Dry Brushing Your Skin

While at my Sister’s house on Christmas Eve this last year, I saw a woman whom I know, who looked fantastic. When I asked her what had she been doing to look so good, she said that she had been working with a nutritionist who had her on a strict diet, supplement regimen and she was dry brushing her skin every day. I had never heard of dry brushing before. She said she did it twice a day which took about 45 extra minutes to get ready in the morning.

When she first explained what it was, my first reaction was how self-indulgent. But I went home and did some research on it and was sufficiently intrigued to try it. I have been dry brushing for about a month now for only 5 minutes once a day before my shower and I can tell you it is a fantastic thing.

Below are seven benefits you can expect from dry brushing your skin:

1. Stimulates Your Lymphatic System
In your body, your lymphatic system is the system responsible for eliminating cellular waste products. Hundreds of miles of lymphatic tubules allow waste to be collected from your tissues and transported to your blood for elimination, a process referred to as lymphatic drainage.
When your lymphatic system is not working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick. Lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. By stimulating your lymphatic system and helping it release toxins, dry skin brushing is a powerful detoxification aid.

2. Exfoliation
Dry skin brushing removes dead dry skin, improving appearance, clearing your clogged pores, and allowing your skin to “breathe.”

3. Increases Circulation
When you dry brush your skin, it increases circulation to your skin, which encourages the elimination of metabolic waste.

4. Reduces Cellulite
Dry skin brushing may help to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly. This may help to diminish the appearance of cellulite.
Dry brushing is also said to help reduce cellulite by removing toxins that may break down connective tissue, although some believe the effect is temporary (and mostly a result of skin become more plump and swollen after brushing).

5. Stress Relief
The act of dry brushing has been described as meditative (especially if you do it in a quiet space) and may reduce muscle tension, calm your mind, and relieve stress. Many compare it to a light whole-body massage.

6. Improves Digestion and Kidney Function
Dry skin brushing may go even deeper, helping to support your digestion and organ function.

7. It’s Invigorating
I have become “addicted” to dry skin brushing (in a good way) because it simply feels so good. Along with glowing and tighter skin, I feel invigorated after a quick 5 minute session.

Dry Brushing your skin is very simple to do and there are many internet resources and YouTube videos to show you exactly how to do it.

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First you’ll need a high-quality dry brush. Look for one with bristles made from natural materials. They should feel stiff but not overly so. Ideally, choose a brush with a long handle so you can reach your entire back and other hard-to-reach spots.

Dry skin brushing should be done daily for best results, or even twice a day if you like. Try incorporating it into your normal daily routine, such as brushing before your morning shower and then again after work (avoid doing it too close to bedtime, as it may leave you feeling energized).

When brushing, always brush toward your heart, which is best for circulation and your lymphatic system. You can brush your entire body (including the soles of your feet). Start at your feet and work your way up your legs to your arms, chest, back, and stomach. Avoid brushing your face (unless you have a special brush designed for this delicate skin), your genitals, or any areas with irritations or abrasions (including varicose veins).

The pressure you apply while brushing your skin should be firm but not painful (avoid “scrubbing”). Your skin should be pink after a session (not red or irritated) and you can brush for as long (or as little) as you’d like. An average dry brushing session may last between two and 20 minutes.

Fiji

The thing about going on a long trip is the anticipation of the adventure that lies ahead. I know our trip won’t be pedestrian or similar to any other trip we have taken. My husband Carl is an adventurer. Even at 74, he is very active and loves the thrill of winging it on vacation. So when our Aussie friend finally convinced us to visit him in Australia in October after asking us for 10 years to visit, my husband set about researching the Internet about where we could go to spend a few days to acclimate to the time change and avoid 14 1/2 hours in an airplane. I usually don’t get involved in the planning stage of our trips except to look at hotel pictures online and give my preference for one place over another. At first we considered the Cook Islands as a first stop then settled on Fiji. We found a resort online that seemed reasonably priced and it offered scuba diving & promised a relaxing experience. The name of the Eco-Resort is Papageno located on the Fiji island of Kadavu.

Papageno Resort
We arrived in Fiji on Saturday after a 10 hour flight and had 7 hours to kill in the town of Nadia (pronounced Nandia) before taking a small plane to the island of Kadavu & then a motor boat ride to the very remote resort of Papageno. When we arrived at the resort we were greeted by the Managers at the shore of the Bay and shown to our Bure which is a lovely bungalow consisting of an outer screened in Porch with a sink table & 2 chairs.

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The staff had prepared a welcome drink of coconut juice & rum laid out nicely on a Palm leaf. The inner room was a quite large bedroom, closet area & bathroom. Our room faced the Ocean & we could lay in bed & feel the Ocean breezes, watch the Coconut Palms swaying & listen to the waves. A fantastic way to decompress after a long plane ride. We were asked if we had eaten lunch yet even though it was already 3:00 pm. & told that there was a lovely Quiche prepared for lunch. We quickly situated our bags & went to the large community room for our meal. A long dining table was set up with Franciscanware plates & nice silverware. Our hosts informed us that all food was prepared from ingredients grown in their Organic garden & no sugar was added which was welcome news to my Diabetic husband. We had an outstanding meal of Green Salad with various dressing options, homemade bread, Spinach Quiche & Orange Juice. After lunch we met some of the other guests, a couple from Canaberra Australia who had been at the resort for 10 days following a wedding for one of their friends earlier in the week with 32 guests. Another couple who owned a much smaller resort was visiting from another Island about a one hour boat ride away. Evidently they come to Papageno to get away & get a social fix before they have to greet another guest. They only take one guest at a time.

My husband & I were very tired having only slept about 6 hours on the plane so after lunch we went to our Bure, took showers & both of us collapsed into a deep sleep for about 3 hours. When we woke up we joined the other guests in the community room for a dinner of fish, green beans & potatoes. Dessert consisted of baked Papaya, Mango ice cream & whipped cream. We spent the rest of the evening talking with our fellow resort mates & discussing our diving trip for the next morning. We went to bed around 8:30 pm still feeling a little jet lagged & slept until 6:30 the next morning. Upon waking, I grabbed my camera & went for a walk around the resort.

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What an absolute paradise! The property consists of about 100 acres and is situated in a secluded bay. There are large coconut palms everywhere and strategically planted gardens of tropical plants along pathways leading around 10 various size Bures or bungalows some of which face the ocean & some set back against the jungle including a 4 bedroom 3 bathroom large house for rent which is beautifully furnished in tropical style furniture & accented in the resort owner’s vast collection of African artifacts. There is a huge Organic garden with eggplants, papayas, pineapple, various lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, Mulberry bushes and many more vegetables & fruits. Rescue dogs of various breeds & ages roam the property & one followed me everywhere stopping to smell the fruit & marking his territory.

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Later in the morning, we convened in the community room for breakfast and were served a sumptuous variety of fruit & cereals, homemade cake, & juices. We were asked if we would like eggs as an omelette or scrambled. We learned a little more about the young Australian couple who had been in Fiji for 10 days & were leaving the next day.

Diving
After breakfast, we were introduced to our Dive Master Zacariah who explained our dive and where we were to go to get our equipment. We prepared for our first dive at around 10:00 am & boarded the boat with our wet suits, fins and mask. Our BC’s, tanks & weight belts were already aboard the boat. We motored out about 3 miles towards the reef & anchored at a Dive Spot named Fish Bowl. Carl & I geared up, took a few pictures & then back flipped into the water which was pretty choppy at this point because the wind had picked up. We let out the air in our BC’s & descended to about 40 ft. under the water. We saw many colorful fish, interesting coral & we went through a few tunnels. By the end of the dive, the current was pretty strong so our Dive Master signaled for us to go up. It was a bit of a challenge getting into the boat because the water was a little rough. While the dive wasn’t the most spectacular one we had ever done, it was pretty good for our first dive in Fiji. We decided to postpone our 2nd dive until the next day. We returned to our Bure, showered and took a rest until lunch. The next day our dive was much earlier in the morning & the water is pretty calm. We went to a different dive spot & this time we saw large schools of fish, & some pretty big Tuna.

We spent four relaxing days in Fiji & were totally acclimated to the time change before our next adventure in Australia.

BBQ Inspiration

In some of my previous posts, I mentioned that my husband and I were thinking of opening up a Texas BBQ restaurant in Lone Pine. Well, we are moving forward with our plans and one of the first steps in the process is the purchase of a commercial grade smoker for residential use so I can practice smoking meats and getting our meat recipes perfected. As you can see my smoker is gorgeous. I can smoke six 12-15 lb. briskets or smoke different meats at once for different amounts of time.

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In addition to the meats, Lauren and I will be working on perfecting the side dishes. Our BBQ restaurant will have Texas style meats but we must have California sides. So for the next couple of months, we will be testing recipes for Mac and Cheese, Potato Salad, Coleslaw, BBQ beans and corn bread. Not sure how we are going to minimize our weight gain from this venture but we will try.

There is another inspirational development in our plans that came about from our Austin BBQ crawl a couple of months ago. Mike who lives in Lone Pine and will be our Pit master for the restaurant, contacted Wayne Mueller of Louis Mueller BBQ in Taylor, Texas and asked him if it would be possible to spend some time interning with him to learn how to properly smoke meat. Wayne was very receptive and told him it would probably take about 4 months to become proficient at it and he would definitely take the time to teach him. This is a major coup in our learning curve about cooking Texas BBQ because Louis Mueller BBQ is one of the preeminent
BBQ places in the country. We are going to ship one of the Commercial Smokers we are purchasing for the restaurant to Taylor, Texas so that Mike can learn on that equipment under the expert tutelage of Wayne Mueller. So with Mike’s BBQ education, my meat smoking practice and Lauren’s and my perfection of our side dishes, we should be ready to open the restaurant in early summer.

Having said that, Lauren and I have made the decision to take a short break from writing posts for the blog so we can concentrate on the restaurant needs and also continue to improve the design of our blog to make it more appealing to our readers. So please check back with us in a few months, when Lauren and I will have more cooking, travel and discovery posts to share.

Sicily

One of our favorite countries we have visited is Sicily. I really wanted to see it because my Maternal Grandparents came from there and I wanted to see the town of Alia where they met and married. To prepare for my trip, I took Italian classes at the local Community College for about six months so I could confidently ask for directions, find out where a restaurant or hotel was and hopefully track down some relatives with the same family name as my Grandparents.

We flew to Palermo and spent about three days acclimating to the Sicilian life and getting a feel for the country. Our hotel was located downtown and within walking distance to the Opera House, Teatro Massimo which seemed to be the center of town. We tried to see an opera while we were in Palermo but sadly there were no performances during our stay.

Palermo-Teatro-Massimo

One of the things that was immediately evident was how immaculately dressed up the Sicilians were when going out for the evening. Another attraction to see in Palermo is the catacombs where Capuchin Friars used arsenic baths and quicklime to preserve the corpses of thousands of Sicilians.

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After three days, we rented a car and we made our way around the island. We didn’t have any reservations, which is the way my husband and I love to travel. We were sure we would find places to stay whenever we wanted to stop and stay a couple of days. For the most part that was the case and we stayed in some interesting hotels and accommodations.

Marsala
Our first stop was the city of Marsala where we stayed for a couple of days and bought some Marsala wine which can be as fine as a top sherry or port. From there we headed inland to the town of Alia to visit my grandparents hometown. It was a lovely cobblestone street town and was known as a place that grows flowers. Maybe that would explain why my Grandfather became a florist. I went into a pub to ask in Italian if anyone knew of anyone in town by my grandparents name and I was corrected in the pronunciation of the name and told no one in town with that name remained.

Agrigento
One of the things that surprised us about Sicily is the number of Greek ruins throughout the country. Many more in number and magnificence than in Greece. One of the largest ancient cities is in Agrigento and we spent a day climbing through the archaeological park known as the Valley of the Temples.

We continued around the cape of Sicily before heading north where we stayed a couple days in the southeastern coastal town of Siracusa. It is full of ancient ruins and beautiful beaches.

We then made our way up the coast and stayed in the little beach town of Catania which is right on the Gulf of Catania. We had an incredible view of the bay from our hotel.

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Then we drove to Taormina which is a bit touristy but interesting because from the ancient amphitheater, we could see Mt. Etna which is the largest active volcano in Europe.

Sicilian Food

If you are a foodie, you will find Sicilian food to be very interesting because although its cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. Many of the dishes are prepared with dried fruits, olives, pine nuts and spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon.

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Sicily is a country I would like to return to someday and include exploring the surrounding Aeolian Islands. To sum up my favorite aspects of Sicily they are:

  • Breathtaking views of agricultural beauty while you are driving through the countryside;
  • Beautiful black and white sand beaches;
  • Fantastic ancient Greek architecture throughout the country;
  • Friendly and laid back people who make you feel welcome in their accommodations and restaurants;
  • Great food;
  • A country that is small enough you can drive all around it in a couple of weeks

Vegan Morning Glory Muffins

I never met a muffin I didn’t like. I especially love Morning Glory Muffins, however I find most to be very dense and filling. So I was intrigued when I found a recipe for Vegan Morning Glory Muffins on Food 52 recently. They don’t contain any eggs and are sweetened with Date Paste which I was glad about because I have had a package of dates in my freezer for a while that I wanted to use. Since my husband is diabetic, I am also looking for alternative sweeteners that are natural. The first batch I made tasted great and we ate them all in about a week. They were so good I made another batch. What makes them so wonderful is that they are nice and light but still substantial like a good Morning Glory Muffin should be.

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Vegan Morning Glory Muffins
(From Food 52) Makes 1 dozen
•1 1/2 tablespoon flax meal
•1/4 cup warm water
•2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
•2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
•2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
•1 teaspoon salt
•1/2 cup raisins
•1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
•1 tablespoon grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon ginger, ground)
•1 cup date paste (See Recipe Below)
•1/2 cup organic sugar
•1 cup soy or almond milk
•6 tablespoons canola oil
•1 1/2 cup grated carrot
•1 small apple, grated

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line 12 muffin tins with liners, or oil them lightly.
Mix the flax meal and warm water together; set the mixture aside to let it “gel.”
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the raisins, walnuts, and ginger.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the date paste, sugar if desired, non-dairy milk, and oil. Stir in the flax mixture.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones until everything is well incorporated, and then fold in the carrot and apple.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Allow them to cool before enjoying.

Date Paste
Makes 1 1/4 cups
1 cup medjool dates, pitted and packed
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (heaping) salt

Place the dates into a large bowl. Bring the water to a gentle boil, then pour it over the dates. Allow them to soak for 20 minutes (or up to an hour).
Drain the dates, reserving 1/2 cup of the soak water. Add them to a blender with the reserved water, the vanilla, and the salt. Blend till the mixture is totally smooth.
Date paste can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

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Donabe Cookware

donabe1 I first learned about Donabe cookware about three years ago from a local blog I followed. The article talked about the cookware but it was essentially focused on Naoko Moore, the owner of The Toiro Kitchen who gives cooking demonstrations with Donabe cookware at her home in Echo Park. I registered for one of her cooking classes and spent a Saturday in her cozy kitchen learning all about how to cook rice in the rice cooker and how to cook a whole meal in the stovetop smoker.

Naoko

Afterwards all the class participants sat around Naoko’s dining table and ate a delicious Japanese meal. I was so impressed with Naoko’s enthusiasm for this cookware that is not only beautiful but incredibly versatile, I bought the Komado San rice cooker and the Donabe stovetop smoker.

The donabe cookware is made in Iga, Japan. Iga is an ancient province located about 250 miles south-west of Tokyo. Iga style pottery is considered to be one of the most highly regarded regional potteries of Japan. It is made with clay that is porous and has a high absorbency and heat retention properties. Each Donabe is made by hand and takes about 2 weeks to make.

The rice cooker makes the most delicious rice. It comes out shiny and fluffy, and it’s so easy to prepare. It tastes better than rice cooked any other way.

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One of my favorite rice dishes is one I learned at Naoko’s cooking class that I eat anytime I am in the mood for Japanese comfort food.  It is white or brown short grain rice cooked in the Kamado-san rice cooker and when it is done, leave the rice in the cooker and mix in 2 tablespoons of good butter and let it melt into the rice, 1/4 cup soy sauce and the zest of a medium orange. Stir into the rice and serve it right from the Donabe rice cooker.

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If you are looking for an interesting and unique cooking experience, check out Naoko’s website for class schedules. However I believe classes for 2015 have been put on hold because she is working on a Donabe cookbook. Her website also includes the Donabe pottery and other items like a Tofu making kit that she sells online and a fantastic library of Asian recipes.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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This is my favorite way to cook brussel sprouts. It brings out the flavor of the sprouts without being mushy. The secret to getting perfectly roasted brussel sprouts however is to blanch them for 30 seconds before roasting. This sets the color and results in beautiful little orbs of goodness.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ bacon onion jam

1 lb. of brussel sprouts (rinse and pull off outer leaves)
4 qts. of boiling water
Blanch the brussel sprouts for 30 seconds and then plunge into a bowl of ice water to set the color, let cool.
Cut large brussel sprouts in half, leave small ones whole
Put brussel sprouts onto roasting pan
Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, use your hands to get olive oil all over the sprouts and make sure they are cut side down on the pan.
Roast in 400 degree oven until golden brown.
When done put in serving bowl and mix in bacon onion jam
Can be served warm or at room temperature

Bacon Onion Jam

INGREDIENTS

¾ pound slab bacon, diced into cubes
4 medium-size white or Spanish onions, peeled and diced
1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed
2 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

Set a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat, and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is completely rendered and the bacon has started to crisp, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot, and add the onions, mustard seed, brown sugar, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine, then cover the pot, lower the heat and allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the top, stir again and then partly cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cook until most of the liquid is gone and the onions have achieved a dark brown jamminess, approximately 60 to 70 minutes. (Add a little more water as needed.)
Taste the jam, and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Remove mixture from heat, and allow to cool slightly. Spoon the jam into a jar or bowl, then allow to cool completely. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

New Baby, New Life

Me

My Grandson was born on Christmas morning last year. Looking at his perfectly formed body and adorable face makes me so full of hope and inspiration for his and my future and I can’t stop smiling. I spend hours dreaming about what our life will be like together. I picture pushing him in his baby carriage, taking him to the playground, teaching him to cook, feeding and changing him and watching him grow and evolve. While I am relishing this new rite of passage of being a grandparent, I am thankful that my Grandson has two parents and a half brother and sister to attend to his everyday needs.

I didn’t grow up with my Grandparents. I never knew my Mother’s parents and my Father only had a Mother by the time I came along. She never learned English so the only way to communicate with her was to speak Spanish which none of the kids in my generation of our family were taught because it was my family’s way of Anglosizing and assimilating into America.

I think you are given a second chance to get it right as a Grandparent. I think I was a good Mom to my kids, I mean as adults they still like me. But I am sure there are things I could have done better. So with my Grandson, I will do things better.

According to The Department of Health and Human Services, parents clearly benefit from having a grandparent in a child’s life: There’s that extra pair of hands for diapering, soothing, cooking, and reliable childcare. But the children benefit, as well.

Grandparents:

Provide a sense of family continuity and history;

Have stories to tell and are great transmitters of the family’s cultural heritage;

Contribute to the children’s sense of belonging and security;

Become additional role models;

Often have more time than parents for reading stories, teaching new skills, and playing games; and,

Have a vested interest in the well-being and healthy development of their grandchildren.

At this moment in time, my focus is spending as much time as I can with my Grandson so when he gets a little older, I can give him the best Grandparent experience ever. In the words of Aretha Franklin, I’m daydreaming and I’m thinking of you.

Gyenyame

Nudo

My-Olive-Tree

I discovered Nudo when my oldest daughter gave me an olive tree adoption certificate for Christmas one year. It said that I would be receiving 3 bottles of olive oil from my adopted tree after the Spring harvest and it included a picture and story about my tree. I waited for months for my olive oil to come in the mail and right at the point when I was thinking my daughter had been duped, I received my 3 beautiful tins of fantastic Olive oil. I have since given Nudo as a gift to many of my foodie friends and I always get an enthusiastic response about what a great and unique gift it is.

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The Founders

Jason Gibb and Cathy Rogers set up Nudo in 2005 after buying and restoring an abandoned 21 acre olive grove in Italy’s Le Marche. Their love of the Italian countryside inspired their now famous adopt an olive tree program which allows people all over the world to adopt an Italian olive tree and receive its oil. The program involves a collaboration between a group of small scale, artisanal olive producers in Le Marche, Abruzzo and Sicily. Each olive farmer keeps responsibility for the care of their grove, and all the olive oil goes into the Nudo adoption program. In giving financial security to the olive farmers, the program makes viable the traditional farming methods which, quite simply,produce the world’s best olive oil.

A love of simple natural food is the starting point for all Nudo products. They are all made from 100% natural, high quality, locally sourced ingredients. Why use artificial preservatives when olive oil is one of the best preservatives there is – and the most delicious?. They also have a newsletter and blog that is interesting to read because it includes recipes and tips about uses for your olive oil. Your olive oil farmer will keep you informed about your adopted tree if you choose to renew your adoption beyond the initial harvest.

Recently I noticed that the company has branched out and is offering tea garden adoptions from India and coming soon honey beehive adoptions which is so cool. I am always looking for unique gifts for people and this one really delivers.

Staying Connected

During this busy time of year, I am reminded how important it is to stay connected to your friends. As we get older it becomes even more important to reach out and make an effort to stay in touch with friends. In a city like Los Angeles, where everything is so spread out and commuting 10 miles can take hours, maintaining a close relationship with friends can be a challenge. But there are other strategies you can incorporate to retain friendships. Pick up the phone and call someone. Make sure you have your friend’s e-mail addresses and use technology to contact friends either by e-mail, Skype or social media. Write cards and even letters. I love reading a letter or card. I text a lot with my friends because it is so immediate and I can get my questions answered instantly. Lunch is always a better bet for me than trying to schedule a dinner with friends unless my Husband and I have mutual friends and we make it a couple thing or a small group of friends. During warm weather months, we love to entertain friends with a dinner party or lunch and a hike.

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Author and psychologist Carlin Flora’s book, Friendfluence, explores all aspects of friendship in a thoughtful and engaging way. In the book, she gives many reasons that friends are important to our lives. Here are a few of them that really stuck with me.

Friends affect you in more ways than you think
Whether you realize it or not, your friends have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer your friends.

Friends can give you vital life skills
There are many perks of friendship include sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and living a longer and healthier life.

Close friends support you through thick and thin
To take the most advantage of friendfluence, put effort into your closest friendships. Although being friendly can get you more friends, you don’t need hundreds to help you through life. You may have to prune your friendship tree as you get older to be sure that you give enough attention to the ones who will really matter for your well-being.

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Friends can give you a reality check
Because friends know us so well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality with you.

Couple friendships can help your own relationship
You can benefit both from maintaining your separate friendships, but also from sharing with the couples who are experiencing transitions such as becoming parents, raising teenagers, and helping older family members. Friends can also help you alleviate your work-related stress.

Even though you may be stretched to the limit time-wise, the investment you make in your friendships will be worthwhile to your overall quality of life.

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