Image: Landesbioscience.com

The topic of endocrine disruptors has been in the news a lot lately.  So much of the time, I feel like terms such as these are thrown around haphazardly without full explanations of the who, what, why, and how. This drives me a bit bananas, to tell you the truth…especially when these products can lead to things like cancer. UGH.

Sometimes it seems as though much of the time we (myself included) are a mile wide, but an inch deep, not knowing what we (I mean me) are talking about.  So there are these pesky things – endocrine disruptors – that we really do need to pay attention to!

Please allow me to give you the back story. Let’s start with the endocrine system. What is it you ask? Well, the endocrine system is a complex network of glands and hormones within the human body. These glands regulate many of the body’s functions such as growth, development, maturation, moods, reproductive processes, and the way in which various organs operate. The endocrine glands release hormones into the bloodstream that act as chemical messengers, traveling to different parts of the body in order to control various life functions.

An endocrine disruptor is otherwise known as an environmental toxin. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the function of the body’s hormone system. These chemicals turn on, shut off, or modify the signals that hormones carry to the rest of the body, causing parts of the body to not function properly. Studies suggest that endocrine disruptors may cause reductions in fertility, abnormalities in male reproductive organs, increases in mammary, ovarian, and prostate cancers, cancerous tumors, diabetes, obesity, increases in immune and autoimmune diseases, and some neurodegenerative diseases. This is all seriously gross and awful.

Endocrine disruptors come from a variety of sources such as chemical and industrial waste, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, oral contraceptives, detergents, food, cosmetics, and plastics. The number of substances believed to act as endocrine disruptors is very large, including both natural and synthetic materials. Some substances such as pesticides are intentionally released into the environment, while others are byproducts of industrial processes and waste disposal. Can you even believe this?

Here are a list of some of the endocrine disruptors (hopefully you have heard of some of them): BPA, Dioxin, Atrazine, Phthalates, Perchlorate, Fire retardant, Lead, Arsenic (hanging out in food and drinking water!!!), Mercury, PFCs, Organophosphate pesticides (used in chemical warfare during WWII), and glycol ethers. This list makes my heart and tummy hurt.

Where the heck are the Shining Moments, you ask (heaven knows that I was!). Well there are ways to protect against endocrine disruptors:

  • Educate yourself, family, and friends about them (which you are doing now by reading this post, thank you very much!). The Environmental Working Groupis a super resource.
  • Avoid using pesticides in your home, yard, or on your pet (because I have to ask: who in their right mind would use a pesticide on their pet for heaven sakes?)
  • Avoid cooking, microwaving, and storing food in plastic or styrofoam containers
  • Buy organic food whenever possible. I know that it’s more expensive, but your health is worth it.  …and I’m here to tell you that medical bills are much more expensive than organic foods!
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat such as cheese and meat whenever possible. I have been doing that for ages now. Every once in a great while, I jump off the vegan train and have a cheeseburger and you know what?  I have a food hangover for literally days. It is amazing what a “clean” body can no longer tolerate!
  • Ask your grocery store manager if the produce and animal-based products are from waters, farms, and rangelands that have been tested for pollution and contamination
  • Do not give young children soft plastic teethers or toys, because these toys may potentially leach endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • Avoid liquid soaps and lotions that contain Triclosan, which is an agent associated with endocrine disruptors

Do you have any thoughts or feedback?  Any non-endrocrine-disrupting products that you love? I always love to hear from you!


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Basil Pesto





PESTO. Greens, nuts, cheese…endless possibilities. Pesto is AWESOME SAUCE. Literally. It’s easy-peasy to make and quick to customize. It also has punchy, bright flavor I can’t get enough of. Did you know classic pesto is made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil? That’s it. Easy, right? To me, those ingredients are merely a blueprint. After experimenting for years, I’ve learned it’s all about the trifecta: fresh greens and/or herbs, aged salty cheese, and toasty nuts. Sure, you can go old school and use a mortar and pestle (pesto means “pounded” in Italian), but I favor my food processor, which combines everything in a snap while maintaining some texture.


1/3 cup olive oil

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup pine nuts, toasted

2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped (Easy on the garlic! Start with 2 cloves-you can always add more).

2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)

Olive oil


In a food processor combine the 1/3 cup olive oil, basil, nuts, garlic, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Process until nearly smooth, stopping and scraping sides as necessary.  Stir in Parmesan. Add enough olive oil to reach desired consistency. Makes 1 cup.

Some people like to squeeze lemon juice in their pesto to get a little more zip and to balance the fat of the olive oil and cheese.  A tablespoon or two is all you need. Try it with and without to see which you prefer.

To store – Cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap (this keeps it from turning brown) and refrigerate up to 1 week.

My secrets to a successful pesto:

  1. Toast the nuts. Nuts release oils when toasted, making them even more flavorful. Cool completely before making your pesto, or your sauce will be gummy.
  2. Embrace texture. Process, don’t pulverize! Over-processing results in bruised greens and a dull, lifeless sauce. Stop before the pesto is completely smooth-a few big flecks give it character.
  3. Grate your cheese. You’ll get significantly more flavor if you grate the cheese by hand. Because texture is key, stir it in after you’ve processed your other ingredients to avoid a thick paste.
  4. Add extra oil. Everyone has a style of pesto they prefer (I like it thicker for smearing on sandwiches, thinner for pasta and veggies). Add olive oil as you wish for the consistency you like best.

Once you learn the tricks to this crazy-versatile sauce, then choose your own pesto adventure!

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I’ve never wondered why I was diagnosed with cancer. Many people have asked me, “Why on earth would you, a young, healthy, happy person with no family history get breast cancer?” Even when other people wondered, I never have. I guess I figured that “Why?” wasn’t the point. I had cancer. I had to deal with it. I had to look ahead.

Since my diagnosis, I have had a few too many friends die of cancer and another one who will die soon. They were young, healthy and happy people with little to no family history. Parallel stories. My question (to which there is absolutely no answer) is:

“Why did I get what I got (an F-bomb crappy, but treatable cancer) and they get what they got (a life limiting form of cancer)?”

I still think about this Every. Single. Day. Sometimes this thought makes me feel sad. Sometimes it makes me feel scared. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty.

After reading about guilt, I was able to determine what was going on with me: I am experiencing a version of survivor guilt.

Survivor guilt is often experienced by those who have survived a major disaster. It is common to feel guilty about having survived when others died. Now, this typically refers to catastrophic events such as 911 or a tsunami or some other disaster (no reason to go on with examples and make myself feel worse!).  I happen to think that a cancer diagnosis (of any kind!) is pretty darn catastrophic.  I know without a doubt that my world stopped. Completely.

Anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis is forever changed. There are no two ways to say it. What I know is that this feeling of guilt is a normal part of being human. It is a way of searching for the meaning of my survival vs. another person’s death. Normalizing these feelings doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, though. Breast cancer keeps on giving (or perhaps taking is a better word).

Unfortunately, survivor guilt brings with it a host of issues that can cause depression, anger, and self-blame that may even compromise health. UGH. I certainly don’t want to go down any of those unproductive and paralyzing paths.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to be where I am. I don’t know what’s in my future. None of us does. But through this ordeal, I have faced fears, challenges, and heartbreak. I know that I have also learned lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way.

What I now know for sure is that life is a precious gift; however after being caretakers for both parents, I actually already knew that…I guess it’s just been reiterated – in a BIG WAY. I have been given the opportunity to recommit myself to it (Shining Moment). My time to go will come around again, but for now, it is my time to live.

In the Apache language there is no word for ‘guilt.’ Our lives are like diamonds. When we are born we are pure and uncut. Each thing that happens to us in our lives teaches us how to reflect the light in the world; each experience gives us a new cut, a new facet in our diamond. How brilliantly do those diamonds sparkle whose facets are many, to whom life has given many cuts!

– Travelling Light by Daniel J. O’Leary quoting Bearwatcher, an Apache medicine man.


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Chez Panisse




Image: Foodista.com

A friend gave me this book recently and I am absolutely smitten by this Shining Moment.  40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering is a photographic tribute to the Berkeley restaurant that traces its cultural history through the stories of Alice Waters and her personal and professional friends, celebrating the restaurant’s tradition of gathering around the table and its pioneering sustainable foods practices.

Chez Panisse opened its doors in 1971, Chez Panisse Café in 1980, and Café Fanny in 1984. Founded by Alice Waters, the restaurants are rooted in her belief that the best-tasting food is organic, locally grown, and harvested in ecologically sound ways by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. I mean, how cool is this?  Her convictions were (and continue to be!) revolutionary.

Alice Water’s influence on American cooking is clearly unrivaled. Her quest for the very best ingredients has always determined the Chez Panisse’s cuisine, and, over the course of forty years, the restaurant has helped create a community of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients.

I hear the best way to describe the eating experience is:  utterly magical. From the moment you sit down to the second you leave, it is supposed to be spectacularly amazing! Put this on the bucket list, please.

To add to her list of good deeds (& good karma!), in 1996, Alice Waters created the Chez Panisse Foundation to fund the Edible Schoolyard, a model of edible education in the public school system. Oh and she is also the author of eight cookbooks, most recently In the Green Kitchen and The Art of Simple Food.

Organized by decade, this book includes a wealth of archival material and photographs—menus; invitations; pictures of Alice at the restaurant and around the world, with those who have passed through her life—and interviews from public figures and cooks who have been inspired by or mentored at the restaurant.   This tribute to the delicious food revolution that began with Alice Waters and Chez Panisse is a Shining Moment work for anyone who cares about food, sustainability, and the powerful legacy that Alice has built. I hope that you enjoy it!




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Image: scienceblogs.com

Today, April 22, marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The idea for Earth Day came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.  On January 28, 1969 an oil platform six miles off of Santa Barbara’s coast ruptured, sending 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel over the next 10 days – an image that gives me goose-bumps, not the good kind. The oil spread from Goleta to Ventura, killing thousands of sea birds, as well as dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions.

Where on earth is the Shining Moment, you ask? Well as a result of this catastrophe, the first Earth Day was created, which led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Earth Day is now a globally celebrated holiday that is intended to raise awareness about a wide range of environmental issues and problems, and to inspire people to take personal action to address them.

Below are some accessible – easy, even – that you can do beginning today to participate in Earth Day:

  1. Buy locally grown produce in season.Consider buying organically grown for the “Dirty Dozen” produce items with the most pesticide exposure.
  2. Use a cloth instead of a paper towel for spills.
  3. Pack leftovers and lunches in reusable containers or recyclable foil.
  4. Scrape plates rather than rinsebefore loading them into the dishwasher. This not only saves water but keeps grease and oily substances from going down your drain, a potential plumbing issue and wastewater treatment problem.
  5. Choose nontoxic, naturally derived cleaning products,which are proven effective but won’t cause long term damage to the Earth. I especially like the Shaklee
  6. Meat free day(s).Many people have signed onto the Meatless Monday movement which is great because reducing (eliminating, even) meat consumption conserves fresh water, saves topsoil, and even reduces air pollution! Wouldn’t it be great if this movement could evolve into meatless weeks and then months and then years and then…ever?
  7. Plant a tree!Did you know that over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion. It also provides shade that keeps homes and cities cooler! How are those for Shining Moments?
  8. Use organic fertilizer.We just started doing this and I feel so much better already.
  9. Return hangers and plastic bags to the dry cleaner.When I first started doing this, our dry cleaner was a little surprised and then grateful.
  10. Use cloth tote bags for shopping.I recommend keeping them in the back of your car so you can remember them. The key is REMEMBERING that they are there….BEFORE you get into the checkout line! I can’t tell you how many times I have irk’d the supermarket line I’m in because I have to run out to the car to get my bags.

I’d love for you to add to the list. What do you do for Earth Day?


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Image: Goodreads.com

Looking for your group’s next book? Try Anna Quindlen’s new book called, Miller’s Valley. This was such an entertaining, thought provoking read. Taking place from the 1960s to the present, the story follows Mimi Miller as she grows up in Miller’s Valley, a tiny community whose future is threatened. Quindlen creates fascinating characters, most notably Mimi’s mother and her troubled brother, and writes movingly about how family secrets thread through generations and continues to affect lives.  The plot leaves room for the reader’s imagination, and I was truly inspired by the heroine’s perseverance. It’s a must read for the summer. Pack it in your beach bag and have your next book group on the beach!

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Image: books.simonandschuster.com


Hoda Kotb, co-anchor of the TODAY show, tells the stories of people who pushed through hardship and uncertainty to discover their life callings.  From a cook turned doctor to a retired couple who adopted Haitian children, each tale proves that finding purpose is often a winding road, but it’s never too late to start. Boy oh boy, talk about a Shining Moment!

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Image: Neuropathyjournal.com

After my taking the drug, Taxol, I experienced something called neuropathy. It is yet another example of the collateral damage that chemo does in its pursuit to eradicate breast cancer (or any kind of cancer for that matter). I know many (way too many!) people who have also experienced nasty neuropathy. I actually vacillated between feeling as though my fingertips were on fire or frozen. …really hard to describe unless you’ve been there (and of course I hope that you haven’t!).

Neuropathy is a general term for pain and numbness caused by damage to nerves in the peripheral nervous system. It can occur any time after chemotherapy begins and typically starts in your toes and moves up into your legs, arms, and hands. Mine started just a few short days after I started the Taxol.  Boy oh boy did it ever stun me (and just when I thought that nothing could shock me!).

ASCO (the American Society of Clinical Oncology) has done extensive research on neuropathy and has determined that sadly, there is no cure or medication that can prevent chemotherapy-associated neuropathy. Please, be warned: there are many medications on the market right now that are said to prevent neuropathy; however, they often have extensive side effects and can interfere with other cancer medicines. Ewwwww. This is NOT GOOD.

In light of this, ASCO’s new guidelines recommend NOT using medicines or supplements that say that they prevent neuropathy. These medications include:

  • acetyl-L carnitine (ALC)
  • amifostine (brand names: Ethyol, Ethiofos)
  • amitriptyline (brand names: Amitid, Amitril, Elavil, Endep)
  • calcium/magnesium
  • diethyldithio-carbamate (DDTC)
  • glutathione
  • nimodpine (brand names: Nimotop, Nymalize)
  • Org 2766
  • all-trans-retinoic acid (also called tretinoin) (brand name: Vesanoid)
  • rhuLIF (recombinant human leukemia inhibitory factor)
  • vitamin E

The bottom line is that the folks at ASCO believe that if there is no scientific evidence showing that a medication helps neuropathy then it is probably best to steer away from using it.

Now the Shining Moment is that there is ONE medication that ASCO has found enough supporting evidence to put on the recommendation list for chemotherapy-associated neuropathy. It is called Cymbalta.  While Cymbalta is not a cure for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, research does show that it does help slow the process down.

Here is the big, humongous caveat: please, don’t ever, under any circumstances take any medication without talking with your Oncologist. Each person’s treatment plan is unique. The last thing in the world that you would want is to have a drug counteract the hard work of the chemotherapy. Conversation is imperative and will be a great Shining Moment in your care.


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