The staff of HopeWay, Charlotte’s nonprofit mental health center that offers residential and day treatment for adults in a first-class setting, knows that it’s healthy for women to invest in themselves.

They recommend working “me” time into your everyday routine as a way to bring balance into your life and nuture your mental health.

If that sounds unattainbable, take inspiration from the ways some of HopeWay’s female staff makes time for their own favorite healthy activities, which they relayed in a recent edition of HopeWay Matters, the center’s monthly newsletter.

Sharing their tips are (from left) Ama Owusuaa, Jordan Conner, Elizabeth Rhoads, Megan Gregg and Katy Hollingsworth.

“For me, it is fitness. I exercise 5 days a week, which helps set me up for my day and also helps with my mood and maintaining a healthy diet. I like to mix it up to keep from getting bored - bootcamp, boxing and weight training are my favorites."
Ama Owusuaa, MEd, LPC, NCC, Primary Therapist

“In my me-time free-time, I like to engage in yoga, meditation and mindfulness, art projects and TED talks. I know that my health depends on me taking time for myself. This doesn't mean I'm always the best at self-care, but that I'm aware of what helps me to be my best self.”
Jordan Conner, ATR-P, Art Therapist and Front Desk Coordinator

”During my free moments, I enjoy taking photographs. Photos allow you to look back at a time and place that is impossible to reproduce, and conjure memories and feelings from that moment. Photos bring me joy, happiness and excitement.”
Elizabeth Rhoads, Chief Operations Officer

“I never thought I'd be a morning person, but it is now my very favorite part of the day. While the house (and the world) is still quiet, I enjoy a hot cup of coffee while reading or praying in my recliner. The best part is having my Cavalier curled up on my lap sound asleep!”
Megan Gregg, Development & Marketing Associate

“I enjoy taking my dogs for walks, reading, catching up on a good TV show, spending time with my sisters, going for a hike, kayaking or laying in my hammock.”
Katy Hollingsworth, MA, LPC, Admissions Specialist


Free Stock Photo Sunrise.jpg

The old saying is true: Time really does seem to speed up as we get older. But a monastic tradition called The Seven Sacred Pauses that’s been around for thousands of years may help us slow down and appreciate each day.

It may not be realistic to stop and acknowledge them all, but pausing for no more than a minute to reflect and pray during these seven specific times is a simple way to increase our gratitude and inner peace, which reduces stress.

Dawn, The Awakening Hour. At the break of day, around 5:30 or 6 a.m., set the tone for the day by opening your heart to its possibilities and asking for guidance.

Midmorning, The Blessing Hour. Around 9 or 10 a.m., when our days can sometimes start to feel overwhelming as to-lo lists kick in, stop to reflect and reset your thoughts into a positive place.

Noon, The Hour of Illumination. This is when the sun is in its most powerful position. Taking several deep breaths will help you focus on reenergizing yourself and give you a fresh outlook on the day.

Midafternoon, The Wisdom Hour. At 3 p.m. when the sun begins to descend is a time to let go of any stress or worry that’s built up over the day.

Evening, The Twilight Hour. Take a moment to be aware of the sunset and how it represents the end of a day and the hope of a new beginning tomorrow.

Bedtime, The Great Silence. Around 9 or 10 p.m. before going to sleep, stop to reflect on the day and evaluate any lessons you’ve learned.

After midnight, The Night Watch. If you wake up and find yourself not being able to sleep, think of it as a gift and use the time to pray for others or make a mental gratitude list.

To learn more about this ancient practice, read Macrina Wiederkehr's bestselling book, Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day,


Pexels Lime Sparkling Water.jpg

One of the newest health trends, Dry January, Is similar to a Whole 30 plan, but instead of cutting out carbs and sugar you commit to not drinking any alcohol for 30 days.

Even though it’s called Dry January, you can actually do it anytime during any month as long as you sustain your commitment for 30 consecutive days.

Reports from those who have taken the challenge reveal that many end up feeling so great they decide to either quit drinking permanently, or drastically reduce their alcohol intake going forward

One of the tools participants use is finding satisfying mocktails or other non-alcoholic beverage replacements. And it’s a great excuse to drink more water. Sparkling waters such as LaCroix or Perrier jazzed up with fruit slices or splashes of your favorite fruit juices can help take the edge off.

Losing a few pounds is a nice bonus of the plan, but don’t expect to see dramatic results on the scale. A loss of around four pounds over the 30 days is typical.


Michael Anders, head trainer and owner of Shape Up Fitness & Wellness Consulting, specializes in helping his clients navigate the various stressors in life so they'll have a more balanced approach to health, fitness and nutrition. 

Anders has a Masters Degree in Sports Science, Sports Medicine. He especially enjoys focusing on post-injury recovery and coaching his clients to help get their eating under control or optimize it for their sports and activities.

During the Living the Good Life As A Woman In 2018 event organized by financial advisor Alison Rowe of Baird Private Wealth Management, he shared his top tips. 

Set Realistic Goals

  • To increase your success, set a goal to fix one negative habit at a time because success breeds success

  • A goal should have a 90% chance of success at a minimum

  • When setting a goal, don't include the words "never" or "always"

  • If you find the goal you set isn't doable, reduce it until it is possible


  • Eat meals slowly (slow eaters eat less food and reach satiation earlier)

  • Eat until you're 80% full

  • Eat mindfully without distractions (no phones or TV) because people who eat without distractions are more cued into their hunger/appetite feelings

  • Focus on having protein with each meal

  • Nutrition is a crucial element in any fitness transformation so start working on making healthier food choices as quickly as possible


  • Don't overcommit by saying you'll exercise 5 or 6 times a week - that's unrealistic

  • Aim to exercise 3 times a week

  • Something is better than nothing: even if you just exercise for 10 minutes a day that adds up





Fitness and nutrition expert Michael Anders of Shape Up Fitness & Wellness Consulting.

Fitness and nutrition expert Michael Anders of Shape Up Fitness & Wellness Consulting.


Fitness expert Jill Cerami works with clients at Afturburn, the workout center at Twin Mills Club at Trilogy Lake Norman, a community for 55 and older.  Photo courtesy of Trilogy Lake Norman.

Fitness expert Jill Cerami works with clients at Afturburn, the workout center at Twin Mills Club at Trilogy Lake Norman, a community for 55 and older. Photo courtesy of Trilogy Lake Norman.

Jill Cerami is an expert when it comes to exercise for those 55 and older.

As the fitness supervisor at the Twin Mills Club at Trilogy Lake Norman, a community for 55 and older, she manages seven trainers and also teaches classes at Afturburn, the club's workout center. The center is filled with renowned TechnoGym® equipment, fitness classes, personal trainers, a resort-style pool and more. 

Afturburn is filled with the best new fitness gear available and has garage-style doors that can open to the outdoors on nice days.  Photo courtesy of Trilogy Lake Norman.

Afturburn is filled with the best new fitness gear available and has garage-style doors that can open to the outdoors on nice days. Photo courtesy of Trilogy Lake Norman.

Afturburn offers around 32 group fitness classes a week including Aqua Fitness, Chair Yoga, Tai Chi and Zumba. "Tai Chi has become so popular we've had to add an additional class," Jill says. "Tai Chi is great because it helps with balance, it's calming, it focuses on breathing and it works the mind and the body."

Her class participants range in age from 55 to 70 and her advice to them is simple: Have fun with exercise, keep your sense of humor and never be afraid to try something new. 

Here are more of Jill's tips: 

Start out slow: A lot of people start exercising this time of year but they don't take their age into consideration. Start out slow and make it fun by finding something you enjoy doing. Always listen to your body. The "no pain no gain" saying makes no sense anymore. Take a break if you need one.

Keep it positive: When you walk out of your fitness class or from your training session, you should be feeling confident and that you have potential.

Agility and balance are everything: Jill teaches a Body Flex and Balance class that focuses on balance, which is a huge issue for those 55 and up, and agility, which people tend to lose as they get older. The class focuses on core strength, foot placement and making the mind and body work together. 

Stay hydrated: It's important to drink water while you're working out, but don't gulp it or you'll start to feel too full. Instead, sip it like a bird.

Core move: Always engage your core. To make sure you're doing that, visualize someone pushing your stomach - that tightening you feel means your core is engaged.

Keep it functional: Functional training helps with real-life movement. Bending over to pick up groceries or grandchildren? Working with medicine balls, kettle balls and battle ropes help build the muscle groups you use when bending and lifting. Reaching over your head can be improved with exercises such as holding your hands up while standing on one leg. Torso twists that improve spinal rotation will help you when you have to look over your shoulder while driving.


Go head, tell them what you think. Just be nice about it. 

Go head, tell them what you think. Just be nice about it. 

It's true! Honesty really is the best policy according to new research from the University of California San Diego's Emotion Lab. An article about the research in Spry Living magazine reported that the researchers found that "prosocial" lies - the little lies we tell others in order to not hurt their feelings - makes us feel good in the moment, but guilty later.

The reason behind this reaction is actually very sweet: We tend to lie to people we care about. The researchers advise people to try "gentle honesty" instead. So, for example, when a friend or family member asks you if you like their new hair style, and you hate it, say something along the lines of, "I'm partial to when you wear it longer," or whatever the case may be. The main thing is to be honest because you want the other person to trust you, but don't be be harsh or blunt. 



Ready or not, flu season is here.

If you're planning on getting a flu shot, you may be interested to know a new study from British scientists claims that getting vaccinated in the morning is ideal. Those in the study who got their flu shots between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. produced more antibodies (think of them as mini flu fighters) than those who were vaccinated in the afternoon. 



This Butternut Squash Soup from Jamie Geller was recently featured in   Woman's World  . 

This Butternut Squash Soup from Jamie Geller was recently featured in Woman's World

This tasty soup is a healthy way to celebrate the new Fall season. Added bonus: It's Kosher! Find it, and other recipes from food blogger Jamie Geller, at

Ingredients: 2 lbs. cubed, peeled butternut squash; 1 medium onion, minced; 1 cup coconut milk; 1/2 cup white wine; 1 Tbs. grated peeled fresh ginger (or 1 tsp. ground ginger); 2 cloves garlic, chopped; 1 tsp curry powder; 1 tsp. kosher salt; 1/4 tsp. dried thyme. 

Directions: Combine all ingredients with 6 cups water in 6 quart pot. Cover; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer; cook, covered, until squash is soft, 30-40 minutes. Use immersion blender, potato masher or fork to puree or mash squash and continue cooking 10 minutes or until soup is slightly reduced and thickened. Ladle into bowls, and if desired, serve garnished with sprig of fresh thyme. Makes about 10 cups. 



Whether your go-to yogurt is traditional Greek, Icelandic or Australian, to make sure it's the healthiest choice, check the label to find out if it has more probiotics and less sugar. 

Whether your go-to yogurt is traditional Greek, Icelandic or Australian, to make sure it's the healthiest choice, check the label to find out if it has more probiotics and less sugar. 

Yogurt has become a healthy go-to for breakfast, snacks, smoothies, or in recipes to cut down on calories. 

Greek yogurt is The O Report's favorite because it has less lactose and sugar, but more protein, than traditional yogurt. (Greek yogurt has up to 20 grams of protein; traditional has 11-15 grams.) 

Also be on the lookout for Icelandic and Australian yogurts, which are just now appearing in U.S. supermarkets. Icelandic is the thickest of all varieties, but it's also the tartest; Australian is the creamiest, but has a higher fat content. Also new is Oui by Yoplait, a line inspired by the brand's French recipe. It comes in 5-ounce glass jars, which allows the yogurt to set up without added cornstarch or gelatin. 

No matter which kind of yogurt you prefer, a recent article in Better Homes & Gardens magazine listed two things to check the label for so you can make sure the yogurt you choose is the healthiest. 

1. Probiotic Check. Look for the Live & Active Cutlures seal on the label of dairy and nondairy yogurts. It means that it contains the highest amount of probiotics. If you don't see a seal, make sure L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus are listed as ingredients. 

2. Sugar Check. Plain yogurts should have 9 grams or less of natural sugar per serving. Flavored yogurts should have less that 15 grams of sugar. If it's higher than 17 grams, it has the same sugar content as two Fun Size Snickers. 




Cheers to frozen wine cubes! 

Cheers to frozen wine cubes! 

According to the July issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, a daily 5-ounce serving of wine may help reduce the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and Alzheimer's disease.

But what really has The O Report saying cheers is the magazine's genius tip that makes sipping on vino in the summer even more healthy and refreshing:

Freeze your favorite wine in ice trays (about 1-ounce per cube). Then pop one or two cubes into a light pour of wine to make it last longer. Or, add a few cubes to sparkling water to keep you hydrated and to make it easier to stay within the 5-ounce limit. 



With sandal season in full swing, it's time to focus on feet. In a feature in the June issue of Better Homes & GardensKaty Bowman, author of Whole Body Barefoot, shared some great tips for keeping feet healthy, which contributes to better body health overall. 

Her main point is that to stay strong, feet need exercise just like the rest of the body. And flexible toes give feet a wider base of support. She recommends these four moves:

1. Foot Stretch. While barefoot, sit near the edge of a chair. Fold the right foot back, tucking toes under so the top of your foot touches the ground, heel centered. Hold. Repeat with the left foot.

2. Toe Tense & Release. Keeping toes on the ground, spread them as far apart as you comfortably can. Hold for two seconds, relax, repeat. 

3. Big Toe Lifts. Raise your left big toe without lifting your other toes. Lower and repeat five times. Repeat with the right big toe. 

4. Hips Over Heels. Most people carry their weight on the forefoot rather than the stronger back part. Stand straight, and shift your weight (hips) back over heels without lifting toes.



Trying to cut down on your carb intake? Or just looking for a fun new way to eat your vegetables? Try the OXO Hand-Held Spiralizer ($14.99; to order, click here.)

It works on a variety of produce including zucchini (perfect for veggie pasta); sweet potatoes (for making healthier baked curly fries); and yellow squash, carrots and beets for salads. For best results, use it on produce that is straight, at least 1.5 inches in diameter and 6 inches long. If it's longer than 6 inches, cut it in half; if it isn't straight, first cut the vegetables into straight pieces. 

Here are three quick and healthy ideas for putting the spiralizer to good use:

1. For veggie pasta, just substitute the zucchini noodles for your favorite pasta in Italian or Asian dishes. 

2. Add spiralized vegetables to lettuce to create a new look for your salad and dress it with a vinaigrette made of a 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

3. To make sweet potato curly fries, toss the spiralized sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until crispy. 




The new issue of Community Table magazine, has some great advice for couples to keep their relationship happy: Remember to be sweet. 

In the article, Dr. Stephanie Weiland Knarr, a licensed clinical marriage and family therapist, suggests spouses remember the sweet things they did for each other and the fun things they used to do in their early dating relationship and try them again. The article goes on to say that although it may sound counterintuitive, revisiting routines from your past is a great way to get out of a current relationship rut. 


On those busy days when there's no time to exercise, even waiting for your coffee to brew can be a chance to sneak in extra activity.

On those busy days when there's no time to exercise, even waiting for your coffee to brew can be a chance to sneak in extra activity.

We all have those days when there's just no time to exercise. But there's always time to sneak in a little extra activity in your daily routine. In a recent article in the AARP Bulletin, top trainers Chris Freytag, founder of, and Lindsay Hunt, founder of www.walkon, listed their advice for being more active all day long. Here is The O Report's Top 5 List of their best tips. 

1. While Waiting Around In The Kitchen. Waiting on your coffee to brew or water to boil while you're cooking dinner? Try any combination of these moves: Squeeze your behind 10 times. Tighten your stomach muscles 10 times. Stretch your arms downward behind you and squeeze your triceps 10 times. Rise up on your toes and squeeze your calves 10 times. Raise your arms out to the sides and do 15 circles in a clockwise direction, then 15 circles counterclockwise. 

2. While Sitting Around. Improve your grip strength by keeping a tennis ball at your desk at work and another by your favorite chair at home. At least twice a day, grab a ball and squeeze tightly. Hold for five seconds, then release slowly. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each hand.

3. While Brushing Your Teeth. When you brush your teeth, stand on one foot for 60 seconds and the switch. When that becomes easy, try balancing while lifting your leg to the side.

4. When Getting Out Of A Chair. Every time you stand up from or sit down in a chair, use just your legs (use one hand at first for assistance if needed). Do this 10 times a day and you've done 10 squats without going to the gym. 

5. When At A Stoplight. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by tightening them (as if you have to urinate and are "holding it") when you're at a stoplight. Hold for 10 counts, then release for 10. Repeat until the light turns green. 


Take your favorite veggies, leafy greens, protein, add in a starch and dressing, and you've just made the new trend in healthy eating: a customizable veggie bowl. 

Take your favorite veggies, leafy greens, protein, add in a starch and dressing, and you've just made the new trend in healthy eating: a customizable veggie bowl. 

March is National Nutrition Month - a great excuse to experiment with one of the biggest healthy eating trends around, customizable veggie bowls

The March issue of Spry Living magazine, published by Parade magazine, makes it easy by listing ingredients from each category needed for a perfect veggie bowl. Choose from this list, or make a list of your own favorites. The key is customization, so these are just ideas to get you started. But remember, it has to contain all five categories (a veggie, starch, leafy green, protein and a topping). 

Veggies: carrots, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes.

Starch: brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, squash.

Leafy Greens: spinach, kale, romaine, cabbage.

Protein: chickpeas, black beans, lentils, tofu.

Extras: hummus, avocado, low-sodium soy sauce, sour cream. 


As reported in the February issue of Redbook magazine, cookbook author Katie Wells (The Wellness Mama Cookbook), has a healthy Super Bowl appetizer that's scoring a touchdown with health-conscious home cooks.

Instead of serving loaded potato skins at your Super Bowl party, try Katie's more nutritious version. Slice three sweet potatoes into one-quarter-inch slices, toss them with one-quarter-cup of coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the seasoned slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Scoop the flesh from two avocados into a bowl. Add three-quarters of a cup of jarred salsa and the zest and juice of one lime plus a half-teaspoon each of cumin, garlic powder and salt, then mash until combined. Chop eight slices of cooked, crispy bacon and stir into the guacamole.

Top each sweet potato chip with a scoop of the guacamole mixture and sprinkle with grated white cheddar cheese. 


Photos courtesy of . 

Photos courtesy of

Every year the Nutrition Action Newsletter, which is published for consumers by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, releases its list of the Top 10 foods you should avoid and the Top 10 foods that are healthiest for you. 

Here are the two lists, and excerpts of the nonprofit's revue of each food item. For more details, go to


1. Stouffer's Satisfying Servings White Meat Chicken Pot Pies. "Eat the entire pie, as many people do, and you're talking 1,100 calls, 23 grams of saturated fat (more than a day's worth) and 1,560 mg of sodium (a day's worth)." 

2. Five Guys Burgers and Fries. "The hamburger (with no toppings) has 700 calories and a day's worth of saturated fat (20 grams) and makes a McDonald's Big Mac (540 calories) look wimpy. Add 950 calories for the regular fries. A large MdDonald's fries has "only" 500 calories."

3. Campbell's regular Condensed Soup. "An average cup has 800 mg of sodium. But most people eat the whole can of soup, which contains 2,000 mg of sodium - more than most adults should consume in an entire day."

4. Chipotle Chicken Burrito. "It has 1,050 calories, 17 grams of saturated fat and 2,400 mg of sodium - as much as six Taco Bell Chicken Soft Tacos." 

5. Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake at The Cheesecake Factory. "If it weren't served on its side, it would stand over six inches tall. It weighs in at three-quarters of a pound, has 1,810 calories and three days' worth of saturated fat (62 grams).

6. Uno Pizzeria & Grill's Deep Dish Mac & Cheese. "It has more calories and saturated fat than a Famiy Size box of Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese that serves five."

7. Olive Garden's Tour of Italy. "It comes with 1,520 calories, 48 grams of saturated fat and 3,250 mg of sodium. Add a breadstick and a house salad with dressing and you'll consume 1,800 calories (nearly a day's worth)."

8. Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha. "It's as bad as a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese."

9. Haagen-Dazs ice cream. "A petite half-cup has a half a day's saturated fat, 300 calories and 4 teaspoons of added sugar."

10. Cold Stone Creamery's Oh Fudge! shake. "The 20 fl. oz. size has the saturated fat content of two 14-oz. ribeye steaks plus a buttered baked potato."


1. Sweet Potatoes. "A nutritional superstar - one of the best vegetables you can eat."

2. Mangoes. "A cup supplies 100 percent of a day's vitamin C."

3. Plain Greek yogurt. "It has twice the protein of ordinary yogurt."

4. Broccoli. "It has tons of vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and folate."

5. Wild Salmon. "It's rich in omega-3 fats, which may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And wild-caught salmon is more sustainable than farmed salmon."

6. Crispbreads. "Whole-grain rye crackers (Wasa for example) have simple ingredients (whole-grain flour, water, salt and sometimes yeast)." 

7. Garbanzo Beans. "All beans are healthy, but garbanzos stand out because they're so versatile."

8. Watermelon. "A heavyweight in the nutrient department. And when they're n season, they're often locally grown, which means they may have a smaller carbon footprint that some other fruits."

9. Butternut Squash. "It's an easy way to get lots of vitamins A and C." 

10. Leafy Greens. "Don't miss out on powerhouse greens such as Kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens and Swiss chard."



There's nothing better than a great book to keep your mind sharp and your holiday cocktail party conversation interesting. Here are the best of this season's must-reads according to Park Road Books owners Sally Brewster and Frazer Dobson.

Sally and Frazer revealed this list of their favorite new books during a Holiday Books event presented by Friends of the Library at Queens University of Charlotte. Have fun picking out a few that either you, or someone on your gift list, would enjoy. All are available at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road at Park Road Shopping Center. Details: 704-525-9239;

Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, $35: A lavishly illustrated book of weird places you can travel to including two in North Carolina. "This is a fantastic gift for a travel buff," Frazer says. 

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer, $26: "A group of librarians try to save precious Arabic texts while staying one step ahead of Al Qaeda," Sally says. 

Bark the Herald Angels Sing by Peter Thorpe, $16.95: "A book of photos by an English photographer who has taken pictures of his dogs for his Christmas cards for the past 20 years," Sally says. "It makes you want to grab your camera and dress up your dog or cat," Sally says. 

The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler, $17.99: "A beautifully illustrated book for children about a poor woman who finds a magical boot," Sally says.

Dancers After Dark by Jordan Matter, $19.95: "A series of artistic photos of naked dancers taken in locales around the world including New York City, Paris and Stockholm," Frazer says. "It's human anatomy at its finest."

Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard, $40: "A lot of storytelling and the recipes are organized by the main ingredient (Ground Corn, Blueberries, Oysters)," Frazer says. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, $24.99: "An original screenplay of the movie," Frazer says. "It's set in New York in 1926." 

Frozen by Matthew Reinhart, $40: "A spectacular pop-up version of the movie from the finest paper engineers in the world," Frazer says. 

General Vs. The President by J.W. Brands, $30: "A thrilling book that explores the relationship between Truman and MacArthur," Sally says. 

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard, $30: "Candice Millard writes the best narrative nonfiction," Sally says. 

Indestructible by John R. Bruning, $28. "This is a page turner," Sally says. "It's a true story and the war book of the season. It shows how one person can make a big difference." 

In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney, $35: "Profiles of 100 exceptional women from all walks of life and all over the country," Sally says. "This is a great inspirational Christmas gift."

Jungle by Kan Kainen, $25.95: "A book for all ages, it has photos and text that describe all the creatures found in the jungles of South America and Africa," Frazer says. 

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, $28: "A novel based on actual events about the battle between Edison, Westinghouse and others to electrify America," Sally says. "It's told through the eyes of a young lawyer. It's a great thriller but you learn a lot."

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on Writing by Pat Conroy, $25: "A collection of essays articles and interviews that's Conroy's last book," Sally says. "Don't miss the absolutely hilarious essay he wrote about getting fit."

Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James, $24: "A collection of four of her short stories that haven't been published before," Sally says. 

Refuge by Anne Booth, $15.99: "A children's book that's a different telling of the Nativity story from the point of view of the donkey," Sally says. "And $1 from the purchase of each book goes to the United Nations Refugee Agency fund."

Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, $18.99: "A young adult story about a boy who finds a pocket watch that can make him invisible and how he and his friends try to make the world a better place," Sally says. 

Speaking American by Josh Katz, $25: "Do you say bucket, or pail? Soda, or pop? This is a fascinating look at regional dialects," Frazer says. 

Stowaway in a Sleigh by C. Roger Mader, $17.99: "A children's book about a kitty cat that ends up in Santa's sleigh," Sally says. 

Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest by Beth Macy, $28: "Macy is such a chronicler of the South," Sally says. "This is a true story that takes place in 1899 in Truevine, Virginia, about two albino twin brothers born into a sharecropper's family and what happens to them," Sally says. 

The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chung, $26: "An entertaining story about an immigrant who wants to take his family back to China but his wife and children have become used to living in America," Sally says. "It's well written and laugh-out-loud funny." 




Photo credit: 

Photo credit: 

The year is almost over and we had no idea that the United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. In fact, we didn't even know what pulses were. But an article in a recent issue of Dr. Oz: The Good Life magazine explained it all: Pulses are beans. The word is common in Europe and Canada but is just catching on in America.

Beans, uh, we mean pulses, deserve all the attention. Just a half-cup serving has as much protein as three eggs and almost a day's worth of fiber plus zinc, iron and B vitamins. The article suggests several ways to pack some pulses into your diet. You can puree them and spread them on sandwiches, turn them into hummus or toss them in salads or soups.

The most unusual suggestion is to mix them into your next batch of brownies. We haven't tried this yet but it does sound intriguing. Use a 15-ounce can of black beans in place of a cup of the recipe's flour and it's supposed to make the brownies extra moist (and extra nutritious) without sacrificing the taste. 


Modern Muffin founder Claire Putterman. 

Modern Muffin founder Claire Putterman. 

Charlotte-based Modern Muffin claims to make the city's best muffins. After tasting the Orange Pineapple Poppy Seed variety, we're starting to agree. It was "bursting with real fruits," just as it claimed on the box of four we purchased at Harris Teeter. And we like that the company describes its products as "a healthful indulgence." That's truth in advertising because at around 300 calories each, they are a treat. But they're also a healthier alternative to the usual muffin (Modern Muffin claims its products have 40 percent less sugar and calories than most others on the market).

We also like that each muffin is individually wrapped to make sure it stays at its peak flavor. Because the muffins are made with fresh ingredients, be sure to heed the expiration date. We recommend freezing the ones you don't plan to eat within a few days.

The baker behind the brand is Claire Putterman, a former French teacher at Providence Day School who founded the business in 2011. She perfected her recipes after years of trying to incorporate fruits into healthy food her children would eat when they were younger. Now her children are grown and work for her company. 

There are eight Modern Muffin varieties, but some are seasonal, including Strawberry Berry, which is available now. They're sold at Whole Foods stores in North Carolina and at 34 Harris Teeter stores in Charlotte. 704-542-8369;