How to Maintain Healthy Gut Bacteria

 — So You Can Stay Physically and Mentally Fit Through the Holidays

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That picture is from September, the last time I wore a swim suit. I don’t love it. But I wanted a picture of a belly without using stock photography. There it is.

Let’s talk about our bellies. We want them to be flat. We want to look good. But what about what’s going on inside? Everyone is talking about gut bacteria these days. It seems that it has a much bigger effect on our weight and overall health than we thought. Is it possible that staying thin is more than just cutting calories and working out every day? And, ever since I read a couple of articles about how the right amount of healthy bacteria in your stomach can even effect whether or not you’re depressed I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m not a scientist and I’m not going to tell you anything you couldn’t just Google yourself.*

To improve your Gut Bacteria you need to:

  • Limit sugar — unless it’s dark chocolate!
  • Eat your veggies
  • Eat fiber — leafy greens, beans/legumes, nuts, bran cereal
  • Limit meat — eat more “animal fiber” when you eat meat
  • Avoid antibiotics
  • Avoid anti-bacterial cleaners, hand sanitizer
  • Get outside and get dirty—i.e., dig in the garden
  • Take probiotics/eat yogurt and kefir
  • Eat fermented foods — sauerkraut, pickles, etc.
  • Lower stress — meditate, do things you love, take a bath
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Exercise

*What I Googled:

10 Ways to Cultivate Good Gut Bacteria and Reduce Depression

16 Things That Affect Your Gut Bacteria

How Soil Microbes Make You Happy

 

Speaking of food, I did a Instagram-your-meal round-up for you which sort of looks like I live on eggs which I don’t. I try to eat a healthy balance of real foods. I do love bread so I try to eat whole grain and not too much. I eat blueberries and almonds and cashews and cheese and olives and hummus and plain greek whole fat yogurt and eggs with spinach and hot sauce. I eat pasta but also potatoes and quinoa and rice. Chicken and tuna and corn tortillas. I have a secret stash of really good chocolate. I eat too much ice cream and I love a burger and fries. If I’m hungry late at night I’ll eat raisin bran with almond milk. Oh, and in the summer lots of smoothies and salads. And Peet’s French Roast coffee. And Starbucks.

I hope you try some of these ideas and see if your belly and your mood improves.

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Greenwich: a beautiful day in the city

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Buvette

When I was in high school, my friends and I often frequented french places like Au Pied du Cochon in DC’s Georgetown. So Buvette was an obvious choice for a lunch date with my childhood friend Laura. It took us about 5 seconds to order: a croque madame for her, a salad nicsoise for me and pate to share.

Laura used to live in the Village. Sullivan & Houston, I think. “Why did I ever give up that apartment?” she lamented. “It was $900 a month.” Married now with 3 kids in a beautiful house on Long Island. “I know. You should have kept it.”

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Scotch & Soda

I had the loveliest experience at this little boutique. Not on my mental list of places I planned to go, I’d seen this brand on many a blog post and the olive-colored bomber jacket in the window called to me. The funniest thing happened when I walked in. The salesperson was really friendly. It was as if I wasn’t a tourist. He was so personable and helpful and it really paid off for him. I spent a ton there (for me). My excuse: how often am I in NY and they have some absolutely beautiful clothes. I bought a pair of black skinny jeans and an ikat blouse.

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Rag & Bone

I’ve loved this brand forever and was looking forward to seeing and touching some of their jeans and boots. I kind of ran out of time so I didn’t try anything on. I did, however score a free sample of this perfume which is so moody and delicious. All their perfumes are unisex. But, overall I didn’t lust for their clothes like I thought I would.

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This is another lesser known brand that I’ve been secretly craving. Way out of my price range but it felt so good in my soul to walk through the store and touch the velvet and sequined and brocade. Maybe someday.

Of course there’s so much more to explore in this part of New York. While I was there, just for an afternoon, I felt like a local. I even managed to navigate the subway with ease. There must be a parallel universe where I live in Greenwich Village. I have a cool apartment and I support myself painting paintings and know about all the best places to go.

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Another post about NEW YORK:

A Rainy Day in Brooklyn

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How I Stay Fit: a month of workouts

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It’s so great to see what I did over the last month. I think it really helps to schedule my workouts. I don’t always do what I plan to do, but I do a lot more that I would if I didn’t write them on my calendar.

I’ve gotten really weird with my schedule. I’m such a creature of habit. For some reason certain days work for certain types of exercise. Mondays always make me want to run. Maybe it’s the long weekend with kids that does it. I put them on the bus Monday morning and then get as far away as possible. Aaaahhhh! JK. Lately I’ve been running on the rail trail near my house which is so beautiful with the Fall colors and crisp air. Sometimes my run is actually a walk. I’m okay with that. Tuesday I always think I’ll go to Yoga but never seems to happen. Sometimes I make something up at home but honestly Tuesday has become sort of a day off. Wednesday seems to make me want to do some sort of boot camp kind of thing. I’ll work out at home to something on PopSugar fitness. I did this one last week and it was great! Thursday is always spin. It’s my favorite. Friday is the one day I go to Jazzercise. I love Jazzercise. I don’t care what anyone says. It’s the best. Yoga is usually Saturday mornings because that’s when my favorite class is and Saturday mornings just make me want to do a long, difficult yoga practice. Usually followed by some shopping. 😉

Sometimes things need to get adjusted and that’s okay. I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten into the habit of working out. The more I do it, the easier it is.

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a month of workouts
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Book Club: Go Set a Watchman

You can read all my reviews on the Book Club page.


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I just finished Go Set a Watchman and I wish I had someone to talk to about it! I’m a little fired up. I sped-read it to the end last night.

Now, first of all, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book myself, but it was a present from my dad. I am a huge fan of To Kill a Mocking Bird. But I had read some disheartening reports about how Watchman was never meant to be published and someone had taken advantage of Harper Lee in her old age in order to make money. Watchman was apparently written before Mockingbird, and was rewritten at the suggestion of the editor and become Mockingbird. And, the biggest shock and disappointment revealed by Watchman: Atticus was racist. So you can see why I hesitated.

But I’m the type of person who likes to come to my own conclusion. I wasn’t going to make a judgment until I’d read the book. Plus, I really like the cover art.

The book takes place in the 1960s, in the south. Our beloved Scout is an adult now and visits her home town from New York City. The unrest of the Civil Rights movement is rising and she is confronted by some unpleasant attitudes toward blacks.

There are some rich, descriptive flashbacks to her childhood, robust character development and the creative and insightful writing style that Harper Lee is known for. I wish she had written more books during her life. I felt a connection to her or maybe to Jean Louise and enjoyed spending time with her.

Is it a good book? I don’t know. If you don’t compare it to Mockingbird? Maybe. I’m glad I read it. In the end I learned a great lesson. A lesson about myself and my convictions and confronting things that are unpleasant. With the political climate right now and the ideologies I encounter living where I do, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Fitness Trackers—Fitbit V. Apple Watch

I love the Fitbit. The main reason: It makes you move. I play a fun little game where I try to get more steps than yesterday, more than my husband, or my Sister-in-law or my neighbor. I do everything I can think of to rack up steps: I park far away from the store, I do as many loads of laundry as possible, I play tag in the yard. Anything and everything. I’m obsessed.

The app is very cool. Probably the coolest thing about Fitbit. I love the ‘Friends’ feature.

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The graphics are great

 

It all started with the Fitbit Flex. I got it last year on my birthday (October 2015.) I loved it. I loved tracking my steps. I obsessively checked the App on my phone. You see the Flex doesn’t tell you your step count. It just has 5 dots. Each one represents 20% of your daily goal: 10,000 steps. It buzzes and flashes when you reach it. But, I desperately wanted it to at least tell me the time.

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My husband had used a pedometer for a while so he was happy when he got the Fitbit Zip that Christmas. It tells you your step count and the time! Jealous.

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At the same time, my kids got UNICEF Kid Power bands as Christmas gifts from my lovely cousin who works at UNICEF. Score. Saved us having to buy them Fitbits (which we really weren’t about to do.) These things are amazing! They tell the time, step count, power points (get enough points and you can contribute to kids around the world.) A great way to trick your kids into moving as much as possible and teach them about helping others. Bonus: they can get a little wet (they’ve survived the pool and the washing machine) and we received free replacement when one stopped working.

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So, by now I was seriously wanting an upgrade. I held off until March when I impulsively ordered the Fitbit Alta. It wasn’t the top of the line but it was simple and sleek and an obvious improvement from the Flex. It tells the time! And step count and active minutes and mileage and calories. It tracks your sleep and has silent alarms. It doesn’t track your heart rate or amount of stairs climbed but I didn’t care. I was also so happy to switch from my now grimy orange band to a black one that goes better with my outfits. Best thing about it: It vibrates when I’m getting a phone call or text and the name or number of message scrolls across the screen. I’m in love. The charger stopped working a fews weeks in but Amazon quickly replaced the whole thing.

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I was very happy with the Alta, I wore it all the time.

But…

On my birthday this year I got the big boy: the Blaze. I was SO EXCITED. I might have screamed. Yes, I did. Like a girl. The Blaze does everything! On top of what the Alta does, add heart rate, stairs climbed, notifications (like you can read whole texts), music controls. And it has that Apple Watch look.

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I really liked it. It has so much cool stuff. I hate to even say this, but I just didn’t love the graphics and the interface. It had some features I just wasn’t going to use. And the more I thought about it I thought the design was just to clunky. I asked my husband if he would be very upset if I took it back. I kind of just wanted the Alta back. But I had already given it to him. Not only did he say he didn’t mind if I returned it, he had been wondering why I didn’t want the Apple Watch, it was so much cooler.

So after much agonizing — if I should spend more money, if I should get the 38mm or the 42mm, if I should get black or white — I went ahead and did it. I got the Apple Watch. I knew immediately it was the right choice.

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I’ve only had it for a day. We’re still getting to know each other. If you’re interested, I’m happy to write a more extensive post about all it’s features and functions.

Through all of this I have sort of cringed at spending the money. A part of me thinks its a little showy. But I justify it like this: if it gets me to be more active and healthy (and encourage others to do the same) it’s so worth it.

(This is not a sponsored post. I did link the images to where you can purchase them though.)

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My Jeans Inventory

Shout out to my Dad who, when I was little, would always make me inventory my clothes before I was allowed to get new ones.

“Dad, I need new jeans.”

“What’s wrong with all the ones you have?”

Then I’d try on each and every pair of Toughskins to show him that they were either too tight, too short or had holes in the knees. (Wait, that describes the exact jeans I’m looking for today!)

Then out would come the iron on knee patches.

That was grade school. In Junior High and High School I earned my own money and bought Guess, Jordache, Levi’s and even Marithe & Francois Girbaud. I am so dating myself!

So, here they are, every pair of jeans I own to see if I could justify buying just one more pair of jeans. (Spoiler alert: I did.) And to make recommendations for anyone interested.

Note: I’m almost always a 29, but I indicated where I sized up or down.

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Lucky Lolita. There’s a tragic tale that goes along with these jeans: a gift from my husband, an attempt to exchange them because they were too long, a botched hemming job at the dry cleaners. In the end they became my favorite jeans. I’ve since cut off the hem. I sort of feel that they’re little too low waisted. One size down. Here’s their latest version with the coveted let-out hem.

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Citizens of Humanity Emerson Slim Boyfriend. These are so soft. They’re loose and stretchy but fairly slimming. They look best with a sexy-ish heel. One size down. Get ’em here.

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Lucky Charlie Skinny. These are lovely. Soft and stretchy in a dark, crinkly blue. Should have listened to the Lucky salesperson and sized down one size.

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H&M Girlfriend Fit. I loved these at first, more flattering that the Gap pair I had, but they bag out quickly. I like the higher waist. I always go up 2 sizes with H&M. You can’t beat the price.

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J.Crew Toothpick. Everyone needs a pair of classic dark wash jeans. These aren’t the most comfortable, but they are flattering. On sale!

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J Brand. These jeans! My first pair of really expensive jeans (that means different things to different people obviously) that I bought before I had kids, they’re that old. I was pulled into Barney’s COOP while shopping with my cousin Anna in DC. The woman working the “denim bar” argued with me that the 28s fit perfectly and the 29s were too big. To emphasize her infallibility, the model-looking ingenue said, and I quote, “I’ve worked in denim for seven years.” I bought the 29s. I had them hemmed and then re-hemed recently. Every time I’ve worn them I’ve felt like a celebrity. However, they’re not really my style any more — the bootcut-ness of them — I’m considering selling them. Similar pair.

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Kensie “You Look Pretty Skinny.” A score at Marshall’s. Everyone needs a super-light-wash pair, right? Soft, stretchy but slimming. Yay!

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Zara. Sort of scandalous black waxed jeans with gold zippers. A gift from my bestie Jen. I love how other people’s picks say what they think about you. Apparently she thinks I’m Joan Jett, right? Surprisingly comfortable. Keep, but reserve for sexy night out and with long shirt.

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Banana Republic Skinny Ankle. I love these. I ended up cutting them to shorten them and have fringe and I don’t regret it. Great waist height. Great stretch. SLIMMING. Buy these right now.

That’s it for jeans. Chinos, cords and trousers will be for another day.

And so I bought these:

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J.Crew Distressed Toothpick in Pamona Wash. Hello perfect Jeans. High-but-not-too-high waist, soft, stretchy, keep their shape, distressed without big knee holes, nice length with or without a roll, slimming and a great blue color that goes with everything. Denim Heaven.

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Mother-Daughter Journal

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A friend told me about this idea: a journal that you and your daughter share. I bought a copy of this journal for my cousin to share with her daughter and she loved it so much, I bought one to share with mine. I love this so much because:

  • img_2720It encourages my daughter to practice writing (she’s currently 8 years old)
  • She shares things in it that I don’t think she would ever say out loud
  • I share things with her that I would never say out loud — things about myself as a girl and things about myself now
  • We connect in a really special way and bond even more than I think we would from just talking or hanging out
  • I reminds me of a journal I shared with my 3rd grade teacher (that helped me so much at a time in my childhood that things were really hard)
  • I think it helps to heal the relationship I have with my mom

 

This particular journal has all sorts of cute writing prompts, but of course you don’t need to buy a fancy journal, just a plain one will work, too. I must admit I do love the cover design and even based my daughter’s room makeover on its color palette.

One last thing: the journal guidelines: Everything stays between you two. Either person can decide that they don’t want to talk about what’s written. No judging—keep it positive. Be honest, have fun.

So try it out. I think you’ll like it.

 

Posted in Motherhood, Stories, What I'm Reading, Womenhood | Leave a comment

How to become the person you want to be

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My secret to happiness is this: Journaling.

(I know, “journal” is not a verb, but “writing in a journal” is sort of cumbersome.)

Flashback to 1978. A little girl opens a Christmas gift. It’s a Holly Hobbie diary—small and new—with a little brass lock and so much promise. I wrote in in faithfully … for three days. This happened over and over until around 1994 when I found a book entitled, “The Artist’s Way.”

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, is a new-agey, self-help book that aims to help creative people become unblocked and become their best artistic selves. It came into my life at a time when nothing was working. I had tried almost everything to get my life, my relationships and my career in order. I was willing at that point to do almost anything.

Unlike so many of these kinds of books that you read and quickly go back to the way you were, The Artist’s Way teaches you to change by doing. There are contracts to sign and all sorts of assignments, but the core of it resides in what are called, Morning Pages.

Morning Pages are non-negotiable. It is a commitment to journal every day no matter what. You are asked to handwrite three pages of stream-of-consciousness unedited drivel. Do it first thing in the morning. No exceptions. Ever had writer’s block? Well, this is the cure. It’s also the cure for any creative block. Possibly the cure for any block, period.

I urge you to try it. I can attest that it works. The years that I made it a habit changed my life in every way imaginable. I learned about who I am, what I want and what I don’t want. And, voila, I created the life I always dreamed of. And I am recommitting myself to it today. Let’s do it together. Here are the guidelines:

  • Write three pages — longhand
  • Write without thinking, without stopping, without editing
  • Write first thing when you get up — set an alarm if you need to
  • Don’t, at first, go back and read it
  • Don’t let anyone else read it
  • Don’t judge it, just do it
  • You don’t need a fancy notebook to start
  • If you “mess up” just start again
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My Bucket List

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“Bucket List” is a term that I use way too much. As in, “I just had my very first Pumpkin Spice Latte! #bucketlist”

We all have things we dream about doing.

Like buying a classic car. Last year my husband bought a 1966 Mustang. (And I get to drive it.) He had been talking about it for as long as I’ve known him.

Not everything on your “list” has to be a big thing. They could be anything that you’ve always wanted to do that will bring you joy. But, I’ve found that writing down big dreams can really help you to attain them. Some things happen easily, some things take a while. Some things will evolve. You may realize that you don’t really want something after all or that in reality you already have it.

Lately I’ve been thinking of things, out of the blue, that I’ve never done. This month I drank my very first Pumpkin Spice Latte and went to a demolition derby.

Things that are currently on my things-I-have-never-done-before list:

  • Go see the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Learn to play a song on the guitar
  • Go to a rodeo
  • Go see a UFC match
  • Go to a Nascar race
  • Go to the horse races
  • Play golf
  • Go snowmobiling
  • Go dogsledding
  • Go fishing
  • Go to Scotland
  • Donate blood
  • Run half marathon

What’s on your bucket list?

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8 Fall Outfits I Like

Ah, Fall.

I tried on a ton of clothes trying to come up with a few options I liked. You’re welcome, because it was a lot of work. I really did it for me, though. Now when I get up I have some idea of what to wear in this season of 80°-90° F “Fall” days.

I thought a lot about what to write for this week’s post and in the end I decided to write about what I’m most interested in. So even if it seems boring or superficial, I’m being true to myself, right?

Whenever I go through my closet like this I find things. Some of these items I don’t wear that often, but realize I should (Hello chambray shirt.) And I was happy to be able to “shop my closet” and not run out and buy a lot of new clothes because it’s Fall. So, yay me. Some pieces and some combinations did not make the cut. I edited my shots down to my absolute favorites.

Note: I started this blog in order to learn how to blog, and learn more about WordPress. I’m a graphic designer, not a model. And I don’t make money from my blog. Unless you count the $1.05 from Ad Sense, which I don’t. I do love blogs, and fashion, and sharing ideas. I added links (if the items are still available) because I find it really helpful when other bloggers do. It helps fuel my shopping addiction! So, that’s where I’m at, for what it’s worth.

Here they are:

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OUTFIT 1  Gap Dress  |  Lucky Shoes

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OUTFIT 2  LOFT Dress  |  Nine West Shoes

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OUTFIT 3  Banana Republic Shirt  |  J. Crew Pants  |  Banana Republic Shoes

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OUTFIT 4  LOFT Shirt  |  J. Crew Pants  |  Banana Republic Shoes

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OUTFIT 5  J. Crew Shirt  |  J. Crew Jeans  | Lucky Shoes

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OUTFIT 6  J. Crew Shirt  |  Gap Chinos  |  Marc Fisher Shoes

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OUTFIT 7  Lucky Shirt  |  Citizens of Humanity Jeans  |  Dr. Scholl’s Shoes

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OUTFIT 8  LOFT Shirt  |  Citizens of Humanity Jeans  |  Nine West Shoes

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