Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Favorites

I hope that anyone celebrating Easter has a happy holiday weekend!
Image via
I talked about Inclusive Innovation Week, and the All-In Silent Disco, earlier this week in a post here, but I also wanted to share this post from The Incline. They highlight some of the other amazing events happening next week, and I was so excited to see that the silent disco made the cut! I'd love for you all to come out and say hi!

I'm not sure if any of you ever read the Craigslist "Missed Connections" section - I used to browse it just for fun. The section is officially shutting down, and this article from the New York Magazine shares a few people's stories with the section - a really fun read!

I read this article early in the week, about a woman who has experienced multiple fugue states, and just had to share it. It's fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Liz's Nutrion Notes: MyPlate

What is MyPlate?


MyPlate is a visual representation of how to incorporate appropriate portion sizes of the five food groups in your meals. It replaced the Food Pyramid in an effort to help consumers better understand how their plates should look, and make healthier decisions.

Image via
As you can see, the plate is divided into four sections. Looking closely, you can see that vegetables and whole grains take up most of the plate, followed by fruit and protein, with a small quantity of dairy on the side. Designing your plates accordingly will help ensure you are providing your body with the nutrients it needs.

Choosemyplate.gov provides many helpful resources and fun ideas. While browsing, I came across MyPlate, MyWins, an initiative to assist consumers with making healthier decisions through small changes over time in order to help consumers stick with it. Oftentimes, we try to make too many changes too quickly and get overwhelmed causing us to quit or use the phrase “I’ll start tomorrow.” Check out this page for ideas on small changes you can make over time to help you meet your goals!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Inclusive Innovation Week 2018

This is a post that I'm really excited to write, and I've been looking forward to sharing with all of you! I mentioned Inclusive Innovation week very briefly last week here, but I wanted to devote a whole post to it so I could give it the time and attention that it deserves.

Inclusive Innovation PGH is a city-wide initiative to make sure that everyone in Pittsburgh has equal access to products and services. It's a joint collaboration between different city departments, and each year, they hold a week-long event called Inclusive Innovation Week. Throughout that week, different organizations and businesses in the community hold events of all kids to demonstrate Pittsburgh's commitment to inclusion. This year, I was lucky enough to join a committee of disability advocates in Pittsburgh who wanted to plan an event to make sure that Pittsburgh considers the needs of the disability community when thinking about inclusion.

Inclusive Innovation Week will be help April 2-8 this year. You can check out the schedule here - there are so many amazing events to choose from! But there are two that I specifically want to highlight - the All-in Silent Disco, and CMU's Sustainability Weekend (not yet on the schedule).

The All-in Silent Disco is the event that I have been working hard to plan with my fellow disability advocates! We wanted to plan a fun, inclusive event where people of all abilities could have a good time. If you've never heard of a silent disco, it's a dance where the music is played through headphones that attendees on the dance floor wear, rather than out loud over speakers. If you take the headphones off, you can hear each other and talk without having to scream over loud music! Our silent disco, which will be held at the Ace Hotel, also features vibrating backpacks and floor tiles that vibrate to the beat, allowing people with hearing impairments to join in on the fun. We'll also have some representatives from local organizations working towards disability representation and inclusion to help attendees broaden their perspectives and think about disability inclusion in their everyday lives.

The other event I'll be participating in is the Transit and Equity Panel, part of CMU's student-run Sustainability Weekend conference. I'm really passionate about making sure people with disabilities have access to all types of transit, and so excited to share my opinions and experiences as part of this panel discussion!

I'd love to see you at either/both of these events - you can check out the links I've shared or send me an e-mail at theheatherreportblog@gmail.com.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Winter-ish Wedding Blues

I had such a fun time this weekend at a family friend's wedding. It was in the prettiest barn (which did, luckily, have indoor heating!) and it was so great to celebrate their marriage!

What I did not have such a fun time doing was picking out a dress to wear. Even though it's almost April, we had a major snowstorm in the middle of last week, and it was still chilly over the weekend. That meant that I needed something that was relatively warm, that wouldn't get wrinkly in the car (the wedding was a little over an hour away), and something that didn't look TOO wintry, because I'm just over it.
ASOS is always one of the first places I look when I need a cocktail dress. I love that they offer petite sizing, and their petite 00 size is small enough to fit me without needing to be taken in, which is amazing considering that I can sometimes wear kids sizes! I also am amazed at how quickly they ship your items to you... I've had things arrive in two days, and the package comes from the UK - it's crazy! They have a great selection, and they're reasonably priced, too. I just really love ASOS.
I ended up going with this navy blue midi dress. I knew the style would be a good fit for me - the stretchy part in the back keeps it from being too big - and I liked that the color was winter-y but not black. Because it was a midi dress, it was longer and a little bit warmer... and because I'm so short, it was actually almost a maxi on me!

My second choice, which I didn't wear but am not returning, either, is this black lace trumpet sleeve dress (also from ASOS). It's also really cute, and I'm sure you'll see it somewhere here in the future!

Check out both dresses in the widget below!

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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Favorites

Anyone have fun plans for their weekend? I'm headed to a family friend's wedding, and I'm also really hoping that some of this snow melts!

On to my favorites from this past week...

Liz has been sharing some great nutrition content, and this article from New York Magazine goes along so well with so many things she has talked about! It's super in-depth, but really informative. If you have any question about healthy eating or nutrition, it's probably in this article.

A friend and I were talking about imposter syndrome earlier this week, and then I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal that shares some great tips about gaining self-confidence and not doubting yourself or your abilities.

How cool is this - the costumes from Black Panther will be making their debut at an exhibit at the Heinz History Museum here in Pittsburgh! I haven't actually seen the movie yet, but it's on my list, and I'm always happy to see my city get an exciting first!

And finally... earlier this week, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt collaborated on a song called "Found Tonight," named after a mash-up of songs from Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. I love both shows (and both actors!), and their collaboration did not disappoint. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will go towards the March for Our Lives Initiative!



Share your favorite thing from online over the past week in the comments!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Liz's Nutrition Notes: Portion Sizes


Portion sizes have increased over the years. With an increase in portion sizes comes an increase in caloric intake. Understanding portion sizes will help with planning meals and providing ourselves and loved ones with adequate nutrition.

What is the difference between a portion size and serving size?

Why are portion sizes important?

Portion sizes are important because they can play role in weight management. Eating large portions with little physical activity will likely lead to weight gain. It is helpful to read nutrition labels to make decisions about portioning. For example, a serving size of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons and contains 190 calories. If you are trying to lose weight, then you can use this information to determine how many portions to use.

Where is the serving size on the nutrition label?

QUICK TIP: Serving sizes can be as big or as small as companies want. Always check the nutrition label to verify the serving size and servings per container.

Check out the difference in portion sizes in the past versus now!

Visual Representation of Serving Sizes
If you are unsure of the serving size of food in front of you, use these tips to help.
Tips to reduce portion sizes:
  • Use smaller plates, bowls, and cups at meals. Smaller plates will help make smaller portions appear bigger. 
  • Eat slowly and listen to your body’s natural hunger cues. Pay attention to swallowing your last bite before taking another.  
  • Wait 15 minutes to allow your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full in between seconds.
  • Have a glass of water in between first and second portions.
  • Measure your foods.
  • Use pre-packaged single serving snacks rather than large, open bags.
  • Limit eating out; portion sizes at restaurants are often large. If you do eat out, order small sizes or cut the meal in half and take the rest home with you.
  • Limit eating out; portion sizes at restaurants are often large. If you do eat out, order small sizes or cut the meal in half and take the rest home with you.
  • To avoid overeating meals, schedule healthy snacks in between meals. For simplicity, look for snacks that have been pre-portioned.

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!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Waitress Weekend


This year is the first year that I bought season tickets for "Broadway Across America" tours here in Pittsburgh - basically, I get to see all of the musicals that tour through Pittsburgh. I have gone to the shows for years, but have never bought a subscription before... but when I heard that Hamilton was coming in the 2018-2019 season, I knew that I had to get ahead of the game and get my subscription the year before to ensure good seats for Hamilton. (I know... it sounds crazy. I prefer to call it dedicated!)

I've seen some amazing shows this year, but one of the ones I was most excited to see was Waitress. The musical is actually based off of the movie (that I love) with the same name starring Keri Russell, so I already knew the basic plot. It translates really well into a musical, and I love that they kept so many of the movie elements - like the main character, Jenna, daydreaming and inventing new types of pies in her head. I actually re-watched the movie after seeing the show because I was feeling so nostalgic, and some of the lines in the musical are word-for-word from the movie. That makes me so happy - I'm always that annoying person at the movie theater complaining how the movie was different than the book, so I was glad I didn't have any of those complaints.

The music and lyrics for Waitress were actually written by Sara Bareilles, and she actually just finished her second run on Broadway in the lead role! You can really "hear" her in the songs (metaphorically as well as literally - she sings some pre-recorded backup vocals in some songs). The songs are so catchy, and they've been running through my head ever since the show ended. This weekend was the show's last in Pittsburgh, but if you get the chance to see it on Broadway or in another city, you should definitely check it out. If nothing else, give the soundtrack a listen, and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Favorites

Each Friday, I share my favorite things from the Internet in the past week.

We made it to another Friday! I have plans to see Waitress this weekend at the Benedum, and I can't wait! I love the Keri Russell movie that the musical is based on, so I'm sure I'll have a great time.
The first up on my favorites this week is the adorable pup! A friend's therapy dog - who I've met, he's such a wonderfully sweet dog - is up for a Hero Dog Award. If you're a dog person, Leo would definitely appreciate your vote - go here and search for Leo.

Yesterday was International Women's Day, and I think this article by Liz Plank (of the Divided States of Women, which I talked about here) is the perfect way to reflect on the day and how we can use the platform for good.

I could not stop laughing when I read this article from Buzzfeed about people's awkward/embarrassing celebrity encounters.

You know how there are some movies that you just have to watch every time you find out it's on TV? For me, one of those movies is Selena. In my opinion, it's JLo's best role! I love this video of her paying tribute to the real Selena.



One more article from Buzzfeed this week - this one is about how much it costs to be "famous" on Instagram. There are some really eye-opening numbers! I love sharing new things with you all, but I can't imagine going into debt for better content here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Liz's Nutrition Notes: National Nutrition Month


Each week, Liz posts about a different topic related to nutrition and health. This week, she's talking about National Nutrition Month.

Image via

Every March is National Nutrition Month (NNM), so happy NNM to all the dietitians and nutritionists out there - and you too! This year’s theme is “Go Further with Food”. The purpose of National Nutrition Month is to emphasize the importance of eating well and making time for physical activity as well as promoting ideas to help consumers make wise, educated decisions.

Click here to see what the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics considers the key factors this year to help when making healthy decisions. They have some really cool and helpful things on their site - they have a handy sheet on nutrition labels here, just like I talked about in one of my posts (here)!

Another handout is about eating right for a healthy weight (here), which I talked about in last week's post. And if you only check out one thing, make it "18 Health Tips for 2018."

Let Liz know if there's anything you want to learn more about during National Nutrition Month! Comment here, or e-mail me at theheatherreportblog@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What I've Been Watching

My favorite thing about my Apple TV is that I can rent movies on it. I love watching movies, but in the winter, I never feel really motivated to go out to the theater to see one.

I haven't been in the mood to start binge-watching a new TV series on Netflix, so instead, I've been watching movies when I want to relax and watch something. I thought I'd do a quick recap and share what I've watched recently!

Lady Bird
I actually bought this movie through iTunes because I have been wanting to see it so badly and I didn't want to wait another weekend for it to be available to rent. I really liked this one! It's not a movie that's driven by an exciting plot (although obviously, there is still a story line), but more driven by the growth of the characters. It's refreshing to see a realistic, complex mother-daughter relationship portrayed the way that it was in this movie. All of the acting was spectacular, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a touching/heartwarming movie.


Baby Driver
I will be honest and say that I had very low expectations for this movie - I didn't know anything about it, other than the fact that it involved cars, and that Ansel Elgort starred in it. I was pleasantly surprised, though, and actually enjoyed it. It is drastically different from Lady Bird - it's not a sweet, heartwarming movie, and it's violent. Finding out that John Hamm was in the movie was a bonus, as was the fact that there is a deaf character who is actually played by a deaf actor! (I've talked about my issues with Hollywood's casting of non-disabled actors here.)


Three Billboards over Ebbing, Missouri
I watched this movie just this past weekend, because I wanted to be able to say I had seen it before the Oscars on Sunday. This is another one where I didn't really know what to expect... I knew it was a dark movie, and had something to do with racism, but that was about it. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, but it was not an easy movie to watch at all.

Next up on my list are I, Tonya, The Post, and Call Me By Your Name. Am I missing anything good? Let me know!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Avoidance and Trying to be Better

I was going through my Instagram direct messages over the weekend, and saw my reply to Carly, another blogger I follow, about a story she posted about putting things off that you don't want to do, and how it's so much better if you push past that and just do it.

This is something that I'm so guilty of. I have no problem being direct and confrontational in conversations with others, but I am really, really good at avoiding things in my own life that I don't want to deal with, or am afraid of or nervous about.

Freshman year of college was rough for me. I always cringe when I say this, but I didn't really struggle in high school - I had never really learned how to study for something that was challenging to me. Classes at CMU were harder than anything I had ever taken in high school (except, maybe, for my Physics classes taught by a teacher infamous for being almost impossible), and I didn't know how to cope. My grades freshman year were worse than anything I'd ever gotten before, and by the end of my first semester, I was TERRIFIED to look at my grades - I knew they wouldn't be good. So... I didn't look. I ignored everything school-related for as long as I possibly could, and waited to check my grades until a few days before I went back to school. They still weren't good, but it felt so much better not having that weight hanging over my head anymore. (My parents are going to love me sharing this story... it's still one that gets brought up time-to-time!)

I've been trying, since then, to not avoid things that I'm nervous about/scared of. While I'm not afraid to check my grades anymore, that doesn't mean there aren't other things I'd rather avoid. Whether it's an e-mail that will be a lot of work to reply to, or homework that I don't want to start working on, or a phone call I'm not looking forward to making, there are lots of things that I'd like to put off. I have always been a bit of a procrastinator, and when you combine that with something that I'm not looking forward to - I can easily put things off for a long time. But I do know how much better it feels once those things are done - I feel so much lighter and happier.

I'm a big list maker/planner, so I use that to my advantage. I like being able to check things off my list, so I'll write down everything that I need to do - even the stupid, little things - to add some motivation to myself to actually do them. It's still a definitely work in progress, but it's something that I'm working on!

Anyone have any tips that could help me? Let me know in the comments below if you do!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Amazon Alexa Review

I mentioned before that I got one of the Amazon Alexa devices, here, and now that I've had it for a few weeks I thought it would be a good time to talk about it.

I have the Echo Spot - it has a decent speaker, and a small screen where I can watch videos, see scrolling headlines, the time, and the weather. I love the size of mine - it's perfect for my bedroom - it's not overwhelmingly big, but I love the screen because it's the only clock I have in my room right now.

Having the screen is great - I ask Alexa what the weather is each morning, and I've started watching the flash news briefing each morning to get me started on my day. I love reading newspapers (online), but I don't often watch the news, so this is the perfect way for me to get in more news viewing, in a condensed way. I also love that I can play a shortened version of Jeopardy on the Spot - I'm a huge Jeopardy fan. I also have the Spot connected to my phone, so I can make video calls, and respond to texts using it. Even if it's not hooked up to your phone, you can call other Alexa devices elsewhere in the house - so I can call my parents down in the kitchen!

The spot also controls my Hue light bulbs (I talked about them here). I just tell Alexa which lights to turn on or off, and she does it! It's really simple (and fun). I am still learning everything that Alexa can do, but so far I've played around with setting alarms, timers, and reminders, making lists, and asking her lots of questions to look up online. My dad loves asking her to tell him a joke (and another... and another... and another... and another...).

I always like to mention how technology like Alexa has the potential to help people with disabilities, so I'll leave you with this story. Overnight, when I'm asleep, I have to shut my bedroom door, because one of our cats LOVES to come in my room and chew the corners of my TV and the tubes of my breathing machines at 3 a.m. when he decides it's time for breakfast. So, if there's something that I need in the middle of the night, I use my cell phone to call one of my parents. A few years ago, though, my phone fell off my bed, leaving me without a way to call anyone. Luckily, I wasn't awake for too long before I heard one of my parents moving around in the hallway outside; also luckily, I wasn't too uncomfortable. But having Alexa as a backup, and knowing that I can use her to make phone calls even if I can't reach my phone, is a major comfort!

This doesn't mean that only people with disabilities should have an Alexa device, though - I think that everyone should have one! I love mine, and I'm loving finding out what all mine can do. Let me know if you have one, and what your favorite thing is that it does!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Friday Favorites

Each Friday, I share my favorite things from the Internet in the past week.

Happy March! I'm really excited that February is over - we're getting closer to spring and sunshine, and I'm really ready for it. 

I talked about the importance of representation in fashion this week (my post is here), and I was really excited to read this piece from Fashionista talking about fashion and inclusivity! It's exciting to know other people are thinking and talking about it, too.

This next article is not the first (nor will it be the last) that I share about the opioid epidemic - but it's such an important issue, and this article shares the experience of one person who was addicted and is now sober. It's easy to forget that there are real, human faces with stories to tell behind the epidemic, so I always want to share anything that humanizes such a complicated issue.

My use of a paper planner is justified in The New York Times! I talked about my own planner here - there's just something about writing things out and seeing them laid out on a page that an electronic calendar can't replicate.

Have you guys heard of Vero, the new social network? This article explains it a little bit. I'm not sure I really want to add another social media app to my life, but I thought I'd at least try it out - it's picture sharing, like Instagram, but without the much-discussed (and often hated) algorithm, meaning everything is chronological. If you're on there, find me - my username is just "Heather" (I think... I'm still learning).

For something fun - I loved this cute article about friendships and how we define them. I really value my friendships, so I'm always happy to see when other people do, too!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Liz's Nutrition Notes: What is a "Healthy Diet?"

Each week, Liz will posts about a different topic related to nutrition and health. This week, she's discussing what it means to eat a healthy diet.

Heather sent me this article about dieting and weight loss that she read in The New York Times, and asked me if I wanted to talk about in a post. When I read the article, my first thought was how this article didn’t really present anything new. The gist of the article is how eating healthy, while not counting calories, led participants to lose weight over the course of a year. I was a little surprised by how this article was trying to present information that we, as a vast majority, already know: weight loss is often a result (even if you don’t count calories) when you exercise regularly and consume a healthy diet – i.e.  no processed foods, diet rich in vegetable/fruits, lean protein, and limited sugar intake diet). They even mentioned that the individuals in the study were still required to meet federal guidelines for exercise. 

Even though we, as a society, generally know what and how we should be eating, we typically don’t eat that way. There are lots of reasons for this. One that pops to my mind is how food brings people together, and is considered a social activity. When you go out to eat with friends, restaurants have to make their foods taste amazing to entice you to come back so they add butter (fat), salt, and sugar. How many times have you heard “I really shouldn’t be eating this” or something along those lines… we know how to eat, it’s just that we choose not to strictly abide by those guidelines. Super Bowls, holidays, birthdays, parties - these all bring people together. They all also share the fact that the foods prepared for these events are not very healthy, but taste good, right?!

The main idea presented in the Times article is: Stop counting calories and stressing yourself over numbers; if you eat healthy, then weight loss will occur. I agree that people shouldn't focus so heavily on caloric intake. Personally, I do not count my calories anymore. I did go through a phase where I strictly counted my calories, but this did not help me create good habits. It caused me way more stress. Instead, I started focusing on eating whole foods and working out more. 

However, no matter how you put it, when caloric intake is less than energy expenditure, weight loss will occur. By following a healthy diet AND exercise regimen,  such as the one dictated in the article,  the participants caloric intake must have been lower than their energy expenditure, causing weight loss. Even though they were not counting their calories, the foods they were consuming offered many benefits to help them eat fewer calories. Whole grains, vegetables, and fruit contain fiber, which helps you feel fuller and also promote gut motility/regularity. Lean proteins are low in fat and a good protein source. Protein also helps people feel fuller, as it slows gastric emptying. No processed foods, while difficult to follow, is a great habit to establish. Processed foods offer limited nutritional value and often contain a substantial amount of sodium, fat, added sugars, and cholesterol.

The article says “This [referring to not counting calories, but eating whole food diet] is the road map to reducing the obesity epidemic in the United States,” but I disagree. I do believe that people shouldn't obsess over calories, but I think the ‘road map’ to reducing the obesity epidemic is some type of cognitive-behavorial therapy that changes the way we think and respond to unhealthy food. Some way to help reduce cravings/binges. Some way to stop salivating at the thought of pizza. You get the gist!