Tired Of Unhealthy Dietary Misinformation?

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…well, on the off-chance that you are – just like me! – I’d like to point you in the direction of the extremely talented Dr. Hilary Greenebaum, who’s wonderful website I had the honor of contributing to this week. I had a lot of fun writing this guest post, as it gave me the opportunity to really get stuck into some of the scientific minutiae substantiating a whole-food plant-based lifestyle, and, once again, fully appreciate the comfort that only facts and figures can sometimes provide! We are swamped in nutritive myths peddled by mainstream media on a daily basis, and it’s no wonder we struggle to see the wood for the trees when persistently drowned in dietary fallacies. But enough said here, if you fancy checking it out… just click this link.

A quick word about my good friend over at bettereatingforlife.com, Hilary’s work is just phenomenal. Dedicated to furnishing the – too often overlooked – facts only, she has created a wonderful 11-part video series which educates on the importance of adopting a WFPB diet, in addition to helping you successfully make the transition. Aptly titled “Knowledge is the Key to Good Health,” I couldn’t agree more, so…go get signed up, and open the door to a healthier, happier life, coz it’s way way too short!

To wrap up, I’m interested to know how you feel about mainstream media’s handling, or even mishandling, of nutritional information – would love to hear any thoughts/comments you may have, so stick them in the box below!

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Fancy Supporting The Beginning Of “The End of Meat”?

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Today feels good! I just donated to an Indiegogo Campaign that’s aimed to get the movie, “The End Of Meat,” to market. Funds are needed for the post-production effort/final push it seems, and I’m all for it. As of right about now, they are steadily inching towards the €23,500 mark, out of a goal set to €40,000. Yesterday, after I came across a May 11th post on the film’s Facebook page asking for help, they were just over €21,200. That was lunchtime. So, in less than 24 hours after the first check-in, it’s clear the might of social media is not to be underestimated.

Another thing that shouldn’t be underestimated is the growing strength of the plant-based movement. This fundraiser is testament to it, as the rise of veganism appears to be a precise reflection of the increasing levels of compassion felt for our non-human counterparts. It’s inspiring, and reminds me of a brilliant 2006 talk given by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, on the shifting moral zeitgeist. Discussing, in general terms, the historical trend that is “the steadily shifting standard of what’s morally acceptable…[that moves] in parallel, on a broad front, throughout the world,” this phenomenon indicates that advances in animal rights will, thankfully, continue to progress (YouTube).

FullSizeRender (13)And, as regards such positive developments in this arena, Dawkins, in this fresh UK Times article, provides more specific comfort on the matter. Sharing his belief that “the 21st century’s “speciesism” [will] one day be viewed in the same way we [now] view the 20th century’s racism,” I’m confident we’re truly, finally, headed in the right direction (thetimes.co.uk). But this current momentum has to maintain a pulse, and by giving to endeavors like “The End Of Meat,” we can rest assured this effort to keep its March 2018 release date on track is something worthwhile, and actually life-changing. We all know by now the precious impact these kinds of documentaries have had in recent years – think, for example, Forks Over Knives, Plant Pure Nation, Cowspiracy etc. They have been runaway successes on Netflix, with the education provided therein motivating millions to adopt an environmentally sound, legitimately salubrious, lifestyle. The way I see it, it’s really a case of…the more the merrier! So, the more opportunity there is to expose more people to the resounding “evidence [concerning] meat consumption’s negative impact on the planet and on human health,” the happier, in the long run, we all will be (theendofmeat.com).

Therefore, in the spirit of promoting these efforts effectively, the filmmakers have not made this campaign just about the financials. If you can’t afford to give, that’s ok, they simply ask that you consider spreading the word on your social media platform of choice. It’s a brilliant request, through which the certain growth of community will, in turn, spark even bigger, more meaningful conversations, that will ultimately bring the end of meat nearer the horizon. It’s already within sight, now let’s ensure this ethical evolution stays right on cue!

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Note: Image is courtesy of “The End Of Meat” website (theendofmeat.com).

Say, What Ya’ll Up To September 24-27th?

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If “nowt” is the answer, you may want to think about attending this year’s International Plant Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference. Being held in Anaheim from September 24-27th, the agenda looks super impressive. I’ve signed up myself – with the opportunity to hear the who’s-who of the whole-food plant-based nutrition world speak, it’s just too good to miss. Their aim? To…

educate, equip and empower the gatekeepers of dietary-related advice…about the power of plant-based nutrition, providing compelling resources they, in turn, [can] use to inform and inspire their patients and clients to adopt the optimal whole food, plant-based dietary lifestyle” (pbnhc.com, my emphasis). 

And with the likes of T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dean Ornish on the bill, I’m sure no one will leave questioning the benefits of what they term – and I like it – the “Ultimate Rx”. Also, in addition to the usual/standard lectures themselves, I’m thrilled to see they’ve set an hour aside for plant-based chef, Chad Sarno to demonstrate some “Foundational Cooking Techniques”. So, not only talking-the-talk, but for a change, actually walking-the-walk too. This, I think, will be super helpful, as we can know all there is to know on paper about the WFPB diet, but really, we need to be able to translate this knowledge in the place where it matters most – the KITCHEN!

To me, this inclusion is both critical and ingenious…especially, especially, when you are trying to get the message across that this lifestyle is far from complicated, and that its magic can easily be revealed through the most basic cooking skills. In fact, you could almost argue, that the less you do to your food, the better! But anyway, this is at the very core of truly equipping, and empowering, people to actually make a difference in their lives – and it can begin, so simply, with a peeler in one hand, and chopping board in the other!

That’s why I’m excited to go, to be further informed, further inspired. And, as to why I’m drawing attention to this now? Two reasons. First, as I just barely, just by-the-way, found out about it myself, I’d like to publicize its existence as much as is humanly possible. Second, I got my ticket at premium pricing rate, which up until May 15th is $945 – so time is running out! After this date, it will be $1245 for physicians, $1145 for non-physicians. Not the cheapest by any means, I know, but I’ve spent the same (unintentionally, and not all at once!) on the most throwaway of things over the years. This, I know, will be well worthwhile. I mean, it’s an investment in your health really – and in that, for sure – there will always be a great return.

(FYI – I’ll will be blogging throughout, and post, the conference – with a plan not only to review it, but to give you the lowdown on some of the best insights learned there.)

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Note: In this instance, logo is courtesy of the “International Plant Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference” website (pbnhc.com).

May The Force Be With YOU! So, Who Wants In On This Plant Strong Spud?

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Well…I hope you all want a piece of the action, because, my oh my, these little starch bombs just explode with heaps of flavor! Was caught in a bit of a pinch food-wise yesterday after returning home from an early morning, extremely agonizing, foot surgery. With the cupboards seemingly bare at first glance, I took another (much more creative) look around – managing to pull together a few handy, and easy to assemble, ingredients! Still going strong on the old anesthetic round dinner time, I was determined to rustle something up myself. You know those times when only home-cooked grub will do…especially, especially, when you’re not feeling quite so chipper?!

So anyway, I spurned the offer of take-out, and on went the spuds. All in, this took about an hour to do. With the fillings being rustled up in about 15 minutes or so, I had plenty of time to get my R.I.C.E. on 😉

Being the best call I could have made in terms of getting properly nourished in a most critical moment, everpost-meal, I felt like I could take on the world, and its wife! Indeed, you could absolutely say, that once again, the force was well and truly with me! Yup, it was a proper lightsaber (oh yes, intended), so here’s how to make…

Ingredients

  • 4, medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup, plain hummus
  • 2 cups, raw spinach
  • 2 cups, frozen broccoli
  • 2 cups, frozen cauliflower
  • 1 can (425g), black beans (no salt added)
  • 1/4 cup, walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon, garlic powder
  • To taste, salt and black pepper
  • Additional toppings, if desired – Nutritional yeast, or, Hot sauce, or, whatever is your usual go-to “tay-toe” garnish

Preparation:

  • Begin by pre-heating the oven to 400°F for about 10 minutes.
  • Wash the potatoes thoroughly. Then wrap each one in a piece of aluminum foil, up to about midway or so (you’ve done this before!).
  • Place on a parchment lined baking tray.
  • Pierce the top of each about 5 or 6 times with a fork, and then grind a little sea-salt on top.
  • Let them bake for around 55 minutes, then when done, switch off the oven and let them sit with the door slightly ajar for a further 10 minutes to cool down – they will be piping!

So, while the spuds are doing their thing, you can get on with the fillings…

  • Wash the spinach, and set aside in a bowl.
  • Drain the black beans, then throwing them in a sieve, rinse off any excess slime/ liquid from the can under the tap.
  • Set them aside in a paper-towel lined bowl, and then pat them dry with another paper-towel over the top, and throughout, as best you can.
  • Boil your frozen broccoli and cauliflower together (this should take less than 10 minutes), adding a tablespoon of garlic powder for a little extra flavor while they cook.
  • Drain, mash, and again set the mix aside in a separate bowl once done. Stir in a shake or two of black pepper here for good measure!

Now, with your bits and bobs all ready to go, grab the potatoes and get stuffing… 

  • Slice the spud straight down the middle.
  • Spread some hummus on each side, then line with a few leaves of raw spinach.
  • Stuff in some of your broccoli/cauliflower mash.
  • Next, add the beans.
  • And, lastly, stick a few walnuts (about 3 or 4 half or full-sized pieces), right on top.
  • Enjoy as is, or add any of the optional toppings noted above that you might fancy.

Best practice with this, really, is to eyeball the amount of each ingredient going in. This will depend on potato size, your own taste preferences etc. Anything leftover can be used as a “mini” side (like the mash as shown above), with any remaining hummus, for example, being just a nice bit of extra dip!

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(Note: recipe original to “the balance brigade”)

Bobbing Along In A Sea Of Nutritional Confusion: Why Are We So Comfortable With Food’s Infinite Gray Areas?

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Been a couple weeks since I checked in, but my absence can be somewhat explained by the above photograph taken at Hook Head Lighthouse in Co. Wexford just a few days ago. The goal was to keep my blog schedule on track while on holidays, but even with the best of intentions, it fell by the wayside. I was, however, keeping the old Instagram feed going – being a nice diversion when family conversations started to run dry! I had actually posted this picture shortly after we got home from the coast, and as we sat down to dinner that evening I realized the image couldn’t be more apt for this next installment.

I knew going home was going to be tough, from a food perspective that is. Not only had I to explain my whole-food plant-based leanings, I had to hope that my parents would be accepting enough to let me practice them. Now, while they had been forewarned, I think the reality was a little unsettling for them at first. But, I’m happy to say, after a couple of days, and good dose of sarcasm about my ability to maintain a pulse sans animal protein, they were actually very good about it. So, no fuss with my new dietary inclusions/exclusions at all, and totally fine with me making the necessary adjustments to my plate at mealtimes.

Happy days, you may say! But while the war I thought I’d be waging ended up being no battle at all, an unexpected struggle – and I think I was fated to be at home while this happened – instead reared its ugly head. Not wanting to impose my herbivorous lifestyle on the folks the first few days of the visit, I said nothing while the typical/traditional Irish diet they were enjoying was dished up before me. And, I can tell you, that after a while, it was unbelievably difficult to sit there and watch the veggies play second fiddle to whatever meat was on the menu that night – even if it was in the interests of having a conflict-free vacation!

But then a letter arrived about half-way through, and with the results of recent blood-work revealing my dad’s LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol being at 210 mg/dl, I knew it was time to stake a claim on no man’s land. Just for context here, 190 mg/dl is considered “very high” according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Although being informed that he was absolutely in line for a heart attack, stroke, or worse was beyond shocking, I think the most disturbing part of this communication was the laxity of its delivery. Simply told to check back in 3 months time, whereupon repeat tests would be carried out, the doctor was confident that with the help of the accompanying leaflet on how to amend diet and lifestyle accordingly, my dad’s cholesterol would lower considerably.  No argument there, but as this life-saving pamphlet wasn’t actually included with the mail, the report by itself, in being meaningless to its retiree recipients, was promptly shelved.

Until, (thank God!), I found it. And, then I knew it was time to unleash everything I had learned from The China Study, and through eCornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition course. The first conversation fell on deaf ears, the reason being, that as the doctor hadn’t followed up with a phonecall, they were of the opinion that the issue was not grave enough for them to be in any way concerned. It was infuriating, but on went the dialogue, and together with some intense Googling, they eventually accepted they had a situation that they not only needed to be worried about, but immediately address. And this is where the fun, quite literally, started. Oh yes – and in having seen their initial attempts to transition to a whole-food plant-based existence, the report’s disappearance began to make much more sense!

So, no, they may not have understood its technicalities, but on some level, I think they were cognizant of the practical changes that were going to have to be made. My mother’s a good cook, but not adventurous. My dad likes the basics, and therefore, you have a culinary prescription designed to stand the test of time – which it definitely has (42 years to be exact!). And, with that in mind, you can see why denial set in when told that it would be best advised to drop all meat and dairy, together with the extensive miscellany of processed foods stuffed into the kitchen cupboards. Life, in their eyes, was now going to be hell. But in trying to convince them otherwise, I came up with a simple plan – a list of all their favorite foods (minus the contraband), and what to do/how to easily prepare them. I also told them to keep a simple food diary, and to return to the doctor with it in about 4 weeks time, making a point to follow up with him, as opposed to being followed up with when it might be too late, and the unimaginable had already happened.

Here’s hoping they’ll implement last change. I gave them the tools, including a copy of The China Study, now it’s in their hands. If anything, it’s a lesson in how we end up in such murky waters, with the fear of change, the unknown, keeping us forever floating in life’s cosy gray areas. Now this is fine, until the time comes when you’re presented with a potential life/death scenario such as this, and you somehow know, that the glaring black and white of a situation is really your best guide, your only guide. And then you’re left with no option but to just follow the facts – which in this case, was/is to ditch the meat and be done with it. As human beings, we will doubtless falter from time to time in this quest – certainly, no one’s perfect. Testament to this was our first family effort in having the full-on whole-food plant-based experience on my last day together with them.

We were right on cue all day, with breakfast and lunch running smoothly, until dinner, when a planned rice and veggie stir-fry was mysteriously replaced with a couple of bags of french fries from our local chipper while I was busy packing. Insisting they were adhering to WFPB standards by going the potato route only (usually a burger and some battered sausages would be in tow), I let them off the hook, but at the same time leaving them under no illusion that this was suitable fare! There was discomfort, for sure, now that the chipper was firmly out of the equation as a take-out option. But I’d take that uneasiness any day of the week, if only to eliminate the convenient confusion that lies there in lieu. At the end of the day, no one ever really benefits when heads remain treacherously stuck in the sand. I’ll keep you posted on those LDL numbers!

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Hankering For Some Good Vegan Eats?

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Good! Then it’s time to hit ‘Little Pine,’ Moby’s Silverlake restaurant, ASAP! It comes highly recommended, by me, but, before I strike another key, here’s what the man himself has to say about this unique little spot:

“…i can write about food and veganism and architecture & design, but it’s a lot more compelling and interesting to open a restaurant and show actual, physical examples of food, community, veganism, and architecture & design. blogs and Instagram are great, but a picture of food will never replace an actual, beautiful plate of food served in a beautiful space…” (littlepinerestaurant.com)

See? Definitely a necessary interruption, as he duly points out the inadequacy of words, when actions are really what it’s all about. So, I’ll keep this brief. Yes, blogs etc. can spread the news, and quite effectively provide people with the opportunity/information they need to begin a whole-food plant based diet. But why not just drag a skeptic kicking and screaming to dinner…and let them get a taste of what they’re not missing. The whole purpose here naturally being – to reinforce the power of doing, over just saying. And, while not everyone will have the opportunity to open a (non!) greasy spoon in their lifetimes, this is the kind of effort anyone can make. I know I plan to return with as many cynics as I can squeeze in one sitting next time!

Serving beyond delicious Mediterranean inspired California cuisine, “featuring 100% plant-based produce and ingredients”, Moby’s restaurant is exactly as he describes it above….plus 10% cooler (littlepinerestaurant.com). It has an intimate, but very relaxed, community feel – a vibe that so many places strive for, but completely miss the mark on. Now, this, to me, was awesome, as in having a celebrity owner, I was expecting a little pretentiousness. But, I guess, when you have a proprietor that gets the fact that we are all made of stars – then you’re really all set.

This “we,” of course, also includes all sentient beings, an equality the menu rightfully recognizes by stating that all profits go to animal welfare organizations. So, all the more reason to support a plant-based way of life that is not only commendable, but also sustainable. Blasting “Go – The Very Best Of…” in the car on the way home, one particular chorus jumped out at me, one I hadn’t paid any heed of in my omnivorous past life… “growing in numbers, growing at speed, can’t fight the future, can’t fight what I’ve seen” (Moby). But listening now, it suddenly had new meaning i.e. that fact that the future is truly vegan, as we can’t sustain a future without it…

Ok, this wasn’t brief, but words are all I have for now – unless you deem the ethical undertakings of my knife and fork to be suitable enough action. Oh, and here’s what we ate, together with some kick-ass sparkling wine cocktails…

  • Panzanella – Toasted Bread, Avocado, Market Vegetables
  • Brussels Sprouts – Apple, Fennel, Apple Cider Gastrique
  • Fennel Flatbread Pizza – Housemade Sausage, Fennel, Romesco, Spinach,         Parmesan
  • Mushroom Bourguignon – Crimini Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, Carrots, Cotes du Rhone, Mashed Potatoes
  • Garlic Basil Gnocchi – Pine Nuts, Pesto, Market Vegetables, Bread Crumbs

No dessert this time, as we were completely stuffed with this lot, but don’t worry, it’s happening…in the very near, vegan secured, future!

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The Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet…So Where Does this “(DNA)Fit” In?

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So, I have a interesting story for you guys! Right around Christmas, just before my whole-food plant-based journey began in February, I sent my DNAFit swab away for analysis. I had been wanting to do this test for quite a while, and having spent some time checking out its mostly rave reviews, I was excited to “change the way [I] think about fitness and nutrition forever” (DNAFit). For those of you not in the know, this saliva test is used to uncover your genetic profile, one that is specifically geared up to reveal your body’s own unique response to exercise and diet. To be fair, the reports generated – which I received just after New Year – are super neat. And while they provide you with two healthy volumes on the latter, I feel the third, a one-page overall “state of the union” kind of summary is really all you need to get straight to the heart of your results.

The Lowdown? 

Ok, so while the exercise portion gave some seriously nifty info on my recovery speed, injury risk and power/endurance response (almost 50/50!) for example, I wanted to tell ya’ll about the food situation. As I said, with this reaching my inbox right around the first week of January, I couldn’t have been more hyped about getting a personalized diet plan. Having a post-holiday spare tire to shift, I was desperate to get my hands on what I was sure would be the quickest route to deflation! And hey-ho, with my optimal weight management regimen noted as being “Low-Carb,” I felt assured that science hadn’t failed me. With a reported high ‘Carbohydrate Sensitivity’ and normal (not raised) ‘Cruciferous Vegetable Need’, I was confident in what I had to change. So…no more bread and refined potatoes (ahem, fries!), and definitely no need for an extra broccoli or sprout boost.

Post Deflate-Gate

All set then, right? Well, with human nature being what it is, it took me some time to get back on track, and while in the middle of getting my resolutions in order, I began, as you know, exploring the whole-food plant-based thing. What I hadn’t mentioned in my previous posts, though, was that having finished The China Study, I decided to enroll in, and have now just completed, eCornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate. And boy-oh-boy, what an incredible education that was! Forgetting all about DNAFit’s recommendations, I instead adopted the high carbohydrate/low fat/low protein model as advised by T. Colin Campbell, and have been doing so, with great effect, for the last couple of months. By great effect I mean, higher energy levels, clearer skin, stronger hair, nails etc., but best of all, is the feeling of being completely satiated after every meal. Yup, all these lovely benefits from a fuel source I was supposed to curb. Granted, I think we all know by now that a close eye should be kept on refined/processed carb intake, but the sky’s the limit as regards whole grains, and as for vegetables – no increase will ever hurt!

I know it definitely hasn’t hurt my scales, with my weight, happy to say, fully recovered from the holiday fall-out. But, back to DNAFit, with their conclusions once again coming to the forefront of my mind this past few days, I was curious to find out if they even suggested a vegan, or whole-food plant-based option to their clients. Turns out, they don’t. Offering only Mediterranean, Low-Carb or Low-Fat plans, a company rep informed me that while their reports do not explicitly cater to herbivores, their separate online meal planning service does allow users to specify dietary preferences, whereby they can then avail of recipes that match their particular needs. Now this inclusiveness is awesome, for sure, but to me, it just stresses the fact that you really are your own best doctor. I say this, as if you aren’t really in the nutritional know – like me, round about 3 months ago – I think a person might be more inclined to unquestioningly accept the advice as emailed, especially if you’re in the midst of a battle with the scales!

Our “Made to Measure” Obsession

But, don’t get me wrong here, this is in no way a criticism, just an observation based on my own experience, and fresh education on the subject. And, with it under my belt, I think it kind of begs a sincere question i.e. why is a whole-food plant-based diet, one that has been proven to be the cure of virtually all ills, not automatically top of the list? My hunch, here, once again comes back to human nature, and that fact that no-one really likes a “one-size-fits-all,” simple, solution. Fancying ourselves as “one-off’s” that require a tailored fix, we are reluctant to accept the fact that as much as our DNA is wholly different, we are, at base, tantamount to the same. Anyway, each to their own – at the end of the day the DNAFit experience was fun, and informative in many ways. Yet, on reflection, I’m grateful that in the meantime I happened to stumble upon the Center for Nutrition Studies – and I can tell you, with utmost sincerity, that it was this adventure that truly allowed me to “change the way [I] think about fitness and nutrition forever”.

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I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me…

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…well, not as often anyway. You know, I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day than taking in this breathtaking view. Yet, even though I live less than a 5 minute drive away from the beach, I only pop down once in a blue moon to catch the sunset. And what kills me is that I absolutely love it, so does the mutt, as this ritual seems to have a greater pull with crowds that favor only four-legged plus ones. So, while we stroll along the bluffs I get to take in the phenomenon that is light’s swift exchange for darkness, and my fluffy munchkin gets to partake in the meet and greet of a lifetime.

Clearly then, it’s an all-round win-win. Being also the consensus of every other individual gathered on the lookout, as judged by the sheer volume of selfie stick activity, I wonder why I too often find this unquestionably worthwhile and non-time-consuming jaunt so inconvenient. Roundtrip is 30 minutes at best, and with myself and the pup always leaving both completely centered and fully rejuvenated (going on wags-per-minute here!), it seems crazy not to want to make this soul-filling pilgrimage a regular thing.

But once the day soon dawns again, the exhilaration of our trip is usually fast forgotten to a million excuses that will busy me out of going. And, in reflecting upon today’s excursion, I now know that I justify this frequent opt-out on the basis that the sun will be going down every single night of my life. Therefore, there’s tons of opportunities to see it again, right? This outing has reminded me though, that unlike sunset, we cannot predict when our own burning torch will extinguish. So, with procrastination no longer the comfortable option it once was, I’ll be beach bound again tomorrow, this time with some decent 80’s beats in tow to soundtrack the occasion. I know the mutt will be thrilled, any excuse to have Nik Kershaw reinforcing the absolute need for us to keep hitting repeat on playdate heaven!

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