chocolate oatmeal cookies
No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. Photo courtesy of delish.com

Who said kids can’t bake?

One of my fondest memories as a kid was a day spent making polvoron (Filipino milk candy) with two childhood friends. We had the Starlight Express soundtrack playing in the background (who knows why) and my grandma watched as three 10-year-olds made a mess of her kitchen. Then we walked door-to-door and sold them to the neighbors. This was under the scorching heat of summer in Manila, mind you. We made no money, but it was a great day.

Here’s a list of quick and simple dessert recipes you might want to try making with your kids (or making yourselves). They require microwave, freezer, or stove tops–no ovens. They’re so easy,even kids can make ’em!

1. Microwave Chocolate Crisp Bars

Think Rice Krispie treats smothered with chocolate, inside and out. YUM. Click here for the step-by-step process.

In minutes: 5

2. Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie

In minutes: 30

This is as simple as it gets. Plus, you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboard, save for maybe vanilla and cocoa powder (which are must-haves anyway).

3. Frozen Chocolate Mint Squares

In minutes: 15-30

Mint adds a whole new dimension to chocolate. These mint squares might be the perfect way to cool down this summer.

On a side note.. Sunday is Father’s Day! Check out this blogger post on bad, bad, baaaaad Father’s Day cakes.

Happy Weekend!

– Kris Alcantara

Today’s Sugarhigh: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds

Score: A- it’s a classic!

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Courtesy of Google images

Courtesy of Google images

Most people think they aren’t flexible enough for yoga.

They’re wrong. You don’t need flexibility to go to yoga — that’s what the practice is there for: to stretch and improve your malleability.

Some think they’re too old to do yoga.

Courtesy of Google images

Courtesy of Google images

They’re wrong too. There are yogis in my classes that are in their 70s and far better than me.

And there are others who think they don’t have a body meant for yoga.

Guess what? They’re wrong as well.

Yoga is for anyone — there are no age, characterstic, or size limitations.

Yoga is meant for any body shape and plus size yoga studios recently popped up across the nation.

Plus size yoga modifies regular poses for gals that might have a little trouble bending and moving as someone smaller than them.

Courtesy of Google images

Courtesy of Google images

There are even plus size yoga clothing lines and plus size yoga DVDs.

Pregnant yoginis can even practice yoga. There’s prenatal yoga or poses can easily be modified as well.

Courtesy of Google images

Courtesy of Google images

One of my instructors is pregnant and always jokes that if she can do it, we can do it.

And with a five inch belly on her, it’s true. (Although, she’s surprisingly still a lot more advanced than me).

There’s no excuse not to hop on a yoga mat. It’s truly a practice for everyone.

Yoga high:0

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott

Lately I feel like there’s a figurative storm looming above me, and I should feel threatened by these gray clouds and mumbled thunder in the distance.

Guess what? Not scared.

There’s no point in fearing for the future if you know you’re prepared–or at least preparing–for the impending storm. I’m confident in my abilities and strengths. And I’m aware of my weaknesses, and I appreciate those people who genuinely want to see me succeed. I’m not too concerned by the downers who want to step in my way.

If you’re questioning your future or your ability to achieve your goals, remind yourself of the steps you’ve taken to get where you are, and continue taking the steps to master your area of expertise.

I referenced the Desiderata in my earliest blog post. There’s another part of this poem/prayer that fits with today’s topic:

“Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

Stick to your goals, know that you’re qualified and only enhancing the quality of your craft. No one can take away your talent or your dreams.

You didn’t get as far as you are by floating on luck alone.

SJ

While watching the straight-to-DVD masterpiece (read: piece of crap) Gray Matters earlier this week, starring one of my biggest celeb crushes, Tom Cavanagh, it occurred to me he had a connection to divorce. Cavanagh starred as the titular character in Ed, NBC’s all too short-lived (and tragically unavailable on DVD) series, and one of my favorite shows of all time.

photo courtesy of michigandaily.com

photo courtesy of michigandaily.com

Ed Stevens returns to his hometown of Stuckeyville, Ohio, after being fired from his high profile New York City law firm and subsequently discovering his wife in bed with another man. When he returns to Stuckeyville, he runs into his high school crush, Carol Vessey, and when she unexpectedly kisses him, he decides to buy the local bowling alley and set up his own law practice there.

The series struck a great balance between serious and sweet, and leaned heavily on the quirky characters populating the town and Stuckeybowl. Employee Phil (played by the hilarious Michael Ian Black — another celeb crush) constantly came up with harebrained schemes, like writing an alternative to “Happy Birthday” so he wouldn’t have to pay royalties. Ed and his best friend Mike challenged each other to an ongoing series of ridiculous $10 bets, like the infamous “Burger Me” restaurant order (and this one, my personal favorite).

Divorce as the driving catalyst for the changes in Ed’s life was perhaps a bit of a cliche (a man “wakes up” and “discovers himself” after severing his marriage bonds!), but it worked for the show, since it gave Cavanagh an opportunity to play to his strengths, and be at once charming, vulnerable, serious, romantic, goofy, and adorable. (Okay, so maybe I have more than just a crush.) Glossing over the fact that Ed’s ex Liz was played by several different actresses over the show’s four seasons (including Janeane Garofalo and Lea Thompson), Liz’s presence — and lack thereof — in Ed’s life was an important linchpin for the series.

Season one’s “Something Old, Something New” was an especially revealing episode, as it allowed Ed to deal with the dissolution of his marriage in the wake of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday he’d be spending without his soon-to-be-ex wife. And were it not for Liz’s cheatin’ ways, Ed never would have moved home, wooed Carol, and then come up with the best marriage proposal of all time (sadly, that clip lacks the original music, Old 97’s – “Question.” Sync these two up and enjoy).

– Katie Nowak

Menstruation isn’t usually a topic I seek out at the bookstore…but for some reason, when health advice is written out in pseudo-astrological terms, I’m all about it.

You know that mysterious week or so every month when you look in the mirror and instead of thinking, “Eww,” you think, “Hell yeah”? That’s what this book, The Venus Week: Discover the Powerful Secret of Your Cycle…At Any Age, by Rebecca Booth, MD, ob/gyn, is about. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m thinkin’ I oughtta.

Courtesy of Tower.com

Image courtesy of tower.com

According to Dr. Booth, the Venus Week is “a cache of days, which happens around the same time each month [and is] the convergence of a woman’s mind, body, and sexuality. When women learn to lean into this tremendously powerful energy, suddenly their hormones become their greatest ally—instead of their biggest foe.”

I’ve always noticed those few fleeting days when my skin glows, acne fades, my hair feels shinier, my body feels agile, and I’m just generally at peace with the world, but I’ve never really understood what’s going on. I just chalk it up to fluke good hair days or give all the credit to some new skin product I’m using.

No, Dr. Booth says. That attractive glow and happy feeling comes from within you. And the book gives tips on how to harness that sparkle as well as to prolong it into your “waning” or “Minerva” days (also known as your “everything sucks and I hate my hair” days.)

None of the diet, exercise, and beauty advice the book offers sound revelatory, however, critics say that the tips are simple, pointed, and easy to carry out.

The monthly cycle has always gotten a bad rap — PMS horror myths, the way men wrinkle their nose at the word “tampon,” cramps, the myriad crass slang words for your period, all of that. It’s nice to have an authoritative resource that highlights the positives of a woman’s cycle.

Check out this book review from the Washington Post. And, for the technologically inclined, you can now get the book on Kindle.

– Ms. Feelgood

Today’s practice was about surrendering.

Surrendering to those things you cannot control and being OK with giving up some of your own control. It’s a hard feat for many, myself included.

So, as I surrendered to my thoughts, feelings, and life, I began my surrender to my practice. I focused on being OK with the things I couldn’t do today (I was a little stiff) and to challenge myself to my comfortable edge.

And of course, the teacher today challenged us by introducing partner downward facing dog.

I don’t like partner poses because:

1. You have to interact and touch with strangers and,

2. I’m always afraid they’ll judge how good (or bad) you are at yoga. The rest of the class usually feels the same as everyone’s face drops or goes white when we hear we have to do partner poses.

And double downward facing dog is a do-sy because you have to put your feet up on your partner (who is in downward facing dog) and rest on top of them.

It looks like something you’d see in a yoga competition — yes, they do exist and people can contort themselves in unimaginable ways. (See image below).

Courtesy of UnderdogNation.com

Courtesy of UnderdogNation.com

The purpose: to get you used to pushing back and root your hands into the ground.

Often in downward facing dog, the palm of the hands lift or you aren’t lifting your hips and pushing back enough. With a partner on top of you, you don’t have a choice.

It was an interesting sensation, and surprsingly, you can’t even feel the person on top of you nor did anyone get hurt.

I must admit, I couldn’t get myself to surrender completely to the pose and get all the way up.

But I’m working on it. I did my best for the day and that’s all I can ask for.

Yoga high: 2.5

So we’ve all heard of consignment shops, but ever tried to take a gander and step inside? You’d be surprised at what you’ll find. For me, I found a mess and a half. And this was no normal small little closet of a place. I’m talking about Filene’s Basement in downtown Chicago, IL. It was huge. Jeans, blouses, dresses, shoes, and accessories galore. Even such things as umbrellas, bath and body products, make up, and home furnishings. But I walked around that whole store twice and found nothing worth swiping my debit for. I didn’t want to force myself to make a purchase, and I didn’t have to.

So what’s the best way to shop designer cheap? Online I say! There are consignment type stores popping up all over the web, and they are becoming hot hot hot! How hot? Many times when I get on these sites, much of the cute stuff is sold the hell out — that’s how hot they are (so get on it ladies and gents). But no worries, plenty of delicious choices are always available. The trick with these websites is how to catch the best sales at the right time, because most of them are timed to only let you shop from a specific designer for a set amount of hours on a chosen day. Best part is, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your desk, or couch … or bed (for the uber lazy–i.e. myself).

Haute Look

Want accessories, watches, perfumes, clothes, etc, etc, etc? This site will have you stylin’ in some hot designer gear asap.

Positives to Hautelook.com:

  • Great variety in different types of fashion products
  • Huge sales on designer products. Up to 70% off on some items
  • Products for women, men, and children

Negatives to Hautelook.com

  • Limited time sales. Fix: make sure you have alerts of designers emailed to you so you are catching your faves!
  • Only three sales going on at a time
  • Cannot peek at upcoming sales

Rue La La

Ool la la right? Right. Talk about some tippity top designers in everything from clothes to shoes to china to cutlery. Not to mention 500 other things. This super exclusive site caters to women, children, and men, dressing them in some pretty studly items. This online boutique host also has limited time sales until each designer store shuts down (usually a two day sale). However, since Rue La La is invite only, you can’t just sign up whenever. But let me know if you want an invite and I shall send you one!

Positives of RueLaLa

  • Amazing selection
  • Longer lasting sales
  • Great home products
  • More exclusive
  • Up to 70% and more off
  • More sales going on at a time (Right now seven sales are on!)
  • Can preview upcoming sales

Negatives to RueLaLa

  • Invite only

-ds

We all know that exercise does a body good but what about the brain? Exercise can improve the brain’s cognitive functioning, especially as we get older.

Many times you’ll catch someone doing crossword puzzles or jumping around to their favorite song, but what they don’t know is that they are stimulating the brain while doing it.

Mental (reading and writing) and physical (exercise and movement) activities become important stimulants for brain health. How many times have you seen people affected by a stroke? or alzheimer’s disease. Those are examples of not having good brain health, and can be prevented by doing daily doses of exercise and playing a fun game of scattergories.

The way it works:
Exercise improves the blood flow to the brain and promotes the functions of neurons. Many of these effects take place in the region of the brain that is used for memory and learning.

Hippocampus (responsible for memories and learning)

– Skylaur Morris

(Brain photo, courtesy of google images)

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Suess

Never apologize for being yourself. Granted, this advice doesn’t warrant unnecessarily rude or extreme behavior.

Be yourself. Cultivate your personality, strengths of character. If you’re genuinely happy with the person you are, the people around you that actually matter will be just as happy with you. If you’re constantly treated with disregard or cynicism, rid your life of the naysayers and cynics.

Negative people are toxic. Make every effort to be on good terms with those around you, but cut out the human diseases who are out to harm you. You’re smart enough to know who your friends are and who’s not worth the time of day.

In yesterday’s Essence of Essjay, I referenced the concept of “home,” the place where you’re understood and accepted for who you are. Recreate a sense of home wherever you go by seeking the company of supportive and loving individuals who sincerely appreciate your company and every aspect of your rich personality.

-sj

Divorce isn’t limited to people; TV shows are just as susceptible to broken bonds, heartbreak, and confusion. Take the recent example of Project Runway, the addictive fashion competition show that got caught up in a nasty custody battle between its producers and its past and present network homes, Bravo and Lifetime.

The trio dragged the show into an ugly legal brawl when PR changed allegiances and changed scenery — both channel and city — for its sixth season. After Lifetime completed the coup of the century (and suddenly had the opportunity to change their image from Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? cheese factory to fashionista central), their celebration didn’t last long.

NBC Universal, parent company to Bravo, hit both Lifetime and PR stakeholders, the Weinstein Co. with lawsuits. Lifetime countersued, and before you could say “auf wiedersehen,” the show was in legal limbo. Season six production wrapped with a decidedly downbeat blind showing at February’s New York Fashion Week, and virtually nothing is known about this season’s contestants. As Entertainment Weekly reported, this could have been PR‘s lost season, never to see the light of day.

Thankfully, after nearly a year of trading barbs and lawsuits, all three parties calmed down and settled their differences, and — FINALLY — Project Runway‘s Lifetime debut is slated for August 20. Only time will tell if this traumatic split will have any lasting effects on the show’s quality. But given PR‘s insane popularity and its ability to weather such a brutal storm, I have a feeling they’ll make it work.

–katie nowak