Hello all! First, I apologize for my absence last week. I had a crazy week and just couldn’t get a post out. I hope to not have many breaks like that in the future, but I know you all understand how life can just trip you up at times. But, I’m back and with an article that I think is fascinating!
The article came out over a week ago, so some of you may have already seen it, but I’m hoping that it’s new for at least some of you. A friend emailed it to Paul and I and it only re-affirmed our desire to get a nanny for our future children who speaks another language so our kids will have a chance to learn a second language or at least be able to learn a few sentences and words to get them by. The benefits just seem endless and we hope we’ll be able to provide that resource for them.
The article goes beyond commenting on the obvious benefits of bilingualism; it’s clear that speaking another language is extremely helpful in our growing global world. I get upset with myself when I’m out in SF at a Chinese restaurant and can’t even ask for a fork (how non-Chinese am I?) in Chinese and there have been countless times when someone has asked for directions in Chinese on the MUNI and I feel so helpless telling them that I can’t speak the language. But, beyond situations like that the article touches on the deeper benefits of bilingualism like later onset of dementia and the ability to better resolve internal conflict, strengthening your mind’s cognitive muscles.
The article cites a few studies that examined how bilingualism helped children, and I found the results very interesting. In one study, researchers saw that preschoolers who were able to speak more than one language were better able to sort through colored shapes when asked to put blue circles and red squares in virtual bins marked with blue SQUARES and red CIRCLES; this was more difficult for mono-lingual preschoolers since it required placing shapes in a bin marked with a conflicting color.
Collectively, studies seem to show that bilingualism improves the brain’s “so-called executive function”, which is the part of the brain that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.The article suggests “these processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.” In summary, it appears being bilingual helps you have a “heightened ability to monitor the environment” since it often requires you to switch languages and being aware of surroundings.
The article is super short and a quick and interesting read, so I encourage you to check it out to get the results of other studies on which they report. The brain is a fascinating organ, with plenty of researchers dedicating their lives to understand it better. I believe in our lifetime we’re going to learn some amazing things about it that will hopefully help cure diseases and improve our health.
I leave you today with a good brain drawing I’ve seen on Draw Something, the new app that is taking over phones these days. Zynga bought the company that created this game after only 7 weeks on the market for a whopping $180 MILLION. When you do the math it means that company made over $3.6M/day for each day that app was out. Bananas! Ok, now download it and find me. Screen name: erica.day
Oh and for comparison, here’s the brain I drew, so good, right?
psst: check out some the most amazing Draw Something drawings out there here. WOW, people are talented!
Happy Thursday all!
Welcome to my first Favorite Things post! Most blogs I read have done a favorite things post at one point or another. I think it’s because everyone enjoys seeing what people are into at the moment and so they can perhaps get ideas on the latest trends in fashion, health, life. etc. So, I thought I should do it too! I’ll do these every now and then since new things are always coming out or different products are always being discovered. My goal is to share things with you that you may not know about and get into yourself! These are in no particular order…
1. Amazon Prime
I did just say that these were in no particular order, but Amazon Prime might be my ultimate favorite thing. It may seem silly to some of you that a website could be one of my favorite things in life, but did you know that Amazon was the #1 brand last year, beating out WalMart? Paul and I have been Prime members for a few years now, and we love it. For those of you who may not know what that is, Amazon Prime gives you free 2-day shipping and most things on Amazon are not taxed (here in CA that saves me 9.85%!). If you have a old or current .edu email you can sign up here for FREE for the first 6 months! Or, if you’re a mom you can get a free 2-month trial here. Better yet, anyone can sign up for a free one-month trial here. In addition to the free 2-day shipping, prime members get free instant streaming of movies and TV shows (selection is pretty good), and instant access to thousands of Kindle books for free (you can borrow books for free so you don’t have to purchase them. Again, it’s a pretty good selection with a mix of popular, new books and classics)!
Some of you may be asking, “what can you get from Amazon other than books?”. The answer is EVERYTHING, and that is not an exaggeration. There are very few times when I have looked on Amazon and not found what I wanted, but that has probably happened about 2 times ever. I’ve bought my Mac laptop from there (it was $100 cheaper than in the store and I saved $128 since I was not taxed on it), cooking utensils, baking ingredients (e.g. cake flour since it’s not too common in regular stores), bedding, my DSLR and camera lenses, makeup, lotion, etc. I have even bought Chinese black beans from there that I needed for a recipe. I live in SF and while those are pretty easy to find the effort to get to Chinatown by bus or driving and parking was far greater than the effort it took to put it in my shopping cart and hit”submit”. It was at my doorstep 2 days later, cheaper, and not taxed So, if you think Amazon is only for books, think again! You can really find everything you need on there and most things are way cheaper than when you buy them in the store. And, often times when I am out shopping and see something I like I use my Amazon iPhone app and scan the barcode to see if it’s cheaper online. 99% of the time, it is! Oh, and little hint– you can sign up for Subscribe and Save to get certain products cheaper if you subscribe to get it every month or every other month (you set up the time frame) on things like e.g. diapers (things you need frequently are usually available under subscribe and save), but then you can immediately cancel that subscription and you’ll still get the cheaper price. Finally, their customer service is awesome. What more could you want?!
2. Built Products
I currently have a Built Camera bag and Built lunch tote, and I love both! They are so durable and the lunch tote is stretchy so when I’m feeling extra hungry it can hold all my goodies And, they come in fun colors and patterns! The lunch totes and many of their other products (minus the camera bag) are machine washable too! From their site it looks like they have a lot of different products for different items like all your Apple products, laptops, bottles, etc.
3. Snack Taxis
While we’re somewhat on the subject of lunch/food my next favorite things are Snack Taxis! These may seem childish, but they are very practical and hey, they are good for the earth so you don’t have to keep using plastic bags! You can pack your snacks, sandwiches, etc. in them (there are different sizes) and they are machine washable. They have fun, modern prints that gear towards adults so you don’t have to carry around ones with animals or cartoons on them
4. Rent the Runway
If you know me well you know that Paul and I have been having about 5 weddings on average that we’ve had to go to each year for the past 2 years. We love going to them and seeing our friends get married, but buying different dresses can get expensive! Paul has it easy- either tux or suit and he can wear the same suit each time. But, us girls like to change it up and get different dresses! My lovely coworker, Cristin, introduced me to http://www.renttherunway.com and it’s awesome! You have to sign up, but it’s free and you don’t get spammed, and once you do you can browse their their dresses and find the perfect one for your event! There are 4 or 8 day rentals, the dresses are shipped to you on day 1 (so frequently I do a 4 day rental for a weekend wedding starting on Thursday. Sunday is technically the 4th day, but since there is no mail then to send it back you can send it back Monday and it’s fine), and then they give you a return bag all pre-printed to ship the dresses back in. You just drop the bags in any blue mailbox near you first thing on the day of return/last day of the rental! And, the best part is that you can get 2 sizes in a dress if you don’ t know exactly how it will fit. Even more, for $25 more you can get a back up dress! This can come in handy if you are going to the rehearsal dinner- you can use your back up for that and your other dress for the main event! They have a wide variety of dresses and amazing designers so you can rent dresses you’d never buy for yourself. This was particularly helpful for me when I had black tie weddings recently and wanted to wear a long dress, but didn’t want to buy once since I hardly ever wear those. You can also rent shoes, jewelery, and accessories, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve had all good experiences with them and always get compliments when I wear a dress I’ve rented from there. I’ve rented these dresses: 1, 2, 3 and loved them all!
5. Joseph Joseph
Nope, that wasn’t a typo! The brand Joseph Joseph is awesome and I love all their kitchen products and gadgets. I have these cutting boards and these cooking utensils and both are have been great! Joseph Joseph makes kitchen products that are not only functional, but also very modern looking and they are designed to not take up too much space. (which is perfect for us since we’re still currently renting). The company has come up with some pretty amazing stuff–I’ve got my eye on this and these!
Before Groupon, Home Run, Living Social, and the 150+ other coupon sites, there was Slickdeals. Slickdeals is a site that gathers all different sorts of deals going on through websites, companies, etc. and puts them in one spot for you. They are most often deals that include Free Shipping and they give you the codes to type in, if needed, and link you directly to the websites selling the products. I love it because you can find some pretty amazing things for CHEAP. We once found a 60″ 3D TV for $500! The items they post range from electronics, clothing, magazines, kitchen stuff, bedding, etc. So, you get a wide array of sale items. Even better, I just put the site on my Google Reader (screenshot below) and have it all organized in one area with my other blogs/sites I subscribe to. That way I don’t have to remember to go to the Slickdeals site every day since I visit my Reader multiple times during the day.
When I come across something I like I just click on it and then hit the “V” key and it will pop up another window or tab straight to the Slickdeals post on that item which can direct me to the site the has the deal (side note, the Google reader shortcuts like the “V” key are awesome. Learn them here). There’s usually around 20 deals posted every day so the chances of you finding something are great! I’ve found an awesome pot set on there, great deals on clothes, etc. Have fun!
OK, those are my first 6 favorite things! I have a lot more to share, but I think that is good enough for now! Hopefully, I shared something new with some of you and you get intrigued to check out the products/sites. I’ll be back again with more Favorite Things. Feel free to comment and share YOUR favorite must-haves in life- I love finding out about new things!
I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite thing… my family Check out my Grandma in the front second from the left (my Pau Pau!). She is too cute for words. Happy Wednesday!
I’m fairly confident that most of you reading my blog are my friends or family, which means I know you and know we have similar jobs. In the off chance that you’re reading this blog and I don’t know you we could still have similar jobs so keep reading! In terms of me saying “similar” I mean we all sit at a desk all day, look at a computer, and are pretty much sedentary. I didn’t start to notice the effects of this until probably over 2 years at my job, but now I often find myself with tight muscles in my legs, neck, back, etc., and I hate it (Paul hates it too since I constantly ask for back rubs). Some of you may have seen headlines in the last year such as “IS YOUR OFFICE JOB KILLING YOU?” (e.g. here), and I remember feeling somewhat alarmed since I recognize that sitting all day can have some bad health effects, but I hadn’t really looked into the research. So, I was immediately drawn to this NY Times article, which summarized an interesting study that gave backing to what many of us already know- we need to move more.
This article cites a study in which scientists tried to create a more realistic version of inactivity by having their volunteers cut the number of steps they took each day by at least half (guidelines recommend that you take at least 10,000 steps/day). Specifically, they were looking at the volunteers’ blood sugar levels after periods of activity vs. inactivity. It’s well known that blood sugar level spikes are bad for you, and this often happens after you eat a meal. These spikes have been associated with heart disease and Type II diabetes. So, the researchers had the volunteers use sophisticated glucose monitoring devices and also gave them pedometers so they could track their steps. They also asked them to keep food diaries. The study had two phases; in the first phase the volunteers were told to live normally for 3 days (walking, eating, exercising as usual) and in the second phase volunteers were told to cut back on their activity to less than 5,000 steps/day (hardly any walking or exercising, but could still eat as they normally did) for 3 days. These volunteers were unlike your average Americans since they were naturally very active in that they each exercised about 30 minutes/day so they easily achieved the 10,000 steps/day (10,000 steps is about 5 miles for those of you wondering and the average American takes fewer than 5,000 steps/day). To achieve the less than 5,000 steps/day the volunteers did no exercise at all, stopped taking the stairs, ordered food to be delivered, etc. What the researchers found was that on the first 3 days the participants’ glucose levels didn’t spike at all after meals, but that during the second inactivity phase their levels significantly spiked, increasing by about 26%. Plus, the spikes grew more each successive day of inactivity! The article does touch on the subject that many times we get injured or are sick so we cannot workout for a few days or a week even– should we be concerned that those days and/or weeks could cause harm? The simple answer is no. Studies have shown that blood sugar regulation should resume back to normal once activity begins again. Which begs the question, “what is your normal?” I try to exercise 4-5 times a week, doing at least an hour of cardio and/or resistance training, but it can be so difficult sometimes. Some people I know work from when it’s dark outside in the morning to when it’s dark in the evening so that leaves little time for a workout. Or, some of you may be like me…come home after work, grab a snack, and get lured to the couch by the DVR (I started writing this post with the temptation of skipping the gym and watching Modern Family). After all, it takes effort to get in your gym clothes, pull your hair back and get to the gym and I don’t have to exert any effort to just sit on the couch and watch TV. Ah, life is hard for me
But, in all seriousness, we need to move more. Even if it’s just walking for 30 minutes, that’s something and it counts! And, after looking into the research more, it makes a difference. I wish more work places would value exercise more and incorporate it into their day somehow. I’m lucky to live in the Bay Area where many people make exercise a top priority and many work places encourage it. My own boss has let me take an hour to run on a trail right by the ocean (I know, I’m a lucky girl!) midday, and Paul’s work incorporates exercise into their day (he’s actually become a little too obsessed with their daily highly competitive wiffle ball games) and they do cross-fit workouts everyday in their office. Even more, one of my old roommates in SF once worked at a place where they paid for your monthly gym membership to encourage you to exercise more. I mean, remember what Elle Woods said? (I promise I don’t live my life by chick flicks). Endorphins make you happy, and work places should want happy workers to get more productivity from them. I digress though…
I posted this to help encourage you to get out there and move more. We are a lazy society, and I am guilty of that too. But, just 30-40 minutes a day of moving around could really make a difference in our health. And, I don’t know about you, but I want to be around for awhile. So, now when I get home after work and think about just vegging out on the couch I think about those 10,000 steps I need to take and those nasty spikes in blood sugar level. I hope I got you thinking as well…
If the cardio wasn’t enough motivation for me to sneak in a run at work here are some shots I’ve taken from the trails I can run around my office….not to brag or anything…everyone should move to SF
Oh, and for you Smart Phone users there are a few good pedometer apps out there if you’re curious to see how many steps you do take in a day. A good free version is this one although there are many to choose from!
Happy Tuesday! Get out there and MOVE!