Friday, February 27, 2015

Why Acupuncture Is Worth a Try


Have you wondered what exactly is this weird thing called acupuncture? Well I've been having on-going treatments for various issues and wanted to share with you my knowledge on the topic. Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that goes back over two thousand years. It involves the insertion of short needles in your skin at strategic points on your body to unblock the energy flow (Qi). Acupuncturists believe that an illness occurs when someone blocks or unbalances your chi. At my first visit my acupuncturist had me fill out a long form asking about all of the problems with my overall health and even asked what my favorite color is. She checked my pulse in several places on my wrist to check in with my Channels. What happens at the pulse informs her decision on what points to use to treat me that day. She also looked at my tongue as it also informs her as to what is happening inside my body.

Acupuncture can treat a variety of problems: back pain, TMJ, stress, insomnia, headaches, nausea during pregnancy, indigestion, arthritis, food allergies, can help cancer patients take chemo better, and I've personally heard of friends of friends having success with infertility through acupuncture. To practice as an acupuncturist they are required to get a Master's degree, training in clean needle technique, and pass the National Acupuncture Board Exams to be licensed. They are required by law to use pre-sterilized, disposable, single-use needles to ensure your safety. I've personally watched my acupuncturist open new needle packets for me. She also does a metal sweep of her floor at the end of the day in case any needles have fallen.

Acupuncture is a process, so it might take a few visits to feel a difference. My appointments last one hour and I find my sessions very relaxing, I often fall asleep. No it doesn't hurt!  It's like little baby pricks and the stimulation increases my blood flow to trigger my body's own natural pain killers. My acupuncturist uses Chinese herbs in conjunction with acupuncture for added therapeutic effect.  Once I had severe shoulder pain from strength training and she used cupping on me. It's a glass cup that is usually heated and then applied to your skin. It creates a vacuum and pulls the oxygen upwards inside of the glass. Since she can not use lighters in her office due to building rules, she used dry cupping which did not result in the usual round bruises you see on people but did elevate my pain. Occasionally you'll see celebs on the red carpet with their cupping cruises like Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham.


I'm very lucky that my insurance pays for this but my city has a number of community acupuncture centers where you pay what you can and get treated in a common room with other people. If you have any kind of pain, physical or emotional, and are open and flexible to trying new things, acupuncture is an incredible treatment option you should try! I'm a believer in Chinese medicine because it works.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup


I love this soup and it's exotic blend of flavors so much that I make it every year. Peanut butter is the unusual secret ingredient in this West African inspired soup.I love making soups on Sundays because then I have my lunch for the week at work.

Ingredients:


  •  lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot
  • 1- 15oz can of tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ts minced fresh ginger
  •  ts cumin
  •  ts coriander
  • ½ ts cinnamon
  • 1 ts salt
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4½ cups water
  • ¼ cup + 2 TB peanut butter 

  • Directions:
    1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Mix in the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot, and continue to cook and stir about 5 minutes.
    2. Add the water to the pot, and season the mixture with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.
    3. Remove the soup mixture from heat. In a blender, blend the soup until almost smooth in small batches. Season with cayenne pepper. Return to the saucepan. Whisk in the peanut butter, and cook until heated through. Serve warm topped with fresh cilantro.
    Makes 5 servings
    233 cal, 45g carbs, 6g protein, 579% vitamin A
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    Monday, February 23, 2015

    Nail Polish Organization


    If you read my blog you know I have a bit of a nail polish addiction. Since I switched to Zoya nail polish a couple years ago, my collection has really grown. I had a cute small display rack  which meant I had to keep all the rest hidden in a basket which was really impractical because I couldn't "see" them and it was a pain to find colors. I looked at all the cute storage options Etsy had, but they were a little too pricey for me. So I searched ebay and amazon until I found the right acrylic rack that held the amount I needed. I don't know why I've held out on buying one for so long, guess I thought that would mean I was operating a nail salon. lol As my blog readers know, I'm really into organization so it only made since to make order with my nail polish collection. And there's still a few more bottles that aren't included here, well actually they just didn't make the cut. In my defense of owning so many colors, I paint my own nails every week and only go to the salon a few times a year so I feel I'm not really spending that much money on my nails. I'm going to keep this in my walk in closet and hopefully this will stop me from buying any more colors. 
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    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Oscar Movies Checklist


    The nominations tell me which movies are worth seeing so I try and catch up to see those top nominated films. What surprised me about the Best Picture nominees this year is that many were pre-releases and none made much revenue at the box office (as in little-seen).  Compared to last year where the Best Picture nominees were all big box office films. American Sniper was released in theaters the day after the Oscar nomination announcement. Did you hear that poop got nominated for an Oscar? lol During the nomination ceremony the Academy President called Dick Pope (Mr. Turner) Dick Poop! lol

    Gone Girl only got a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. I thought it was one of the best movies I've seen last year, so suspenseful! I watched one foreign film this year – the Polish film Ida. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year and Best Achievement in Cinematography. 

    I really enjoyed reading the book Wild whose movie was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and a Supporting Role. Maleficent with Angelina Jolie was nominated for Best Achievement in Costume Design. The Lego movie was only nominated for the music category, so co-director Philip Lord made his own lego Oscar that he posted on twitter. lol  

    From the Best Picture category I've seen the following movies:

    American Sniper was nominated for 6 Oscars and Bradley Cooper was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, the third year in a row he's been nominated for this award. There has been a lot of controversy around this film, former Governor and Navy vet Jesse Ventura accused Chris Kyle of lying about punching him in the face. Kyle's book publisher had to remove it from his book after Ventura won the defamation lawsuit for $1.845 million. So a clothing company of American Sniper merchandise raised more than $1 million in donations in a week to cover part of what his widow owes Ventura.

    That aside, Chris Kyle was a hero during his four tours and once out the military dedicated his life to helping vets deal with PTSD. This was a powerful movie that reminded me of how lucky I am to live in this country, not born somewhere unstable. When the movie ended everyone walked out in silence. His widow, Tara is releasing her book later this year while being embroiled in two lawsuits. 

    When Chris Kyle was alive he told people that any profits from his memoir is blood money and that he didn't publish it to be famous or for an income and that he wanted all profits to go to two families of fallen SEAL members (Job and Lee). Job is the one that is blinded in the movie and later dies in surgery. Kyle did not have a will and his wife has not given those families any money. Tara responded strongly in a court filing that she owed no such obligation Although days before Kyle was killed he donated about $56,000 to the Lee and Job families as well as to a charity supporting veterans. The company that Chris Kyle co-owned to help veterans had bought his house for him and allowed his family to live in it rent free. But due to a legal battle between the company and Tara, where the company claims the house was a conditional gift on Tara giving proceeds from the book and movie to the Lee and Job families, they are now asking her to either move out or buy the home from them for $314K. Right now the trial for the man who killed Chris Kyle is taking place, so his widow really has a lot on her plate in addition to raising two kids. Speaking of kids, there was one funny part to the movie, Bradly Cooper holding a fake baby.

    Boyhood was nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Performance by an Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role. The movie was filmed over the course of 12 years! This is the kind of movie I've always thought someone should do. They had to find a week each year that all the actors were available and the script was written each year before the shooting. It's incredible to see actors age 12 years over the course of three hours.  Patricia Arquette also matures over that time from age 33 to 46, plus she had a baby in real life so you see her weight fluctuate in the movie along with her haircuts. What I found really distracting was the on screen daughter of Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke played by the director's daughter Lorelei Linklater who does not look Caucasian and thus didn't make sense to be cast as their kid. While the concept of this movie was innovative, this 2 hour and 45 min long movie is incredibly slow and boring with little character development and no ending. 


    The Grand Budapest Hotel was nominated for 9 Oscars. The premise for the movie is that in the 1930s the Grand Budapest Hotel was a popular European ski resort, presided over by concierge Gustave H. and Zero, a junior lobby boy who becomes Gustave's friend and protege. Gustave prides himself on providing first-class service to the hotel's guests, including satisfying the intimate needs of the many elderly women who stay there. When one of Gustave's lovers dies mysteriously, Gustave finds himself the recipient of a priceless painting and the chief suspect in her murder. The film was shot in Berlin and Görlitz, Germany but in the film the hotel is located in a fictional place– the Republic of Zubrowka, an Eastern European nation ravaged by war and poverty in the 1960s when the movie ends. It's a quirky and charming movie with beautiful imagery, a massive cast of talented actors - Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson.


    Selma is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and (current) Congressman John Lewis among others. The movie was produced by Brad Pitt and Oprah and directed by Ava DuVernay. The movie included four British actors, one being David Oyelowo who played MLK. He said that when he spoke in his British accent on set it would startle people so he decided to stay in character for the entire filming off camera. The musician Common also acted in the movie and produced a song for the soundtrack.  Oprah Winfrey played the part of Annie Lee Cooper, a 54-year-old woman who tried to register to vote but was denied by Sheriff Clark. The movie is an important history lesson as it showed  how even after segregation was outlawed black people would illegally be prevented from voting in the South. And it showed President Lyndon Johnson's as a racist who wouldn't help  the civil rights movement. It was a powerful movie and I liked how they showed a more human side of MLK with him smoking, his wife talking to him about his adultery, and other civil rights leaders who did not like him. There wasn't much diversity in the Oscar nominations as Selma was expecting to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Director. I thought it was a fantastic movie that every American should see.  

    Lyndon Johnson’s condolence letter to MLK’s widow heads to auction soon. Coretta Scott King gave it to Harry Belafonte, and when he originally try to auction it her children took him to court and Belafonte won. He said "It’s been a very painful experience. I've been anguished at how they behaved and what they did to me." If you didn't know his children are also suing each other and the King Center in Atlanta could be stripped of its name because of their antics.  Obama had a special screening of the movie at the White House last month and for his second swearing in as President he used the Bible which MLK took on the road with him during his days as a preacher. But now Dexter King wants to sell it but Beatrice King is hiding it so they are in the middle of a legal battle. You won't hear any actual MLK speeches in the movie because MLK's estate (children) wouldn't give them the license for the originals. Maybe Congress will put his speeches in public domain soon since it's been 50 years because his children are ruining his legacy. Random fact, did you know that Rev. Jesse Jackson was on the balcony in Memphis with MLK when he was assassinated. Another random fact, while MLK and Coretta had  four children, they only have one grandchild. If you want to learn more about MLK (and his family), my college professor wrote a fascinating book on him, a side the public knows little about, his complex human side that the movie lightly touch on: I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr  by Michael Eric Dyson. I will end by saying that my father walked in the March on Washington in 1963 where MLK delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

    I read that this year's Academy Awards gift bag contains a train ride through the Rockies, a year's worth of Audi A4 rentals, and a session for mind reading techniques worth $20K. Here are some funny pics from last year's show:











    Wednesday, February 18, 2015

    50 Shades of Grey Review



    I bought this book as a gift for my mom a few years ago (on her request) but never got to reading it myself until I heard it was being turned into a movie and then I thought I had to read the most talked about book. By the way did you know it's a trilogy? I didn't. I read the first book and couldn't believe the ending only to discover there were two more books in the series. The book was so incredibly boring I had to force myself to get through it, but once I start reading a book I feel invested in ending it. The author used too much repetition in her writing, her favorite word was "impassive" used over and over again, then there were lots of eye rolls and lips bitten - you'll notice this in the movie. The book starts off at Washington State University in Vancouver which I had to google because I was so confused that such a town actually existed in the US. Interesting enough the British author had never been there, but had been influenced by the Twilight series for a location. The book even has a soundtrack to it, lots of classic music. This is my first and last erotica book that I will read, if you'd like to read a real romance book, check out Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

    Since I invested time into the book, I felt I had to see the movie. I wanted to see Christian Grey's grey suits and grey eyes and how the book comes to life. It stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia, she is the daughter or Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson and said that both of her parents will not be seeing the movie. I didn't think the movie deserved all the buzz it got, in fact it was as boring as the book. It did a lot of close up head shots during the scenes in the red room. In the book Anastasia has a lot of internal conflict, but we don't really hear her voice that much in the movie. There's a lot of back story to various scenes like dinner with his folks and her airplane ride home from GA that are not explained in the movie. One point I didn't understand is why Christian rode shotgun next to his driver, anyone know?

    My favorite quotes from 50 Shades of Grey are:

    "Because I'm fifty shades of fucked up." Mr Grey

    "I could buy you your heart's desire, Anastasia, and I want to, call it redistribution of wealth, if you will." Mr. Grey

    "Mom...she is scatty, disorganized, but newly insightful." Anastasia

    OPI released a Fifty Shades of Grey nail polish collection last month.

    Golden Globes metallic dress

    The Ellen show got in on the action too by spoofing the Today show hosts:


    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Strawberries and Cream Baked Oatmeal


    I love baked oatmeal! It takes 5 minutes to prepare, then I stick it in the oven while I hop in the shower and get ready for the day. I use Wean Green glass containers to make these. This recipe creates a creamy strawberry oatmeal.

    Ingredients:

  • ½ cup rolled oats 
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp honey
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TB of 1/3 fat Philadelphia cream cheese
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 4 strawberries
  • pinch of salt

  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees  and spray a single-serve ramekin with nonstick spray.
    2. Mix the cream cheese, honey, vanilla together. Then add the milk.
    3. Mix the dry ingredients and pour into the ramekin. Then add the wet ingredients.
    4. Chop the strawberries and fold in.
    5. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Nutritional Analysis:
    250 cal, 6g protein, 15g sugar

    Recipe Source: The Oatmeal Artist

    Another one of my favorite breakfast recipes are lentil cakes.
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    Friday, February 13, 2015

    Chocolate Face Mask


    With Valentine's Day upon us I thought I'd show you a delicious chocolate mask I tried. This mask smells amazing, like you're baking chocolate cupcakes in your kitchen. And it makes your skin feel so soft, plus its edible so you could lick it off. I love pampering myself with DIY masks and this is the most decadent one I've made. It's made with three simple ingredients I already had in my kitchen. It's perfect for winter's dry skin as the honey is incredibly moisturizing. Don't worry it won't break you out, honey acts as a antibacterial to help disinfect your skin if you have acne. I used pure cocoa to get all of the antioxidants to help clear skin and keep it hydrated. Coconut oil is an amazing product to put on your skin, it's an antiseptic and helps fight wrinkles.

    Ingredients:
    • 2 TB of raw cocoa or dark chocolate
    • 1 TB raw honey
    • 1½ TB virgin coconut oil

    Directions:
    Mix all the ingredients together and apply to your skin. Leave on for 20 minutes. Remove with water and apply your moisturizer.

    If you're looking for a great dish for brunch this weekend, try my Valentine's Healthy Breakfast option. Here's how I spent Valentine's Day last year.

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