My achy, breaky neck

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Or, in my case, multiple computers. I go from eight hours at work to hours with my laptop at home. Sitting upright with your arms outstretched can put strain on your neck, shoulders and upper back. Beyond computer-related stiffness, I’m sick at the moment and my upper body is sore from coughing. Also, from extra hours spent in bed. Stretching not only feels good, but helps to relax the body and release toxins. Rolling your shoulders forward and backward is a good start. Range-of-motion exercises (slowly and rhythmically!) — tilting your head up and down, side to side, and rotating from ear to ear — to gently stretch the neck muscles can help too. Below are some additional stretches to help relieve tension. They can be done at your desk, sitting on your couch or even sitting up in bed just after waking up. Get stretching!


These stretches are from the University of South Carolina’s Environmental Health and Safety page:

Reaching Stretch

* Interlace your fingers out in front of you at shoulder height.
* Turn your palms outward as you reach forward.
* Hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax and repeat.

Overhead Stretch

* Interlace your fingers above your head.
* Turn your palms upward as you push your arms back and up.
* Hold for 5-10 seconds, then relax and repeat.

Shoulder Stretch

* Gently pull your elbow across your chest toward your opposite shoulder.
* Hold stretch for 5-10 seconds.
* Relax and repeat with other arm.

Chest and Back Stretch

* Clasp your hands behind your back.
* Slowly turn your elbows inward and straighten arms.
* Lift your arms up behind you until you feel a stretch.
* Hold for 5-10 seconds

Chair Rotation Stretch

* Sit in chair. Wrap feet around chair legs to stabilize your body.
* Reach across body and grab the back of the chair.
* Pull gently to increase the stretch in the middle of your back.
* Hold 5-10 seconds. Repeat reaching to opposite side.

Check out this article for a number of exercises that aim to increase neck flexibility and muscle control. Prevention is key!

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Every Night We Send Them Home – A story about Tami Silicio’s Iraq Coffins photograph

To see the photograph, visit Tami Silicio’s website.

Tami Silicio used her Nikon Coolpix 3.2 megapixel digital camera to capture two images of the inside of a jet bound for Germany on Apr. 7, 2004.

One of the photographs, which ran on the front page of The Seattle Times on Sunday, Apr. 18, 2004, showed the flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq being secured for transport.

Taken at Kuwait International Airport, Silicio, then 50 and a Maytag Aircraft worker, was deeply moved by the conscientious treatment she observed.

“Something told me to just take several shots and put the camera away,” Silicio told the American Journalism Review.

Viewing the image about 12 hours later, Silicio sent the photograph to friend and former contractor Amy Katz. Touched by what she saw and wanting to pass it on, Katz e-mailed the photograph to Barry Fitzsimmons, a photo editor, at The Seattle Times, Silico’s hometown newspaper.

“I was surprised and shocked,” said Fitzsimmons. “These types of photos weren’t being taken or shown by the media.”

Prior to Silicio’s photograph, images of coffins bearing the bodies of fallen soldiers in route from Iraq were all but absent from news coverage.

A ban, in place since the Persian Gulf War, prohibited “media coverage of deceased military personnel returning to or departing from air bases” to protect the privacy of servicemen and their families.

“This photograph wasn’t a political statement or run for sensationalism, casualties are a reality of war,” said Fitzsimmons. “Hiding these types of images didn’t make sense.”

A powerful image of loss, Silicio’s photograph renewed fierce debate about the ban and its relevance.

“It was a difficult time,” said Cole Porter, former Director of Photography at The Seattle Times. “The public didn’t want to see images of dead American soldiers, yet many were very intrigued by the photo.”

According to Fitzsimmons, the response The Seattle Times received from the public was split down the middle.

“Of the 500 or so e-mails we received about the photo, about 250 were for it and 250 were against it,” Fitzsimmons said. “Reactions ranged from proud to angry.”

One reaction exemplified the impact of Silicio’s photograph.

“I got a call from the woman at the reception desk a few days after the photo ran,” said Fitzsimmons. “She told me that a man had come in and bought two copies of the Sunday paper. He explained through tears that he was a Vietnam veteran and the photo had given him closure.”

Like the public, most journalists were supportive of what The Seattle Times had done.

“We published the photo on the front page because it was front page news,” said Fitzsimmons. “It was an image the public hadn’t seen for a long time and many people weren’t aware of the pomp and circumstance that went on.”

After Fitzsimmons felt confident in the photograph’s origins and authenticity — after a dozen phone calls and nearly 40 e-mails — he and his colleagues spent several days thinking about the photograph and discussing how to publish it.

One question in particular arose from conversations about the photograph. Should the photograph stand alone?

In the end, an A1 story accompanied the photograph to provide context.

“If you want to have real impact, you have to tell the story of a photo,” said Porter. “What was behind the photo was as telling as the photo itself.”

A habit of vetting everything very carefully guided the editorial process in the newsroom. Nothing went undiscussed, any and every question was asked.

The Seattle Times was incredibly conservative in 2004, according to Fitzsimmons. The paper didn’t run photographs of dead bodies “period.”

After 11 days, “period” lost its place at The Seattle Times when Silicio’s photograph was published.

“I don’t think the paper would have run the photo of the Blackwater contractors at all prior to publication of Tami’s photo,” said Fitzsimmons. “It ran on Page 3 in black and white.”

If published today, Porter said that he believes the power of the photograph would still be the same, only the circumstances would be different.

“My only regret — I don’t think I’ve ever said this to anyone — is that we didn’t run the photo larger,” said Fitzsimmons.

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I Do…er, I Don’t?


I came across an article today titled, “Is Marriage Good for your Health?” written by Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times. When people ask me about marriage, I tell them that I’m not sure I believe in it. They immediately ask me my age and then proceed to reassure me that I’m just young and that “I’ll get there.” Maybe I will and maybe I won’t, only time will tell. What I do know, having shared an apartment with a long-term boyfriend in the not too distant past, is that living with or even dating a guy often takes a toll on your waistline. He eats more than you do, eats more often than you do, doesn’t gain weight as easily as you do and doesn’t exercise nearly as much you do. Plus, he may wine and dine you, leaving less time for exercise. Yet you adjust your eating habits and lifestyle to match his. Not because you have to, but because you love him and want to co-exist in a relaxed, happy environment. Lauren Conrad calls this the “boyfriend layer.” Unfortunately, your body has different needs than his and overeating and lying around watching sports or playing video games will eventually take a toll.

It’s important to remember that it’s not him that needs to change, but you who needs to maintain your routines. OK, a little less beer and little more exercise wouldn’t kill him, but that’s not the point. You need to continue to eat well and exercise despite what he does or doesn’t do.

1.) Be sure to sure to make your own plate to control portion size. Or, ask him to be aware that you can’t eat as much as him and to serve accordingly.

2.) Turn down that second beer while watching a movie. I kept my own bottle of wine, so I wouldn’t be stuck with heavy, filling beer. Wine is by far the “healthiest” alcohol (meaning least caloric and with some health benefits) you can consume.

3). If you have trouble resisting sweets, ask him not to eat them in front of you. Or, set a limit on how many you can eat a week. Whatever it takes to keep you from eating what and when he does.

4.) Continue to be active. Go for long walks or take him to the gym with you. A couple that’s active together, stays together (or so I’d like to think!). Getting out and getting your blood flowing will make you enjoy the quiet moments even more.

No matter how serious your relationship, you should always make time for yourself and what makes you happy. Finding ways to compromise or include your significant other is a great when it works out, but you’re not always going to agree on everything. Maybe you like to run and he’s more of a biking or swimming kind of guy. Neither of you should give up your routines for the other. The same goes for food. You don’t have to eat pizza and wings just because he does. Cook/prepare what you like and keeps you trim. He can join in or make his own meals! Bottom line, don’t lay your healthy lifestyle on the relationship altar. You won’t be happy and neither will he.

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Oatmeal, yogurt and grapes, oh my!

Mmmm, breakfast for dinner. Also known as brinner. Breakfast is often my favorite meal of the day. When done right (meaning healthy), breakfast is filling without being heavy and nutritious without being overly caloric. Having breakfast foods for dinner is a great way to mix up the usual routine and have something unexpected. This was my dinner tonight:

Oatmeal with peaches and blueberries, lime yogurt and fresh grapes (Photo by Anna Miars)

Some of my favorite breakfast meals, whether eaten in the morning or at night, are:

***I’ve included links to my preferred brands.

Oatmeal with fresh or frozen fruit. I add frozen peaches, strawberries and blueberries to plain instant oatmeal. A little drizzle of honey is the finishing touch.

Whole wheat waffles with peanut butter and banana. A great mix of carbs/fiber, protein and fruit. This can be made with bread and grilled (Elvis’ favorite). Perfect anytime day or night.

Whole wheat English muffins with peanut butter and honey. Two whole wheat English muffins with a light spread of creamy peanut butter and a drizzle of honey are filling and satisfying.

Cheerios with fresh fruit and yogurt. Cheerios with a cup of skim milk and blueberries or a sliced banana is quick and simple. A side of nonfat yogurt adds protein.

Other breakfast for dinner ideas, a little fancier than mine:

10 Ways to Eat Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner)

MSN’s Delish: Breakfast for Dinner

Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals: Breakfast for Dinner

Martha’s Quick Breakfast-for-Dinner Recipes


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Don’t let being busy get the best of you

I’ve been overeating the past few weeks and I’m not happy about it. I weighed myself at the gym today and I’ve gained a few pounds. Nothing significant or even terribly worrisome, but enough to get my attention. I’ve been swinging wildly between not eating enough and binging. I’ve also been allowing myself way too much heavy, rich food and after-dinner sweets. I haven’t been drinking enough water either. While I try not to be too hard on myself and accept that I will make mistakes/give in to cravings that I shouldn’t, I need to get myself back on track before I stray too far from my normal healthy eating habits.

I’ve been super busy recently, which equals stress and less sleep. Stress is an obvious culprit for weight gain. Lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor. Research suggests that a marked decrease in sleep can increase production of a hormone that stimulates appetite. Not only have I been eating more, I’ve been eating worse  (read comfort food galore). I often get caught up in what I’m doing and put off eating. Often to the point of headache and extreme crankiness. Problem is that by the time I do eat, I’m so hungry I eat way more than I should. I then want the most filling, fatty, delicious thing I can get my hands on. When I wait to eat and I’m starving, I overeat not only because my body feels deprived, but also because I see food as a reward. I’ve worked hard and so deserve those extra bites or a cookie for dessert. I think I also have a “you may not eat again for a while, so you better fill up” mentality. This weekend was especially bad. I realize now that I didn’t do myself any favors by waiting too long to eat, overindulging when I did eat and eating mostly carbs and sweets. Dinner on Friday night exemplifies my eating habits of late. I ate around 8:45 p.m. at Noodles & Company. I’d been on my feet for more than three hours and was absolutely famished. I had the Mushroom Stroganoff (regular size, 780 calories), an order of three potstickers (200 calories) and a snickerdoodle cookie (350 calories). Prior to eating this meal, I hadn’t had anything to eat since about 2:30 p.m. I ate it so fast, I didn’t even really pay attention to what I was eating (and I really like the food at Noodles). Bad form all around.

Being busy is no excuse not to take good care of yourself. If you can’t (or, more appropriately, feel like you can’t) break for a full meal try to grab a snack (and a glass of water!) to hold you over until you can make something more substantial. Running on empty is not only unhealthy, but ultimately detrimental. You’re not as sharp when you’re distracted by a grumbling stomach or the onset of a headache. The aftermath doesn’t lend itself to productivity either. Loading up after long periods of not eating leads to sleepiness, or what I like to call, a food coma. We all want to make the most of our time, but we can’t ignore the needs of our bodies. In fact, the harder you push yourself, the more you need to be aware of what and how you’re eating. Energy and mood are directly related to what you put into your body, so it’s important that you take the time to eat well (and often!). Below are some of my favorite healthy between-meal snacks that are not only quick, but energizing too!

Fage Greek Yogurt with Honey. This yogurt is full of protein to keep you going strong. The honey adds a sweet touch that makes this snack feel like a treat. Spoon required.

FiberOne Brown Sugar Cinnamon Toaster Pastries. I’m not sure that anyone else my age still eats pop tarts, but I love that this particular one is sweet and filling. Good toasted or at room temperature.

An apple (I’m partial to Honeycrisp) and peanut butter (I like Skippy Natural Creamy). Sweet, salty and healthy. An amazingly simple, yet delicious combo.

Dry Roasted Lightly Salted Peanuts. Tasty and easy to eat anytime, anywhere.

Kashi Stoneground 7 Grain Party Crackers and Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Be sure to set out a portion (four crackers and 2 tbsp. hummus). It’s easy to put back half a box before you know it.

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Body art at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event

The theme of Crystal Couture 2011, held at 1750 Crystal Drive in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 1-5, 2011, was “Exotic and Elegant to Everything Everyday.” The event was part art exhibition, nightclub, fashion show, and retail store, featuring a cash bar, body painting, hair and makeup makeovers, henna, DJ entertainment, runway shows, and boutique shopping.

Makeup artist Kim Reyes of Washington, D.C., paints the face of model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., and makeup artist Roger Riggle of Olney, Md., owner Roger Riggle Make Up, LLC, with the help of this assistant Emily Johnston, 26, of Washington, D.C., paints the head of model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Reyes and Riggles painted hearts, literal and figurative, on both models to honor the partner of the evening Go Red for Women, an initiative of the American Heart Association. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., talks with makeup artist Roger Riggle of Olney, Md., owner Roger Riggle Make Up, LLC, and his two assistants for the evening while waiting for her body paint to dry at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. A body art model for the evening, Alessandra wore only a cotton thong and pasties. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Makeup artist Kim Reyes of Washington, D.C., paints the face of model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Reyes painted a model each night of the five-day event. (Photo by Anna Miars)

One of makeup artist Roger Riggle’s two assistants for the evening, Emily Johnston, 26, of Washington, D.C., paints the forehead of model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Johnston has worked as a makeup artist for the last six years. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Makeup artist Kim Reyes of Washington, D.C., applies red paint to the fingers of model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. When asked how she knows she’s finished, Reyes said, “you just have to stop and let it go.” (Photo by Anna Miars)

Make up artist Roger Riggle of Olney, Md., owner Roger Riggle Make Up, LLC, applies black paint to the eyelid of model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Riggle, a professional makeup artist for more than 16 years, tries not to overcomplicate body art, he said, “the more you fuss, the less likely you’ll be happy with it.” (Photo by Anna Miars)

Makeup artist Kim Reyes of Washington, D.C., paints the back of model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., and makeup artist Roger Riggle of Olney, Md., owner Roger Riggle Make Up, LLC, with the help of one his two assistants for the evening, Jewel Grisham, 16, of Washington, D.C., paint the head of model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. This year’s theme was “Exotic and Elegant to Everything Everyday.” (Photo by Anna Miars)

Makeup artist Kim Reyes of Washington, D.C., secures a headpiece on model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Reyes often uses headpieces to accentuate the look and feel of the body art she creates. (Photo by Anna Miars)

One of makeup artist Roger Riggle’s two assistants for the evening, Emily Johnston, 26, of Washington, D.C., applies paint to the lower back of model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Riggle used hearts to represent snake scales on model Alessandra to honor the partner of the evening Go Red for Women, an initiative of the American Heart Association. (Photo by Anna Miars)

The brushes of makeup artist Kim Reyes of Washington, D.C., soak in water stained red from the paint used to create full body art on Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Reyes spent more than three hours painting Schoolfield for the event. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., poses at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. When asked how she felt about being nude except for a cotton thong and pasties, she said “I love it; it’s so freeing.” (Photo by Anna Miars)

Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., strikes a pose at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. When asked what the process is like, she said, “first it’s spray paint, then they do most of the detail work, then they spray paint you again.” (Photo by Anna Miars)

Model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., and model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., mingle with the crowd at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Schoolfield and Alessandra had never modeled body art prior to the event. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Model Mariah Schoolfield, 17, of Washington, D.C., and model Alessandra, 19, of Washington, D.C., chat while they pose for photographs at the third annual Crystal Couture fashion event at Crystal City in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 4, 2011. Many attendees weren’t immediately aware that Schoolfield and Alessandra were nude except for a cotton thong and pasties. (Photo by Anna Miars)

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How to satisfy your sugar craving without blowing the bank

I’ve had a nasty sugar craving all afternoon. One of those where no matter how hard I try not to think about sweets I can’t seem to get chocolate, cupcakes, brownies, etc., off the brain. Visions of sugar-plums are dancing in my head (from The Night Before Christmas). Not really, but pretty close to it. I’m clearly not going to be able to avoid this craving and so must admit defeat and give in. But what to eat that won’t leave me feeling guilty and result in a sugar crash? Usually a few bites of something will do the trick. Bite size treats are a great way to indulge without feeling like you’ve overdone it. Unfortunately, my office is a mine field when it comes to candy. Lurking around every corner is a dish often full to the brim. I appreciate the kindness of my coworkers, but stop refilling the candy dish! In my weakened state, I swiped three Hershey’s Kisses. I think willpower is something to keep in mind even when you are straying from your normal healthy habits. Just because you’re having a sweet treat doesn’t mean that you should go hog-wild. I could have eaten the whole dish of candy (the smell of chocolate was intoxicating!), but refrained out of propriety and the knowledge that 10 kisses wouldn’t taste any better than three. When you can’t fight the urge to eat something you know isn’t the healthiest (we’ve all been there), do exercise restraint. A treat is just that. Don’t view a craving as an excuse to completely drop the ball.

Many chains are now offering smaller versions of full-sized treats. Perhaps listing calories per serving on menus has prompted this? A Blondie (this one from Au Bon Pain is amazing and great to share) doesn’t seem so appealing when you know it’s a fourth or more of your daily calorie and fat intake. Candy companies are also labeling their products so that customers can make more informed choices. Some of my favorites (if only I didn’t love chocolate as much as I do!) are:

Pret A Manger’s Mini Brownie (200 calories) – I’ve mentioned this little square of chocolate goodness in a previous post. It’s so rich and moist, I don’t think I could eat the big version. Ok, in full disclosure, I totally could, but

Treat-Sized Double Chocolate Cookie (130 calories) – Only about three bites, this cookie hits the spot when a hankering for chocolate comes along. (Also, try the Treat-Sized Peanut Butter Cookie (160 calories))

M&M’s Peanut Butter (240 calories per pack) – Sweet and salty, they even have a little protein. The bag will be empty before you know it.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses (roughly 23 calories a kiss) – Simple, classic and always delicious. I’m not a big milk chocolate person, I prefer dark, but these are soooo good.

Chocolate Nonpareils from Au Bon Pain (200 calories for nine pieces) -Not overly sugary and with a good crunch, nonpareils are good for a straight chocolate craving.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries from Godiva (between 35 and 50 calories a dipped berry) – A ripe, sweet strawberry covered in chocolate. Enough said.

Freshii Frozen Yogurt (105 calories for a small serving without toppings) – The small serving is plenty big and with so few calories there is plenty of wiggle room to add chocolate chips, nuts or fruit.

A number of cupcakeries around D.C. (Crumbs Bake Shop, Curbside Cupcakes (they bring the sweets to you!) and Georgetown Cupcake) offer mini versions of their most popular flavors. Unless it’s your birthday, which in that case order whatever you want (!), it’s probably best to stick with the smaller size. Your waistline will thank you.

Remember it’s not about depriving yourself; no one (me, least of all) is a saint. It’s human to want some sweet or salty or cheesy every now and then. When cravings hit, think moderation. If you think you’re going to feel guilty or need to punish yourself with an extra long workout tomorrow, you probably should re-evaluate. Learn how to savor and relish in the small things (and small portions). Satisfaction without regret is the best kind!

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Drinking gluten-free

We all know that keeping to a gluten-free diet is difficult. Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains.Gluten is in just about everything, lurking in things you’d never expect. So you’re reading labels at the grocery store and checking with waiters at restaurants, but what about when picking out a drink to go with your meal? Let’s take a trip down the alcohol aisle.




Traditional beer, brewed from wheat, barley or rye, is obviously out of the question. Not being able to drink beer is one of things two of my newly gluten-free friends have had the hardest time getting over. Gaining attention and popularity is gluten-free beer, often made using buckwheat (a summer annual with rather coarse, branched stems and large, broadly arrow-shaped leaves) or sorghum (a species of grass and harvest-able seeds). Other substitutes, include rice, maize, corn, flax, millet, quinoa and soybean.

Some beers are certified gluten-free, while others are just labeled as such. Gluten-free can mean many things depending on who you ask. For instance, in the United Kingdom gluten-free beer is any beer that has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. In Australia, gluten-free beer earns that label only when there is no traceable amounts of gluten. In the U.S., low gluten is a widely used term. Many brewers reason that the small amount of barley that they use is changed into harmless amino acids in the brewing stage and is therefore safe to consume. Always check with the manufacturer if you’re unsure. Check out this guide to gluten-free beers. Here is another list for comparison.

Hard Alcohol

Hard alcohol is any type of alcohol that is distilled rather than fermented (beer, wine and cider). Spirits are distilled beverages that contain no added sugar. The distillation process removes gluten proteins from most kinds of hard alcohol, making it an option for those that need to drink gluten-free. However, you may want to stick with more well-known brands. When companies use cheaper ways to process alcohol, the finished product may not be distilled completely, or properly, and may contain trace amounts of gluten. (Explanation from this site.)

Most unflavored, “pure” hard liquors/spirits are gluten-free. This list of gluten-free hard alcohol was put together from



  • Absinthe
  • Bourbon
  • Brandy
  • Calvados
  • Champagne
  • Cognac
  • Frangelico
  • Fruit brandy
  • Gin
  • Grand Marnier
  • Grappa
  • Grenadine
  • Jägermeister
  • Kahlua
  • Ouzo
  • Pisco
  • Rum
  • Sherry
  • Southern Comfort
  • Tequila
  • Triple Sec
  • Vermouth
  • Vodka (Check out Nude Vodka, made in Oregon. Couldn’t help but mention this one!)
  • Whiskey

This website further breaks down types and brands. Again, contact the manufacturer of a specific beverage when in doubt.




All wine and champagne is naturally gluten-free because both are made from grapes. A word of caution though, there is talk that some wine is contaminated with a flour/water paste used to seal the barrels the wine is aged in. It’s controversial, but if you’re concerned or especially sensitive to gluten, it’s probably best to order something else. Also, be aware that wine coolers are not gluten-free since they contain barley malt. All in all, wine (in a bottle or a box) is a pretty safe bet. Many people with Celiac’s endorse wine as a gluten-free option, but to each his/her own.

While losing the ability to enjoy beer may get some gluten-free people down, there are many other options to satisfy that urge for a drink. Try not to focus on what you can’t have, and instead focus on what you can have. A positive attitude will go a long way! Bottoms up!

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Genetically engineered crops: As bad as they seem?

I got an e-mail alert from Stonyfield this afternoon stating that the USDA announced a decision on Jan. 27 that will “deregulate” genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO) alfalfa. Just in time for spring planting, farmers will be able to grow this year’s alfalfa crop from biotech seeds. GE alfalfa is resistant to Roundup® herbicide (called Roundup Ready) and is being called mutant alfalfa by some. While I don’t directly consume alfalfa, it is a staple for cows, and I do eat beef and drink milk. I’m a big fan of organic products (even though I can’t always afford them!) and don’t really like the idea of not knowing and therefore not having a choice when it comes to items that may be genetically modified. We’ve all heard about seed giant, Monsanto and its use of biotechnology in the soybean industry. The beneficiary of GE alfalfa (surprise, surprise) is again Monsanto. “This is great news for farmers who have been waiting for the green light to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa,” said Steve Welker, alfalfa commercial lead at Monsanto. Of course, it is.

Alfalfa field (From

Alfalfa field (From

According to the blog Green Talk, “Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an important perennial forage crop used around the world. [It] is the fourth largest crop, in terms of acreage, grown in the United States behind corn, soybeans, and wheat. Not only is alfalfa used as forage for beef cattle, it is used as feed for dairy cows due to alfalfa’s high levels of protein, calcium, and high quality fiber.” Basically it is easy to grow and serves as a good source of nutrition for cattle. Stonyfield believes that GE crops result “in significantly higher uses of toxic herbicides and water, creating a new generation of costly “super” weeds; pose severe and irreversible threats to biodiversity and seed stocks; do not live up to the superior yield claims of their patent holders; and are unaffordable for small family farmers in the US and around the world.” Samuel Fromartz of The Atlantic wrote a great post today titled “Why You Should Care About Genetically Modified Alfalfa” that breaks down how the USDA’s decision will impact consumers and organic farmers in lay terms.

This isn’t just about being able to purchase pure, organic food and/or establish some control over the big biotech corporations, it’s also about the ripple effect these types of policy decisions can have on farmers and the environment. GE/GMO alfalfa probably isn’t good for the cows that eat it or the people who eat the cows. It definitely isn’t good for naturally occurring alfalfa or those who wish to continue growing non-GE alfalfa. Despite claims that gene flow between fields isn’t possible because alfalfa is harvested long before the ripe seed stage (mandatory distances between fields is also being used as a way to dismiss concerns), it’s hard to believe that there won’t be any negative outcomes as a result of the USDA’s pronouncement. Forcing any kind of GE/GMO crop on the world presents a whole host of problems on all points of the spectrum and should be thought about long and hard as many players can and will suffer the decision.

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It’s bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Eating well (and by that I mean healthy) on a budget is tough. Add in preparing food for just one person on top of a very busy schedule and I make a beeline for the frozen foods section! While I don’t love eating prepared food for lunch and dinner (breakfast I can do), I can get by as long as I integrate fresh foods into my meals. While this may seem like a fairly simple undertaking, it’s not always that easy. Not only is fresh produce (frozen is fine, as long no sugar, salt or other things have been added, but I’d rather have something fresh when pairing with a frozen meal) out of season, but it’s super expensive this time of year. Really it’s expensive all year, when compared to a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or a can of Progresso soup. This is no excuse to skip on the natural stuff. We all eat enough boxed and canned food as it is, and processed foods just don’t have the same nutritional value as their fresh counterparts.

Recently, I’ve noticed how very few fresh fruits and vegetables I’m eating at home. If I could have my way, I’d keep a wide variety of fruits and veggies in my fridge/pantry to eat at all hours of the day. Alas, Mother Nature and my financial situation make this impossible. Right now, all I’m buying on the fruit front are bananas and apples. As much as I love both, they get old pretty fast. What I do buy I can’t seem to get to fast enough. The heat in my apartment is ripening the fruit faster than I can consume it. Onions, potatoes and the occasional zucchini are about as adventurous as I get with veggies. Despite my frustration over lacking resources, a balanced diet that encompasses all the food groups is very important. Fresh fruits and veggies (no juice, please) are full of fiber and vitamins both of which are essential to good health. Below are some great tips for purchasing and storing produce as well as ideas for how to prepare it.

Watch for deals. Stock up when you can and freeze what you won’t use right away.

Pay attention when picking out fresh produce. Don’t buy anything overripe. Store it in a cool, dry place and don’t wash it until you’re ready to eat it. Check out these tips for how to buy, check for freshness and store a variety of fruits fresh. Consult this vegetable buying guide before heading to the grocery store.

Think of ways to include fruits and veggies in every meal so that nothing goes to waste.
10 Ways to Use Root Vegetables

Browse recipes for easy, affordable options that you’ll want to cook again and again
Simply Recipes – Vegetable Recipes
14 Quick Vegetarian Recipes for the Hopeless Cook
Quick Vegetable Side Dish recipes from

Eat fruit for dessert as a way to incorporate more into your diet. Your waistline will thank you.

I hope these tips and suggestions help you to eat healthier and take advantage of all the delicious fruits and veggies out there!

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