Stylish Swimsuit Alternatives Under $50.00

By: Staci Rutherford

My last post highlighted tips for buying swimsuits according to various body types.  I hope that it was helpful in providing a less stressful approach to shopping for a swimsuit. Let’s face it; some of us are a little reluctant (or dare I say self conscious) when it comes to showing our body, so this time around, I decided to feature stylish alternatives to swimsuits.

On vacation, I prefer to wear tunics, caftans, maxi dresses and rompers when I’m not in the pool or sunbathing on the beach.  They are perfect for a leisure day of lounging, shopping and/or sightseeing, and can easily go from day to evening.  Best of all, if you decide to hit the beach, a tunic, romper or maxi dress can also double as a cute swimsuit cover up!

I am always looking for a good deal, so I decided to focus on options that are priced under $50.00.  Bright colors, bold prints and lightweight fabrics were also a must!  Here’s what I found:

GB Printed Romper, original price: $54.00, now $32.40 at Dillards.com

Arizona Dolman-Sleeve Tunic Coverup, $18.00 at JC Penney

Old Navy Tie-Waist Tube Maxi Dress in orange print, original price: $29.94, now $27.50

LOFT Shadow Stripe Caftan in turquoise waters, $49.50

Sol & Mer Print Tunic Cover Up in amalfi blue, price: $48.00

Eating Clean and Healthy on the Road

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Did I mention that I was in USA Today?  I struck up a Twitter conversation with their travel writer, and the next thing I know, I’m in the article. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write a post on eating on the road, and now seem about as good a time as ever to do just that…

In my job, I’m fortunate enough to travel to some pretty neat places for sustainability training: Kansas City, MO.; Madison, WI; and Washington, DC, just to name a few. BEFORE my lifestyle change, I always enjoyed eating at local restaurants to get a flavor for the locale, but now that I’m a clean eater, it isn’t as easy.

In general, restaurant dining isn’t easy. Even when you pick something from the menu that you THINK would be pretty basic, there are some sneaky additions that throw you off.  If you read this blog, you probably know that most chicken in any grilled chicken salad is chock full of sodium and that something as simple as a lean steak is often topped with butter.

I will give a shout out to Kansas City’s Blue Bird Bistro, a delicious all-natural restaurant, as well as my sustainability cohorts, Keith and Julia, who pulled out their adventure fork to accompany me there during our last trip. Their menu featured great options for even the cleanest of eaters, and it was a really nice experience to boot.

Conference food also leaves a lot to be desired.  Many of the meals are working meals, featuring boxed lunches with processed meats, chips and, if you’re lucky, maybe an apple.

My nutrition counselor, Traci, taught me early on to take responsibility for myself and not to rely on anyone else to get it right, and that was wonderful advice. When I’m in a new dining situation, I always check out the menu beforehand, eat before I go and/or bring my own food so I’ll know there is a clean and healthy option. It may sometimes look a little weird to bring a lunch bag of goodies, but it looks a lot less weird when I slip into a size eight skirt. (Like I did today!)

With the many carry-on baggage restrictions, it’s pretty hard to bring too much food aboard, so I’ve learned to shop local markets upon my arrival. The past year, I’ve even discovered local markets that offer online shopping and delivery, which allows me to place the order before my trip and have it delivered within hours of my arrival.

Here is a list of the standard foods I like to have on hand in my hotel room:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Fruits like bananas, raisins, grapes – things that don’t HAVE to be refrigerated and are fairly portable
  • Salad veggies such as Bibb lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots (If the hotel has a mini-fridge)
  • Nuts
  • Light soy milk (again, depending on a mini-fridge)
  • Instant oatmeal (can have for breakfast or dinner)

I’ve also learned to pack the following:

  • Paring knife (checked baggage only!)
  • Measuring cup (my favorite is a silicone cup with assorted measures)
  • Ziploc or reusable bags (for sandwiches and snacks)
  • Lidded plastic containers (for salads)
  • A set of utensils (I like a real set, not plastic)
  • Sweeteners (Equal and Sweet n Low are still vices!)
  • Travel water containers (one for water, one for soy milk)
  • Insulated lunch bag
  • Cloth napkins (not necessary, but a nice touch)

And finally, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t be shy about bringing your own food. It used to feel weird, but people are actually usually jealous that my food is better than what they’re being served.
  • Dress it up! I bring a couple cute cloth napkins and reusable sandwich bags. It makes it more fun.
  • Check out facilities beforehand. Is there a mini fridge? A microwave? Is there a local market that will deliver? The hotel staff is always very helpful.
  • Check with conference staff beforehand. Given enough time, you can usually get a vegetarian or vegan option. Be careful, though. I once got a “vegetarian” plate that included a whopping helping of French fries.
  • When purchasing food, keep your receipts. I think I was the first person who turned in a Whole Foods receipt in my travel reimbursement, but the APWA was happy to pay for it as they would regular meals. In fact, I spent less on groceries for three days than some people did for a single dinner.
  • Be prepared. There MAY be something you can eat, and if so, you can always save your lunch and/or snacks. But better to be safe than sorry.
  • If dining out is part of the program and/or you just don’t want to miss out, go to the restaurant’s website beforehand and check out the best options. You can even do that on your smart phone. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for substitutions, special preparations (grilled vs. fried) and/or ingredient lists.

What tips do you have for eating on the road?  Any special restaurants or markets to recommend?  Is there a hotel, facility and/or meeting planner that has been especially accommodating?

Celebrate You

By: Roshanda Pratt

I am writing this post on my 30-something birthday (May 31st)! The clock reads: 2:04 a.m. I should be sleeping, but I am wide awake with excitement. Today, as people celebrate me I want to pose a question to you. When was the last time you celebrated yourself? I mean really celebrated without it being a birthday? Although excited about the Facebook birthday posts, cards, calls and gifts. However, I am most excited about the birthday celebration I am throwing myself.

I believe you should honor others, rejoice with them, and cheer them on. But I also think many of us have developed this attitude to celebrate ourselves means we are being arrogant and self consuming. I disagree. I have spent the better part of the early years of my life depressed; not liking myself. I had birthday parties, even surprise parties where people gathered together to honor me, but on the inside I did not even like me. Trust me, its hard to enjoy a party when you have self-esteem issues. It gives new meaning to that song… “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”

My life changed in college. In college then I vowed after a friend told me, I was good at celebrating others, but horrible at giving myself the same permission. I decided whether no one else did or did not, I would love me enough to applaud me. So back to my original question: “When was the last time you celebrated you?”  You don’t have to wait until your birthday, you can do it when you meet a goal or just because.

So as my friend told me many years ago, I give you permission to buy a hamburger and put a candle in it … it’s your special day because YOU are worth celebrating.

Happy YOU Day!

R0 🙂

Mammogram Madness

By: Shannon Shull

Ladies and Gentlemen, I recently had to endure my first ever Mammogram.  And yes, it was brutal!  Let me just go ahead and clarify that I did not enjoy it…not one bit!  The awkwardness, coupled with humiliation, and then topped with excruciating pain is just flat out ridiculous. The pain is a kind of pain that I can only best describe as “stupid pain,” because a woman is in such an absurd position as she is experiencing the incredible discomfort.  Pain in itself is bad enough, but add that element of embarrassment and it becomes just flat out stupid!

I’ve heard stories about the unpleasantness of mammograms and I realize that the experience is different for each woman. The level of pain and discomfort depends on factors ranging from breast size, breast age, modesty levels and the ability, attention and sympathy of the technician carrying out the brutality.  I fortunately had a lovely nurse technician. I say lovely not because she was necessarily gentle with my bare, innocent breasts, but because she smiled and laughed at my constant joking and silly comments. I’m one of those that nervously runs my mouth constantly, in an attempt to distract myself from pain in an uncomfortable situation. So when I asked her how she felt about being able to say that she got to literally squish boobs all day, she certainly laughed. When I told her how perky my boobs used to be before giving birth to two children deflated them, she laughed. When I started asking detailed questions about all the different breast sizes she’s seen in her profession, she giggled uncomfortably and conveniently avoided the question as she lifted one of my boobs onto the torture platform.

Nervously waiting before the mammogram

There were no giggles however when she realized I was up on my tip toes –- my boob was being flattened like a pressed leaf in a large book, I was holding onto part of the torture device for dear life as she told me to relax of all things, I was told to hold my breath until she realized that my long hair was in the way, so on top of the incredibly uncomfortable position I was already in, she had to make me hold my head at a VERY awkward angle so that my hair wouldn’t drape into the image, and as if that wasn’t enough…just as she told me to hold my breath again and got into position to zap a picture of my pancaked boob, she noticed I was on my tip-toes and promptly told me to flatten my feet. This resulted in a ratta-tat-tat back and forth between the two of us…

  • Technician: Flatten your feet, please.

    The Mammogram “Torture” Device

  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: Flatten your feet.
  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: Please, flatten your feet.
  • Me: uh-uh
  • Technician: You have to flatten your feet.
  • Me: Not happening.

I was quite sure that if I flattened my feet, my boob would surely slice right off and be left pressed there on the platform like a Panini sandwich.  We had to compromise – I would flatten my feet if she would lower the torture device! All I could think is, women of today come in all shapes and sizes and I know every mammogram victim is not 5’5” tall!

We worked through it and I continued to chatter away nervously as she proceeded with the brutality as quickly as she could. When we had to switch the torture to my other breast, that’s when the joking subsided and the painful moaning and whimpering began. It was the sore breast… my reason for being there in the first place. You see, I am not of the age yet in which I would normally have to endure this insane female requirement of health consciousness. I unfortunately though have a very painful lump that once my doctor felt, I was immediately rushed to imaging with orders to have an ultrasound and mammogram. My doctor’s urgency certainly scared me and sent my mind into a worried tailspin. I just kept assuring and reminding myself that my doc is proactive and takes all precautions to find answers – which I greatly appreciate.

So jump back to my punishment in the torture chamber … when my sore breast was laid into that devilish device, I honestly questioned whether or not they were trying to pop the tumor, lump or whatever it was right out of my body! The pain clouded my mind as I stood there like a pitiful puppet placed in an inhuman position. I had visions of tumors shooting out of my boob like bullets blasting out, bouncing off the walls and blowing the torture machine to smithereens. I think the visions of destroying the boob brutality device was the only thing that got me through it.

I walked away from that experience in silent awe at the reality of what a mammogram entails. I was then directly guided into the ultrasound room in which the little knob like thing was repeatedly moved over the sore area of my breast. I thought I was going to get a Charlie horse in my calves, I was tensing up my muscles so much!  I have a high tolerance for pain, but this was pushing it.  Eventually the technician, with a confused look on her face, said she was going to go get the doctor.  Great.  So I’m lying there with goop on my breast, which is literally numb from all the brutality, left to wonder what in the world is wrong with me.  Finally a joyful doctor walks into the room and declares, “You, my dear, are just fine and I don’t want to see you again until you’re 40!”  I was speechless at first, believe it or not!  When I was finally able to form words, all I could say was … “Then what is wrong with me!?!?!?”

In Ultrasound Room Impatiently Waiting on the Diagnosis

It was explained to me that I simply have a cluster of fatty breast tissue that can be a normal occurrence due to a spike in hormone changes due to stress or too much caffeine. Hmmmm…. Well, the stress portion of my life is inevitable and has certainly spiked lately. Not much I can do about that, but hold my head high and attempt to survive as best as I can with the enormous stress in my complicated life.  I don’t have much caffeine daily as it is.  Naturally, I’m drinking a cup of coffee as I write this.  But I promise it will be my only cup today!  The doc had no meds to offer up, the only way to attempt to heal my clustered painful little boob is to cut back on stress and caffeine and hope that it’ll go away!  Go figure.

I can now officially say that I have survived a mammogram and though some women may not agree, I do indeed consider it total boobie brutality!

Do any of you have any Mammogram stories to share? Please…do tell! Let’s bond over boob talk shall we? 😉

Are You Woman Enough?

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

I’ve been toying with writing about this for a while, but really felt compelled to write this following the publication of Time magazine’s latest issue, upon which the cover shows a woman breastfeeding her 3-year-old son.  The title of the article, “Are You Mom Enough?” to say the least, sets me on fire.  The article goes on to discuss the growing popularity of the theory of attachment parenting which centers around one physician’s advice to never let your child cry, to breastfeed for years, as long as you want to, and to keep your infant close to you to create stronger bonds.  While we all want to create safe, loving, and nurturing environments for our children, some of Dr. Sears’ ideas just are not practical in everyday life for some families.  Please note I said some families.  For some families it may work wonderfully, however, it may not work well in others, which leads me to my discussion of the “Mommy Wars.”

Why is it that society feels the need to judge every single move that we mothers make?  Why is it that we mothers feel the need to judge every single move that other mothers make?  We don’t live each others’ lives, so why is it that we feel like we know what is truly best for a certain child?  I’ve always been troubled by this.  When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I remember having a conversation with a staunch breastfeeding supporter and her quick and judgmental “you aren’t even going to try?” response to my statement that I had no desire to breastfeed.  Before she ever heard the reasons why, she judged my decision.  And while it was truly no business of hers, I felt compelled to divulge the fact that only 5 years prior I had undergone breast reduction surgery and had been told I most likely would not be able to breastfeed.  In my mind, why should I get worked up over it?  It was not like I would be abandoning my child at birth and leaving him to fend for himself; I was still going to provide food and nutrition for him.  But that one moment in time bothered me for a long time, and, truthfully, still bothers me to this day.

I’ve had a number of friends breastfeed their children.  I’ve sat with them while they have breastfed and been okay with it.  Because it is that family’s choice; not mine.  I think of the friends that I have who have struggled with infertility that finally were able to call a child theirs through adoption; do they deserve the nasty looks or snide comments about bottle feeding their infants?  Definitely not!  They are doing something much more powerful by loving and caring for a child who, for whatever reasons, could not be cared for by the biological mother and/or father.

Yes, I know what the research shows.  I know what the AAP and WHO say about breastfeeding.  I even know that there are ways to induce yourself to lactate even if you did not give birth.  I had conversations with my pediatrician BEFORE my son was born to assure me that he would be okay surviving on formula.  And he was.  And so was his brother after him.  Never did we struggle with “failure to thrive” or latching issues.  We were able to bottle feed with little to no stress.  Both of my children have been relatively healthy and happy children and neither struggle with obesity.

So my question is, “Are you Mom Enough To Not Judge Another Mom?”  Why must we form bonds with other mothers simply because we breastfeed, or don’t, or stay at home, or work outside of the home, or attachment parent, or don’t?  Why can’t we form the bond simply because we all share one thing in common?

The fact that we are mothers.

Lexington Strawberries!

By: Brady Evans

Ever drive through Lexington and get seduced by the road side stands?  You know, the ones screaming “LEXINGTON STRAWBERRIES!” at you?  You can smell the berries from the road.  The shops set up for a short while each year and then disappear so it is important that you buy your berries and get your year’s full in just a short month or so.  The natural inclination is to make dessert.

Fresh Strawberry Pie (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2011)

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 4 pints (about 3 lbs.) fresh strawberries, gently rinsed and dried, hulled*
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1½ tsp. Sure-Jell for low-sugar recipes**
  • Generous pinch table salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 baked 9-inch pie shell

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. sugar

*  This is 10 more ounces of berries than will be used in the pie, to account for any imperfect strawberries.

**  Be sure to use Sure-Jell for low- or no-sugar recipes (pink box) and not regular Sure-Jell (yellow box), otherwise the glaze will not set properly.

Directions:
To make the filling, select 6 oz. misshapen, under-ripe or otherwise unattractive berries, halving those that are large, about 1½ cups.  In the food processor, process the berries to a smooth puree.  You should have about ¾ cup puree.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Stir in the berry puree.  Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and bring to a full boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan constantly.  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the lemon juice.  Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, pick over the remaining berries and measure out 1 pound, 12 ounces of the most attractive ones; halve only extra-large berries.  Add the berries to the bowl with the glaze and fold gently with a spatula until the berries are evenly coated.  Scoop the berries into the pie shell, piling into a mound.  If any cut sides face up on the top, turn them face down.  Refrigerate the pie until chilled, about 2 hours.  Serve within 5 hours of chilling.

Make the whipped cream just before serving.  Whip the cream and sugar on medium speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed and continue beating until medium peaks form.  Cut the pie into wedges and serve with whipped cream.

This pie is a lovely one and highlights berries at their peak.  Some recipes call for strawberry jam or preserves, which is a total cop out, in my opinion!

While the pie is great, let me introduce you to a crazier, but more delicious recipe:  Strawberry Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza.

You’ll never have the guts to order this in a restaurant for fear of wasting your money on something you fear you won’t like (a baseless fear because you WILL like this).  As if you’d ever see this recipe in a restaurant anyway…

Bust out your pizza cutter because this dinner will rock your socks

Strawberry Goat Cheese Pizza with Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 1lb ball pizza dough
  • 2 strips of thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 6 strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Roll pizza dough out into a 12 – 14″ round.
  • Using a pastry brush, apply balsamic vinegar to entire surface of the pizza dough.
  • Top dough with sliced strawberries and then the red onion slices.
  • Distribute goat cheese all over dough and then cover in crumbled bacon.
  • Bake 12 minutes or until done. Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve warm.

Swimsuit Fit Guide + 5 Figure Flattering Swimsuits

By: Staci Rutherford

Memorial Day marks the official start of summer in my book, which means that it’s time for a new swimsuit!  How many times have you set out to buy a swimsuit and ended up frustrated, overwhelmed or disappointed?  I usually avoid shopping for swimsuits but this year, I decided to do a little research before venturing out so I know exactly what style to get for my figure.  Yes, I research almost everything because knowledge is power.  If I can identify my body type and understand which swimsuits are the most appropriate and flattering, shopping will become less stressful and more fun, as it should be.

Nordstrom has a fantastic swimsuit guide that I want to share with you.  You are not limited to only the swimsuits outlined below, however, I thought this was a great starting point for anyone who wants a little more direction before hitting the stores.

Straight – Little definition between bust, waist and hip measurements.

Prints, patterns, horizontal stripes and strategically placed seams can create the illusion of curves. Look for underwire styles and close-together, padded cups to enhance and lift a small bust. Or try thicker, textured fabric on top to add fullness without padding.

Pear – Fuller at the hips and bottom and smaller on top.

Suits with detailing on top or at the waist will draw the eye up. Straight and high necklines visually broaden the shoulders to balance out proportions. Wear a paler shade on top with a darker bottom. Sheaths and skirted suits also work to cover trouble spots.

Hourglass – Curvaceous, with full bust, defined waist and full hips.

Wide strap tops and underwire bras with soft cups offer best bust support. Many tankinis and sport bikinis also flatter curves and provide lots of lift. To minimize cleavage, opt for a straight or higher neckline that conceals while providing a pretty silhouette.

Apple – A rectangular shape without a well-defined waist.

Banding will give the appearance of a waist as will chevron or diagonal stripes. Look for tummy control and side panels, side seaming and shirring to create curves. Classic styles and solid colors are the most slimming. Sheer cut-outs offer a sexy peek of skin.

Full Bust – Bust measurement is fuller than hips and bottom.

High necklines help minimize the bust, while V-necklines draw the eye downward for a slimming effect. A keyhole back or sport style with an additional back closure will provide good support for a fuller bustline. Halters with bra cups provide more coverage. High-cut armholes can minimize side bust exposure.

Now that we have discovered some of the common body types, check out some of my favorite figure flattering swimsuits that I found online.  If it is more convenient for you to shop for a swimsuit online, make sure shipping (and returns) are free, and whether there is an option to return or exchange items at the store.  Try to avoid any “all sales are final” deals because there is always a chance that you won’t like what you buy online.

LOFT Floral Print One-Piece Swimsuit in summer plum, Price: $79.50 at www.loft.com

Swim Solutions Bandeau Floral Printed Ruched Tummy Control One Piece, Price: $94.00 at www.macys.com

Merona 1-piece swimsuit in pink/black floral print, Price: was $34.00 one sale now for $12.24 at www.target.com

Lane Bryant Pinpoint one piece swimsuit, by Miraclesuit Price: 156.00 on sale now for $109.20 at www.lanebryant.com Robin Piccone Ikat Swimsuit in emerald, Price: $122.00 at www.nordstrom.com

If you find a swimsuit that you love, please share the details in the comments section.  Next time, I will feature my favorite swimsuit cover-ups, which are perfect for lounging by the pool or strolling along the beach.