April 18, 2014

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs! Yummy Recipes Using Hard Boiled Eggs from Handmade Gatherings

I'm always in search of great recipes and at Easter time, if I can use up those hard-boiled eggs we've decorated and make them into something yummy then it's a huge bonus! Two classic recipes are deviled eggs and egg salad, and I found fabulous recipes for both that have a modern twist. (one has BACON!)

"Handmade Gatherings" by Ashley English is a brand new book that features sixteen parties and gives you fabulous ideas on decorating, entertainment, little crafts you can do and recipes! One of the springtime parties, I might add, resembles an Easter celebration!

I love how the deviled egg recipe is lightened up for spring. She uses fresh dill, lemon zest and olive oil to brighten the flavor, but keeps this classic favorite close to the ones you remember.

I'm happy to feature two fabulous recipes from "Handmade Gatherings" - the first is for LEMON & DILL DEVILED EGGS and the second is for BACON & CARMELIZED ONION EGG SALAD.

You can get your copy of "Handmade Gatherings" from amazon.com or from the publisher, Roost Books! I was provided a copy of this beautiful book for review. Opinions about the book are all mine.

April 17, 2014

82 and Sunny in San Juan, Snowing AGAIN in Minneapolis

This post brought to you by Puerto Rico, The All-Star Island. All opinions are 100% mine.
When I was in Junior High School, I responded to an article Young Miss magazine to request a penpal. Coming from a small town in rural Minnesota, I wanted so badly to learn what life was like for teens in other states. I waited and waited and finally got my first letter. My penpal was from Puerto Rico! At that time, I didn't even realize that Puerto Rico was part of the United States, but I remember how exotic her letters sounded. She encouraged me in every letter to come visit beautiful Puerto Rico, so when I was approached by Puerto Rico Tourism to work with them, I immediately thought of her.

I can't remember her name, but would love to some day visit Puerto Rico. All you have to do is go to their website to see how beautiful it is.  Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico. There are 270 miles of coastline featured in the top 10 beaches from Travel Channel - including Flamenco Beach in Culebra.

For my husband, there are 25 golf courses around the island, and they promise an all-star golf experience at the home of all-star golfer Juan "Chi Chi" Rodriguez!

If you go and Like SeePuertoRico.com on Facebook, you can check out all of the pictures posted. They are amazing! There are tons more golf pics, plus pictures of people doing a zipline through the El Yunque Rainforest!

If you Follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter you'll see tweets from visitors who are actually there now and catch a glimpse of some incredible sunsets. How romantic!

There are so many different things to do! You can visit San Juan to see real old-town charm, try some of the best food in the world, and taste the many types of RUM!  You can even tour the Bacardi Rum Factory, the world's biggest rum distillery, by taking a ferry from Old San Juan.

The best thing of all is that when you visit Puerto Rico, you don't even need a passport! There's no hassles with customs, no worry about exchanging currency, because it's part of the U.S.!

On a snowy April day like today, I can't help dreaming about laying on the beach in Puerto Rico. Visit seepuertorico.com and check it out, then comment here about what YOU would do in Puerto Rico! Click Here

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Spring Cleaning from the Inside Out: The Weekend Wonder Detox {book review}

Spring is the perfect time to detox your body, but so many of the juice cleanses and harsh fasting plans out there are really harmful to your body! How do you know what kind of cleanse you should do?

The "Weekend Wonder Detox" (paperback available on amazon.com - kindle edition available April 29th) is the perfect resource. Not only does the author offer a quiz to help you decide what type of cleanse your body needs most, (liver, lymph, kidneys, colon, skin, or fat blast) but she also guides you through the entire process for the weekend with a customized plan for each type of cleanse.

Each plan includes foods that you should include, supplements that you can take to boost your cleanse, spa treatments to enhance your experience, exercises to strengthen your body, lots of recipes that you can incorporate, and more! To make it even easier for you, she provides worksheets and shopping lists for groceries that you need.

I'm starting with a colon cleanse, since that's what the quiz determined that I need the most (full of sh!t?) and after that I plan to do a liver cleanse. Because we like to watch our diets during the week and splurge over the weekend, I may tackle a cleanse midweek instead...

The great thing is, all of the cleanses seem totally doable. Lots of water, nutritious foods including fruit, veggies, fish and whole grains, herbal teas, and at home spa treatments.

What I can't wait to try:

  • At Home Tholossotherapy Bath Spa Treatment
  • Super-Detoxifying Green Tea Lemonade Recipe
  • Salade De Provence Dressing Recipe

I was provided a free copy of "The Weekend Wonder Detox" for review, but all opinions are mine. Have you tried to do a detox cleanse before? Was it a fasting cleanse? Juice cleanse? Or something similar to this cleanse that features whole foods?

April 15, 2014

What Does Your DNA Say? My Experience With Promethease & 23andMe

If you saw yesterday's post, you know that I recently had my DNA analysis done through 23andMe. Yesterday, I went over what I learned about my ancestry directly from 23andMe. If you missed it, click here to check it out! Today, I'll talk about the information that had a HUGE impact on me that came from the raw data they sent.

If you have your DNA analysis done by 23andMe, you can find your raw data by clicking on your profile on the top right corner. It says "browse raw data" and let me warn you... DON'T try to print it! Mine was 12,550 pages! It makes no sense whatsoever to look at it, but if you pay a visit to www.promethease.com and pay $5, you can upload your information directly from 23andMe for interpretation. In about 5-10 minutes, you'll get several different reports full of health related information. All I can say is - "WHAT A TRIP!"

I suspected several issues to show up, and they did. There were health issues that my dad had when he was alive that showed up in my reports as a risk. There were health issues that my mom had when she was alive that showed up in my reports as a risk. And then there were health issues that showed up in my reports as a risk that I had never even heard of. 

23andMe used to provide their own interpretation of your genetic health information, but stopped late last year when the FDA got involved. They have since pledged to not provide genetic health information to their customers until they receive FDA approval. For the consumer, it means that instead of receiving a clearly written report from 23andMe, you have to upload your raw data to a different website and interpret all of the reports yourself. It really does take quite a lot of work to understand what you're looking at!

To put it mildly, I was totally and completely overwhelmed by all of the information. When you see the raw DNA data interpretation from Promethease, especially when you don't know anything about what you're looking at, it's absolutely crazy. The information provided in the reports that you receive is presented in eight major sections:
1. Good News: Good news is always the best to receive! I'm happy to say that I have a natural resistance that makes me less susceptible to infection with malaria, tuberculosis, bacteremia and pneumococcal disease. I have a lower risk of type 1 diabetes and a decreased risk of atrial fibrillation, among other things.

2. Bad News: The bad news is where you'll find the info with the biggest impact. Without telling you all of my personal genetic information, I can say that this area of the report is where you would find out if you carried the genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer for women, prostate cancer for men, rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 or type-2 diabetes, macular degeneration, lupus, glaucoma, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and more.

3. These Seem Interesting But Have Not Been Flagged as Clearly Good or Bad: This section tells mostly things like eye color, it said that I'm more likely to think that cilantro tastes like soap, (yep) that I'm a fast caffeine metabolizer, and that I'm unlikely to be able to taste bitter in foods, which may be why I love super dark coffee without cream or sugar.

4. Medicines: To me, this may be one of the areas of the report that contain the most valuable information. I found out that I am a poor metabolizer of some medications, including common prescription medications like warfarin (a blood thinner) and if I ever need it I would require a different dose. The same applies to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds like asprin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. I have always had problems with Aleve, and now I know why. 

5. Medical Conditions: This goes back to the bad news section, telling you about any medical conditions that you may be genetically predisposed to, but it also gives you information on diseases that you have decreased odds of getting. For example, I am less likely to develop chronic kidney disease, kidney stones, and gout! There is a LOT - LOT - LOT of information here and it's not really very easy to interpret. It may say that your risk of developing Parkinson's Disease is normal on one line, and on the very next line it may say that you are at risk of developing Parkinson's Disease. It ranks your risk by MAGNITUDE on a scale of 0-10, 10 being really significant information and 0 being the common genotype, for which nothing interesting is known. They say that a magnitude 3 is probably worth your time. My highest ranked magnitude reported was a 3.5, so nothing earth-shattering, but definitely worth noting!

6. Topics: Ranging from aging and appearance to vitamin D and weight management, this report shows, alphabetically, information on every single thing you can think of and how it applies to your specific DNA. Again, it's a ton of information and most of it probably doesn't apply to you, but there are some interesting things.

7. These Are Most Unique To You But Don't Yet Have A Magnitude Assigned: Unique indeed! I clicked on almost every line in this report and learned nothing. The first line seems important because the FREQUENCY (0.0% - meaning that no other Caucasian/Europeans in their sample share this genotype) is highlighted in bright red, but when I click on it, all it says is that this SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, pronounced SNIP) has to do with opioid addiction in females. Hmmm.

8. Complicated. Lots More Data But Limited Information: I figure that if they are telling me that this area is hard to understand, I can probably skip it because I found the entire report hard to understand!
The reports that are provided by Promethease are very comprehensive, but still require you to do your own research. For example, there are 8 different lines or SNP's that have to do with breast cancer, and another 19 that have to do with breast & ovarian cancer. One or two lines might show bad news... the rest might show good news or that your results were normal. How do you interpret the information that they've already interpreted for you? You dig. You pull all of the information from all of the websites you can find.

And ultimately, after you're done with all of that, Wikipedia says regarding breast cancer, "Some genetic susceptibility may play a minor role in most cases. Overall, however, genetics is believed to be the primary cause of 5–10% of all cases." It's hard to keep that in perspective when you see something show up under BAD NEWS.

When news hit that Angelina Jolie chose to have a double mastectomy because of a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, women around the world took notice. Time Magazine said, "She tested positive for the breast-cancer-related BRCA1 gene, putting the probability that she would develop the disease at a terrifying 87%; after her surgery, her doctors put that number at just 5%." 

They go on to explain, "Genetic screening is a young science, and while we may have detected genes linked to a host of ills — Alzheimer’s disease, prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease — we often do a terrible job of calculating our resulting risks. Just over one-tenth of 1% of all women carry the same BRCA mutation Jolie has, and yet doctors expect a stampede of women requesting the test."

Why WOULDN'T a woman who has watched her mother, sisters, and aunts die from breast cancer want to be able to take a proactive step in self-care? Why wouldn't a woman want to know if she was going to pass on the mutation to her daughter?

23andMe DOES test for the BRCA mutation and so many more different genetic disorders that it really is overwhelming. You definitely have to do your homework to interpret the info in the Promethease reports until 23andMe is able to provide health interpretation again.

Like the Time Magazine article implied, when you test positive for a genetic mutation it doesn't mean that you will get that disease. It's up to you to take the initiative and research what the information means - and it's up to you what you do with the information provided once you have it.

Anne Wojcicki, the founder of 23andMe, was married to Sergey Brin. Brin is one of the original founders of Google and when he had his DNA tested through 23andMe, he discovered that he tested positive for a genetic mutation that is linked to Parkinson's.

In June 2010, WIRED magazine explained, "Parkinson’s is a poorly understood disease, but research has associated a handful of behaviors with lower rates of disease, starting with exercise. One study found that young men who work out have a 60 percent lower risk. Coffee, likewise, has been linked to a reduced risk. For a time, Brin drank a cup or two a day, but he can’t stand the taste of the stuff, so he switched to green tea. Cigarette smokers also seem to have a lower chance of developing Parkinson’s, but Brin has not opted to take up the habit. With every pool workout and every cup of tea, he hopes to diminish his odds, to adjust his algorithm by counteracting his DNA with environmental factors. “This is all off the cuff,” he says, “but let’s say that based on diet, exercise, and so forth, I can get my risk down by half, to about 25 percent.” The steady progress of neuroscience, Brin figures, will cut his risk by around another half—bringing his overall chance of getting Parkinson’s to about 13 percent. It’s all guesswork, mind you, but the way he delivers the numbers and explains his rationale, he is utterly convincing."

The question that I hear over and over again is, “Would you do it again, knowing what you know now?” 

The health related information that I received is incredibly valuable, BUT it's a total mind F#%K. Having information on my genetic code as it relates to my health is something that could potentially save my life. It could lead to early diagnosis of a disease, or save me from a reaction to a medication that I have a problem metabolizing. That is priceless information!

But I have to admit that when I first opened the reports from Promethease, I was pretty traumatized. It took me several weeks of research to understand what my actual risks are and what the information means to me. I probably won't share any of the genetic information with my doctor unless it becomes relevant.

If I had strange symptoms that I thought could be related to a genetic disorder, or if I wanted to know if I was BRCA positive, I would say yes. Definitely spend the $99 for 23andMe and the extra $5 for Promethease to get the health interpretations. Not only is it much less expensive than a test ordered by a physician, but the results are YOUR information and not part of your medical records.

If you're curious about your ancestry, definitely spend the $99 for 23andMe! It's fascinating and you can always access the raw data later to get the health interpretation if you choose to.

If you're young and healthy, maybe there are things that you're better off not knowing... The best news is that the information and technology are ready available, and should you choose to use it hopefully you'll be a bit better prepared than I was.

*The information in this post is AS I UNDERSTOOD it. I'm not a geneticist, but I tried to convey, in my own very practical manner, what the process was like and what type of information I received.

Would you use genetic testing to see if you were at risk of developing disorders in the future?

April 14, 2014

What Does Your DNA Say? My Experience With 23andMe Personal Genome Services

As a lifestyle blogger, if there is something that really piques my curiosity, I imagine that my readers are curious about it, too. For the last few years, I've been hearing about 23andMe and their personal genome services and definitely was interested in learning more.

Because of my own personal interest, I wanted to go through the process and be able to do a comprehensive blog post that would help my readers understand what it means to have their own DNA profile done. I wanted to be able to let them know exactly what to expect if they paid $99 and sent in a tube of their spit to 23andMe. I didn't, however, expect to have the process change the way that I view myself forever.

April 12, 2014

Furry friends with benefits! {SELF-CARE SATURDAY}

Research has proven the many benefits of pet ownership:

They reduce your risk of suffering from allergies, asthma, and eczema by strengthening your immune system if you're exposed to pets as a child.

They lower your blood pressure. Just petting an animal lowers your blood pressure more than the traditional hypertension drug!

Pet owners are more fit, especially those who own a dog. They are 34% more likely to reach the minimum of 150 minutes of exercise each week.

And so much more!

Owners are more outgoing, have higher self-esteem, and have fewer feelings of loneliness than people without pets.

Ian Cook, psychiatrist and director of UCLA's Depression Research and Clinic Program says "Pets offer unconditional love that can be helpful to people with depression. They also offer a sense of responsibility, regular activity, a set routine, and reliable companionship, which can really help healing. Pet owners have lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and lower stress levels. Animals help bring out the best in people!

John Grogan, author of "Marley & Me" says, "A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things - a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty."

Novelist Jonathan Carroll says, "Dogs are minor angels, and I don't mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera. If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had all of them, we would call them angelic. But because it's "only" a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more. However, when you think about it, what are the things that we most like in another human being? Many times those qualities are seen in our dogs every single day - we're just so used to them that we pay no attention."

It's certainly not just dogs that enhance their owners life. Even though you don't go running with your dog or take your cat for regular walks, all of the other health and emotional benefits mentioned above apply to cat owners as well!

In Japan you can visit a cat cafe and actually RENT a cat while you sit and sip coffee for about $10 an hour, but if you prefer to have a cat on a permanent basis (or if you're not in Japan) there are TONS of cats available at an animal rescue near you! Our local shelter even sometimes offers buy one, get one free specials on cats!

The benefits of pet ownership far outweigh any troubles that they may cause and they really do make your life better! A true furry friend, with benefits!

April 11, 2014

Product Review and GIVEAWAY! Original Sprout Organic

I am always looking for new health and beauty products to add to my rotation, especially when they are organic! When I was contacted by Original Sprout and given the opportunity to test some of their products, I said yes right away.

Created by Inga Tritt, it's a family-run company based in beautiful San Luis Obispo, California.

I'll start by saying their products are FREE & CLEAN! No parabens, nanoparticles, phytoestrogens like lavender, tea tree, petroleum oils, musk, propylene glycol, sulfates, gluten, soy or dairy. They're 100% vegan and cruelty free.

I can honestly say that I love the shampoo. It took me a few uses to adjust to the fact that it doesn't foam up as much as my old shampoo, but it left my hair completely clean. I mean even after I used dry shampoo and aerosol hairspray and went WAY too long between shampoos.

My scalp gets greasy pretty quickly, but my hair is dry and this shampoo and conditioner seemed to balance things out a bit. It washed away greasiness and left my hair soft and shiny. It made my tangled, wet hair easy to comb through after using... and smelled great!

The smell of this shampoo and conditioner is my favorite thing about it. I've always LOVED L'Occitane shower cream in the scent "milk" and to me, this shampoo and conditioner smells just like it. DIVINE! The parfum used has natural extracts, but if you have a strong sensitivity to scented products, you might not be able to use these products.

Last but not least, the Scrumptious Baby Cream is really NOT just for babies! It's scented a little differently than the shampoo and conditioner - a bit more reminiscent of old fashioned baby powder - but the smell is nice. It's not greasy at all and it has soothing zinc and calendula so any dry patches disappear after just a few uses.

Original Sprout has agreed to give one lucky reader a package including a 4 oz. tube of Natural Shampoo, a 4 oz. tube of Deep Conditioner and an 8 oz. tube of Scrumptious Baby Cream! If you're interested, just comment on this post and a winner will be selected at random. It's close to a $40 value!  GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED!

To get $10 in "Sprout Cash" to use toward any purchase at Original Sprout, click on this link www.originalsprout.com and it'll automatically be credited to your account and you can use it on any purchase from Original Sprout!

Don't forget to leave a comment to win! GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED!

* Comment with your email address, a link to your facebook or twitter profile, or any other way you can be reached before 4/18/2014 to be eligible - 1 comment per person - Winner will be picked at random from all posted comments and will be notified by the way you entered. Good luck! *  GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED!

April 8, 2014

A Healthier, Fresher Choice When You Eat Out! Pei Wei Asian Diner

 photo 1029d01a-8b80-45c8-8e25-2fe1b5556032_zps6fc4b326.jpgThis is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pei Wei Asian Diner for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I have a new favorite spot for lunch! Or a light dinner! Or an afternoon snack!

As you all know, we have really been watching what we eat around here. I know that it's the healthy thing to do, but it makes it really difficult when you don't feel like cooking. Finding a healthier option is so important, and I love that I can go to Pei Wei with any of my friends or family members and not have to worry about any food allergies. Pei Wei has something for everyone, and to find out about food allergy information, just visit their website and Explore the Pei Wei Asian Diner menu .

April 7, 2014

April Roundup: see...read...do

To me, April means rainy days, spring cleaning and FINALLY some warm sunshine! I love curling up under a throw blanket with a good book on a rainy spring day, and if you haven't read "The Goldfinch" yet, now is the time to pick up a copy! It's 750+ pages long and you'll wish it was longer!

Other books that I loved that are new releases or soon to be released:

"Thrive" by Arianna Huffington, "Bohemians" by Paul Buhle, (to be released on April 15) "Weekend Wonder Detox" by Michelle Schoffro Cook, (to be released on April 29) "Born to Receive" by Amanda Owen.

Keep an eye on the blog for upcoming book reviews on these great books!