Quick Update on the Benefits of Drinking Water

Posted on April 30, 2008. Filed under: Take Care of Yourself | Tags: , , |

Today is about Taking Care of Yourself

I wrote a post about ten reasons why drinking water is good for you based on my experience with drinking more water. I want to update you about a recent article in the NY Times (my favorite source for scientific and health information) which reported results of a review of clinical studies on the benefits of drinking water.

They found there were few benefits except:

  1. Drinking water helps the kidneys to clear sodium, which can reduce the risk of dveloping high blood pressure, and
  2. Drinking water could help control weight gain by decreasing your appetite.

So is water the magic elixir that will solve all of your health problems? No. But the studies do show some benefits for weight loss and reducing risk of developing hypertension. In addition, my own experience tells me that it helps my skin, my digestion, and improves my exercise tolerance. Relying on clinical studies for evidence of the benefits of water assumes that the studies have been done. I think clinical studies on skin texture are not likley to get funded, nor likely to be done by researchers interested in finding cures to more critical health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

So all of this is to say that while drinking plenty of water may not be the panacea cure for serious medical conditions, but It does help you to maintain good health and well being–and we all need more of that.


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The Best Hot Chocolate in New York

Posted on January 28, 2008. Filed under: Things to Do, Westchester | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Monday is about Things to Do

Photos by Annechocolate.jpg
I love chocolate. There is simply no other way to put it. Not just the kind of chocolate you can buy in a candy store, but the rich dark chocolate that has flavor nuances like good wines. Chocolate that is rich and fulfilling so all you need is a small amount to be satisfied. Chocolate that is diluted with very little milk, and not too much sugar, but is as pure as possible. I am the type who makes an annual pilgrimage to the New York Chocolate Show. I simply love chocolate. So when I recently saw a video on the NYTimes webpage about the Best Hot Chocolate in New York, I knew immediately that I would have to try all of these places.

Being such an avid (or perhaps rabid) chocolate fan, I was already familiar with the Jacques Torres chocolate shop mentioned in the video. It is one of my “must go to” places when I visit friends in Brooklyn. His hot chocolate is certainly one of the best. It is rich and complex, thick and satisfying. Plus he offers two versions: a regular and one that is spicy and pays homage to the Mexican roots of this drink. The biggest plus to his chocolate, is you can buy a can of the mixture (but be prepared for sticker shock) to make your own hot chocolate at home.

Wanting to try something new, I decided to go The City Bakery on 18th street to taste their version. Bottom line: it’s great! Their hot chocolate is definitely made from a mixture of chocolate that is melted down and diluted with milk to form a thick and satisfying drink. It is very, very rich and heavy, but in a good “chocolate satisfaction” way. They have been able to strike the right balance of intense chocolate flavor, without too much sugar which can make it too cloying, or too much milk which can dilute the flavor. Interestingly, the chocolate was not too hot, so it’s savoring the flavor that makes you sip it, rather than the heat. The picture above is a cup of our hot chocolate after my four year old got to it (she dove right in before I was able to get a picture). They also have huge marshmallows available, that are nice but not necessary for a good hot chocolate treat. Since they serve the hot chocolate at a cooler temperature, the marshmallow did not melt quickly. However, the chocolate has enough heat to make the surface of the marshmallow soft and easy to scrape off with a spoon. If you like a strong marshmallow flavor, then it’s worth it. My four year old was not interested, and wanted to focus all her energies on the hot chocolate itself.

In addition to their signature drink, the City Bakery is a real bakery and offers lots of pastries, cookies, foods and other treats available to satisfy your hunger (my 14 year old loved the mac and cheese). The biggest problem was that seats were hard to find in this place. Some people clearly were there to spend a few hours reading a paper, or working on their laptops. However, I was a mom with two kids in tow and finding a table was difficult. Since we went on a Saturday afternoon, I am not surprised the place was filled, and seating may be better at other times. Also, this place is definitely not a bargain. The prices are high, but if you limit yourself to the hot chocolate and a pastry, you can visit without breaking the bank. If you want to eat (especially with a couple of kids) then I would recommend going to Republic instead, which is an inexpensive noodle place a couple of blocks away.

So overall, this was definitely worth a trip into Manhattan (I live 30 minutes outside of the city), and I will go back to check out the other hot chocolate spots in the city.


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Consumption Factor

Posted on January 3, 2008. Filed under: Frugal Living | Tags: , , , |

Photo by spcummings

coffee1.jpgThursday is the day I usually talk about frugal living, and I woke up this morning thinking through possible topics to discuss. For the past few weeks I have been trying to present reasons why I think frugal living has several benefits, and each week I come across something which says it better than I can. Last week, it was a video. This week, it was a very interesting and compelling op-ed piece in today’s NY Times by Jared Diamond, who is a Professor of Geography at UCLA, titled “What’s Your Consumption Factor? 

In this piece, Diamond talks about the level of consumption of Americans compared with other people in the world, and states that the “average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world.” He points out there are several consequences of this disparity. I don’t agree with his conclusion that terrorism–which he says stems from others’ frustration from not being able to catch up to our level of consumption–is one such consequence (I think that is a naive and uninformed analysis about the root causes of terrorism). However, he does make a good point in stating that as the people of the developing world emulate and try to catch up to our level of consumption (think China and India), the world will quickly get to the point where there is simply not enough resource (like natural materials, land, water, oil, and food) to go around, and too much waste (greenhouse gases, landfill materials) to get rid of. 

Basically, something will have to change. Others will consume more, we will have to consume less, and there will be a need for some oversight to allow for sustainable extraction of resources (imagine sustainable fishing, farming, forests, energy). I think the importance of frugal living is not just about saving money, but is about using and consuming LESS. It’s about having less of an environmental impact, making do with less, and learning how to still have a good standard of living by enjoying and using the things we have MORE. It’s a way of thinking I want to teach to my children.

The best example I can think of to pull this all together is a basic cup of coffee. If you are addicted coffee and need a cup every morning, the frugal approach would be to buy a bag of beans and make it at home for yourself. The nonfrugal approach would be to go to your local Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or other coffee place and buy a cup of coffee. Not only does this cost more, but each and every day you will make a contribution to your local lanfdill of your paper cup, the plastic top, the cardboard sleeve, the stirrer, paper from the sugar packs, and a couple of napkins. Now multiply that garbage by 1.3 billion Chinese people and you quickly get to why frugal living is as much about the environment as it is about saving money.


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    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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