Why Advocacy Matters

Texas State Capitol

Yesterday may have seemed like just an ordinary Tuesday, but in reality it was one of the most exciting days for Texas and Tennessee pharmacy! In a random coincidence of happenstance, yesterday was both the Texas and Tennessee Pharmacy Day on the Hill. Our team member Catlina is a pharmacist in both of these states. She has helped coordinate multiple hill visits and has been involved in advocacy her entire pharmacy career. But the real question is why does advocacy even matter?

Congress has historically been one of the least trusted professions. Gallup polls rate members of congress at the absolute bottom of the list even with used car salespeople. Healthcare workers however, are among the most trusted. Nurses, medical doctors, and pharmacists have consistently been the top three highest ranked professions in regards to trust. Yet even though there is such a large gap it is important for the professions to work together. Pharmacy is THE most regulated profession in the entire world. No other profession has the licensing requirements, board oversight, laws, rules, and regulations that dictate how pharmacists practice each and every day.

Picture any activity you do in a pharmacy. Patient counseling? Mandated by OBRA 90. Displaying licenses? Mandated by board of pharmacy rule. Verifying orders? Mandated by the most complex combination of laws and rules imaginable. These lawmakers do not work in pharmacies. While there may be a few pharmacists in the legislature (Tennessee has 3, one of which is the lieutenant governor), these individuals are the exception rather than the norm. They do not understand the typical workflow of a pharmacy, and how we operate.

Tennessee Advocacy

As an example, here in Tennessee we had a bill proposed that would make it illegal for a pharmacist (or anybody) to eat behind the counter of a pharmacy. A patient had come to the pharmacy counter to pick up her medication, and she saw a pharmacist eating some peanuts behind the counter. While she was not allergic to peanuts, she got very upset by this, and called her local congressman. He then introduced a bill that would make it where no food would be allowed in the pharmacy for fear of contamination. This was a valid concern, as it is estimated that anywhere from 0.6%-1.3% of all people are allergic to peanuts.

However, what was not understood by this individual and the congressman who introduced the bill, was the extensive process we go through in a pharmacy to ensure a safe environment. The workflow of a pharmacy was also not well understood. As it is very common for a pharmacy to have only one pharmacist. This pharmacist is typically working through their lunch due to the need to counsel patients. It is very possible that those few peanuts the pharmacist ate were the only food she was able to eat all day. She then would have been legally required to wash her hands before handling any medication, and would have sanitized any counting trays used before counting any more prescriptions. When viewed in this light, and with the already existing sanitation laws in place, a few peanuts may not seem so harmful.

One person was able to potentially change the practice of pharmacy forever. This individual did not have any special relationship with the congressman. She was simply a concerned citizen who made a phone call. This is exactly why days on the hill are so important. Both Texas and Tennessee pharmacists were able to meet their elected legislators yesterday, and discuss issues that were important to them. When we show up at the capitol building in numbers like we do on these days, it is hard to not notice.

Texas Advocacy

Let me give you another example from Texas. Texas is one of only 5 states that does not currently allow for physician dispensing. This means that all prescriptions have to go through a pharmacy, and meet the strict requirements placed by the board of pharmacy and our state and federal rules, ensuring that safety measures are in place such as washing hands and sanitizing counting trays. There was a bill 3 years ago that would have allowed for limited physician dispensing for certain medications, completely avoiding these safeguards. When this bill was brought up in committee, I organized a group of 33 student pharmacists to go to the capitol. All we did was sit in the back of the room, in our white coats, and register in opposition to the bill. One signature and one seat was all we needed. Because of our presence in that room the bill was voted down in committee, and physician dispensing was not passed.

Catlina and Congresswoman
Catlina having a terrible hair day as she meets with her San Antonio Congresswoman

What Can You Do?

These stories show just how much of a difference you can make on the legislative process. All it took was one phone call about peanuts to get a bill introduced. All it took was a few signatures and showing up to get a bill to fail. My current position has me following 26 bills, and going to committee and subcommittee meetings almost daily during our legislative season. I can tell you from experience the majority of meetings have no members of the public attend. The majority of legislators have not heard from the people they represent. When a member of the public does show up it is noticed, and it has a large affect. That one phone call, that one letter, that one meeting that you show up for, really do make a difference.

So to all the pharmacists who attended these inspiring events yesterday, we here at Poise and Potions congratulate you. The difference you make may not seem like much, but every chance we have to get our voices heard is critical. We have to start advocating for ourselves as a profession. Pharmacists must insist on getting fair lunch breaks, and reasonable drug prices for our patients. We cannot let those who are not pharmacists dictate the practice of pharmacy.

Every profession, no matter if it is dancing, medicine, painting, nursing, architecture, or anything else is regulated in some way. So why not control the way we practice our profession?

Catlina and Taylor
Catlina at the Texas Day at the Hill 2016

Even if it is not through an official event you can still meet with your legislator at any time. Don’t hesitate to make those calls, and stand up for what you need. You would be surprised just how easy advocacy is.

I hope this article is inspiring, and encourages you to reach out. You can also reach out to us at any time, by contacting Poise and Potions. We want to hear how you have interacted with the legislative process and advocated for YOUR profession!

 

Do Drug Expiration Dates Really Matter?

Glitter Pills

I have been sick with the flu for almost an entire week now, and let me tell you, if you ever want a great abdominal workout just get the flu and cough up a lung for a week straight. I’m going to have a 6-pack by the time I am fully recovered! If you would literally do anything else then get the flu like a normal person, just get your flu shot. It’s much more fun than this ‘workout’ I promise. But in all seriousness, when I first got sick I did what everybody does, and looked at my medicine cabinet. I had a whole collection of pills and potions, half of which were expired. Has this ever happened to you? You are terribly sick and only have expired drugs, and debate if it’s worth going to the store to get new ones or just risk using the expired meds you already have? You’re not alone. As much as I would love to say the good pharmacist in me never let any expired drugs into my house I am still human. And this got me to wondering do drug expiration dates really matter?

I want to preface this article with a gentle reminder that while I am a pharmacist, I am not YOUR pharmacist. Medical advice over the internet is never a substitute for discussing your individual health needs with a physician or pharmacist face to face. It is never recommended to take expired meds, however I am fully aware that the temptation is there and I want to do my best to present the facts to you so that you and your medical team can make the best decision for you. This article is written more scientifically than most of our posts as it is my hope that you will print this out and take it to your pharmacist or physician to discuss with them, and use the resources listed to check the claims I make and come to your own conclusions. With that being said, let’s find out if drug expiration dates really matter.

Why Drug Expiration Dates Matter

Under section 501(a)(2)(B) of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), manufacturers of prescription drug products establish controls for the manufacture, processing, packing, and holding of drug products to ensure their safety. Requirements for these controls are known as current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs), and include the requirement of an expiration date as of 1979. Current requirements include medications to be within 90%-110% of their stated potency.1 The FDA defines an expiration date as “the date placed on the container/label of a drug product designating the time during which a batch of the product is expected to remain within the approved shelf life specifications if stored under defined conditions, and after which it may not be used.”

The expiration date is determined by a review of documentation submitted to the FDA in a New Drug Application (NDA). This includes a stability assessment of the new drug substance and product (dosage form). The stability assessment follows procedures agreed upon by the United States, European Union, and Japan established at the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH). How the stability assessments are conducted varies based on the substance and its dosage form, however stress tests are performed evaluating the effects of elevated temperature and humidity, oxidation and photolysis, and hydrolysis over a wide range of pH values.1Expiration dates for prescription drugs (and over the counter drugs) that are subject to premarket approval requirements are based on the amount of real time data available at the time of FDA approval of the NDA.

However, the expiration date may be extended as long as adequate data is provided to the FDA. This is rarely done however, as there is traditionally no incentive to extending expiration dates and extension is strictly voluntary. According to PhRMA, the initial expiration dating for prescription drug products is usually between 18 and 24 months, and expiration dates can range from 12 to 60 months. As of 2006 no drug has an expiration date longer than 60 months. As a general rule, solid dosage forms tend to have longer expiration dates than liquid ones.2

Many studies have proven stability of medications beyond their expiration date. Reducing waste is a key way to reduce healthcare costs and extending expiration dates is one tool through which this can be accomplished. In 1986, the FDA and the Department of Defense (DoD) singed an interagency agreement to “conduct a comprehensive, scientifically sound testing and evaluation program that will determine whether there is justification for extending the shelf life of stored medical items owned by components of DoD or their authorized program partners.”3This created the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) providing the FDA with the largest data source of expired medications to date. From this study, Robbe et al published in 2006 that 122 medications have been tested and 88% were extended past their original expiration date for an average of 66 months.4

Some manufacturers have extended expiration dates during times of drug shortages. In June, 2017 the FDA posted extended expiration dates for batches of injectable atropine, dextrose, epinephrine, and sodium bicarbonate manufactured by Pfizer. This resulted in one hospital, Newton-Wellesley, saving $7,500 in drugs that were in short supply.2

It is important to note that once the manufacturers container is opened and a drug product is transferred to another container for dispensing and repackaging the expiration date no longer applies. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) provide guidance to pharmacists on placing a “beyond use date” on the label of the new container.2

The AMA has resolutions drafted by its house of delegates stating that the AMA “Urges the pharmaceutical industry, in collaboration with purchasers, the FDA, and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), to determine whether lengthening of expiration dates will provide clinical and/or economic benefits or risks for patients and, if this is the case, to conduct longer stability testing on their drug products.”2They have written many letters and provided many public comments on this topic.T

The SLEP Study

The SLEP study contains the most comprehensive database of long-term stability data in existence. This study published its research on 122 medications (3005 lots) in 2006.5Of the 3005 lots tested, 2650 were extended past their original expiration date. 1237 lots were found to be still viable at 70 months past their expiration date, and were abated before failure and were not studied past this time. Of the 479 lots that eventually failed no lots failed prior to one year past their expiration date, and 312 lots were extended beyond 4 years.

The DoD maintains a stockpile of medications worth around $13.6 billion as of 2016.6Based on the SLEP program and their research the DoD has been able to extend the expiration dates of medications saving $2.1 billion in 2016.6The cost of running the SLEP program in 2016 was $3.1 million resulting in a return on investment of $677 per dollar spent on this program. It is important to note that while many states and hospitals also maintain stockpiles of medications the data used from this study are proprietary to federal agencies such as the DoD, the Center for Disease Control’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), and the Veterans Administration (VA).3Non-federal or civilian agencies (including state stockpiles) may not avail themselves of this program.

The medications included in the SLEP study are medications that have been selected specifically for their likelihood of being stable past their expiration dates and have been properly stored under conditions consistent with CGMPs and thus cannot be generalizable to medications that have not been stored under these conditions.3There is much interest in states access to SLEP study data. Kozak et all studied patient attitudes towards unused and expired medication (UEM) in Indiana, and discovered that 40% of patients were unaware of a medication take-back location in their community, and while 77% were willing to drive to a take-back location to return UEM, only 15% had utilized take-back locations.7 Kuspis et all surveyed patients and pharmacies, and out of the 500 people surveyed only 1.4% returned medications to a pharmacy, and out of 100 pharmacies only 5% had consistent recommendations for their customers on drug disposal.8

The SLEP study has evaluated over 500 medications however most of this data is unpublished. Even with the data being unpublished the FDA has used the data to improve manufacturing practices.2,3,9 One study conducted by the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) field laboratory evaluated Mark 1 Nerve Agent Antidote Kits containing atropine sulfate. Five out of every six atropine autoinjectors failed the stability testing due to brown particulate matter or cloudy brown solution.3Further testing revealed that the discoloration was a result of leaching iron from the stopper. The FDA can now use this data to advise the use of non-iron containing stoppers as a potential method of increasing the shelf life of these autoinjectors.

Other Studies

Research on medication stability past it’s expiration date has also been done in the civilian sector. Cantrell et al evaluated 31 expired EpiPens and 9 EpiPen Jrs all of which were 1 to 50 months past their expiration date.10 19 of the EpiPens (65%) and 5 of the Epipen Jrs (56%) contained at least 90% of their stated amount of epinephrine and all of them contained at least 80% their stated amount of epinephrine. This study asked for consumers to donate their autoinjectors. By using donated auto injectors they were able to get a more realistic view, as these medications were commonly stored in cars, humid bathrooms, or other less than optimal settings,

Teder et al evaluated expired and non-expired nifedipine formulations from Estonia and Russia and used IR spectroscopy, HPLC analysis, and evaluation of dissolution rates to compare the drugs to current European Pharmacopeia Standards.11 All tested products had at least 80% nifedipine and did not exceed tolerance limits for impurities. Expired nifedipine formulations did however release faster than their non-expired counterparts.

Binkhathlan et al evaluated tacrolimus extracted from expired Prograf®capsules and established through multiple tests including gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and differential scanning that extracted/purified tacrolimus retains its purity and immunosuppressive action.12

Tetracyclines, and their safety past expiration dates, have been highly debated. One report in 1963 by Frimpter et all discovered three cases of Fanconi Syndrome and postulated that the either the tetracycline degradation product epi-anhydrotetracycline or anhydrotetracycline was responsible.13However the SLEP study encountered no toxicity with tetracycline and found batches effective more that two years past their expiration dates.9

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are one of the few medications that have not been studied past their expiration date. This is potentially due to newer drugs like SSRIs and SNRIs being more common in practice as they have safer toxicity profiles.14According to a review of antidepressant overdose cases gathered from calls to Poison Control Centers, tricyclic antidepressants account for the second highest mortality index of all anti-depressants (40.7 per 10,000 exposures).15Only combination products such as olanzapine/fluoxetine and perphenazine/amitryptyline has a higher mortality index (45.7 per 10,000 exposures). It is worth nothing that the perphenazine/amitriptyline combination product has the highest mortality rate out of the combination products listed (74.1 out of 10,000), and that out of the individual products the TCAs had the highest specifically Amoxapine (124.2 out of 10,000) and Desipramine (141 out of 10,000). This toxicity is due to the cardiac effects of tricyclic antidepressants including dysrhythmias, EKG changes such as prolongation of conduction time, prolonged PR intervals and increased corrected pre-ejection period interval.14

Conclusion

Overall, there is much evidence for the safety and efficacy of medications past their stated expiration date. Many factors are involved in the lack of testing for extension of expiration dates. These include a lack of incentives, the high cost of testing, and the high burden of proof required to be submitted to the FDA. Much can be done to change this, however pharmaceutical companies fiercely fight to keep expiration dates within the traditional two to three year window. Drug manufacturers use patient safety as a defense, due to creation of new marketing materials in that time-frame. They claim patients may get confused between the old and new labeling.

Solid dosage forms tend to be more stable than liquid ones, and many medications, both solid and liquid, have been studied 70 months past their stated expiration dates in the SLEP study. The SLEP study has lead to massive cost savings in the DoD, SNS, and VA systems. This information is proprietary however, and while there is much interest in extending this information to the private sector and states, they argue that such programs would not result in equitable cost savings due to the unique set-up of entities involved in SLEP.

The SLEP study has also provided the FDA with information that can be used in guiding manufacturing pharmaceutical products to improve stability, such as using non-iron containing stoppers. Tetracyclines and tricyclic antidepressants are just a few examples of the need for more research into the safety and efficacy of medication past their expiration dates, as evidence to their harm is inconclusive.

Many medications have been tested past their expiration date, however the FDA, USP, and APhA currently all advise against the use of medications past their expiration date. The AMA also advises against the use of medications past their expiration date, however the have urged the FDA, USP and the pharmaceutical industry to continue to explore the safety, efficacy, risk, and economic benefits of extending expiration dates.

So with all this being said, do drug expiration dates really matter? The answer is honestly, it depends on the drug. There are a few drugs that can become toxic when taken past their expiration dates, however most drugs simply lose potency This means they may not be as effective as usual but will still be marginally effective and may still provide some benefit. I hope this helps! Let us know if you like these types of articles and we will be happy to provide more!

References:

1.     Commissioner, O. of the. (n.d.). MCM Legal, Regulatory and Policy Framework – Expiration Dating Extension [WebContent]. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/EmergencyPreparedness/Counterterrorism/MedicalCountermeasures/MCMLegalRegulatoryandPolicyFramework/ucm411446.htm

2.     (ProPublica), M. A. (n.d.-a). AMA report_CSA Rep 1 (Pharmaceutical Expiration Dates) a 01 FINAL… Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3671873-CSA-Rep-1-Pharmaceutical-Expiration-Dates-a-01.html

3.     Khan, S. R., Kona, R., Faustino, P. J., Gupta, A., Taylor, J. S., Porter, D. A., & Khan, M. (2014). United States Food and Drug Administration and Department of Defense shelf-life extension program of pharmaceutical products: progress and promise. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 103(5), 1331–1336. https://doi.org/10.1002/jps.23925

4.     Lyon, R. C., Taylor, J. S., Porter, D. A., Prasanna, H. R., & Hussain, A. S. (2006). Stability profiles of drug products extended beyond labeled expiration dates. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 95(7), 1549–1560. https://doi.org/10.1002/jps.20636

5.     (ProPublica), M. A. (n.d.). Stability Profiles of Expired Drugs. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3525372-Stability-Profiles-of-Expired-Drugs.html

6.     (ProPublica), M. A. (n.d.-c). Expired drugs research letter. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3516397-Expired-drugs-research-letter.html

7.     Kozak, M. A., Melton, J. R., Gernant, S. A., & Snyder, M. E. (2016). A needs assessment of unused and expired medication disposal practices: A study from the Medication Safety Research Network of Indiana. Research in Social & Administrative Pharmacy: RSAP, 12(2), 336–340. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sapharm.2015.05.013

8.     Kuspis, D. A., & Krenzelok, E. P. (1996). What happens to expired medications? A survey of community medication disposal. Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 38(1), 48–49.

9.     Cohen, L. P. (2000). Drugs frequently potent past expiration. Wall Street Journal.

10.  (ProPublica), M. A. (n.d.-b). Epinephrine Concentrations in EpiPens. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3696595-Epinephrine-Concentrations-in-EpiPens.html

11.   Teder, K., Pepeloshev, A., Matto, V., & Meos, A. (2013). Pharmacopoieal quality of non-expired and expired nifedipine formulations from Estonian and Russian Federation medicinal products market. Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica, 70(3), 539–546.

12.  Binkhathlan, Z., Badran, M. M., Alomrani, A., Aljuffali, I. A., Alghonaim, M., Al-Muhsen, S., … Alshamsan, A. (2016). Reutilization of Tacrolimus Extracted from Expired Prograf® Capsules: Physical, Chemical, and Pharmacological Assessment. AAPS PharmSciTech, 17(4), 978–987. https://doi.org/10.1208/s12249-015-0433-7

13.  Frimpter GW, Timpanelli AE, Eisenmenger WJ, Stein HS, Ehrlich LI. Reversible “Fanconi Syndrome” Caused by Degraded Tetracycline. JAMA. 1963;184(2):111–113. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03700150065010

14.  Khalid, M. M., & Waseem, M. (2017). Toxicity, Tricyclic Antidepressant. In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430931/

15.  Nelson, J. C., & Spyker, D. A. (2017). Morbidity and Mortality Associated With Medications Used in the Treatment of Depression: An Analysis of Cases Reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, 2000-2014. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 174(5), 438–450. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16050523

 

Can Meatloaf Really be Tasty?

Monsieur Meatloaf

Salisbury Meatloaf

I know, I know, meatloaf doesn’t sound like the tastiest of meals. There have been jokes about grandma and her meatloaf almost as long as there has been a grandma making meatloaf. My own grandmother, as much as I love her, lost her sense of taste years ago. She can appreciate good food, and can be a good cook. However if she forgets an ingredient, and accidentally put in salt instead of sugar she won’t taste the difference.

That is why I want to provide you with a simple, easy to make meatloaf that actually tastes good. This is pretty nutrient dense, and because it packs such a punch it can feed a huge group!

Meat Mix

🥩Ground beef (2 lbs)

⚪️Mushrooms (4 oz)

🥗Spinach (2 cups, raw)

🥣Quick oats (1 cup)

🥛Milk (1 cup)

🥚Eggs (2)

💚Rosemary

🖤Black pepper

💛Garlic salt

~

Gravy Mix

🥣Brown gravy mix (2 packets/cups)

🥛Milk (2 cups)

~

▪️Mix all meat mixture ingredients together by hand in a large bowl (could easily add onion soup mix in here; I want to try that myself!).

▪️Bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

▪️Make gravy according to packet instructions.

▪️Serve meatloaf topped with gravy. Yum!

The great thing about this recipe is that it can also be easily made to be gluten free. Just ensure that the oats you use are gluten free and the brown gravy mix is as well. Let us know if you try the recipe in the comments below! Then don’t forget to check out our other recipes as well.

Meatloaf
Meatloaf really can be tasty!

Making vs. Buying a Bellydance Costume

Catlina and Rose Dancing

Hey there readers, Catlina and Rose here! We wanted to write an article together talking about costuming basics. Rose wrote a great article on the basic pieces that make up a belly dance costume, so now that we know what those pieces are, we can talk about where and how to actually get a costume. I know this may seem like a big topic–and it is–but that’s why we teamed up: to give you two different perspectives on costuming.

When it comes to bellydance costumes, you essentially have two options: 1) you can buy a pre-made costume, or 2) you can make your own costume. This article will show the pros and cons of making vs. buying a bellydance costume.

Both Rose and I purchased our first costumes. I had a costume purchased before I even paid for my first lesson or my membership into the belly dancing group. I quickly realized though just how many different ways there were to get a costume. You could find costumes on eBay, participate in costume swaps with other dancers, or go to local Ren-faires. I wish I would have considered all the things we will talk about in this article before I had purchased.

If you make you own costume, you can get the supplies almost anywhere. Craft stores like JoAnn or Hobby Lobby will be gold mines for materials, but almost any bra, T-shirt, or skirt in your closet can be converted into a costume as well.

There are a few key things that you will need to look at when making the decision to make vs buy a bellydance costume. Those include price, time, fit and customization, quality, frustrating learning curves, and ease of coordinating with other troupe members.

PRICE

Costumes can be made in whatever budget you want. Some professional dancers may spend thousands of dollars on pre-made costumes, but I also know dancers who spend less than $20 on supplies that they then turn into beautiful, handmade, professional-looking costumes. So really the question of budget depends on the type of costume you want and how much you want to spend.

PRICE: Make

If you plan on making belly dancing a regular part of your life, making your own costume will definitely be cheaper in the long run. Fabric can be bought at almost any craft store for only dollars on the yard. Most large chains like Hobby Lobby or JoAnn carry materials and have coupons on their mobile apps, or annual sales that make shopping even cheaper. Where making your own costumes gets expensive however, is when costumes get more complex, and in the upfront costs of materials. This is because in order to make costumes without spending hours and hours hand-sewing seams, you need a sewing machine, pins, pin cushions, a tape measure, thread, needles, beads, sequins, trim… the list goes on and on. And while these things are not expensive individually, they add up. It is very common for someone new to bellydance to walk into a craft store and spend $100-300 on supplies, make one costume, and never use any of it again. This is exactly what you want to avoid! Ask yourself if you will really use these items again, and set a budget before you go shopping.

I was lucky enough to be gifted a sewing machine, and came from a crafty family that had most of these basics already. So for me my upfront cost was relatively low. I used what I had, and my costumes were not pretty, but I didn’t care. I taught myself through asking friends and watching YouTube videos. For me, making my own costumes was an investment because the skills I learned and the equipment I purchased would last me a long time. I knew they could be used for making many other things besides bellydance costumes. For example, I used my skills on my sewing machine to re-do the couch pillows on my sofa, because I did not like the fabric that they had before. So when looking at the skills you learn and the other uses for the supplies you buy, it really can save you money in the long run.

There is also the possibility of turning your costume making adventures into a profit. If you make your own costumes you could potentially sell them. Even if you just made a few for your troupe that may be enough to cover the costs of the necessary supplies and then some. If you get really skilled than Rose and I know one dancer from our troupe that works with her mom to make costumes and sells them for high prices. This covers all of her dancing expenses and then some. So don’t e discouraged by the high upfront cost! If you teach yourself, ask for help, and potentially sell your own costumes than you can more than make your money back.

PRICE: Buy

Rose: Costumes that are purchased can also vary in price depending on quality. I know a few websites that sell full costumes for cheap (from $10-50). They are pretty, but I’ll explain later where these cookie-cutter types have their fallout.

Pre-Made Costume
Pre-made costume from DressLily.com, cost $30

On the other hand, if you want a legitimate, pre-made costume that essentially has nothing wrong with it, you can get one from a good designer…for a minimum of about $400. Yup, that’s right: MINIMUM. And prices quickly escalate from there depending on fabric (type and amount used), beadwork (pros usually hand-sew hundreds of beads and sequins on their costumes), and design complexity.

TIME

Catlina: Just like with price, time is a huge factor to consider when making costumes. Making your own will be time consuming, especially if you are teaching yourself to use new tools or techniques. Buying your costumes can have long shipping times as some costumes may be shipping from China, and take weeks or months to deliver. So which one takes longer?

TIME: Make

Rose: I remember spending hours at a time over several days during my attempt to make a costume, just to make an unhemmed skirt! I then wasted another couple of days measuring and cutting out patterns to create the top. Only to find that I had not accounted for fabric overlap needed for stitching in my measurements. So I would’ve needed to spend another two days, at least, making the top, likely needing another two days (again, at least) to piece it all together with elastic strips. And this is when I was out of school and unemployed! I can only imagine how much longer it would take someone with a normal life to make this kind of costume which, by the way, was an incredibly plain costume with zero embroidery, decals, or beadwork.

Rose's Unheamed Skirt
Rose’s sad, plain, unfinished costume attempt

Catlina: I, however, knew just enough about sewing to be dangerous. I could hem a skirt in an hour due to my sewing machine, Bertha. (Whoever says sewing machines don’t have personalities is obviously lying… that machine is more temperamental than my cat.) I would constantly find myself with a performance in two days, and not enough time to wait for something to come in the mail. (This was before I learned about Amazon prime… how did we ever live without this!?!?!). So I would stay up all night sewing, have a costume, and hope that in my sleep-deprived state, I remembered to pull the pins out. I certainly do not recommend playing with sharp needles late at night before a huge performance. But I can also testify to the friendliness of the late-night workers at most craft stores.

TIME: Buy

Rose: For someone like me who isn’t very skilled at sewing, buying a costume saves me a lot of time. Granted, most costumes ship from the Eastern hemisphere, so shipping to the US can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month. Which probably sounds like a longer time than you were expecting given that it’s 2019 but you can’t rush qualtiy. Also, if you ordered a custom-made costume, it may take an additional couple of weeks for the costume designer to make it. However, keep in mind that, during these weeks, you’re not having to do anything except wait. No sewing, no trimming, no weighing down obnoxiously mobile sheets of chiffon…nope. All your “work” just involved spending an hour or two online clicking around and typing in your debit card info.

Ultimately, when it comes to time, it depends on your skill with sewing. Someone with a good grasp on sewing like Catlina might be able to make a costume in 2 weeks or less. But someone like me, who once sewed a crappy quilt in 9th grade and years later attempted and failed to make one belly dance costume, might be better off leaving that work to someone else.

FIT AND CUSTOMIZATION

FIT AND CUSTOMIZATION: Make

Catlina: This is where making your own costume truly wins. When you make your own costume, nobody else will have that costume. It can truly make you stand out from a crowd. Making your own also allows you to know exactly what you are getting, how it will look, and that it will fit. I have heard horror stories of girls ordering costumes from China, and after weeks of waiting, they are the wrong size, wrong color, fit awkwardly when they wear them, or don’t allow the same flexibility in dance moves. So be careful before you order, and take the time to read reviews and ask about sizing in detail. Good shops will have specific measurements, lengths, and/or bra sizes listed on their site. Look for these before purchasing.

FIT AND CUSTOMIZATION: Buy

Rose: The pre-made costumes that Catlina is referring to here are the “cookie-cutter” costumes I warned you about, a.k.a. costumes that are mass-produced with no customization options. You don’t get to make them to fit, so you have to buy as close of a size to yours as you can, which can be challenging for a couple of reasons I’ll discuss in a later article (stay tuned!).

Another thing about cookie-cutter costume customization that can actually be a pro or a con depending on what you want, is something Catlina and I experienced in the belly dance club we were a part of in college. There was this one particular bra & bedleh set on Amazon that kept appearing on our fellow dancers, because it was cheap and easy to find. So we had several dancers with the same costume, just in different colors. It didn’t end up mattering then, fortunately, but had these dancers been hoping to stand out, they would not have been happy. On the flipside, for troupes wanting to appear more uniform, purchasing the same style of costume could be a plus.

Dance Troupe in Similar Costumes
Amazon costume coincidence at Dancing Through The Sahara, Mar. 2015

But now I need to talk about the custom-made costumes for purchase. It is common practice for professional belly dancers to choose their favorite designer and work with them to create unique costumes, so you CAN buy costumes that fit AND have a custom look! Here are a few examples of costumes one of my favorite belly dancers, Magnolia, had made for her:

Anastasiya Romania costume:

Dogan Gok costume: h

Yana Novikova costume: h

QUALITY

Catlina: Quality is similar to fit and customization. Work from online shops may not be guaranteed, but then again, if you are new to sewing your own outfits, your work may not be guaranteed, either. If you want true quality, there are several professional belly dance shops that guarantee their quality for life. Especially a few in Egypt and the Middle East that will ship to the United States or worldwide, however with this guaranteed quality you are paying high prices to match. Once you start knowing how to make your own costumes you know the weak spots, and tend to have higher quality than what you buy online and you know how to fix any issues that may arise.

QUALITY: Make

Rose: Like Catlina said, the quality of a costume you make is mostly dependent on your skill. The other factors that come into play are the fabric you choose, the stitch patterns you apply to hold the fabric together, and the embellishments. Lower-quality costumes tend to be made out of cotton, which looks cheap and gets worn out and “fuzzy” quickly, whereas higher-quality costumes will most often be made of silk or chiffon. When it comes to stitch patterns, a true seamstress will know which kinds will hang on better, where and how much to backstitch, how to hide as many seams as possible, and how to keep the fabric straight for an even seam. And lastly, embellishments can take a costume from “blah” to “huzzah!”. You can add embroidery, beadwork, fringe, coins, and many other things. For higher-quality embellishments, you can both buy more precious items (ex: sapphires instead of blue craftstore gems, bone beads instead of plastic) and SEW the embellishments on as opposed to hot-gluing them.

QUALITY: Buy

Unsurprisingly, buying the cheap cookie-cutter costumes means lower quality, whereas paying $400+ for custom-made costumes means higher quality.

Think you don’t care about quality when a costume is only ten bucks? Maybe that’s true…if you’re not trying to dance professionally. Now I don’t know if there is any written rule that states such specific costume requirements for professional events as fabric type and price, but I’m willing to bet that you won’t win any competitions or earn any paying gigs in your lint-fuzzed, loose-stringed wardrobe-on-a-budget. So keep your goals as a dancer (whether to go pro or no) in mind before you buy.

IN SUMMARY

Catlina: When it comes to making a costume, it may have a higher upfront cost depending on the materials you need and be VERY time-consuming, but it will result in learning many skills, being able to make costum∆˜hes quickly, and guaranteeing quality. It is possible to have lower overall costs when making your own costumes depending on how many you make. When buying a costume, it is a perfect example of getting what you pay for. Buying costumes can be cheap, easy, and quick to coordinate with troupe members, but can sacrifice quality and customization, OR it can save you the time and hassle of making a professional-looking costume at a high monetary cost.

Rose: So what do you think? Do you prefer to buy or make your belly dance costumes? Comment below!

STILL CONFUSED?

Catlina: We hope this article has helped answer any questions you have about the pros and cons of making vs buying a costume. If not, please feel free to reach out to us through our contact us page! We are happy to answer any questions.

We look forward to writing more posts for you soon!

Catlina and Rose Dancing
Photo by Rachel Junek. Rev’s Belly Dance Night, Feb. 2014. Catlina & Wilderthorne.

 

Best Bunny Cake

Best Bunny Cake Recipe

Thank you for helping us reach 100 followers!

We are so excited to have reached over 100 followers on Facebook! In order to celebrate we wanted to share with you a great new recipe for the best bunny cake! If you have enjoyed our recipes as much as we have enjoyed making them then you know that most of our recipes are healthy, easy, and nutritious. We really do believe that cooking healthy doesn’t have to taste bad. However, we also know that everybody needs a treat every now and then, especially on special occasions.

You have given us a very special occasion to celebrate! So we wanted to share with you this bunny cake recipe that, while not as healthy as our others, is still gluten-free and contains vegetables. Just don’t look at how much sugar is in this cake and it will be one of the healthiest things you ever eaten!

Bunny Cake make with white and dark chocolate
Bunny Cake Made with White and Dark Chocolate

For the cake:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (112 g) vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups (280 g) gluten-free flour ( I personally like to use a mix of regular flour and almond flour- to give it more of a nutty taste)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/3 cup (27 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-processed preferred (if using natural, add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1/3 cup of warm water (Can also be substituted for hot coffee if you prefer a coffee flavor to your cake)

3 cups (330 g) shredded zucchini (from about 2 large or 3 medium zucchini)

8oz of chopped almonds (Optional- but it gives the recipe a nuttier flavor which I personally prefer. If you do add the almonds then consider adding 1/2 a cup of warm water rather than 1/3)

For the Ganache Topping:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) heavy whipping cream

For the Ears:

Two sheets of cardstock paper in different colors (We have always done one color to match the icing and a pink color for the inside of the ear)

Toothpicks

For the ‘Fur’:

Your choice of white or dark chocolate (or both!)

Putting the Recipe Together:

Looking at the ingredient list I know this may look like a long list, but just think about all the cute little bunnies running around, grab your family, friends, and close ones, and get set for a fun day of cooking.

Making the Cake:

Start by pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. I always forget to preheat my oven so do not be like me and don’t forget this crucial step! Once this is don’t you’ll need to prepare the chocolate for the cake itself. Place the 3 ounces chopped chocolate in a small, heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water (making sure the bowl does not touch the water, and the water does not boil). You can also use a double broiler for this if you have one. Stir until almost all of the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and continue to stir until all of the chocolate is melted and smooth. Be careful about overheating the chocolate because you don’t want the chocolate to burn. Add the oil and vanilla, stir to combine and set aside to cool briefly.

Next it is time for the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the melted chocolate and oil mixture, and stir. Add the eggs and water (or coffee), and stir. The batter will be thick. Add the shredded zucchini and chopped almonds if you are adding them, and stir.

Now that our batter is ready. It is time to bust out our secret weapon in making our bunny cakes- and that is our heart shaped baking pan. This bunny- cake is essentially an upside down heart with ears and whiskers on it. So this cake pan in crucial. If you don’t have one already, we recommend this one from amazon.

Prep the cake pan by adding a thin layer of grease and flour (or using Pam cooking spray), and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth into an even layer with a wet spatula or knife, and slide the cake into the center of the pre-heated oven. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack or heat-resistant surface for at least 20 minutes. Making the Ganache: Make the ganache while the cake is in the oven or while the cake is cooling. In order to get the ganache to set properly it is essential that the cake be cooled first. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized, heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and allow to sit for a couple minutes so that the chocolate begins to melt. Mix until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Immediately pour evenly over the top of the cake. Make sure to leave plenty of chocolate left over to make the fur for the bunny. Finishing the Bunny Cake: Set aside plenty of shaved chocolate to use as your bunnies ‘fur’. This bunny cake can be white, brown, or black depending on the type of chocolate you use. You don’t have to limit yourself to only one type of chocolate either. You can use multiple types of chocolate ‘fur’ for each bunny. If your chocolate did not come shredded, that’s okay, take a block of baking chocolate and use a sharp knife or cheese grader to grate the top of the bar, giving you flaky bunny fur. Shaved chocolate cam melt pretty easily, so be careful not to handle it too much, as even the temperature from your hands can cause it to melt. You may want to put the freshly shaved chocolate in the fridge to keep it cool until you need it. Once you have the chocolate, simply spread an even layer of the chocolate shavings over the ganache. You will want the ganache to be cool enough to not melt the chocolate, yet not completely set enough to cause the chocolate to not stick. A good rule of thumb is as close to room temperature you can get the ganache the better. You can also use shaved coconut for the bunnies fur as well. Once you have given your bunny cake its ‘fur’, cut the ears out for your bunny using scissors. Insert the ears into the middle of the cake, on the part of the cake that makes up the bottom of the ‘heart’. This will be the top of your bunnies head. Use toothpicks underneath the ears to help support the weight of the ears. Or if you are like me and happen to be a pharmacist with extra syringes laying around, 1ml or 3ml syringes happen to be the easiest way to hold up a bunny cakes ears!

Bunny Cake w/ Syringe
Coconut Bunny Cake with Syringe Holding up Ear

Then use some jellybeans, chocolate medallions, or favorite candy to make up the bunnies eyes and nose. Finish with some colorful toothpicks to make up it’s whiskers, and sit back and enjoy your bunny cake!

Best Bunny Cake Recipe
Best Bunny Cake Recipe

Send us pictures of your completed bunny cake using the comments below or our contact us page! We want to see your creativity!

Scientifically Proven Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Scientifically proven ways to keep your resolutions

Happy Boxing Day!

Today is a day traditionally celebrated in the UK and Ireland, where you can give back. On this day masters would traditionally preset household staff with christmas boxes, or presents. Boxes would be collected for the poor and given to churches or places of need. The name is also connected to a nautical tradition. Ships would set sail with a sealed box of money or gifts for good luck. If the voyage was a success, the box would be donated to a priest. This box would then be opened on Christmas, and given to those in need. But today, is also a day for planning for the future.

We have just celebrated some happy holidays, eaten a bunch of food, and had some good holiday cheer. Now with a belly full of delicious food, good drinks, and the lights of the christmas tree still twinkling in the background, I have set down to start planning for the next year.

After all, Benjamin Franklin said “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” So we know we should plan, but the question is how.

If you are anything like me you have set new years resolutions for many years. Some time you are more successful than others. Sometimes you are able to make it all the way until february before breaking them. You spend extra on gym memberships, clean the sugar from your pantry, and have grand ambitions to make this year your best year yet. Then a few months later you open the bill for the gym membership you never use, while you grab the box of sweets from the cabinet. Sound familiar? Me to.

But there are ways to make New Year’s resolutions more successful than others. Research shows that only 8% of goal setters are able to maintain their goals long term. This may seem like a small percentage, and very discouragingly small number. But there is hope in that 8%. The real question is what are those 8% doing that the other 92% of us are not? They have found the secret to setting successful goals, and they have done it using some of the techniques below. Now I cannot guarantee that using these techniques will ensure that you keep your goals. However, these scientifically proven ways to keep your New year’s Resolutions will get you a heck of alot closer.

One of the best things you can do is to create SMART goals. SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive.

SMART Goals

SMART Goals

Specific:

We have a tendency to set goals such as “I want to lose weight”. The problem with goals like this is that there is no clear way to measure success. How much weight do you want to lose? How do you want to lose the weight? Through diet or exercise or both? The more specific you get the higher chances you will have of obtaining it. If our goal was instead something like: I want to work out 5 times a week. This provides a much clearer, specific way to reach the goal. This provides a journey. A path from A to B rather than a mysterious B that seems far away and unreachable. The path is now there, we have a way to reach it.

Measurable:

Continuing on with our weight loss analogy, we also need a way to know if we have reached our goal. How can we know if we have lost weight or not? With weight loss we have a very measurable way to see if we reached our goal. With weight loss, we have numbers on the scale. We can change our goal to say “I will lose 20 pounds by working out five times a week.”

Attainable:

Humans are ambitions creatures, and we like to shoot for the stars. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching for a goal, making sure the goal is attainable is an important step in keeping your new year’s resolution. If you want to lose weight, and weigh 300 pounds, getting to a goal weight of 150 may not be attainable in one year. The recommended weight loss is a pound a week. Studies have shown that when losing weight at this rate people are more likely to keep the weight off. Weight loss pills or fad diets that promise rapid weight loss are typically counter productive. You may lose weight rapidly at first, but then you gain it all back and then some in just as short an amount of time. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to most goals. It’s good to think of your resolutions as targeting bad habits. Bad habits required many repetitive actions done again and again to become habits.

Realistic:

Just as our bad habits were built on many small repetitive actions, small repetitive actions will break them down.

As zig Ziglar says: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing- that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Setting realistic, small repetitive goals is the best way to go for setting a great new years resolution. Going to the gym 5 times a week may not be realistic if you have essays to write, children to care for, dinner to cook, and work to do. Take the time to truly figure out what is feasible with your schedule, and then stick to it.

Time-Sensitive:

This one is last but certainly not least. One of the most important ways to know if you reached your goal is putting a time limit on it. Putting a time limit on your resolution makes it harder to procrastinate putting it off. This can be setting a goal such as: I want to lose 4 pounds every month. Another example would be: I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year. There are many ways to do it, but pick whichever one works for you and your particular goal.

SMART goals are the start of how to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions. However, there are a few other scientifically proven ways to keep your New Year’s resolutions that you can do to increase your chances of success.

Piggybacking:

Piggybacking is a technique where you tie a habit to one you already do. When you start taking a medication for the first time, a good pharmacist will tell you to put your medicine next to your toothbrush. This way, every day when you (hopefully) brush your teeth, you see your medicine right on the counter and remember. You can do the same thing with your new year’s resolution. If you want to make it to the gym, put your gym bag right next to whatever it is you can’t leave the house without. Putting your gym bag on top of your purse, or your keys, wallet, schoolbag, etc will remind you to take it with you when you leave. This way when you are on your way home you will see the bag in your car. Seeing the bag will make you more likely to go.

You can also do the exact opposite to help avoid bad habits. If you are wanting to save money this new year, don’t make it easy on yourself. Take your credit card out of it’s normal, easy to reach place. Put the card in the deep dark depth of your purse rather than in the wallet that’s attached to the cell phone that is always in your hand. Or go to the bank and withdraw the exact amount of cash you need to live until your next paycheck, and don’t carry your card at all.

Even things like filling up your gas tank will be inconvenient now, because you will have to go inside the gas station, estimate how much gas you need and how much it will cost, and pay them in cash before you pump. This forces you to think about how much you are spending. And when you have to count bills at the checkout line rather than just insert a card and go you are much more likely to save money, because it is no longer piggybacked to your easy, normal routine.

Mulligan

Get out of jail free

Another great way that you can help keep your resolutions is to understand that you don’t have to be perfect. A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research focuses on a study done at UCLA (University of California, Las Angeles) where Marissa Sharif and Suzanne Shu showed the benefits of cutting yourself a break. They offered participants $1 for every day they went online and completed 35 annoying tasks. Participants were able to receive a $5 bonus on top of their already earned income for reaching a goal.

This goal was randomly selected and could be one of three. Participants could be asked to complete their tasks 7 days out of 7, the most difficult to reach goal. They could be assigned the easiest goal of completing 5 days out of 7 but were still encouraged to reach all 7 days. Or be assigned the mulligan group, where they were asked to complete 7 days out of 7, but were given up to two ‘free’ days in case they needed it. You would think that the group that only had to complete 5 days out of the 7 would have had the most success, but it was the third group, the mulligan group that was the most successful. 53% of participants in the mulligan group reached their goal, compared to only 26% in the 5/7 day group, and 21% in the 7/7 day group. Thinking about how our minds work this actually makes alot of sense. We like to set high goals for ourselves, reaching for the stars is what we do. But it is also very easy to get discouraged, and by allowing ourselves to have a free pass without failing makes us much more likely to reach our goals.

Tell people about your goals, but tell the right people:

There has been conflicting research about if telling people about your goals is helpful or harmful. However, a meta analysis by Jennifer Lerner and Phillip Tetlock tells us that telling the right person your goals who will give you the right type of praise is most important.

Telling a friend is more likely to help you reach your goals than telling a stranger, however it has to be the right friend. According to this study you want a friend who can give you process praise, or praise based on your effort and the process you have taken on; rather than person praise, or praise based on who you are as a person. This means you want to find a friend who is capable of saying something like “Hey you’ve been to the gym 5 times this week and are able to lift 10 more pounds than you used to, that’s really great!” This is more helpful than a friend who says, “Hey you’re doing great! Way to be a beast with those weights!” You want your feedback to be due to the actions you have completed, rather than who you are because then you are more likely to continue with those actions.

When you believe it has something to do with who you are as a person than you risk thinking that if you fail it is due to an inherent deficiency on your part rather than the result of your actions. If you think you can’t lose weight because you’re just not strong enough, than the problem is internal, and cannot be overcome by external factors. Most things that we would have as resolutions can be changed however. Thinking I can’t lose weight because I didn’t go to the gym enough means that you have an easy solution to the problem. Go to the gym more. This thinking makes you more successful.

Start off with a bang:

Start with a bang

Being overly ambitions is not a bad thing. A study done by Gary Charness and Uri Gneezy created an experiment about exercise habits and financial rewards. They divided participants into three groups randomly. The first group was paid $175 for attending an info session and allowing the researchers to track their exercise habits. The second group was only given the $175 if they attended the info session, allowed the tracking of their exercise habits, and went to the gym at least once in the next month. The third group got paid if they went to the info session, allowed tracking of their exercise habits, and went to the gym at least 8 times in the next month.

This third group had the highest number of people exercising of course, but what is the most fascinating, is that this trend continued, even after the financial incentive went away. Those that were in the third group and experienced a month of higher amount of exercise, went to the gym on average 9 times in the 7 weeks after the first month. The other two groups went about half as often. This shows how important those first few weeks of building a habit can be. And having a friend who can be encouraging in those first few weeks is crucial.

Just like what we talked about above, having the right friend that knows how to push you is critical. You not only want someone who can give you the process praise we talked about above, but someone who can give positive reinforcement during the beginning of your journey. In that critical first month when you are building the habit you are more likely to respond to positive reinforcement, but once the habit is formed, negative feedback is more helpful. For example, in that beginning month you want a friend who will say, “Great job going to the gym 3 times this week, let’s watch the game later to celebrate (positive reinforcement).” Then once you have been going to the gym have them say “I’m going to text you every day until you go to the gym so if you don’t want me to keep bugging you then you gotta go.” Connecting the activity with a positive at the beginning, and removing a negative once the habit is formed can be very beneficial.

Put all these tips, tricks, and scientifically backed theories into practice and you’ll have a pretty great shot at keeping your new year’s resolution. Keeping your resolutions is difficult. There is a reason why we re-do them every year. But if you keep working at it, and use these scientifically proven ways keep your New Year’s Resolutions, you will increase your chances of success drastically. Comment below and let us know how what your new year’s resolutions are. If losing weight or being healthier are part of your resolutions you can always check out our recipe section for quick, healthy recipes to help you reach your goals.

Looking forward to writing for you next year!

 

Aren’t we all a bit nutty for fruit?

Fruit and Nut Salad

Fruit and Nut Salad:

Ah Friday, the week is over and you are finally able to be home and start relaxing. There really is nothing quite like coming home and letting the pressures of the week slide away. 

This week we wanted to give you a recipe that was quick, healthy, and tasty so that you can enjoy the start of your weekend. Our fruit and nut salad will be a pleasure to eat.

This recipe is also perfect for meal prepping and taking to lunch during the middle of a busy week! I am currently writing this post with one cat asleep on my lap and one asleep right next to me. As adorable as these fur babies are they do not make it easy to get up and prep a large meal. I can never turn down kitty snuggles! So having a pre-prepped healthy meal like this fruit and nut salad helps me get the most amount of snuggle time with my fur babies while also taking care of myself and eating healthy. 

 

I hope you enjoy!

 

Fruit and Nut Salad:

🥗Mixed greens

🥄Quinoa

🍎Apple

🍊Mandarin orange

🍓Strawberries

🌰🥜Nuts/seeds (walnuts and pumpkin seeds pictured)

🥣Dressing of your choice

Mix to taste and enjoy! *Hint, if you are meal prepping this salad I recommend leaving the dressing off to the side. If you put it into a small container and leave it to put on just before you eat it will make your salad last longer.*

Let us know how your salad turns out in the comments!

Fruit and Nut Salad

Sincerely, Thank You!

Thank you

What a week this has been!

I cannot believe how much Poise and Potions has already taken off! We have had a week of wonderful content, and started letting the world know who we are.

I cannot thank Rose enough for her hard work and great article. I cannot thank our tech mastermind James enough for helping with the website and the amazing work he has done behind the scenes. We have told the world who Poise and Potions is. We have discovered the truth behind the left brain, right brain dominance theory. We have learned about bellydancing costumes, and launched our Words to Live by and Recipes sections of our website. But most important of all, we have gotten great positive feedback from you, our readers.

P&P has already meant the world to me. Every time I see a comment on one of our posts, I know that we are truly reaching our audience. Thank you for being such great readers! We hope to hear from you so please use our contact us form to really tell us if there is something that you wish to see or a particular topic you want us to address. We want to hear from you! You can also join our email list and get updates sent straight to your inbox.

We are also always looking for guest writers and contributors so if you have a topic that you are passionate about we would love to hear about it! Let us know by using our contact us page. If you have missed any of our articles this week you can always check out our blog page for some interesting reads. You can also look at our recipes for quick and healthy ideas for meals. 

Thank you!

XOXO

Catlina

What Makes a Phrase Motivational?

Why Motivation Matters

When I was young, young enough to pull off two cute pig tails in my hair, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought about this, and said “I want to play with ponies all day”. She laughed the way all adults laugh when little girls talk about ponies, and moved on. But the question stuck with me. When my mom picked me up from school that day I asked her what I should be when I grow up. This started our first conversation about goals.

My mom told me the best advice she ever got was that her goal should be to become an interesting old lady. This made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t want to be the old lady in the nursing home that her grandkids didn’t want to visit. I wanted to be the old lady that her whole family wanted to visit because they never got tired of talking to Grandma. The type of grandma that was traveling, and making memories and telling new stories. I still remember this almost 2 decades later.

A legit photo of future me still traveling and making memories

Why is it that some things we hear just stick with us like this? In contrast, how many times have you seen one of those stark, traditional motivational posters and rolled your eyes at it? How many times have you scrolled through yet another inspirational saying with a pretty picture on social media? What is the difference between the sayings that stick with us and inspire us 20 years later, and those that don’t?

 

Part of this is your personality, and part of this is the saying itself.

Motivation is made up of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors are those that come from within you. You wake up and go to work in the morning because you enjoy the work that you do and genuinely want to do well. Extrinsic factors come from outside of you, from your environment or from other people. You go to work because you want to support your family, or don’t want the neighbor to call you lazy for not working. Intrinsic motivation is much more effective than extrinsic motivation.

The self discrepancy theory is another way to look at motivation. Higgins came up with this theory in 1987, and argues that there are 3 versions of one’s self. There is the ‘Ideal’ self, or the person that we would like to become. Then there is the ‘Ought’ self, or the way we should behave to become one’s ideal self. Finally there is the ‘Actual’ self, or the self that we really are. The ideal self inspires us, gives us goals to strive for (Ie: wishing we were 10 ibs lighter). The ought self stops us from straying from these goals (Ie: making us eat a salad instead of stopping through a drive through). Yet this process takes motivation.

 

So if we need motivation how do we get it?

There is a whole science to why motivational sayings are effective. Part of it is how the saying is phrased. In 2000 there was a study by McGlone and Tofighbakhsh that proved a saying that rhymed was more likely to be considered true than one that didn’t. Ward Farnsworth is dean of the University of Texas School of Law, and he evaluates many principles of good writing in his book Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric.

“People have an appetite for well-expressed wisdom, motivational or otherwise.”

– Ward Farnsworth

No discussion about motivational sayings would be complete without looking into the power of social media. Social media has the benefit of easily allowing us to share thoughts, quotes, and pictures. We love sharing our journey to our ideal self. There is a reason why #goals has 65.2 million posts on instagram. We have a chance every day to run across that saying that is going to stick with us and mean so much to us. Yet it can also work against us. For if we see something everyday then it becomes common place, and no longer sticks out. It loses the specialness it had. Balancing the ability to inspire and the potential to get buried in news feeds is the true challenge of motivation on social media.

This is why I started a quote journal not soon after that inspirational conversation with my mom. Any time I have run across a quote that has motivated me, or made me laugh I write it down. I don’t look at it every day, but when I do it inspires me, lifts my spirit, and brings a smile to my face. I hope to share that experience with you. We will be adding a new section on here known as ‘Words to live by’. We hope that these words will encourage you, and brighten your day. For as William Shakespeare once said:

“A light heart lives strong”.

Let us lift your heart with our ‘Words to Live By’ series.

References:

Right Brain, Left Brain, and Everything in Between

What happens when beliefs are challenged? 

Humans crave organization. We like to categorize things, and put them in nice neat little boxes, especially if there are only a few boxes to go into. Some of these things are easy: Are you a guy or a girl? Republican or a democrat? Child or adult? But what happens when you get the response: I’m transgender? I’m an independent? I’m a senior? Suddenly something that was easy to classify before is no longer easy. We have been doing the same thing with our brain. Asking the question: are you left brain or right brain dominant? The theory of left brain vs. right brain dominance is based on the thought that those who are right brain dominant are creative. They have a natural tendency to better understand rhythm and art, are more imaginative, and more intuitive. Those who are left brain dominant tend to be more logical. They have a better understanding of language and math, are more analytical, logical, and science focused. This is a great theory, and a great way to organize people. However it also completely false.

Where did this theory come from? 

Brain dominance came from research done all the way back in the 1860s, by Broca and Wernicke.

Broca

Wernicke
You may recall from your bio classes that Broca’s area of the brain is responsible for production of speech and language, and is located on the brain’s left hemisphere. Wernicke’s area is also located on the left side of your brain, and is responsible for comprehension and understanding of speech. Since both of these areas are on the left brain lobe, this lead to the idea that language is controlled by the left side of the brain. Author Robert Louis Stevenson took this theory and ran with it. In 1885 he used this logical, language heavy left side of the brain and balanced it with a more creative and emotional right side, in his popular characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that maybe, just maybe, Dr. Jekyll isn’t the best person to go to for medical advice. This theory became so canonized that it took over popular imagination. After all, back then we did not have the evidence to dispute it. We have learned a lot in the roughly 140 years since then, and one of the huge medical discoveries in that time is the development of MRIs (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging). These machines allow us to scan people’s brain while they are still alive, and get pictures of different parts of the brain. Broca and Wernicke were having to do all their brain research post-mortem. This advancement and many others gave us much more information than Broca and Wernicke were able to get. Fast forward to the 1960s and we start to see multiple studies looking more at this right brain left brain split. Roger W. Sperry actually won the Nobel Prize for his research on this topic in 1981. He was able to prove that certain traits are linked to particular areas of the brain, including how the Broca and Wernicke areas on the left side of the brain are related to language. Now I know what you are thinking. How can a nobel prize winner possibly be wrong? That’s the thing, he wasn’t exactly wrong, he just wasn’t specific enough.

What do we know now?

In 2013 the University of Utah did a large study scanning the brains of over 1,000 people. And discovered there was absolutely no dominance of one side of the brain over the other. The sheer volume of people in this study, and the fact that it was done in multiple countries capturing multiple ethnic groups and ages, makes it a good study. With these results we would have been able to detect if there were any differences between the two sides of the brain. And there was none. Even when they looked across gender, age, and different sub-populations. What there was however, was localization. For example, if somebody was asked to complete a task involving language, the Broca and Wernicke areas on the left side of the brain would ‘light up’ the MRI. However, so would areas of the brain responsible for attention and capturing external stimuli. These areas include the frontal eye fields, area MT, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and are on the right side of the brain. So even someone extremely gifted with languages, someone that we may expect to have a super buff left side of the brain, is relying on both sides of their brain to work. And even if those language areas were stronger, that did not lead to the left side as a whole being stronger, only those specific areas showed up as stronger. We were not able to see these distinct areas of the brain in the research of old. And the mistake of capturing a local area as an entire half of the brain is what lead to the mistaken conclusion that people can be more dominant in one side of the brain than the other. The authors of the 2013 study also said that if we were to generalize our two sides at all, it would be better to say the left side is more associated with language and internal stimuli, while the right side is more connected to attention and external stimuli. But even with these larger generalizations we know that these are more connected to specific areas rather than whole hemispheres. With updated technology such as MRIs we know research in this field will continue to grow. We will be able to learn even more about the specific areas that are responsible for making us… us. In the research that has been done, it is interesting to note that almost all tasks that are ‘sided’ have at least some overlap. Just like we talked about before you cannot use your Broca and Wernicke’s area to properly speak if you weren’t using your attention centers to listen to the question in the first place. How many times have you been talking to your friend and realized they asked you a question, and you give a generic ‘Um hmm’ because you have no idea what question they asked? This chart from the 2013 study shows just how many different areas of the brain there are and how they all connect. They say art comes from the artist’s experience. You write what you know about. That’s why there are so many songs about heartbreak. But we know recognizing internal stimuli and language come from the left side of the brain so creativity can’t be completely right sided. Ask almost anybody who has been through a doctoral program and they will tell you just how much attention and focus was required to get through their classes, or just how much writing they had to do to write their thesis. This combines both the right and the left brain strengths.   While the theory of left brain or right brain dominance is not supported by scientific evidence, I think that you wouldn’t want it to be true even if it could be. Why limit yourself to half of your potential? The best people in any field are the ones that have a multitude of skills. The best nurses know how to read the needs of their patients, but they also know how to understand the medical language used in patient charts. The best painters are those that can see things from a different perspective, and challenge those viewing their painting to do the same. But they also have the communication skills to market themselves. More research needs to be done on specific areas of the brain rather than the two hemispheres themselves. And with more and more advances in medical technology I am sure we will be able to get there.