Maximizing Family Time

5 tips for spending more time with loved ones

Now as much as ever, close family ties can make a significant impact on young lives. Constantly emerging technology sometimes limits personal interaction, while many school-age children experience unprecedented stress levels.

Building strong connections with trusted adults can give kids a sense of security and a better foundation for achieving their potential. Make spending time together a priority with these engaging activity ideas that allow the whole family to get in on the fun.

Plan a Movie or Game Night

Kids thrive on routines and clear expectations, so a regular special event like a movie or game night can give them something to anticipate each week. Watching TV at home may not be a novelty, but you can make it an occasion to celebrate by adding special touches like dimming the lights to mimic a theater, pulling out cozy blankets and preparing popcorn or other treats. If you opt for game night instead, keep the enthusiasm strong week after week by creating long-range tournaments or allowing kids to rotate game selection privileges.

Read Together

Sharing books together not only creates an opportunity for bonding, it’s a way to give your child an academic boost outside the classroom. Studies show that daily reading promotes literacy, helps kids build their vocabulary and improves overall academic achievement. Also, the benefits don’t end with elementary-age children.

Parents can connect with older kids through books that carry important lessons about life and relationships. Reading books individually then coming together to discuss them, similar to a book club, can provide the chance for thoughtful talks about difficult topics. For example, “Regretting You,” from bestselling author Colleen Hoover, explores a tumultuous relationship between a mother and her daughter who must turn to one another when a tragedy shatters their lives. Find more information on the novel at

Cook Meals Together

Eating together is a goal for many families, but preparing meals together takes those benefits even further. Engaging kids in meal preparation creates a sense of cooperation and instills pride for a successful project. It’s also a chance to share family traditions and pass on recipes that have traveled through generations.

Enjoy a Craft Day

Kids need the chance to let their imaginations soar, and arts and crafts projects can provide the perfect outlet for creative expression. An art session may be as simple as enlisting everyone’s help to make decorations for an upcoming event. Another thoughtful way to channel all that creative energy: have little artists make cards to deliver to a local senior or retirement community.

Take a Trip

Discovering new places is an exciting way to create shared memories. A trip need not be costly or even far from home. Even a day trip to explore a new community nearby can provide a natural setting for the whole family to connect and form lifelong memories.

No matter what activity you choose, investing in time together strengthens relationships so kids can flourish with the confidence of a support system behind them. (Family Features)

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6 Keto Tips to Avoid Festive Season Weight Gain


‘Tis the season for keto.

The festive season is difficult for any diet. This time of year is filled with food-centered festivities, parties, and time-honored eating traditions – and with the festive season often comes stress. The popular keto diet, which features high fats and moderate proteins with few carbs, comes with a diminished burden on calorie counting (yay!) but requires a fastidious approach to eating. Here are tips from experts on how to maintain your keto diet during the festive season and avoid weight gain.

Plan Ahead

It can be meaningful to discuss your keto eating needs ahead of time with whoever is hosting the festive season event or preparing the food.

Family and friends should be supportive and happy to help you! Keto-friendly, low-carb recipes are available for many festive season staples such as pumpkin pie, latkes, gingerbread cookies, and even eggnog – giving a new twist to traditional food that would disrupt your diet.

“Mashed cauliflower, sugar-free cranberry sauce, nut flour stuffing, low-carb pumpkin pie, and countless other keto takes on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve food are all great options for staying in ketosis during the festive season,” says Sofia Norton, RD and keto expert for Kiss My KetoWhere many diets involve restricted eating, keto is all about eating the right balance of ingredients, generally about 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs.

Festive season favorites may still fit within your diet, it’s just important to ensure the right ingredients are being used. And the keto versions of your favorite foods are so tasty, they may just become your new festive season tradition. Cauliflower mash and cauliflower rice are both fantastic as a low-carb side dish that’s easy to make and great to share,” Norton said. “If you have leftover keto bread, make low-carb stuffing as you would with regular bread.”

You can also use leftover keto bread to make breadcrumbs for stuffed mushrooms and keto casseroles! And for apps, deviled eggs are a great way to sneak in some MCT oil. 

“Pumpkin pie is easy to make low-carb by swapping sugar for non-nutritive sweeteners and using an almond flour crust and Christmas cookies are also easy to make with a combination of almond and coconut flours,” Norton says. If it’s not possible to adjust your party’s food options, you could bring your own ketogenic food or eat before the event to ensure that you’re maintaining your diet.

Keep Things Simple

Sticking to low-carb whole ingredients is a smart decision when food is being passed around the dinner table.

“When making choices remember our goal of regular amounts of protein, think of a palm size piece of meat as an example,” says Randy Evans, RD. “When it comes to carbs, on keto, we are mostly targeting complex or non-starchy carbs which are often leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and they are pretty easy to find on most tables.”

Traditional festive season meals that have few carbs are:

  • Roasted turkey 
  • Shrimp
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Roasted ham
  • Whole roasted cauliflower
  • Fish stew

Green veggies can be paired with pasture butter, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts, or seeds. If you don’t know the type of fat being used, you could add fat on your own like adding MCT oil shots to coffee.

Know What to Avoid

Some festive season staples will not work with your diet, such as potatoes.

“You will want to avoid the starchy veggies, which is usually the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes,” Evans said. So, instead of a helping of grandma’s famous sweet potato casserole, go for a side of green beans or Brussels sprouts instead.

Other types of foods to skip include most fruits, processed foods and grains. And while you might enjoy listening to Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song” with its opening line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” pass on the chestnuts – they’re high in carbs – and grab a handful of pecans instead.

Drink Lots of Water – and Limit the Booze

Water is king. It flushes out toxins and fights inflammation, which can lead to weight gain and swelling. It also fills you up and fights dehydration.

This comes in handy during the festive season for sure! Evans suggests drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day but also before, after, and during meals. So, before the big meal, drink a glass or two of water. And take sips of water throughout, pausing between bites.

While you might be inclined to drink alcohol this festive season, be mindful of how it will impact your keto diet.

“The worst offender of weight gain by far is alcohol consumption during the festive season. Not only does alcohol consumption pause your ability to burn fat for 48-72 hours, but it also initiates poor decision making with respect to food intake,” says keto expert and Nutrition Scientist Christine HronecAlcoholic drinks are typically low in protein and higher in sugar and carbs, especially if they feature sugary mixers like tonic water or soda. If you want to have a drink or two, make sure you’re sticking to low-carb recipes or dry wine.

To cheat or not to cheat?

You should talk with your dietitian about how much you can stray from your diet.

Dieters on a less strict ketogenic diet could have small amounts of fruit or unsweetened sweet potatoes “and still not be too far off from ketosis,” Evans said. “I have some patients who only see good ketone levels when super limiting carbs, maybe 20g per day but I also have athletes in the 80 to 100g of carbs range on a ketogenic diet who still see good ketone levels.”

Chef Elisa, Head Chef and Nutrition Expert at, says it’s important to plan the dishes you expect to eat – as well as your recovery if you sway from your diet for a day.

“Whether it’s fasting, doing a tougher workout before your festivities, or just getting back into your normal low carb routine the next day, cheating isn’t about all or nothing, it’s about you getting to make your own rules and knowing what you need to do to get back on track,” she says.

Enjoy Yourself

The festive season can be a stressful time! It’s important to cut yourself some slack – and focus on doing the best you can.

“Remember stress has a huge impact on our health and for the most part we have no way to measure its impact other than by measuring the damage it can cause. If you are doing well on the ketogenic diet over time and have a meal or a day that is not perfect, how about we enjoy it, lower our stress level, then get back on track the next day,” says Evans.

Austin Ed Fund Announces ‘Student Opportunity Fund’ Grant Recipients

- Over $39,000 awarded in grants to support local small campus-based projects in Austin ISD - 

Mr. Min at Akins Early College High School.

Mr. Min at Akins Early College High School.

Austin Ed Fund, a recognized champion of the Austin Independent School District (AISD), has announced today that they will award more than $39,600 in Student Opportunity Fund grants for its fall 2019 cycle. The Student Opportunity Fund supports campus-based projects that provide educational enhancement for students considered economically disadvantaged in AISD.

Student Opportunity Fund grants support time-sensitive campus academic or extracurricular needs not covered by the campus budget. Requests include funds to provide experiences to students such as exposure to colleges, field trips, academic materials and equipment, and cultural opportunities. Since 2013, Austin Ed Fund has awarded over $680,000 in teacher grants.

“Thanks to generous donors to the Austin Ed Fund, these grants help level the playing field for our students,” says Michelle Wallis, Executive Director of the Austin Ed Fund and AISD’s Office of Innovation and Development. “We are thrilled to be able to support these amazing projects and initiatives and congratulate our teachers who go above and beyond to support our students. However, we have to acknowledge the huge gap between available funds and what our students and teachers need. This fall alone, we saw a gap of more than $250,000 in funds needed to support the initiatives that teachers applied for through our Student Opportunity Fund. The needs are great, and we invite the community to give to make sure our students and teachers have everything they need to be successful.” 

Fourteen grants were divided among twelve AISD schools all over the city for a variety of initiatives, including funding for field trips, academic support and musical instruments.

The 2019 Student Opportunity Fund Grant winners are as follows:

AISD AVID Department: $4,752

Off to a Running Start: One criteria for college readiness for students in an AVID Elective is taking the PSAT in 8th grade; this project will fund students in need of financial assistance. 

Akins High School: $1,500

Real World Criminal Justice Experience: The priority of the funding is to cover competition registration fees and allow for equipment purchases to be used to test their knowledge, skills, and abilities in a real world, tangible scenario. 

Becker Elementary: $1,074

It Takes a Village: This funding will go toward field trips, showing students that they have adults who care about them and who will expose them to culturally rich opportunities, making the students more engaged members of their community. 

Blazier Elementary: $1,438

Let’s Build a Community of Readers: This funding will allow children to be exposed to books and start building a love of reading.

Brooke Elementary: $645

Learning to Invest in Our Natural Self: This funding will provide staff with common curriculum and language to remove obstacles to learning for students and support them as they navigate changes.

Casey Elementary: $3,990

ROX (Ruling Our eXperiences) Empowerment Program for Girls: This program is a 20-week, evidence-based empowerment program for girls that focuses on team building and healthy relationships. ROX teaches girls skills required to address the challenges and pressures they face every day. 

Dawson Elementary: $1,497

A Trip to Remember: This will allow students and their parents to go on an end-of-year field trip to Morgan’s Wonderland, an all-inclusive amusement park for kids with special needs. 

Dawson Elementary: $2,850

Community Experiences for Dawson Pre-K and ECSE: This funding will allow all Mollie Dawson Elementary students in Pre-K and Early Childhood Special Education to participate in various study trips connected to thematic units. 

Dobie Middle School: $10,000

Dobie/Northeast Orchestra Reboot: This project aims to provide each student with an orchestra instrument and private lessons, with the goal of resurrecting Northeast High School’s orchestra. It will also strengthen Dobie’s vertical alignment with Northeast and keep students wanting to stay in AISD. 

Eastside Memorial High School: $3,500

Research and Education Activities for Community Health (REACH) Research and Education Activities for Community Health REACH for New Horizons aims to increase awareness of community research around minority and underserved communities in East Austin. Funding will be focused on providing high school students with the real experience of working with a community-based organization that has a history of collaboration with special populations of targeted areas. 

Martin Middle School: $1,000 

AP Test Funding for Spanish College Credit: This funding will pay for each student to take the Spanish AP test in order to earn both high school and college credit. 

Perez Elementary: $4,110

Read. Write. Lead! By publishing their own books, Perez students will become the creators of the diverse books needed in every school library and classroom, as they tell their own stories. These student-written books will serve as mirrors where students can see themselves reflected.

Travis High School: $2,800

Travis ECHS Social Studies Department Creative Learning Field Trips: This will allow all students to go to Blanton Art Museum once per semester. There, students will experience hands-on workshops as a creative learning initiative. Additionally, students will tour the UT Austin campus in order to explore their post-secondary options after graduation. 

Walnut Creek Elementary: $520

Gettin’ Diggy With It: This archeological expedition is designed to give students exposure to one-of-a-kind experiences in STEM fields where they can do hands-on investigations. Our students will be led by researchers through critical archaeological field work and teach them how to get diggy with it.

This funding opportunity is awarded two to three times a year and is exclusively for Austin ISD educators and campus leaders. Projects must be able to measure the impact of the grant and serve a targeted group or campus where the student population is greater than 70 percent economically disadvantaged. The Student Opportunity Fund awards grants up to $10,000. For more information on the Student Opportunity Fund, please

About Austin Ed Fund:

Austin Ed Fund is a recognized champion of Austin ISD. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Austin Ed Fund develops and stewards meaningful public-private partnerships that promote innovation and support opportunities that prepare Austin ISD students for college, career, and life. The organization has successfully served as a catalyst and facilitated over $20 million in support for Austin ISD strategic priorities and initiatives since 2001. Austin Ed Fund empowers teachers and students through two campus-based grant programs. Through these programs, Austin Ed Fund has awarded over $680,000 since 2015. For more information, visit

Most Influential Female Philanthropists in Texas


Women’s role in philanthropy is also increasing in different ways. More self-employed women are rising with their resources to give, reflecting women’s growing economic fortunes, a trend that is expected to increase in future years. In the meantime, more women leaders are at the top of the world of foundations and now run some of the largest charity operations in the United States.

Considering everything that is happening we need to appreciate these women who are giving back to the community in Texas to help humanity cause. This points to a broader warning regarding this list of the Most Influential female philanthropists in/from Texas. This list is not seen as definitive, but as evolutionary, with prominent women steadily crossing our radar.

We aim to offer a glimpse of the many amazing women we are seeing in the high spheres of philanthropy while admitting that the views on these topics are subjective. Many readers will consider women who are supposed to be on this list or wonder why a certain woman is on the list. An important fact to bear in mind is that all women in philanthropy are all important and worthy a mention but we can’t acknowledge all of them in this post.

With that been said, let’s delve into the list:

Melinda Gates

Melinda Ann Gates DBE is a Texan – she is the former Microsoft General manager and philanthropist. She and her husband Bill Gates co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private charity in the world. She has expended so much in efforts to meet needs in Texas and places around the world. Melinda Gates has always been rated as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes.

Lyda Hill

Lyda Hill is the Founder of the Lydia Hill Foundation. She is a philanthropist and businesswoman from Texas, United States. In 1997, she founded the Lyda Hill Foundation, with a focus on supporting advancements in science and nature, strengthening non-profit organizations, and improving communities in Colorado Springs and North Texas. She has most recently devoted herself to breast cancer research, donating over $25 million to it since 2015.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter

Beyoncé, the great musician from Texas has given much to the world. Lemonade is a lifetime’s contribution. However, she has also been philanthropic in some other ways. Beyoncé co-founded Chime for Change in 2013 with Salma Hayek. This charity is all about fundraising and creating awareness for projects that promote health, education, and justice for girls and women. To date, they have supported over 409 projects in Texas, the USA at large and 86 countries respectively.

Lynn Wyatt

She is a member of the Houston high society, philanthropist and third-generation Texan. Her great-uncle and grandfather founded the Sakowitz department store chain. She is married to Oscar Wyatt, an energy executive, who is also the founder of Houston’s Coastal Corporation – which is currently owned by El Paso Corporation – and is now the Chief Executive Officer of NuCoastal LLC. Oscar and Lynn Wyatt have four children.

Judy Jolley Mohraz

She is a philanthropist and a historian of American women’s studies. She was president of Goucher College and was the first executive director and president of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. She is a crazy giver and has advocated a lot of cause in Texas and Phoenix. She is the second female president of Goucher and the ninth president of the college. She was also named by President Bill Clinton to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1996. She was a longtime professor and an associate provost at Southern Methodist University.

Debbie Montford

She is known as a philanthropist, an effective and energetic community volunteer, and an enthusiastic advocate of the arts. She is currently the President and Chairman of the Board of the Dolph and Janey Briscoe Western Art Museum, Texas Tech University System Chancellor’s Council’s member, and Advisory Director of the Plum Foundation, Sociedad de la Espuela, and the Matador Society.

Pearl C. Anderson

Pearl C. Anderson is a humanitarian and a philanthropist who succeeded long before any political right was stemmed to bring any black women on board. She has always been extraordinary. Pearl C. Anderson likes to swim upriver, pursue an education, a civic stature against all odds and have a high passion for giving. She has managed to turn courage and poise into dignity and grace. That’s the power of permanence, and it’s the most powerful of all.

Ida Green

She is an accomplished philanthropist, espouses small effort coupled with large, realizing that a weekly lecture schedule for Texas Christian University (TCU) journalism students can mean the same as Greek and Roman sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Ida Green’s approach to donating is quintessentially human, but all she asks in exchange is that we should always do some good. There is a moral authority to the way she works, and what that means is that when she speaks, people listen.


Refresh Your Child’s Diet with Low-Sugar Options

Many families look to the new year as a time to reset their eating habits and focus on making healthier choices. However, adults aren’t the only ones who could use a menu refresh as children may also need to focus on healthier food choices.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed children consume an unhealthy amount of added sugar every day. Researchers found nearly all of the toddlers in their study ate an average of 7 teaspoons of added sugar daily – the equivalent of a candy bar. Additionally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, excess sugar consumption can lead to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Small children have small stomachs,” said Courtney Hines, a nutritionist for KinderCare Learning Centers, which care for more than 165,000 children around the country every day. “You want them to fill up on nutrient-dense foods, not empty calories in the form of added sugar. When children consume lots of sugar, their palates get used to overly sweet flavors. They may not accept other, less sugary flavors or learn to appreciate the natural sweetness of a piece of fresh fruit.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the consumption of added sugar for children under the age of 2. Children ages 2-18 should aim for less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar per day.

For families that want to cut down on the amount of added sugar in their diets, Hines recommends cooking more at home, relying less on processed, packaged foods and serving only water or milk for beverages.

Consider these low-sugar ideas for meal and snack times to help control the amount of added sugar you and your family consume.

Dip Smart

Herbs, spices, citrus and fresh fruit add flavor without relying on the added sugars found in many popular sauces and dips. Consider making your own low-sugar alternatives at home so your family can still enjoy favorite flavors like these:

  • Ranch Dressing – In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, buttermilk, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper for a kid-tested, nutritionist-approved take on a favorite dip. Serve over salad or as vegetable dip.
  • Honey Mustard – Popular on a variety of sandwiches and as a dip or salad dressing, combining plain yogurt with milk, honey and regular or Dijon mustard can create a more family-friendly version.
  • Teriyaki Sauce – Perfect for serving with healthier options like lo mein, chicken wraps or fried rice, a homemade version can be created using water, soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic powder and cornstarch slurry.

Swap Out Syrup

Pancakes are a popular breakfast option at KinderCare centers and in many homes, but even the healthiest whole-grain pancake becomes a plateful of sugar if it’s doused in syrup. Hines recommends these toppings that are sweet and savory without the added sugar:

  • Nut butter or seed butter (such as peanut, almond or sun) and banana slices
  • Warm fruit compote (mix of warmed berries)
  • Applesauce (no-sugar-added variety) and cinnamon
  • Nut butter swirled into plain yogurt; mix in 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract to add a sweet flavor

Snack Sweet

Opting for less added sugar doesn’t mean avoiding sweet snacks altogether. These alternatives can still help satisfy those cravings:

  • Applesauce with baked cinnamon pita triangles for dipping
  • Toast topped with nut or seed butter, smashed banana and sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Frozen fruit smoothies
  • Plain yogurt topped with granola, nuts, seeds or fruit
  • Apple slices with nut or seed butter

For more ideas to introduce your children to healthy habits from a young age, visit (Family Features)


5 Financial Tips for Teens

When it comes to economics, many teens’ mouths write checks their knowledge can’t cash.

While 93% of American teens say they know how the economy works, 29% have had no economic schooling, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. teens ages 13-18 by Wakefield Research on behalf of Junior Achievement and the Charles Koch Foundation. Even in light of their false confidence, teens are aware of the importance of financial education.

Although the study identified numerous gaps in economic and financial knowledge, it also showed teens do know where to look for credible information. Two-thirds (67%) recognize they should use their school as a resource.

“One of the things we hear often is that some textbooks are written too academically for most students to understand the concepts,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “Our programs, which work as a complement to the school curriculum, are written from the perspective of today’s teens and use digital content to help bring economic concepts to life for students.”

Beyond the classroom, another 63% of students believe they should use their parents as resources for economics education. Help influence the financial literacy of a teen in your life with these practical money-management tips adapted from the curriculum.

Set goals. Managing your money is more meaningful when you’re doing it with purpose. This might mean budgeting to ensure you have enough money to maintain your auto insurance and keep gas in your car, or you may be saving for a big senior trip. Knowing what you want to achieve with your money can help you plan how you spend it more wisely.

Weigh needs vs. wants. When you begin making your own money, it’s easier to indulge your own wishes and spend money on things you don’t necessarily need. To some extent, that’s not a bad thing; rewarding yourself is fine when you do so within reason. That means not exceeding your available funds, and not forsaking things you truly need, like gas money to get to and from a job or school.

Get a debit card. Most people find that having cash on hand makes it easier to spend. If you use a debit card instead, you’re an extra step away from spending so you have a little more time to consider your purchase. Another benefit of a debit card is it helps track your purchases in real time so you can keep constant tabs on your balance and ensure you don’t overdraft your account.

Start a savings habit. Even if your income doesn’t allow for much, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of setting aside a portion of each check. It may only be $10, but over time each $10 deposit can build your account toward a long-range goal.

Protect your privacy. Teens who’ve grown up in the digital age tend to be less skeptical and cautious about privacy matters than their elder counterparts. It’s important that young people understand the potential impact of failing to protect their privacy when it comes to financial matters, including the possibility that their identities could be stolen and all of their money siphoned away. Teaching kids about security is an essential lesson in economics.

Visit ja.orgfor more tips and information to help raise your teen’s financial literacy. (Family Features)

Junior Achievement

Psychiatrist’s 8 Tips to Reducing Holiday Stress

The festive season is so much fun for many people. However, for some, family get-togethers, festive season shopping, cooking, and more make them feel stressed and anxious. Festive season stress is a real thing and it’s something that mental health professionals help their patients with during November and December. How can you help yourself feel better?

Vinay Saranga, M.D.

Vinay Saranga, M.D.

Vinay Saranga M.D., is a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry (

He offers these tips:

  •  Breathe: One of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety is to slowdown your breathing. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, worried or something is bothering us, our breathing tends to get fast and shallow. This actually makes us feel worse than we are already feeling. Focus on slowing down your breathing. Breath in through the diaphragm (stomach area), hold for a few seconds, and slowly exhale through the lips.
  •  Mindfulness: When you start worrying about preparing Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for gifts, or uncomfortable topics of conversation coming up with family you don’t see that often, practice mindfulness. This is the act of being present and immersing yourself in the present moment. It’s easy to dwell on the past and worry about the future, but being in the present moment is the best place to focus your energy.
  •  Take a break: The festive season can be overwhelming for many people. It’s okay to take a break. Go for a walk. Take a drive and turn up the tunes. Hit the gym. Surf the web. Go to your favorite place and just people watch. It doesn’t matter what you do. If you feel your anxiety levels rising, take a break from what you’re doing and connect to something that makes you feel good.
  •  Avoid controversial issues: There’s nothing like a heated debate over things like sex, politics or religion to ruin what should be a nice family together and stress you out. If a topic feels too far out there, or if you know that people have very differing points of views, stay away from it. Focus conversations around TV shows, movies, music, books, reliving memories and other fun and interesting topics.
  •  Get outdoors: It’s easy to get stuck inside watching the parades and footballs games, but getting some fresh air and a little activity can be good for everyone. Think of games to play outside. Go for a bike ride or a walk around the block. Watch the kids get involved in an activity. A little fresh air can relieve stress and holiday tension.
  •  Comfort yourself: Whether you don’t like the family get-togethers or large gatherings just stress you out, be kind to yourself with the language you choose. Remind yourself that it’s only a few hours and you can get through it. Spend time around the people with whom you have the most in common or the ones who don’t stress you out as much. Remember to smile as this not only makes you appear to be enjoying yourself, it really will help you feel better.
  •  Stay on your meds and keep doctor appointments: The festive season and long family get-togethers can be tough for many people, but even more so if you are suffering with a mental health condition. The holiday season is not the time to come off your medication. Remember to keep all doctor appointments and stick to your therapeutic routine. 
  •  Take a trip: If the festive season really stresses you out that much, there is no shame in telling people that this year you are getting away and taking a family vacation. Going on a cruise, heading to the mountains or whatever you choose to do is perfectly acceptable. You are not being selfish by putting the needs of you and your family first and foremost.

How to Get Great Skin Before the Ball Drops on 2019

Most women seem to experience skin care problems just when they want to look their best. Every woman can relate to waking up with a huge zit right at the tip of her nose, or huge dark circles under the eyes, and the list goes on. There are pre-emptive measure one can take with less than two weeks until the New Year to ward off these skin care evils. We turned to Dr. Manish Shah, a Denver board certified plastic surgeon for guidance on what to do without breaking the bank or having invasive surgery.

Facial Extractions by a licensed aesthetician- Dr. Manish Shah says, “When done correctly extraction facials can clear closed comedones (AKA those tiny, flesh-colored bumps that never come to a head, yet never really go away), remove whiteheads and blackheads, and give your skin a newer, fresher foundation for your skincare products to penetrate. Basically, extractions can be the kiss of life for your lifeless broken out skin.”

Drink Alcohol in Moderation – If you plan on ringing into 2019 with a few glasses of bubbly, Dr. Shah recommends moderating your alcohol consumption leading up to the big day. He explains, “Alcohol can dehydrate the skin and cause it to appear less fresh and vibrant, which can certainly hinder your skin care efforts.” 

Cleanse your Face Every Night - You have just arrived home at 2 am from a holiday Party. It may be tempting to flop into bed without washing your face. Don’t do it! Dr. Shah says that, “Sun damage isn’t the only environmental factor you have to worry about. Small micro particles from air pollutants might just hurt your skin, too. Play it safe by remembering to take a minute to cleanse your face to remove debris that could be weakening your skin. In addition, that foundation and pressed powder you have been wearing all night can clog your pores and cause breakouts.”

Start Exfoliating – Want brighter, younger-looking skin? It starts with a great at home exfoliator! Dr. Shah explains that, “As your skin replenishes itself, dead skin cells start to build up on the top layer, leaving you looking dull. Exfoliating regularly removes this layer, revealing fresh, healthy skin. Regular exfoliation also allows your moisturizer and other topical products to penetrate more deeply, making them more effective.” 

Clean Your Makeup Brushes – You would not eat food on dirty dishes, would you? Applying makeup with dirty brushes is not so different. Not only will dirty brushes give you a spotty application, but they can harbor bacteria, dirt and oil, leading to acne and breakouts which necessitates piling on even more makeup to cover it up. 

Don’t Squeeze Your Pimples! – Here’s a secret that many a supermodel or actress use: Steroid shots. Dr. Shah explains that, “when we discuss treating acne with cortisone or “steroid” shots, we are referring to the process of gently placing a very dilute quantity of a “glucocorticoid” steroid into the cyst. Glucocorticoids are a class of steroid molecules that are naturally produced by our bodies and have numerous functions including the regulation of human metabolism, immunity, and inflammation. They have very potent anti-inflammatory effects, so they are often used to treat inflammatory diseases in medicine. They can be formulated as creams to treat skin rashes or as pills to treat systemic disease. They can also be injected directly into local areas of inflammation such as in arthritic joints and inflamed acne cysts. Within one or two days of injection into a cyst, the steroid will shrink the inflammation producing relief of pain and almost immediate cosmetic improvement.”

Peels – Look for AHA/BHA/PHA peels that will exfoliate the skin and help release the top layers of dead skin cells allowing for a more radiant underlay to come through.

Microdermabrasion – This professional treatment exfoliates at a deeper level (like a peel), with a mechanical handheld device that buffs away the upper layers of the skin. 

Add vitamin C to your routine. – Dr. Shah suggests applying several drops of vitamin C serum underneath SPF each morning to target free radical damage, help lighten brown spots, and even out your skin tone. 

Moisturizer – It may seem obvious, but when it comes to dewy, glowing skin, moisturizing is essential. “When your skin is dry, it looks dull, so hydrating ingredients can help bring back that glow,” says Dr.  Shah. For skin types already prone to shine, adding moisture may seem like the last thing you need, but an oil-free hydrator with ingredients like hyaluronic acid could actually help reduce your sebum production and even out slickness into a sleek glow.

About Dr. Manish Shah

Manish Shah, M.D., F.A.C.S. was born in Canada and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a degree in biomedical engineering. He then completed his medical training at the University of Virginia, earning his Medical Doctorate. During this time, he also completed a one-year fellowship in microsurgery research at the New York University School of Medicine / Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. As a prelude to his plastic surgery training, Dr. Shah completed a rigorous five-year training program in General and Trauma Surgery at Emory University and the Medical College of Georgia. His formal training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery was completed at the Univ. of Tennessee College of Medicine – Chattanooga Unit. After completing his plastic surgery training, he moved to New York City when he was selected for the prestigious Aesthetic Surgery Fellowship at Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital. He underwent extensive, advanced training in aesthetic surgery of the face, breasts, and body at the hands of some of the most renowned cosmetic surgeons in the world. This fellowship is widely considered to be the best of its kind in the world. Dr. Shah is one of only a select few plastic surgeons in the country who have undergone formal post-graduate training in aesthetic surgery.

Dr. Shah’s specialties include revision facial aesthetic surgery, rhinoplasty (“nose reshaping”), and aesthetic surgery of the breast (breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction). He is, however, well-trained in all areas of aesthetic surgery.

Dr. Shah’s aim is to obtain a natural appearing transformation that complements the real you!

Dr. Shah is a past Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center based at Denver Health Medical Center, the Rocky Mountain region’s only academic Level I trauma center. He is a past Chief of Plastic Surgery at Denver Health Medical Center. He also maintains a private practice in Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery on the Dry Creek Medical Center campus (DTC/Denver) and up in the Aspen Valley (Basalt – in the office of MD Aesthetics – Tim Kruse, M.D.).

Dr. Shah is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Dr. Shah is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Don’t Let Winter Turn Your Skin Into a Parched Desert

For many people, it’s like clockwork: the weather cools and within a few weeks their skin is itchy, red, cracked, and bone dry. Falling humidity levels kickoff annual dry skin season—skin tends to have the same moisture level as the environment it’s in, so as the weather gets dryer, we do too. Dips in temperature can exacerbate the problem further and mature, sensitive, or acneic skin types are particularly affected by the changing weather. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the season. There are ways to keep dryness at bay and maintain smooth and irritation-free skin, year-round. Here’s how:

  1. Avoid Harsh Exfoliants: If your skin has dried out during the winter months, take a step back from your harsh chemical or physical exfoliants. This doesn’t mean you need to stop using them completely—exfoliation is important for cell turnover—but pumping the brakes for a few days while your skin resets could prove useful. And if you’re still feeling dry, opt for a natural cleansing oil instead of your usual face wash, which can often strip the skin of natural oils.
  2. Use a Low-Molecular-Weight Hyaluronic Acid: A low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid (HA) is recommended for its ability to hold 1000 times its weight in water. HA helps your skin retain moisture and assists in keeping its surface smooth and soft. It even helps calm redness or irritation from particularly harsh climates.
  3. Layer Up: In the winter, it’s all about layering—both clothes and skincare. Start with a serum equipped to handle your toughest skin concerns. For maximum TLC, use FACTORFIVE’s regenerative serum—the only growth factor serum that lists human stem cell media as its first ingredient. FACTORFIVE’s stem cells are ethically derived and maintained in their own lab, meaning a group of highly trained scientists control the quality from start to finish. As a bonus, FACTORFIVE’s regenerative serum is high in hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and wrinkle-fighting peptides.

Next up, opt for a cream that’s light enough to layer and calming enough to soothe your winter redness. FACTORFIVE’s anti-aging cream boasts the same powerful human stem cell media as its serum. Plus, it has the added soothing benefits of Aloe Vera and green tea extract. To form a protective seal over the skin and lock in the growth factors, apply the cream after the serum.

  1. Apply Morning & Night: Don’t forget to use the serum and cream combo in the morning, after washing your face and before makeup, and in the evening, when your face is clean and ready for bed.
  2. Don’t Forget Your Eyes: Our eyes are sensitive to the cold and dry climate of wintertime. Make sure to replenish your delicate eye area with a natural, non-irritating, fast-absorbing product like FACTORFIVE’s eye/lash cream. FACTORFIVE growth factor technology helps to smooth and tighten the under-eye skin and assists in the growth of your eyelashes and brows. It’s also prostaglandin free, which means it won’t alter the color of your eyes or leave them irritated and red.
  3. Don’t Forget SPF: Even though it’s cold outside, the sun’s rays are still powerful. A physical sunscreen, applied in the morning—after your serums and creams should be part of your daily routine. Use an SPF of at least 30 and if you are out in the sun for long periods of time, apply every two hours.
  4. Stay Hydrated: A simple, but effective tip. Drinking enough water helps your skin look dewy, plump, and gives you that just-walked-off-the-beach summer glow.
  5. Check Your Diet: Our skin is often a great indicator of what’s going on inside. Monitor what you eat and take notice if your skin flares up or feels extra dry after particular meals or food groups. Always consult a physician before changing anything about your diet.

It’s impossible to control the weather, but it is possible to control how you treat your skin during low humidity and low temperatures. And, if your skin cannot take it anymore, you can always plan a trip to a tropical destination where the humidity is high and your skin can recuperate— just remember to pack the sunscreen.