The Overly Informed Parent's Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt by Paige Wolf

Making green and healthy living manageable, practical, and affordable.
June 15th, 2016

Buy (Almost) Nothing Birthday Party – Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden

peterrabbitparty

I started writing this post pre-illness. And during my hospital stay, I had one goal: not cancel my daughter’s third birthday party. I already worked so hard on that damn pinata!

Thanks to help from family and friends, I was able to pull it off. And thank goodness it was a morning party because when the guests left at 1 p.m. I passed out hard!

It wasn’t the perfect Buy Almost Nothing party I had planned, but I still managed to come pretty darn close!

Months prior, I reached out to my local Buy Nothing Group and quickly accumulated a brilliant Peter Rabbit/cabbage dish, a ceramic watering can, a few photo frames, some paper butterflies, and nine assorted stuffed bunnies.

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For a craft, I decided to let kids decorate their own mini planters. I had markers in abundance and just needed to purchase some mini terra cotta planters at 10 for $5.99

And for the piece de resistance: my pinata. I loved creating one for my son’s 5th birthday party a couple years back especially because I detest traditional junky pinatas. So I was excited to get to work on this one!

Making one is simple and not terribly time consuming – it’s just a matter of taking time to do the steps.

Start with a jumbo latex balloon  (about $3) and do three coats of papier mache, careful to let it completely dry in between coats. When it is solid and hard, use a scissors to pop the balloon and create a small hole to fill with treats.

You know all those temporary tattoos, plastic figurines, and whistles that you put in your goody bags? Well you are about to receive them all back via my piñata! I also filled it with YumEarth Organic Lollipops  (50 for $6.39) YumEarth Organic Fruit Snacks (40 snack packs for $19.88).

pinata

I had originally planned to bake a carrot cake. I even practiced! But I had to give in to the post-illness fatigue and allow a bit of help from Whole Foods, who did a killer Peter Rabbit cake. We’ll just pretend I didn’t pay a fortune for it.

In the end it was a wonderful party filled with family and friends. It didn’t have to be “Pinterest perfect” but having a silly goal of getting those carrots into a vase and filling planters with broccoli motivated me to do a bit more everyday. I also learned that being a crazy Type-A advance planner isn’t such a bad thing when life throws a wrench at you!

Using items found around my house and discarded or shared by others to create something beautiful makes me even happier than a birthday girl surrounded by presents. Thanks to everyone who lent me their stuffed bunnies – now I just have to figure out what to do with them all!

June 9th, 2016

PrAna Dress Giveaway with Stonyfield #SummerCravings

As a Stonyfield Blogger, I was asked to write about Stonyfield Yogurt and a beautiful recycled polyester prAna dress. I never imagined the turn the month would take, and how these items would go from #SummerCravings to actual necessities.

You see, this May I had a harrowing and actual near-death experience. An undiagnosed bout of infectious colitis turned into septic shock and I spent several days in the ICU. It was traumatic and bizarre and put my life on hold. But at the same time taught me so much about friends and family and community and the safety net that exists in one’s life even if you don’t believe it’s there.

So what does all this have to do with yogurt and a shift dress?

After I got released from the hospital I looked about 9 months pregnant from the swelling. Nothing fit me. But then I found my prAna dress had arrived in the mail, a flattering swing dress that I wore almost everyday as my belly slowly returned to its normal size.

I'm no good at mirror selfies, but this was taken after belly went back down to its normal size.

I’m no good at mirror selfies, but this was taken after belly went back down to its normal size.

And having been plied with every antibiotic known to man, the first order of business was to refuel my body and and restore my gut health with some good probiotics. So that’s where my favorite organic yogurt comes in!

So what I craved this summer actually became what I needed this summer. And the cool thing is that I can GIVEAWAY a dress just like this to one lucky reader! PrAna is known for  creating versatile, stylish, and sustainable clothing and accessories that you can wear during every activity, every adventure, every day. Their clothing is ideal for an active lifestyle and easily transitions outside the gym, yoga studio, or hiking trail. You can also use my discount code for anything at prAna – use code SCS16PAWO for 15% off a purchase valid June 1-July 7, 2016. 

GIVEAWAY: PrAna Quinn Dress in your choice of color and size (as available)

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

May 28th, 2016

What I Learned from Almost Dying – and What the Hell Happened to Me?

A bunch of my friends under 45 have already had cancer. I’ve confessed many times that an incapacitating illness is my greatest fear, and not just for the obvious implications. What happens to a one-woman business when that woman disappears? Would there be a strong enough safety net for my family for school transport and general daily life? Missing the gym for a cold has felt like agony – what would happen if I was really laid out?

And then God was like, “Girl, I’m about to show you how that all goes down.”

Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson - must be true, right?

Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson – must be true, right?

Now, like any good storyteller I am prone to hyperbole: the following is not exaggerated or embellished in anyway.

Monday, May 16: I feel uncontrollable chills and just can not get warm. It’s 67 degrees outside. My back has been hurting anyway from something stupid I did at the gym so I go to bed early. A few hours later I wake up vomiting and that is how I spend the rest of the night.

Tuesday, May 17: I am in a feverish haze all day. I’m basically delirious and not sure if I am saying things out loud or in my head.

Wednesday, May 18: I think I’m feeling a little better. I stay in bed but imagine I am on the uptick from a stomach flu.

Thursday, May 19: I am not on the uptick. My fevers aren’t breaking. I go to the ER at Pennsylvania Hospital. They give me two liters of fluids and some tylenol and discharge me. I beg them to admit me. I tell them I feel very sick and I don’t feel safe. I implore them to keep me overnight to be monitored. They refuse and kick me to the curb. I await a bill from them for at least $350 – with insurance. (Reason #1 the US Healthcare system is fucked)

Friday, May 20: My fever is at or above 103 all day despite taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen. My sister in law is a nurse at Methodist and offers to bring me in with her so I will be properly seen to. Just before she arrives I projectile vomit across the room like Linda Blair. I tell my husband to forgo all eco values and go get some Clorox Bleach stat.

What follows is blurry:

I arrive at Methodist and don’t think I’ll make the walk to the triage. I am promptly ensconced by at least a half dozen nurses who inform me that my blood pressure is scary low and I am in septic shock. I know of two people who have had sepsis – an old friend with AIDS who died shortly after and Tony Soprano after a gunshot wound. I have an IV put in my groin to try to stabilize my blood pressure. I also get IVs of fluid, every antibiotic known to man, and a catheter which apparently, while under morphine, I told the nurses I was psyched about. I think I was too shocked to feel scared. I didn’t see Jesus or a white light or Prince standing in the purple rain. I just felt sure that I would not, could not die on this table. (OK apparently I misremembered this as my sister-in-law told me I asked the doctor at least 100 times if I was going to die).

"Mike, why the hell would you take a picture of me being transported to ICU?" "I thought you might want it for your blog." "Good man, good man."

“Mike, why the hell would you take a picture of me being transported to ICU?” “I thought you might want it for your blog.” “Good man, good man.”

Saturday, May 21: I guess I passed out in the ICU because the next thing I remember is that it’s morning and my sister in law is standing over me telling me that I’m being ambulanced to Jefferson because I need special care. I still don’t really grasp that I’ve almost died. Nurses, though, confess to me later that they were not sure I was going to make it.

I spend three days in the ICU – a place where there are no bathrooms because it’s just presumed you will be performing all bodily functions through a tube. I am in pain. My stomach distends more by the day and at this point I look nine months pregnant. All bacterial cultures come back negative. The MRI shows swelling of my colon and not much more. The doctors really don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, let alone how it happened. Everyone has to wear blue plastic hazmat suits and gloves to enter the room because they don’t know the degree of my contagion. It’s like a scene from Outbreak.

Monday, May 23 (I think) That afternoon I am approved to move to a normal room and I am desperate to shower. Of course I can barely walk and I shower in a chair. I finally eat a bit after a week but can only eat very small portions. It’s like I’ve had a gastric bypass but gained 20 pounds.

What the actual fuck has happened to my body?

What the actual fuck has happened to my body?

I spend another three days in various levels of pain, discomfort, and fear that there are no straight answers. I walk 30 feet and it’s a triumph. I haven’t seen my kids in 10 days. But I am comforted by the amazing outreach of support – friends and family helping with the children so Mike could be at the hospital, people sending flowers and meals, and just generally showing true compassion and concern.

As I approach discharge day I ask the case manager how I could go about having a nurse check on me for a few days, just to check my vitals as I am terrified of a relapse. She explains that it would not be covered by my insurance. I said I would pay for it. She said you can only pay for nurses in 8-hour-shifts and even then she isn’t sure if I’d qualify. I order a blood pressure cuff on Amazon.  (Reason #2 the US Healthcare system is fucked)

My official diagnosis - which still makes very little sense to the doctors.

My official diagnosis – which still makes very little sense to me or the doctors

Thursday, May 26: I am thrilled to finally go home and wash the scent of hospital soap off me. I feel that hospital smell seeped into my pores and it’s like I can’t scrub it out. My son is thrilled to see me. My three-year-old daughter couldn’t care less and just wants to play with my phone. I’m still massively bloated and in some pain, but I’m able to eat a bit and finally get a good night’s sleep without being prodded with needles and beeping IVs all night long.

Now I try to walk a little more each day, though this distended belly and extra 15 pounds of (what, exactly?) does nothing for my vanity. I try to eat. I try to stretch. I try to stay awake for decent intervals of time and get back to writing and answering emails (by the way I found it weirdly hard to start typing again – I still don’t have the keys mindlessly mastered the way I used to and I’m beyond the help of spellcheck).

I am terrified of a relapse. Since we don’t know what caused this, I’m scared of getting reinfected. What if it was some cheese I ate and I eat that cheese again? I know I have some type of PTSD from all this, and I’m just trying to cope and recover.

I go back and forth between gratefulness and optimism and depression. I waited all bloody winter for these beautiful summer days, trained for races I’ll be canceling, not wearing that bikini to the beach. But I am alive and healing and home with my family. And I know how to gradually rebuild my strength – this will be harder than coming back from pregnancy because even three days postpartum I could push a stroller, but I can do this.

Brightside?

Apart from surviving with likely no permanent damage, of course.

I’m not a religious person, but I believe that this happened to teach me two very important lessons – lessons I needed to learn the hard way.

  1. Right before this happened I was obsessed with the idea of coolsculpting, basically a newer less invasive form of liposuction (that still sounded pretty invasive). As hard as I work out and as well as I eat, I’m continually frustrated by my belly fat and often looking pregnant if I eat too much or lose awareness of my posture (which is always). And then God laughed and said, “I shall show you what a big belly looks like and make you thankful for your rockin’ post-baby bod. You aren’t modeling for Playboy anytime soon so you better just learn to love your body for the strong machine it is.” Point taken.
  2. Even with a wonderful partner and children, it’s easy to feel alone in the world. I’m not embarrassed to admit being prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Sometimes I feel like that girl with 2000 Facebook friends who no one is inviting to lunch. I have deep-seeded insecurities and sensitivities – if I don’t get invited to a party I will be absolutely sure that everyone hates me. It’s just in my nature. But what I learned from this was enough to assuage so many fears and insecurities and make me feel whole in a way I’ve never experienced. The outreach from friends around the world was simply amazing. The meals delivered, the flowers, the gift cards, the offers of help with our children – just a genuine outpouring of love and concern. Despite how scared I was, I felt safe in a way I never truly had before. Of course, not everyone came through in a crisis. But I learned that the family I have built over my 37 years on earth far exceeds what I was born into. From my childhood friends to my college crew to work associates and newer parent friends, my safety net was strong and sturdy and unbreakable. I was never alone. I was more loved than I imagined.

I expect my recovery to be slow but steady and set small goals for myself each day. Today I walked four blocks – but then had to sleep two hours to recover. I WILL get strong again – mentally, physically, and emotionally. I will count my blessings and try to be a better friend and caregiver to people who might seem strong but are silently struggling. I will find some way to make this up to my amazing husband who has been everything. 

“We can rebuild her. We have the technology. We can make her better than she was. Better, stronger, faster.”

May 9th, 2016

A Superfoods Snack: Stonyfield and Navitas Naturals

I’m a sucker for superfoods — defined as nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

And fortunately my taste buds agree with my commitment to good health.

Possibly the perfect superfood, hemp seeds are a plant-based complete protein and a great source of balanced omegas, magnesium, and nine essential amino acids.  I sprinkle those suckers on everything – salads, soups, smoothies, desserts, and especially yogurt. In fact, if i could choose a meal to eat everyday it would probably be yogurt + hemp seeds + fruit.

A new superfood to me, mulberries are sweet and chewy with a mild berry flavor. Also a source of plant-based protein, they are packed with vitamin c, fiber and iron.

They both go great with Stonyfield Greek yogurt, rounding out my daily snack with more protein and probiotics.

yogurt with seeds

These and dozens of other organic superfoods like acai, camu, goji, and maca are available from Navitas Naturals. Navitas Naturals is committed to socially responsible business practices, creating and expanding fair trade economic opportunities for farming communities in developing regions around the world.

How do you work superfoods into your diet?

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here.

May 2nd, 2016

Do You Like Oranges? OrangeTheory Fitness Review

A few weeks ago I was ill-advised to stay at a boutique hotel in Puerto Rico that fancied itself as having a “Miami club vibe.” The hotel believed it was achieving this vibe by making everything shine neon blue. Everything.

The walls, the elevator, the lighting in the hotel room that made you look like a Smurf at all times.

OrangeTheory Fitness, a trendy new fitness program blowing up across the globe, applies that same color overkill. But this time, of course, it’s orange.

Not one to judge a workout by the color of its lighting, I decided to give OrangeTheory a try. Admittedly, I am biased, as it would take a miracle workout to tear me from my neighborhood CrossFit box for more than a few days. But I am always open to try something new, and with my gym closed for the day, this free trial class was a great opportunity on a rainy day.

The first thing you should know about the new OrangeTheory in Philadelphia is that the entrance is in the Liberty Place food court. You’re welcome because I just saved you 15 minutes of walking in circles.

The next thing you should know is that they will ask you to come to your first class 30 minutes early. No, they will not email you the waiver. I was prompt, as I am, and completed the waiver and heart rate monitor hook-up by 8:05. Class began at 8:30.

The heart rate monitor is at the core of OrangeTheory, which correlates your heart rate level as different colors. Green means you are moving at a steady pace, orange means you are pushing hard, and red means you are maxing out and won’t last more than a minute at that rate. It’s not a perfect science – at one point the monitor said I was in the red zone and working at 107% and I didn’t feel like I was heading for a heart attack. But it is a good way to make sure you stay in the “fat burning zone” for a fair amount of time.

As for the workouts, the focus is on high intensity interval training (HITT), which I like and am used to. The downside is that not much attention is paid to individual form. For instance, there was a contest to see who could do the most strict push-ups in four minutes. I was psyched because most of the girls were working from their knees and I knew I had a good chance of winning the glory of a branded t-shirt (I’m competitive OK!)

I look over and see a girl doing a whole bunch of these:

I did 67. She proudly exclaimed that she did 117. She got the T-shirt.

At the end of the class I received a break down of my color chart and informs me that I have received 22 “splat points” for the day. This means I have spent 22 minutes in the “orange zone,” but for someone who is used to measuring reps, weights, and times, it kinda sounded like this:

Look, I am not knocking this place, really! I actually liked it for the most part and if I didn’t have a workout that I liked better, it’s definitely a place I would consider joining. I like the fact that the workouts vary each day and that they focus on HITT with at least some measurement for goal-setting. I’m sure some trainers are better than others and that form isn’t always left up to one’s arbitrary definition of a squat.

Truthfully, the biggest turnoff for me was the lack of any social camaraderie. Not that you would necessarily find that at a Soulcycle or Bikram Yoga studio, but, personally, I like to go to a place where everybody knows your name – and doesn’t let you get away with bullshit push-ups.

I’m glad OrangeTheory has entered the thriving Philadelphia fitness market and I’m thrilled about anything that inspires people get off the couch. For some that’s power walking or kickboxing or mountain biking – for others it’s an orange splat. And for them I say make like an Oompa Loompa! There’s a good chance I would join you if I wasn’t already in a committed sweaty relationship. But for now the only lighting I’ll be working out in is the shadow of a garage door.

 

April 28th, 2016

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite. For Real

Yes we’ve had lice. And mice. And ants. And waterbugs (cough roaches). We’ve even had a rat (in the backyard – not inside!)

But Bed Bugs? There but for the Grace of God go I.

In reality the odds are stacked against us: Philadelphia is ranked the #2 bed bug city!)

And recently researchers found that bedbugs are developing thicker skins to be more resistant to common pesticides. They’ve also evolved the ability to produce a variety of enzymes that can detoxify insecticides.

For these reasons – as well as health and environmental safety –  experts emphasize using non-chemical methods such as extreme heat, the specialty of local company Prodigy Pest Solutions.

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Prodigy Pest Solutions employs research-based methods to effectively and environmentally soundly eradicate bed bug infestations in just one day. Heat treatment for bed bugs is a safe, organic, and advantageous method with minimal preparation on the part of the resident. Using heat, they are able to provide customers with a discreet, one-day service, leaving them bed bug free in less than 12 hours.

Benefits of heat treatment include:

  • Killing all stages of the bed bug life cycle, increasing the likelihood of full eradication
  • One-day process using dry, hot air where the home or business can be returned back to normal use within 12 hours
  • Family friendly with no concerns for children or pets
  • Reduces waste by eliminating the need to throw away furniture or mattresses – that is a HUGE plus!
  • Highest rate of efficacy in the research literature in regard to treatment outcomes
  • Minimizes the amount of preparation required on the part of the homeowner/business owner
  • Can be completed in almost any space

bed bugs

Based in Delaware County, PA and serving the Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey areas, Prodigy Pest Solutions was born in 2012 out of a desire to do things differently and improve the quality and safety of pest control services. After working with a large pest control firm, Matt Kelley missed the opportunity to work directly with customers, seeing the job through to the end, and knowing that he’d be able to stand behind it. He and his wife, Sabrina, launched the company while expecting their son, wishing to offer heat treatment as a way to minimize the use of chemical treatments.

I truly hope you don’t have to deal with bed bugs. But if the critters do make their way into your life, at least Prodigy can make it much less of a nightmare!

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Prodigy Pest Solutions, with whom I have a business relationship. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

April 25th, 2016

Not Feeling the Bern on Philly Soda Tax Issue

In the PA primary tomorrow I will vote for Bernie Sanders.

I don’t agree with any candidate on 100% of the issues, but with the environment my number one priority, there is no competition. (That said, when Clinton inevitably wins the primary, I will support her like she is my own mother.)

In the meantime, Sanders will not lose my vote on a small local issue. But his vocal dissension on an issue I feel passionate about has caused me enough pause to warrant this blog post.

While campaigning in Philadelphia, Clinton voiced her support for Mayor Kenney’s proposed tax on soda and sugary drinks to help fund a citywide pre-K program. Sanders immediately countered, calling the tax regressive. He then took it a step further, writing an entire Op-Ed for Philadelphia Magazine stating that the soda tax would hurt low income families.

“Mayor Kenney wants to raise $400 million from a tax on juice boxes, soft drinks, teas, flavored coffee and other sweetened drinks. His proposal would raise the price of a $1.00 soft drink to $1.24. That will hit many Philadelphians hard, especially the more than 185,000 people in the city who are trying to scrape by on less than $12,000 a year.”

I have a problem with the implication that poor people need to buy Coke and Kool-Aid. I actually find the idea that soda is an undeniable necessity of low income families to be classist, elitist, and borderline racist.

The health issues and related healthcare costs of sugary beverages are indisputable. In fact, some doctors have gone as far as to say that sugar is as dangerous as tobacco. Cigarettes are not illegal, but high cigarette taxes reduce smoking, especially among children. Similarly, no one is suggesting banning Pepsi – but simply raising the cost as a potential deterrent from overconsumption.

No one needs to drink Mountain Dew.

Water is essentially free. And before you tell me about the flaws in this country’s water safety, let’s break down some facts.

Yes, in light of Flint, Michigan and similar cases, the U.S. needs to seriously step up water safety standards. Still, in the majority of cases, tap water is still safer than bottled water. It’s often advisable to make the extra effort of a filtered pitcher, which costs about $20. I personally chose to recently upgrade to an Aquasana faucet filtration system for my drinking water, which cost $140 (or about 90 liters of Mountain Dew).

And, if all else fails, bottled water will not be taxed.

Do I think this is the best plan the city could come up with to fill a budget gap? No.

I think there are better ideas, not the least a plastic bag tax which has been shot down by city council in the past with the same logic of it being a “regressive tax for poor Philadelphians.” That one actually boggles my mind, as free reusable bags are easier to come by than toilet paper in a public restroom.

I don’t know if Sanders’ vocal stance on a city issue will make a difference, especially if Clinton wins the primary. And, again, it won’t be the catalyst to change my vote April 26th. But the argument that slightly impeding access to insidious crap is somehow unAmerican just doesn’t hold water.

Image from The Alliance for a Healthier Vermont (ironically Sanders’ homestate)

April 18th, 2016

Career Wardrobe Expansion Offers More Ways to Do Good with Donated Clothes

Now there are even more ways to help and empower job seekers in Philadelphia – and you can help just by cleaning out your closet!

After more than 20 years of empowering women in Philadelphia by providing free or low-cost professional clothing and job search support services, Career Wardrobe was hand-selected by the PA Department of Human Services to run the PA WORKWEAR program. With the increased funding and responsibility, Career Wardrobe expands its successful model to the five county area surrounding Philadelphia including Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, and Berks Counties, providing professional clothing to aid job searches for unemployed Pennsylvanians receiving public assistance benefits.

Under this new expansion, Career Wardrobe expects to see its client services and budget to double over the next year. Career Wardrobe has opened two new boutiques, providing professional clothing to job seekers in Delaware County and Bucks County. They will also oversee PA WORKWEAR programs operated in Chester, Montgomery, and Berks Counties by Wings for Success, Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, and Berks Counseling Center respectively. Last year in Philadelphia, Career Wardrobe provided professional clothing for 3,175 unemployed job seekers, with 60% referred through the PA WORKWEAR program. In the coming year, the organization could see up to 7,000 individuals with 80% coming through a referral from the PA WORKWEAR program.

Open House Invites

This new opportunity expand within the region comes on the heels of Career Wardrobe’s co-location with its successful upscale resale shop The Wardrobe Boutique at 1822 Spring Garden St. in the Logan Square/Fairmount section of Philadelphia. Combining locations gave the organization a 9,000-square-foot footprint that includes office and boutique dressing space for both men and women.

The expanded Philadelphia location also allowed Career Wardrobe to make permanent two successful programs it piloted in 2015 in an effort to ensure that more people, including men and underemployed women, have access to services they need to transition to sustainable employment.

  • The Open Access Program allows any unemployed man or woman to receive a professional outfit, resume review services, and job search advice from the organization for a small fee, much like a healthcare co-pay. Open Access Mondays allow walk-ins without an appointment at The Wardrobe Boutique in Philadelphia every Monday – all one needs is a resume on hand.
  • The Make It Work for Men program expects to serve 500 men in 2016, providing professional clothing in a private dressing suite separate from the women’s boutique. As part of the PA WORKWEAR contract, the men’s program will be expanded to Chester and Bristol, PA as well.

Along with clothing services, Career Wardrobe offers professional development education programming that is free and open to the public. Seminars focus on job readiness skills such as communication, time management, problem solving, self-advocacy and financial literacy.

Hope On The Move Annual Cocktail Reception and Auction

You can also support Career Wardrobe by attending the annual cocktail reception and auction, “Hope on the Move,”  Thursday, June 9, 2016 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia.

Career Wardrobe’s premier annual fundraiser brings together more than 300 of the region’s corporate executives and community leaders, and features a 150-piece silent auction, networking reception, and presentation highlighting the organization’s impact in the community. The event raises more than $100,000 to empower people to work and independence.

Hosted by longtime Philadelphia radio personality and BEN FM radio host Marilyn Russell, attendees will be treated to a Hope Walk featuring community leaders and media personalities who donate an outfit from their closet to one of Career Wardrobe’s clients. Models scheduled to appear include Karen Hepp, Sue Serio, and Jennifer Joyce (Fox29); Monique Braxtion (NBC10); Cherri Gregg (KYW Newsradio) and Rick Williams (6ABC).

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Signature cocktails will be created for the event by Pravda Vodka, Dreamcatchers Toasted Chestnut Liquor, and Bartenders I’m Coconuts Over You Rum. Individual tickets must be purchased in advance for $100, and corporate and individual sponsorship packages are available.

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Career Wardrobe is one of the nation’s largest independent organizations empowering women and men transitioning to work with professional clothing, job search support, and professional development. In the past 21 years, more than 80,000 individuals have transitioned from poverty, violence, or incarceration to employment and independence with support from Career Wardrobe.  Clothing donations are accepted Monday through Saturday in Philadelphia, Fridays in Chester, PA and monthly at partner locations in East Falls and Haverford, PA. To learn more about how to donate, volunteer or shop to support Career Wardrobe, please call (215) 568-6693, visit www.careerwardrobe.org

April 5th, 2016

Deciphering Sustainable Seafood with Wild Selections

Knowing what to look for when shopping for produce is relatively simple – organic is a definable term with a clear label to let you know that no persistent pesticides were used in farming.

But eco-conscious seafood is a bit trickier. Farm-raised, wild-caught, sustainably sourced – what does it all mean and how can you be sure that your seafood purchase isn’t harming the sustainability of marine life?

It’s a lot to think about for a tuna sandwich.

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Wild Selections® is a new brand created to effect meaningful change in marine conservation and fisheries management and expand awareness about sustainable seafood. Wild Selections® uses only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable seafood. And with each can purchased, a donation of 13 cents goes to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to benefit their sustainable fisheries programs and marine conservation efforts – a total of $1 million by 2018!

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Wild Selections is the only full line of MSC-certified sustainable seafood.  The blue MSC eco-label tells you the fish in your can comes from well managed fisheries and healthy fish stocks.

Fishing has an impact on our marine environment, and it’s not just fish stocks that are affected. Sensitive habitats, endangered species, and the marine food chain need to be maintained to keep the oceans healthy and productive. The impacts are complex, hard to measure and vary from one fishery to the next. But MSC certified fisheries meet robust requirements for fish stocks, ecosystem impacts, and effective management. They are also encouraged to develop new ways to conserve the marine environment for future generations.

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Want to know exactly where in the world the fish in your can comes from? Just enter the can code on the bottom of any Wild Selections® products to locate where your seafood was sustainably caught.

Of course, I don’t mess around with taste. And fortunately, as is generally the case with sustainable products of any kind, the tuna is premium quality.

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You can find a local retailer using the store locator here. And enjoy a simple source of protein and omegas without harming the ecosystem!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

March 31st, 2016

CrossFit Open 2016 Wrap – A Look Back at Three Years of Open WODs

Three and a half years ago I walked into a CrossFit gym – and then tried to walk out.

It’s amazing how much has changed since then. I’ve run Broad Street, tackled Spartan Races, competed in CrossFit competitions, and even popped out another baby. And all of this is in no thanks to genetics, youth, or spare time. If I can offer any “FITSPO” to those of you thinking you could never climb a rope, this is purely a testament to dedication, commitment, and hard work. As I’ve said before, if I can do it, anyone can do it.

And as a witness to the power of progress versus the waning of youth, we are offered the annual CrossFit Open. Increasing in numbers each year, now more than 300,000 athletes from around the world sign up to attempt a series of five surprise workouts, whittling the field down to find the fittest man and woman on earth.

Some CrossFit gyms strongly encourage its members to sign up for the leaderboard, even if they are new to the sport (the past two years have offered scaled versions of each workout). My gym welcomes participants but doesn’t really push The Open. So the CrossFit South Philly roster typically includes about a dozen elite athletes, a small handful of scaled athletes, and then – randomly in the middle – me. Gung-ho and eager to chat about the workouts, I spend most of the five weeks texting with my two CrossFit-loving friends in other cities who are the only ones who actually know and care what I am talking about.

Back in 2014, I was only about nine months postpartum and had no intention of signing up for The Open. But after doing the first workout for fun one day, I decided to just pay the $20 to put myself up on the leaderboard.

The weeks that followed were a rather sad display. In 14.2, my attempts at a 65-pound-overhead-squat yielded a score of “2.” In 14.4 I spent 10 minutes trying unsuccessfully to get a toes-to-bar. But in 14.5 I surprised myself by completing my most difficult workout to date:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time of:
65-lb. Thrusters
Bar-Over-Burpees

No Time Cap.

I had never done a 65-lb thruster. Not once. And now I had to do 84 of them. I remember telling my judge, “Look, I’m just going to do the 21 and then stop.” “OK, I will try the 18.” “Fine, I’ll just keep going.” I finished in 28:33. And it was the first and only time I have ever had to lay down after a workout.

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14.5: No matter how exhausted a workout gets me I always walk it off. This was the only time I ever had to lay down.

That year 44,984 women worldwide completed all five workouts. I placed 43,678 – the bottom 3%.

2015

I am better, faster, stronger. The first workout begins with 15 toes-to-bar and I complete them with little problem – I just can’t manage the 75-pound snatch that follows.

The Open decided to throw an interesting wrench in 2015 by offering a scaled option, but I am determined to do as many of the workouts as possible prescribed (Rx), even if my score is 1 (or 7, as it is in the repeat of 14.2 where I eek out another five reps).

The issue with introducing a scaled version was that it gave the CrossFit powers that be the option of starting workouts with movements like ring muscle ups, a feat limited to the most advanced athletes. So for two of the workouts I was relegated to the scaled option, which didn’t even allow me to show off my shiny double unders!

But I end on a high note with 15.5, a respectable finish on a couplet of thrusters and rowing.

15.5

15.5: Thrusters and Rowing. Not nearly as bad as the final WOD in other years

In 2015 I rank 36,529 out of 59,599 women: A vast improvement moving up to the bottom 39% (or top 61% depending how you look at it).

2016

Another year of hard work and training. While I continue to resist the idea of a Paleo diet, I did revamp my eating habits about six months ago by increasing my protein intake, decreasing my sugar and carbs, and embracing daily protein shakes and Branched Chain Amino Acids.

And the CrossFit gods (or programmer Dave Castro) were far kinder to me this year, playing more to my strengths than my weaknesses.

The dreaded overhead squat was replaced with overhead walking lunges, which were sufficiently challenging but doable at a snail’s pace. I surprised myself with chest-to-bar pull-ups and had the opportunity to show off more skillful toes-to-bar and double-unders.

16.2: Killing the toes to bar

I survived 55 back-breaking 155-pound deadlifts in a row and came shockingly close to pulling off an ill-advised and terribly performed bar muscle up.

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16.4

16.4: Death by Deadlift – 55 155-Pound-Deadlifts IN A ROW. Then 55 Wall Balls, 55 Calories on the Rower, and then – if you have time, which I most did not, 55 Handstand PushUps

And when my prediction came true that 16.5 would be a repeat of 14.5 I literally jumped for joy in my San Juan hotel room. (Random fact: I’ve done one open workout in a different city every year). I knew it would be painful, but I knew that if I could do it in 2014, I could certainly shave a few minutes off my time.

I had a lofty goal of sub-20-minutes, but it was actually the burpees that got the best of me that day. I spent the five weeks of the open suffering from the worst asthma and allergies I’d felt since I was a child, and it was taking a toll on my lung capacity.

But I finished at 23:03 – a full five minutes and thirty seconds faster than my 2014 time. And while I did not lay down this time, it took me about five full minutes before I could speak. And six minutes before I could take this picture.

16.5

16.5: God awful and grim. But my time was 5:30 better than two years ago.

In 2016 I rank 38,675 out of 78,722 women who actually recorded every workout. The top 49%! The top half!

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This ranking below would lead you to believe that I was in the top 29 percent. But if you look closely at the leaderboard, only 60% of the registered athletes actually recorded all of the workouts. I totally get that shit happens, but really? Only 60%?

Cooler still was seeing that I was ranked 1003 among all 36-year-old women in the U.S. – that is the number that really counts and I was really gunning to break 1000!

So what do all these numbers and statistics mean? Why am I being such a nerd about analyzing them? Well, it’s nice to be able to put one’s progress into some measurable context. Truly, that’s why I think everyone who does CrossFit should do the Open, even if they do one rep of the scaled versions. It’s amazing to see how I am progressing year to year, and also to stay conscious of what I still need to work on to be a well-rounded athlete and be in the best physical condition for my body. I know my limitations – and there are limitations – just not nearly as many as I would have imagined.