Pilates for Better Sex with Alycea Ungaro

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alycea Ungaro of Real Pilates for my day job. We talked about her new book Pilates Practice Companion and one of the more interesting sections – how to use Pilates to improve your experience between the sheets. Alycea was lovely and showed us how to do some of the exercises. Here is the result:

Yes, it’s Possible to Get Rid of PMS

About a year and a half ago I was suffering from terrible PMS. Unless you’ve experienced this, it’s hard to realize exactly how bad it can be. I couldn’t stay awake, had night sweats, terrible mood swing and became incredibly irritable. My doctor said I was the picture of health, but I couldn’t imagine living my entire life suffering from all of those symptoms. Though a series of unrelated events, I started seeing acupuncturist and herbalist, Jill Blakeway from the YinOva Center. Jill found out about my symptoms and started treating me with acupuncture and with a special blend of Chinese herbs that she prescribed. The herbs come from a pharmacy in Boston in a powder form. I mixed them with water morning and night and three months later I was like a different person. Like many women I had no idea there was treatment for PMS outside of Midol.

Jill said there are about 13,000 Chinese herbs recorded, and contrary to the name, they are not all plants. Some are minerals and others are animals. Ever been in a Chinatown store displaying seahorses and other uncommon animals? Those are used for medicinal purposes… in the seahorses case, to treat impotence. The YinOva center doesn’t use any controversial remedies like many of the animal products. Jill says she routinely works with about 450 herbs and has 700 that she can call on easily. Because there are so many varieties, the herbs are able to target very specific ailments. For instance, Jill said there are many herbs for arthritis, and one in particular for arthritis in the shoulder.

In my case, Jill said that I tend to be like a pressure cooker and hold everything in, inhibiting the flow of qi. If you know me at all, you know that this is very accurate. So the herbs she gave me were designed to open the flow of energy throughout my body. I recently started seeing Jill again for other menstrual issues and she prescribed another batch of herbs that promote circulation paired with weekly acupuncture. I started the treatment about two weeks ago, so it’s still too early to tell if it’s working. Check back in about a month for another update.

A Tale of Two Portobello Burgers

Ray and I gave up meat for Lent, so we’ve been experimenting with a lot of vegetarian recipes over the last ten or so days. I’ve been wanted to learn how to recreate my favorite vegetarian burger, the portobello from GoodBurger here in NYC. The mushroom tastes juicy and tender and the burger is topped with basil pesto, cabot cheddar and roasted red peppers (which I usually have removed).

I searched online and found two recipes that sounded good, bought some organic portobellos from the local farmer’s market and decided to make two of each. Only substituting the GoodBurger toppings for the ones described in the respective recipes.

Burger “A” seen in the front/left came from Martha Stewart’sEveryday Food site. This was the easier of the two, but slightly more time consuming.

After cleaning the mushroom caps, I put them in a rimmed baking pan with water, olive oil and salt and baked them for about 35 minutes. Exact instructions can be found by following the link.

Burger “B,”  shown in the back right, looks pretty much the same as “A” but these cleaned portobellos were marinated in a balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and italian spice mix. That recipe came from AllRecipes.com. After marinating, I grilled the mushrooms while continually basting them.

Find out our opinions of the burgers after the jump.

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Healthy Living Media Event – “Change Starts With Your Underwear”

Recently I attended the Healthy Living Media Event in New York City. It was basically a collection of different brands showingoff their products to the media, offering samples and explaining their wares. I got to take home some nice goodies including awindow tomato garden kit from Seeds of Change, an LED lightbulb from Pharox that is expected to last up to 25 years and a tube of organic-based, all natural sunscreen from Badger.

But my favorite take-home from the event is a pair of organic underwear from Pact with their charming slogan, “Change starts with your underwear.” That’s right, organic undies. It was less about the actual product than the messaging that appealed to me so much. The undies are made of completely organic cotton with low-impact dyes, packed in fabric bags made from excess material. An easy way to pick what patterns you like is to choose a cause you’d like to support. Each pattern is paired with a different charitable organization and a portion of the proceeds benefits that organization. So you get a comfy pair of organic undies and a chance to give back! Only downside – the price.  A pair of women’s bikinis goes for $20 which is more than I like to spend. But splurging on one or two pairs is definitely worth it.

Inspiring Donation Cancer Treatment Center

For my day job, I was assigned to find and profile and inspiring woman. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a co-worker from a different division mentioned that he would be working with Luana DeAngelis-Halpern the Founder/President of the You Can Thrive! Foundation. Luana created You Can Thrive! after her cancer diagnosis at the age of 35. She wanted to give women a place to get free patient advocacy, nutritional counseling, acupuncture and aromatherapy. And the dream is now a reality. Luana doesn’t charge patients and relies completely on donations of money, time and space to offer these services. She doesn’t look at financials and welcomes everyone with open arms. I was extremely inspired when I left the center today and am very much looking forward to our shoot in the coming weeks.

Before I left, Luana asked me to donate something – access to my contacts and my voice in the media. And I am more than happy to do that. Please take a minute to watch the moving video below. I’ll link my story once it’s live also.

A Barre3 Class with Sadie Lincoln

I had the opportunity to take a Barre3 class the last time I was in Portland and this weekend I got a repeat treat while founder Sadie Lincoln was in NYC. This class wasn’t in a traditional Barre3 studio, but the Lululemon store in Lincoln Center. The event was hosted by Well & Good NYC.

Barre3 combines barre, Yoga & Pilates. But the “3″ in Barre3 also stands for balance. Balance in life and within the routine. I had the opportunity to talk with Sadie about this concept and she said that she designed the system and business around the life she wants to lead. Her studios close every afternoon so owners can eat dinner with their families.

This time around, Sadie herself was teaching at a local Lululemon store. It was crowded and instead of a barre, the walls were lined with clothing. But one thing was the same – a butt kicking workout! Sadie led us through an hour long class filled with moves different from most other classes I’ve taken, regardless of genre. The high reps of small movements were also still present. I definitely felt the workout in areas I don’t have success targeting like the inner thighs and down the length of my back.

Some interesting notes from the class:

  • Sadie said that women tend to overdevelop their quads and should target hamstrings and calves
  • When in a balancing pose on one foot, Sadie told us to hold our ear with the opposite hand to improve balance – and it worked!
  • Ever trembled during a tough workout? Sadie calls those a “Barre3 earthquake” and encourages them. I experienced that during class and witnessed some others trembling around me too!
  • Another tip I picked up during class: practice plank position for a minute every day to improve posture and strength. There’s no excuse not to – it only takes a minute.

If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of the challenging system and am hoping a permanent outpost lands in NYC soon.

Some of the Reasons I Love Acupuncture

I’ve had the privilege of working with Jill Blakeway of the Yin Ova Center for my day job. Jill is an acupuncturist and herbalist and has devoted much of her time to helping women conceive. She co-authored the book, “Making Babies” and Town & Country Magazine called her The Fertility Goddess. But Jill also helps women, like me, with any and all other issues plaguing them. This includes everything from a low-grade cold to PMS to a failing libido. They are issues Western Medicine often doesn’t have an answer for.


It’s been awhile since Jill treated me and I went to see her this morning. On top of getting brilliant results, she creates a warm and happy atmosphere for her clients. I seriously could go for an appointment every day. I always feel good after a session and wonder why I don’t go more often.

Click here to watch a segment forBetter TV that I recently produced with Jill. It features Korean cosmetics by Sulwhasoo made with herbs. They are great products!


Easy and Delicious Quinoa Recipe

A friend emailed me today and asked if I had any tips for cooking quinoa. Coincidentally, I made a delicious quinoa dish last night. I think it’s my husbands favorite dish from my repertoire, so I rotate it through often. This particular dish has sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli & cashews. To cook the quinoa, you basically make a broth with white wine, vegetable broth among other ingredients then boil the quinoa in the broth. I can’t take credit for the recipe, it’s from the Whole Foods Recipe app. The app is free for iPhone and iPad and I highly recommend getting it. Every dish I’ve made from these recipes has been delicious. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the Whole Foods Zesty Quinoa with Broccoli and Cashews:

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I substitute with veggie broth if I don’t have a bottle of white)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup small broccoli florets
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashew pieces
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium pot. Ann onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Stir in quinoa and salt. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Arrange broccoli on top of quinoa, cover and simmer for an additional 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to plates and serve garnished with cashews and green onions.


Natural Deodorants

One of the most difficult natural items for me to find is deodorant. I’ve completely given up finding antiperspirants made without harsh chemicals and have tried at least a half-dozen different deodorants. Just yesterday I was getting frustrated with my search and the thought of going back to regular deodorant creeped into my mind. But then a morning email from Well & Good NYC brought up the issue again and reminded me why natural choices are important and that I’m not the only one who struggles with finding an effective natural deodorant. The Well & Good article found here tested four different types of deodorants. I’ve tried the Tom’s of Maine version and wasn’t impressed. My husband really likes the Naturally Fresh Crystal Roll-On. He says it’s cheap and effective. What more could you want?

I find that I need a little more coverage than he does. Right now I have two favorites… Crystal Body Deodorant Spray and crystal rock and Kiss My Face Liquid Rock. I bought them both at Whole Foods, and they can easily be found online for about $5 each.

Along with those two winners, I’ve also tried some brands that I won’t be re-purchasing including two solids, one by Lafe’s Natural Body Care and the other by Alba Botanica and a roll on by Skin by Monica.

I try to buy fragrance free and sample sizes when possible. I’m still searching for something that works as good as Degree without the harsh chemicals. Hopefully if enough people show manufacturers there is a desire for effective natural deodorants there will soon be more options.