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Bucket Lists and Cronuts

3 Jun

Happy Monday, all! It’s dreary in Washington, but we had a rather nice weekend where I managed to cross a major item off of my bucket list:

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Waffles
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Pancakes
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French toast

Yes indeed, folks – I managed to eat the trifecta of starchy, carb-y breakfasts in one weekend. I call it a major success.

In other starchy, carb-y news, a new breakfast dessert has come to town and it’s brought to you by the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City.

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Picture from Dominique Ansel Bakery

The cronut is a cross between a donut and a croissant and is said to be a lighter, flakier version of a cruller. Made from croissant pastry dough, the cronut is then fried and flavored by tossing it in sugar and then filling it with ganache before topping it with icing.

Apparently, the pastry mutation is so popular that the bakery is selling out 20 minutes into their opening sales. Each cronut is $5 and there is a 6 cronut limit for each customer. The pastries are so popular that New Yorkers have started scalping cronuts on Craigslist. Yes, that is a fact, see for yourself.

I am of the opinion that the croissant, when made well, is a thing of beauty and does not need to be butchered by being deep fried and then covered in a sugar bomb. Also, the name always reminds me of Cro-Magnons, which leads to me imagine lumbering, Neanderthal-esque beasts chomping on pseudo-pastries.

What are your thoughts on the craze?

Kindred Spirits

17 May

She doesn’t like alcohol, she enjoys cooking, and she loves Ryan Reynolds.

I’m pretty sure Blake Lively and I are kindred spirits.

Happy Friday, folks!

Food Bloggers Against Hunger

8 Apr

When my mom, brother, and I first moved to the States, we were poor. And I don’t mean watching your vacation spending, cutting down on mani pedi’s-poor; I am talking about sewing patches on your jeans, re-using Ziploc bags, buying groceries using food stamps-poor. We weren’t the only ones: 59% of food-insecure households reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs: SNAP (formerly food stamps), School Lunch and WIC.

Fortunately, thanks to family support and a ton of hard work and frugal living on my mom’s part, we were eventually able to reach a level of financial stability that allowed us to be more flexible in our spending and afford some luxuries. When I reflect on my childhood, I feel lucky. Although I remember knowing that my family didn’t have as much money as my friends’ families and that weekly mall trips to Abercrombie and Hollister were never going to happen, I didn’t feel deprived of my basic needs and I never once went to bed hungry. Some people don’t have that luxury and you don’t have to go far to find families who are struggling to put food on the table.

Hunger is not just an issue that affects children in Africa or rural China – over THIRTY percent of the children living here in D.C. experience food insecurity throughout the year (check out where your state stands here). That puts our nation’s capital at the top of America’s list for highest percentage of children under the age of 18 who will experience limited availability of nutritious food during the year.

Seriously? We can do better than that.

Right now, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), what used to be food stamps, is at risk of facing cuts to the budget.  44.7 million Americans used SNAP on average per month during the 2011 fiscal year.  This is over 4.4 million more participants than in the year 2010.  Almost half of the participants are children, with 18.5 million children receiving SNAP benefits.

According to a 2009 study in Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, nearly half (49.2 percent) of American children will receive SNAP benefits at some point in their lives.

I know this topic can get political quickly, but I just want to focus on what happens when people receive SNAP benefits.

The average monthly SNAP benefit in 2011 was $133.85 per person, or ~$1.44 per meal.

Let’s stop and think about that.

Imagine spending less than $5 for a day’s worth of food. Assuming three meals a day for a month of 31 days, you would have $4.32 to spend on breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I know people who spend more than that on their coffee every day.

Unlike most of us, those using SNAP don’t have the luxury of “going over budget” on groceries for the month. Once the money is gone, it’s gone.

For many families, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables seem astronomical and the stress of nutritious meal planning for a family can be too much – especially for those who may be working multiple jobs or going to school. The Dollar menu at McDonald’s starts to look pretty good – no worries about cost or preparation time. My family was all about the 49 cent cheeseburgers at McDonald’s on Wednesday evenings.

Some people don’t have the time to think about the long-term impacts of malnutrition – they’re too focused on making sure their kids go to bed with something in their stomachs. Unfortunately, a childhood of processed foods, sugar, and fast food can lead to significant health problems later down the line.

Healthy, nutritious food is something that should be accessible and affordable to every citizen and right now, it’s simply not. The Giving Table is an organization that’s trying to change that. Inspired by the documentary, a Place At the Table, the Giving Table is trying to raise awareness about hunger in America and encourage citizens to speak out about making anti-hunger legislation a priority.

If you’re curious about the documentary, you can watch the trailer right here and see if it’s playing in your area. If it’s not, it’s available on iTunes or Amazon On Demand.

If you can’t watch the trailer right now, here is the synopsis from the production company:

Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Their stories are interwoven with insights from experts including sociologist Janet Poppendieck, author Raj Patel and nutrition policy leader Marion Nestle; ordinary citizens like Pastor Bob Wilson and teachers Leslie Nichols and Odessa Cherry; and activists such as Witness to Hunger’s Mariana Chilton, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio and Oscar®-winning actor Jeff Bridges.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides-as they have in the past-that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.

This issue is very near and dear to my heart and I am happy to do my part to bring awareness to the situation.

Food For Thought: Do you have any experience with food stamps or SNAP? Do you know somebody who has ever used these programs?

Three Diamonds and the Elusive Thigh Gap

27 Mar

When I was growing up, a friend of mine once told me that girls should be able to see three “diamonds” between their legs when they stood with their feet together. One between the ankles, one below the knees, and one between the thighs.

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[source]

Since then, I have been distinctly aware of the gap between my thighs, or rather, the lack thereof. It has never been something I obsess about, but more of a thought that passes through my brain whenever a Pinterest picture pops up that involves some exercise that’s “guaranteed” to give you a gap between your thighs.

Then this happened:

Apparently I have been living under a rock because there are ENTIRE Tumblrs devoted to worship of the elusive gap between the thighs.

After reading a couple of articles about the trend, I realized that this obsession has permeated through the generations under various pseudonyms: “the horseshoe”, “ITC” (inner thigh clearance). The difference this time is the rampant availability of pictures, videos, and other forms of media to saturate ourselves with body shame.

At least when Molly Ringwald awoke feeling like she was having a “fat day”, she wasn’t bombarded with Tumblr images and “thinspiration” to drive her further into the realm of self hatred.

I have said it many times: the Internet is a magical place. But take heed World Wide Web: with great power comes great responsibility. It seems like every teenager has an iPhone and every child has an iPad, which puts Internet discoveries right at their fingertips. I wonder what goes through a 13-year-old girl’s mind when she sees photo upon photo of skinny girls with overlaid “inspirational quotes” saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” or “Everything looks better on skinny girls”.

WHAT. THE. HELL.

It makes me feel bad about my body and I’m reasonable enough to know how ridiculous this ish is.

What is the point???

When are we going to stop worshiping unrealistic expectations about body image?

Some people have gaps between their thighs – their bodies are built that way. It doesn’t make them freaking Mother Theresa and you’re not Satan incarnate if, God forbid!, your thighs dare to touch, to rub against each other, to squish together when you’re sitting down.

STOP.

If you find yourself looking at a magazine and wishing for a model’s thighs or abs or butt, just

STOP.

Your body is what you were born with and when you’re on your deathbed when you’re (hopefully) old and gray, the last thing you are going to think about is “Dang, I wish my thighs didn’t touch”.

Whether you’re skinny and can’t get the curves you want or you’re curvy and want the slenderness that everybody seems to covet, please, for the love of all that is good, just take a deep breath and thank your body for maintaining the delicate balance that is life.

Because life really is miraculous and it’s not worth wasting it obsessing over how your stomach isn’t flat or your boobs aren’t big enough.

Love life, love yourself. The End.

measureofawoman

NBC Health and Fitness Expo

19 Mar

IMG_2239[1]Bright and early Sunday morning, Stefano was feeling miraculously better and we decided to head over and get a glimpse of the big expo that was being put on by NBC. We walked over to the DC Convention Center and were impressed by the sheer size of the expo – the floor was filled with booths, stages, and demos – it was a little overwhelming!

We didn’t really have a game plan in mind so we just spent a little while walking around and trying to get our bearings. Aside from the massive number of booths promoting their products, some not even related to health (seriously, gutter cleaners?), they had stages set up with fitness demos.

This Zumba stage filled up shortly after I took this picture - it was packed!

This Zumba stage filled up shortly after I took this picture – it was packed!

One of my favorite parts of the expo were the wide range of activities set up for children.

The Marine Corps Marathon children's obstacle course.

The Marine Corps Marathon children’s obstacle course.

In the age of iPads, I think any excuse for kids to get out and move around is a good one.

IMG_2242[1]I also really appreciated the fact that they had so many different kinds of activities. There was a little something for everyone!

IMG_2253[1]Aside from the fitness demos, my favorite part about the expo was the wide range of free screenings and tests. For people who don’t have health insurance, these are often screenings that slip under the radar until a health problem creeps up, which ends up being too late for many people. The available screenings ran the gamut, from glaucoma tests to screenings for kidney disease.

Stef and I were stopped by the local fire department which had, among other things, a booth set up for blood pressure and blood glucose tests. Having nothing better to do, we obliged and each submitted to both tests. I always get my blood pressure taken at the doctor, but a blood glucose test is something I had yet to try. For an official screening you are supposed to fast beforehand, the reason being that the consumption of food beforehand raises your blood sugar to non-resting levels. However, they can also conduct random screenings, where you may have eaten anytime in the last 8-12 hours. We had just eaten breakfast, but we gave it a go anyway.

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All they do is prick your finger and insert the blood sample into a machine which automatically screens the glucose levels.

IMG_2246[1]I am sure you all have seen a sphygmomanometer before, but I bet you didn’t know that was what it was called! Try saying that five times fast 😉

Matching pricked fingers

Matching pricked fingers

After they did both our tests, they gave us each a little pamphlet with records of the test results.

IMG_2247[1]Not too shabby! Apparently, anything under 140 is normal for “random” glucose tests. The fireman said I was the picture of health!

Almost immediately after getting over the finger prick (it’s amazing how painful those are given how quickly it happens!), we happened upon the blood mobile.

IMG_2249[1]Back in Seattle I donated blood on a very regular basis, but I fell off the wagon after moving to Italy and haven’t donated since. It was time to change that! Stef and I both began to fill out the necessary forms until we realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea for Stef to donate, considering he was throwing his guts up just the night before. I took one for the team!

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Stef really needs to work on his photography skills.

I was a little nervous going into the screening because I regularly get turned away for low blood pressure or iron levels that aren’t quite high enough. Luckily, I was one point over the cut-off on iron levels and my blood pressure was 97/64 – good to go! I won’t lie that one of my favorite parts of donating blood is getting to snack on all the yummy treats and juice they have for you afterwards.

snacksWe hurried through the rest of the expo pretty quickly because it was getting to be lunchtime and frankly, the sheer number of booths was overwhelming. I am glad we got to visit and get a peek at what it was all about. If, for some reason, NBC manages to find my little corner of the internet, here’s my feedback about the experience:

What I Liked:

  • The fitness demos and activities for kids (inspire them to get moving so they don’t spend all day on the couch in front of a screen).
  • The free health screenings. Seriously, this is absolutely wonderful because so many people cannot afford to get essential tests done and wait until the consequences are unavoidable.
  • The relevant booths. One of my favorites was a booth that had a variety of different foods and showed you their corresponding portion sizes. Another showed you 100 calories worth of popular healthy and junk foods, just so people could see the vast differences.
  • The blood mobile. Though I do donate blood, I never would have sought out a blood drive myself. Because it was right in front of me, I couldn’t say no!

What I Would Change:

  • The size. Simply put, it was too big. There were too many things and I felt lost, even with the map.
  • Filler booths. These are the booths that really have no relevance to health or fitness, but were clearly a money grab. I was not a fan. It cluttered the place and diluted the authenticity of the event.
  • Health forums – or rather, lack thereof. While they did have a few health forums, many of them were shortened and I didn’t feel like there were enough people talk about Health and Fitness 101 – the basics that so many people don’t know and can make the biggest difference.

Going to the expo definitely piqued my interest for visiting other health conferences and expos – I feel like there is so much to learn and I am all about learning the new nutrition or health news that keeps coming out. The nice thing is this was free and open to the public and I think that accessibility is so important for things like nutrition and fitness. If we only reserve conferences and expos to those who are spending money on bibs or entrance fees, we really aren’t targeting those who need it most.

Food For Thought: DMV-ers, did you make it to the expo? What did you think? To all readers: have you ever been to a similar event? Tell me about it!

 

 

 

 

 

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