Thursday, December 15, 2016

Friday Morning Iced Coffee Date (12/16)

Good morning and HAPPY FRIDAY, friends!

It’s Friday morning and you know what that means: It’s time for an iced coffee date! I’m drinking my iced coffee with eggnog this morning, so it’s festive, fun, creamy, and sweet. Perfection. What are you drinking this morning?

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Speaking of coffee…

I’m kind of annoyed with Marylou’s lately. Remember how much I used to love their coffee? It was actually kind of an obsession. Well, I haven’t been thrilled with my last few Marylou’s experiences. The iced coffee is so watered-down nowadays. Like the eggnog iced coffee that I bought the other day… it was basically coffee-flavored water with a hint of eggnog flavoring. Ugh. Annoying. Related: At home, I’m brewing the Coconut Hawaiian Coffee from Nuts.com, and it’s the bomb. And, of course, much more cost-effective than buying it/wasting my money at Marylou’s!

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Random thoughts related to the photo above:

  1. We recently unlocked the child safety locks on our kitchen cabinets (except the one under the sink with the cleaning supplies) because our “baby” doesn’t really need them anymore. (We have the drill-free magnetic ones, so we can always lock them again if Qman decides he wants to go nuts with the Tupperware or something.) It’s crazy how quickly time flies when you have a little one. When Quinn was a newborn, certain stages felt like they would last forever and life would never change. Looking back, the past 2.5 years have totally flown by and those stages are just a blink in the past. The days are long, but the years are short.
  2. You can see just a glimpse of my shirt in the photo above, but I’m obsessed with this top from Brooks. I absolutely love the color and the fit is pure perfection… soft and cozy, slimming with length and extra coverage. It’s great for winter runs as well as wearing to and from the gym and running errands around town. Love!

Here I am, just hanging out in my Threshold Long Sleeve Running Shirt... you know, behind Salt Shack CrossFit, near the backhoe and pet store dumpsters. #fashionblogger

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Speaking of fashion blogging… I got all dressed up for our second Designed to Fit Nutrition software meeting yesterday. We got to see the design interface for the very first time, and it’s incredible! It’s super user-friendly, much more professional, and exactly what we need to take us to the next level with our business. Kerrie and I were literally giddy with excitement when we left the meeting!!

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I talked to Nicole of Whole Health RD on the phone the other day. (FYI: She has an awesome podcast now!!) We’ve worked together for several months now, and I love picking her brain about nutrition, health, food, etc. She always has such great ideas! During our call, I complained that oatmeal hasn’t been “agreeing” with me lately. Well, apparently, soaking oats makes them easier to digest, which makes so much sense now. I rarely have issues with overnight and crock-pot oats, but stove-top oats don’t always sit well. Just wanted to pass along the info! 🙂

Unrelated, but awesome: Boxed now delivers WINE. Holy cow. You guys know how much we love Boxed, right? Short story: We order diapers, wipes, and household items in bulk, and they arrive at our front door like 24 hours later. Well, now they deliver wine! #lifechanger And how perfect would wine be as a last-minute holiday gift! Smile

Speaking of holiday gifts… I recently partnered with Minted to make our holiday cards. Oh my gosh, that pug face kills me!

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Also from Minted, I got this framed print for Mal. When we talk about our favorite travel adventures, he always mentions our road trip through Ireland. Plus, this is what we’ve had hanging in our master bathroom since we moved in…

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It’s definitely time to upgrade!

FYI: That tiny photo in the corner of the frame is (creepy) Murphy. Mal and I used to hide it on each other, but it finally ended up there.

Speaking of the pug… he loses his sh*t over these VeggieDents. (You may have seen his pug excitement on Instagram Stories.) Our vet suggested them as a way to keep his doggie teeth clean, so just wanted to pass along the recommendation.

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Quinn is going to be in a holiday musical tonight (through daycare), and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for anything in my whole life.

The end.

Questions of the Day

How’s life? What’s up for the weekend? What would you tell me this morning over coffee?



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Almond Butter Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Almost every packaged holiday cookie out there is made with bleached and heavily processed flour, artificial colors derived from petroleum, GMO refined white sugars and GMO oils, and conflict palm oil. Just because it’s the holidays, you don’t need to subject … Continued

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Save Room for Dessert with These Slimmed-Down Holiday Sides

A holiday meal is a true marathon, with one mouthwatering dish after the next — and you won’t want to miss a single one. This year, avoid the mistake of overexerting yourself in the earlier rounds so that you’re out of the running by the time that luscious fruit pie or chocolate cake hits the table. Pacing yourself and watching your portions are solid tactics for avoiding the notorious “food baby.” Another foolproof way to avoid going overboard at dinner is to rein in the sides. Classic dishes like full-fat creamed spinach and potatoes gratin are nice for the first few forkfuls, but they will leave you feeling too full — or worse, too ill — to enjoy the final round. Here are some lighter options that won’t spoil your appetite for dessert, but are by no means lacking in flavor.

Ham and Vegetable Gratin (pictured above)
Skip oily, monochromatic potato gratin this year and surprise your guests with Food Network Kitchen’s hearty alternative, loaded with carrots, peas, potatoes and juicy ham. If you’re planning on serving ham as the main course, even better. Simply reserve a few slices to chop and mix into this side dish.

Lemon Pepper Mushrooms
Fresh lemon zest, snipped chives and cracked black pepper are all you need to enhance tender button mushrooms for your holiday meal — and for merely 58 calories per serving. When shopping for the mushrooms, stick to pre-sliced. You’ll save yourself a ton of time when you eliminate tedious knife work from your to-do list.

Kale and Cauliflower Casserole
Showcase in-season produce with a colorful medley of slow-cooked kale, tender cauliflower and mashed red potatoes. No need to overshadow the vegetables with a heavy cream sauce or breadcrumbs: Just a touch of Parmesan and sour cream will lend the casserole a celebratory feel.

Vegan Saffron Risotto
Food Network Kitchen’s creamy, saffron-hued risotto is a special-occasion dish for vegans, vegetarians and even meat eaters. Ingredients high in umami, like tomato paste, soy sauce and canned tomatoes, add depth; nutritional yeast adds a bit of a cheesy taste.

Roasted Celery Root and Carrots
This seasonal mix of hearty root vegetables will fit seamlessly into any holiday menu, whether you’re serving rack of lamb, prime rib or juicy spiral-cut ham. Use just a touch of paprika to add heat and complexity.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette
Once again, lemon proves you don’t need a heavy cream sauce or handfuls of grated cheese to flavor vegetables. Melissa d’Arabian tops juicy roasted asparagus with a few spoonfuls of her bright and tangy lemon vinaigrette. The end result? A versatile side dish that’s just 112 calories per serving.

Healthy Creamed Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts
But of course there are ways to do cream sauce without pushing your meal into obscenely decadent territory. Food Network Kitchen’s reduced-fat cream sauce, pleasantly spiced with nutmeg, does wonders for earthy Swiss chard and red onion. Top the dish with a few toasted pine nuts for a satisfying crunch.

Whole Grain Biscuits
If you go the creamed vegetable route, you’ll need something to mop up the delectable sauce. Food Network Kitchen’s healthy whole-grain option is a great alternative to the refined flour biscuits that all too commonly fill our breadbaskets. Salt and pepper bring out the hearty richness of whole wheat in these biscuits, which have just 1 gram of sugar per serving.

For more celebratory sides, check out these holiday recipes from our friends:

Devour: 6 Types of Bread to Complement Your Holiday Dinner
The Lemon Bowl: Roasted Acorn Squash with Tahini Sauce
The Fed Up Foodie: Creamy Dreamy Scallop Potatoes
The Mom 100: Spoonbread Corn Pudding
A Mind “Full” Mom: Roasted Radicchio Wedge Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Taste with the Eyes: Holiday Entertaining: Asparagus, Hollandaise, Caviar
Dishin and Dishes: Roasted Cinnamon Vanilla Almonds
FN Dish: The Quickest, Easiest Sides for Your Holiday Table



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14 Weird Plant Bits and Where to Find Them: Foraging Ethnic Markets

Inline_Weird_plant_bitsFive years ago, I wrote about all the odd animal bits one can find at ethnic markets. I procured and photographed the blood, the guts, the tendon, the tripe, the tails and heads and feet and all the other weird things you can and should eat—meaty bits you won’t find in the local Whole Foods.

Today, I’m going to talk about the weird plant bits available in ethnic markets—spices, greens, roots, noodles, and fermented things.

But first, a few reasons why everyone should probably hightail it to the nearest Asian, Middle Eastern, African, or Mexican market.

Asian supermarkets exist outside of the normal supply chain typical markets use. They get different produce, in many cases fresher produce, and lower prices. A recent article in Saveur explains why: “Chinatown’s 80-plus produce markets are cheap because they are connected to a web of small farms and wholesalers that operate independently of the network supplying most mainstream supermarkets.” I don’t know that this applies to Asian markets in other cities, or other types of ethnic markets, but it’s a good bet. 

Going to an ethnic market is a little like traveling: you enter an unfamiliar situation with different sights, smells, and languages. Travel purists will scoff, but I maintain that this is a decent way to “tour.” We can’t all drop everything to go backpack through Southeast Asia for half a year. This is better than nothing.

What should you look for?

Red palm oil—West African markets

We’ve all shelled out the $15 for a smallish jar of sustainably-grown red palm oil pressed from palm fruits hand-and-foot-picked by entrepreneurial orangutans, probably after reading about its incredible nutrient content on MDA or some other blog. But there’s another place to get really great orangutan-free red palm oil: your local West African market. West African countries like Ghana and Nigeria have a long history of using red palm oil as a staple fat, whereas the places most people get their palm oil—Malaysia and Indonesia—do not. I trust tradition.

The red palm oil I’ve bought from African shops is the real deal. It’s unfiltered. It’s deep red, rather than orange. It often comes unlabeled in mason jars.

Sichuan/Szechuan peppercorns—Asian markets

I don’t know if these things are “superfoods” or anything. One small study found that sichuan peppercorn compounds inhibit cancer growth while having no affect on growth of normal cells, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on that.

No, the real reason I love Sichuan peppercorns is their provision of a totally unique flavor sensation—tingling. I find it goes best with lamb alongside cumin and something slightly sweet.

Natto—Japanese markets

I won’t linger on natto, my favorite soy food. I’ve spoken up about it many times before. Natto is the single-best source of vitamin K2 in the diet, a nutrient solely lacking in most modern diets.

Eat it with sardines and a bit of soy sauce.

Prepared kimchi—Korean markets

Most Asian market refrigerated sections will have good kimchi in jars. It’s standard stuff—napa cabbage and whatnot. I’m talking about the many varieties of kimchi available in Korean market deli sections. You can find pickled cucumbers, mustard leaf, radish, and even a white kimchi that’s flavorful without being spicy.

Chinese broccoli/gai lan—Asian markets

Gai lan is a member of the brassica family, alongside broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. As such, it’s probably going to improve your resistance to and excretion of various carcinogens, toxins, and other things you don’t want.

My favorite way of cooking it is to separate the thick stalks from the florets, steam the stalks for 3 minutes, then add the flowers for another 2 minutes. Toss in the sauce/fat of your choice.

They’re also good quickly charred over flames or on a hot cast iron skillet. Toss with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Fava greens—Asian markets

Most people haven’t eaten fava greens. They’re seasonal, available in the spring and early summer. If you like fava beans but don’t do legumes, fava greens taste a bit like them. You can eat them raw in a salad or sautĂ©d, though I prefer the heartier-than-spinach leaves cooked a bit. Personally, I’m a fan of wilting a bowl of fava greens by placing a hot steak directly on top.

Also excellent with Chianti and liver (not human).

Purple sweet potatoes—Asian markets

The fabled purple sweet potato has begun appearing in Whole Foods, but for the longest time the best and often only place to get one was the local Asian market. It’s still a good spot.

Don’t worry too much about organic vs. non-organic. Sweet potatoes are hardy plants that show very little pesticide residue and consistently place in the “clean 15.”

Sweet potato greens—Asian markets

After reading about the nutrient density of sweet potato greens back when I wrote the sweet potato post, I had to try them. They’re really high in magnesium, that elusive nutrient. And they actually taste good.

Treat them like spinach or chard.

Young coconuts—Asian markets

Forget canned coconut water. Every Asian market I’ve ever visited sells young Thai coconuts wrapped in plastic for about a buck fifty—the same exact coconuts (same label!) upscale markets sell for three times the price. You get about a pint of the best coconut water you’ve ever tasted, plus a cup of sweet coconut meat. I recommend a machete or really strong cleaver. I’ve ruined at least two cheapo kitchen knives hacking away at these things.

Look for pure white/cream-colored coconuts. Avoid any hint of pinkness, as that indicates spoilage.

Buy a case for your next party and wow guests.

Shirataki noodles—Asian markets

You want prebiotic fiber? You want a low-carb noodle alternative? Try shirataki noodles, also known as konjac noodles or yam noodles.

Konjac root is mostly glucomannan, a prebiotic fiber that encourages the growth of butyrate-producing gut bacteria in human subjects on a low fiber diet. As we know from past postsbutyrate appears to improve insulin sensitivity and blood lipids, and decrease intestinal permeability. 

Dosa batter—Indian markets

Being fermented rice and lentil pancakes, dosas aren’t quite Primal, but they’ve got a lot of things going for them. They’re fermented. They’re gluten-free (rice and lentils). And they often contain interesting spices, like fenugreek, turmeric, and ginger in the batter.

Next time the kids are clamoring for something pancake-adjacent and you don’t feel like whipping out the GF pancake mix, having a container of dosa batter will save the day.

Tulsi (holy basil)—Indian markets

I’ve never cooked with tulsi, and I’m not sure it’s really a thing, but it makes a fine tea. Animal studies indicate that tulsi provides a real boost to testosterone levels.

It comes in bags of dried whole or powdered leaves and is considerably cheaper than the tea bags you find online. Try simmering a tablespoon of dry leaves in a cup of water with a teaspoon of coconut oil.

Ashwagandha—Indian markets

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that most Western consumers have only seen in pill form. If you go to an Indian market, you can get whole dried ashwagandha root. It may not be a standardized extract with consistent levels of active compounds, but you will be getting the “extraneous” compounds that the purified extracts omit.

Tastes a bit musty, honestly. Suffer through the tea or toss a root in with your next batch of bone broth.

Spices in general—any market

My Indian friends always tell me the spices you get in places like Whole Foods or Amazon simply don’t compare to the ones you get in the local Indian market. The turmeric is more pungent, the cumin is more intense, the cardamom pods are more fragrant, and so on. It appears to be true for other spices in other ethnic markets, too.

Next time you need to restock your spice cabinet, head down to the local ethnic market and see how they compare.

That’s just a small taste of the available edible plant bits you’ll find at ethnic markets. These are my favorites. How about yours? What did I miss? What should I try?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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A Biomechanical Analysis of the Squat: How Bar Position Affects the Movement

Written by: Kevin Cann

The terms “hip dominant” and “knee dominant” squats get thrown around quite a bit. I use these terms frequently myself. Often times people will alter the bar position on the body to attempt to get a different training effect.

For example, we may high bar squat, or front squat instead of using a low bar position to get more quad work in our squat. The idea is that if we move the bar 2-3 inches higher on our back to the top of our traps that we will have a more positive shin angle (knees tracking further over the toes) and we will get more quad work out of the exercise. A front squat places the bar in front of the body and would lead to a greater shin angle than a high bar squat.

Low Bar Position and Squat
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High Bar Position/Squat
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Front Rack Position/Squat
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front-squat

The problem with this is it is not the case. All squat variations have very similar muscle activity (1). No matter what the shin angle or bar position is in the squat, the muscle activity for the quads is the same (2). The reason for this is the co-contraction of the hamstrings.

The hamstrings are a biarticulate muscle group, meaning that they cross two joints. The hamstrings attach at the hip and also the knee. Due to them crossing two joints, they can act upon two joints. Not only do they extend the hips, but they also flex the knee.

During the concentric portion of the squat we are trying to extend the knee. The quads are our primary knee extensor muscle group. When we have a more positive shin angle we increase the moment arm for the knee extensors, that part is true. This is where logic tells us that it is a more quad dominant squat.

However, if we sit back into the squat and make it more hip dominant, we get a smaller moment arm for the knee extensors, but they have to fight the co-contraction of the hamstrings harder. This is why the muscle activity for the quads is the same for all shin angles. They are either fighting the weight on the bar, or fighting the hamstrings.

The body will attempt to use monoarticulate muscles first. This means that the glutes should be our primary hip extensors in the squat, with the quads extending the knee. There are no negatives associated to the glutes extending the hip. If the hamstrings take over for the glutes, there is a cost associated with it because they are trying to bend the knee as well.

We want the hamstrings to kick in at the sticking point of the lift. By this point some knee extension should be achieved, which gives the quads greater leverage to extend the knee, making the hamstring contraction less of a problem for the quads.

Often times we will see a breakdown in the lift where we get the knees extending somewhat, hips shifting further back, and the chest pitching forward out of the hole. This is our body shifting the load to our hamstrings, glutes, and back. This is not as ideal as it may sound.

Example of a “good morning” squat
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To lift big weights you need to stay as upright as possible in the squat. Having the torso fall forward puts the weight of the bar in front of our center of gravity, making it very difficult to lift. We want the bar to be over our midfoot at all times (right over our center of gravity).

When this technique fault occurs we also get a lot of body movement with very little bar movement. This is wasted energy and will result in less weight being lifted. When this technique fault occurs often times we chalk it up to weak quads.

This absolutely could be the case. Quads get maxed out and shift the hips back and chest forward, which allows us to get some knee extension without having to fight the weight of the bar. From there it is up to the glutes, hamstrings, and back to fight through the tough position. This is your body giving you the best chance to stand up with the weight.

I am not arguing that weak quads are a culprit here. However, I do not think it is the definite culprit. Remember, the quads are not the only muscle group helping us stand up from the squat. The glutes also play a major role. If the glutes are weak, this pattern also makes sense.

It is true that when we shift the hips back we are increasing the moment arms for hip extension, but we are also increasing the musculature involved. Often times people’s hamstrings are better hip extensors than their glutes. This is probably due to the increasingly sedentary lives we lead. When we shift the hips back we are increasing moment arms of the hip extensors, but we are possibly shifting it to the stronger hamstrings.

This would explain why beginners tend to have this movement pattern in the squat, even unloaded at times. Often times these beginners will have overdeveloped quads when compared to the hamstrings as well. I find it hard to believe that their quads are too weak to handle an unloaded or minimally loaded squat. However, I do reserve the right to be wrong here.

The goal to lifting bigger weight is fighting that torso lean as much as possible. If that is the case, and shin angle does not affect the muscles involved, then why can people typically lift more with a low bar squat than a high bar position or a front squat?

The one main difference between all of these bar positions is obviously where the bar is positioned on your body. The lower the bar is on our back, the shorter our torso is for the lift. This means a smaller moment arm for our thoracic extensors. Placing the bar lower on the back decreases the requirement of our back muscles within the lift.

Weightlifters have very strong thoracic extensors, and this may explain why they can lift very heavy squats in a high bar position. One of my past clients was a weightlifter that also had an almost 4 times bodyweight deadlift. Her squat was very weak compared to the competitive lifters in her class, but her pull was one of the best.

She got pitched forward very easily in the squat, so using a high bar position was beneficial for her at the time. This allowed her to stay as upright as possible, and her squat numbers were nowhere near challenging enough for her thoracic extensors. This was the fastest route to a bigger squat when a national championship meet was approaching. But as her squat numbers increase, she will need to lower the bar on her back.

With that said, there are many great squatters that train mostly with the high bar squat. I remember Fred Hatfield saying that he primarily trained with a high bar squat in training. This helps strengthen the back muscles, while muscle activation is the same, and it tends to be safer for the elbows, as low bar squatting is a major culprit of elbow pain.

Even if you train in a high bar position at some point the weight will become too heavy for your quads and you will run into the same technical fault that we discussed earlier. The goal is to continually make yourself stronger so that these faults happen with heavier weights.

You need to find which squat variation fits you best. If you are a competitive powerlifter, you should probably squat low bar. However, if you are just using the squat to get stronger, find which position is most comfortable for you.

If you have ever had knee issues, I would suggest squatting with the more “hip dominant” squat. This may mean low bar and sitting back a bit more. Squatting with a greater shin angle places more shear force on the knee joint. Limiting this with knee issues would be smart.

However, a greater forward lean places greater sheer force on the spine. If you have back issues, you may do better with a high bar squat or front squat. I have also found that people having pinching in the front of their hips also do better with a low bar squat and sitting back more into the squat, as the glutes and hamstrings help pull the femur back in the hip joint.

If your elbows hurt from squatting with the bar lower on your back, raise it up just a hair. Often times this small amount of bar placement changes makes all the difference in the world for comfort. This would place the bar between a high bar and low bar position.

This article may sound like I am saying that the hamstrings are not important. They absolutely are. They are very important for the deadlift. They are also very important to preventing ACL and other knee injuries in field and court athletes. All I am saying is they may not be a culprit in your squat issues.

When we squat our knee angle does not alter muscle activation. Our glutes should extend the hips, while the quads extend the knee. The hamstrings should primarily be used to transfer force from the hip to the knee, and aid in hip extension when we hit the sticking point and have already achieved some knee extension. Makes sure your quads are strong, your glutes are strong, and you are fighting to keep your torso as upright as possible while maintaining the bar position over your midfoot.



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Merry & Bright

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Top of the morning to ya! I have been loving grapefruit now that summer berries are gone for the year. I used to take the time to slice, sweeten and eat with a grapefruit spoon, but most of the time I just eat them like an orange! So much faster.

I have been taking this guy for some walks and runs, and he is loving it. Clearly! I think it has given me more excuses to go for walks and runs outside too, so I can see how pets are good motivators for people to get moving!

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Lunch was sardines over a salad with Red, Hot, Blues and aged cheddar. Gotta get in those sardines!!

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Mazen had his theater class performance last week, and he was a shepherd in the Christmas story. This day is always my favorite preschool day of the year! The show was so cute.

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But M wanted nothing to do with taking a photo with me this year. Guess he’s too cool now that he’s a “senior.” That face! That hair! (I tried REALLY hard to wet-comb it in the morning.)

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This flavor. How can the raspberry be SO GOOD and this one be SO BAD! But really the watermelon is the worst.

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Dinner from Plated! Chicken with a fennel and apple arugula salad. A good one!

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And finally, I LOVE my new ring I bought from Ellen! Now that I am no longer wearing rings on my left hand, my hands feel very empty. Right hand rings have been my jewelry of the year! I really loved this one when trying it on at her open house too.

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See y’all!

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