Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Women Who Inspire Me

I often get told that I am an inspiration. I'm working hard to live up to that praise, through this blog and otherwise, but sometimes I think that people view me as an inspiration simply because I'm living with a disability. That makes me uncomfortable. I view people as inspirations not just because of who they are as a person, but because of what they do with their lives.

March is Women's History Month, so I wanted to take a day to talk about some of the amazing women that I admire. Since my blog and social media have helped connect me to people online who I might not have known about otherwise, I thought it would be fun to do a post about women online who inspire me! Obviously, there are many women in my own life who inspire me as well, but I'm limiting today's post to women I have never actually met (but would love to, someday)!

First up are two bloggers whose content I love, and whose blogs I read every day!

Carly, Carly the Prepster
Carly's is the very first blog I ever read. It's been amazing to watch her content grow from her time as a student at Georgetown until now, when she works full-time running her blog. She does a great mix of lighter and heavier posts - she'll talk about style, but is also not shy about sharing her struggles with anxiety. I really look forward to seeing her continue to grow in the future!

Dana, The Champagne Edit
I only found Dana's blog shortly before I started blogging, but it has quickly become one of my must-reads. Dana has recently shifted her blog's focus from fashion-only to including some more personal posts, and I've loved the chance to get to know her better through them! I have also really enjoyed connecting with her on social media, and learning that she loves Pittsburgh.

I also like following content creators on YouTube, and wanted to share two women making inspiring videos.

Lilly Singh, Superwoman
Lilly's love and enthusiasm for what she does is the very first thing I noticed about her when I started watching her videos. "Hustle Harder" is one of her mottos, and it's clear that it's one she lives by - she seems to be always working and dreaming up something new. I equally enjoy her videos on her main channel and the videos on her vlog channel - both channels help give the full picture of who she is. Plus, she just got the cutest little puppy, Scarbro, who reminds me of my own dog, Lily, when she was a little puppy!

Molly Burke
Molly is a YouTuber who makes videos about her life. As a blind woman, she talks about her blindness, but not in a negative way. She shares some of the amazing experiences that she has had the opportunity to be a part of, and also helps educate people on blindness by sharing her real-life experiences of navigating the world as a blind woman. She is someone I view as inspirational because of what she has done with her life, not simply because she is blind!

And finally, my miscellaneous category - people that I've found online who I think are doing amazing things!

Liz Plank
This isn't my first time talking about Liz Plank (read more here), but I couldn't write this post without including her. I just think she's doing amazing work - she's using her platform to amplify the voices of people whose experiences might not otherwise be heard, and I think that is so important!

Stephanie Klemons
I first heard of Stephanie because she was in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton (and my obsession is well-documented here and here), and then was lucky enough to see her in In the Heights here in Pittsburgh (read about that here). I was already inspired by her talent, but after following her for a while on social media, I became even more inspired by her dedication and perseverance! Her Instagram is filled with pictures and stories of her flying all over the globe to work on different productions of Hamilton, she started a non-profit that uses music as therapy (my sister's major was music therapy as an undergraduate), and she seems to always be on the go, doing more. I love Hamilton so much, and it's really inspiring to see the cast putting so much good into the world!

This list is truly just the start - there are so many amazing women who inspire me daily. Who are your inspirations?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review of Living Proof

I got a new haircut recently and have been joking that I feel like a whole new person! I've basically been meaning to get it cut for months now, but just kept putting it off, and now I'm totally regretting not doing it earlier.
 Since my haircut is fresh, it seems like the perfect time to talk about some new hair products I've been using. I've never been a big hair product person - I use dry shampoo (read my post here) if I'm not washing my hair, but that's about it. Recently, though, I started trying out Living Proof products. I first tried out the shampoo and conditioner, because I had run out of the ones I had been using, and wanted to try something new. I use the No Frizz line, and really love them - the conditioner isn't too heavy, which is great for me, because even though I have really thick hair, it also gets oily very quickly. Conditioners that are too heavy tend to make my hair get greasy even more quickly, but that doesn't happen with the Living Proof products.

My very favorite, though, is the styling product that I've started using - the Prime Style Extender. I've tried out a few other products before, but I've never found one that I loved as much as I love this one! It's kind of a gel-like consistency, and you put it on you wet/damp hair, working it in from the roots to the tip. It basically does what it's name says it does - it helps extend your style. I honestly think that it helps keep my hair from getting oily for a little bit longer, which is huge for me. It also keeps it looking nice throughout the day - it stays looking smooth and polished, rather than frizzy and poufy.

Have you tried out Living Proof? Or do you have your own favorite product? Let me know!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Whitfield and the Ace Hotel

Going into Friday, I had plans for a very low-key weekend... and then I found out that two friends were in town for the weekend, and ended up with plans on both Saturday and Sunday. Not quite as low-key as I had imagined, but I'll never complain about getting to catch up with friends who I haven't seen in a while!

On Saturday night, we were looking for dinner plans that were far enough away from the Downtown and South Side areas of the city that we wouldn't have to worry about running into people who had been celebrating St. Patrick's Day for 12 hours. We ended up at Whitfield, the restaurant inside the Ace Hotel in East Liberty.

The Ace Hotel is such a cool space - it actually used to be a YMCA that had already closed down, and then was turned into a hotel. They actually kept the gym intact, and now it's turned into a common area for the hotel - there are basketball hoops, giant-sized versions of games like Connect Four, and also can be used as an event space.

I can happily report that there were no St. Patrick's Day celebrations happening at the hotel, or at Whitfield, the restaurant in the hotel lobby. I think Whitfield is one of the best recent additions to Pittsburgh's dining scene! The menu is small, but so good - they focus on local ingredients and influences, and a seasonally changing menu. Everything I've had there is delicious, and the staff have all been so kind and helpful.

I'm also really excited because I'll be back at the Ace Hotel in just a few weeks for Inclusive Innovation Week! I am lucky enough to be on a community promoting disability inclusion, and we're planning a silent disco in the gym on April 7! I hope that you all can join me, and I'll make sure to update with more information as the details are finalized!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Favorites

I'm really hoping that after this weekend, we make the turn from winter and snow into spring. I know I talked about hygge earlier this week, but I really could use some sunshine and warmth.

I couldn't let this week go by without mentioning Stephen Hawking's death. You can read The New York Time's obituary here. It's been really interesting to read all the coverage on Hawking's life and disability. I'm not one to be particularly offended by language - I'm fine with being called disabled, rather than a person with a disability - but saying that Hawking was "confined to a wheelchair" really does a disservice to him and his life! Hawking was a brilliant man, and his wheelchair helped him live life to the fullest, not confine him.

I mentioned in my Waitress post earlier this week that Sara Bareilles played her last show as the lead earlier this week - watch her and the cast in this sweet final curtain call, where they sing a song from the show that got cut before it made it to Broadway!

This next article is technically a way to meet people without using dating apps, but I really think it can apply to anyone looking to meet people, whether you're looking for a date or for a friend. The older I get, the harder it seems to be to meet new people, so I think these tips and reminders are useful for everyone.

And last but certainly not least - did you know Frozen is now a Broadway musical?! I'm one of those people who knows every word to Let It Go, and who loves the Broadway version of The Lion King, so I'm pretty pumped. The songwriters from the movie wrote some new songs for the Broadway version - check out one of them here!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Liz's Nutrition Notes: What is the Paleo Diet?

I'm sure you've all heard of, and maybe tried, many diets; one that almost everyone has heard of is the Paleo Diet. So this week, I thought I'd share some general information about it, and some pros and cons.

What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a diet that has been endorsed by various health spokespersons and gyms as a healthy way to eat, based on the way our ancestors ate. Chronic diseases were lower in the Paleolithic Era some 10,000 years ago, and followers of the Paleo Diet believe that our genetics were adapted to consume a diet like our "paleo" ancestors. The diet is viewed as "natural" as it only allows food that can be gathered from the earth by hand. Believers in the Paleo Diet want us to eat just like people would have 10,000 years ago - the theory is that animal protein and plants contribute to overall well-being, whereas carbohydrates (whether whole grain or refined) and dairy are to blame for the increased prevalence of chronic diseases in our nation.

What can you eat on the Paleo Diet?
  •  Lean meats (must be grass fed, not grain fed)
  • Fish (must be wild-caught and not farm raised)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seed
  • Natural Oils (olive, walnut, coconut, avocado, macadamia, flaxseed)
What CAN'T you eat on the Paleo Diet?
  •  Dairy
  • Grains
  • Processed foods and sugars
  • Legumes
  • Starches
  • Refined oils
  • Alcohol
  • Salt
Supporters of the Paleo Diet endorse a number of benefits gained by following the diet. These include: weight loss, reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, improved athletic performance, increased energy, improved sleep, improved outlook, stable blood sugars, and reversal of autoimmune diseases.

However, a number of cons exist for the Paleo Diet, as well. I'm going to list a few, then go into some more detail.

Drawbacks to the Paleo Diet
  • No dairy intake can increase risk for bone disease
  • No whole wheat products decreases fiber intake, B vitamin consumption
  • Sustainability of diet can be difficult
  • People are inconsistent when carrying out the diet
  • Grass fed meat, free range eggs, etc. tend to be more expensive
  • Often requires nutritional supplements (which our ancestors did not take)
  • Sufficient evidence to support the long-term effects of this diet do not exist
 Now, to go a bit more in detail about some of the drawbacks...

Our bodies need at least 120g of glucose per day to function adequately. Our body's most readily available source of glucose comes from carbohydrates - found primarily in grains. Not only do grains provide our bodies with needed glucose, but whole grain carbohydrates also provide important nutrients like fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, and selenium! Fiber is especially important to help lower cholesterol, promote GI regularity, and aid in weight loss.

Dairy products are the best source of calcium. Because dairy products have been cut from the Paleo Diet, risk for bone disease is increased. Plant foods can contain calcium, but the calcium absorption may be inhibited by the phytate and oxylates found in most plants sources. In addition, dark leafy plants also contain iron, which competes with calcium absorption as well. The bottom line is that adequate calcium absorption, without supplementation, will be difficult while following a Paleo Diet.

The Paleo Diet stresses higher fruit and vegetable intake. Vitamin C is found in fruits and aids in the absorption of iron. Thus vegetables sources containing calcium and iron (dark leafy greens, soybean nuts) will result in the iron being absorbed instead of the calcium. Vitamin D, which is found is some oily fish (tuna, salmon) aids in calcium absorption. It is not readily available in our diet, which is why most products are fortified with it. Without dairy, which does have vitamin D, calcium absorption may decline as well.

And finally, some overall food for thought:

Can we really define our "Paleo" ancestors' exact diet? No, we cannot. Depending on culture, location, and accessibility of food, our ancestors of 10,000 years ago could have had drastically different diets. The fad "Paleo Diet" is a generalized idealization!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What Is Hygge?

I've been heaving about "hygge" for a while now, but I really never looked into what exactly it is. If you haven't heard of hygge, it's a trendy new concept here in the US, but an old one in Denmark, where it originated. There isn't an exact translation, but it's basically about being cozy and comfortable and taking the time to enjoy the little things in your life.

I wish I had looked into this sooner, because hygge is a concept I can totally get behind. I am all about being cozy! I love coming home, changing into my pajamas immediately, putting on a warm, fuzzy pair of socks, and relaxing with TV or a book. I have definitely spent weekends (especially in the winter!) without even leaving my house - just enjoying my own company, staying warm, and losing myself in a book or movie.

It snowed again yesterday, which I'm not super excited about, but I think it gives everyone here in Pittsburgh the perfect opportunity to practice a little hygge. I'm sharing my hygge essentials below - what are yours?

A fuzzy, furry blanket
There is nothing like snuggling under something warm to make you feel cozy and content! I love blankets that have faux-fur on one side because of how soft they are, but any warm blanket will work!

A nice-smelling candle
I've been growing my candle collection in the last year, but I have yet to find one that smells as good as the Rose scented candle from Rewined. Burning a nicely-scented candle goes a long way to set the hygge mood.

Comfy Pajamas
Obviously, comfortable pajamas are a must. This set is so soft, and the wrap cardigan-esque top makes it feel extra cozy to me.

A good book
Last but certainly not least, no hygge mood would be complete without a good book to read! I loved Little Fires Everywhere, and just found out that Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are turning it into a TV show for Hulu. I can't wait!

(This post uses affiliate links; I may earn a small commission from any clicks/purchases you make.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New Habits

I love reading, but sometimes it can hard for me to find the time and energy to read after a long day at work. By the time I get home, eat dinner, do any work I need to for school, and work on the blog... I am exhausted. It's a lot easier to just turn on the TV and watch a repeat of Friends or binge a show on Netflix. And I don't think there's anything wrong with watching TV! But recently, I realized that I was always reaching for the TV remote, and never for my book, and I wanted to change that. I didn't want to stop watching TV; I just wanted to get back into the habit of reading.

Reading is a habit like anything else, and it takes time to train yourself back into the habit - even when it's something that you love doing. So I've been making a little bit of time every day, usually sometime before bed, to do at least a little bit of reading. I usually read on my iPad, because it's so much lighter and easier for me to hold than an actual book, but I've also been using the Nook app on my phone to get in a few pages of reading while I'm in bed before I fall asleep. Reading on the smaller phone screen isn't my favorite, but I'm getting used to it and it helps me when I'm feeling too tired for anything else.

I've also been trying to get in one meditation through the Headspace app every day. I haven't been quite as successful in forming this habit as I have reading, but it's something that I'm still working on. I started using Headspace over a year ago, but once I finished the "Basic" meditation pack, and the time jumped from 3 or 5 minutes to 10 minutes, I started struggling to stick with it. Recently, though, the app started doing a new featured meditation every day, and I've been really into those! I like doing them at the beginning of my day at work - it helps me to get focused, and keeps me from getting overwhelmed trying to decide what to start to work on first. I've been struggling to transfer this habit to the weekends, but I just learned that I can use Headspace through my Alexa, so maybe that will help me!

I'd love to hear any suggestions any of you have!