicken or the egg question, but it’s really not. I think people ask this because most of us don’t love dieting or exercise. We figure if we do one or the other that’s plenty, right? Wrong.
I used to work in a spa facility helping people to stay motivated as they reached their fitness goals, and let me say it takes both, especially as we get older. I recently read an article where Bob Harper of Biggest Loser fame talked about how diet is the main factor when it comes to lowering weight, but exercise is what maintains the weight loss.
In an interview with Reuters, Harper took a break from filming Season of 15 and said: “It is all about your diet. I used to think a long time ago that you can beat everything you eat out of you and it’s just absolutely not the case.”
When you look at the National Weight Control Registry, it’s easy to see both diet and exercise are important. Ninety-eight percent of the Registry participants dieted to lose weight, and 94% increased their physical activity with the most popular activity being walking. About half the people do this on their own while the other half use some form of program for structure and guidance.
Once they reach their weight goals, to keep the weight off most of them continue to eat a low-calorie, low-fat diet and participate in high levels of activity with 90% of them exercising about an hour a day on average.
While none of this is really news, it does serve as a good reminder for me. I need to continue watching what I eat and exercising more days a week than I don’t.
Photo credits: UrbaneWomenMag
Whether you’re looking for recipes to celebrate American Heart Month (February) or just trying to eat healthier in general by going meatless on Mondays, Meatless Monday is offering a new, free e-cookbook that provides plenty of inspiration for vegetarian comfort food. It’s called “We Love Comfort Food: Heart-Healthy Meatless Monday Recipes” and offers recipes even meat lovers will enjoy including desserts.
All the recipes have been analyzed by Diana Rice, the Meatless Monday staff registered dietitian, to be sure they meet heart-healthy guidelines for sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol content. What’s even more important to me is that, so far the recipes I’ve tried taste good, too. You see I have a saying, “If it is good for me and tastes like cardboard, I’m not likely to eat it.”
Recipes in this book offer ideas for every meal, too.
For instance, you can start the day with hearty oatmeal and Greek yogurt pancakes for breakfast, have a chickpea and avocado salad sandwich or Tuscan white bean escarole soup for lunch, and try some roasted butternut squash and spinach Alfredo for dinner. And for dessert enjoy some blueberry cheesecake baked oats to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is just a handful of the delicious recipes you’ll find in the Meatless Monday free e-cookbook.
While the recipes offered in this e-book are vegetarian, they are not vegan friendly as they include dairy products. But for those transitioning to eating less meat, they make a great crossover to eating recipes that are delicious but meat free.
About Meatless Monday
Meatless Monday is a nonprofit public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They challenge people to go meatless one day a week to cut saturated fat intake, and at the same time to decrease our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.
Photo credits: sleepyneko
Going on a diet and keeping the weight off are often an ongoing struggle. Every time I lose my extra weight, I vow I won’t slip back into my old habits, but somehow it happens. I don’t know anybody that actually likes to diet.
While some diet plans use celebrities to talk about how great it is that they can eat pizza and dessert, the reality of the portions in real life are less than satisfying for some people and leave them feeling hungry.
A new study shines a light on why this happens in people who are obese. According to researchers, people with a BMI of 30 or higher (obese) may struggle with these feelings of hunger even more than the average person because the stomach mechanisms that notify the brain that a person is full stop working after eating too many fatty foods.
Results go on to show that these mechanisms don’t return to normal. Lead researcher, Amanda Page, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide’s Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory explains it this way:
”Obese people need to eat more to feel full, which in turn continues their cycle of obesity.”
For all of us who have lived the yo-yo diet experience with fluctuating weight, Page delivered more bad news. She said, “Unfortunately, our results show that the nerves in the stomach remain desensitized to fullness after weight loss has been achieved.”
This explains why so many of us return to eating the fatty-food and packing on the weight after we reach our weight-loss goal.
Research is ongoing as they look for “whether there is any way — chemical or otherwise — to trick the stomach into resetting itself to normal.” If they discover such a trick, I’ll be first in line to learn it!
Photo credits: Ed Yourdon
Wedding cakes have been a decorative centerpiece at wedding celebrations since the 1600s. Since then, wedding cakes have become more elaborate, but there’s a growing trend away from tiered cakes to cupcake wedding cakes, also known as a type of deconstructed wedding cake.
Wedding cupcake cakes provide an opportunity to bring your personality to the dessert table. I’m often disappointed in wedding cakes, not because they aren’t beautiful but because they are so often white cake that tastes rather dry.
Cupcake cakes can still be beautifully decorated with a variety of icing and presented in tiers with a cake at the top with a wedding cake topper of your choice.
You can still go with traditional flavors like white cake, or chocolate, but it can also be fun to choose flavors that complement the season. For instance, for a fall wedding you might want to have carrot, pumpkin, or even snickerdoodle cupcakes. It makes serving the cake easier, too; no slicing and guests can even choose their preferred flavor.
If you’re trying to cut costs, you can even construct your own wedding cupcake cake by using a cardboard cupcake tree decorated with silk or fresh flowers to match your color palette. You can ask friends to help out with the baking and then, as a couple, add special meaning to the cake as you decorate it together. Be sure to take pictures as you build memories.
According to the Huffington Post, the national average cost of wedding cakes and desserts in 2014 will be $466. Bakers charge for stacking cake layers, too. By going with a cupcake cake, you can save around 25% on the cost. Plus, you won’t need professional servers to slice and serve the cake.