In the Mood for a Debate?

It seems there are social networking sites for everyone these days . . . Facebook, Twitter,  and MySpace pioneered the way for numerous specialized sites such as The English Companion Ning where English teachers connect, BroadwaySpace for theater enthusiasts,  and CafeMom where moms exchange ideas.

Try CreateDebate!

Try CreateDebate!

There’s a new face on the networking block that looks quite different from its predessors – CreateDebate is a new social networking site built around “ideas, discussion and democracy.”  It’s a community for creating debates that scratch your brain and existing arguments that currently rile others up.

Bryan Orme invited me to try out this site.  I dabbled with it a little myself and then had my senior expository students explore it to precurse their argumentative paper research.  The goal of Orme’s team is to build a useful learning tool that will help “people sort through issues, viewpoints and opinions so that consensus and understanding can be reached and better decisions can be made.”  I believe the site does this.

My favorite aspect of the site is the CreateDebate communities tailored just for classroom use.  This is a great technological tool easily allowing students to discuss and debate thoughts with others outside of their classroom or even possibly outside school building walls.  I like that CreateDebate allows teachers to have complete control regarding public accessibility.  If you choose, you can create a site that only your students can access – students can access this from home, but only their classmates will see their reactions.  Pretty nifty – a tool that makes research motivating and fun.  Additionally, CreateDebate makes it simple to keep track of who’s online and what sort of activity is taking place on your site. The administrative panel allows you to manage and customize your community from a central location. Complete control!

Grading Girl gives CreateDebate an A for effort in creating a manageable, motivating debate community that brings current, relevant events literally at students’ fingertips to participate in.  Give it a try!

GG Reads – Wesley The Owl

November 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

Did you know that barn owls mate for life?  Are you aware that they are extremely emotional creatures and have many ways to express their feelings?  Could you guess that they practice birth control and will breed only when they perceive an excess of available mice for food?  These are some of the many intriguing facts about owls that readers learn in this little gem of a book.

This book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law.  I enjoyed its message so much that I am recommending this for my school’s next summer reading list.

I found myself laughing aloud reading this book!

I found myself laughing aloud reading this book!

Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien is a book about love and devotion.  It is a true love story about a woman and her owl.  Stacey O’Brien is a Southern California biologist who adopts a baby barn owl with an injured wing.  He could not survive in the wild so she selflessly takes him in, oblivious to the joy that stands before her in raising this creature.  Through the trials and triumphs Stacey experiences with this bird, the reader realizes just what a significant role a pet plays in our lives.  As Stacy states in her book, “When humans and animals understand, love, and trust each other, the animals flourish and we humans are enlightened and enriched by the relationship.”  (O’Brien 202)  Animals are more intelligent than we may give them credit for; this book reminds us of that intriguing reality.

The story chronologically follows O’Brien’s 19 years with Wesley from owl infancy when she weaned him into his “nest box” in her bedroom through the end of his long life with his battle with cancer.   She gives both her scientific, factual views and tender-hearted observations about Wesley.  O’Brien even shares the insides of Caltech and some of her interestingly eccentric colleagues.  I laughed when Stacey brought Wesley to the grocery store wrapped in a blanket as a baby, I gagged when she described how she killed endless amounts of mice for Wesley’s diets (yes, as much as I have much more respect for owls, I won’t be raising one any time soon), I melted when Wesley “held” Stacey with his wings, and I cried when Wesley tried to console Stacey through a horrible dehabilitating disease she contracted during Wesley’s later years.  I could sit here and let my fingers ecstatically fly off the keyboard with all of my favorite tidbits from the book . . . but that would take out the fun of reading this book.  You can definitely read this within a day or two; O’Brien writes her observations and feelings with fervor.  As a bonus, she includes “Some Things You May Not Know About Barn Owls” at the conclusion of the book.

We humans can learn from owls about devotion, trust and love.  I am inspired by Stacey O’Brien’s life philosophies and the devotion she returns to Wesley.  As she proclaims, she made a vow when she was very young to live life not by wading in the shallow water but by diving into the deep end as much as possible, no matter how dangerous.  The way she raised Wesley attests to her commitment to that vow.  As of the book’s print, she was contemplating raising another owl and beginning the whole process again!  If I am ever lucky enough to have a chance encounter with one of these magnificent feathered friends, I will stop and admire this feathered friend and be very grateful for the opportunity.  GG gives Wesley the Owl an A for the heartwarming lessons and touching account of this love story.  Extra credit for the wonderful photographs spattered throughout the book – most of which O’Brien took herself while raising Wesley.  They help illustrate just how funny, complex and beautiful Wesley was.

Brighter Resumes with BriteTab

November 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Educational Resources, Reviews, Savvy Sites

This week, I received a request to review an online resume service.  I was a little hesitant since I imagined the typical fill-in-the-blank format that online resume services may offer.  I knew I was wrong as soon as I clicked on BriteTab and explored its offerings.

Your resume will definitely stand out from the others with BriteTab!

Your resume will definitely stand out from the others with BriteTab!

I’ve always been a firm believer that you have to make your resume stand out from the crowd; I used unique 8 X 8 cards to supplement my own resume when interviewing for my first teaching position.  But, in today’s highly technological, social networking society, it’s not enough just to type in a different font.  Your resume needs to be dynamic, succinct, and easily accessible.  You need to show that you are as progressive and tech-savvy as your words describe.  BriteTab allows you to portray yourself in exactly this manner.

Here’s a breakdown of the grade BriteTab earned:

Stand-out Appeal:  BriteTab is designed to accentuate personality and speaks to specific industry standards at the same time.  Whether you are searching for a teaching position, engineering job, or nursing career, the site offers a variety of themes (both traditional and more colorful modern designs) with user-friendly customization options.  You can incorporate these themes options with a simple click of the button.  I played around with the site myself and found you can create a professional, comprehensive resume in as little as 15 minutes.

Online Advantages:  You can upload videos that correspond to each particular section of your resume so that hiring managers don’t have to navigate through one long video to find out why you’re the perfect candidate. This is a very distinct feature from other online resume sources.  The videos are so easy to upload and, in turn, effortless for hiring managers to view.  You can send your resume to as many people as you want, and it won’t include distracting advertising or branding. BriteTab also allows you to make, save, and edit multiple resumes; each with a unique URL that is kept private.  Additionally, potential employers can contact you directly from your resume via a simple click – your email and/or website are actively linked right on your resume.  You are virtually eliminating the use of paper, envelopes and stamps, saving money, labor and environmental supplies in the process.

More Comprehensive Resume:  With BriteTab, you can easily attach graphics, videos and supplementary materials.  Moreover, you can edit and add to your resume at any time.  You can also create different resumes under the same account.  This makes it easier than ever to customize your resume according to the specific position you are seeking.

Monitor Your Progress:  BriteTab gives you traffic monitoring capabilities – see how many times and when your site is viewed!!

What organization wouldn’t be impressed with this progressive promotion of yourself?!?  Grading Girl gives BriteTab an A+ for its completely comprehensive resumes with stand-out appeal and effortless access.  If I was in the market for a new position, I would definitely take advantage of this opportunity and use BriteTab!!   I am recommending this site to my friends, family, and GG followers!!

Go to BriteTab today.  Check out the video tutorials and FAQs.  Explore and see for yourself how easy it is to create a resume that will help you land that new job and/or career.

I enjoy getting requests to review A-quality products and services.  Put yours to the test and let Grading Girl give the grade.

 

 

Have You Ever Been Cubed??

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews, Writing Practice

Shhhhh . . . Keep this a secret . . . Don’t tell a soul about this post . . . Read on only if you are ready to be enlightened, tickled and shocked.   from Katie Tegtmeyer on Flickr

Begin if you dare! 

WARNING:  For maximum validity, enlightenment, and fun, do NOT read down to the bottom until you have completed the exercise in its entirety!!!

 

 

The Cube - compiled by Annie Gottlieb and Slobodan D. Pesie

The Cube – compiled by Annie Gottlieb and Slobodan D. Pesie

This is the tone you will encounter when you open the book The Cube . . . Keep the Secret.  It is a self-awareness game I play with my students on the day before a holiday.  I’ve been using this book for many years now, and I’ve yet to encounter a class in which the students are not in awe of its accuracy.  When we’re done with the game, I ask the students to write either a one-page analysis of their findings from the game or a descriptive piece illustrating their landscape.  Never is there a complaint for this assignment.  I also have fun with this at family gatherings!!

 HERE IS THE PREMISE: 
  • Readers are asked to picture a desert landscape.  In the desert landscape are five specific elements:  a cube, a ladder, a horse, a storm and flowers.  The idea is to write down and describe the very first image of each that arrives in your head to achieve the most accurate results.  Each element represents something about the reader – therein lies the secret.  I’ve always been good at keeping secrets so I’m going to make you wait until you have the book itself in your hot little hands to find out what each represents.
 The 204-page book goes on in-depth to explain each portion of the Cube as well as to provide sample Cube illustrations from entertainment and political figures.  The 19-page key at the back is detailed and promises hours of interest.  There is a listing for just about every detail imaginable that a person might choose for his cube, ladder, storm, horse, and flower (s).  Perusing this key is where the real fun lies . . . you will be amazed at its accuracy!!!!  But don’t take my word for it . . . run to your local bookstore or library and grab this little book.  GG gives The Cube an A+ for unbelievable accuracy, positive enlightenment, and good clean fun!!
Have any of you already played and/or read this book?  I’d love to hear about your experiences with it! 

GG Eats Out – Westwood Doesn’t Win

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Restaurants, Reviews

New restaurants seemingly open their doors monthly around here.  Westwood Tavern is a recent addition to our neighborhood and I was anxious to taste test.  I passed it up many times as the building was being remodeled (the location housed two fallen eateries prior to Westwood).  There is a beautiful outdoor bar and two cozy, outdoor fireplaces that intrigued me. That intrigue fizzled soon after walking through the door.

Westwood Tavern

My initial welcome included a blast of cold air coming from the apparent air conditioner surprisingly blowing in October.  No matter where I moved within my booth, I couldn’t escape.  I was offered a new table but it was right next to a back door that, for some reason, was frequently in use.  Strange.

Being the sushi fanatic that I am, I ordered sushi as an appetizer for our table – the spicy tuna rolls, one of my favorites.  I read reviews online that Westwood’s sushi is wonderful so I was hungrily anxious.  The first bite revealed the disappointing truth – I was about to pay double for the exact product I buy at my local Trader Joe’s; it was definitely not fresh sushi, just decent, prepared sushi.  I guess you get what you pay for (the $6 price tag is low for restaurant-quality sushi).

When I first perused the menu, I kept turning it over expecting to find more.  Yes, the prices are fairly low but there really isn’t much variety:  sushi and a handful of other appetizers, flatbread, four salad choices, four sandwich choices, and tacos.  I ordered the fish tacos.  They were definitely decent but nothing to write home about . . . or to write on GG about.

In fairness, this is a great place to gather with friends to watch the game.  Big screen T.V.s abound on every wall and the custom beer taps will enhance the mood.  Westwood features a unique table tap beer system at six of the booths in the bar. This could be a unique draw to the venue.

If, however, you are looking for a satisfying dinner or a romantic place to take your honey, you will want to look elsewhere.  Grading Girl tasted and gives Westwood a B- for food quality and typical sports bar atmosphere.  I will return to watch a game some time . . . just not with an empty stomach.

Pinstripes – Bowling for the 21st Century

September 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Fun, Restaurants, Reviews

Update March 12, 2011:  Last night, I enjoyed a pleasant, delicious dinner at Pinstripes and have to blog a shout out!!  Walking in about 7:00pm, we were told we’d be seating within 35 minutes.  Within that wait, one of the managers (I wish I caught his name!) must have walked past us three or four times.  On the fourth visit, we inquired – curiously, not frustratingly – about the wait and he told us it would be just one more minute.    Well . . . not only did the host seat us within that promised minute, that same manager sent us the most delicious Prosciutto Fig Flatbread on the house for our wait.  Our wait really wasn’t that long for a Saturday night and we weren’t even complaining, yet this manager apparently cares about the satisfaction of each of his patrons.  Btw, that particular flatbread is something on the menu I’d probably never order but it gets an A+ for a fabulous combination of salt and sugar to please the palette prefacing the meal.  One more shout out to our server who served with such honesty that I’ve never experienced with a server before.  My daughter was interested in trying the New England Lobster Roll.  Without hesitation, the server told her “I don’t like it; don’t order it” and, furthermore, he shared that he’s had a number of customers who were disappointed as well.  Normally, a server will water down his true opinion and tell customers something such as, “Well, I don’t care for it but that’s just my opinion” or “You may like it if you like lobster.”  She ended up savoring the Spaghetti and Huge Stuffed Meatball and was not disappointed.  In fact, none of us at the table were disappointed.  And apparently, no one in the full dining room was disappointed either – Pinstripes is a wonderful place for both families and couples to come out and enjoy a delicious meal within a uniquely fun, relaxed environment.  A+ to Pinstripes for truly caring, efficient, refreshing customer service that we won’t soon forget.

This weekend I held a surprise birthday party for my daughter at a new venue – Pinstripes Bowling Bocce Bistro.  Not only was she completely surprised (te-he!) but the night was a huge success.  The service was attentive, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was inviting both for my daughter’s teenage friends as well as us (slightly) older folks.  I promised the manager I would write a review expressing my satisfaction.  This is an easy one for me; I’m recommending this place to anyone planning a work meet-up, party, or just looking for a unique place to have lunch or dinner.

 

A unique dining and entertainment venue!

A unique dining and entertainment venue!

Pinstripes is one of the those places that impresses you as soon as you walk in.  Before my daughter and her friend made their grand entrance, the manager had a ‘hiding’ place ready for me to gather the guests near the six bocce courts, complete with balloons and pitchers of drinks (lemon water, of course, for the PG crowd).  Once my daughter overcame her shock, a server came over to explain the game of bocce to our group.  The guys and girls gigglingly (did I just make up a word?) played for about 50 minutes before we were told our bowling lanes were ready.  We moved to the most inviting set of 18 bowling lanes I’ve ever seen, complete with couches and pink bowling balls.  GG was in heaven!!!!  (Don’t worry, there were blue balls for the guys too).  The kids punched their names into the computerized scoreboards that meticuously kept track of each player’s records and began.  As they initiated the game, the servers brought out the food on the waiting table-clothed, flowered buffet: Caesar salad and Margherita pizza.  The kids inhaled the food as they played.  For dessert, a pleasing, large plate of brownies and cookies with candles was presented to the birthday girl.  Yumm!!!

While the kids bowled, my friend and I mosied outside to the bonfire.  It was a beautiful night and the outdoor garden area was cozy and inviting.  They even provide blankets if you are cold!!  A gentleman sang and played guitar accoustically as couples cuddled, families played bocce, and friends socialized.  My friend and I decided to taste the Italian/American cuisine I heard so many raves about.  We split the tenderloin sliders and then enjoyed the ahi tuna salad.  Let me just say that the sliders lived up to their name – we had no trouble sliding the melt-in-your-mouth tender steaks drizzled in a tasty sauce, wrapped in a tasty bun.  I’m picky about my ahi tuna since I frequent California, and crave the fresh fish sushi found there.  This tuna definitely passed GG’s test; I’d order it again.  Next time, though, I have to try the lobster b.l.t.!!

Besides bowling, bocce and the bonfire, Pinstripes has a sports bar area complete with large screen T.Vs (large screen T.V.s are also in the bowling areas), a wine cellar, and rooms upstairs for parties from 20 – 600.  Talk about a unique wedding that guests would certainly appreciate.  Fun!  GG gives Pinstripes an A for universal appeal to young, old, and in-between.  Suburbanites often complain of the same ol’ movie and dinner evening.  Pinstripes provides that unique dining and entertainment venue we’ve been waiting for!!

Color Your World!

August 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

There’s something to this.  I was shopping in Francesca’s boutique, flipping through Michele Bernhardt’s Colorstrology book, and discovered that my personal color is Jaffa Orange.  There is something to this because the cotton tank I already had in my hand to purchase matched the color exactly.   Hmmm . . . Colorstrology tells us that our birthday carries a numerological value and meaning.  That value corresponds to a color palette from which we can draw insight about our personalities.  Wearing, decorating and surrounding ourselveswith this specific color is supposed to bring out our true selves, our best selves.  We are not to confuse our personal color with our favorite color – Bernhardt says that our favorite color can change as we evolve or change our surroundings.  Our personal color, on the other hand, remains constant.

There is something to this!

There is something to this!

This fun book rests on my coffee table.  There is a page for every day of the year.  There are even color swatches in the back to take with you when shopping for your color.  🙂 In addition, each color has its PANTONE® Color identification to help find the perfect match.  I like the suggestions Bernhardt gives for using your personal color. 

Want to send an ecard telling the bday person what his/her color is?!  It’s completely free – here’s the link for the ecards!

 Grading Girl gives Colorstrology an A+ for an interesting alternative to traditional zodiac and astrology readings.

I’d say this is pretty accurate . . .

My Personal Color ~ JAFFA ORANGE

Analytical, Responsible, Sensitive

If you were born on this day:  “You love to use your mind.  Your ability to analyze problems and situations is exceptional.  You never really know just how good or talented you are due to your yearning for perfection.  Many of you cover your sensitivity with facts and a composed exterior.  You actually have a very sensitive spirt that needs to be nurtured and recognized.” (Bernhardt)

Colorstrology says that wearing or surrounding myself “with Jaffa Orange helps you live life more freely by integrating your intellect with your emotions and your passion with self-control.” (Bernhardt)

I Won’t Trade Trader Joe’s

August 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Favorites, Food, Reviews

My Favorite Grocery Store

My Favorite Grocery Store!

A couple of years ago, I was on vacation visiting my brother when I casually asked him what is his favorite grocery store.  Apparently, he thought it an odd, amusing question because he still sarcastically brings up the question to this day.  I was genuinely interested in knowing which chain had the most to offer given the plethora of unique stores in his area.   I’ve got news, bro, Project Runway’s Tim Gunn’s favorite grocery was a major topic of discussion on a recent Jimmy Fallon show.   🙂  Tim’s favorite is Ralph’s , by the way, because of its one-stop-shop style.

Well, there is no question in my mind as to which grocery store is my favorite ~ hands down, it’s Trader Joes’s.  Trader Joe’s truly is a unique shopping experience with the array of distinct products that, in many cases, shoppers can’t score anywhere else.  Trader Joe’s buyers search exotic locales as well as local farmers’ markets to bring shoppers the most tasty, healthful food and drinks.  Thanks to this neighborly chain, grocerying (one of my own words) is no longer a grueling chore for me and millions of other consumers.  I actually look forward to shopping at TJ’s, is that wrong?!?  Thanks to the genuinely pleasant cashiers, the organized shelves, the unique, interesting products and the catchy, cheery signs, grocery shopping is an experience not a chore.

Here is a sampling of Trader Joe’s products that consistently fill my cart.  There are more . . . but you should go check out your nearest Trader Joe’s and let me know what new discovery you make  ~

*Trader Joe’s Mini Whole Wheat Pitas – I dip these in my Hummus to Hum About.  They are addicting and light:

These tiny treats are as tasty as they are adorable.

These tiny treats are as tasty as they are adorable.

*Trader Joe’s (fat free) Cottage Cheese – I eat this before bed with flaxseed for a protein blast.  It’s creamier than most.

TJ's Cottage Cheese is creamier than most brands!

TJ's Cottage Cheese is creamier than most brands!

Where else can you find frozen papaya on a regular basis?!?  This makes for a uniquely flavored smoothie:

Trader Joe brings the exotic to you

Trader Joe brings the exotic to you

These are a yummy sweet treat.  I buy them in dark chocolate because a dose of dark chocolate is good for you. Mmmmm

These are delicious!!

These are delicious!!

I always meet the friendliest people at TJ’s.  This attests to the congenial atmosphere.  Oh, I almost forgot – this post would not be complete without me mentioning how amazed I was at a California Trader Joe’s I recently visited.  I was literally gasping out loud at each aisle I turned to (much to my daughter’s dismay).  I honestly could not contain myself to the variety of breads, hummus, cheeses, sauces and spreads, you name it, they had hundreds of each. Chalk one more up to a discerning grocery store for the discerning consumer.

GG gives Trader Joe’s an A+ for a pleasant, unique shopping experience.  Extra credit for fair pricing (often lower than larger grocery chain prices) and environmental friendliness (i.e. raffles to those who bring their own bags).

You’d Be Smart to Drink This

August 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Food, Reviews

We all do it – make resolutions at the beginning of the year and don’t keep them.  There is one resolution that I vow to keep each and every year, yet always fail.  It is the same thing that my mother has been telling me to do for as long as I can remember:  drink more.  How many of you have a mother who tells you to do that?!?

Seriously, I don’t drink enough water.  I never have and I used to think I never will.  As interested as I am to following an eat-clean diet, I cannot seem to master this one very important health habit.  I know all the reasons why I should:  flushes out toxins, raises metabolism, promotes healthy skin, etc.  I haven’t been able to swallow these benefits because I just don’t have a taste for water; it’s so plain to me.  I’ve tried mixing small amounts of flavored powder into my bottle water (Propel and Lipton’s Green Tea were my favorites).  This helped a little but I felt I was adding unnecessary additives.

Should be called Magic Water!

Should be called Magic Water!

One day a workout buddy gave me a bottle of Glacéau’s Smart Water.  I jokingly said, “Well, if it’s good enough for Jennifer Aniston, then it must be good enough for me.”  I drank my words that day because I actually finished the 20 bottle within a half hour (a feat for me . . . believe it).  Call me crazy but I taste a difference between this water and other bottled waters – and I’ve tried many of them in my search for the magic potion that will make me drink.  There’s something about it that goes down as easy as my favorite cranberry juice.  It is smoother than other bottled waters.

Here’s the smart facts on Smart Water ~ it is “vapor distilled electrolyte enhanced water” or, simply, water with electrolytes. This means it feels like you are drinking regular bottled water but you’re actually getting the added benefit of electrolytes (helps prevent dehydration), without getting the added  flavors and calories of other sports drinks.  We lose electrolytes when we sweat, yes, but the truth is we lose electrolytes throughout the day as we go through our daily activities too.  Electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of our body fluids constant.  If they are not constant, functions such as nerve impulses and muscle contractions are diminished.  Thus, water and electrolytes are very important to improved skin quality, reduce headaches, reduce infections, and even improve breath.

Staying on top of hydration is not difficult with Smart Water.  Grading Girl gives Glacéau’s Smart Water an A for the smooth taste of fresh water coupled with the indispensable electrolyte benefits.   Add several glasses per day and be well on the way to reaping the many benefits.  I know I am – after just two weeks since adding Smart Water to my everyday diet, I’ve gone from averaging 4 ounces of water a day to 50 ounces of water . . . and counting.  I’m on my way thanks to Smart Water!

GG Addendum on 8/20:  Thank you to Glacéau for the care package!  I’ll put the baseball hat to good use!! 🙂


CookBook Look

August 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Cookbooks, Reviews

I’m a perpetual experimental cook.  Whether it’s eat clean recipes to supplement my countless workouts, homemade ice cream with my ice cream maker (that totally contradicts the eat clean thing, doesn’t it . . . hey, I make yogurt and frozen ice too!), or mouth-watering baked goods, there’s no better therapy than to mix things up in the kitchen.  I just can’t seem to get my hands on enough cookbooks.  With only a few weeks left of summer before school begins again, I’m squeezing in as many new recipes as I can.  So, faithful readers, sit back for the first two of several cookbook reviews.  These are the two books I currently refer to the most often.  The sticky pages and crumpled post-its atttest to their usage.

The Most Decadent Diet Ever! by Devin Alexander

A recipe from this book, Greek Roasted Tilapia Fillets, was excerpted in Muscle & Fitness Hers magazine.  I tried it and was delighted to discover a quick, easy way to prepare a delicious fish dish that doesn’t taste “fishy.”  I was so impressed that I almost instantaneously ordered the cookbook online.  I’ve tried countless recipes since and am not exaggerating when I say there is not one I tried so far that my daughter nor I have disliked.

Recipes in here taste much more sinful than they are!

Recipes in here taste much more sinful than they are!

Here are some things I love about this cookbook ~

1.  Devin is real.  In her preface, she confesses to being overweight when she was a teenager.  She reveals her frustrations and trials and how she learned to forgo dieting and let food be the friend rather than the enemy through creative cooking.

2.  The “Decadent Diet” plan is not really a plan. It is not a matter of following an unnatural diet.  It is simply finding your estimated calorie requirements and deciphering those calories into “decadent disks,” the measurements Devin uses to measure the caloric count of each of her recipes.  Using the disks instead of calorie count makes it simpler when keeping track of your meals.  It is very easy to do for even the most arithmetically-challenged like myself:  every 100 calories = 1 Decadent Disk.  For example, my daily caloric intake should be 1200 calories (I just had this measured at my gym today!) so I should be eating 12 Decadent Disks worth of food.  Yum!

3.  Devin dishes delightful do’s and don’tsHer explanations are quick, understandable reads – no need for a background in health or nutrition.  She gives advice such as consuming less sodium each day, watching portions (which she meaures out nicely for each recipe), and combatting old excuses for eating well.  She stresses how happy you will be following her dietless diet, and I have to say I agree.  I can’t wait to continue typing and give you examples of some of the most delicious new recipes I’ve made in a while.

4.  Devin reveals her secret!! I won’t tell you what it is here – you’ll have to buy the book.  But I will tell you this is a secret that, if followed, will guarantee healthy, consistent weight loss for each and every person.

5.  Each pantry essential is defined. Not only do I use this part as a checklist to ensure my pantry is complete, but this section clearly defines even the most occasional staple that you may not otherwise be familiar with.

6.  The categories are comprehensive: from “Breakfasts,” “Burgers, Sandwiches, and Wraps,” “Salads,” “Entrees,” “Starchy Sides,” “Veggie Sides,” “Savory Snacks,” and “Sweet Snacks” . . . one could live off of this book!

7.  The recipes are easy to follow.  Most can be prepared within 10 – 20 minutes hands-on time.

8.  I’ve found some new favorites here:  (besides the Greek Roasted Tilapia Fillets mentioned above)

  • Chicken Enchilasagna – a cross between lasagna and enchiladas . . . I made this for a picky guest who came back for thirds.
  • Oven -Roasted Potatoes, Peppers, and Sweet Onions . . . even my no-veggie daughter eats this side dish.
  • Chocolate Chocolate Brownie Cups . . . Devin says you should make “platters of them to give to people you care about.”  I do and they are always a hit!
  • Easy and Energizing Carrot Cake . . . omg!  Move over Costco carrot cake (which I love), this one comes awfully close . . . the best part is, it is made very healthfully.  Don’t miss this one!

And there are more!  I’m still discovering them!  Grading Girl gives The Most Decadent Diet Ever an A+ for easy-to-follow, healthful recipes that even the most picky eater will not recognize as clean-eating.  We should take heed of Devin’s advice and start converting our old recipes in ways she’s created these.

The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

This was my first “eat clean” cookbook.  I was already a huge fan of Oxygen magazine, and Tosca Reno is an integral part of the magazine, serving on the advisory board and writing a monthly fitness column for women over 40.  As a fan of her advice, it didn’t take much to convince me to invest in her cookbook.  The fact that I since purchased her Eat Clean Diet for Family and Kids cookbook and Eat Clean Diet for Men cookbook attests to how much I value the recipes and information.

Here’s what I love about this cookbook ~

These recipes keep me energized and satisfied.

These recipes keep me energized and satisfied.

1.  Tosca Reno is a leader in the fitness industry. She is a motivational speaker, author, columnist, competitor, and television personality.  Looking as fabulous as she does at age 50, I’m certainly taking heed of her advice.  Her physique rivals that of many younger fitness competitors.

2.  The clean-eating principles are straight-forward and doable. Advice such as eating 5 – 6 small meals every day, drinking at least 8 cups of water a day, combining lean protein and complex carbs at every meal, etc. is advice worth remembering.

3.  Tosca Reno is a visual person. She says so herself in the book.  This is why she created a handy-dandy legend for each recipe that visually represents all the important facts such as serving size, prep time, cook time and is it gluten-free or vegetarian or vegan.

4.  There are unique categories of recipes.  There is an entire chapter devoted to homemade soups.  As Tosca Reno says, soups can be a meal in themselves, and she certainly offers some delectable unique choices . . . roasted red pepper soup, roasted butternut squash soup . . . to name a couple.  Another chapter centers on sauces, spreads, and salsas, another on proteins, another on one-dish and easy meals, another on sweets and breads, etc.

5.  Each recipe is naturally healthful. You can be confident that every ingredient required for each recipe is natural and clean.  Fresh fruits & veggies and herbs, low sodium, low sugar are characteristic of this book’s foods.  Last summer, when I first purchased this book, I ate recipes only from this book when I was contemplating competing in my first fitness competition.  I lost 8 pounds and decreased body fat by four percent – all within less than 2 months.

6. Tosca provides her own “two cents” with each recipe. This is always one of my favorite parts about cookbooks – I love when authors share how they serve the food, the compliments they’ve received, which ones are their favorites . . . I feel like I have a personal assistant there with me in the kitchen when they write personally as Tosca does.

7.  The end results usually look like you spent more time in the kitchen than you did. Tosca includes some of the most elegant yet simple recipes.  Plus, each and every recipe includes a photograph.  That’s HUGE for me since I like to see what my end result should look like.

8.  I have favorites in here that I’ve been cooking for a year now:

  • Eat-Clean Breakfast Burrito . . . I make this ahead of time for speedy breakfasts, and I’ve had this cold for lunch as well.  Who would have thought that cottage cheese and eggs mesh perfectly!
  • Swiss Muesli . . . oh so yummy . . . satisfies the sweet tooth beast in me!!! (without the sugar, of course)
  • Summer Roasted Salmon . . . such a quick way to prepare such an elegant dish . . . makes me truly enjoy salmon
  • Pumpkin Hummus . . . fabulous around Thanksgiving!!!!!

As with Devin Alexander’s book, I’m still discovering new kitchen creations.  Grading Girl gives The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook an A+ for eat-clean recipes that satisfy taste buds used to heavier, sweeter meals.  These are accompanied by helpful information, hints, and advice to stay on track with an eat-clean lifestyle.

These are two very different cookbooks yet they serve the same purpose – to provide healthful meals that taste delicious.  Both of these books accomplish this in their own way.    The Most Decadent Diet Ever! uses similar recipes to those we already have in our cooking repertoires and “cleans them up” with lower sodium content and healthful substitutions such as applesauce for sugar.  The end result is tantalizing taste not sacrificed for lower caloric count.  The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook gently transitions us from someone who tries to watch what he/she eats to someone who starts to automatically eat clean at every meal.  While I recommend both books wholeheartedly, The Most Decadent Diet Ever! is a good one to start with if you are just beginning your eat-clean lifestyle.  The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook is perfect if you have been working out for a few years and are tired of not seeing the results you’d like to see in the gym.  I keep reading how achieving the physique we want consists of 80% diet and 20% working out.  Eating right plays a key role in everything we do.  Why not invest in one or both of these books to be on your way to a more healthful lifestyle?


A TLC review of TLC!

August 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Favorites, Food, Reviews

A Favorite Snack

A very healthful snack

A very healthful snack

Addendum to this original postThank you to Kashi for sending the coupons for free snacks!  It is easy and enjoyable for me to review such delicious yet nutritious snacks.

How would you feel if you walked into a grocery store and saw your initials plastered all over products on the shelves?  If you’re like me, you’d be a little excited, a lot curious, and extremely likely to purchase them.  One day not too long ago, I was looking for crackers to serve at a party.  I planned on purchasing another leading brand but then I spotted it – a box of crackers with my initials, TLC!!  (I’m talking about my birth initials, peeps, not my blog initials. 😉 )

I snatched the box, read the nutrition information on the side, and was pleasantly surprised to find the crispy critters are low in fat, high in fiber, and full of nutritional ingredients such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, and sesame seeds.  Honestly, I would have bought the crackers just to have the box with my initials; but, I ended up purchasing much more than a keepsake box.  I made my first of many purchases of the doesn’t-taste-as-healthful-as-they-are crackers.  These TLC crackers come in a variety of yummy flavors such as Country Cheddar, Toasted Asiago, Honey Sesame, and (my favorite) Fire Roasted Vegetable!  The crunchy crackers with the leaf imprint leave you satisfied and energized.  Check this out – no trans fat.  Being the kind of person who likes to make the extraordinary out of ordinary activities, I had my daughter try the TLC crackers and Wheat Thins while blindfolded.  I asked her to choose which one she preferred:  she chose the TLCs!!  This, coming from a girl who usually turns her nose up at my attempt to substitute eat clean products for old favorites, attests to the taste of these little gems.  I enjoy them with my Hummus to Hum About, with cheese, or even naked with nothing on them at all!  They are that good.  I LOVE finding snacks like this when I’m hosting parties . . . snacks that will keep my guests satisfied while not veering off of my own eat clean diet.  Win win!!

The TLC products are made by Kashi, the very healthful food company.  Prior to discovering the crackers, I was already and still am a big fan of the Kashi cereals.  Since finding the crackers, I’ve been on the lookout for other great products by Kashi.  The TLC products consist of the company’s line of snacks and bars, the TLC standing for Tasty Little Crackers (how adorable!), Tasty Little Chewies, Tasty Little Cookies, and Tasty Little Crunchies.  Since faithfully purchasing the crackers, I made another recent TLC find just this past month:  the TLC Honey Almond Flax All Natural Chewy Granola Bars (pictured above) a.k.a. Tasty Little Chewie.  This is big news because I am VERY picky about my snack bars . . . so picky that I don’t purchase them that often.  I am turned off by all the unnatural additives, unnecessary fat, or high caloric content.  These, in fact, are free of any refined sugars and artificial ingredients.  They are packed with seven types of grain including whole wheat, rye, barley, oats, brown rice, seasame seeds, and buckwheat.  They live up to their name . . . they are chewy and just sweet enough to satisfy taste buds.  I now keep one stashed in my purse for those times when I’m in-between working out and chores, knowing I won’t be home for a while to eat a meal.  With seven grams of protein per serving, they serve as a quality post-workout snack to maintain lean muscle.  Finally, with each bar adding up to only 140 calories, eating one of these leaves me satisfied without the guilt.  Kashi makes it possible to eat clean on the go.

My favorite crackers - all the flavors are delicious

My favorite crackers - all the flavors are delicious

GG gives both the Kashi TLC crackers and the Kashi TLC Honey Almond Flax bars an A for healthful nutritional content accompanied by tantalizing taste.  I recommend trying these products along with Kashi’s other offerings including their very healthful cereals, cookies, and frozen entrees.  Thank you, Kashi, for spreading a little TLC.  The world is that much more healthy when we have healthful foods such as yours to choose from.

GG’s side note:  When I was preparing to write this blog and visited the Kashi website, I couldn’t help but notice what a people-oriented company Kashi seems to be.  Between the daily challenges to the recipes to the wellness hub, Kashi certainly is dedicated to making our world a more healthful place.  We need more companies like this!  See for yourself:  www.kashi.com

GG at the Movies – The Ugly Truth

July 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

Before seeing this, I was at a party when someone told me she didn’t really like this movie because the ending was predictable.  While I was able to guess the resolution, I still enjoyed watching it unfold.  The truth is that The Ugly Truth is a funny, sweet, and light escape.  Not a true “chick flick,” this movie will make both men and women tick.

Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler

Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler

In The Ugly Truth,  Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a morning show producer whose search for Mr. Perfect has left her single. She’s in for a rude awakening when her bosses team her with Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a hardcore TV personality who promises to spill the ugly truth on what makes men tick.  Heigl plays her role as the “psycho aggressive control freak” career woman with conviction and Butler plays the pig-headed anchorman with sexy nonchalance.  At first, Mike appears to be the complete opposite of the attribute list Abby has put together for her perfect man.  You know the list, ladies, all those things you’re looking for in Mr. Right:  sense of humour, sensitivity, career success, good looks….  Abby’s list is that and more.  In fact, she brings this list on dates and checks off the qualities as she discovers them in a potential mate.  One can see why she hasn’t had much luck in love.  Along comes Mike Chadway who promises to help her get the guy of her dreams if she, in turn, promises to let him stay as anchorman for her show once she gets that guy.  He’s that confident.  Here’s where the fun starts:  Mike is very, very blunt in what makes guys tick.  He believes all men are perverse and isn’t afraid to say so.  Without spilling every reveal, one point he makes clear is that men are very visual. . . and so the venture begins.  Abby transforms herself according to Mike’s advice, she does get the guy but later learns he’s actually not the dream guy.  It’s fun to watch these two bicker back and forth as they fight the obvious spark between them.  It’s even more fun to laugh at (or balk at) some of the things Mike has to say about how a woman should ‘get the guy.’  Speaking of transformation, the supporting cast is lovably quirky:  My favorites are John Michael Higgins, who plays a sexually frustrated anchor on Abby’s show and Cheryl Hines as the prudish wife and co-anchor.  The change this couple makes under Mike’s influence serves as hilarious background.

Grading Girl gives The Ugly Truth a B.  Yes, the ending is predictable . . . I don’t even need to reveal it here; you can guess what unfolds.  Credit needs to be given, however, for the funny lines, for the obvious chemistry between Heigl and Butler, and for the quirky supporting cast.  This movie is worth the ticket price.  If nothing else, you’ll walk away with a debatable topic to discuss – that is, what you think the ugly truth is between men and women.  How should a girl go about attracting the man she wants to date?  What do men want?  What pushes a man’s buttons?  What pushes a woman’s?  Is it all about looks in the end?

Grading Girl thinks the ugly truth is that timing is everything, by the way.  😉

Extra credit for some pieces of Heigl’s wardrobe . . . I WANT that low back black dress she wears in the movie!!!  I need to find out where and how to get it!

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