Sunday, August 30, 2015

Easy Dress + A Warm Sunny Day


While by most standards today's weather would not be considered "hot", it is one of the only days that we have seen temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit here in the west of Scotland, so there is much cause for jubilation. Add to that my husband and I are planning a trip to the Med this week - something we decided to do at the last minute when it was looking like summer was just not going to happen this year. While the weather on this particular day is certainly worth celebrating, the rest of the Scottish forecast for the foreseeable future looks pretty grim, and we are both looking forward to some consistent Mediterranean sunshine, which will essentially make up our "summer".

However, those of you who are just about anywhere else on the planet will appreciate how hot the temperatures have been this summer, and will likely still be looking for ways to beat the heat without walking about the place in your actual underwear. (Unless that's your thing. Then, by all means!) Personally, I tend to go for a maximum of one or two-item dressing in hot, sticky weather. Lightweight, indestructible, natural fabrics are a must, a light jacket or cardigan will work over them easily (if you really need to), but best of all, you can literally pack a small, carry-on sized suitcase for a week and have plenty of room to spare.

This nautical stripe dress is something I got from French Connection a few years back, and it comes with me on just about every hot weather trip I go on. Okay, full disclosure - it's getting pretty old, and has really been relegated to "beachwear", as I have done on this particular occasion. Today, I'm on my way to go sit outside by the sea before all this glorious weather goes away again. That said, every once in a while I still pull this dress out of the closet and actually wear it as a dress, and not just a beach dress. It layers well under other things, and has a great crisp, nautical, summery look. Today, I've paired it with a thrifted gold bangle and my Murano glass necklace from August's Green Necklace Challenge.

One added feature of this dress is the undeniably summery smell; the scent of sunscreen is so embedded in the matrix of the fabric it announces my presence long before I arrive on the scene. But that's probably just another reason I love it all the more. Any reason to put this dress on in the Scottish climate, and I'm there.






French Connection jersey dress (old), similar / Target sandals / L.L. Bean tote / Murano glass necklace (old), similar / thrifted bangle, similar



Thursday, August 27, 2015

What's Up With Working Out?


As I had mentioned last week, an astute reader recently asked me to do a post about my health and fitness routines. I covered my reasons for following a plant-based diet here. As promised, this week I  am bringing you the fitness companion piece.

As with all things nutritional, the world of fitness is fraught with all sorts of strong opinions, fads, and fallacies. The difference is, with something like exercise, even if you half-ass it, it's a whole lot better than doing absolutely nothing. Personally, I consider myself to be a life long worker-outer, with only small bouts of non-exercising in my angsty teen years when I fell for the myth that you had to choose which tribe you belonged to; if you were a jock, you couldn't also be a band geek or a theater nerd. The fact was, I was all of those things, and still am.

I love all types of exercise, from team sports to workout videos, and I have tried them all. Right now, I am heavily into a very heavy-duty home-based HIIT (high intensity interval training) sports-centric training program. I decided to challenge myself with it because I wanted to increase my speed and agility on the tennis court and beyond. I love it. It reminds me of 5am basketball practice in Jr. High, right down to the gymnasium setting and the being screamed at part.  Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart...it is hard. And I mean haaaaard. Like, laughing and crying-out and shaking and dripping sweat everywhere and blowing your nose into your gym towel (yes, really) while your pets stare at you in horror hard. But hold on. I'm getting ahead of myself.

I want this post to be more about the philosophy of working out than just a list of workouts I've tried and liked and which ones make your butt look smaller in skinny jeans. Because that is not, in my opinion, what exercise is meant to be. So I've compiled a list of things, philosophical things, that I think are essential for effective exercise, whether you're looking to drop some poundage or just increase your overall fitness level. Here goes.

1. Yes, you can. Now get off your butt and get out there and do it. 
If you have ever heard yourself utter the phrase (either out loud or to yourself) "I can't do that because my ___ (knees, weight, back, neck…whatever), you are selling yourself short. Yes, at face value this sounds like a harsh stance, but the reality is the human body is one of the most amazingly adaptable machines out there, and there will be something that you can do, no matter your weight, physical abilities, or resources. If you have an issue (and who doesn't?), you may just have to work a little harder or search a little longer to find the thing that works for you (or enlist some good help in finding your thing), but it is out there. Use the internet as your resource, and do not discount anything. Talk to people who know what they're talking about. And if you still are having doubts…well, there's this guy. Many of you will have seen this before, but I could watch this video a million times and never tire of it. This is what true grit looks like. The look in his eye at the end? That's what you're aiming for.


2. Do not defeat yourself inside your own mind before you've even taken your first "kick at the ball."
Self belief is the most important ingredient in getting better at anything, and the mental aspect of becoming an "exercise person" is most of the battle. Think of this journey as a long, cross-continental road trip with friends. If you were trapped inside a car with one of those incurious people who at every turn told you that she didn't want to be there, that she didn't want to visit any of the amazing places you had planned to see because she found them different and/or scary, and she was constantly undermining the trajectory of the journey - when you got to say, The Grand Canyon, everyone would probably pile into the car while her back was turned and squeal out of the car park, leaving her there to be eaten by buzzards. Don't be that person. Open your mind, and get in the car.

3. Focus on what you can do, not on what you look like or what you think you should be doing. 
As I get older, I find that this is really important. Sure, everyone likes the idea of looking awesome in a bathing suit or maybe dropping a dress size, but those are goals that miss the bigger picture, and are more likely to leave you disappointed if you have a plateau or gain a little muscle that makes the scale not budge, or go up instead of down. To get better at this, you will need to push yourself, plain and simple. Maybe the soul-ripping, agony-infused HIIT workouts that I enjoy aren't your jam, but that doesn't mean that you still shouldn't strive to be a little better every time. Yesterday you walked up that hill and had to rest halfway up? Tomorrow, try and make it 3/4 of the way before you take a rest. You have to constantly push the finish line back if you want to not only improve, but stay challenged and engaged.  Before you know it, you will be hooked.


4. Some days, you're going to suck. Get over it. 
That's just how it is. Most of the time, you can do your best to eat right (you simply cannot out-train a bad diet) and exercise, but maybe you should have stopped at one glass of wine the night before. Maybe the kids kept you up late and you're tired. Maybe you're stressed-out at work. That is all the more reason to get out there and do something positive for yourself. I've had many a day where I was maybe a little bit tired or (more likely) completely mentally frazzled from 13+ hours of mayhem at the hospital, but I dug deep laced up the shoes anyway. Not once have I ever said to myself "wow, I shouldn't have done that" after I finished exercising. Not once. Don't be that person who has one bad workout, a bad eating day, and just gives up on herself. You sucked that day. It happens. Get over it, then get back in the car. The road trip is ongoing.




Sunday, August 23, 2015

Transitional


The fashion world will be espousing the merits of what they call "transitional" dressing right about now. Living in Scotland, this is not really a thing. We have to dress transitionally pretty much year round, just in varying degrees. 

Transitional dressing is that sort of loosey-goosey term they apply to that time of year when you arrive at work in the morning with a cardigan or jacket on, then when you leave the office you forget it, because the temperatures climbed during the afternoon and you removed your jacket or cardi and left it hanging on the back of your desk chair. When I was living in the States, there were days where every light jacket I owned would be at work. At least here in Scotland, you are seldom inspired by the temperatures to remove your jacket or cardigan, so the chances of losing custody of either are pretty slim. 

I liked the way this Aztec-print oversized cardigan looked over this faux leather panelled skirt. The proportions seemed right, and it has just the right amount of swing. It's an easy look, and in the spirit of my August Green Necklace Challenge, is comprised completely of things that I have had in my closet a while. I liked this look so much I'm thinking about wearing a version of it to a party on Saturday…maybe just with a slightly dressier blouse underneath. We shall see. 






New Look Cardigan (old), similar / River Island denim and faux leather skirt (old), similar / H&M shoes (old), similar / Gap tank / green Murano glass necklace worn as bracelet (old), similar



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's Your Trump Number?


I flew into a bit of a panic this week, when America's favourite asshat and presidential candidate (I know, right?) Donald Trump announced to the world via the New York Times that supermodel and television personality extraordinaire Heidi Klum was "sadly, no longer a "10" on the International Trump Scale of Hotness™.  Klum, as one would expect from one of the world's most successful models cum businesswomen, responded with grace and humour with this clip.



Like you, my immediate reaction was that all is lost. If Heidi Klum cannot retain her ten-ness on the Trump Scale, what hope is there for the rest of us as we creep slowly (veeeery slowly) into midlife!? Luckily, while I was online researching how I could build a raft that would simulate an ice floe so that I could push my useless carcass out to sea as to not be a further burden to society, an idea occurred to me.

As you know by now if you're a regular reader, being in the medical world, I am a fan of all things evidence-based. With that in mind, I set about creating a hotness-assessment method for us mere mortals who don't have the extreme good fortune to be on Trump's radar. A screening program, of sorts.

Women of the universe, I give you, the first of its kind Trump Number Hotness Generator™. Now you too can know where you fall on the Trump Scale, and do something about it, before it's too late. Scroll within the frame of the Trump Number Generator to access the full assessment.

And you're welcome.

Monday, August 17, 2015

That 70s Look


So this is look two in my Green Necklace Challenge for the month of August - the month where I have vowed to not purchase anything new but to instead wear the things that I already have, particularly if they have not been getting adequate play-time of late.

This is a very simple look, based on this thrifted 70s-inspired skirt that I got for a song at Goodwill on one of my US visits. It can be a bit challenging to wear; as with a lot of the clothes now that have higher waistlines (which I hasten to add I like a lot), things like shirts and belts that you would normally reach for without thinking suddenly don't quite work. I've found that I just have to think about my shirt game a bit more. Loose, blousy fabrics seem to work really well, and it may come to pass that I will have to go out and buy some new belts that actually fit my natural waist, and not my low waist, where our trousers have been sitting for the past 20 years. I would have added a skinny tan belt to this look had I had one that fit. I paired this look with another 70s favourite, the cork wedge. With a skirt like this, it would seem kind of wrong not to go the distance and pair it with the cork wedges it screams out for.

Overall, I think this higher, 70s-inspired waist paired with a blousy shirt and cork wedges is a very feminine look that's simple to put together and feels great on. Can't really ask for much more than that...especially when it's free.





thrifted denim skirt, similar / H&M blouse (old), similar / thrifted Franco Sarto cork wedges, similar (a great deal!) / Murano glass necklace (old), similar, Betsy Johnson clutch (old), similar

This post has been shared with Elegantly Dressed & Stylish

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's Up With The Vegan Thing?


Last week on social media, one of my valued readers asked me to do a post about my health and fitness regimes; something I have been asked to do a few times in the past but have kind of avoided. Nutrition in particular is an area that is fraught with very strong belief systems, and often it is difficult for people to see outside of something that they feel strongly about, evidence notwithstanding. However, I am finally capitulating. It is after all, an important part of my life, and you've asked. So here it is.   The fitness regime is a whole post in and of itself, so I will tackle that one separately.

The short answer is yes, I am a vegan. Although technically, I'm not. Not really. I really prefer to say that I follow a plant-based diet. A true vegan extends their dietary philosophy to what they wear (for example, no leather..I still wear leather), and really how they approach every aspect of their lives. Yes, I do feel strongly about animal rights, but I suppose I cannot call myself 100% vegan if I still have leather jackets and bags hanging in my wardrobe. I call myself vegan more for the ease of giving people a description that is readily understood in a pinch.

My decision to go plant-based happened about 6 years ago. There was no giant epiphany (sadly, because that would make this a much more interesting read), no tale of woe culminating in a huge weight gain, no journey of self-discovery resulting in dramatic bodily transformation, and no stern warning from medical professionals warning me of my imminent demise. It's kind of a boring story, really. I simply read a review of T. Colin Campbell's The China Study in Vogue magazine while on a holiday in Florida, and knew I needed to read the book. Campbell is a well-known and respected professor and researcher at Cornell, which is just down the road from the University of Rochester, NY, where I went to graduate school. His son, Thomas Campbell, MD (and author of The Campbell Plan), also happens to be on faculty at University of Rochester, so I was somewhat familiar with the research, I had just been too busy working on my Masters to really dig-in at the time.

My "real job" is as an acute care hospital nurse practitioner - my background is in critical care. As a result, I am all too aware of the direction of the collective health of the general population, and it is a scary picture indeed. Heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity is as prevalent as the air we breathe, and in fact is quickly becoming the new normal. So normal in fact, that we in the healthcare business (yes, it is a business) often find ourselves wielding the prescriptive pen without even taking the proper time to address the real underlying issues.

But I digress. I am not going to take up time here trying to sell you on why a plant based diet is the way forward - that you need to read for yourself. The thing about evidence is, there's evidence, and then there's evidence. As a science person, knowing how to look at and evaluate said evidence is key, because there's a lot of crazy, misguided, and intentionally misleading stuff floating around out there, and sadly, a lot of it comes from the very people who we are paying to feed us and write our nutritional guidelines. Instead, I am simply going to point you in the direction, and encourage you to have a look at what's out there by including some pretty powerful resources, all of which have the evidence on their side.

But before I go, I will take a moment to answer some of the most frequently asked questions that I get asked about being a pure plantivore. Hee. Plantivore. I just made that term up - just now.

How do you get enough protein? 
The human body does not need as much protein as you are being led to believe, and in fact excesses of protein can be harmful and promote cancer growth. If you eat a plant-based diet that is varied and representative of a wide variety of greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds, you will get enough protein. Things like protein powders are mostly useless for your average layperson, and certain ones can be downright harmful. I tend to work out very hard 6 days a week when I am at home, and will occasionally supplement with some hemp seed protein to speed muscle recovery, but this is usually only on days I might double-up on workouts by playing tennis in the morning and then having my "normal" workout later in the day. By and large I tend not to bother unless I'm training hard.

What about Vitamin deficiency? 
I take a multivitamin (when I remember…I'm surprisingly terrible at remembering for someone who is a nurse). This vitamin includes B12 (important for plant-based eaters) and vitamin D.

How do you get enough calcium if you don't drink milk? 
Despite some rather aggressive and comprehensive campaigns on the part of the dairy industry over the years, milk is simply not the best source of bio available calcium out there. In fact, the casein protein in milk has been proven to be a very potent carcinogen in murine (mouse) studies. We humans are the only species that as adults, feel the need to drink the weaning product of another species. When you think of it that way, you realise that it is societal conditioning that has put milk on our grocery shopping lists for so long, and not a true biological need. You can find this research in The China Study, and when I finished that chapter, I literally stopped drinking milk that minute.

How do you feel full if there is no meat on the plate? Isn't it boring?
Again, a broad representation of vegetables will insure that you are getting enough micronutrients to not feel hungry or deprived. And boring? No. The opposite is true. Not having a piece of meat on the plate, you rely more on your spice cabinet, and a whole world of possibilities open up to you that you would have never even thought of before. It's fun, and you get to try many new things.

A Few Key Resources
The Science is Out There - Go Get It!

Web

NutritionFacts.Org
A not for profit site run by Dr. Michael Greger, MD that takes all of the latest evidence and synthesises it into easy to digest short videos and articles. Great for the short modern attention span, and Dr. Greger narrates these himself. Additional bonus: he's funny.  I could spend hours on here. Don't miss the videos of his Year-In-Review presentations.

Books

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health
by T. Colin Campbell, PhD

The Campbell Plan: The Simple Way to Lose Weight and Reverse Illness, Using The China Study's Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
by Thomas Campbell MD
The research from The China Study put into practice. Goes into the why of a plant based diet and gives tips on making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss
by Joel Fuhrman, MD
The first in a series of books by Dr. Fuhrman, this book echoes a lot of the science that is in The China Study, but puts it into an easy to digest format. Check out his other books: Super ImmunityThe End of DietingThe End of DiabetesDisease-Proof Your Child, and Fasting and Eating for Health

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure
by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD
If you have high blood pressure, are already on a statin, or have a strong family history of heart disease, this book could save your life. Dr Esselstyn has clinically reversed heart disease in patients who were given virtual death sentences by their cardiologists. For that matter, even if you don't have heart disease, you should read this book. Dr. Esselstyn is also one of the most prolific and decorated human beings on the planet: Olympic athlete, surgeon, author….makes the rest of us look like a bunch of amateurs. 

The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan That Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds
by Rip Esselstyn
Yep, those Esselstyns again. Clearly, it runs in the family. This book contains some easy and great recipes. If you're trying to convince the man in your life to take a step towards health, this book has a lot of very accessible, low-fuss strategies, and your guy can't claim that you're trying to turn him into an airy-fairy vegan because the control group here is a bunch of seasoned firefighters led by a triathlete. Tough enough for ya?

Video

Forks Over Knives
available here on iTunes
This is simply a must-see, and you will come away from this film a changed person. Here's the description from their website:
Forks over knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead 
available here on iTunes
You'll recognize some of the key players in this film, and you will see a transformation right before your eyes that is possible for anyone to achieve. From their website:
100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn't end well— with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn't far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe's personal mission to regain his health.
Vedgucated
available here on iTunes
You will never eat another commercially farmed chicken again after watching this. This is essential viewing for anyone who thinks that buying "free range" anything means you're not contributing to the problem.
Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like Food, Inc. go far enough. This entertaining documentary showcases the rapid and at times comedic evolution of three people who discover they can change the world one bite at a time.


Monday, August 10, 2015

The Green Necklace Challenge: My Buy Less Wear More Summer


One of the benefits of being trapped inside for much of the summer while the weather continually refuses to cooperate is that you have no excuse but to take stock of your closet and make assessments. This is something I tend to do at least twice a year anyway; there's nothing that makes me crazy faster than having too much clutter around.

You will have noticed by the Shop My Closet tab at the top of the blog that I have embarked on one such closet assessment. I have made a pact with myself that for the remainder of the summer, I am going to make a concerted effort to buy less and wear more. And yes, that includes thrift shopping.

After my closet clean-out, I thought I would move on to trying to wear more of some of the pieces that I decided to keep. To break myself in slowly, I thought I would start with accessories. That seems easy, right? So for one month, I will incorporate an accessory that I have rarely worn but genuinely like. Additionally, I'm going to pair this chosen accessory with clothes I already have in my closet, thus forcing me to dream up new and interesting ways to wear them.  While I've challenged myself to do this for the remainder of the summer, this year it's been quite  difficult to tell if summer has started yet, let alone when it might actually end here in Scotland. So, basically I have given myself carte blanche to do whatever I want for as long as I want, until it either snows or the world comes to an end. After all, this weather very well could be a sign of the apocalypse (zombies!)

To kick off the challenge, I chose something I thought would be relatively easy to incorporate; this green Murano glass bead necklace, given to me by my mother in law. I'm wearing it with a Zara "dress" that you have seen many times before, although to call this piece a dress is, in my opinion, laughable. Granted, when this dress first came out I'd seen other bloggers wearing it as a dress, but I'm assuming that they must be a different height than yours truly. This as a dress is definitely not an option for me, unless I decide to have the very specific goal of getting arrested. Anyway, starting off nice and easy, here goes the August Green Necklace Challenge.






Murano glass necklace, similar / Zara "dress" (old), similar (with sleeves) / Lilly Pulitzer denim skirt (old), similar / Kenneth Cole platform sandals (thrifted), similar

This post has been shared with Elegantly Dressed & Stylish


Friday, August 7, 2015

Happiness


This week, I am happy to be working with the aptly-named Happiness Boutique, a clothing and accessories brand for women that is based in Germany. My mission: to review one of their fabulous statement necklaces. I was torn between this Melody Statement Necklace and the Be Bold Statement Necklace, and to be honest, I think I would have been equally happy with either. This necklace perfectly embodies the mission of Happiness Boutique; to spread happiness and optimism by being an inspiration for positive and authentic women.

Believe me, there is nothing more optimstic than wearing a tank top in Scotland this summer, as I am in these photos. Our weather has been atrocious, and while I know all the rest of the world is sweltering away in the skyrocketing heat and humidity, we continue to put logs in our wood burning stoves and wear our wellies and cashmere.

And that my friends, is why it's a perfect time to rock a statement necklace. Whether it's so hot where you live that you can't be bothered with the idea of putting clothes on, or perhaps you have yet to experience a day without soul-destroying dampness and gloom (ahem), adding a pop of color to even the simplest of looks can completely transform you, inside and out. If there is a better way to accomplish this than with some really fun and colourful statement bling, I have yet to discover it.

What's even better? Happiness Boutique offers free worldwide shipping, and even has a points-based Customer Reward Program, making it pretty gosh darn easy to spread the happiness!





Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Results Are In!


It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the winner of the Wardrobe Malfunction Essay Competition. The multidisciplinary panel of judges voted unanimously for Rachel from Glasgow, who managed a near superhuman feat with her wardrobe malfunction. So without further ado…

The Wrong Side of the Tracks, or What a Bally Embarrassment 
by Rachel 
I was waiting at the station, on my way to work, smartly suited in my Austin Reed jacket (boxy) and skirt (upper-calf).  (I always wore an underskirt back then.  I’m not sure why, but I think it was normal at the time.  Are they now extinct?)  And I was wearing my new Bally court shoes.  Navy blue, sensible chunky heel, with a little gilt trim round the back.  In my Bally shoes, I felt I was going places.  But something was bothering me about those shoes,  They were just a little loose.  I had to scrunch up my toes to stop the left shoe flapping when I walked, but I was confident that I had mastered this technique.  I was young and optimistic and Janet Jackson at the Superbowl was in the dim and distant future.  I hadn’t even heard of the phrase "wardrobe malfunction".
My train pulled in.  I was ready at the front of the platform, poised at the door nearest the driver’s cab.  As I stepped aboard, right foot first, I briefly relaxed my left foot-gripped toe position.  You cannot change the laws of physics, and my left shoe slipped off my foot, falling between the platform and the train onto the track below.  Hoping that no-one had noticed, I hopped back onto the platform to consider my next move.
This being Glasgow, there was a complete absence of politely-pretending-not-to-notice.  Fellow passengers alerted the train driver, who reversed the train so that one of them could jump down and retrieve the (undamaged) shoe for me.  This being Glasgow, I also had to endure being greeted with “Awright, Cinderella” for the rest of the week.
I never wore the shoes again and moved house at the earliest opportunity.

Ladies and gentlemen, the winner. Rachel moved a train…A TRAIN... with her wardrobe malfunction. That's some serious, Superman-caliber stuff, and for that, our panel of experts decided that it was worthy of the respect and accolade that is the giant basket of various and sundry beauty products.

I got way more entries than I thought I was going to for this competition….waaay more. Which is amazing, but it also means that I cannot publish them all here. However, there were a few that are worth an honourable mention. To read a few of our honourable mentions, click below to expand this post.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Shop My Closet


Hello everyone. As I have done in the past, I have done a pretty massive closet cleanup, with more on the way. As a result, I have revived the Shop My Closet section of the blog, where you can take advantage of some of the things that didn't make the cut this time. Like to thrift? Love a well-appointed piece? Yup. Me too. Just click here to be taken to the "closet", or see the Shop My Closet link in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Happy shopping!