Books, Food and Reviews

Reviews and Recommendations

Today’s Bookstores

When it comes to visiting bookstores, much like music stores, the questions is whether to go to the large mainstream bookstore chains such as Barnes and Noble or Books A Million, or to the small indie bookstores such as Busboys and Poets. With the giant bookstore chains you can find more titles and new selections, but with the smaller bookstores, you can find lesser known titles and more rare finds. You can also get a more personal and unique feel. So it all depends on personal preference and taste.


At the larger chains, they offer a more spacious environment and places where one can sit down and enjoy a book without feeling crowded. In addition, they offer a wide selections of books to meet the needs of the general public. Many of them also partner with coffee shops such as Starbucks to bring in more customers, and they can also host events to increase publicity.


However, one issue bigger bookstores have is not giving their customers a unique experience in order to create customer loyalty. This is where some of the smaller bookstores come in. They may not have the same offerings of the bookstore giants, but they can offer a better experience through unique offerings and a community environment. Busboys and Poets is a great example. It isn’t just a bookstore; it’s also a great spot for people to meet each other for business discussions or casual get-togethers with friends. It is also a good spot for interacting and networking with the community and holding events. Busboys and Poets brands itself as a trendy, intellectual place to interact with people, read books and enjoy food. It also markets itself as an organization that cares about social issues such as the country’s cultural and mental diversity. They have books and also a second floor full of dining tables for food and drinks. This gives their patrons a unique experience and reasons to keep coming back.


One common factor that both types of bookstores share is that they are all adversely impacted by the power of the internet. This has hurt sales and business, forcing these bookstores to change and reinvent their business models. In this day and age, many people go online to Amazon, Ebay and other e-commerce sites to peruse and purchase books. It not only often saves them money, it saves them the time and effort of physically going to a bookstore to purchase books. Another problem for the smaller bookstore is the proliferation of the ebook and reading devices such as the Kindle. Because many of the bigger shops have an online presence and offer their own reading devices and can sell ebooks online, they are able to take advantage of this. However, the smaller shops don’t have this luxury, as they don’t have the funds to invest in their proprietary products. This means that these smaller bookstores must take advantage of what they can offer, which is a community experience and a place where people can interact and participate in events.

healthy foods diet for skin

Foods For Skin

Recent studies have shown that diet can have a profound effect on skin health. Some people eat chocolate and end up having breakouts, although the explanation isn’t so clear as to why. It’s been said that more than a third of people with acne see a connection between diet and problematic skin blemishes. However, there are no clear-cut studies that definitively prove the exact connection between skin health and diet. Although, conversationally, many dermatologists agree that there is a connection.


Basically, acne is the bane of many people’s existences who have skin problems. Generally, acne is caused by protein and sebum getting trapped and blocking oil glands and pores, which then promote the growth of acne bacteria by providing it material for it to feed on.


The skin is a very complex organ, actually the largest organ in the human body. When it comes to the skin renewal system, there are hundreds of steps, of which food is just one component. The body and skin are constantly in a state of reconstruction and rejuvenation. Nutrients and vitamins from food provide the material for skin to repair and rebuild.


Roughly, food makes up about 25% of the factors related to acne. The other 75% include hormones, stress, sleep health, and environmental factors. So while it is important to take care of the 75% of factors that affect skin health, the 25% of skin factors that includes nutrition is also very significant. Generally, it is recommended to eat a low-fat and whole-food diet. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are beneficial for the skin, as healthy foods can reduce inflammation and decrease breakouts.


You can also improve skin health by focusing on the 75% of factors that effect skin health. One of these factors is skin treatment. There are some great treatments for the skin such as the Black Charcoal Face Mask Peel and Gold Collagen Face Mask. These treatments can clean and improve the surface and pores of the skin, creating healther skin on the outside.


When considering which nutrients and vitamins to intake for good health skin, one should consider Vitamins A, E, and C; zinc; selenium; omega-3 fatty acids; and of course, water. Water is important for skin because it hydrates the body and the skin, while flushing out toxins that can cause skin problems. It also helps with skin regeneration. Vitamin A helps regulate the skin cycle and is a main ingredient in Accutane, a prescription medicine for acne. Good sources of Vitamin A include salmon, carrots, spinach, and broccoli. It is also possible to ingest too much Vitamin A, which can result in harmful side effects. Vitamins E and C are antioxidants and work together to calm the skin. Sources of Vitamin C include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, papaya, and tomatoes. Vitamin E comes in sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, sunflower seeds, leafy green vegetables, avocados, and broccoli.


Zinc helps to prevent acne by providing a difficult environment for acne bacteria to thrive. People with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc. Zinc can be ingested from turkey, almonds, Brazil nuts, and wheat germ. Selenium has antioxidant properties that help protect skin from free radical damage. One study actually showed that in conjunction with Vitamin E, selenium may improve acne. Selenium can be found in wheat germ, tuna, salmon, brown rice, garlic, eggs, and Brazil nuts. Finally, omega-3 fatty acids inhibit certain molecules that lead to inflammation and skin problems. They also support the regeneration of healthy skin cells which reduces acne. Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from cold water fish such as salmon and sardines, flaxseed oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and almonds.


Generally, some foods to avoid include chocolate, junk foods, dairy, and simple carbs. Dairy can cause acne because of the hormones in cow’s milk which can increase androgens that increase sebum production and cause acne. Some researchers found that cultures with high glycemic diets, including white bread, potatoes, and sugary foods, had higher instances of acne. They looked at cultures with low glycemic diets of fruit and fish or peanuts and wild game, and found that they had no cases of acne, while high glycemic diet cultures had very high cases of acne. Simple sugars can cause acne because of high insulin levels that increase androgen that cause higher levels of sebum production and clog pores.


In order to find the source of acne, you can maintain a food journal for a month or a few months and record the changes in food and the effects on skin health. Any patterns may allow you to identify the problem foods that can cause acne for your specific skin and body chemistry.

Chipotle Chorizo

Chipotle has announced that it is adding a new meat option, chorizo, to some select restaurants for the first time in years. This is basically a spicy Mexican chicken and pork sausage. Traditional chorizos are made strictly from pork, but possibly due to sourcing issues, chicken will be added the Chipotle version. By the fall it will be offered in all restaurants nationwide. This pork and chicken recipe is seasoned with paprika, toasted cumin and chipotle peppers, and it is seared on a hot grill to a perfect char.


This is a very exciting offering because we love spicy tasty foods! Although Chipotle’s other meat options such as chicken, steak and pork are already winners, adding some spice to the menu can’t hurt. Although you can already add ample spice with our favorite Chipotle flavor hot sauce, we think getting another meat option with some extra kick in it will make the menu even better.


Unbeknownst to us, the chorizo was actually on the menu since 2011 in a few select locations. This new version of the chorizo has been reformulated and is lighter and less greasy than the traditional chorizo because of the chicken that is added to the recipe. First, the chorizo is formed into patties, then seared on the grill, and finally crumbled before it is ready to serve.


Whatever attention that Chipotle gets from this new menu item, it will do well to distract from the food contamination scandals over the past year. It seems the popular Mexican fast serve chain has lost its luster, and it is making efforts to win back customers. Another popular hit menu item would be the first step in getting these customers back, but it must also make sure that it gets its food safety issues under wraps for good. This has been a surprising issue, since the company’s mission is all about sourcing its food in the most environmentally friendly, ethical and healthy way. Image is everything in business, so Chipotle needs to create a new image of clean healthy food so that it leaves all its negative issues in the past in the minds of consumers. That being said, as long as we don’t get sick, we will keep eating here as one of our favorite fast food places!

Dwayne Johnson’s Diet

Believe it or not, one of the most important components of sports and bodybuilding fitness is actually food! One of the best examples of this is the training regimen of action movie star, Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock. When people look at his massive ripped physique, they may assume that it all has to do with lifting tons of weights or taking questionable supplements. However, they may not know that food is one of the most important parts of his training regimen.


According to this sports and bodybuilding nutrition fitness site, The Rock consumes 10 pounds of food everyday over seven different meals. These numbers sound like something more suitable for an elephant’s diet, but his 5,165 calories per day is more than twice the amount recommended for an average man. These calories are made up of meals consisting of range meats, eggs, rice and vegetables. He eats about 1,000 calories in just cod everyday.


Every meal of The Rock diet consists of at least one protein source, which can be cod, chicken, steak, or eggs. He also mixes in carbs for these meals such as rice, baked potatoes, and sweet potatoes. He also incorporates vegetables into almost every meal, which can be cups of veggies, spinach salads, and regular salads.


Now any regular person who would try this diet would probably get fat, but the reason The Rock can pull this off is because he also has an insane workout regimen that burns all these calories and converts the raw materials into muscle mass. Actually, any normal person trying this diet wouldn’t be able to stomach the sheer volume of food and would vomit from overeating, as seen from the writer who tried out the diet and couldn’t make it through half the day without regurgitating his first few meals.


The only thing more crazy than this meal plan is The Rock’s workout regimen. He works out five days a week, each day focusing on a different group of muscles. Not only that, but he gets up at 4-5 in the morning to begin his workouts. Just eating and working out alone would be a full time job for most people, but somehow Dwayne Johnson does all this and finds the time for a career as a movie star. Call him a late bloomer, but at 43, he seems to be coming into the prime of his career with blockbuster movies and his new HBO TV show, Ballers. This inside look into Dwayne Johnson’s daily routine really highlights the level of dedication and sacrifice he has put into getting to where he is at.

Italian Lasagna

Photo credit: torbakhopper / Foter / CC BY-ND
Photo credit: torbakhopper / Foter / CC BY-ND

One of the most popular foods in the world is Italian food. Italian food is primarily known in America for pizza and spaghetti. However, lasagna is another popular Italian dish that rivals spaghetti in popularity. Lasagna is a type of pasta, which was first introduced in ancient Rome in the city of Naples. The ingredients of lasagna include ground beef, Italian sausage, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, basil, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, cottage cheese, eggs, and meat sauce. Making one of these creations is a tedious process that can take one to two hours.


Lasagna comes in multiple forms. There is vegetarian lasagna made specifically for vegetarians, which comes with no meat. It includes: spiced mushrooms, red bell peppers, spinach, and shallots. Believe it or not, it has a great taste. There’s also pizza lasagna. The main difference between pizza lasagna versus other types of lasagna is of course the pizza sauce. This is the most popular type of lasagna in America. Another popular type of lasagna is meat lasagna, and the main ingredient in meat lasagna is beef.


For get-togethers, lasagna is a perfect party dish. The best parties usually serve buffet dishes with enough food to feed everyone around and then some. It’s also a one dish meal; you do not need to add additional food to the table. This is why lasagna is a popular dish served at gatherings and parties. The typical cost for lasagna is between $12 and $20 for eight servings, depending on what you would like to add to the dish. This includes ground beef, which can be anywhere from $3 to $10, depending on how many servings you will cook. All the ingredients such as onions, garlic cloves, diced tomatoes,  tomato sauce, seasoning, eggs, and mozzarella cheese add anywhere from $5 to $10 depending on how fancy you want to be. This amount is enough to serve eight people.


Generally, lasagna isn’t really a recommended daily meal, as it is not very good for your diet. The main reason lasagna is not a recommended daily meal is because of its contents. The average lasagna dish has 22 grams of saturated fat, 120 mg of cholesterol, 25 to 30 grams of carbs, and 25 to 30 grams of protein. The total amount of calories is close to 500 or more, depending on the type of lasagna and ingredients.  Although it is a very tasty dish to eat, it can have negative effects on your diet. It is not something your body should be consuming on a daily or even weekly basis. In order to burn some of the calories from a full meal, you would have to do either two hours of walking, an hour of jogging, half an hour of swimming, or 45 minutes worth of cycling.

American Chain Restaurants

The quality of a restaurant is based on three general factors: the food of course, the environment, and lastly, customer service. Every successful restaurant chain makes sure that it hits it off under all three categories in order to build a brand. Specifically, there are three particular restaurants that knock all three of these out of the park: Red Lobster, P.F. Changs, and Olive Garden. However, all three of these restaurants have their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. According to Forbes, all three of these restaurants are among the best in terms of restaurant chains.


Red Lobster has some of the best seafood for chain restaurants. They are very well known for their high quality seafood as well as their broad range of choices. They not only offer great seafood but also have other options as well from burgers and fries to salads. The environment is pleasant, making it a place to go for people on Friday and Saturday nights. Over the weekends, lines go out the door and the wait times can be up to an hour. The customer service, like any other restaurant, can be hit or miss. Personal experiences range from solid service to a terrible disrespectful waitress that doesn’t deserve employment at any reputable business. This may indicate the business needs more controls in place for more consistent customer service. One potential area of opportunity for Red Lobster is going international. They only have restaurants in the United States right now, but by expanding and spreading their name brand internationally, it could be a boon for their business. Whenever we travel overseas and get a hankering for good seafood, having a Red Lobster around would be nice.


P.F. Changs is another example of a restaurant that has excellent food choices compared to most restaurant chains. Their environment is fantastic and very unique. They have special dishes as well as great tables to sit at. Like most restaurant chains, their customer service is solid. Many times people walk into P.F. Changs with a high level of curiosity of food options. The waiters often help with this situation with great suggestions. Their food is amazing with a great selection, whether you’re a vegetarian or carnivore. One of the weaknesses of P.F. Changs is high staff turnover. This is a bad sign because behind the scenes this may indicate problems with restaurant operations. An area of opportunity for the chain is targeting new markets worldwide, similar to Red Lobster. By expanding their brand internationally, they can increase their customer base and increase demand for their business.


olive garden


Olive Garden is another chain that not only has a great selection of food, but also a great selection of healthy foods. In America today, many people are more health conscious and worried about obesity and the trouble it can bring to one’s health. We no longer live in an environment where fast food is the predominant trend. Restaurants like Olive Garden have a distinctive advantage in this regard. Olive Garden also has good customer service and offers catering over the phone to help people at parties or at work.The customer environment is great and most customers notice a unique appetizing smell compared to other restaurants, and that helps improve their brand. The dining environment is also unique and gives a feel of an authentic Italian experience with the way food is presented and the design of the restaurant. One of the positive aspects of Olive Garden’s business is that they have gone international. However, they need to find ways to be more creative in marketing their brand in the face of increasingly tough competition and a challenging international market. However, Olive Garden has managed to build an excellent overall brand which it needs to maintain over time and with changes in demographics.

American Desserts

original pinkberry


American Desserts are the new rage in the 21st century. People always classified desserts as a luxury in the past. Desserts are very important in a person’s life now because memories can be built based on it. Desserts can help cherish memories for individuals. Cakes are typically the most wanted dessert across the board in America. The typical American has cake at big events, otherwise they like frozen yogurt or ice cream on a typical day in the summer when going out to eat.


Desserts come in different flavors across the board, from basic flavors such as chocolate and vanilla, to other flavors such as mint and pumpkin flavors. Pumpkin pies are behind only chocolate chip pies for favorite type of pie in America, according to Statistic Brain. Despite this, pumpkin pies are not typically available in stores for most of the year. They are typically only available from September to January, mainly being there for the holiday season. Dessert restaurants can try to make their menu much more attractive and standout with pumpkin pies during this season.


Desserts are also much more creative in today’s world. In the past, if you heard of recipes combining foods such as pizza and ice cream, everyone would label you a crazy person. However, there is a sweet known as ice cream pizza! There is also sushi cake, spinach brownies, Buffalo chicken cannoli, and much more. Desserts have taken their creativity to the next level in recent times.


Some of the compelling stories in the dessert industry include Sweet Frog and Pinkberry, which are dominating the frozen yogurt scene by having established froyo chains starting from their respective local communities. Sweet Frog had its humble beginnings as a shop selling frozen yogurt in Virginia, while Pinkberry is one of the originators of the froyo craze in California. Sweet Frog and Pinkberry are two very fascinating startup stories in the dessert industry.


The Cheesecake Factory and Shake Shack are popular places to go for casual dining. These two restaurants have their names based on desserts. The Cheesecake Factory has a gigantic menu full of different cheesecakes to choose from. The irony is that their main meals are so diverse and filling, people typically do not have any space in their stomachs for cheesecakes. Shake Shack’s signature name is based on its shake dessert, however it is mainly a burger joint with other fast food offerings as well.


The best target for sweet shops is the younger generation. Throughout childhood, one thing that we were all very interested in was sweets. Whether it was candy, chocolates, or ice cream. Just reminisce about every time the ice cream truck came by the neighborhood and kids would rush to the enticing tune played by the truck. Desserts and the dessert business are only getting more innovative and creative as time passes, and they will always be an iconic part of life in America for kids and adults alike.