Dealing with Allergies During the Holiday Season

For those people with allergies, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time. Aside from having to deal with so many homemade desserts, tantalizing appetizers and delicious main courses without any ingredient labels, you also have to deal with holiday decorations that have been stored in wet, moldy basements or in dusty attics. So, in an attempt to ensure that this year only stirs up warm memories and not any allergic reactions, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • If you celebrate Christmas and like to have a tree, consider using an artificial one. While real trees like fir or pine are nice to have, they can trigger your allergies as they can contain dust which can irritate your nasal passages. Additionally, the water that’s typically used for the trees may contain irritating pollutants or get moldy due to water stagnation.
  • You should also avoid fresh floral arrangements and poinsettias for the reasons mentioned above as well as the fact that they may cause skin rashes for some.
  • Make sure that you place all your holiday decorations for the next year in large plastic containers. Throughout the year make sure to dust them to avoid a buildup that can later on trigger an allergic reaction.

Controlling holiday allergies is much harder if you’re still asking: Was it the walnut tarts at your uncle’s party that gave you an allergic reaction? Or his sociable little poodle? Maybe it was the turkey gravy?

If you’re not really sure what’s triggering holiday allergies, it’s probably time to see an allergist, a physician specially trained to diagnose and treat allergies.

Not only can an allergist help you discover what’s causing your symptoms, they’ll also help you manage, even prevent them — in the summer, during the holidays, any time allergies strike.

The Russian Workout Program – 5×5

I’m going to be trying a new workout routine that incorporates deadlifts, squats and benching as the main portion of the workout using a 5×5 routine. 5×5 stands for five sets of five reps. The goal is to use a weight that will allow for sufficient tension therefor helping to get maximal muscle fiber recruitment. The rep range allows for enough work to be done at that weight that you can actually build both strength and muscle. As for the Russian part – typically their programs consist of higher weights and lower reps (such as using a 5×5 program), especially when it comes to core exercises.

This is me currently:

Michael Jaccarino current physique

Deadlift 1x per week; Squat and Bench 2x per week

I plan on deadlifting once a week and squatting and benching twice a week. For the squat and bench, there’ll be one heavy day and one light days. The heavy days will follow the standard 5×5 protocol while the light days will follow a 5×4 protocol (5 sets of 4 reps) using 80% of the weight that I used on my heavy day. For example, if on my heavy day I squat 250 pounds, then on my light day I’ll stick with 200 pounds.


Monday –heavy squat (SQ)
Tuesday –heavy benchpress (BP)
Wednesday –heavy deadlift (DL)
Thursday – light SQ
Friday –light BP
Saturday – Cardio or Yoga
Sunday –Cardio or Yoga

I will be incorporating other exercises to what’s seen in the schedule and will post my results in about a month. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m using Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend as my protein source. I’m also keeping a journal of everything that I plan on doing so that if the results are positive, other people may be able to use them as a reference for their own workouts. I’m basically hoping to add some muscle (5 – 10 lbs) to my current frame while losing body fat (1 – 2%).

This entry was posted in Health.

Sunwarrior Vanilla Warrior Blend Review

At the Green Festival 2014

I was at the third annual NYC Green Festival at Pier 94 last week (which btw was a blast) when I came across the folks from Sunwarrior. They had samples of their chocolate and vanilla flavored Sunwarrior Warrior Blend. I wasn’t a big fan of the chocolate as it tasted slightly gritty, however the vanilla was fantastic. There was no grainy, chalky texture characteristic that I’ve tasted with some other protein powders.

After trying out the samples, I decided to learn more about them as well as purchase a 2.2 lb box.

Michael Jaccarino reviews Sunwarrior Vanilla

All of Sunwarrior’s protein powders are organic, vegan, gluten-free, organic, soy-free, MSG-free, hypo-allergenicnon, and non-GMO. There are no artificial fillers and the company uses only high quality ingredients to provide a complete, balanced array of essential amino acids that allows for a 98.2%* digestion rate, meaning your body is able to process the vast majority of protein from each serving. Furthermore, at 85% protein, Sunwarrior is the highest, non-soy vegan protein that’s currently available.

*I’d like to see data to back up the 98.2% digestion rate.

List of ingredientsIngredients

The Warrior Blend is made of a blend of pea, hemp seed, and cranberry seed proteins. In my opinion, having a blend of these protein sources combined is better than having any of these sources alone, as you pretty much get all the pros. without any of the cons (as an example, any hemp protein powder that I’ve tried tends to be very gritty which is something you don’t have to worry about with this blend… at least with the vanilla).

Aside from their proprietary protein blend, the Warrior Blend also is made with organic natural fibers (fenugreek gum, konjac gum, guar gum), organic vanilla extract, organic Stevia extract, and medium chain triglycerides.

Healthy Hightlights

The proprietary protein blend that combines pea, hemp and cranberry seed is created using a cold extraction process (which only uses organic enzyme that are 100% organic compliant) resulting in an amino acid profile that is exceptionally high in Arginine, Glutamine Lysine, Luecine, and branch chain amino acids.

Sun Warrior protein is naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, and contains high amounts of antioxidants, tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E), and other essential nutrients including iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, and phosphorous.

Additional Thoughts

I’ve only been using the protein powder for the past few days as my pre and post-workout snack but so far I don’t notice any types of drop-offs in my efforts in the gym nor in my ability to recover from fatigue. If I stick to my workout routine, I’ll post an update in about a month with before and after photos.

This entry was posted in Health.

Beyond Sushi Review: Taking the Bland Out of Vegan Sushi

I recently went to Chelsea Market in NYC – it’s basically an enclosed urban food court (among other things). The main reason for my trip was to go with a friend and eat at Beyond Sushi which has an innovative and artful approach when it comes to traditional sushi – just about everything on the menu is vegan!

Beyond Sushi from apostrophe 3 on Vimeo

The founder of Beyond Sushi is Guy Vaknin – the name might be familiar to those who enjoy cooking shows as he was a contestant on season 10 of Hell’s Kitchen. Guy came up with his idea for vegetarian and vegan sushi while serving as the Executive Chef of Esprit Events, a catering company in New York. While at New York’s first vegan show, they debuted a vegan sushi station, and after seeing the demand for healthy vegan food, Beyond Sushi was born.

Vegan Sushi Rolls

As you can see from the photo above, the sushi is very colorful and is artfully crafted. The ingredients are all natural (though not 100% organic) and a lot of the produce comes from the Union Square Farmer’s Market. Almost all the rolls are vegan (I think I read somewhere that they do sometimes offer a roll made with egg – not quite sure about this but they show all ingredients for every roll – As you can see from the comment(s) below Beyond Sushi no longer uses eggs so they are fully vegan). Beyond Sushi keeps to Asian flavors using ingredients like toasted sesame, sliced nori, chili-flakes and black and six-grain rice.

While they may not have the most extensive menu that some may come to expect when visiting a sushi restaurant in NYC, they do have a nice variety. Additionally, Beyond Sushi offers a roll of the month and a piece of the week which helps to keep the menu fresh and exciting.

The prices are affordable and in line with what you’d expect to pay for when it comes to really good vegan food in NYC. Rolls are $6.95 for 8 pieces (except for the roll of the month which is $8.27), hand rolls are $3.27 and individual pieces are $1.15 per piece. They also offer some delicious wraps and amazing desserts.

Vegan sushi rolls

I ended up getting the Green Machine which is made with cucumber and asparagus and rolled inside of six-grain rice and comes with a jalapeno wasabi sauce. I also got myself a Mighty Mushroom roll made with enoki, tofu shiitake and arugula and comes with a shiitake teriyaki sauce. On top of that, I got two individual pieces: one mango piece and one seaweed piece.

The rolls were fantastic and so pretty that I almost felt bad eating them! As you bite into each piece, you can really taste the freshness of the different vegetables on your palate. I loved the sauces that come with each roll as they really complemented the flavor and gave an additional flavor boost. The pieces were also good though nothing special.

Nutty Buddy Veggie Wrap


I decided to be glutenous and get myself a Nutty Buddy which a lot of people on Yelp recommended getting. It’s made with buckwheat noodles, tofu, cashews, jalepeno peanut butter, carrots, avocado and cilantro. This is probably one of the most delicious vegan food items that I’ve ever had… seriously, I can eat one of these for lunch every day and not get sick of them.

For dessert I got myself a coffee and chocolate coconut oat round. I was too stuffed from my meal to enjoy it there so I ended up having it the next day. This little ball of goodness is a little natural lump of heaven… so, so good… I don’t even want to think about how many calories it must have been. If you like coffee, chocolate and/or coconut then you should definitely make a point to pick one of these up.

If you’re looking for delicious vegan food in NYC or are a sushi fan looking for a unique spin, then I would recommend that you give Beyond Sushi a shot.

Frustration Free Running with the Runbell

Learn about the Runbell

When I first came across this Kickstarter project via a tweet from a friend, I almost dismissed it. A bell… for your hands? Seemed a bit strange, but then I started thinking about all the times that I run in the parks or on trails in Astoria or Manhattan and how many times I get into that uncomfortable position of a bottleneck between all the walkers and slow joggers.

The entire process of maneuvering around people who are taking up the trail just becomes frustrating; I almost feel like frogger when I try to run into the bike lane, hoping not to get squashed, as I look to pass those that are slower than me. Of course, I also have the option of yelling like a wild banshee, but then I have to worry that I might either scare someone to death or otherwise perhaps get karate chopped by someone who thinks that I’m about to attack them.

Basically, there really is no good way to alert people, and that’s when I realized the ingenuity of this campaign and what makes the Runbell so cool. It’s a running accessory for urban runners that delivers a powerful and pleasant sound. People are already conditioned to a bell as an alert – just think about all the times you’ve heard a biker ring their bell and have instinctively known to move out of the way. To me, this makes a lot more sense than having to shout or slowing down – you can see from the video below how effective it is.

As you can see from the photo below, the Runbell is meant to be a stylish running accessory and  at 1 oz, it’s extremely lightweight.  It comes in two sizes, one for men and one for women and the additional silicon inserts allow for adjustability and comfort. It’s made of brass as opposed to aluminum so as to allow for a pleasant quality of sound… I wasn’t so sure of this so I used trusty Google and learned that indeed brass is the preferred choice when it comes to sound. (Aluminum gives off a terrible tone due to it being such a soft metal).

Michael Jaccarino approved Kickstarter project

Currently the Runbell is $20 for a single (while supplies last), otherwise it’s $25. I just backed the project ($40 early bird special for me and my friend). If you’d like to donate, head on over to their Kickstarter page.

Homemade Organic Coffee Body Scrub

Did you know the body’s largest organ is our skin? Here’s another interesting tidbit – our skin can absorb anywhere from 60% to 80% of what it comes in contact with. So knowing that your body can absorb the majority of what it comes in contact with, then you should probably take a look at what you’re putting on and in it. The problem with using commercial lotions, scrubs and other products for the skin is that they are made with a lot of ingredients that you most likely don’t want in your body. Heck, some of these ingredients can be downright toxic! Even more depressing is that some of the chemicals used in commercial body products can cause cancer, birth defects or worsen allergies.

Because commercial products contain so many byproducts that are unnecessary and bad for the body, I tend to make my own beauty products.  I always make sure to use natural ingredients that I have in my kitchen so that I know exactly what’s going to be applied on my body. The other benefit… making your own beauty products is cheaper than buying commercial!

Homemade Coffee Body Scrub

Benefits of Using a Body Scrub:

  • A body scrub’s exfoliating granules are great for getting rid of all the dead skin on your body which paves the way for fresh new cells to regenerate and exposes smoother and younger skin.
  • Body scrubs can help to stimulate and improve the blood flow and bodily fluids which in turn helps to bring your body’s natural body oils to the surface of the skin.
  • It’s relaxing. It’s important to have some “me” time and when applied properly, body scrubs can make you feel fantastic!

Benefits of Using a Coffee Scrub:

  • The coffee grounds are really good for exfoliating dead skin cells.
  • The caffeine from the grounds help to minimize the appearance of cellulite and varicose veins due to caffeine’s ability to constrict blood vessels.
  • Studies are showing that caffeine can kill sun-damaged skin cells. Additionally, research is being done to see the effectiveness of caffeine for preventing skin cancer.

Making Your Own Coffee Scrub

Making Your Own Organic Coffee Scrub:


  • Caffeinated Organic Beans (if you have a grinder – if not, Burr is a great option) otherwise 1 Cup Ground Organic Coffee
  • 1 Cup Coconut Palm Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Organic Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Cinnamon


To make the scrub, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. (If the coconut oil is solid, heat it until it melts but make sure the liquid reaches room temperature to prevent the other ingredients from dissolving in the oil). Once mixed, make sure to store your body scrub in an airtight container. Use as often as you’d like – this scrub will both exfoliate and leave your skin soft and moisturized.

I Miss My Pillow

Yes, it feels like only yesterday that I had kids who slept well through the night.

How quickly that changes.

One day you are getting decent, uninterrupted sleep…

Then you get a sick kid…

Then you have two sick kids…

Next thing you know, you have a kid sleeping on your head in your bed at night…

Next thing you know, good sleep patterns have been broken, and you have children that want to stay up all night (and stay up all night in your bed!!).

I feel like someone just pulled a fast one on me.

So, here begins my adventures in sleep retraining! If you see me with raccoon eyes in the street, don’t be shocked, don’t run away…now you know the reason why.

I will be victorious (eventually)! Yes, it will be a battle to the bitter end, but it will be all worth it when I can finally get some good sleep again!

My first challenge and focus will be the two-year old, and eventually the infant once he’s all better!

I’ll let you know how things pan out…pray for me!

No More Excuses: Time To Get In Shape

Are you feeling the pressure?? It’s that time of year when people make their New Year’s resolution, with many looking to lose weight.

I realized it myself recently. I’ve always been one to stay physically active all year round, but as of the past few years and two more kiddies later I’m left wondering what happened to my usually in shape self! Taking the stairs has become a real workout!!

So tomorrow is a new day. Don’t have a personal trainer, but I’m going to have to step it up and get myself motivated. We have been blessed with unusually mild weather this winter and the next few days are promising to be nice outdoor days, so my first step will be going out for walks which will hopefully eventually turn into runs.

Walking and running are probably the easiest things I can do to get myself in shape. No equipment needed but a good pair of sneakers and weather appropriate clothing.

I get bored with the gym and being trapped inside four walls. The outdoors, fresh air, and  sunlight are great motivators once you make it out the front door.

Another motivator for me has been seeing all the reminders on TV about women and heart disease. Any of us can easily suffer a heart attack at a young age if you’re not careful about your diet, your weight, or your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Especially for someone like me who has a history of heart disease in the family.

Whatever you find to motivate you to get moving remember…No Excuses!!

See you outside!

This entry was posted in Health.

Get into the Holiday Spirit by Volunteering

The Holiday Season is upon us. I know, it’s unbelievable that another whole year has flown by so fast! It seems like only yesterday that I was just finally recovering from New Years!!

The stores are starting to fill up with Holiday Decorations and apple picking season is coming to a close. Even though I may sound like I’m complaining a little, I LOVE the Holidays! Especially Christmas Season! It makes me feel like a kid all over again!

Unfortunately, the Holiday season is not such a happy and joyous time for everyone. It may bring back painful memories of lost love ones and friends and disappointing times. It can be a very lonely and depressing time of year for some.

If it feels that way for you, or even if you’re full of Holiday Joy, there is a way we can all bring some joy and happiness out of this coming season for ourselves and others.

By deciding to spend some of our time in the next few weeks volunteering we can  positively change our mood this season by taking our minds off of our own loneliness and/or problems and putting our attention on those we are helping. And I can’t neglect to mention just how much of a happiness boost you get from helping others, also.

My best Christmas season ever was the one when I spent a good part of my time volunteering with New York Cares in and around New York City. The last thing I remember doing was delivering Christmas meals to elderly people who lived alone on Christmas morning.

I remember starting my day off thinking nothing of it, but when I saw how happy the people I delivered to were to have a visitor on Christmas day, I realized just how important it is to give of your time to those who need…. especially around the holidays.

So, consider it.

There are so many organizations, community centers, and churches, just to name a few, who will gladly accept your help this season. Some volunteering opportunities that you’ll be able to take part in include: serving food at soup kitchens, delivering presents to sick kids in hospitals, delivering meals to elderly, caroling or playing instruments for events at senior homes, and delivering meals to homeless on the streets, just to name a few!

Your help is also needed behind the scenes, if you prefer, in doing things like wrapping toys to give as gifts to kids from low income families, or assisting in preparing meals to be served to the poor and homeless. You can also bring your children along (school age and up) so they can benefit from being involved with helping others.

So, mark your calendar, do your research, sign up, and have a beautiful, and fulfilling Holiday Season!